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12/20/10 - Pacers' Stat of the Week: Plays Out Of Timeouts

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Welcome to the newest installment of our weekly feature here at IndyCornrows, Stat of the Week. This feature, posted each Monday, focuses in on one statistic or number to recap and tell the story of the Pacers' performance for the previous week.

The Pacers struggled mightily this week, knocking off the Cavaliers but losing three less than competitive games to the Bulls, Lakers and Celtics. Their record is now 12-14 and they reside in the 7th playoff spot, holding a one and a half game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers. This difficult stretch of the schedule continues with two games this week, against New Orleans and Memphis. The Pacers need to make some improvements in several areas to keep themselves in the driver's seat for playoff position.

This week we will be looking at some of the team's statistics for plays run out of timeouts and at the beginning of quarters. I chose this focus after watching Milwaukee's game winning lay-in at the buzzer two weeks ago, but it took me this long to put the data together. My apologies for the lack of timeliness.

What I did was go through and code the results of each play the Pacers ran coming out of a timeout this season. I also included plays they ran at the beginning of a quarter. If a timeout was called on a foul but before a player shot their free throws, I would include the offensive play that came right after the free throws.

I put together these same numbers this summer looking back to last season as part of a post examining Jim O'Brien's effectiveness. Here's a quote from that first post, summing up my original thinking on the matter.

Now, not all of these instances were set plays that were directly called by O'Brien. My thinking is that this represents a large sample size of situations were O'Brien's impact would be the largest on the offensive set. If he wasn't calling a specific play I would assume he would be giving some general offensive directions, "we need to attack the basket," "let's get back to the pick and roll," etc. This should represent the scenarios where his impact on the offensive decision making of the players on the floor would be the most direct.

From watching the team this season I am not sure how much responsibility for these numbers to assign to O'Brien. There is a lot of flexibility in the Pacers' offensive sets and the players on the floor have a lot of control over where the ball goes and who ultimately takes the shot. That being said there are clearly some problems here.

The table below shows the Pacers' FG% overall and from each of the floor, as well as the percentage of their attempts which came from each area. I also included their TO%, Ast%, FTR and Points per Possession. For the sake of comparison, I also tracked the same information for the Pacers' opponent in each game and included that data as well.

Plays Out of Timeouts
FG% At Rim FGA% At Rim FG% <10ft. FGA% <10ft. FG% 10-15ft. FGA% 10-15ft. FG% 16-23ft. FGA% 16-23%FG% 3PT FGA% 3PT FG% FTR TO% Ast% PPP
Pacers 35.3% 17.1% 55.2% 12.9% 27.3% 17.6% 46.7% 26.5% 33.3% 26.5% 20.0% 0.229 18.9% 48.3% 0.80
Opponent 39.9% 18.0% 56.3% 20.8% 37.8% 14.6% 30.8% 30.3% 35.2% 16.3% 41.4% 0.270 15.9% 63.4% 0.98

On the offensive side of the ball, there's not much that looks good here. On these plays the Pacers' are shooting just 35.3% overall. Other than a spike from 10-15ft. their FG% is lower from each area of the floor than it is on the season overall. Their 3PT% is especially troubling. Having a set offense built around generating three pointers is all well and good, but it's clear the Pacers' are not generating good looks on three pointers in these scenarios.

In addition to poor shooting, they draw fouls at an abysmal rate, turn the ball over on nearly 19% of their possessions, record an assist on less than 50% of their made baskets and score just 0.80 points per possession.

I was actually quite surprised by these results. Beginning this project my gut told me that the Pacers' offense had been much more effective this season running sets than in scattered transition opportunities. Right around the time I began working on this, Ian Thomsen at Sports Illustrated put together a very flattering profile of Roy Hibbert. That profile contained this nugget:

If they push the ball across midcourt within 2.5 seconds, then coach Jim O'Brien rewards them by refusing to call a play: They either finish the break or else flow into their passing-game offense that makes full use of Hibbert's versatility.

When I read this I was sure it was a horrible idea, but the numbers actually seem to bear it out. The team appears to be more efficient when they aren't running a set play.

Here are a few more interesting tidbits I found breaking down the numbers:

  • Danny Granger has not been effective in these scenarios. He's used 64 of the team's 201 possessions, or 31.9%. (This is not the same as Usage Rate because it hasn't been adjusted for the minutes he's on the floor). He is scoring 0.80 points per possession, shooting 36.0% overall and just 8% on three pointers. That's not a typo, he's made 1 of 12 three pointers in these situations. In addition his shot selection has been terrible with 56% of his shots coming on long two point jumpshots or three pointers. With an Ast% of just 27.8% it's clear Granger has fallen into the habit of forcing jumpshots out of these sets. Whether the responsibility lies with O'Brien or Granger this is an example of a systemic problem with the team's shot selection.
  • 53% of the team's shots are coming on three pointers or long two pointers in these situations. The team has not proven to be an above average jumpshooting team, but their offense in these crucial scenarios seems to be built around jumpshots. As it's unlikely that the team will suddenly improve its shooting acumen, its unlikely the team's offense will improve in these cases unless they change the structure of their sets.
  • The team's defense has been very solid across the board in these cases. They have given up a few too many three pointers, but are solid in the FG% they hold their opponents to. They also force more turnovers and foul less often in these cases then in general.

Summary: Whether running sets called from the sideline, or free-flowing movement sets with decisions made by the players, the Pacers' offense has become increasingly stagnant. The numbers here are an indication that if the Pacers' need a basket at a crucial point in the game they are unlikely to be successful. The offense that was working the first few weeks of the season has become less effective as teams have made adjustments. What the Pacers have used up to this point doesn't need to be abandoned, but rather supplemented with other options.

The good news is that despite that crushing game winning layup they gave up to the Bucks, the Pacers' defense has continued to be very good when they have an opportunity to set themselves up. The Pacers' have a nice long break this week between games but much of that will be filled by the holidays. It might be worth it for the team to put a day or two of work in during that break to building some new offensive options and finding better ways to maximize their tools.

Statistical Query of the Week: This is the first Statistical Query segment I've added to my weekly stats piece. A few weeks ago Drakul asked a question in the comments to another piece asking about the foul rates of Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts based on which point guard was playing. The question came as part of a discussion about the perimeter defense of T.J. Ford and Darren Collison.

It took me a few weeks to put together, but I went through the play by play logs of all the Pacers' games this season and tracked the personal fouls of the team's front-court players based on which point guard was in. These numbers don't match up exactly with their foul rates as listed on other sites because I left out offensive and loose-ball fouls. I included Hibbert, Solomon Jones, McRoberts, Tyler Hansbrough, James Posey, Danny Granger and Jeff Foster, the players who have played front-court minutes for the Pacers' this season. The table below shows their total fouls, minutes played, and per 36 minutes foul rates separated by point guard.

Foul Rates
PF/Collison Min/Collison PF/36 Collison PF/Ford Min/Ford PF/36 Ford PF/Price Min/Price PF/36 Price
Hibbert 47 450.3 3.8 18 235.4 2.8 1 20.8 1.7
S. Jones 15 100.8 5.4 27 202.7 4.8 1 9.3 3.9
McRoberts 46 383.4 4.3 17 150.8 4.1 1 13.8 2.6
Hansbrough 10 111.1 3.2 11 98.7 4.0 4 18.5 7.8
Posey 9 134.4 2.4 41 232.4 6.4 2 35.8 2.0
Granger 31 475.8 2.3 19 333.5 2.1 4 35.6 4.0
Foster 2 7.3 9.9 5 18.4 9.8 1 17.9 2.0

Just as Drakul suspected the foul rates are generally higher with Collison in the game, especially for Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts. Not all of the difference can be traced to Collison's inability to control dribble penetration, but this is appears to be just a little more evidence of Collison's defensive struggles having a negative effect on team defense.

For our next edition I'l be looking at the team's overall performance based on who is playing power forward, following up on a question from The Drunkin' Dutchman. If you have a Pacers' related statistical idea you'd like me to look into, send me an email at Levy2725@gmail.com and include Indycornrows somewhere in the subject line.

Rebound Percentage Update:

In the first installment of Stat of the Week we discussed Rebound Percentage and identified it as a season long focus and bellwether statistic for the team. The team's percentages 26 games into the season look like this:

Offensive Rebound Percentage: 22.2% (28th in the NBA)

Defensive Rebound Percentage: 75.0% (9th in the NBA)