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Expected Scoring - Pacers Edition

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First of all, I want to make it clear that this is not a post about what I expect the Pacer's offense to look like next season. This is a review of last year's team using a statistic I have been working with called Expected Scoring.

Expected Scoring is a way of looking at a player's shot selection and the average number of points scored on shots from different locations. This number can give you a sense of a player's overall ability to score efficiently from different areas of the floor.

I have written two posts focusing on this stat over at Hickory High. The first post focuses on individual players, specifically the Top 20 players last year in terms of FGA per game. The second post focuses on the stat at a team level. Today we are going to use these same stats to take a look at the Pacers' performance as a whole last season, as well as the contributions of the individual players. In an effort to make this analysis more forward-looking, I included the numbers for James Posey and Darren Collison.

This idea came from an excellent series of posts by Albert Lyu, at Think Blue Crew, on the value of blocked shots.  For the second post in this series Lyu calculated the Expected Points Per Shot by location. This information gave me a different way to examine a player’s shot selection. Another way to think of Expected Points Per Shot, is the average number of points scored on a shot attempt. For example, over the last 4 NBA seasons, factoring in makes and misses, a 3PTA was worth an average of 1.081 points.

You can use this information, multiplying it by a player's shot attempts from different locations and come up with a number of points that they should expect to score on those shots. You can then compare it to how many points they actually scored on those shots. The difference between the two is a measure of a player's overall efficiency as a scorer.

For example, A.J. Price averaged 8.0 3PTA per 40 minutes last season. Over the past 4 NBA seasons a 3PTA was worth an average of 1.081 points. If we multiply A.J.'s 8.0 3PTA by 1.081 we see that we should expect him to score 8.6480 Points per 40 minutes on his 3PT shots. (This would happen if he shot the league average on 3PTs.) A.J. actually scored an average of 8.400 Points per 40 on his 3PT shots. This means his 3PT% was slightly below the league average of the past 4 seasons, and that this cost the Pacers an average of 0.2480 Points per 40 minutes.

The first statistic, or what we should expect him to score, is what I am calling Expected Points (XPts). The second statistic is his Actual Points (Act Pts). I am calling the difference between the two (Act. Pts - XPts) the Point Differential. A player with a positive Differential scored more points than were expected, a negative Differential means less than expected.

This whole exercise is just another way of looking the relationship between a player's FG% and the league average from different areas of the floor. I like using the statistic of Expected Points as a more explicit example of what players are losing or gaining with their shooting percentages. Instead of expressing the difference in FG% points, we can express it in actual points, making the results a little more tangible.

Individual Numbers

Below is a table showing these numbers for the Pacer's roster from last season, with the addition of James Posey and Darren Collison. The table is broken down to show each player's overall XPts, Act. Pts. and Point Differential, as well as those numbers for each area of the floor. (Click to Enlarge)

Pacers_xpts_medium

This is a clear representation of the Pacers' offensive struggles from last season. Luther Head, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Troy Murphy were the only Pacers with a positive point differential last season. A few observations:

  • Looking at these numbers, Danny Ganger simply doesn't stand out. He scored at a rate very close to expected in nearly every category. His versatility is an asset, but he doesn't appear to have that stand out offensive area that many other top scorers have. He shoots a lot of 3PTs, and makes a lot of 3PTs. However, his Point Differential here is very small, meaning he makes those shots at a rate very similar to the league average. For comparison, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James all had a positive Point Differential of near 1.0 or higher on shots at the rim. Dirk Nowitzki's Point Differential on 16-23ft. jumpshots was an incredible 1.1512. Granger's highest point differential was a mere 0.0763, which came on his 3PT shots.
  • Tyler Hansbrough's shooting struggles last season couldn't be more clear. He scored just over 2 points less than expected per 40 minutes on shots from 10ft. and in. He also took a very high number of long jumpers last season and scored at a rate way below expected. His only saving grace was his ability to get to the free thow line. All told Hansbrough averaged 4.0652 points less than expected per 40 minutes.
  • Roy Hibbert was one of the few Pacers with a positive Point Differential last season. Surprisingly, this positive Differential is due to his above average mid-range shooting. He actually scored at a rate lower than expected on shots at the rim. We have heard a lotthis summer about Hibbert's offseason workout regimen. Hopefully, this will translate to some increased strength in his upper body, and the ability to finish through contact and score more effectively in the paint.
  • Troy Murphy had the highest positive Point Differential of any of the Pacers last season, scoring 1.2508 more points than expected per 40 minutes. His offense will be sorely missed, as he was the only Pacer, and one of the few players in the league, to score at a better than expected rate from every area of the floor. The team will miss his 3PT shooting, but also his ability to make long two pointers; he and T.J. Ford were the only players on the team to score at a rate better than expected on those shots.
  • Mike Dunleavy's shooting touch abandoned him last year. He scored at a below-expected rate on long jumpers, and a WELL below-expected rate on 3PTs. I don't have numbers for his previous healthy seasons to compare, but I would wager this is a relatively new development in his career. Surprisingly he was still able to score at above average rates on shots from 15ft and in.  
  • Pacer fans have to be excited about Darren Collison's ability to score efficiently. Last year, in New Orleans, he scored at a slightly below-expected rate on shots at the basket. However, his at the rim Point Differential was better than Brandon Rush, Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough and T.J. Ford. He scored at a better than expected rate across the board on shots from 10 ft. and out. In addition we can hope that his playmaking ability will create quality shots for his teammates and increase their Point Differentials.

Team Numbers

Below is the same table but broken down to show the total team numbers:

 Team-xpts-all_medium

Last season the Pacers scored 0.938 points less than expected per game. While they were slightly above average on shots taken close to the rim out to 15ft., they ended up in the negative range because of below average scoring at the rim and on 3PTs. These two areas are easily the most efficient places on the floor to score from. (The expected point value on a shot at the rim is 1.208, it's 1.081 for 3PTs.) It's certainly troubling that the two areas the Pacers struggled the most to score last season are the two most efficient.

The Pacers' offense scored 0.971 fewer point per game on 3PTs then expected. Losing Troy Murphy, one of their best 3PT shooters the past two seasons could have a significantly negative impact on this number. The team will likely continue to shoot 3PTs often next season, but being slightly more selective and making them at a higher rate could be a huge boon to their offense. Phoenix had the largest point differential in my analysis, +7.264. Almost half of this number can be traced to the 3.350 more points than expected they scored per game on 3PTs. I understand the Pacers don't have Steve Nash or the shooting depth of Phoenix, but if the team's offense is going to be built around shooting 3PTs, they need to find a way to be more effective and efficient on those shots.

For Next Season

As difficult as last season was offensively, the Pacers are not that far off from having a potent scoring attack. Obviously, a few things will need to fall into place for this to happen:

  • Roy Hibbert will need to do a better job finishing at the basket.
  • Darren Collison will need to at least maintain his efficiency with an increase in minutes and usage.
  • Tyler Hansbrough will need to get healthy and finish better across the board.
  • Mike Dunleavy will need to regain his outside shooting touch.
  • Brandon Rush will need to continue his hot outside shooting, and find a way to finish a few more layups.
  • Paul George and Lance Stephenson will need to be reasonably efficient scoring the ball.
  • A more dynamic offense, with more effective teammates, will hopefully create more quality looks for Danny Granger and allow him to increase his efficiency.

I realize there are a lot of variables on that list, but do any of them seem like a serious stretch? Small, modest improvements in several areas could combine to have a huge effect on the Pacers' offense next season.

 

If you are interested in viewing the individual numbers for the entire league, they can be found here.

You can also check out my Expected Points analysis for the Top 20 shooters here, or my team level Expected Points analysis here. I am working on a way to keep these numbers posted, current and updated on a fairly regular basis over at Hickory-High during the upcoming season, so stay tuned!