Friday, February 22, 2013
SportVU analysis adds deeper context to NBA deadline deals
NORTHBROOK, Ill. (STATS) -- Daryl Morey said last week he didn't anticipate making any big trades at the deadline.
Until the Houston Rockets' general manager goes a year without making a deal in the final hours of the NBA's late-February swap show, it might be best to take anything he says with an Omer Asik-sized grain of salt.
Morey made his ninth and 10th deadline deals in the last six seasons on Wednesday, swiping Thomas Robinson from Sacramento in a trade that sent Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas to the Kings before shipping Marcus Morris to Phoenix for a draft pick.
Calling the acquisition of Robinson a coup may be a bit premature -- his PER is 269th among 367 players who average at least 10 minutes a game -- but the No. 5 pick has loads of potential and is just the fifth top-5 selection to be traded during his rookie season.
Where can Robinson help one of the NBA's most up-tempo teams now? Certainly alongside the 7-foot Asik on the glass.
According to SportVU, STATS' next-generation optical tracking system installed in half of the NBA's arenas, Robinson is grabbing 16.7 percent of available rebounds -- good for 37th among players who see at least 10 minutes a game. That's hardly transcendent, but it's actually a better rate than that of Blake Griffin, David Lee and Al Horford, each of whom is among the league's top 20 in rebounds per game.
But Robinson's midrange and interior scoring, the traits that made him an All-American at Kansas last season, need some work. He's shooting just 46.1 percent within five feet of the basket, putting him in the bottom 20 percent of the league. And his midrange game has been even worse. He's made just 3 of 20 shots in the 8-to-16 foot range on either side of the key in games tracked by SportVU.
While Robinson's lofty draft status make him the headliner to Morey's latest deals, it would be unwise to discount the loss of Morris, even on a team that already has plenty of players capable of stretching the floor. The Rockets scored 1.47 points per post touch when going to the second-year forward in a 38-game sample, and Morris -- a 2-for-17 shooter from 3-point range as a rookie -- has reinvented himself as a 38.1 percent shooter from that distance.
Of course, a more well-known shooter happened to be the biggest name to switch uniforms at the deadline, and J.J. Redick certainly should give Milwaukee a boost as it tries to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Redick, a 39.0 percent 3-point shooter on the 10th-most attempts in the league, scored an impressive 0.325 points per touch in 34 SportVU games this season with Orlando.
What's surprising about Redick is that he's actually turned into more than just a marksman who's afraid to venture inside the arc. In fact, stepping in front of the 3-point line has worked to his advantage. Redick is shooting 51.0 percent on 2-pointers -- 12th among all guards -- and is eighth in effective field-goal percentage (55) with the boost of value from his 3s. That puts him ahead of the likes of Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant.
Though stars like Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett were the subject of a few rumors prior to Thursday, perhaps the most surprising big name to stay put was Atlanta's Josh Smith.
The free-agent-to-be is a fantastic all-around talent, but is Smith worth the near-max contract most feel he'll demand in the offseason? For someone who often falls in love with his jumper, the answer seems to be no. He's shooting an unsightly 24.3 percent (18 of 74) this season on jumpers from 8-to-16 feet, a mark that's lower than anyone in the league who has attempted even 50 shots from that distance. His true shooting percentage, which takes into account 2s, 3s and free throws, is a career-low 49.3 -- no doubt hurt by the fact that he's shooting an unfathomable 50 percent from the stripe.
Smith is hardly a bust -- he's still an outstanding defender, shot-blocker and rebounder who's averaging more than 4 assists per game -- but a closer look shows just how significant positioning is to his production. When the Hawks get it to him on the elbow, they wind up scoring an average of 1.19 points -- 13th-best in the league. When they get it to him a bit deeper, in the post, the Hawks score just 0.51 points per touch, a number that's better than only 18 of 172 players with at least 20 touches.
The team right behind Atlanta in the East playoff picture is Boston, which nabbed high-volume scorer Jordan Crawford from Washington on Thursday to provide some added bench depth.
With someone as streaky as Crawford, it's often about finding a comfort zone, and one look at his shot chart shows where it is. He's a 48.6 percent shooter from the right side of the floor, highlighted by an impressive 45.3 on 3-pointers from the right wing. Send him to the other side of the court and it's a different story. Crawford is shooting 34.8 percent from the left side and hitting 20 percent less from long distance on that wing.
Despite Morey's best efforts, this was one of the quietest deadline days in recent years, more about who wasn't moved than who was. But with Houston, Milwaukee and Boston needing a little boost to punch their tickets to the NBA's second season, it will be interesting to see if their deadline deals do just that.