Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Catching Up & Answering A Few Questions

Very nice win by Portland last night. Built a solid lead, weathered Memphis' third-quarter storm, and kept the game within distance in the fourth quarter. I think that for this club to get its first road-win against a team that isn't in the bowels of the league will be good for them, and may set the table to get another road win or two (Orlando and Atlanta anyone?) on this trip.

As they stand now, the club is 4-5 and for all practical reasons probably eclipsing most people's expectations for the team by a bit. Of the four wins, I believe you can call two of them "quality wins" (vs Chicago and at Memphis). So if you look at -- based on on-paper talent and road/home splits -- where the team is at record-wise:

-2-0 in games they should win (home games versus bad teams ...vs ATL, vs NY)
-0-2 in games they should lose (home games versus very good teams or road games versus good teams ... @Den, vs DET)
-2-3 in games that could go either way (@MIN, vs CHI, vs GS, @NY, @MEM)

So in a nutshell, they're winning when they should, losing when they should, and have a .400 record in games that could go either way. Given the lack of experience on this team and universally low expectations, I think we as Blazer fans have plenty to be happy about (or "give thanks for", being this week) and look forward to.

A couple of quick notes:
  • Darius Miles has been great. Without him, the team would be sunk on offense. His 20 points a game have been huge, and although he settles for jumpers too often his 48% field goal shooting can't be argued with. Even his adjusted field goal percentage -- a stat that takes into consideration three-point accuracy combined with floor accurace -- is great. More on that later.
  • Ruben Patterson ... dude, wake up. He's a good spark off the bench/role player at his best, and a poor-shooting ball hog distraction at his worst. From Mark in Portland: "I’ve suspected all year that Ruben really was hurting more than helping out there because he’s a terrible passer and a black hole when he gets the ball, plus he clogs up the middle and he’s not a post player. Good times."
  • Last night's game was the first in which Travis Outlaw really looked good. Let's hope the reason he hadn't been playing truly was an injury, and that Patterson's departure will bring him more minutes.

Now, on to the adjusted field-goal percentage. Essentially what this stat does is measure shooting efficiency by taking into account the total points a player produces through a field goal attempt. Hence, it adjusts for three-point accuracy. Assume for a moment a player will make 50% of his 2-point attempts. Six shots will generate six points. Then, in order for that player to justify attempting a three-pointer, he'll need to shoot at least 33% from beyond the arc, in order to generate the same amount of points. Very similar to the points-per-shot you've seen me reference on this site before which also takes free throws into consideration.

Portland's player rank in adjusted FG%, with points-per-shot in parentheses:

1. Monia: .630 (1.39)

2. Pryzbilla: .615 (1.54)

3. C. Smith: .500 (1.14)

4. Telfair: .494 (1.17)

5. Dixon: .494 (1.28)

6. Miles: .483 (1.21)

7. Ratliff: .474 (1.42)

8. Outlaw: .471 (1.06)

9. Zbo: .456 (1.16)

10. Jack: .400 (1.11)

11. Patterson: .360 (1.12)

What to make of all this nonense? We're only 9 games (or roughly 11% of the season) in, so I'll spare you the deep-dive until we have more to work with. There are a few nuggets to be gleamed, however.

Clearly, volume has a lot to do with Monia and Smith being so high. As they take more shots, their AFG will inevitably drop. I think we can see a directional trend with Monia, however ... that he's got potential to be a very nice three-point threat. His current clip of 56% from behind the arc probably won't stick, but he's clearly demonstrating some value. And you'd expect the big men to be high in AFG and PPS, considering that many of their shots are taken in the paint ... but Zbo's low numbers are clearly a concern. Bottom line is that he needs to do more passing out of double-teams. It feels like every game there are at least two or three instances where he receives the ball in the low post, a double-team comes to help, he dribbles a few times and forces a shot. Granted -- I'm all for Zach getting as many touches as possible -- I'd just like him to be a little smarter with the ball.

More on this next week. In the meantime, enjoy your long weekends and Go Blazers!

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