Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Short Takes

A couple of diverse, shorter topics today.

First, John Canzano wrote a nice article about Morrison and Roy today. This whole draft thing is so slippery. This is the first draft in years where I truly believe nobody will be certain of any pick come draft day. A couple of thoughts:

--If Roy is 6'6", can defend, and really does have the potential to play point guard (and this is the first I've heard of that, so I don't know) don't you really have to consider him? Tall point guards have a huge advantage both seeing the court and scoring. They're rare, but when they come along they tend to dominate. It almost never works to shift a shooting guard to the point position if he's not a natural at it though, so you have to be careful.

--I am warming to Morrison the more I hear about him. But then that's to be expected, as all prospects get hyped in the weeks leading up to the draft. That's what makes it exciting! I saw a quote from Caproom07 on the O-Live main site which said he had made up his mind not to be disappointed no matter who we get. That's the boat I'm in right now.

--No matter what happens, watch the entire first round on the 28th. Deals are seldom consummated until after players are picked, and it's almost certain we'll hear Commissioner Stern say, "We have a deal to announce" at least a couple times. (If he can spare the time away from being condescending to reporters he doesn't recognize, that is.)

--One area I'd disagree with in the Canzano article (at least as I read it) is that he seems to be talking about drafting for need. A 21-win team cannot draft for need because by definition its greatest need is a serious infusion of talent. With a pick this high the Blazers HAVE to take the best superstar-potential player on the board when they draft, no matter what position he plays. Only if they think there's no player like that left (or the players left are relatively equal) should they discriminate. And then I'd recommend taking the big talented player over a smaller one. As we've discussed before, the basic rule is draft your core superstars then fill your other needs through trades or free agency. (See also: Dallas, Miami, San Antonio) It's completely possible to add that last swingman piece through the latter means. (Stackhouse, Antoine Walker) It's nearly impossible to get a superstar leader that way. (Nowitzki, Duncan, Wade...and I know Shaq was traded but how often does that happen?) If you do happen to duplicate a position at which you're already strong then one of those very good players eventually becomes a valuable trading piece. That's how you fill in those final holes.

Second, Scott writes:

>>One more thing for your explanation of things that most casual fans don’t understand. How about the Assist statistic. i.e. what exactly is it? How long after the a pass is made does the scorer have to make a field goal in order for the passer to tally an assist? Also, could you explain “points in the paint”? is it only post points? Is it ANY Lay-up/dunk? Is it anything inside the lane, no matter if it is a set play/fastbreak/broken play/rebound&put back?<<

We'll tackle the second one first because it's easiest. As I understand it, any field goal scored when the feet of the shooter were inside the key counts towards points in the paint. This includes all the examples you mentioned. I assume a dunk from the side would also count even if the leaper technically started from a position outside the paint. A dunk started from above the free throw line would also count, but the statistician would be too busy picking his jaw up off the floor to make the tally mark. A lot of points in the paint means the opponent isn't playing tough defense, either straight up, in transition, or by rebounding.

An assist is harder to pin down. It is a statistical category rather than a hard and fast rule, and thus open to interpretation. (In other words you can't look in the NBA rulebook and see what an assist is because it's not a legal or illegal issue, just a way of categorizing an otherwise normal pass.) I'm sure it's defined precisely in the NBA statistical manual, but I can't find one of those anywhere online or off.

The basic definition is "a pass which directly leads to a made field goal". In other words, it's the pass that immediately precedes a teammate putting the ball in the bucket. Passes before that one don't count as assists, even if they did more to set up the play than the final pass. But not every final pass before a shot counts as an assist. All of the following have to be true in order for an assist to be registered:

1. A shot has to go in.
2. A pass must have been made prior to that shot.
3. That pass must have significantly contributed to the shooter being open or at least in position to make the shot.

The last part causes the hangups. The statistician has to determine whether the pass significantly contributed to the shot or not. A clear example of an assist is the alley-oop, when one player lofts the ball up near the basket and another player grabs it in midair and dunks. Obviously the pass led directly to the shot. A pass where the shooter gets past his man and the passer hits him en route to the bucket also counts. But the shot doesn't have to be a layup. If Zach is double-teamed down low and sees Martell out on the side wide open and Zach gets him the ball for a made shot, that's an assist. If Zach seals his man down low and Martell gets him the ball and Zach immediately turns and fires a short jumper, that also probably counts. This is where the gray area starts however. If Zach posts up and Martell gets him the ball and Zach dribbles three times and jukes twice before making the shot, then Zach alone is responsible for the shot and Martell would get no credit. I suppose the amount of time between the pass and the shot would be one indicator of whether an assist was counted, but another would be how many athletic moves (and of what type) the shooter had to make to get the ball off. One dribble and then an easy drive is probably an assist. Two spins and a pump fake is not. In fact any change in direction after receiving the ball other than a quick turn-around and release will probably negate the assist, as will most hesitations and fakes.

Different statisticians make different judgments. The guy in Utah during the Stockton/Malone era was pretty lenient for obvious reasons. (Not that Stockton wasn't great...he definitely was.) Other guys might be tighter. And this is true not only of assists but other statistical categories. Mike Barrett has complained on many occasions that the official statistician in Portland doesn't credit Joel with enough blocks. (You'll see announcers come up with different totals than the official count in most categories.) There's no way to make it an exact science. You just assume that any inconsistencies will be smoothed out over time.

Thanks for the questions Scott! If I missed or mis-defined anything somebody be sure and let me know.

P.S. Noah writes to add:

>>I believe that with an assist, the assisted has one active dribble before scoring. Once you get into anything more than that, it is considered a solo mission.<<

Can anybody confirm?

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)


Blogger ignacio said...

I differ with you slightly about Stockton. When I hear him referred to as the "Greatest Point Guard Ever" this is a thesis I utterly reject.

For the most part, Stockton racked up his numbers repeating, over and over, one simple entry pass to Malone.

Whereas Magic Johnson actually changed the game. He dominated and won four NBA titles as a point guard.

Walt Frazier (two NBA titles), Lenny Wilkens, certainly Oscar Robertson (who averaged a triple-double for entire seasons) were better than Stockton. Maurice Cheeks was as well. Bob Cousy.

Nate Archibald.

John Paxson might have racked up huge numbers of assists if playing in Utah with Karl Malone in that system under Jerry Sloan.

5:33 PM  
Blogger ignacio said...


Sorry that I cherrypicked one statement to jump on but it's common wisdom that's bugged me for years.

By the way, I'll be happy if we get either Adam Morrison or Brandon Roy (in that order at this point), and Lamarcus Aldridge wouldn't be bad. (We need rebounds!)

5:51 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

You never have to apologize (well, unless you call me a turnip-brain or something). I think Stockton was great for more than just his assists and companionship with Malone. But even with that, I take no offense at all at you expressing your opinion and never will.


6:57 PM  
Anonymous jorga said...

Questions about the official scorer. Who signs this person's check? The league? You said "the official statistician in Portland" - meaning that there is one assigned to a team rather than rotating like the refs? Or are they locals? How many assist stat keepers are there for a game and do they have specific assignments?

Re: assists. In BBall for Dummies Digger Phelps mentioned a couple of things he'd like changed. Thought I'd throw them out for discussion of anyone wants. 1.He would like to be able to give two assists (as in hockey) one one play. "Many times, a point guard gives a great pass, and another player makes a pass that leads to the basket. That first pass should get some credit because it can be more important than the second pass." 2. He thinks that a great pass that leads to the shooter being fouled should be credited as an assist (if at least one of the free throws is made.) He specifically mentions the extra pass on a fast break.

Re: points in the paint. I'm guessing that isn't an official statistic is it? Is it something that the broadcasting stat crew keeps track of?

7:16 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

As far as I know (and again I am correctable because this is hardly my area of expertise) the league mandates that official scorers and timekeepers and the like work each game but the home team is responsible for paying them each game. I didn't mean to suggest that Utah's scorer was doing anything improper because he was paid to. Frankly I don't think the stipend is that high. Rather I was saying that after several years of watching a guy play at Stockton's level, and because he had such a reputation around the league, you're going to give him the benefit of the doubt on those judgment calls when determining assists, especially if you're the Utah guy who is most familiar with him.

I agree with Digger Phelps in principle. The assist stat alone doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. However I think you can get bogged down in trying to quantify every facet of play with statistics. If trying to tell if a pass actually led to a shot is a difficult task, what about trying to tell how much the pass that led to that pass helped? As a fan I don't pay much attention to whether something is marked an assist or not anyway. I just like to watch 2-3 players work together to make a play run smoothly and then appreciate them all when it happens. In this day and age a guy who really knows how to set up other people is worth his weight in gold.

Interesting point on the foul shot thing though. Maybe they'll consider that someday.

Points in the paint is indeed a fringe statistic. As far as I know it's not officially recorded anywhere after the game ends.


8:39 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

A few thoughts.

Roy hasn’t played PG. That’s Canzano’s typical “since I want it to be true, therefore it is true” style of writing. Roy is a SG- period. Canzano might as well say he’s a center as well. My thoughts on Roy is that as a college senior, he failed to dominate his position and disappeared at crunch time in nearly every game. A college senior considered as a top 5 lottery pick should be “the man” in any NCAA game and Roy consistently failed to deliver. That said, he is a very complete player. He reminds me of Scott May. An NCAA player of the year with a great all-round game that failed in the NBA as he couldn’t raise his game to the next level.

Morrison, to me, is still a late first round, early second round pick. Slower than my grandmother and can’t jump over a loaf of bread. All his enthusiasm and crying tell me is that he wants to win- but that doesn’t mean he has good NBA skills. He dominated small college players 4” shorter than he and I think his college stats are grossly overblown. Still, he does have some good skills, but not enough to make it big in the NBA.

As to who to draft (need v. best player), that’s a case by case type thing. If the best player available to us is a PG (for example), it would be laughingly stupid to take another PG and then we draft for need. However, if a Lebron comes along (and there are none in this year’s draft), you take him no matter who you have. In general, I’m a “draft for your needs” type person. What good does it do to have 3 starting SF’s when only 1 can play at a time?

This is going to be a bizarre draft as there are so many players seemingly very close together in skills.

As to assists, I’ve heard that when a player receives the ball, any more than 1 dribble or holding the ball without continuing a fluid motion in the act of shooting (like a ‘catch & shoot’) negates an assist to the passer.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous fatty said...

1)prophet read yesterday's post
i've a little something special
for you, dave you do a great
with this blog but please let
these people know this franchise
entire history is next year's
draft period,no oden*noah this
franchise is sunk, and as far
as the injury excuses you give
prophet please fatbo-miles-
theo im a no go and only a
bonehead in his walk year like
joel only he gets hurt, as far
as the lottery goes hey the way
this franchise is going you tell
him dave while we with common sense no this franchise is the
titanic you will drown with
fat paulie and the rest of
this broken structure his fault..
as for roy*morrison are far
better than anyone on this sorry
roster, like i said too many
preschoolers not enough college
men that's why 21-61 and i
promise you 18 wins or less
this year $1,000.00 money in
the bank care to wager, then go give martell*bassy a lolipop
and take the losing like a man !!!!

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Lance Uppercut said...

Off topic: Fatty, why does everything you post come out looking like song lyrics? I've noticed it at TrueHoop as well. It's starting to freak me out.

1:20 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

He also hasn't much of a clue about the english language. However, with schools these days, it doesn't freak me out.

4:20 PM  

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