Mike Gallagher

Offseason Beat

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3 Feet Close and Rising Part 3

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spurs of the moment
The Spurs are just too good. They continue to pass circles around the Heat and that has been a huge difference in this series. Here’s a mind-boggling graph of passes for each game from Bloomberg Sports:

 Insane. Gregg Popovich said he doesn’t look at stats in a post-game interview this week, but let’s take a look. As a reference point, the Bobcats led the NBA in passes per game at 334, so the Spurs have topped that in every game during this series. In the two most recent blowouts, the Spurs are passed the ball about 40 percent more than the Heat. After Game 3 yielded an impressive 25 possessions with at least six passes, they topped that with 28 of those in Game 4. It's beautiful.
Their shot chart over the past two isn’t even fair: 

 The paint scoring is truly stunning and it's mostly due to passing leading to uncontested buckets. All that passing and a SA 25-14 assist advantage in Game 4, and yet Miami still leads the Spurs in turnovers per game 16.8 to 15.3 in this series. There’s a good chance Sunday’s game will be the last game that matters until October.
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher for all sorts of NBA info. I’ll be busy next month at Las Vegas Summer League and should have a lot of breakdown there, too.
Moving on, this week we will finish up our look at players who excel or struggle at scoring around the rim. The idea of this series is to gauge whether a player’s field goal percentage from last season was more a fluke or not.
While many of the positions are getting further from the basket due to teams using the 3-point shot more, that really hasn’t been the case for centers. The extra room to operate has helped centers face less double teams and shoot some better percentages. Just about every center is going to shoot a higher percentage at the rim compared to wings, which is going to result in some higher field goal percentage. Of the top 15 qualifiers for field goal percentage, eight of them were centers while power forwards Amir Johnson and Amare Stoudemire also log several minutes at center.
I’ll be honest and say this is probably the least impactful of this series. Since most centers are shooting closer, there will be less variance in their stats in larger and smaller sample size. We’ll take a bit of a quicker-hit approach this time.
In case you missed them, check out the guards and forwards. The guards are probably the most helpful as far as usual info goes for your fantasy team.
Good centers
He led the NBA in attempts at the rim and it’s not hard to figure out why. Drummond only attempted seven shots from outside the paint last season, which doesn’t even account for one percent of his total. 
On the other hand, when shots at the rim account for 86.7 percent of a player’s total, they’re not going to have much diversity to their game — no, not an old wooden ship. Here’s a quick glance at how NBA.com tracked his offense:

Yeah, 12.1 percent on jumpers probably won’t cut it. There’s really no way he’s going to slow down with respect to field goal percentage and he should flirt with the league lead again. Drummond’s 62.3 percent from the field and only trailed DeAndre Jordan’s 67.6 percent.
If you take free throw shooting out of the equation, Drummond was the fourth-best player last season. He played in 81 games last season and he looks to have little durability concerns after an injury-plagued rookie season. You’ll probably have to pounce in the second round in standards and punt FT%.
When a guy puts up 67.6 percent from the field, it’s due mostly to easy buckets. Jordan was just the third player ever to qualify for the field goal percentage crown and shoot above 67.0 percent (Wilt Chamberlain twice and Tyson Chandler). It’s probably pointless to even show, but here’s his shot chart:

Assault on the Rim: The DeAndre Jordan Story. It’s pretty much all the same here with him and Drummond. DJ was the second-best player in fantasy last season with free throw percentage out of the equation. Coach Doc Rivers played him big minutes and there’s no reason to think he’ll be losing playing time after his breakout. Draft him with confidence as a FG% dynamo.
This is also really cool:

Yes, 38.2 percent of his buckets came on alley-oops. So great.
After failing to clear 47 percent from the field in any of his first three seasons, DMC put up a terrific 49.6 percent in 2013-14. The mercurial big man also shot a wonderful 52.0 percent after the break. How? Yep. You guessed it: Better shooting at the rim.
While his shot distribution hasn’t gone up, he’s really made some strides in efficiency. He shot just 53.9 percent at the rim in 2011-12, 61.7 percent in 12-13 and upped it to 63.1 percent last year. Another big help was that a bigger percentage of his buckets have come via an assist. That continues to be a problem for the Kings after ranking dead last in dimes per game last year. Still, it’s nice to see he’s been able get some help.
DMC is still just 23 years old and could improve to cracking the 50 percent plateau. He ranked as the 17th-best player in nine-category leagues after the break and there’s no way he’ll slide past the second round in upcoming drafts.
He used to be the king of at-the-rim shots, but he’s fallen off a bit. Howard attempted 68.0 percent of his shots from within three feet last year and he was able to knock down 68.4 percent of those. The 68.0 percent shot distribution was a career high, but his FG% at the rim was his second lowest since 2007. The high volume is no surprise with how the Rockets love to attack the rim either. They don’t take mid-range jumpers and they also ranked fifth in pace.
D-12 was a disappointment overall, but he still was able to muster No. 15 value in fantasy with free throw percentage taken out of the equation. Of course, he held 10th-round value with FT% involved. I'd expect him to get improve on his 59.1 percent and get over 60 in 2014-15.
He had himself a nice postseason, but his field goal percentage went down. Yes, it was because his shooting at the rim went down. MG4 shot 71.1 percent at the rim in the regular season, but just 66.0 percent in the two series vs. the Bulls and Pacers. He actually shot an uncharacteristic 45.5 percent on mid-range in the postseason, so his playoff FG% of 49.2 was a bit higher than it could have been.
Gortat is entering free agency and he probably earned himself some nice dough. The Polish Hammer showed he’s in the upper echelon of pick-and-roll centers, so he’ll be getting plenty of attention. Unlike jean shorts, pick-and-roll centers will never go out of style.
We’ll re-visit Gortat in our draft guide, but he’s shaping up to be a mid-round pick as long as he's not on a team that runs a lot of ISO.
Man, that pectoral tear was a killer. Horford was a top-10 guy in standard leagues at the time of his injury and his fantasy owners probably couldn’t overcome it. He was an efficiency monster, making a career-high 56.7 percent and even added a career-high four treys last year, too. Here’s his shot chart:

Shooting above 75 percent at the rim is rare air and he follows it up with superb shooting everywhere else. Even shooting 4-of-11 on his corner treys results in an effective field goal percentage of 54.5 percent, which is also something to watch for next season. If you saw the Hawks in the playoffs, you know they’re going to be launching treys again.
Horford was taking fewer shots at the rim compared to the past two seasons, but the extra spacing was probably a factor. I’d be curious to see where his ADP lies, but it absolutely should not be in the third round.
Hey, he had his teammates over for dinner to talk about getting their struggles straightened out. It might be fitting for them to have French toast. Get it? Diaw and Parker. OK, My bad.
Anyway, Bosh’s shots keep getting further way from the rim, but he’s actually been more efficient from there. He’s made over 70 percent at the rim in each of his last two seasons, which he’s never done before 2012-Here’s a really fancy graphic from Grantland.com:
The shot-locs are no surprise considering LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are among two of the best at getting to the rim. The drive-and-kick has been a big part of Bosh’s game, so don’t expect that to change. He set a career-high 55.5 effective field goal percentage thanks to the extra treys and that trend should continue. It’s so easy to rip Bosh as the third-best max player on his team, but he’s a heck of an offensive weapon and his adaptability is a big asset.
He was the 18th-best player in standard leagues last season and has missed just 11 games in the last two seasons. The NBA’s best photobomber shouldn’t go past the third round.
It sounds like Kevin Garnett is going to be back, which puts a dent in the sleeper appeal of Mason Plumlee. Professor Plumlee didn’t use the candlestick in the study, he used a basketball at the rim to do much of his damage. Two plus two plus two plus one? Nevermind.
He actually didn’t make a single shot beyond eight feet last season and shot 14.3 percent on his jumpers. He'll be someone to watch in the later rounds of deep leagues.
Do you know the only player to get significant minutes and actually top LeBron James on field goal percentage at the rim? If you didn’t guess Brandan Wright, then I hope you get a passing grade in your remedial class.
Just like DeAndre Jordan, Brandan Wright had most of his buckets come via alley-oop:
Before we get too carried away, B-Dub ranked 274th in post-up defense last season (Synergy, not a typo). He has a lot of work to do and really needs to work on his defense this summer. We'll see what the Mavericks do next season.
Bad centers
Total deal-breaker. I’m kidding of course. Although, there are not many worse than Noah with scoring around the rim. You probably wouldn’t think this is the shot chart of an MVP candidate:
He’s one of the worst on this list for shooting percentage at the rim. As far as distribution goes, his number of shots at the rim is going down. Here’s a quick recap: In 2010-11 69.6 percent of his shots came at the rim, it was 68.2 in 2011-12, 60.3 in 2012-13 and 57.6 last season. 
We all know Noah doesn’t have much of an attractive jumper, but that’s actually one of his strengths.  Noah shot a respectable 31.9 percent on his jumpers, which is a bit above average for a center. He’s been above 31 percent in each of his last seasons, so there’s really no way he should be below 48 percent. He shot 50.0 percent last year and that’s fairly impressive considering his lack of help.
He really grew as a player last year and I think he can actually get better at the rim. That said, I’m a little worried about his injuries and I’m probably not going to target him.
Yeah, let’s just skip him. I’m not drafting him. Here’s his crappy shot chart after the break, though:
When a guy is going to lead centers in 3-pointers, chances are he’s not going to do well around the rim. Hawes was much more effective from deep with an effective field goal percentage of 62.3, which is well above his 47.8 percent from two-point range.
He has routinely been sub-par around the rim and made just 57.0 percent last season. The Sixers were among the worst in efficient scoring around the rim, but it wasn’t for trying. They actually ranked first shot attempts at the rim, but they did rank 29th in percentage behind the Cavs — Hawes’ other team.
We’ll see what happens when he latches on with a new team, but I wouldn’t expect him to be a helpful guy in FG%. It would be a mild surprise to see him match his third-round value from last season. Sixth-round ADP sounds about right for now.
He shot 42.7 percent overall last year, so obviously there are going to be some issues. While his 26.9 percent from deep hurt him, he struggled quite a bit in other areas. Sully shot just 58.4 percent at the rim and 36.2 percent on his non-restricted paint shots.
His minutes had a slight upward trend, but the inefficient scoring at the center spot is probably something the Celtics will want to fix. Sullinger probably won’t be quite as bad as his 42.7 percent, but he’s not going to be over 47 percent any time soon.

Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.

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