Ryan Knaus

The Numbers Game

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Matchups by Play-Type Update

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

With the wealth of data available to NBA fans these days, there are increasing opportunities to dig deep for favorable matchups and situations beneficial to fantasy owners. One such analysis involves play types (e.g. spot-ups, isolations, or plays finished by a roll man). I discussed this topic back in November and have had numerous requests for an update -- enough time has passed that I was curious to see how the matchups had changed, so here we go.


By examining how many points per possession (PPP) teams allow vs. particular play types we find, for instance, that the Cavaliers and Spurs are the toughest teams against isolations. They allow a mere 0.77 PPP against isos, far lower than teams like the Lakers (0.93), Celtics (0.97) or 76ers (1.01). Armed with that knowledge, we know which teams to avoid or target with players who rely heavily on isolation plays -- Harrison Barnes leads the league with 26.3% of his plays as isolations, followed by guys like Jamal Crawford, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Jahlil Okafor and Dion Waiters. The Cavs and Spurs are tough defenses overall, but by looking at play types we gain a more precise level of detail.


Many readers will already be familiar with NBA.com/Synergy's definitions for play types. If not, take a look at my column from November, Matchups: Play-by-Play, which includes full definitions for every play under consideration.


One key factor to remember is that play types are not created equal. Spot-ups have accounted for 19.69% of plays, nearly as much as hand-offs, putbacks, off-screens and miscellaneous plays combined. Here's a look at the frequency of each play type:



My primary focus as a fantasy owner is on spot-ups, P&R plays, transition, isolation, post-ups and cuts, but every category is important to certain high-frequency players (see below). Without further ado, here are the defensive PPP allowed by each team.



Note that the plays above are listed in descending order of frequency, from left to right. Now let's take a quick look at each play type (minus 'Misc.') to determine which players might gain or lose the most vs. particular teams.




Best Matchups (highest PPP allowed): Nuggets (1.08), Lakers, Timberwolves, Knicks, Suns, Blazers

Worst Matchups (lowest PPP allowed): Grizzlies (0.90), Raptors, Warriors, Spurs, Hawks, Pelicans


Most-Impacted Players (by frequency): Luke Babbitt has seen 57.7% of his offensive plays come via spot-ups, the highest of any qualifying player. He's obviously not a standard-league asset anyway, but his handful of deep leagues owners should take that into account. Babbitt is followed by Dorian Finney-Smith (56.6%), Patrick Patterson (54.9%), Brandon Rush (54.3%), Lance Thomas (54.2%), Davis Bertans (52.0%).


Unsurprisingly, this play type is dominated by guys whose offensive role is essentially, "Stand behind the arc and wait for a pass." More prominent players who are high up there include Danny Green (46.5%), Marvin Williams, DeMarre Carroll, Jae Crowder, Trevor Ariza, and even Otto Porter (35.5%).


P&R Ball-Handler


Best Matchups: Cavaliers (0.93), Hawks, Suns, Nets, Pistons, Blazers

Worst Matchups: Bulls (0.77), Bucks, Rockets, Clippers, Wizards, Magic


Most-Impacted Players: Tyler Ulis (58.5%), Reggie Jackson (57.6%), Kemba Walker (56.6%), J.J. Barea (56.3%), Jrue Holiday (51.1%), Yogi Ferrell (50.7%), Dennis Schroder (50.4%). Other players with 40% or greater frequency as a P&R ball-handler include Chris Paul, T.J. McConnell, Cory Joseph, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Lin, Lou Williams and John Wall. As far as I can tell, Stephen Curry (25.6%) has the lowest frequency of any starting point guard in this play type.





Best Matchups: Cavaliers (1.21), Suns, Pelicans, Kings, Bulls, Lakers

Worst Matchups: Wizards (0.96), Thunder, Warriors, Pacers, Nets, Heat


Most-Impacted Players: Trevor Ariza (30%), Omri Casspi, Corey Brewer, Norman Powell, Ish Smith, Sam Dekker, Victor Oladipo, and DeMarre Carroll. All those guys are above 25% for transition, and it's no surprise that three Rockets' swingmen made the list...K.J. McDaniels is also at 25.0%.


These matchups don't matter much for your typical big man, of course. Ed Davis has an amazingly low 1.0% frequency for transition, and not far above him are Derrick Favors (2.6%), Marcin Gortat, Zach Randolph, Robin Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Horford, Jonas Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside. Those guys are all at or below a mere 4.0%.





Best Matchups: 76ers (1.01), Celtics, Magic, Rockets, Nets, Lakers

Worst Matchups: Spurs (0.77), Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Clippers, Pacers, Heat


Most-Impacted Players: Harrison Barnes (26.3%), Jamal Crawford, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Jahlil Okafor, Dion Waiters, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers, Russell Westbrook, Julius Randle, Devin Booker, DeMar DeRozan. For players who aren't much impacted by isolation matchups, think spot-up shooters and restricted-area-scoring big men.





Best Matchups: Blazers (1.33), Kings, Nets, Clippers, Wolves, Wizards

Worst Matchups: Cavaliers (1.14), Jazz, Warriors, Grizzlies, Hawks, Spurs


Most-Impacted Players: Kosta Koufos (40.6%), Clint Capela, Willie Cauley-Stein, Zaza Pachulia, Amir Johnson, Willie Reed, Bismack Biyombo, Rudy Gobert, Marcin Gortat, Mason Plumlee, Montrezl Harrell, Dewayne Dedmon, and Tyson Chandler. For what it's worth, Jordan Mickey is at 60.0% in limited minutes, while Cole Aldrich and Omer Asik are both north of 40%.





Best Matchups: Nuggets (1.01), Knicks, Magic, Pacers, Suns, Pistons

Worst Matchups: Cavaliers (0.81), Hawks, Pelicans, Clippers, Celtics, Jazz


Most-Impacted Players: Al Jefferson deserves special attention here. He's at 46.8% frequency for post-ups, which dwarfs the next-closest guy, Jahlil Okafor (35.7%). Big Al is a shadow of his former self, but he's more dependent than ever on his array of sneaky post moves. Other guys north of 30% include Jusuf Nurkic, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Joel Embiid and Greg Monroe. A slew of other big man follow, and the first non-traditional PF/C that we find is Harrison Barnes (17.4%).


The two play types of isolations and post-ups account for 43.7% of Harrison Barnes' offensive frequency, and for Jahlil Okafor that number jumps to 57.6%. The Cavaliers are the worst possible matchup in those two areas, but Okafor and Barnes should fare particularly well vs. the Nuggets, Knicks, Magic and Sixers.



P&R Roll Man


Best Matchups: Rockets (1.16), Suns, Raptors, Nuggets, Mavericks, Heat

Worst Matchups: Jazz (0.96), Wolves, 76ers, Grizzlies, Magic, Knicks


Most-Impacted Players: Dwight Powell (41.2%), Cody Zeller, Brandan Wright, Tyler Zeller, Ivica Zubac, Nene, Lucas Nogueira, Dewayne Dedmon, Myles Turner, Pau Gasol, Cristiano Felicio, Clint Capela and Montrezl Harrell. Unsurprisingly, all three of Houston's centers make the list. The first non-traditional PF/C to make the list is Jared Dudley (13.0%), and this play type is clearly only relevant for big men.





Hand-offs account for just 4.24% of the plays under consideration, the lowest of any play type (they're even below the odd-ball 'Miscellaneous' plays). That doesn't mean that they're unimportant, however, as a guy like J.J. Redick is getting 17.6% of his plays off hand-offs, Gary Harris is at 16.8%, and Nik Stauskas is at 15.7%. It's a shooting-guard heavy category, which is worth remembering if you're up against the Warriors or Bucks, who tend to shut down that action.


The same holds true for other very low-frequency play types. Putbacks are particularly germane for Joakim Noah (35.1%), Cristiano Felicio (32.1%), Willie Reed (27.2%), Tyson Chandler (26.6%) and Kenneth Faried (26.5%). Ed Davis, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Rudy Gobert aren't far behind. Klay Thompson tops the frequency list for off-screen plays at 34.1%, followed closely by Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick. As for the 'miscellaneous' category, the highest-frequency player there is none other than...Andrew Bogut? Sure, why not.


There's plenty to dig into here, and I encourage you to cross-reference my team-by-team chart above with the individual player stats found on NBA.com. Head to the players’ section, filter by play type, and see what you can dig up. If you have any insights or questions, you can always find me on Twitter @Knaus_RW. Good luck this week.

Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
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