The Great Wall of Asik - During the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference, Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry sat down with ESPN to discuss a few things NBA, mainly Goldsberry’s new study into how each pick-action should be valued during the course of a basketball game. Goldsberry called picks “the most underrated events in basketball,” and added, “every basketball coach knows that it is the fundamental element of basketball”. The trick, then, is finding a way to quantify the ways a good screen-setter can influence a game.
Well, thanks to 2.5 seasons of data collected by Vantage Sports, ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan was able to identify the most cost-effective pickers in the league. He accredits Tiago Splitter, Kendrick Perkins and Daily-favorite Joakim Noah for being among the elite screeners in the Association, but due to their salary do not make the list. Omer Asik, however, is the highest-paid player to make the cut.
AAV: $8.4 million | Set Screens Per 100 Chances: 61.7
Solid Screen %: 72.9 | Set Screen Outcome Efficiency %: 34.7
Perhaps the hottest name on the trading block to go untraded, Asik’s role on offense has long been that of a guy who crashes the offensive glass and sets solid screens. We’ve been able to assess with reasonable accuracy his value to the former, but Vantage puts a number on the latter: Asik is one of the the most frequent screen setters in the game, ranking fifth in frequency among players with at least 1,000 samples. He makes contact or re-routes the defender almost 73 percent of the time, making him an effective screener. Asik’s 2014-15 balloon payment hurts, but in the right circumstance it might be a justifiable expense when taking into account his full impact on an offense.
I’ve said before that even Dwight Howard could learn a thing or two from watching Asik in the pick-and-roll. Too often Howard will peel-off early, before the ball-handler even has time to use the screen, to attack the rim and try to get his own. Asik, on the other hand, plants his feet and becomes a three-foot wide barricade in the middle of the court. I even went as far as calling what he does an “Omer Asik specialty”. He’s a tree-trunk of a man and knows how to use his size to affect the offense despite his lack of scoring ability.
This is why the sports analytics movement and the introduction of the camera-tracking technology is so great. Such a small, historically insignificant play that happens countless times a game and could only really be measured by the eye-test, is finally getting its due.
But what it also means, is that despite the fact that there is information in existence that proves Omer Asik has the ability to lead the league in rebounding, anchor a top-ten defense and is one of the best screen-setters in the NBA, Daryl Morey was still unable to find a suitable trade partner at the deadline. Funky contract or not, no wonder the turnover of NBA GMs is so high year-to-year.
Best in the West - Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney of the Point Forward batted-around a few questions about the top-tier teams in the Western Conference. Topics ranged from who is most likely to win the one-seed, to who would have the best chance at beating the Heat and what is their dream WCF matchup. One of them also chose a familiar face when answering who they thought (besides Russell Westbrook) is the biggest X-factor in the West-race, but we’ll get to that shortly. Read More