Vindication – Ian Levy at Hardwood Paroxysm has been running a series on trying to quantify shot quality. A few days ago he came to conclusions on which teams do the best job of valuing quality shots on both ends of the floor. Levy writes:
Saving James Harden and Omer Asik, the Rockets’ roster has no talent in the offensive or defensive extremes. But they are clearly adhering to a system that gives them the best opportunities to maximize their available tools. A team that leans on the excuse of, “we know where we want to shoot from, but aren’t good enough to create those shots” I would point them towards Houston and their passionate fundamentalist devotion to shot selection. Does it feel reasonable to say that the talent on the Rockets’ roster give them a better opportunity to create good shots and limit the same in their opponents, than say the talent of the Celtics or the Warriors?
I think there’s another huge lesson learned here: Kevin McHale is on the sabermetric bus. If you look at the chart that is embedded in that article, you’ll see that the Rockets as an organization don’t just find players whose talents lend themselves to efficiency. The use of empirical data is imprinted in the team’s on-court strategies. If anything answers the question of why Daryl Morey hired Kevin McHale, this is it for me.
While the win over Golden State last week in Houston was without a doubt one of the better games to cover this season, this game had all the makings of a disaster. A Warriors team both desperate to win after losing four straight and angry over their humiliation at the Toyota Center, combined with their ever-raucous home crowd, would be a difficult place to win under ordinary circumstances. When it was revealed that superstar James Harden was suffering from a sore knee, the likelihood of an ugly, ugly game became even more apparent. Golden State jumped out to an early 21-12 lead at the beginning game off of their constant off-ball movement, and one could not help but worry at that point.
However, it was not to be. For while James Harden had a “subpar” game of 27 points on 7-22 shooting, the rest of the team, including the much-maligned Houston bench, stepped up instead. During every quarter, someone stepped up to at first keep Houston in the game against a furious Warriors offensive onslaught, and then the team turned it around in the 2nd half to earn the win. One couldn’t help but think of the Rockets teams in between the Yao era and Beardsanity, when Houston had to have someone, whether Lowry or Martin or Scola or Dragic, lead the team for the night. Tonight, everyone had their chance.
Brainy – ESPN Insider looks at some data concerning why James Harden is one of the best players in the league, and puts his free throw shooting in context:
Entering Monday, he has attempted a league-leading 510 free throws. That puts him 45 ahead of second-place Kevin Durant (465). More impressive is that only five other players have even attempted more than 300 free throws this season — Dwight Howard (411), Bryant (374), Russell Westbrook (336), James (312) and Anthony (302). Harden is attempting a league-best 10.0 free throws per game and shooting 85.5 percent from the line, giving Houston a big advantage in the final minutes of close contests.
Statistically speaking we can expect a majority of our outcomes to fall within two standard deviations of the mean (our average). This means, that if the Rockets took 40 threes, we could expect them to make, on average, 14. But, if the Rockets shot 40 three-pointers a game for a whole season we could expect to see a majority of the results fall within plus or minus two standard deviations of our average; meaning the majority of our results would be in the range of 9–20 three pointers made per game when attempting 40 threes (note: our exact range is 8.1 to 20.1, but because our low range number is greater than 8 we cannot use 8 in our assumption).
This means the Rockets would only have a 2% chance of hitting our ‘high’ range number of 20 made threes. The Rockets’ 23 makes were three standard deviations above the average. As proven above, that has a 99.8% chance of NOT happening.