James Harden and Dwight Howard are two great basketball players with skill-sets that could only compliment each other any more if Howard had a reliable 18-foot jumper. But asking for that would be like getting a Lexus for Christmas, then criticizing where the cup-holders are located.

They don’t “need” a reliable 18-foot jumper. It’d be nice, but isn’t necessary thanks to what’s already there. And what’s already there is basketball’s most foundational two-man sequence: the pick-and-roll. How successful are Harden and Howard running it? If you’ve been paying attention to the Houston Rockets this season, you know it’s a bit like watching a live jack hammer ravage an ant hill.

But how are they so successful? And why don’t the Rockets pound opponents into submission with it until either Harden or Howard passes out from exhaustion? Sports are filled with “pick your poison” scenarios, and in the NBA there’s almost nothing deadlier than a pick-and-roll featuring Harden’s handle and Howard’s magnetic pull.

These two are great on their own and even better working together. Through the season’s first 22 games, here’s a closer look at how they’ve been so successful, and why they need to do it more. [read more…]

in essays

In part 1 and part 2, we looked at selfishness from two different perspectives, one a graphical chart and one a more traditional table. I’ve combined these two visualizations into this single chart. It looks much like the first chart, but an added slider allows you to filter by players’ SE rank. Thus, you can quickly identify, say, the top 10 players in terms of SE without having the leave the visual view. I plan to update this data every once in a while and, when I do, will only present the results in this view.

I’m now going to use these data to make some suggestions about how offenses, specifically the Houston Rockets offense, should operate. My comments are based on a few assumptions.

[read more…]

in essays

Force LaMarcus Aldridge inside?

Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge has both a lower field goal percentage and true shooting percentage this season (despite having averaged more points per game) than he did last year.  But his shot charts tell a different story.

LaMarcus Aldridge shot chart '14

LaMarcus Aldridge '13

[read more…]

in musings

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