A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The value of “Tyson Chandler buckets” – Low volume, high efficiency scoring

with 2 comments

Tyson ChandlerOne of the advancements of basketball statisicians is a movement towards better wars of measuring scoring efficiency. The most popular is True Shooting % (TS%), which is more accurate of points per shot than FG% because it accounts for 3pt line and FT line scoring. The average TS% for teams in the league is .54. Thus player efficiency is measured by scoring above and below this line. Usually, we value players who score 20 points a game at .60 TS%. Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer are examples of players capable of this. But what about the players who score at an even higher efficiency, but at a low volume? Examples of this include Tyson Chandler who scores 10.3 points a game at a league leading .70 TS%, Matt Bonner who scores 7.6 points a game at .669 TS%, and this year’s Shaq who scores 9.3 points a game at .655 TS%. These seasons are usually not as valued due to the lower volume. But is this accurate? Let’s do a quick calculation:

Assume a standard of 90 shots and a .54 TS% in a game. Player A in a Chris Bosh mold scores 20 points in the game on a .60 TS%, using about 17 shooting posssessions to do it. Player B in a Tyson Chandler mold scores 10 points on a .70 TS% in the game, using 7 shooting possessions to do it. If the rest of their teammates shoot .54 TS% combined, Player A’s scoring raises the average TS% to .551 and Player B’s raises it to .552. Simply put, 17 shots at .06 over the average (.60 – .54) adds less to the efficiency than 7 shots at .16 over the average (.7 – .54).

Now is this a big generalization? Of course. Basketball is not that simple. Chandler feeds off open shots at the rim to score. These open shots are created by better offensive players on the team like Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. The true value of a player like Dirk is when he can score his 23 points a game at .62 TS% while also helping a Chandler score at a high rate inside, as well as help Jason Terry and Jason Kidd take high percentage 3s. Chandler’s shots inside and Kidd, Terry’s shots outside are every bit as efficient as Dirk’s scores, but it takes work to create them. The combination of Dirk’s scoring with these equally efficient inside and outside scoring has led to Dallas having the 3rd best team TS% in the league according to hoopdata.com. Likewise on last year’s Cavaliers a 3pt shot by Mo Williams or Anthony Parker or an inside score by Anderson Varejao or JJ Hickson were as efficient as a Lebron shot on his way to 30 ppg at .60 TS%. The result was Cleveland having the 3rd best TS% last season.

The value of high efficiency shots even at a low volume cannot be understated. When a team gets 7 shots inside at a Chandler like percentage it can have as large an impact as the 15-17 shots from their star player. The impact of a star is not just their own scoring but creating these inside and outside shots. Perhaps this is why a player like Corey Maggette can score 20 points a game at a high efficiency but appear to have minimal impact on an offense. As a ball stopping isolation player, his negative impact on ball movement takes away good inside and outside shots. Thus the impact of his 20 points a game on a high efficiency is slim to none. Adrian Dantley in the 80s is an even more extreme example than Maggette, scoring 30ppg at .63-65 TS% making him one of the most prolific scorers in history. Nevertheless he led bad teams and shockingly average offenses. If scoring 30ppg on that high an efficiency leads to an average offense, it’s obvious the rest of the team must be scoring at a low efficiency. It’s likely Dantley’s ball dominant play led to poor shots for his teammates. Dantley’s play likely took away Chandler like buckets, rather than added them.

Overall, the point is team efficiency is complex. A good shot inside or outside by a role player is usually as valuable as a star’s common field goal attempt. Great offenses can often come down to ball movement maximizing these shots, rather than just a star’s scoring carrying a team. Ball movement and finding the open man is the best way to get “Tyson Chandler buckets” which are not as flashy as one of a star’s 17 shots a game but just as, if not more statistically valuable.

Written by jr.

March 15, 2011 at 12:11 am

2 Responses

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  1. This is an excellent thing to explore, particularly with what the Nuggets are doing right now (hope to write on that soon).

    A couple things to consider along with this. There is a concept called “points above replacement” that essentially tried to look at what i’d call the “net profit” of a player’s shooting. There isn’t one agreed upon formula, but here’s a couple ways to slice it:

    If you consider a replacement player to shoot at average frequency (54% TS), then if you simply went by shots taken and efficiency above replacement, the 20 PPG 60% TS guy gives you a net value of +1.00. The 10 PPG 70% guy gives you a net value of +1.14.

    People who do this though generally like to think of a replacement player being well below average. Along the lines of what you could quickly and cheaply bring in if needed. An APBRmetric thread gave a value of 48.4% TS for that at one point. If we use that, the 20/60 guy gives a net value of +1.93, while the 10/70 gives +1.47.

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in either value. One assumes no value for volume shooting, the other assumes that you’ll add a new terrible player, and have him shoot at the volume of the current player – obviously that won’t happen.

    Also of course, worth noting how small the estimated impact is period, <2 points.

    Matt Johnson

    March 15, 2011 at 11:46 am

  2. Ah, so now you come around to agreeing with Berri’s views on efficiency. 😉

    More seriously, I agree with Julien that the ability to convert specific kinds of shots at a high efficiency is valuable, but that this often speaks to a player getting low difficulty looks due to team dynamics rather than due to great personal shot-creating ability. Having a player who can convert these easy looks is undoubtedly important, but unless you have superlative team ball movement or a dynamic individual playmaker then you do need some players on the team capable of creating less efficient shots independently which can be used as an alternative “path” to the basket (I’m obviously referencing the Melo and the Wilt posts respectively here).

    Nash and Amare come to mind here, although Amare certainly wasn’t a low-volume player, you can argue that the shots created for him via Nash were the sort of looks that could equally be created for our Tyson Chandler or Matt Bonner player type who could convert the basket with a basic execution of skill (of course by “basic” I’m talking relatively about something that 99% of highschool basketball players will never perform to the required level).

    Reggie Miller also comes to mind here in terms of limited use of team shot-making resource (specifically, shot-clock time), although his use of off-ball movement and screens obviously complicates things. But he provides a contrast to the Maggette or Dantley style which uses a large amount of team-scoring opportunity (in terms of shot-clock time) in a way that the low-usage, single skill use players don’t.

    Really nice post, Julien.


    March 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

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