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Archive for February 2015

DeMar Derozan vs. Terrence Ross and evaluating wings in the modern era

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DeMar Derozan and Terrence Ross are believed to be in a different place as Raptors. Derozan is a cornerstone of the franchise after making the all-star team in 2013-2014 and leading them statistically in the playoffs. Ross has been inconsistent statistically and now in trade rumours. Some believe trading Ross for a veteran SF is the best way for the Raptors to come closer to legitimate contention.

Under conventional wisdom Derozan being considered the “keeper” of these two would not be debated.  However I believe the case for keeping Terrence Ross of the two is legitimate.

DeMar Derozan is averaging 18.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game to 10.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists for Terrence Ross. However Derozan’s .49 TS% and 102 ORTG show he is inefficient at scoring and using possessions. Ross at .521 TS% and 104 ORTG is mediocre efficiency.  The difference between them in efficiency is compounded by Derozan using many more possessions than Ross. A standard possessions calculation of (FGA + .44*FTA + 2.1) has Derozan at 20.8 possessions per game to 10.7 possessions for Ross. Derozan’s inefficiency is a bigger problem not only because of a lower TS% and ORTG but because he uses more possessions at this negative rate.

There are two ways to defend Derozan’s stats. First is that he had a significantly bigger season last year at 22.7 points per game, .532 TS% and 110 ORTG whereas this season he’s had to work his way back from injury. However his November statistics before his injury of 19.7 points on .503 TS% and 104 ORTG are still a decline from his rate last season. In addition the rest of Derozan’s career reflect output closer to this season than 2013-2014. In his 2nd, 3rd and 4th season preceding his all-star year, he averaged between 16.7 and 18.1 points per game and between 100 and 106 ORTG. The larger sample size suggests his all-star 5th season could end up the outlier.

The second way to defend his statistics is to claim a high volume scorer takes pressure off his teammates. The Raptors having high volume guards like Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan and Lou Williams, allows players like Patrick Patterson, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, James Johnson to take a lower volume of shots but covert them at an excellent efficiency. If forced into facing the full attention of the defense it’s likely players like Patterson, Johnson, Valanciunas and Johnson would be forced into taking more heavily guarded shots and their efficiency would fall. In addition to this during Derozan’s injury the Raptors had a heavy slide on the defensive end. This suggests Derozan’s high volume usage taking pressure off his teammates offensively could help them conserve more energy for the defensive end. Therefore it can be argued the real value of Derozan’s season as a high volume scorer who takes pressure off his teammates is not captured in statistics.

However although Terrence Ross is not a high volume scorer who takes pressure off his teammates, Ross has a different advantage over Derozan. Derozan is a poor 3 point shooter at 21.4% on 1.4 attempts a game while Ross shoots 36.8% from 3 on a team leading 4.7 attempts a game. Ross came into the league known as a shooting specialist and in his sophomore season averaged 39.5% from 3 on 5.0 attempts a game to help establish his reputation. Therefore the respect for Terrence Ross from 3 point range makes him a floor spacer and dragging a defender out to the 3 point line should help the Raptors score on drives or on the paint. Furthermore because he takes less shots this should help the Raptors ball movement to the open man more than Derozan who more deliberately needs more plays designed around his isolation skills.

Both Derozan and Ross has a “secondary” value of either volume scoring or floor spacing that makes their teammates more efficient. There isn’t a conclusive way to determine which one is more valuable. However I do believe the “primary” value of Ross using 10 possessions a game at a league average efficiency is more valuable than Derozan using 20 possessions a game at a clearly below average efficiency, therefore to me Ross has something of a head start before deciding whether their volume scoring or spacing is more valuable.

There are other ways to impact the game. Both are similar rebounders with Derozan averaging 4.6 total rebounds per 36 minutes to 4.4 for Ross and defensively they are hard to pick out. Ross has faster feet as the more dynamic athlete however Derozan has a strength advantage and plays a steadier, headier game on defense. Derozan is more experienced therefore if he has a defensive advantage right now Ross could catch up in a few years. Derozan is a quality passer at 3.5 assists per per 36 minutes to 1.3 for Ross, however Derozan turns the ball over 2.3 times per 36 minutes to 1.2 for Ross. In the stat ORTG where Ross had an edge at 104 to Derozan’s 102 assists and turnovers were accounted for in overall possession efficiency.

I do not know whether Terrence Ross is a better player than Derozan right now because I can’t quantify the value of their spacing and volume scoring against each other. But I believe there is at least a strong case that Ross is as valuable or more. It isn’t a “no brainer” in favour of Derozan.

If one rated them as close in current production, what could settle it is their salary situation. Derozan is very likely to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016. He has a player option for the 2016-2017 season for his 10.1 million salary, which is a bargain now before considering the salary cap is likely to explode in the summer of 2016 because of the new TV deal. This will lead to a surplus of capspace that most teams can’t spend all on quality players and thus a bidding war for players in demand like Derozan. If Derozan becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2016 he could very well get a max deal breaking 20 million a season that summer. Furthermore the Raptors all but can’t extend him this summer. Derozan is limited to a 107.5% raise of his 10.1 million salary, which only amounts to 10.9 million. Considering what a raise he is due in 2016 it doesn’t make sense for him to even consider this extension.

Terrence Ross would be a restricted free agent in 2016 if not extended by then. Like Derozan the new TV deal could lead to an inflated contract for him. However although the league is becoming more analytics friendly and wise to the value of floor spacers, I have a hard time believing he’d demand the size of contract that an established all-star with a high points per game like Derozan would. Secondly the odds of the Raptors extending Ross this summer are higher. Although he may want to wait until 2016 to try for a large offer sheet he could also opt for the security of a sizeable post-rookie deal as a player who’s struggled to find his statistical footmark so far. Utah shocked everyone last summer when they gave Alec Burks a 10.5 million a season, 4 years/42 million contract. They were banking on both his improvement and 10 million a year looking like 7 or 8 million a year does now once the new TV deal kicks in. If the Raptors offer Terrence Ross a similar 10 or 11 million a year extension under the same presumption of paying for improvement and paying a new TV deal price it may be hard for him to turn down. This is in addition to the advantage of if Ross gets to the summer of 2016 unsigned, the Raptors will have the ability to match any offer sheet for him.

When considering these salary reasons and considering he is the younger/more inexperienced player, of the two I would keep Terrence Ross over DeMar Derozan.

Written by jr.

February 16, 2015 at 1:56 pm

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Marcus Smart, Andrew Wiggins and the new reality of rookie statistics

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For the second straight year the rookie class is deathly short of players doing anything statistically. There are only 2 rookies who have played over 300 minutes who have a PER above league average 15 (Nikola Mirotic and Jusuf Nurkic) and only 3 players with the same minutes qualification over league average .100 WS/48 (Nikola Mirotic, Aaron Gordon, Tarik Black). Although injuries are to blame, the 2014 class also came in with more expectations than 2013 and many players are simply under-performing.

Part of the two year slump may be structural. Take the case of Marcus Smart. Smart has impressed those watching closely. He is already producing defensively and is shooting over 35% from 3 on a high volume of 5.6 attempts per 36 minutes. His efficiency is above league average at 106 ORTG which looks even better compared to almost all the other rookies who are playing inefficient. For this Smart is tied for the lead in total Win Shares in his class with Jabari Parker.

However Smart is still just taking 5.7 shots a game and averaging 6.6 points. He only has one game where he scored over 15 points this season which makes it hard to garner major attention compared to a player like Andrew Wiggins who is averaging over 15 points a game and has more 20 point games than Smart has 10 point games. On NBA.com’s last rookie ladder Smart ranked just 7th.

But what makes Smart hard to compare to the rookie of the year lock Wiggins is what’s being asked of them. It’s fair to say Flip Saunders and Brad Stevens are operating from different generations of coaching philosophy. Minnesota is one of the last teams building their offensive and defensive strategies around taking and defending midrange jumpers and giving up the 3 more often to do so. The Celtics under Stevens have moved towards a more progressive style of play built more than Minnesota around using and defending the 3 point shot. Here is the distribution of shots for each player this season:

Marcus Smart (194 total FGA)

At rim – 26 (13.4%)

3- <10 ft – 14 (7.2%)

10- <16 ft – 12 (6.1%)

16- < 3pt – 16 (8.2%)

3pt – 126 (64.9%)

Andrew Wiggins (650 total FGA)

At rim – 191 (29.3%)

3- <10 ft – 120 (18.5%)

10- <16 ft – 105 (16.1%)

16- <3pt – 144 (22.1%)

3pt – 90 (13.8%)

What one can’t take away from Wiggins is he drives to the basket more than Smart does. For this he also gets to free throw line 4.7 times per 36 minutes to Smart’s 2.2.

However after that what we see is a fascinating difference in how they are used that perfectly represents the old school vs new school thinking. Brad Stevens has Smart being used as a “3s and defense” role player and avoiding the midrange shot while Wiggins game is predicated more from midrange. Smart takes nearly 7.9 3s for every 16-23 foot 2 point jumper while Wiggins takes a little over .6 3s for every 16-23 foot jumper.

In Utah Dante Exum’s statistics have been poor compared to Smart’s but the story of how Quin Snyder is using him is the same. On the season he has taken 25 shots from 16-23 ft (10.7% of his 233 total FGA) and 144 shots from 3 (61.8% of his total FGA).

Getting to the big picture, more rookies being used in an analytics-driven “defense and spacing” era may be a cause of the last two rookie classes struggling statistically. If Smart came into the league 10 or 15 years ago he would have likely played for an old school coach more akin to Flip Saunders. This coach may have looked at his Celtics roster and decided the #1 thing they need is a scorer who can “create his own shot” and someone who can take over at the end of this games. This could have conceivably greatly altered a rookie season like Marcus Smart, favouring a higher points per game thanks to getting the green light to take midrange shots instead of entirely avoid them as he’s doing now. In addition to this, this style of play would have been a more direct transition from a prospect like Smart’s game in college and high school. Players like Smart and Wiggins have taking a high volume of shots and treated like “the man” their entire life. Thus in the old days instead of a Marcus Smart having to transition from a ball dominant player to an off ball shooter as players like him and Exum have to do now, they could have largely taken his style of play from the NCAA and used it as is in the NBA. This transition to a new style of play could partly be an explanation why it’s not just that many rookies are being used as off ball, 3s/defense/at the rim specialists, but why most have been quite poor at performing as those specialists. If rookies now more regularly have to learn a new style of play it would make sense the learning curve suddenly becomes more deadly.

Written by jr.

February 5, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized