Three Stats You Need to Know: A Midseason Review.

January 17th, 2010 by John Krolik

It’s a game late for an official midseason review, but I’m hoping the generous fans of Cavs: The Blog will be able to forgive me for being late to my first day of work.

For those of you who missed John Krolik’s announcement, my name is Mark Cameron and I write for a Cavs blog named Numbers Don’t. I’ll be writing here part-time, probably weekly, so make sure to email me at camakazee03@yahoo.com if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or stats you’d like to see analyzed.

Anyway, after 42 games, I figured it was time we all take a look at what the Cleveland Cavaliers have done so far this season. But, instead of a traditional midseason review that may grade every player on the team or touch on what they’ve done well with or struggled with, I decided to throw out three unique stats that Cavs fans need to know.

Some of these are simply updated stats I’ve used before with new conclusions now and some are new altogether. So, without further ado, here are the midseason stats you have to see.

#1. Where do LeBron’s assists go?

A pie chart tracking the distribution of LeBron James' 323 assists to date.

After breaking down the results, not much has changed since I last looked at where LeBron’s assists go after game 28 this season. Anthony Parker is still the primary beneficiary of LeBron’s assists, accounting for 19% of them (61 assists), with Mo Williams a close second with 17% (56 assists).

However, LeBron has started looking for his big men more, particularly his centers. After game 28, LeBron had found Shaquille O’Neal for 7% of his assists and Zydrunas Ilgauskas for 11% of his assists, averaging 1.46 assists per game to the two targets combined. All three numbers have increased after 42 games, with O’Neal commanding 9% of LeBron’s assists, Ilgauskas receiving 14% of the dimes, and the two combining for 1.76 assisted baskets per game courtesy of LeBron James.

However, if some players are receiving a larger proportion of LeBron’s assists, there has to be an equal decrease with other players. In this case, J.J. Hickson saw a -3% drop in assists received from LeBron since game 28 and Jamario Moon saw a -2% reduction. Moon’s drop off, however, can be attributed to recent injury, as Jawad Williams has picked up his 2% production filling in for him over the past week.

One of the more interesting conclusions from this stat comes from charting the type of players that are on the other end of LeBron’s assists. For instance, despite averaging only 7.3 points per game (10.2% of the team’s 71.3 points per game not scored by James), Anthony Parker is on the other end of 19% of LeBron’s assists. The reason for this discrepancy is the style of Cleveland’s spread and attack offense that has benefit LeBron James for quite a few seasons now. By putting three-point shooters in the corner, LeBron is able to attack the heart of the defense with either little defensive help or a wide open sharpshooter to either side. Both Parker and Mo Williams are able to finish off many of LeBron’s assists this way, simply by camping out at the three-point line. So far, through 42 games this season, 110 of LeBron’s 323 assists have been on three-pointers (34.1%).

With nearly 35% of his assists going to three-point shooters, this boosts LeBron James’ hands on points percentage. For those who are unfamiliar with the measure, hands on points is the percentage of a team’s points that a player either scores directly or assists. With 1,243 points scored and 756 points off assists so far this season, LeBron James has accounted for 47.2% of Cleveland’s points. This number is also up from earlier this season, but only by 0.2%.

Averaging a career-high 7.7 assists per game through the first 42 games, we may be witnessing LeBron’s most dominant offensive season yet.

#2. What about “LeIso” jumpshots?

It’s the shot that drives every Cavs fan crazy. The Cavaliers take over with roughly 20 seconds left, ensuring the last shot of the quarter, as LeBron James calls for the ball at midcourt. He then proceeds to hold the ball as his eyes alternate between his opponent and the game clock until it reads five seconds. Then, James varies it up between either a few jab steps or a couple of dribbles as he moseys into a deep three or a foot-on-the-line two-point jumper. Well, in the minds of the fans, this shot never goes in. But what do the stats say?

FG’s/FGA’s Type of shot Av. Point DIFF before shot 1st Q 2nd Q 3rd Q 4th Q
4-20 (20.0%) eleven 3’s, nine 2’s +5.6 5 7 7 1

These numbers reflect only isolation end-of-the-quarter jumpshots by James, weeding out other attempts with a few simple rules. First, no layups or dunks are reflected in these stats. Secondly, only possessions when the Cavs take over with more than 10 seconds left will count, thus separating isolation jumpshots from half-court heaves or a sprint to a shot. Lastly, only jumpshots taken within the last 5 seconds of the quarter by LeBron James will be included in the stat.

Now, with that said, it’s quite clear that these isolation jumpshots to end the quarter are probably the most inefficient part of LeBron James’ game. Believe it or not, that percentage is up from just a week ago thanks to two made field goals on the west coast road trip. In fact, before a two-point jumper to end the first quarter in Portland last Sunday, LeBron James was 0 for his last 13 isolation jumpers to finish the quarter. That jumpshot also marked his first made two-point isolation jumper to end a quarter, as he was 0-7 on two-point jumpers before that game.

Ultimately, LeBron rarely reverts to the isolation jumpshot to end the quarter if his team is losing. The Cavs are ahead by an average of 5.6 points when he hoists these jumpers, and Cleveland has been leading 16 of the 20 times when James has decided to hold the ball and ease his way into a long shot to conclude the quarter. But there’s no denying how much more efficient the Cavs look at the end of a quarter when LeBron either drives hard to the hoop for a layup, dunk, or kick-out, or fools the defense by holding the ball and then passing off to a three-point shooter in the corner. After all, lack of focus when holding a moderate or large lead has been an area of concern so far for the Cavaliers this season and these isolation jumpshots to end the quarter certainly reflect that.

#3. How about each player’s splits?

An important piece of information to know for any team is who can shoot well on the road and who can’t. If you’re having flashbacks to Thursday’s game at Utah with Anthony Parker on the line, I apologize for any stress I induced. Here is a look at the team’s splits between home and road shooting percentage as well as each individual player’s splits.

Cleveland’s FG% on road: 47.1%.
Cleveland’s FG% at home: 50.0%.
Cleveland’s FT% on road: 75.2%.
Cleveland’s FT% at home: 72.1%.

Player FG% on road FG% at home FT% on road FT% at home
Delonte West* 46.5% 44.0% 83.7% 80.0%
Mo Williams* 42.7% 47.4% 90.3% 87.2%
LeBron James* 49.7% 53.6% 79.5% 75.2%
Anthony Parker 43.1% 44.6% 76.7% 77.8%
Jamario Moon 48.5% 41.7% 72.7% 93.8%
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 42.3% 49.1% 73.5% 78.6%
Daniel Gibson 45.3% 46.6% 69.2% 72.7%
J.J. Hickson* 51.2% 58.0% 67.5% 61.5%
Anderson Varejao 50.0% 52.6% 65.2% 67.6%
Shaquille O’Neal* 49.7% 55.6% 54.0% 50.0%

* players that shoot a better free throw percentage on the road.

So, if you could take a time machine back to Thursday night, the ball should have gone to either LeBron or Delonte, not Z or Parker (remember, Mo Williams had fouled out that game). Both LeBron and Delonte shoot better from the line in away games than home games and they also have a better road free throw percentage than either Ilgauskas or Parker.

Also, it’s somewhat startling to see how much less efficient all three of Cleveland’s leading scorers are on the road. James, Williams, and O’Neal all shoot a lower field goal percentage in away games as opposed to home games by 3.9, 4.7, and 5.9 percent, respectively. Hopefully this is a byproduct of some tough road games out west and not a developing trend that could hurt the Cavaliers in the playoffs.

Luckily, the team has found a nice way to counteract the inefficient shooting on the road, and that solution lies at the free throw line. The Cavaliers are averaging 27.0 free throw attempts on the road this season, compared to only 23.3 free throw attempts at home. The team also shoots better from the line on the road, believe it or not, shooting 75.2% in away games as opposed to 72.1% in home games.

A lot of this starts with LeBron James, who not only shoots a better percentage on the road as I mentioned earlier, but is more aggressive and quicker to get to the line in away games. James has averaged 8.5 free throw attempts at home so far this season, yet has managed to shoot 10.0 free throws per game outside the state of Ohio. Ultimately, if the Cavaliers remain this aggressive on the road and begin to shoot better from the floor as the visiting team, they could become a very dangerous road playoff team.

Hopefully, you’re all able to take something away from these three stats. If anything, you now know where LeBron is trending with his assists, how inefficient his end-of-the-quarter jumpshots are, and how aggressive the team has been on the road in terms of drawing fouls. In the end, the biggest stat might be the 9-3 record the Cavaliers have posted against the nine teams with 24 or more wins. Not a bad start against the league’s elite, that’s for sure.

Make sure to join the discussion at Numbers Don’t and Real Cavs Fans!