Trends, Ranks, and Outliers, Episode 2

December 16th, 2012 by Tom Pestak

Yeah I read that garbage. Yes, "garbage", you can quote me on that. Shout out to my homie, WES, for believin

The disclaimer at the beginning of the first installment of Trends, Ranks, and Outliers was that “it’s early” [in the season] and that these were highly volatile.  How prophetic.  Since then, the Cavs have played 7 games and the Trends aren’t so Trendy, the Ranks must have been shown to an enraged C.J. Miles (there’s no other explanation), and the Outliers are slightly less outlying.  Let’s quickly recap.

Trending UPWARD was Omri Casspi.  He’d made half of his 3s and his PER was above average.  Since then?  1/7 from 3, and a handful of DNPs.  Hopefully he gets back into the rotation and starts hitting from deep – the Cavs need some floor spacers.

CJ Miles Ranking?  When we last checked in with C.J. Miles he was sporting the NBA’s worst WS/48 among players with more than 150 minutes played.  The Worst.  Today?  7 games later?  He’s moved ahead of TWENTY-TWO players.  And the accompanying FTA:FGA ratio?  Miles has blasted his way from 6th worst in the league to 36th.  Since I authored that post and attempted to embarrass my friend for predicting Miles could be the Cavs second leading scorer, Miles has been…the Cavs second leading scorer, averaging a robust 18.3 ppg.  Who wants to get made fun of this week?

The Cavs riDONKulous block differential Outlier?  Completely vanished.  Haha yeah right, it’s still there, and it’s still a huge outlier – see chart below.  However, since we’re all about BEING POSITIVE here at CTB, on behalf of all Cavs fans everywhere, I’d like to rejoice that the Cavs are now being “out-blocked” by only 4.6 blocks per game – almost a whole block less per game than the -5.5bpg they somehow accomplished through the first 18 games of the season!  (Click and then click again for full screen)

Let’s take a look at some other areas I’ve been quietly contemplating while I watch the losses pile up.

Trending: Back into Earth’s Orbit

Anderson Varejao’s overall production has started to wane slightly.  At one point, Varejao was in the top 5 in the entire NBA in various composite production stats.  That’s completely ludicrous, as he’s spent the majority of his NBA career being a “no-stats All-star”.  He’s still killing it, but it’s more “All-Star” and less “1st Team All-NBA”.  Since his otherworldly streak of double doubles ended, Wild thing has finished 4 of 6 games in single figure scoring, including an 0-9 stinkbomb.  Since the last installment of this column, Varejao is shooting 36% from the field.  To the naked eye, it seems that Varejao’s Kevin Garnett-like proficiency from 18 feet was a mirage.  Wild thing is still swallowing up an obscene amount of loose balls.  He leads the league by a country mile in offensive rebounds (this could have been the topic of today’s “outliers”) and total rebounds, and has just a slight edge on the rest of the NBA in defensive rebounds.  Of note, I’ve watched a lot of Varejao this season and I’ve tried to verify if he, Byron Scott, or any of the Cavs are trying to pad his stats.  The answer is an emphatic HELL NO.  Andy concedes just about any rebound to a teammate if there are no opponents in the area, he doesn’t play garbage minutes, and the Cavs, as Nate has often pointed out, never runs plays for him, even if some think they should.  There’s no Ricky Davis or Javale McGee stench ’round these parts.  Actually, Andy’s not getting anything easy.  In NBA all-star voting, he’s behind Joahkim Noah, who is NOT having a better season, as well as ANDREW BYNUM.  Trolling NBA fans…  Now if the coaches don’t vote Andy in as a reserve?  That would generate angry, spreadsheet-filled letters from all of the NBA’s stat-geeks, hopefully written in comic-sans.

Ranks: As a team, the Cavaliers are: (hoopdata, bball-ref)

1.) 5th worst in FTA disparity
2.) 2nd worst in eFG%, (worst by FAR in eFG% differential)
3.) Worst in FG% of Shots at the Rim
4.) Worst in Assist Rate
5.) 1st (BEST!) in Offensive Rebound Rate

More misses = more offensive rebounds. Keep at it, fellas.

Draw your own conclusions.  Here are mine:  The Cavaliers offense does not move defenses from side to side, does not mix up play-calling, and does not have the right personnel taking the right shots from the right locations.  A healthy Dion Waiters will slightly improve 1-4.  Last conclusion: If the Cavs trade Anderson Varejao, they will be the worst team in the NBA by every configurable “win/loss” metric.

Digging a little deeper:
These issues are partially personnel, and partially because the Cavs do not make defenses pay for collapsing the paint on forays to the rim.  Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Jeremy Pargo, and Donald Sloan all have one thing in common – they all love to beat their man off the dribble and head towards the rack.  Only 1 of them, The Dark Knight, can finish a contested shot.  The others either abort, get blocked, or just miss.  Unfortunately, this “tool” – the ability to beat an isolated defender and get into the teeth of the defense – is completely wasted on the Cavaliers.  This is partly because the Cavaliers are terrible at swinging the ball, and partially because the only effective “floor spacers” on the Cavs are KI, DW(at least that one game), and Boobie Gibson(Casspi doesn’t play).  See the problem?  Watching the Knicks play, they have 2 or 3 guys that can penetrate, 3 or 4 OTHER guys that can stroke a 3, and they even have a dive man living above the rim as soon as a defending big has to step in front of a JR Smith foray to the rim.  On the Cavs?  If someone steps in front of Pargo, where is the ball swinging?  Alonzo Gee in the corner?  Anderson Varejao or Tristan Thompson 17 feet out? (they pick and pop, Chandler picks and SKIES) I can’t even begin to count the number of times this season the Cavs set up their predictable Princeton offense, with the primary ball-handler receiving a high pick, penetrating, getting cut off, and throwing it to either Thompson or Varejao 17 feet from the hoop with less than 10 seconds remaining on the clock, leaving all of the Cavs players in a position they are LEAST comfortable being in, and proceeding from there.  It’s not the Cavs shot location that is the problem (their EXPECTED eFG% based on their shot LOCATION is just fine), it’s that the wrong people are in the wrong spots at the wrong times.  Varejao shouldn’t be launching 17 footers, Tristan shouldn’t be facing up and trying things from 10 feet out, Boobie shouldn’t be trying to take people off the dribble, Sloan shouldn’t be putting his head down trying to finish over taller players, and Pargo shouldn’t be spotting up for corner 3s.  And I could make the case that you could just switch the last names and everything would be alright.  This might seem cliche to say, but the Cavs really need to generate higher quality looks.  They need to draw whistles if they aren’t going to convert around the hoop (the block party has to simmer down), and they need to get out in transition more often.  The Cavs “look” their best when 1 of 2 things happens: an individual GETS BUCKETS, or the game gets chaotic.  When the game slows down, or an opposing team really digs in – the Cavs cannot score.  The Cavs offense IS hero ball, but they only have 1 hero, and the style isn’t sustainable for 48 minutes.

Outliers: The Cavs had 3 players wearing masks last night.  Has that ever happened before?