Floor Spacing Woes?

January 13th, 2013 by Kevin Hetrick

With how much we talk about these guys, you would think our favorite team was 9 and 29 or something.

One item I did not mention in yesterday’s recap is something said by the Denver announcing team.  During a timeout following their early struggles, George Karl told his team to play off the Cavs and make them shoot…because they can’t.

And he is right; the effective field goal percentage of the current roster, from 15 ft and out is:

  1. Casspi = 57% (49.5% career)
  2. Kyrie = 56%
  3. CJ Miles = 54%
  4. Gibson = 52%
  5. Pargo = 46%
  6. Waiters = 43%
  7. Leuer = 43% (last year)
  8. Gee = 42%
  9. Varejao = 39%
  10. Walton = 37%
  11. Zeller = 34%
  12. Livingston = 33%
  13. Kevin Jones = 33%
  14. Tristan Thompson has taken 3 shots outside of 15 feet this season

Notice that four of the top seven are not in the rotation right now.  Take out Kyrie and CJ, and the remaining rotation players provide 41% eFG from the perimeter.  Last night’s front court combines for 34%.  With a big man rotation consisting of no threat to reliably knock down a jumper, opposing coaches will instruct their teams to pack the paint…and scoring may be tough.

The Cavs bench is thin.  What can be done?  Obviously nothing dramatic, but here are some hopes & ideas:

  1. Tyler Zeller needs to convert here.  From 2003 – 2004 through the end of his career, the Original Z provided 42% eFG shooting from this range.  I will hypothesize that this is approximately the rate where opposing teams need to respect the shooter.  Tyler’s career success is contingent on providing similar floor spacing.  If he does not, it could be difficult building an effective offense around him and Tristan.
  2. Casspi and Leuer should get some burn.  Casspi is the team’s third or fourth best shooter.  He’s big, gives effort, and rebounds.  Leuer probably possesses the best outside touch of the bigs.  I know neither of these guys are all-stars, but they should help open up the paint.
  3. Gibson needs to return, confined to a role of spot-up shooter.
  4. No more Walton.  Here are some numbers from 2009 – 2010 through 2012 – 2013.
  • His annual PER has been 9.7, 5.1, 3.4, and 8.2 (replacement level is defined as approximately 11)
  • Win Shares per 48 minutes = 0.047, -0.016, -0.050, 0.004.  He has been worth -0.3 win shares over the four seasons.
  • RAPM = -1.3, -3.3 (58th worst), -5.4 (5th worst), -4.2 (17th worst).  Over the last two seasons, he rates in the bottom 4-percentile of NBA players.
  • WARP = -0.1, -1.2, -1.6 (no 2012 – 2013 data).  ln 1120 minutes, Walton was worth three wins less than a replacement player.

Each of these metrics say, “Luke Walton is less effective than a player that can be found in the D-League.  This has been true for at least three years.”

You know what else has happened during that time?  Omri Casspi and Jon Leuer have performed at a higher level than “replacement player”.  Why do the Cavs play a guy that is a decade older and produces ineffectively since the Mike Brown era?  Casspi and Leuer are 24 and 23, both rebound better than Luke, both shoot better…what is there to lose?  I obviously do not anticipate either of these players blowing us away with how amazing they are.  They are young enough and proven enough to warrant an opportunity over a guy that the numbers unanimously agree is not an NBA caliber player.

Anyways, if Zeller struggles at this range, and Gee continues draining only 31% of his threes, a few rotation change possibilities exist to help un-congest the lane.