Trends, Ranks, and Outliers – Episode 3

February 6th, 2013 by Tom Pestak

It’s been well over a month since the last installment of TRO.  In episode 2, I highlighted the following team rankings for the Cavaliers:

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

Here’s how this looks today:

1.) 12th Worst in FTA disparity
2.) 5th Worst in eFG% (2nd worst in eFG% differential – Charlotte)
3.) 2nd Worst in FG% of Shots at the Rim
4.) 2nd Worst in Assist Rate
5.) 8th best in Offensive Rebounding Rate (miss you, Andy)

Improvements!  On to the categories!

We'd like to thank the Bobcats for our newfound success.

Trending: 4th Quarters and Free Throws

4th Quarters are fun again!  There was a time not long ago when I lamented in a podcast that the Cavs were averaging NEGATIVE 10 points per 48 minutes in 4th quarters.  The Cavs were melting down in second halves, particularly in the 4th – ball movement, shooting, turnovers – everything was bad.  But the times they are a changin’.  The Cavs have done an about face in 2 distinct areas.  Take a look at the Cavs last 8 games, starting with the exciting win at Portland, and watch the picture come into focus. In the last 8 games the Cavs have:

-Outscored their opponents 29.5 to 24.25 in 4th quarters (+5.25 per quarter or +21 per 48)
-Led the entire NBA in Free Throws Made differential and Free Throw % differential while ranking 6th in Free Throws Attempted differential.  They’d spent the rest of the season in the bottom 1/3 of the league in FTM differential and FTA differential.
-Ranked 5th in the NBA in drawn fouls differential.   They’d spent the rest of the season in the bottom 1/3 of the league.
-Ranked in the bottom half of the NBA in FGA differential after being THE BEST (chuckers!) at this for the other 40 games.

So the Cavs are trading field goals for free throws, and are hitting their free throws at 82% – good for best in the NBA over the 8 game sample.

Patriots make their Free Throws

The Cavs have also started to do some other things well offensively (defensively there has been no obvious improvement).  They have started to tune their assist rate with more effective passing.  After spending the first 40 games in the bottom 5th of teams in percentage of unassisted FG, they are starting to move towards the middle of the pack.  Additionally, they have taken exceptional care of the basketball in the last 8 games – ranking 1st in the league in turnover rate.

If there are two players that best exhibit these positive trends they are my main men Freon Dion Waiters and Canadian Dynamite. (Formerly “Attempted-Threeeon” Waiters and “Blocked-Attempt” Thompson).  Take a look at their season averages compared to their last 8 games.

Freon FTA/g FTM/g FGA/g TO/g Ast/g
Season 3.3 2.5 13.8 2 3.2
Last 8 4.4 3.3 11.3 2.1 3.3
Dynamite FTA/g FTM/g FGA/g TO/g Ast/g
Season 3 1.9 9.3 1.5 1.3
Last 8 3.3 2.3 13.3 1.6 2

Right off the bat you’ll notice they are both getting to the line more often, and cashing in at a higher rate to boot.  Waiters has replaced bad shots with free throws (pretty much all we’ve been begging him to do), and TT has almost doubled his assist rate without any increase in turnovers.  Another factor in the Cavaliers Free Throw extravaganza is that Kyrie Irving isn’t missing free throws anymore and C.J Miles is also getting to the line more often (something I asked for) and hasn’t missed a FT in weeks.  The addition of Shaun Livingston and Marreese Speights has also played a major part in these trends.  Both players draw a healthy number of fouls and are shooting in the 80s.  Their play and the sudden resurgence of Luke Walton (super scrapper) have completely transformed the way the Cavs open 4th quarters – and from my perspective, it is salvaging a losing season and making this whole thing a lot more enjoyable.

Ranks: All Sorts

“BookM, RAPM”

– Kyrie Irving 20th in offense and 79thoverall.
-Tristan Thompson 81st in defense and 109th overall.
Tough to swallow that there are 79 players better than Kyrie.  Someone get Kevin Hetrick on line 1.

“PERsnickety Splits”

Marreese Speights (it is a challenge to spell his name EVERY TIME)
– before the trade: 16.2 PER
– after the trade: 23.1 PER

“Take charge of your charges taken”

Tyler Zeller lost his #1 ranking in charges taken.  He’s 2nd behind Ersan Ilyasova.  Get your crown back, Tyler!

Outliers: Kevin Hetrick’s stat obsession

I’m mailing this one in.  There aren’t many outliers on the Cavaliers.  I could go with C.J. Miles being 49 of 53 from the charity stripe, or even that Kyrie Irving has been shooting >50/40/90 the last 8 games.  But I’ll just stick you with this email that Kevin sent:

“I did discover that Tristan has the fourth longest active streak in the NBA for double-digits points combined with his points scored being equal or better than his number of field goal attempts.The list goes: Durant (46 games), Tony Parker (38 games), Danillo Gallinari (16 games), then Tristan (14 games).  It’s the 19th longest such streak this season; if he does it tonight, he moves into a tie for 16th. Yes, I need to get a life.”

That’s enough of an outlier for me.  Thanks, Kevin.  Till the next episode!