Off-Day Fun of all kinds: November 23rd, 2009

November 23rd, 2009 by John Krolik

-First and foremost: As you may have noticed, the place looks a little different nowadays. I’ve been looking to class up the look of this site ever since I signed up for the network with a free WordPress theme. Recently, a huge wave of malicious adware hit my blog and forced my hand, which is honestly probably for the best in the long-term. Spencer Hall is the man, and generously cleaned up the malicious code that’s been infesting the blog and put a new template on. From what I understand, the new template may still change, but I already feel like the site looks a lot cleaner and is closer to looking like the kind of site that this Cavalier team deserves.

-New data is in. Here’s what stands out to me:

-It’s still early, but LeBron’s jump shot has been really, really, really good. His eFG% on jump shots is at 47.7% so far, which would be a huge upgrade over his jump shooting numbers in previous years. Not only that, but his jump shooting efficiency has been better than Durant’s, Wade’s, Roy’s, Dirk’s, Carmelo’s, Ray Allen’s, and just about any other high-usage wing who generally takes outside shots with the ball in his hands. The fact that only 12% of LeBron’s jump shots have been assisted makes this even more impressive. And now, of course, all anybody wants to talk about is how he doesn’t use the post enough.

-JJ Hickson is becoming a fantastic offensive player. A full quarter of his shot attempts are dunks, which is a very big deal, as he converts those at an 85% clip. His finishing around the basket has become respectable at 53.3%, although that’s actually a number that could stand to go up. And he’s been converting at a thrilling rate on jumpers, connecting at a 46% rate. That’s about as good as it’ll get for a big man. The sample size is still small, and JJ doesn’t appear to be all that confident in his shot, but his stroke is very pure for a big, and if he can make that mid-range J into a consistent weapon, good things are going to start happening.

-Only two Cavaliers have a positive “Simple Rating,” which combines on/off court data with PER vs. opponent PER. Those players are LeBron James and Anderson Varejao, who quite simply needs more minutes. More on that in a few bullets.

-I wouldn’t be posting this stat if what I’d seen on the court this season didn’t confirm it. You know how you tend to work really hard on the first date, then begin a downward slope in terms of effort once you’re finally in? I’ve long felt that way about the NBA all-defensive team, and LeBron is unfortunately confirming my theory this season. It’s really hard to get a good defensive reputation in any sport, and really hard to lose it once that reputation has been bestowed upon you. (See Jeter, Derek for an inter-sport reference.) LeBron deservedly made his first all-defensive team last season and finished 2nd in the voting for DPOY, and I’m one of the few people who believed his defense was actually underrated by most fans. It went past the spectacular blocks and weak-side steals. LeBron didn’t get burned, ever, in man coverage and his activity and ability to cover ground on the weak-side in the half-court made just as much of an impact as his highlight-reel blocks in the full-court. Look at any advanced defensive statistics from last season-LeBron was absolutely killing it on the defensive ends, and those statistics didn’t care what LeBron’s name or offensive game was.

-This season, the all-around defensive impact hasn’t been there. He’s been caught on some rotations, he’s not putting out the same defensive intensity as he did last year, and he’s even getting burned by his own man more often that he was. I feel like LeBron may feel he’s “proven” his defensive prowess to the world, and is now coasting on that reputation a little bit. LeBron’s defensive plus-minus this season has been a +7.2, which is pretty bad. A lot of that is early-season noise and lineup quirks, but for a guy who was third in the entire league in defensive plus-minus last season, that’s a pretty significant red flag to watch.

-And of course, the defense in general has been the greatest contributor to my ulcer in the early going this season. Nobody’s playing it all that well, save for Andy. (KJ-I admit to making a causation/correlation error with this on Shaq. Let’s be friends again.) Hickson’s spotty rotations replacing Andy in the starting lineup and the de facto loss of Delonte “Hell in Sneakers” West have been big deals, but the fact is that nobody is really going all-out on the defensive end right now. Anthony Parker is giving up a pretty high opponent PER of 18. (Remember how defensive reputations are hard to lose?) In fact, the only Cavs with an opponent PER of under the league-average of 15 are LeBron, Andy, Delonte, and Coby Karl. Since LeBron rarely draws tough defensive assignments, Delonte hasn’t been playing much, and Coby almost literally hasn’t played, that’s not thrilling news. The defensive intensity needs to step up, period. If there’s one thing I trust Mike Brown to do, it’s to establish some defensive intensity, but let’s hope it happens soon.

-Jamario Moon is looking like the player we hoped to get when we signed him. His spot-up shooting has been excellent, with an eFG% of 47.6% on jumpers, and 87% of those jumpers have been off of assists, which is what you want him doing. At the basket, Moon’s eFG% is an insane 83.3%, which has been helped by the fact that he has yet to make an unassisted basket at the rim this season. When he stays within himself and plays off of others, Moon is a heckuva role player.

-Boobie Gibson’s incompetence at the basket is still at legendary status. He’s at a 56.7% eFG on jumpers, but has made 17% of his shots at the basket, with fully half of them being blocked. To make it clear: 17% is legendarily bad ON JUMP SHOTS. We’re talking B. Wallace/Biedrins territory here. And Boobie’s doing that on layups. Amazing. Anthony Parker’s 57.4%/22.2% outside/inside split is also notable. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like this before.

-There are only two players who make the Cavs worse than a .500 team when they sit-LeBron and Andy. The team is a full 12 points better per 100 possessions when Andy’s on the floor. That’s the difference between the Celtics’ D and the Knicks’ D, to provide some reference.

Alright, that’s a 1,000 solid words to chew on. I leave you with this excellent Windhorst article about why LeBron should think long and hard before leaving for a major market. Until tomorrow, campers.