HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — SportVU data is upon us. Now, what are we to make of it?
Not much at this point. With only 59 of the season’s 1,230 games in the books, it’s much too early to draw any serious conclusions. But we can certainly dive in and put things in the proper context.
Here are three talking points generated by the data we have so far…
Chris Paul has the ball in his hands a lot
The context: We’ve had usage rate to tell us what players control the action most for some time. But usage rate tells you only about the end of possessions, taking shots, free throws, assists and turnovers into account. Paul currently ranks 27th in usage rate.
But by seeing the touches and time of possession numbers, we gain a greater appreciation for just how much Paul is controlling the Clippers’ offense. After Paul’s 7.5 minutes of possession, next on the Clippers is Darren Collison at 2.1 (76th in the league). The next L.A. starter is Blake Griffin at 1.6 (100th).
And here’s the thing. The Clippers, right now, have the No. 1 offense in the league, scoring a ridiculous 116.6 points per 100 possessions. The OffRtg will go down. The ranking might not.
The Clippers have to fix things defensively. But if they do, and the guy who leads the league in time of possession is also leading the league’s best defense, he has to be considered a serious MVP candidate.
Roy Hibbert protects the rim
SportVU provides us with a better look at rim protection. Our advanced stats can tell you what opponents shot from the restricted with a certain player on the floor, but those numbers include attempts when that certain guy wasn’t close to the basket.
If you set a filter on that data, you’ll see that opponents have shot 28-for-64 (43.8 percent) from the restricted area with Roy Hibbert on the floor, the lowest mark among defenders who have been on the court for at least 50 restricted-area attempts. And we also see a bunch of other Pacers on the list, seemingly benefiting from Hibbert’s influence.
The SportVU numbers isolate the shots that each player is really defending. With Hibbert protecting the rim, opponents have shot 14-for-44 (31.8 percent), the sixth-lowest mark among players who have defended at least five shots near the basket per game.
That kind of information adds to the Defensive Player of the Year conversation and also might help us measure the value of blocked shots. Are the league’s block leaders also near the top of that list, or are there shotblockers who sacrifice other shots around the basket by being too aggressive? DeAndre Jordan ranks 14th at 1.8 blocks per game, but opponents have shot 60.7 percent against him at the rim (and the Clippers rank last in defensive efficiency).
Kevin Durant is a very good rebounder
We think of Kevin Durant as the best scorer in the league, but not as well-rounded a player as LeBron James. James is the better passer and defender.
But SportVU might give us a better appreciation for Durant’s rebounding. Among players with at least 10 rebounds, Durant ranks second in percentage of rebounds per chance. It’s a small sample size, yes. But Durant ranked highly in that category last season a couple of spots ahead of James).
If there’s a rebound to be had, he’s likely going to get it.