We live in a pretty cool time with respect to information. You’re never really alone when you have a phone, you can double-check your spelling of antiestablishmentarianism or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, you can find out if that guy from that commercial was in the background of your favorite movie, or you can watch a hamster eat a mini burrito right out of the palm of your hand. Oh, and who can forget the Boom Goes the Dynamite Guy?
The same is true for NBA stats. In the past season, the NBA added SportsVU cameras to all of their arenas which opened up the flood gates for cool stats. Most of the time these stats are just for show, but they can say a lot about a player. What’s more, some of those stats can actually translate to some fantasy implications.
You can follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher for some stats during games. I'll also be doing a regular column on stats during the offseason.
All of the stats came from NBA.com’s Player Tracking Data page, so feel free to check out some of those stats on your own. Here are a few of my favorite stats and what they could mean for next season:
Drives per game
One player that came to mind here to show the importance of drives was Ramon Sessions. Before Sessions joined the Bucks, he was first in the NBA in drives per 48 minutes. The Bucks had nobody really capable of breaking down a defense, so it wasn’t a surprise to see Sessions shine down the stretch.
Recently, you may have seen the Spurs and their flawless offense carve up the Blazers and Thunder. It’s a copycat league out there and one would think other NBA teams would watch a lot of tape and mimic the action of San Antonio. They have a 112.8 offensive efficiency rating in the playoffs and most of it has to do with Tony Parker getting in the lane. He leads all players in the postseason with 12.1 drives per game, but he only ranks 12th in assist opportunities. Basically, the Spurs are just breaking down defenses with Parker’s penetration, then looking for open shots. Most of the time the guys aren’t even dribbling. Words not your thing? Here’s a flow chart of what Spurs players are doing after a Parker drive:
Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
Moving on, let’s take a look at which players put up some impressive drive totals and what it could mean for next season.
DeMar DeRozan increased his drives per game in the playoffs by two per game compared to the regular season. That is a big reason he went to the line a whopping 11.3 times per game vs. the Nets, making 89.9 percent of them. DeRozan was already the ninth-best player with respect to output for free throw percentage in fantasy leagues in the regular season, so he may become a top-five guy in his sixth season. Secondly, the more he drives, the less likely he is to take jumpers. DeRozan actually had his best season from the mid-range, making 39.6 percent of those attempts. However, his above-the-break treys were at an ugly 23.3 percent, which ranked second to last among the 195 players with at least 65 of those attempts ( Tony Wroten). DeRozan turned in fourth-round value last season and his improvement suggests he’s worth of a top-50 pick this season.
Monta Ellis led the NBA in total drives on the season and that had a lot to do with his improved field goal percentage. Ellis shot 49.7 percent on his drives while making just 33.0 percent of his jumpers. As a result, he was able to increase his 2012-13 field goal percentage of 41.6 last season to 45.1 this season. A lot of that had to do with his new team with Dirk Nowitzki spacing the floor and Rick Carlisle one of the better guys at coming up with halfcourt scoring sets, so most signs point to Ellis staying above 45 percent. Plus, he might get more run this year. Dirk stayed remarkably healthy and his minutes are likely to go down now that he’s a year older. Monta is probably worth a pick in the early fourth, especially considering his tremendous durability.
Moving to the Big Easy, Tyreke Evans put on a dazzling performance down the stretch with the Pelicans and their depleted roster. Despite a quiet start, he finished third in drives per game and was the focal point of the offense once Anthony Davis (back) went down. A great visual representation would be his shot distribution of his last 18 games:
You'd think teams would completely give him a jumper, right?
Coach Monty Williams said he’s considering moving Evans into the starting lineup while pushing Eric Gordon to the bench. Quite frankly, that doesn’t make sense. Evans is a great fit as a sixth man and if the Pelicans can bolster their second unit with some shooting on the outside, they’ll have a Spurs like feel with a bit less pick-and-roll action. Regardless, the Pelicans are going to get back a lot of players, so those who rode ‘Reke’s coattails down the stretch might want to kick loyalty to the curb. Chances are he’s going to have some major inconsistencies next season.
Here are some others with some nice drive totals and could improve next year: Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday, Reggie Jackson and Jordan Farmar.
Touches per game
If you play fantasy football, touches per game is one of the most important stats around. While it’s more of a peripheral stat in hoops, it’s still nice to know who touches the ball the most.
Surprisingly, Kemba Walker dominated this category with 100.3 touches per game, beating John Wall at 95.0 and Chris Paul at 94.6. Although, his time of possession ranked fourth behind Wall, Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Thomas. Walker’s efficiency numbers took a major hit at just 39.3 percent from the field, but he posted a career-high 6.1 dimes per game. The shooting numbers dropped his fantasy to the fifth round and we’ll be breaking down what went wrong in a future column. However, taking field goal percentage out of the equation gave him second-round value on the season. He should get much better next year. So who else could be looking to get more out of his touches next season?
Sticking in Charlotte, one unsung stud in fantasy was Josh McRoberts. He ranked 65th in nine-cat leagues on the season thanks to his 4.3 dimes per game, ranking second among power forwards and just 0.1 behind Kevin Love’s 4.4. McBob was just one of just five non-PGs to be in the top 35 for touches per game. He was in some good company with Kevin Love, Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin and LeBron James. The Duke product actually had more touches per game than LeBron as well as Kevin Durant, which seems crazy. What’s more none of the 25 players above him for touches per game played less than his 30.4 minutes per game.
OK, so McBobs gets his touches. The fun part is he only attempted 7.3 shots per game, which is 10 percent less than his 76.3 touches per game. Much like Kemba, McRoberts also had one of his worst seasons shooting the ball at 43.6 percent from the field, so his sixth-round valuation could have been better. If the Bobcats don’t do much in the offseason, the touches and value should be there. They got hot down the stretch and another season together gives them a chance to even crack the top five in the Eastern Conference. I’d look to target McBobs in the middle rounds, assuming they don't make a major change in their rotation.
As alluded to, Joakim Noah ranked seventh in the NBA for total touches on the season. That number will go down next year because Derrick Rose will be back in the mix. Before Rose went down, he had 84 touches per game, which would have ranked 12th on the season. Noah was a freak and a lot of people had him on their championship teams. However, the addition of Rose and his rare feat to stay healthy makes him someone I’m not willing to grab in the first two rounds.
Here’s a quick list of guys who might have some more value next year based on their touches this year: Jeff Teague, Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Patrick Beverley and Bradley Beal.
Close touches per game
Let’s get to a big-man stat. Close touches per game are touches that originate from within 12 feet of the basket. There are a couple interesting facts in the playoffs involving this stat and can really show the identity of a team. The top two players are Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, which just goes to show how much Memphis likes to get the ball inside. This might be something to remember for whichever team Dave Joerger takes over, so we'll go over this again in NBA Week in Review when the time comes ( here's this week's version).
Secondly, Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan are both in the top six in close touches per game and lead the playoffs in total close touches. Splitter’s increase in touches has helped him get his playoff field goal percentage to 59.2 — up from 52.3 in the regular season — while Tim Duncan is up to 52.7 from 49.0. The playoff Spurs are just a thing of beauty, aren’t they?
Anyway, a couple breakout players came around due to getting so many close touches. As the two previous cases suggest, an offense built around getting the ball into big men has a ton to do with it. Taj Gibson probably should have won Sixth Man of the Year and he did it with his 6.2 close touches per game leading to 6.3 shots per game in the paint. Gibson’s offense came around in a big way and his developed jump shot made him a threat to get to the hole off a pump fake. The Bulls are going to be looking to unload Carlos Boozer at all costs and that could open up some minutes for Gibson. Regardless, Gibson is the favorite to start and he’ll be a popular target in fantasy leagues. I'm pretty bullish high on him.
Furthermore, the big man who would replace Boozer could have a nice amount of touches near the rim. Coach Tom Thibodeau is another guy who gets his team close shots, so just keep that in mind for now.
Another big man with quite a few close touches was John Henson. What? The Bucks offense? Yeah, obviously Henson didn’t do much with those close touches, but it does show the Bucks were able to get him the ball down low. He ranked 13th in close touches per game despite just 26.7 minutes — no other player ranking above him had fewer minutes. Henson was extremely raw on offense and everyone knew it would take some time for him to get those arms and legs into a rhythm. He could get better next season as long as the Bucks give him another chance. As an aside, I think the Bucks offense is going to have some major changes. Whoever they draft with the second pick will be a popular fantasy asset.
Here’s a quick list of some others with impressive close touch numbers and may fare better next year: Derrick Favors, Brook Lopez, Timofey Mozgov and Mason Plumlee.
I’ll be doing a stats-based column on a regular basis, so feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you have anything you’re curious about.