Jeremy Lin's Shooting Woes

by Omar Shaik 23. November 2012 19:10

When Jeremy Lin got injured earlier this year, I believed he had the skills to make a strong return. In his brief but successful stint last season, Lin did not rely solely on athleticism, as many NBA players do. Instead, Lin was taking advantage of a very strong jump shot. The threat of his jump shot often forced players to play up on him, which helped Lin to get by perimeter defenders more easily. This has been Chris Paul's formula for success since returning from injury, and it's allowed Steve Nash to remain elite offensively despite slowing down with age.

Last season, Lin ranked in the top-7 in the NBA among point guards in FG% from 10-15 feet and 16-23 feet. He was more accurate from these distances than many household names, such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook. He demonstrated a jump shot that deserved to be respected, and teams adjusted accordingly.

After shooting a spectacular 45.9% on 2-point jump shots through his first 23 games as a starter last year, Lin shot 20% on 2-point jump shots through his last three games. The suddenly awful jump shot seemed inexplicable at the time, but it was passed off as a brief shooting slump. After all, three games are nearly meaningless statistically. Later, however, an MRI revealed that Lin had a torn meniscus, which sidelined him for six months. It was possible that his awful shooting was related to this injury.

Thus, there were no major red-flags regarding Lin's jump shot coming into this season, if looking only at his NBA resume. Everyone knew about the turnovers, but he has managed to take care of the ball better than last season (18% turnover percent, down from 21%). His assist percent to turnover percent ratio is not that different from the ratios belonging to Mike Conley and Brandon Jennings. Despite this improvement, he's been a much worse player; the crux of his offensive repertoire, his jump shot, has disappeared.

What started as a three-game problem last season has now extended through twelve games this year. Lin is shooting 22% on jump shots this season, and it doesn't get any prettier regardless of how you break it down.

Of the 16 jump shots Lin has made this season, 11 have been assisted. That may not sound strange, until you consider that only 12 of his 75(!) 2-point jump shots last season were assisted. Last season's Lin possessed a very rare skill, which is precisely why I thought he could bounce back strong from his injury.

He had the ability to make jump shots off the dribble at a very high clip, which is arguably the most difficult thing to do in the NBA. This season, Lin can't hit any kind of jump shots. He's 2 for 17 on short jumpers, and he never was a great 3-point shooter. He's shooting terribly whether he spots up or pulls up off the dribble.

It is possible that Lin simply isn't healthy yet, as some suggested at the start of the season. Maybe his problems are psychosomatic; perhaps the injury is holding him back mentally more than physically. Or maybe Lin isn't very good. After all, Linsanity lasted about 26 games, and Lin wasn't very good at the end of that stretch, as I mentioned earlier. It is still too early in this season, and in Lin's career, to truly know which is correct. I know many in the NBA and in New York are rooting for Lin to be awful, but I thoroughly enjoyed his rise from obscurity to prominence last season. For Lin to experience success again, he has to start by regaining the shooting success he had last season.

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"Moneyball" in Basketball

by Jeff Fogle 30. March 2011 23:58

If you're a regular visitor to a stat site like HoopData, you're probably already very familiar with the principals of "MoneyBall." That's the 2003 book written by Michael Lewis about Billy Beane and the Oakland A's. An under-reported element of the A's success story may be providing some hints about an NBA team here in the latter stages of the 2010-2011 season.

Because you're familiar with that book, and what are generally considered to be the keys to Beane's success, I won't review them all here. I'll just talk about the element I think was under reported!

Beane's A's during the "Moneyball" era were always better after the All-Star Break than before it. Always. Beane took over before the 1999 season. The book was written in 2003. The "era" of value that Beane was exploiting looks to have ended after the 2006 season. That's the last time the A's made the playoffs. By then, many other teams had copied some of the strategies in a way that may have either diluted or taken away Beane's advantage. In every single season from 1999-2006, Oakland had a better record after the Break than before.

Before the Break: .539 combined winning percentage
After the Break: .634 combined winning percentage

To help you visualize what those percentages mean...a .539 winning percentage over a full 162 games would represent an 87-75 record. That's roughly a Wildcard contender or a little bit worse. A .634 winning percentage is the same as 103-59 over 162 games.

Beane's A's were basically a superpower after the All-Star Break. Pretty good before the Break, a superpower afterward.

The biggest extremes were these:

2001: 44-43 before, 58-17 after
2002: 50-38 before 53-21 after

A 58-17 record in the majors is amazing, particularly when you're not a big market team. Certainly it was those two seasons that did the heavy lifting for the 1999-2006 superpower record. But, again, the A's were better in the second half every single year.

As this was happening, I thought it was an important element of Beane's success. It's hard to know for sure from a distance why this was happening. My pet theory was that the A's were taking advantage of the tendency for many professional teams to coast in the second half of a season.

*Teams who are out of the playoff picture just kind of play out their schedule. Nobody will admit this happens until they write their memoirs 20 years later. But, if you keep game by game "hustle" stats in pro sports you can see it happening.

*Teams who are in great shape to make the playoffs take their foot off the gas a bit because they're pacing themselves for the long haul. It's easier to beat a contender when they're not breathing fire every game (you've seen some of that this week in the NBA...Chicago and Miami suffered surprising losses...and shorthanded teams like San Antonio, Boston, and Orlando are saving their best for later).

*In September, minor leaguers get called up and get into games. Given Beane's penchant for finding value with unknown guys...he probably had an edge here as well. Or, he kept his best players in while other teams were experimenting.

Or, maybe the young and hungry players Beane brought to the bigs knew they had no margin for error, and just kept right on playing at peak intensity when everyone else just did what it took to earn their paychecks.

Why so many paragraphs about a baseball team at a basketball website?

The Houston Rockets are the "Moneyball" team of the NBA. And, they're showing the same tendency post-All Star Break tendency under General Manager Darryl Morey. You may have read Henry Abbott's article at TrueHoop Wednesday about Houston's strong recent run. It's a replay of two of the last three seasons.

I'll run the records. Remember that the NBA All-Star Break is well after the true halfway point of the 82-game season, so you'll see a lot more games before the Break than after.

2007-08: 32-20 before, 23-7 after
2008-09: 32-21 before, 26-8 after
2009-10: 27-24 before, 15-16 after (no surge)
2010-11: 26-31 before, 13-5 after so far

Morey was hired as Assistant General Manager in April of 2006. He became General Manager in May of 2007.

Before the Break: .549 winning percentage
After the Break: .681 winning percentage

Before the Break, Houston plays like a 45-37 caliber team (pretty good). After the Break, like a 56-26 team (representing three seasons of posting superpower-type results and one near break even).

Those of you familiar with "Moneyball" know that Beane was quoted as saying something like "my stuff doesn't work in the playoffs." The A's have been disappointments in the postseason when they got there. Houston has won one playoff series with Morey as GM, and lost two. That's at least circumstantial evidence that part of the great second half surges are coming against teams that aren't as intense...and the edge seems to dissipate or disappear vs. quality in the games that matter most.

Interesting that we see these parallels between baseball's "Moneyball" team, and the NBA team most often associated with that approach. Looks like it's at least a contributing factor in terms of "squeezing out value" over a full season.

Transition Points

*Fatigue got the best of Houston Wednesday Night. They were playing in a back-to-back at rested Philadelphia (and their 3rd game in four nights after that track meet Sunday in Miami). Houston led 55-52 at the half but, ran out of gas in a 24-15 fourth quarter fadeout.

Houston falls to three games out of the Western playoffs behind Memphis (who beat tired Golden State). Both Houston and Memphis have seven games left. Philadelphia is still two games ahead of New York for the sixth seed in the East.

*New York moved back within a game of .500 with an exciting 120-116 win over New Jersey on ESPN. New Jersey is 5-32 on the road this year. So, it's pretty bad news if you're playing an exciting home game against the Nets!

The Knicks are back to playing a faster pace now that their schedule density has lightened up (the 104 vs. Orlando was probably about 94 after regulation...but that's still faster than the 89-92 string they had been involved in).

*Wanted to check in on Kevin Love since he returned to the lineup after an injury hiatus for the Minnesota Timberwolves. We've compared Love to Anthony Randolph and Anthony Tolliver given the stat production during Love's absence. All three saw between 19 and 27 minutes tonight vs. the strong defense of the Chicago Bulls.

Love: 27 minutes, 16 points, 9 rebounds
Tolliver: 24 minutes, 14 points, 3 rebounds
Randolph: 19 minutes, 15 points, 5 rebounds

Not time at the moment to figure out how often any of the trio overlapped. Good per-minute scoring for all three considering the defense they were facing. Randolph has had the most time to look like Love in recent games. Let's pro-rate them both to 36 minutes.

Pro-Rated to 36 minutes:
Love: 21 points, 12 rebounds
Randolph: 28 points, 9 rebounds

Hopefully we'll get more data points the rest of the way. It's important for properly evaluating Love in the big picture to know how much of his production is just what most guys would get as a focal point on a crappy up tempo team...and how much (if any) is Love establishing himself as a true superstar the way some stat methodologies are suggesting.

Or, maybe we're seeing a red alert about the development of Randolph. He's actually younger than Love even though they entered the league at the same time.

Randolph: 21 years old, #14 pick in 2008 draft
Love: 22 years old, #5 pick on 2008 draft

*Only two games Thursday, and Boston-San Antonio probably won't be much of a playoff indicator given all the injuries. Dallas-Lakers is a late starter. Will skip those, and return Friday Night to look at highlights from the 13-game schedule. Then I'll plan a Saturday night report to talk about the Final Four game stats (where I'll whine about how many three-pointers the losers missed---the NIT semfinal losers were 8 of 35 by the way, 23% shooting) along with more NBA. I'll do a Sunday night post too since Denver-Lakers is a big ABC game, and several relevant teams are in action.

Enjoy MLB's opening day if you're a baseball fan. Bring a jacket! See you Friday night...

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