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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Threes And Assists

by Blake Murphy 30. October 2012 22:18

One of my biggest complaints with basketball box score statistics is that I find assists to be an unfair measure of someone’s passing performance.

Growing up as a hockey player, nothing infuriated me more than making a great play and a nifty pass only to have a teammate whiff or hit the goalie in the chest, robbing me of an assist.

In basketball, it’s much the same, where a player can draw a double team and kick out to an open three-point shooter and have them throw up a brick. Or worse, they can feed a dive-man off a well-crafted pick-and-roll, only to have that player fouled, giving the player and team two points but the passer nothing in the box score.

Of course, stats shouldn’t mean much to a “team player” and many NBA teams certainly use analytics beyond just assists to evaluate passing. Even still, one tool I’ve found to be valuable here at Hoopdata is the break-down of assists based on where they set up a shooter. That is, breaking assists down by scoring range can give us some more information about how someone is helping their teammates, where assists leading to threes and shots at the rim are probably of greater value than assists leading to mid-range shots.

So I wanted to look at some players who may benefit from changes in their point guard, or for a point guard, the players around him. The following analysis is subject to some bidirectional correlation, since a point guard’s assist totals are subject to the shooting efficiency of the players he’s passing to, while the shooting efficiency of players is subject to the quality of point guard play as well.

Regardless, I wanted to look specifically at point guards who assisted on a lot of three-point field goals and players who had a lot or few of their three-point field goals assisted on. This first table shows the leaders in assists per game leading to three-point field goals, and the percentage of their total assists that the number represents.

Here we see a lot of the usual suspects in terms of assists, but a few stick out as notable. For one, Turkoglu sets up a ton of three-pointers relative to his overall assist rate, as does Jameer Nelson. This obviously has something to do with Orlando’s three-heavy offense around Dwight Howard, as they were first in the league in three-point attempts. I’d suggest you’ll see both of these players take a serious step back in their assist numbers with the loss of Dwight, three-point field goal leader Ryan Anderson, and Stan Van Gundy’s relatively unique offensive system.

This second table shows the league’s leaders in terms of the percentage of their three-point field goals that were assisted on. Surprisingly, Steve Novak just missed the cut with 97.7%, though I expected him to be at 100% since all he does is spot up.

Here we see that, even with more help than just about anyone, Gordon Hayward still struggled a bit from deep. We also see that Ryan Anderson, the league’s three-point field goal leader, may have been a by-product of a three-friendly system, something he may not benefit from on a Hornets team with Greivis Vasquez and Austin Rivers at the helm. Additionally, we see that Jared Dudley may suffer from the loss of Steve Nash, but Antawn Jamison is moving to a nice situation where he’ll be a spot-up option for the Lakers with an insane Nash and Dwight pick-and-roll combo and another great passer in Pau Gasol. He may be past his prime, but I could shoot 40% on threes on that roster this year.

This third table shows the league’s leaders in total three-point field goals, as well as the proportion assisted on.

It’s interesting to see both Deron Williams and Joe Johnson on the list, especially since Deron led the league in assists leading to threes while Johnson had a large portion of his threes assisted. Pairing them together could make both even deadlier, lending credence to projections of Brooklyn as an offensive juggernaut (defense not included). We also see that Brandon Jennings is the king of calling his own numbers for threes, showing the highest proportion of unassisted threes among the leaders.

Once again we see a Magic impact, as J.J. Reddick could lose much of his value in the new-look offense in Orlando. We also see that James Harden had a fair proportion of his threes assisted on, though it’s not extreme either way – and while Jeremy Lin wasn’t among the leaders in helping on threes, he sure found a way to get Steve Novak involved. It’s been said a lot the past few days, but the most interesting part of Harden in Houston may be how he responds to increased focus from top-tier wing defenders.

These were just a few of the leaders, with somewhat random cut-offs and analysis. Are there any other players you could see having large gains in their three-point efficiency or volume due to roster changes?

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