The Orlando Model

by Jeff Fogle 14. January 2011 01:09

If you spend a lot of time playing around with numbers, things invariably jump out at you. With the Orlando Magic the past few seasons, it's two very obvious things that have jumped out:

*The offense shoots a zillion treys
*The defense is excellent

Nothing earth shattering there. Except, it's a relatively rare combination. Typically:

*Teams who shoot a zillion treys have very bad defenses...with those teams needing to shoot treys to make up for what they're allowing on the othe side. Or, it's just part of a coach's preference to focus on offense rather than defense (variations of what you could call the Phoenix or Golden State model).

*Teams who have excellent defenses tend to focus more on inside the arc basketball, playing what you might call an "old school" game. The "defense and rebounding wins championships" model, with the big guys who defend then being the go-to guys in a halfcourt offense.

Orlando was the first team to break through with this approach to such an extreme degree. You can see when they committed to it:

Made Treys per Game
2005-06: 3.6
2006-07: 4.2
2007-08: 9.8
2008-09: 10.0
2009-10: 10.3
2010-11: 9.2 so far

Others teams are focusing on those two elements in tandem to some degree. Here's a full listing of teams from last season who finished in the top 13 in both made treys per game and defensive efficiency:

Last Season's Final Rankings
Orlando: 1st in treys, 1st on defense
Milwaukee: 5th in treys, 3rd on defense
Cleveland: 8th in treys, 7th on defense
Dallas: 10th in treys, 12th on defense
San Antonio: 10th in treys, 9th on defense (tied with Dallas)
LA Lakers: 13th in treys, 5th in defense

In case last year's playoff seedings aren't on the tip of your tongue, that list of six teams includes the top two seeds in the East (Cleveland with LeBron James and Orlando), the top two seeds in the West (LA Lakers and Dallas), the well-documented "Fear the Deer" rampage of Milwaukee, and the continuing Spurs dynasty.

So, this is a potent combo!

Quick digression...have you heard anyone talking about Milwaukee's loss of trey production this year? They've fallen from 7.9 per game to 5.5 per game. That's obviously a BIG deal in terms of scoreboard success. It's basically the only difference between this year's disappointment and last year's drama.

Milwaukee's Defensive Efficiency:
Last Year: 100.9
This Year: 100.1

Milwaukee's Offensive Efficiency:
Last Year: 102.0
This Year: 97.2

Milwaukee's Raw Scoring:
Last Year: 97.7 points per game
This Year: 91.3 points per game

Six fewer points per game, 2.4 fewer made treys per game. Not a perfect match...but you can see why they've gone from being a winner to a loser. They were +1.1 in efficiency differential last year, -2.9 in efficiency differential this year. I'm not sure how many pundits would answer "Well, they're just not making as many treys this year" if asked to explain what happened to the Bucks.

Anyway, saw that while playing around with the data and wanted to point it out. Trey production and great defense is a potent combo if you can pull it off. But, it's worth noting that the extremes of Orlando haven't lead to a championship. In fact, they led to a bitter disappointment last year once the Magic ran into a smart defense with guys who could defend the arc. Look at how made treys told the story of Orlando's sprint through the first two rounds before their demise vs. Boston.

Made Treys by Game
Orlando 13, Charlotte 3
Orlando 10, Charlotte 6
Orlando 9, Charlote 5
Orlando 13, Charlotte 5

That's a minimum of nine per game for the Magic in the first round. Charlotte was averaging near five per game. How are you going to make up that many points when you have to score inside against ORLANDO'S great defense! That's why this can be such a powerful combination against lesser teams. Few workable options for them.

Orlando 9, Atlanta 2
Orlando 9, Atlanta 6
Orlando 10, Atlanta 4
Orlando 16, Atlanta 3

Again, Orlando made nine or more in every game...and just stomped on a team that had no way to keep up with them. Through the first two rounds, the Magic were 8-0...and had many talking of a potential championship because they were on such a roll.

Then came Boston...

Orlando 5, Boston 6
Orlando 7, Boston 5
Orlando 8, Boston 6
Orlando 10, Boston 5 (a Magic win)
Orlando 13, Boston 7 (a Magic win)
Orlando 6, Boston 10

Orlando stopped hitting nine per night (though they did win the only two games where they crossed the threshold). They were virtually neutralized behind the arc in their losses, and were then defeated inside the arc by the Eastern champs.

So, we have key characteristics of important teams in play here. But, it takes more than just treys and great defense to win a championship. You're likely to run into somebody who can neutralize your treys eventually once the trophy is on the line.

Of last year's six qualifying teams, Orlando, San Antonio, Dallas, and the Lakers are still ranking well in those same categories. Cleveland fell off the map of course after losing LeBron. Milwaukee's long range shooters may have blinded by headlights...

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Time to Fear the Deer Again?

by Jeff Fogle 20. December 2010 00:40

Time to Fear the Deer Again?

The Milwaukee Bucks got off to a very slow start in the 2010-11 season. Much of that can be attributed to the poor health of star center Andrew Bogut. His arm was reportedly still bothering him as he gradually recovered from last season’s gruesome playoff injury. Then he developed back spasms.

You can almost see the pain in his scoring totals just before a five-game layoff.

From November 9th to November 20th:
10-8-8-12-4-8

This is Andrew Bogut we’re talking about.  Mr. Double Double. He only reached double digits in points twice in those six games. Milwaukee went 3-3 as he battled through the pain.

From November 24th to December 1st, Bogut sat out and rested during a five-game stretch. Obviously he didn’t score any points (imagine a line of 0-0-0-0-0 for dramatic purposes). Milwaukee went 1-4 in the five games Bogut missed.

He returned on December 4th, telling the media that is arm felt great and his back was much better. He’s been on fire ever since.

Since December 4th:
31-11-17-24-21-15-19

That’s seven straight games in double digits, while Bogut also reached double digits in rebounds in five of those seven games (with one of the misses being a nine in his lowest minute outing this past Friday vs. Utah). Bogut was back, seemingly at 100%. You have to FEAR THE DEER when Bogut is near 100%.

Let's do this. Since Bogut regularly scores double doubles, here's a comparison before and after the rest break showing points plus rebounds.

POINTS PLUS REBOUNDS
Hurt: 13-14-25-30-10-20-0-0-0-0-0
Rested: 49-24-28-46-35-22-28

Bogut was surely happy to be contributing to the team again. Milwaukee was just 4-3 in those seven games after the layoff. But their quality of play had improved significantly. One of the losses was at the buzzer against San Antonio, the team with the best record in the league (currently 23-3). Another was against Miami (currently 21-8). Milwaukee beat Dallas in Dallas during that stretch (the Mavs are currently 21-5).

The Bucks have a challenging two-day tandem facing them Monday and Tuesday. Milwaukee visits Portland, followed by their only road game of the season against Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers. This challenge comes on the heels of what might be another injury development. Bogut reportedly jammed his arm vs. Utah Friday night, and temporarily suffered numbness.

Can Bogut stay healthy long enough to make Milwaukee a factor this year? There’s no reason to fear the deer if he can’t.

Other notes:

*Oklahoma City flunked its defensive test Sunday Night vs. Phoenix. The Thunder allowed a ridiculous 62% on two-point baskets, with Brook Lopez and Steve Nash going 9 of 10 and 5 of 7 inside the arc respectively (Nash would add 2-2 on treys).

Could be that Oklahoma City is still overmatched by the most effective offenses. Let’s see how that plays out in the coming weeks. There will obviously be some very effective opposing offenses in the playoffs! Improvement from the early nightmare was important. Bullying the bad teams won’t be enough.

*Monday night marks the debut for the “new look” Orlando Magic. They visit Atlanta Monday, then go home to face Dallas Tuesday Night. That’s throwing Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu in the deep end. The Magic then host San Antonio Thursday in a national TV game on TNT, then host Boston Christmas Day as part of the TV quintuple-header on ESPN and ABC. Killer week. You can see why they didn’t want to wait any longer to pull the trigger.

*Also of interest Monday Night, Dallas visits Miami in the rematch of the game that triggered Miami’s turnaround. The Heat just had a busy week, and may not have the legs to extract revenge (it’s their 7th game in 11 nights). Should have a playoff feel at the very least.

Back late Monday Night to discuss what happened in those two games…

 

(Editing in a next-day addendum. Brandon Jennings will miss 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his foot. Let's monitor the next few boxscores to see what impact that will have.)

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