Posted by: natehughart | May 3, 2010

The smackdown of efficiency for efficiency sake

I spent a lot of time over a week ago talking about efficiency with regards to Cousins and Favors. So I thought I’d put in context with some NBA teams, big men, and which teams are successful with here & what.

So, I’m going to do it this way. I’m going to pick the top 5 teams in offensive rating, and I’m going to do this from 2008-2010. There’s a big enough sample size, and rather going back to some different era like 1999, I’ll just use the last 3 years as the comparison. (Seems there is enough data to support my point.) The point here is not to see which teams are the best in the NBA (you can figure that out can’t you?), but rather to see which teams have efficient offense’s. Even better, hopefully we can figure out some kind of connection.

Which were the 5 most efficient teams in the NBA in 2010?

In 2010 the offensive efficiency rating top 5 teams are:

1) Phoenix Suns
2) Atlanta Hawks
3) Denver Nuggets
4) Orlando Magic
5) Toronto Raptors

Why is Phoenix number one?

Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash are amazing efficient offensive players. But Jared Dudley and Robin Lopez both have TS% over 60 too. Jason Richardson is nearly at 58%, and even Grant Hill does pretty well at 56%. Channing Frye is even at 59%!

This is one reason Phoenix does so well in offensive efficiency. They have a bunch of players (starting with Nash & Stoudemire) who take and make a high % of their shots overall. This is how you get to be such a high powered offensive team. (And it’s not even close at this point.)

Is there a bigger surprise than Atlanta being at #2?

Not to me. Then again the Hawks have some efficient scorers and they’re a slow team (4th slowest in the NBA). Al Horford, and surprisingly, Jamal Crawford lead the list of regular rotation Hawks who have a TS% above 56.

The biggest reason Atlanta is pretty efficient offensively is they lead the league in TOV% for the season. That will make you miss more shots. (Denver is 6th, Toronto is 7th, Phoenix is 17th by, and Orlando 18th by comparison.)

Does Denver, Orlando and Toronto surprise you that they are in the top 5 in offensive efficiency?

Not really. Toronto is an offensive team, and Denver has a very good offensive team they can put on the floor in almost every situation when healthy.

Orlando doesn’t surprise me that they are in the top 5 (they are the only team that is top 5 in both o-efficiency and d-efficiency in the NBA) because JJ Redick, Dwight Howard (one of the most efficient offensive players in the NBA) lead the team in TS%. Rashard Lewis isn’t far behind Redick and Matt Barnes, Ryan Anderson and Marcin Gortat are all above 56% as well. The whole team doesn’t have a single player under 54% which I find incredibly amazing. The only amazing thing about this list is that Jameer Nelson isn’t above 56%. Vince Carter is 2nd to last, and barely above Nelson at 54.1%.

In otherwords, Orlando is stacked and on 2 ends. (One reason I like them to win the championship. It’s not that the Cavs aren’t any good. It’s just that the Magic ARE that good. If Dwight keeps his head on straight…..Excuse me I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one.)

Where do Portland, OKC and Sacramento rank?

In Offensive Efficiency, Portland is 7th, Oklahoma City 13th and Sacramento 22nd.

Obviously these 3 teams did different things. Portland was the slowest team (or 30th fastest depending on how you wish to look at it), OKC was the 12th fastest team, and Sac the 7th fastest team.

So does pace equate to offensive efficiency? Not really. It’s merely how fast you play as a team. The Kings play at a faster pace than OKC & Portland, but the quality of shots the Kings got as a team were not as good as consistently.

Portland has a tremendously efficient offensive team despite the pace they play at. Despite their injuries (which skews these numbers quite a bit), Portland had 5 guys over 56% in TS%. (One of them is Jeff Pendergraph, and his TS% was insane at 70%. It’s obvious he wasn’t used much, and his usg% shows this.) But at the same time, Joel Przybilla had a low USG% and a far less TS% in the games he played. Greg Oden had a ridiculously high TS% (64.7%) that would have made him one of the most efficient offensive players to log heavy minutes had Oden stayed healthy. (Oden is an amazing talent. There is no question of this.) Brandon Roy also had a TS% over 56 as well. Even Nicholas Batum managed a TS% that was over 56.

So how did Portland remain efficient? The best players had the ball in their hands for most of the possessions, and they made use of them to an efficient degree. I do know that Portland (like Atlanta–another slow team) didn’t turn the ball over much. The idea being that you get up a quality shot, and quality is more important than quantity.

OKC is a bit different for a number of reasons. The big reasons that OKC isn’t more efficient is essentially Russell Westbrook. (Get to that in a minute.) Why are they so efficient now? Kevin Durant is the biggest reason. Durant has a TS% over 60 which is tremendous given his USG%. Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka to a lesser extent add to this as well.

The reason they aren’t more efficient? Russell Westbrook. His TOV% (16.1) isn’t too awful by any stretch. It’s simply his shooting: He isn’t efficient at all in that aspect of the game. (The fact that Tyreke Evans has a 52.9 TS% should tell you something.) What really separates a G like Westbrook from others is lack of efficiency. While this should improve as Westbrook gets better with age, it’s not likely to improve much with age. Either players are efficient or they aren’t.

Last but not least, our beloved Baby Royals (as opposed to dipshits) our recovering suckaholics managed only 3 players with a TS% of 56% or higher. Carl Landry led the team (and slipped a lot coming from Houston), Beno Udrih was 2nd, and Jon Brockman was the only other player above the 56% threshold. This is one reason (certainly not the only) that the Kings were in the bottom 3rd in terms of offensive efficiency.

What is the final list of the top 5 plus Portland, OKC & Sac?

The final list looks like this:

1) Phoenix Suns
2) Atlanta Hawks
3) Denver Nuggets
4) Orlando Magic
5) Toronto Raptors
7) Portland Trail Blazers
12) Oklahoma City Thunder
22) Sacramento Kings

Which were the top 5 offensive efficient teams in the NBA in 2009?

1) Portland Trail Blazers
2) Phoenix Suns
3) Los Angeles Lakers
4) Cleveland Cavaliers
5) Dallas Mavericks

Anything interesting about Portland or Phoenix here?

Not really. Again, the key players are still key for both teams. Shaquille O’Neal played a more prominent role for Phoenix than he did in Cleveland this season, and that helped some. Portland had Roy & Oden for more games last season, and it no doubt made Portland a better team. Still, what makes Portland and Phoenix go is their systems and the players running it. Roy and Oden are built for a slow pace high efficient game. (Also Przybilla was a lot more efficient a year ago.) Nash is built for a high pace running game that gets quantity over quality. Both approaches work. You just have to find which one’s work best for your personnel and utilize it.

So why why were the Lakers more efficient last season?

The big reason is Pau Gasol. But I don’t necessarily mean that he individually got progressively worse. I think his presence not being there for 17 games hurt the Lakers and the quality of their shots. The Lakers persevered (as greatish good teams tend to do) and have managed to survive despite the offensive inefficiency they had.

The problem was that Ron Artest replaced Trevor Ariza, and was less efficient than Ariza was a year ago. This is the Lakers of 2009. This is the Lakers of 2010. The difference? A few Laker players have gotten less efficient, and that hurts a team to be efficient offensively. Especially when the high usage guys are less efficient than they were in years past. Shocking how that works isn’t it?

The main reason that LA got less efficient offensively was that the other LA guys not named Bynum or Gasol slipped some in their efficiencies this season. Maybe it’s just a blip and LA returns next season. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Why did Cleveland drop from 4th in o-efficieny in 2009 to 7th in 2010?

Good question. A year ago Cleveland had 4 guys who were over the 56% threshold (Mo Williams, LeBron James, Wally Szczerbiak and Anderson Varejao). This season? Cleveland had 6 guys over the threshold, and their rating slipped 3 spots. What does that mean? Probably has more to do with Toronto and Orlando jumping up than it did Cleveland sliding back. In Cleveland’s case, it means less than it does in LA’s case. This is especially true since there were more efficient players on Cleveland this season than last. The fact there were a few garbage time games at the end of the season probably didn’t help much either.

What about Dallas?

You can figure out the reasons. The usual reasons apply to Dallas that they do the other top teams.

Where did Portland, OKC and Sacramento figure in this equation?

Portland was 1st. I already talked about them, and no reason to mention them again.

OKC was far worse record wise in 2009, and finished with 23 wins. (Sacramento was worse as well with 17 wins.)

OKC had the 29th efficient offense in the NBA, and Sac had the 25th efficient offense in the NBA.

Why was OKC less efficient? Well, Durant was less efficient for one thing. Collison too. (Not by a lot, but by enough.) But James Harden and Serge Ibaka were the general difference makers in terms of offensive efficiency and because they were taking shots that others were taking a year ago (and more efficiently), this made less of a stress point on Westbrook and Jeff Green (who is around 53% both years).

Sac is a different story. The big reason the Kings got less efficient is that John Salmons, Brad Miller, Andres Nocioni didn’t play full season’s in the Kings uni. (They were god awful defensively collectively though so that was the biggest problem in of itself.) But offensively, Hawes and Thompson added something last season.

The biggest problem was Kevin Martin missing so many games and missing games at the critical times. Kevin Martin was still efficient, but just simply not capable of carrying a roster’s offensive load. So even though the Kings had some efficient players (some is a note here), the basic point is that the Kings also didn’t have enough consistent contribution on both ends to make the decent offensive effort (at times) to stand up.

Really, it’s amazing that the Kings were only 25th in offensive efficiency because at many times it seemed worse. Or maybe the defense was so awful that it sucked bad enough for 2 ends….. (Let’s not go there huh?)

What’s the final standings?

1) Portland Trail Blazers
2) Phoenix Suns
3) Los Angeles Lakers
4) Cleveland Cavaliers
5) Dallas Mavericks
25) Sacramento Kings
29) Oklahoma City Thunder

So who were the most efficient teams in 2008?

1) Utah Jazz
2) Phoenix Suns
3) Los Angeles Lakers
4) Golden State Warriors
5) New Orleans Hornets

I’ve already discussed Phoenix and LA already. LA had more efficient seasons from Kobe and Odom basically. Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal (for part of the season) were in Phoenix. Little changed for Phoenix other than O’Neal for Marion. (Both were efficient offensively.)

Utah? Are you seriously telling me Utah led the NBA in Offensive Efficiency?

Yuh. How? Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are efficient players. (Maybe you’re noticing a theme.) But Andrei Kirilenko, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and CJ Miles all had TS% over 56%. Mehmet Okur was a few % points off reaching 56 points himself.

Utah takes a lot of good shots, has a lot of good shooters, and plays at a fast pace. Also, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams are good. (Have I mentioned that?)

Are you telling me Baron Davis led the Dubs to a 3rd place Offensive Efficiency finish in 2008?

Yes. I am. Between Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis (who had his best year to date), the Dubs actually had a high quality offensive team. They also had Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson around who did some things offensively too. (It’s not an accident that Jackson was decently efficient with the Warriors. The offense was suited to his talents.) But really what kept the thing working together was that the Warriors didn’t really have god awful TS% across the board due to their high pace (presumably).

Did I see a Chris Paul team at 5th in offensive efficiency in 2008?

You did. The reasons were simple. Chris Paul was incredible for the whole season (he would have had a better season this past year if he played 75 games) and Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler were efficient all year long, too. That’s the reason New Orleans was efficient.

FWIW, Detroit, Orlando and Dallas were less than a half of a point behind New Orleans. There wasn’t much of a difference between the 5th and 8th place team. It’s far more important, IMO, to be in the top 10 of offensive efficiency than anything else. (I didn’t want to go top 10 and make this longer than it had to be.)

So where was Portland, Seattle/OKC and the Kings?

Portland was actually a middle of the pack offensive team, and so were the Kings that season. Seattle was dead last, and this was no due in part to the fact that Kevin Durant was playing SG. (Yes I know.) Only a few players were even reasonably efficient (mostly Wally Szczerbiak) and that hurts any team’s efficiency.

Why was Portland a middle of the pack offensive team? Because of Joel Przybilla and to a lesser extent James Jones. Mostly it had to do with the Blazers understand Nate McMillan’s offense better and the fact that Jarrett Jack, Martell Webster and Brandon Roy weren’t awful in efficiency. That’s why they were 14th in offensive efficiency which was just behind Sacramento. (They were basically equal.) But where Portland had young players and was trying to improve as a young team, the Kings basically had veterans who were primarily efficient (or reasonably efficient players) throughout their careers.

Mikki Moore, for all the grief he took as a player for the Kings, had an efficient year offensively. Kevin Martin, in the games he played, had the most efficient year of his career. Francisco Garcia also was efficient that season too. Even Brad Miller and John Salmons were relatively efficient given the circumstances.

And the final tally’s were….

1) Utah Jazz
2) Phoenix Suns
3) Los Angeles Lakers
4) Golden State Warriors
5) New Orleans Hornets
13) Sacramento Kings
14) Portland Trail Blazers
30) Seattle SuperSonics (OKC Thunder)

One of my points that I was hoping to make is that you can’t actually have an efficient offensive team unless you have efficient players. One of the reasons I brought up efficiency between DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors is that Cousins doesn’t seem to be that efficient despite his enormous physical gifts and skill-set. That’s a problem for a team with Carl Landry, Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and what not. Favors, on the other hand, had a team that couldn’t necessarily figure out how to get him the ball, but still managed to convert and take advantage at a high rate. (If you haven’t read my DeMarcus Cousins-Derrick Favors write-up yet, now is the time.)

Look at the Kings roster, and look at the TS% (which is one way you can measure efficiency–the best way if you ask me) this roster isn’t THAT far away from being more efficient offensively.

The biggest needs for this team are defense near the rim, defensive rebounding and more efficient offense. (Hence, my love for Favors.) As I noted, Favors is one of the most efficient players in the country last season. He rebounds, plays defense and block shots.

But for this purpose, the point is efficiency. At 62.1% (which is what Favors TS% was at Georgia Tech this past season), that would lead the Kings if he had put that TS% up for the team this season. The Kings would have better offense, and that matters. That is not the stuff of a “project” offensively. Favors USG was 22.1 this season. That’s not extremely low USG despite what some may think. Beno Udrih only used 18.6% of the Possessions this season for the Kings. Carl Landry only used 20.1% of the Kings total possessions.

My point? Favors can help the team offensively by taking advantage of his opportunities and scoring at a high rate. It may not be gaudy to the naked eye or in raw stats for the next year or two, but it will be efficient and useful. That’s the point.

So can players improve efficiency? Kevin Durant went from a 51.9 TS% his rookie season to 57.7 TS% his 2nd season and about 60.7% TS% his 3rd season. Rashard Lewis went from 40.3 TS% his rookie year, 54.3 TS% his 2nd season, and 58.7 TS% his 3rd season. (He also subsequently dipped and improved depending on the year and what not.) Even with that, Lewis has averaged a 56.4 TS% despite his career low’s. That is hardly awful by any stretch.

The point is that Rashard Lewis made a leap in his 3rd season, and it’s not impossible that Donte Greene, Spencer Hawes (although I’m doubtful of Spence making this leap), Jason Thompson and Omri Casspi all to be significantly more efficient the 2nd time around with Paul Westphal. It would not be greatly surprising to see Tyreke Evans improve on efficiency.

Look at Kobe Bryant’s TS% and Dwyane Wade’s TS%. TS% CAN improve over the course of a career. Yet, Kobe Bryant has always remained in the same realm (from 54-57 TS%), and Dwyane Wade did improve (been over 56 TS% every season except his injury riddled 07-08 year and his rookie season). Deron Williams, Chris Paul are 2 examples of guys with higher TS% as they got older.

Heck even big guys are pretty typical in their TS% throughout their careers. Carlos Boozer has had a high TS% throughout his career (anywhere from 56 to 59%), and a guy like Joakim Noah has fluctuated. Yet Al Horford has climbed throughout his 3 seasons (up to this point), and Josh Smith has never been really efficient offensively. (Although Smith has gotten slightly more efficient every year.)

The point? Efficiency is a tricky thing to measure, and quite often you might be measuring a player who has an out of character year, or you might be witnessing a player who has turned the corner. Or, if you’re really lucky, a player comes in ready to contribute his rookie season and his coach figures out how to use him in an offense & defense that suits his talents.

Despite evidence that some players remain relatively consistent (Kobe Bryant & Dwyane Wade), other superstars like Chris Paul and Deron Williams have gotten more efficient as they’ve gotten more experience in the league. Kevin Durant made a quantum leap, but that surprised noone as the Thunder got better and more talented it made it easier for him to do his thing. (Part of the problem was PJ Carleismo and the offense he ran. Clearly playing more up tempo worked for the Thunder. Scott Brooks definitely did work his magic on that team this year.) Rashard Lewis has gotten more efficient once he got more accustomed to the league and figured it out.

So what does this mean for the KIngs, the draft, and where do they go from here? I have no idea on what they do at this moment.

But I do have some conclusions.

One of the hypotheses that I was going for with the 2007-08 Kings team was that I was trying to point out that was there plenty of possessions for the team to go around as long as the players were utilizing them to the fullest. The problem? There were some decent efficient players, but they weren’t anything to write home about. Brad Miller and John Salmons are hardly known as efficient players (and I was being generous with my 56 TS% cutoff for a reason) but they happened to be that year. Francisco Garcia had his best year efficiency wise with a 57% TS% (I still believe he can get back there again). However, Ron Artest was not efficient. But the question was did he hurt the team’s offensive attack by being inefficient?

My theory is Ron Artest didn’t hurt the team’s offensive attack by being inefficient in of itself. The problem was that the shots he took didn’t help the other players much (other than keeping them from taking those bad shots), and that defensively the team was so bad (25th in the NBA in defensive efficiency) it didn’t make much of a difference.

There is one other big difference: Ron Artest didn’t create mis-matches consistently that other teams had to respect.

That’s the difference between a ball hog like Tyreke Evans and Ron Artest. Where Evans forces teams to do things greatly different because you simply cant guard him with small players, Artest tended to bail teams out by not keeping his eye on the prize. (Shocking I know. Ron-Ron?) Evans doesn’t do that. He gets to the basket more than anybody else in the NBA right now, and that is only going to get better as he gets older. Even if he isn’t the most efficient player on the floor, if you have players who can take advantage of these mis-matches by hitting their shots forcing defenses to pick & choose. (If that sounds like what the Cavs do, pat yourself on the head. You’re getting the point.)

I’m not saying that Garcia has to do anything but come to career norms. Beno Udrih being at 56 or 57 TS% for the next couple years would be nice. Carl Landry returning to Houston form efficiency wise (a big part of what I think happened was that he wore down and was playing too many minutes), and either Donte Greene or Omri Casspi making that leap into quality efficiency territory (I think both can do it, but I’m betting Omri will be consistently more efficient).

I want to see Jason Thompson return to reasonable TS% levels like his rookie season. (At the least.)

So is that a reason I like Derrick Favors? He fits this team. He doesn’t require a ton of possessions like DeMarcus Cousins, but Favors makes the most of the possessions he does have. That’s kind of a big deal if this team is going to improve offensively. I’m not going to argue whether Favors is a project because most see him that way (although I don’t). When I think project, I think Hassan Whiteside, Jarvis Varnado or someone like that. Favors had more statistical production than Whiteside did at Marshall. Or someone like Jon Brockman, Serge Ibaka or Marcin Gortat (bad examples with regards to Ibaka & Gortat–neither are projects).

One of the things that did crop up over the 3 years of the top 5 teams in offensive efficiency was this interesting point: Most teams had a player who was super efficient, and in many cases multiple players who were efficient as a rule. Phoenix is the only team that had 2 super efficient players (and 1 on the perimeter/interior) but Phoenix does things their own way. They are pretty atypical in some ways. LA has always balanced the middle of the road efficiency of Kobe Bryant with the efficiency of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. When both are healthy, the Lakers are often tough to beat for that reason.

Right now the Kings need that extra player to fit this team on 2 ends of the court. Offensively I don’t think the Kings are missing more weapons on the perimeter with Tyreke Evans having the controls of the team. The biggest needs of this team are defensive, but any player who can improve the defense while not being a detriment to the offense is the biggest thing that can make the Kings better.

So forgive me in thinking that Derrick Favors isn’t a project and can help this team next year and beyond. Isn’t that what the point of the draft is about? (Or trades and Free Agency for that matter.) This team has 1 high USG player and is likely to be less efficient. There aren’t many young bigs walking around that are efficient offensively, rebound and play defense. Forgive me for thinking that Tyreke Evans and Derrick Favors are kind of the perfect tandem from an offensive standpoint.

Just remember: TS% is life and life is TS%.

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Responses

  1. [...] Pookey from Evil Cowntown Inc has a wonderful post on efficiency (which gives he and I massive basketball boners) and he breaks down some similarities between the Kings and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s a long read, but, one that is well worth your time. I mean really, what else were you going to do today? Masturbate? Wait, don’t answer… [...]

  2. Pookey,

    I swear I am going to sit down one of these days to read this whole thing, but I just haven’t gotten the chance yet. Can you give me the overall point, so maybe I’ll be more motivated to read this monster? It looks like a ton of work went into it. Besides, I want a boner too. N.H.

    • Nope. No recap. Sorry bud. Gotta read it all :)

      And, the boner is all….mine. Syke. No, wait….

  3. [...] skip the Kings. I’ve made my opinions clear on the [...]


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