Wednesday, April 9, 2014

For What It's Worth

In the last post on the blog, we broke down Bill Coen's quote on the Dragons year in - year out shooting woes (with the highest readership the blog has ever seen for one post, and it's the offseason, so I'm blown away, thanks as always to all who read/comment).  Today we carry the spirit of that over, with some more math in fun and not very innovative forms.  First, a table!

Is is a surprise that the top four teams on this list all feature
coaches that seem to be thought of as the top tier of the league?

The chart shows two things, one of which we knew from the last post:  Drexel isn't putting its shooters in a position to win.  The second item that jumps out is Mihalich really knows what he's doing at Hofstra.  Looking at Pomeroy, he walked in and built a team from scraps this year that had a higher offensive efficiency than the Dragons did with their 5th and 6th all-time scorers in their senior year.  With a re-stocked team next year and an extra year of eligibility granted for Dion Nesmith, anyone not ranking HU in the conference top three next year is in for a rude awakening.  Put a pin in them and the Tribe at the top of the short list of contenders as we stand today, eight months from the season.

Getting back to Drexel, there's an obvious followup question to last weeks post: How much of an impact did that poor shot selection have?  Here is what the team shot broken down by area of the floor:

Now as an alternative, lets see what would happen if they shot less two point jumpers.  For illustration, I will make the 2-point jumper number down to the national average, with the team attempting 29.3% of their shots from that range.  This will have them attempting 501 2-point jumpers, 137 less than they attempted this year.  I will turn all of these 137 2-point jumpers into 3-point jumpers, both because Drexel would not need to change their offense at all to do this, it should lead to no additional turnovers like trying to get the ball into the paint might, and when all else fails, for the sake of simplicity.

Voila, an extra 31 points, with no changes or added risk to the Drexel offense.  A point a game may not seem like much, until you look at the game results from this year: the Dragons went to overtime four times!  If you want to cherry pick a bit, throw out the out of conference season when the Dragons couldn't hit water from a boat from long range.  Drexel shot 33.2% from three in conference season.  Lets see what happens had the Dragons shot that still not particularly great percentage all year and taken the NCAA average percentage of mid range jumpers:

Using this 3-point percentage, stepping behind the three point line more often is worth more than two points a game.  NB:  The last five losses of the Dragons regular season all came by 2 points or less.

In addition to the shooting percentages, a fantastic piece of work from scholars out at USC, published for the Sloan Analytics Conference shows that midrange jumpers also lead to less offensive rebounds than either shots at the rim or three pointers.  So not only is Drexel dropping their shooting percentage by taking these shots, but it is also hurting their odds of retaining possession on a miss.  A 3% increase in offensive rebounding is an extra possession a game, Drexel averaged 1.04 points per possession this year so go ahead and add another point to their total points not scored.

All in, the Dragons left between 2 to 3 points a game on the floor this year based on shot selection alone.  Points that they did not need to change their offense, to risk a turnover or to get healthier to score.  All they had to do was step behind the three point stripe.  This is an average, and you can't go and add it to each games score and assume they would have won the game, life doesn't work like that, but even if it flips just three of those games down the stretch, suddenly the story going into the tournament is about momentum, maybe they have already beaten NU twice, and the feeling around the team changes going into the tournament.  Instead of being a .500 team, we're talking about a potential 20 win team.

Last week was about quotes from sources inside the game.  Today was about the math that spun-off from it.  Next week, will be the final piece of the end of season wrap.  With highlight, but without comment, the blog leaves you with this:

Drexel vs Northeastern, 3/8/14, Baltimore Arena


  1. I really enjoyed this article. What worries me is that the team is losing their best 3 point shooters, and also our starting (and backup) center. I can see Bah and Rodney developing to play better ball in the paint, but as far as 3 point shooting goes I think it is a major area of concern. This team flat out needs guards.

    1. While definitely thin at guard, Damion and Tavon did hit at a 36% clip from three in the 12-13 season. Hopefully, with a rebalancing of the offense with Kaz, Rodney and Mohamed down low, outside shots will be a bit less contested next year.

  2. I am sure part of the % shots taken relates to what the defense gives you.

    1. How nice of the opposing defenses to allow us to take the worst shot in basketball so readily. I'll be sure to send thank you cards.

  3. Yeah Alan, that's kind of the point right. That was Bru's quote from the article last week, he believes in taking what they give you. But as coaches gain intelligence and figure out where the worst spots on the floor to shoot from are, teams will find themselves "given" that shot more and more.

    Most teams give opposing centers open looks when they hold the ball at the top of the arc. Should the center shoot that shot?

    Again, I realize that coaches won't give you shots in the post, which is why the numbers above include no additional shots from the post. but if you can get an open 2, you can get an open 3.