The Quest for 40 Points: In Graphs

Doug Collins mentioned, in the same chat where he said he doesn't personally pay much attention to advanced stats, that the Sixers planned to improve their offense through doing what he said the top NBA offenses did: getting 40+ points on free throws and three pointers. While Doug may have just made that idea up, getting as many points as the best offenses do from the most efficient areas seems like a good plan. Of course, it’s easier said than done, and the Sixers haven’t proven to be successful at all in either of these areas through a measly four games.

But how much of an indicator of good offense is the combined 40 point threshold? We’ll see. In writing this post, I decided to use whatever statistical chops I have (note: anything I’ve concocted here is about my limit) to see whether or not the 40 point plan is a solid one.

In order to figure out whatever relationship there is between a good offense and scoring 40 or more points from all shots not worth two points, we need to know how well correlated the two are. So, through the powers of excel and ESPN’s NBA team stats pages, I’ve been able to do that. I compared offensive efficiency - the best measure of a team's offensive output - to points scored on threes and foul shots. I calculated free throws made 100 possessions and threes made per 100 to keep the same denominator of 100 possessions that offensive efficiency has– though I had to translate these from raw numbers using pace factors, it gives a bit of a better comparison, even if the numbers from each spot are a wee bit inflated compared to per game totals (which I assume Doug meant). For instance: only 6 teams hit or exceeded 40 points/game from threes and free throws, but a whopping 13 hit or exceeded that number when adjusted to 100 possessions.

Also: I’ve only crunched the numbers for 2011-12, because I didn’t have quite as much time on my hands as I would need to do a more thorough look. Finally, in order to compare it to a known barometer of offensive success, I graphed the relationship between offensive efficiency and true shooting percentage, which factors in the conversion rate of shot attempts instead of just counting makes regardless of the conversion rate.

Now that I’ve put every caveat possible up here, below is a graph with offensive rating and points from three pointers and foul shots. Note that I highlighted a few teams, added a trend (!) line, and included the R-squared, which measures how related two sets of data are:


While that’s not as much of a relationship between the two as I expected, there’s definitely a slightly positive trend (with a R-squared of .30). The top 4 scoring teams all surpassed the 40 point barrier. The real question mark was Orlando – they averaged over 50 points from the non two-pointers but still were a median efficiency team, which remains puzzling to me. It could have to do a bit with their lackluster free throw rate, but that’s not my area of expertise.

The Sixers fared poorly under this measure, mainly because they just didn’t make enough attempts at each shot. The Sixers were eighth in the league in three point percentage and 21st in free throw percentage, but finished among the bottom five in non-two point field goals.

Now, to compare with an established measure of offensive prowess, I graphed the relationship between offensive efficiency and true shooting percentage (TS%), an explanation of which can be found here (on Wikipedia?!). Simply: it takes into consideration all shots, including free throws, to determine a player’s overall shooting percentage:


As we can tell by the higher R-squared, a higher true shooting percentage means much more to a good offense than just points on non two point shots. The Sixers again fared very poorly by this standard – the "no turnovers" offense and a solid overall rebound rate saved the Sixers from complete misery.

In conclusion: the Sixers are moving in the right direction by taking more threes and setting this goal, even if the current goal is not exactly optimal. With a young squad that looks to be turnover-prone, they’ll need to improve offensively. The 40 point quest should be something which helps, although ultimately maybe Aaron Barzilai or someone else can eventually modify the goal to really improving the team's TS%.

A user-created LB joint. The Liberty Ballers staff does not contribute to FanPosts.

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