We are now firmly into the new calendar year. The All-Star break is behind us. Turner and Hawes are gone. The tank is in full effect. So i think this is a perfect moment to take a look at the season so far from a statistical standpoint. Below, i've compiled a very interesting set of stats that can to a degree explain to us what has been going on with the team so far. I've compiled these stats using the awesome nba.com/stats, except the on/off court data that is from basketball-reference.com. A quick note before we start: The nba.com/stats database goes only up to 2007, so all the numbers about historical data are up to than. So lets go!
Statistical Oddity #1
The Sixers have the 2nd worst offensive efficiency in recent history (see the above note, since 2007) at 96.3. The only team that was worse... the worst team ever - the post-lockout version of the Charlotte Bobcats. And things are continuously getting worse as evidenced by their monthly drop (97.9 / 97 / 95.8 / 92.5). So yeah, if you think the team is displaying some offensive capability - you are WRONG!
Statistical Oddity #2
The Sixers are the 2nd fastest team in recent history at 102.53, closely behind the Don Nelson era Golden State Warriors. And they are playing faster and faster every month (up to 103.63 in February) so it's reasonable to expect that they will be THE FASTEST team in recent history and possibly ever by the end of the season.
Statistical Oddity #3
Pace = production for the Sixers organization. It truly matters to Hinkie, Brown and co, at least during this rebuilding, ahem, tanking year. Why? Take a look at these numbers showing how the pace changes when various players are on the floor (among players with at least 10 games played):
- pace leaders: MCW 103.3 and Thad 103.22 a.k.a. the best players on the team
- pace bottom feeders: Orton 101.62, Davies 99.82, Morris 98.24, Dedmon 98.52 a.k.a. the guys looking for a job elsewhere
See the pattern? If you aren't running like mad there will be no place for you on the Sixers roster, unless your name is Brandon Davies. In case you were wondering how the recent additions to the Sixers lineup fare in extremely limited sample size (Sims and Moultrie are fast, Maynor and Mullens are not).
Statistical Oddity #4
The eye test doesn't necessarily agree with the individual offensive and defensive metrics of the Sixers players.
- best offensive rating on the team: MCW (98.7); worst offensive rating on the team: Morris (90.1), among active Williams (91.7)
- best defensive rating on the team: Brown (96.4); worst defensive rating on the team: Thompson (109.3)
- best net rating on the team: Brown (-1.4) ; worst net rating on the team Wroten (-13.6) and Williams (-15.6)
* the numbers are points per 100 possessions.
Brown has played mostly in garbage time and he still has a fairly small sample size despite playing in more than 20 games already so his numbers probably shouldn't be taken seriously, yet. Two things jump out here. 1) Thompson might be overrated as a defender and 2) Wroten while fun, is killing the team (for Williams read #5)
Statistical Oddity #5
MCW and Turner have contributed the most towards winning so far this season.
The on/off court data leaders thus far this season are MCW and Turner each at +6.4. Who is hurting the team the most? Elliot Williams at -7.1. The numbers are points per 100 possessions.
Contrary to MCW and ET, Elliot Williams is a terrible terrible basketball player as proven both by his NetRtg (see above) and his on/off court data.
Also worth mentioning here - The Sixers offense goes from passable (around 20th) when MCW is on the court to hilariously bad (by far the worst in the league) when he is off the court. So yeah, MCW matters offensively even if his FG% is at or below 40% and TS% below 50%
Statistical Oddity #6
Hollis Thompson is one of the most passive offensive players in the NBA.
Thompson is 5th worst in usage rate in the NBA at 11.7% among perimeter players who are getting regular rotation minutes. The 4 behind him? Prigioni, Battier, Mbah a Moute and Rush. All players who are either known for their defense or can't score at this point in their careers (age, injuries etc.). While low usage rate isn't necessarily bad, how big of a part is his low usage rate in his decent efficiency? How much is he hurting the efficiency of his teammates by taking so few shots?
Statistical Oddity #7
The Sixers live and die by... shots at the rim.
Here are two shot charts of the Sixers shot distribution and shot efficiency by location during the 2013/2014 season so far:
While the Sixers take over 50% of their shots in the 8 feet zone around the rim, they are 4th worst in the league at conversion of those shots. Part of it is probably personnel, but probably a bigger part of it is the extreme effort to attack the rim at all cost. Btw, the number of shots at the rim is especially significant when you consider that the Sixers have no post up bigs on the roster.
Statistical Oddity #8
Better shot location does not equal smarter shot selection.
The smarter shot selection brought by Hinkie and Brown has been talked about at length this year. And to a degree it's true. The Sixers have made a conscious effort to avoid inefficient shots (long twos) and attempt more efficient shots (shots at the rim). That however, hasn't resulted in any progress on the offensive end overall. The Sixers offense is, as of right now, worse by about 3 points per 100 possessions from last season. The Ortg of all of the 4 important rotation players that were kept (Thad, Hawes, Turner and Allen) is down from last year. The TS% is up for Turner and Hawes, but down for Thad and Allen. And the TO% is up for everyone. The Sixers did in fact manage to shoot the ball from more desirable locations. But that came at the cost of significant increase of TO ratio and forced shots at the rim when the area around the rim is crowded and it's smarter to not dive into the outstretched arms of the defenders. While this is good from a teaching standpoint, it won't work as a legit philosophy on a contender. Better personnel will help things, especially in the spacing department as the current team has no legit floor spacers (after Hawes left), but the players will have to learn when to drive to score and when to drive to dish to an open man. Last years team while not great, had floor spacers (Wright, Young, Richardson and Holiday). Unfortunately, Doug Collins didn't know how to utilize that to the maximum. This year's squad is doing completely the opposite and is forcing shots that aren't there (both at the rim and rushed threes). The shot selection of BOTH offenses is not good. But as long as this year's shot selection is used as a learning phase, the team is on the right track.
So that's it for now. I might revisit this in the summer if there are some new developments. If you have other fun stats from this year, share them. Meanwhile, DISCUSS!!!