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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I am a fan of Big Ten Wonk, as any red-blooded flyover country Big Ten fan should be, and have been observing with interest his Points Per Weighted Shot tracking over the course of the year (which was cannily devised by John Hollinger, brazenly renamed by Big Ten Wonk, and appropriated for Michigan-related purposes by mgoblog). Anyone looking at Michigan's numbers can see that they are bad. This is not surprising, because Michigan is a bad team.

But let's take a fantastic voyage... inside the numbers!!! To do this, we need some numbers. Number wrangling, Excel hassling, eventual defeat and the last resort of a screenshot produces this:

I've highlighted numbers I find interesting. Included are all players of significance from this year and last year. First of all: Horton is horrible at this stat. Putrescent. He has two of the four worst scores over the past two years (one, admittedly in a season abbreviated by injury and legal issues). The other two low scores are from Coleman and Harris this year. Coleman and Harris can plead Dani Wohl and John Andrews. Horton has no such mitigating factors.

Second, the numbers seem to support the idea that Harris' awful '05 season can be excused. I tracked some difference stats at the bottom of the chart (basically '05 stats minus '04 stats, leaving all the "extra" shots players took this year). Harris's 131 extra FG attempts and 25 extra FT attempts yielded only 101 points, or 0.71 points per shot. That's atrocious. The player in dead last on BTW's final regular season chart, Purdue's Brandon McKnight, kicks the crap out of it with his 0.87. The working theory of mgoblog is that Harris was forced to take a zillion extremely tough shots because no one else on the floor could create and that his numbers this year are not his fault.

Third, break out the harps, angels, and assorted iconic imagery, because Lester's coming back. PPWS is not a perfect stat. It often overrates players like, say, Brent Petway, who get infrequent shot attempts that are usually thunder-dunks or offensive putbacks but cannot create their own shot. It's better for comparing posts to posts and perimeter players to perimeter players. The real sign of a great player is high PPWS and high volume. See Dee Brown, dominating PPWS this year and taking a truckload of shots doing it. Lester took 257 shots in '04 and finished with 1.28 PPWS, which would be good for seventh in the league this year, behind only a bunch of players from MSU and Illinois... Final Four-bound MSU and Illinois who have multiple efficient offensive options, get a lot of assists, and are generally well-coached basketball teams. Lester does not operate in that sort of environment, and he's still hanging with the very best the Big Ten has to offer. Lester is not a good college player. He is a great college player, and his loss is what murderified this year. He's the kind of player you find on championship teams.

Next year, Abram will be back. If he matches his '04 performance he'll be turning Harris's league worst 0.71 point shots into something approaching the league's best 1.28 point shots. Harris's PPWS will shoot up as well, as he'll actually have an option other than taking an off-balance runner while having his liver eaten by a giant eagle. Coleman should get a good number of open looks for his three-point stroke with better players on the floor around him.

Better days are coming.


Jackwraith said...

Better days?

Not so long as Amaker is coach. See the problem is not just that Abram was out and Harris was surrounded by inferior talent. The problem is that next year those two will still be on the team surrounded by decent talent but whom do not have a coach who will show them how to make the best of their abilities. Watching the early rounds of the tourney should have been an elementary primer for anyone in 'What Michigan Does Not Do on the Court': run plays.

Tommy won't run plays. He wants his players to 'create'. What that leaves us with is one guy taking a ton of shots and the rest of them standing around on the arc watching those shots go up, clank off the rim, and the other team grabbing the rebound.

'Better days' may come next year, but they won't be that much better. Amaker's not suited to coach here, with the talent we have. And the losing we'll undergo will only reinforce that.

If you were a basketball player in the state of Michigan, would you come to AA or East Lansing?

Anonymous said...

The formula is a simple one and has been in use for at least 30 years.

If a teams point total exceeds their total of FGA + FTA then they should win the game. It is a means to judge a teams offensive efficiency but can also be used to determine an individuals players contribution to the whole.

Abram is a great example 257 FG attempts plus 134 free throw attempts puts him at 391 while his total points for the season were 405. That is a plus 14 for the season. This indicates that Abram is a dangerous shooter and his removal from the team equation is significant.

Using 2004 as an example Michigan as a team combined to take 1831 FG attempts and 723 FT attempts for a total of 2554 shots attempted while totaling 2341 points for minus 213 or a minus 6.3 per game. Not great but not terrible. Perhaps a mark of an average to slightly above average team in todays world.

Take Abrams figures out of that and we become a minus 327 for the season and a startling 9.6 per game which would indicate a pretty poor team.

How much did Abrams loss mean to Michigan this season?

A lot when you consider the problem is compunded in that his efficiency took pressure off other players and his absence placed more of a burden on everyone else.

His loss was much more significant than losing Bernard Robinson Jr.

Jackwraith said...

You're talking about Abram as if he's Michael Jordan... as a pro. He's good, but he's not the be-all and end-all to the team. His absence didn't cause us to get blown out by 20+ points in half of our losses this year. It's all well and good to look at the formula and extrapolate to what 'might have been' but stats can be as misleading as they can clarify.

The fact remains that, even with injuries to key players, when other teams in the conference come down the floor, they have a number of set routines by which to run their offense (i.e. 'plays'.) Michigan doesn't and it shows. Badly.

Chris said...

You're correct that Michigan doesn't necessarily have a series of set plays to run on offense, per se, but that's the whole point of a motion offense.

The only problem with running a motion offense is that it's very dependant on a player catching the ball in position and having the option to 1)shoot it 2) drive to the basket 3)pass to an open teammate

Michigan ran into problems last season because too many of the guys on the team were of absolutely no threat to shoot the ball or drive to the hoop when they caught the ball. So instead of three options, Michigan often only had one, and that's very easy for a team to defend.

If you add a guy like Lester Abram into the offense, first of all it makes it much tougher for teams to play the zone against Michigan because Lester can hit midrange jumpshots all day, and also, it makes the motion offense much more effective because it forces the defense to play him tighter, which opens up passing lanes to hit cutters.