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Favorite Targets Worksheet

It's been about a week, so I figured we're overdue to introduce a new worksheet. What I'm striving to do here is keep track of some stats you won't find anywhere else. Stats that, I hope, will give us a glimpse into what's working and what's not working for this team.

Today, we'll take a look at what I'm going to call the Favorite Targets worksheet, a full explanation and methodology after the jump.

This worksheet evolved from the post I wrote on Andre Iguodala's playmaking stats last week, an observation from the past handful of games, as well as a parallel I was seeing to a trend in the NFL.

If you follow football, I'm sure you've seen what happens when a backup or third-string quarterback replaces the starter. Invariably, a wide receiver from way down on the depth chart starts catching passes at an alarming rate. The QB is comfortable with the WR he's been working with in practice, they take that chemistry onto the field. I saw the same thing happening with Lou Williams and Marreese Speights. Then I started thinking about the type of assists Andre Iguodala was accumulating. The majority of them came in the lane, which made me wonder who they were going to.

All of these tangents brought me to the Favorite Targets Worksheet. If you want to skip ahead and take a look, here it is.

Methodology: First, I downloaded the play-by-play from each game and imported the data into a spreadsheet. Then I went through each game finding assists by Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams (the three Sixers with the most assists). I made note of who was on the receiving end of each assist, compiling the results into the spreadsheet linked to above. You'll see the % of total assists to each player, which begins to tell the story. The raw numbers were interesting, but they didn't tell the whole story.

Next, I went to Basketball Value and pulled the 5-man unit numbers for the Sixers. I imported these stats into a spreadsheet, and then compiled the number of minutes Miller, Iguodala and Williams were on the floor with each other player on the roster.

Once I had the minute numbers, I combined the spreadsheets and came up with assist/minute and assist/48 minutes stats for each passer to each teammate. One caveat: The Sixers have played 35 games, but Basketball Value only has stats through January 3rd (33 games). I based all minute-related stats on the 33 games the team had played through January 3rd.

One final note on methodology: Using assists isn't a pure measure of how often a player passes to another player. An assist is only earned when a basket is scored, so it's really a symbiotic relationship between the two. It would probably be more accurate to say that Miller's passes to Iguodala are more productive than his passes to anyone else on the roster, rather than saying he's Miller's favorite target.

Below is a high-level look at the stats for each player, with my thoughts:

  • More than anything, I think this chart shows Andre Miller's level of trust in his teammates. Iguodala, Brand and Thad have the highest rates, all above 2.2 ast/48, with Iguodala nearing 3. Meanwhile, Reggie Evans and Samuel Dalembert rarely connect on passes from Miller. Evans has scored on 1 Miller assist in almost 100 minutes of play.
  • Elton Brand's absence has probably hurt Miller's assist numbers a great deal. Through 22 games, he'd converted 41 Miller passes into field goals. Since Brand's absence, he hasn't picked up those lost assists, his assist rate to Thad and Speights has remained consistent.
  • This distribution illustrates the smart PG we already knew Miller was. He's getting the ball to the right guys (Iggy, Brand, Young) and they're converting. What he hasn't been doing, is making the poor offensive players better.

  • 41% of Iggy's assists have gone to bigs (Brand, Dalembert, Speights, Evans and Ratliff), as opposed to 31% for Miller. His work with Sammy is encouraging, and leads me to believe that he makes Dalembert better, mainly by getting him easy catches within dunking distance of the hoop.
  • Much like Miller, Iggy completely ignores Evans. Only 1 assist in 188 minutes.
  • Iggy has missed Brand as well, but he's been finding Speights with more regularity since Brand's injury.
This is where it gets interesting...

  • Check out Lou's assist rates with both Speights and Donyell.
  • Two factors are leading to these number, the highest and second-highest assist/48 totals.
    • Lou spends a ton of time running with both of these guys in practice, so the familiarity factor
    • Lou plays a two-man game with Speights and Marshall. His ability to turn the corner and hit the jumper make him an extremely tough cover, so teams try to double him on the screen and roll. Which leads to wide-open jumpers for both Speights and Mashall, who just happen to be two of the best shooters on the team.
  • Lou has five times as many assists to Reggie Evans as Miller and Iguodala, but the ast/48 rate is still extremely low. The raw numbers are due to the heavy minutes he plays with Evans.
  • Lou and Dalembert do not work well together. Probably because Lou dribbles around too much and Sammy doesn't try to shake his man or cut.
  • I'm surprised Lou has only hooked up with Green for 6 buckets. Those two have played heavy minutes together. Maybe there's only room for one gunner on the floor at a time.
What do you guys think? Anything surprising or telling here that I missed?