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Shooting Yourself In The Foot

As I was updating the Four Factors worksheet this morning, something jumped out at me right away. When you see a four-game losing streak, you automatically assume the team has just been playing horrible basketball. That's really not the case. In fact, if you go all the way back to the Nets game on Jan. 31 (the 0/18 game), the Sixers have dominated every single area of the game, all but one, that is. Shooting.

If you aren't familiar with the four factors stat set, check out the definition here.

To say the Sixers have been playing well in every area other than shooting is a gross understatement. In fact, over the past 9 games, they've dominated their opponents. In all 9 games, they've had a lower turnover rate, higher free throw rate (which measures the number of made free throws vs the number of attempted field goals), 7 out of 9 games they've had a better offensive rebounding rate, 7 out of 9 they also had a better defensive rebounding rate.

So, how does all of that dominance translate into a 5-4 record? Simple, over the stretch their eFG has been .441, they've allowed their opponents to compile a .510 eFG. Let's get away from the advanced stats for a second and talk pure numbers.

Over the past 9 games the Sixers have held the following advantages, per game:

  • Attempted 3.1 more field goals per game
  • Attempted 11 more free throws, per game
  • Made 7 more free throws, per game
  • Committed 5.7 fewer turnovers, per game
  • Committed 3.8 fewer personal fouls, per game
  • Grabbed 2.9 more offensive rebounds, per game
Just add up the offensive rebounds and the turnovers and we're talking about a net gain of 8.6 possessions per game. That's an astounding number. Even with those huge advantages, the Sixers are only outscoring their opponents by 1 point, per game, over the stretch. Here's why:

  • Their opponents have made 2.2 more field goals, per game
  • Their opponents have made 2 more three-pointers, per game
That's it. The Sixers have done every single thing right, even over their recent four-game losing streak. They've done all the little things, but failed miserably at doing the big thing, putting the biscuit in the basket.

Even their defense hasn't been bad. They've been out-shot from the floor by 4.4%, but they've held their opponents to 46.3% from the field. They've been out-shot from three by 5.2%, but they've held their opponents to 32.2%. They've been out-shot from the line by 2.6%, but their opponents are only shooting 77.5%.

I don't believe these stats are an anomaly. We've seen the Sixers beat the best teams in the league, and look convincing doing it. We've also seen them lose to some very, very bad teams. When their shots are falling, they're going to dominate. Plain and simple, when these guys shoot even a league-average percentage from the field and from three, they are one of the best teams in the league. When they don't, they're a team at odds. Can they overcome such a glaring deficiency in one key area of the game with exceptional play in every other area? Well, that depends on who they're playing.

This got me to thinking, how much can we expect the Sixers to improve their shooting this summer. We've already gone through the free-agency market, in detail, so here's what I did. First, let's take a look at the Sixers percentages, and make a couple of quick fixes.

Team eFG
  • Current: .484
  • Without Willie Green: .485
  • Without Lou Williams: .493
  • Add Von Wafer: .498
  • Add Jarrett Jack: .496
  • Add Von Wafer and Jarrett Jack (subtract Willie and Lou): .497
So, replacing Willie and Lou with two free agents from this summer, who won't command anywhere near the $8.65M the Sixers will pay Willie and Lou, would effectively move them from 26th in the league in eFG to 14th. Honestly, I think this would probably improve the team in other areas as well. Both are superior from the free throw line, Jack's assist/turnover numbers are similar to Williams', but I think I'd be more comfortable with him as the backup point for this team.

Wafer contributes in very few areas. He's basically a specialist shooter, which makes him an upgrade over Willie in that Willie has no specialty to speak of.

I chose Wafer and Jack because their FGA/game and minutes/game were very close to Willie and Lou's, plus they're both free agents, but the point is, the Sixers can make drastic improvements to their one area of need this summer without breaking the bank or making a huge splash. Do you think any area of the team game would depreciate considerably if magically Green and Lou were replaced on the roster with Wafer and Jack? I don't.

  • I also updated the plus/minus worksheet, so check that out (Here's a preview: Iggy rocks)
  • No one wants the #s 4 and 5 seeds in the East, apparently. Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee and Chicaco all lost last night. The Sixers are all alone in 6th place now.
by Brian on Feb 26 2009
Tags: Basketball | Shooting | Sixers | Stats | Worksheets |