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Swish Cheese

As promised, here's the flip side of the post from yesterday afternoon. After the jump we'll take a look at where opponents get their shots against the Sixers, how these numbers compare to the league and what it all means. Not for the faint of heart.

Before we get into these numbers I want to lay the groundwork. I heard one of George Karl's philosophies on offense this week and it really struck home. I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially he wants his offense to look for shots in the following order:

  1. Dunk
  2. Layup
  3. Open corner three
  4. Open three from elsewhere
  5. Then two-point jumpers, the closer the better

I'd expand this list, and add getting to the foul line with two shots to the top of the list. For our purposes in this post, we're going to have to lump all three-pointers into one group, and dunks and layups will also be grouped together in the category "at the rim," but the logic is extremely sound. It's common sense and we have stats to back up the logic as well. Here's a look at the league-wide point value for each shot:

  1. At the rim (dunks & layups) - 1.21 points/shot
  2. Three-pointers - 1.04 points/shot
  3. Shots less than 10 feet (excluding dunks & layups) - 0.89 points/shot
  4. Shots between 10-15 feet - 0.81 points/shot
  5. Shots between 16-23 feet (long twos) - .79 points/shot
Look at those numbers, flip them on their head, and you've got a defensive philosophy. Good defense involves forcing teams to settle for the shots that are worth the fewest points. A layup or a dunk would be a failure. A long two a success.

Those are the basics, but obviously there are nuances within results. For example, a team with no shotblocker will probably allow more than 1.21 points/shot on attempts at the rim (Golden State allows 1.38 points/shot on attempts at the rim, the worst in the league). A team who fails to rotate to open shooters beyond the three-point line will allow greater shooting percentages from distance, hence higher points/shot (I'm sure you know where this one is going.

So we're going to take a two-pronged approach to analyzing this data. First, we're going to see how successful the Sixers are at forcing tough shots, then we're going to look at how successful they are at defending the shots opponents wind up taking.

When you look at this chart, I want you to keep in mind what Eddie Jordan's "defensive philosophy" is. Use all five players to collapse on the lane, then rotate like hell to close out on shooters.

Let's correct the order and examine these stats. In stopping the opponents from getting to the rim, Eddie Jordan's sole stated defensive philosophy, the Sixers are 5th-worst in the league. Only four teams in the league allow more dunks/layups as a percentage of total field goals attempted against. The next priority is defending the three pointer, here the Sixers are 8th-worst in the league.

From here on out, higher numbers are bad. 2-point shots within 10 feet can be considered a moderate win for the defense, the Sixers are ranked 24th here, meaning 23 teams do a better job of forcing teams into these situations. From there we go to the Sixers only average ranking, 10-15 feet. And finally, the shot you want opponents to take. If they're going to take a shot, these long twos have the least value. Only three teams in the league force their opponents into fewer long twos than the Sixers.

Essentially, you're looking at a complete failure in getting your opponents to take the shots you want them to take, relative to the league. Which shouldn't really shock you.

Now let's look at how the Sixers defend each area of the floor.

Well, it starts with good news. They do a slightly better-than-average job of defending on the shots at the rim, 18th out of 30. Then they're right at average as you step out on the floor all the way out to a foot-on-the-line deuce. Then it all goes to hell. Not only are the Sixers allowing the most points/shot on threes, they're allowing 11.3% more points-per-shot than the #29 team, 21.1% more PPS than league average and 37.8% more PPS than the best three-point defending team in the league (The Lakers).

Think about those numbers for a minute. The Sixers do a slightly better-than-average job at limiting the damage on forays to the hoop, but it doesn't matter because they let an obscene amount of attempts happen at the rim. On top of that, they're so unbelievably bad at rotating out to the three that they've made that shot more valuable than layups and dunks against them. In fact, a three against the Sixers is worth more points than a league-average shot at the rim. Put it this way, a three-pointer shot against the Sixers is worth 13.5% more points than a layup/dunk vs. the Cavs.

After looking at these numbers, I honestly couldn't believe the Sixers weren't dead last in defensive efficiency. The Sixers are lucky the Raptors are in the league, and they're lucky the Raptors not only play shoddy defense, but they foul quite a bit more, don't cause as many turnovers and they're even worse on their defensive glass than the Sixers.

There are other factors you need to take into account when evaluating team defense on the whole, unfortunately, most of those factors aren't very extenuating in the Sixers' case. Typically, fouls do not occur on three-point attempts, wheres they are likely on closer shots. The closer to the hoop, the more likely a foul will be committed. This would work in the Sixers favor if, say, they were limiting at the rim attempts in order to induce more three-point attempts, but instead, they're limiting attempts away from the hoop, shots that have both a low PPS value and a lower likelihood of drawing a foul, in favor of both shots at the rim (with a high likelihood of committing a foul) and three-point attempts, which teams are draining with unprecedented regularity.

It really is a perfect storm of defensive ineptitude.

Again, check out HoopData for just a ton of stats you really can't find elsewhere. I could probably write a post a day based on the stuff they have.
by Brian on Dec 30 2009
Tags: Basketball | Defense or lack thereof | Sixers | Stats |