In any offense not orchestrated by Eddie Jordan, the purpose of an offensive possession is ultimately to get a shot in the lane, preferably a dunk or a layup. If you're living in the lane, odds are, your team is scoring efficiently and trips to the free throw line should follow. It's common sense. After 17 games, it's time to take a look at how successful the Sixers have been at creating shots in the lane.
As usual, when we're talking about shot locations, HoopData is the go-to site.
The impetus for this post was a quick look at the shot location data for the Sixers win over the Nets on Saturday. Two numbers, in particular, stood out to me. Jrue was 4/4 at the rim and 4/6 inside ten feet (not including at the rim). 8/10 in the painted area, basically. Those are just outstanding numbers for anyone, let alone a point guard. From there, I decided to take a look at the season numbers for the key rotational players, the team as a whole, and compare them to last season's totals. Here's the chart, analysis to follow:
First of all, I decided to go with shots less than 10 feet as the positive measure and shots 16+ feet as the negative. I left out 10-15 foot shots because I think they're basically a mixed bag. Typically not a bad shot, but you have enough fadeaways and baseline jumpers in the mix to keep them from being considered a plus possession, in my book. Obviously, some attempts at the rim are poor shots, just as some three pointers are quality attempts (and some people even view some long twos as decent attempts), but for the purposes of this exercise, we're taking a black-and-white approach: In the paint = Good. 16 feet and beyond = Bad.
This is an important metric for reasons beyond the simplistic, it's easier to hit a shot closer to the hoop. For several years, the Sixers relative lack of shooters supposedly has allowed teams to pack the lane and make it extremely difficult to penetrate. If that logic still holds, they should be settling for a bunch of jumpers. Also, getting into the lane should lead to more free throw attempts. That hasn't really been the case, but logically, it should and perhaps it will once the Sixers are no longer a laughingstock and get a decent number of whistles when they get hammered.
- Jrue is not only doing a much better job of taking the ball to the tin, he's converting at a higher percentage once he gets there (65.3% this season, 54.5% last year), and he is also getting to the line 77% more frequently than he did last year. 3.2 free throw attempts/36 minutes is nothing to write home about, but it's a step in the right direction and a very good sign for a 20-year-old PG.
- Iguodala's ratio is still below 1, but again, a dramatic improvement over last season.
- Thad was excellent last year (1.79), but he's made a big leap. Unfortunately, he's still drawing way too few fouls.
- Brand has significantly cut down on his long twos, which is a good sign as well.
- Speights has just absolutely fallen in love with his jumper. I think there's a direct relationship between his decreased offensive efficiency and his poor rim/long ratio.
- Perhaps the most concerning number is Lou's. He went from 0.92 last season to a terrible 0.54 this year. Again, it's not hard to figure out why he's only shooting 34% from the floor. I'm afraid if Lou continues down this path, his numbers are going to fall off dramatically as the season wears on. He's averaging a career-best 7.7 FTA/36 minutes to this point, but his shot distribution is that of a catch-and-shoot guard. Something has to give. Either he's going to need to start attacking the basket again, or teams will stop fouling him. That pump fake has served him extremely well to this point, but you can already see scouts catching up to the move.
This ratio bears watching throughout the season, especially for Jrue, Thad and Iguodala. If defenses are able to squeeze the lane, those guys will probably see a dip in production.