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Super Secret Stats: Andrew Bynum and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Clutch

Saving the Skyhook was recently granted access to the NBA’s super-secret advanced statistics page, a web source of endless information that will become available to the general public once the league figures out  a way to make it more user-friendly.  But until then you can get some of what it offers right here, as we’ll be exploring and playing with this supposedly and expectedly awesome application each day from here on out until the 2012-2013 season begins (and likely after that too, of course) on October 30th.

Without further ado, to the stats!

May 12, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov (25) defends Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) in the first half of game seven of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Super-Secret Stat: With his team ahead or behind by three points in the last three minutes of games last season, Andrew Bynum shot a staggering 82.6% from the field, connecting on 19 of his 23 attempts.  He led the league (among those with at least 10 FGAs) in this regard by a healthy margin, outpacing second-ranked Chris Bosh by 10.4 percent.

Analysis: This is a tough thing to break down and sink your teeth into, as there are an almost endless amount of variables that come into play here and almost as many potential questions.  But two stand out – is Bynum actually the best clutch player in the league? and how much of his success should be owed to playing with Kobe Bryant and, to a lesser extent, Pau Gasol?

Tackling that first query is tough for any player as it is, let alone a plodding big man like Bynum who wouldn’t necessarily create many of his own opportunities in these situations.  But the clear thing here is that nobody in the league was more efficient than Bynum in the game’s final minutes in 2012, and that extrapolates to almost any time and point-differential combination you can come up with.  He shot 76.1% within five minutes of clock hitting zero and the score within five points, 77.4% under four minutes remaining and the score within four, and 57.1% (on an extremely limited sample size, mind you) with under one minute left and the score within three. The only instance in which he isn’t near the top of the leaderboard in shooting accuracy was in the last 30 seconds, an observation that means little given his lack of opportunities in those circumstances; he took just four shots with under 30 seconds remaining in games that were within a single possession.  So whether Bynum was or wasn’t the game’s “best” clutch player is obviously debatable, but what isn’t is that he was its most effective.  Nobody was as efficient a scorer as Bynum last year in the game’s waning and critical moments, and that’s a fact.

But what to make of Bynum playing alongside guys like Bryant – generally considered, rightly or wrongly, basketball’s best closer – and Gasol, a fantastic offensive player in his own right and gifted post-to-post passer? There’s no way to truly discern how much the presence of Bryant and Gasol influenced Bynum’s performance in the clutch without going back and looking at tape (something we don’t have access to), but it’s very reasonable to think his opportunities were easier because he was on the floor with them.  Defenses must pay even more attention than normal to Bryant in clutch situations and Gasol is a huge threat as an overall playmaker when defenses tend to scramble and get out of position.

Without tape the next best thing, of course, is to look at Bryant and Gasol’s individual clutch stats and the Lakers’ as a whole last season.  Bryant scored the second most points (143) in the league (Kevin Durant was first with 145) in 2012 with under five minutes left on the clock and the game within five points (now referred to as 5:5), but did so on just 36.1% from the field.  His usage rate of 41.5% ranked third in the league and obviously suggests Bynum deserved a bigger piece of the pie last year,but most important is that his assist rate was a surprisingly high 14.5.  That’s hardly near the top of the rankings but very respectable, and indicative that Kobe isn’t quite the me-first chucker some like to believe he is when it’s hero-ball time (for comparison – Chris Paul: 23.0, LeBron James: 20.0, Kyrie Irving: 7.7, Kevin Durant: 1.4).  Obviously some of those assists went to Bynum, and his extreme proficiency in the clutch starts to become more clear.  And Gasol? He shot a solid 49% from the field in 5:5 situations, and his assist rate was an awesome 36.5.

So last year, Bynum, essentially, was playing with the game’s most feared closer that passed more frequently and effectively in 5:5 than most stat-heads thought, and basketball’s most versatile offensive big man who morphed into a pass-first point guard in those same circumstances.  Bynum’s extreme clutch efficiency shouldn’t shock much then, and it’s even less surprising LAL led the league in 5:5 plus/minus last year with a +91, outdistancing second place Philadelphia by 15.

Teams were already scared of the Lakers in crunch time and rightfully so.  But what will they do this coming season, replacing Bynum with Dwight Howard and Steve Blake/Ramon Sessions with Steve Nash? That depends a lot on the style of offense they’ll employ down the stretch and how willing Bryant is to yield much of the ballhandling to Nash in these same situations.  Howard doesn’t quite have the touch of Bynum from outside five feet, but given his predecessor’s overwhelming success and the new presence of Nash in the Lakers’ crunchtime lineup, it’s very easy to imagine him leading the league in clutch shooting in 2013.

As for Bynum? It’s notoriously difficult for big men to be a team’s offensive focal point when the clock is winding down and the game is close, but Philly will undoubtedly try to make him so anyway.  But he’ll find it much, much harder to navigate crunchtime waters playing without Bryant and Gasol, and should come to back down to earth when it comes to clutch scoring.

 

 

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The Dwight Howard Trade: Great for Everyone BUT Orlando

April 10, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Injured Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard claps from the sidelines against the Washington Wizards in the second half at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 93-85. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Dwight Howard finally got traded. So now we all can get on with our lives, his “Indecision” is now over after a blockbuster 4-team deal brings him to Lakerland where he will join forces with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol (how is this even possible?). Before I break down what the deal means for each team, below are all the players and draft picks involved. David Stern is cringing somewhere trying to comprehend this trade.

Lakers receive: Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark

Magic receive: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, Christian Eyenga, 3 protected 1st round draft picks (1 from each team), 2 2nd round draft picks

Sixers receive: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson

Nuggets receive: Andre Iguodala

Apr 5, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) reacts after a turnover during the fourth quarter at Amway Center. New York defeated Orlando, 96-80. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Los Angeles Lakers – Is it possible for General Manager of the 2012-2013 season to be locked up already? Because Mitch Kupchak is making a phenomenal case for that award right now. With Kupchak’s moves, the Lakers have gone from a respected but not serious championship contender to possibly the favorites to win coming into next season. Steve Nash for 4 draft picks and now Dwight Howard suiting up for the purple and gold without having to give up Pau Gasol sounds like an excellent summer to me. The Lakers also received Chris Duhon (completely and uttlerly useless at this stage of his career) and Earl Clark, who actually could turn into a decent backup but is far from the main attraction. With the addition of Dwight Howard, the Lakers become an even more problematic team on both ends of the court to contend with. On the defensive end, Dwight Howard will mask much of the Lakers weaknesses on that end. Teams can no longer pick and roll them to death and with D12′s shot-blocking and rebounding prowess, the Lakers will be a defensive force. Not to mention coach Mike Brown hangs his hat on his defensive schemes, with the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year anchoring the paint the Lakers will be difficult to light up. Now on the offensive side of the ball; picture the many looks the Lakers can give opponents, I’m having visions of pick and roll being run to perfection with Steve Nash and Dwight, Pau Gasol at the high post and Kobe Bryant on the wings, just think about that for a second. The YouTube link in the last sentence is  p&r run with JJ Redick, this is infinitely scarier as a defense with one of the best point guards of all time running it. While Dwight Howard does not have the post repertoire of Andrew Bynum, he is still a high percentage scorer (57.7 percent from the field over his career) and commands a double team. With an all time legend running the point, Dwight Howard’s skills will be maximized offensively. With 4 guys capable of being a first option on any given night, there will naturally be some sacrifice in order for the Lakers to reach their vast potential but this trade was an absolute no brainer for L.A..

While Dwight Howard seems set on exploring free agency next summer, does anyone really believe he will leave the glits and glamour that comes with being a Laker? Nevermind the fact that he would be sacrificing money to leave, he gets to perform in one of the two biggest media markets in the country (New York being the other) and will be playing on a team very capable of winning a championship.

Grade: A+

Apr 26, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Denver Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo (6) against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter at Target Center. Nuggets won 131-102. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Orlando Magic – Any time you can turn the best big man in the NBA into the pu pu platter that is Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, Moe Harkless and draft picks that very likely won’t be before the 20′s, you have to do it right? I’ll stop being facetious now, it is obvious that new GM Rob Hennigan is trying to build from the ground up. I don’t need to rehash the whole Dwight Howard fiasco leading to this trade so I will focus on the future ramifications for Orlando. At first glance, it appears that Orlando is maybe getting 10 cents on the dollar and one would be correct to assume as much. None of the players the Magic received currently are or project to be superstars, though Moe Harkless has potential to be a very solid swingman some day. Arron Afflalo is a solid role player, one who plays strong defense and can hit the three and Al Harrington who is a nice, instant offense 6th man type player. Nikola Vucevic showed flashes of potential in limited playing time for Philadelphia last season averaging 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in less than 16 minutes a contest. The Magic will also receive 3 1st round draft picks (all of which are protected) and 2 2nd round picks in this deal. While Orlando could have received much more talent in return for Dwight Howard, they were able to rid themselves of some questionable contracts (Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon) and will have maximum cap room for the 2013 off-season. Orlando has always been a friendly destination for free agents, with the warm climate and no state tax the Magic shouldn’t struggle to improve their team through free agency, especially considering that they can free up even more money if they choose to cut partially guaranteed deals to both Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu. I’m sure Magic fans while not satisfied with the return they got for Dwight Howard are happy that they can finally sleep at night knowing this situation is over. I’m sure they will be ready to shower Howard with boos when he returns to Orlando on March 12th.

Grade: D, I’m not giving an F only because if Hennigan hits on these future draft picks the outlook is much less pessimistic in Orlando.

April 22, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) makes a dunk past Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha (2) in the second half of the game at the Staples Center. Lakers won in double OT 114-106. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Philadelphia 76ers- I for one think the Sixers front office did an excellent job in this trade. For all of the concerns that come with Andrew Bynum, mainly his attitude and his injury history, he is an immensely talented post player and immediately becomes Philadelphia’s first legitimate go to player since the beloved Allen Iverson. He should be able to average 20 and 10 easily on his new team and will appreciate being the number one option which is something he would never be in Los Angeles so long as Kobe Bryant is still a Laker. The Sixers also acquired Jason Richardson in this deal, while JRich at 31 has seen better days as a basketball player he will be a great complement to Bynum as someone that can space the floor as a three point specialist and is an undervalued component of this trade. For everything Andre Iguodala did well as a defender and a playmaker, he was miscast as the go-to guy for the Sixers for years and received his fair share of criticism in his eight years in Philadelphia. The Sixers never made it past the second round of the playoffs throughout Iguodala’s tenure in Philadelphia and this transaction signifies the beginning of a new era, one that Sixers faithful should be very excited about. Bynum instantly makes the Sixers a threat in the East and while they are not in the class of the Miami Heat, they should project to win around 50 games this season and fight for a high playoff seed.

It is unclear whether Andrew Bynum will choose to sign an extension with Philadelphia but much like in Howard’s situation, he would be turning down millions of dollars if he leaves after the 2013 season. Plus growing up an hour outside of Philly can’t hurt, right?

Grade: A

Denver Nuggets – While the Nuggets clearly upgraded in talent, acquiring 2012 All-Star and Olympian Andre Iguodala, it did come at a cost of helping a conference foe get significantly better as well. I’m sure General Manager Masai Ujiri will live with the trade-off however, Iguodala is a picture perfect fit for the up-tempo style George Karl employs and the Nuggets save money long term on this deal, shedding the contracts of Afflalo and Harrington. Iguodala quietly had the best three point shooting percentage of his career this season (39.4 percent from deep) and is an elite defensive stud. While he only averaged 10 shot attempts a game, he averaged 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the Sixers in 2011-2012 and is no longer in a situation where he is expected to be a heavy scorer as he was circa 2006-2010 in Philadelphia. With great point guard play from Ty Lawson and Andre Miller at his side, I expect an uptick in Andre’s scoring in 2013. A starting lineup of Javale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler/Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson is young, scary athletic and should be an incredibly fun team to watch this upcoming season. Masai Ujiri has done a masterful job building this Denver Nuggets team since trading Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in February 2011 and while they are likely not a championship threat, this team is an unenviable match-up on any given night.

Grade: A-

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10 Things To Watch For In The 2011 NBA Playoffs


The 2011 are right around the corner, and are sure to be the most competitive NBA Playoffs we’ve seen in years.  While the 2nd round and beyond, are the rounds everyone’s anticipating, there are a few things we need to be on the look-out for.  Here are 10 of them…

1st Round Upsets

1.  The New York Knicks vs. The Boston Celtics

How can this happen, you ask?  Simply put, Youth and Hunger.  The Knicks are considerably younger, and faster than their Boston Counterparts.  The running style that they live by, is the exact opposite type of game that the C’s want to get in to.  Yes the Knicks have had their struggles versus the Celtics this season, but have also had their moments.  When their backs were against the wall, their closer showed up. Carmelo Anthony put the team on his back on multiple occasions, and performed like the star that he is.  These are the leadership qualities that I spoke of before, that are there, just inconsistent.  If Melo can maintain that drive, and killer instinct throughout the series; The Celtics are in Trouble.  Now the likelihood of an upset isn’t in the Knicks’ favor.  However, the Celtics haven’t been the same team since the Perkins trade, and are injured across the board.  The funny thing about this series is that the Knicks lack that “Inside Toughness,” but then again, so do the Celtics.  Yes of course KG is still the backbone of the team, but then what?  You have an old and injured Shaq, who’s paired with another old and injured Jermaine O’neal.  Either way, the Knicks will make a series vs. ANYONE they play this year; you can put money on that! Continue Reading

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Prying Open the LA Panic Room

Lakers fans feel emasculated. Losing to the Charlotte Bobcats was one thing. Looking listless against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that practically redefined losing this year? Pathetic. It reminds me of a classic scene from my childhood.

You’ve been called out, Lakers fans – and by the most ragtag group of rascals (and Antawn Jamison) in the NBA. By a team that lost the only pair of PF Flyers they’d ever seen this summer. By a team you vanquished earlier in the season by a double-nickel, MJ’s favorite number in New York.*

*His favorite number in Vegas? Red. Or the hard eight, if he’s feeling loose.

But to quote your own beloved scribe, Los Angeles, “Easy there, Romeo.” Slow your roll on that panic disco. Is it disconcerting that the Lakers were defeated by a team they should dominate? Undoubtedly. Does their lack of effort against the dregs of professional basketball represent the collapse of morality and competition into a black hole of vacuous indifference and switch-flipping? If that’s the gravy you want to pour on your regular season meatloaf, I won’t argue.* It clearly diminishes the significance of our 82-game buffet – something a much wiser man than I called his “favorite thing in sports.”

*Personally, I see using your energy and resources sparingly if necessary as a wise strategy, and strategy is a part of competition. But I have a poker player’s perspective, so everything I say should be viewed as underhanded and weasel-y.

Continue Reading

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Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers?

While hoops fans were busy talking about the Bobcats surprising win over the Celtics last night, the upcoming showdown between Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard, and the #lastimethecavswon fun on Twitter, news broke that could change the entire landscape of the NBA season.

That news? A potential Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers deal.

From ESPN.com:

The Lakers’ package would be built around center Andrew Bynum. Denver has no interest in Ron Artest and isn’t particularly interested in Lamar Odom either, sources said. A straight-up deal of Bynum for Anthony works financially, but there could be other players involved since Denver would look to shed more salary if possible.

Well, now isn’t that something. And while that is something, I simply cannot see this happening. Continue Reading

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NBA Game Rankings: 12/15/10

We finally got to see Andrew Bynum for the first time this season last night against the Wizards, and well, it wasn’t much more than we expected. Bynum didn’t play many minutes in the Lakers’ 103-89 win over Washington, however, basketball fans know that it’s a different game when he’s in the lineup. When the Lakers are able to move Pau Gasol to power forward, it just opens up so much offensively. People can say Bynum is overrated, but there’s doubting the fact that the Lakers are a much better team when he is in the lineup. Continue Reading