BREAKDOWN – A look inside CJ Miles offensive game

The Utah Jazz are without starting small forward Josh Howard for the remainder of the season. A renewed burden will fall on CJ Miles to pick up the slack for Josh Howard.

This off-season CJ worked hard to change his body promoting his athleticism and quickness rather than strength. That paid off on Sunday night when CJ played the best defense of his career against Kobe Bryant.

However, on the offensive end it has not helped as CJ had hoped. The newly 25 year old shooting guard is shooting 38% from the field and 29% from three the lowest has shot since his second year in the league in 2006-07.

What has happened to Miles shooting this season?’

According to synergy sports, CJ Miles gets his offense most out of 5 types of plays, spot up shooting, off screens, pick and roll, isolation and transition.

. Interestingly, the fall is not where you would imagine. Miles spot up shooting has been nearly identical for three straight seasons. Shooting 34% on spot ups this year, 33% last year and 37% the year prior.

The slippage has taken place in other aspects.
Playing off screens the last two years CJ shot 37%. This year he is just 10 of 40 or 25% and 0 for 7 from three point range.

In 1 on 1 isolation plays the last two years he shot around 37% and this year he is just 18% and just 1 of 4 from three.

As the pick and roll ball handler he is not having as much luck as the year’s prior. The last two years he hit on 40% of those shots and this year he is just 30%.

Finally, he is getting more of his offensive in transition but this is where the three point shooting is slipping. Last year on transition three’s CJ hit 16 of 39 for 41% this year it is just 3 of 13 for 23%.

CJ MILES 2010-11 Numbers
PLAY TYPE % of Time FG% 3 pt (at-makes) %
Spot Up 26% 38% 62-199 (31%)
Off Screen 20% 38% 12-33 (36%)
Transition 15% 61% 16-39 (41%)
Pick and Roll 12% 40% 6-21 (29%)
Isolation 8% 39% 6-19 (32%)

CJ MILES 2011-12
PLAY TYPE % of Time FG% 3 pt (at-makes) %
Spot Up 24% 34% 24-72 (33%)
Off Screen 10% 25% 0-7 (0%)
Transition 23% 54% 3-13 (22%)
Pick and Roll 14% 30% 2-10 (20%)
Isolation 9% 18% 1-4 (25%)

BREAKDOWN – Favors impact on Jazz and how good they can be with Favors

The last two nights the Jazz defense played as well as it has all year. In fact, statistically the Jazz defense against Golden State and the Lakers were their 5th and 7th best of the season.

More importantly, it ended a terrible trend where the Jazz defense had been slipping poorly. In the last three games the Jazz have held their opponent below a point per possession (league average is 1.013) prior to those games the Jazz had done this just once in eight games and twice in 16 games.

You can’t underestimate the impact Derrick Favors is having on the Jazz defensively. In Favors 6 starts where he has played at least 25 minutes, the Jazz have put had their 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th and 22nd best defensive outings of the year.
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In three other games Favors has played over 25 minutes. In all of those games the Jazz allowed a point per possession or less. They were the Jazz 13th, 15th and 17th best defensive performances of the year.

The best defensive team in the NBA is the Philadelphia and they are allowing an incredible .94 pts per possession. The top 12 teams in the NBA are all below 1 pts per possession. Those 12 teams have 12 of the 13 best records in the NBA (Spurs are the only one out).

Remember this; to be a good team in the NBA you have to hold teams to below 1 point per possession.

In 8 of the 9 games Favors has played 25 minutes the Jazz have accomplished this or 89%. In the 36 games Favors has not played 25 minutes the Jazz have accomplished it 9 times or 36% of the time.

When the Jazz hold an opponent to 1 point per possession or below they are 14-3. When the Jazz allow an opponent more than 1 point per possession they are 9-18.

The flipside of this is the worst 10 teams in the NBA allow 1.027 pts per possession or 102.7 pts per 100 possessions or more. Of those 10 teams only Phoenix and Utah are at .500, the other 8 teams have the worst records in the NBA (excluding New Orelans)
When the Jazz allow more than 1.027 pts per possession or 102.7 pts per 100 possessions they have almost no chance to win. Twenty-three times this year the Jazz have allowed 1.027 pts per possession or more and they are 5-18 in those games.

When Favors has played 25 minutes in a game the Jazz have only allowed this once, the win v. Phildelphia.
In the 36 games Favors has not played 25 minutes the Jazz have crossed the evil threshold of 1.027 pts per possession 22 times or 61% of the time.
In summation, there are two defensive bench marks for the Jazz, if they allow less than a point a possession they win (14-3) if they allow more than 1.027 pts per possession they lose (5-18).

In 89% of the games Favors played 25 or more minutes the Jazz allow 1 point per possession or less and in 61% of the games Favors doesn’t play 25 minutes the Jazz allow over 1.027 pts per possession.

BREAKDOWN – Derrick Favors to LaMarcus Aldridge

Jazz fans are having a large debate on how much the youngsters should be playing for the Jazz. Everyone’s favorite model right now is Oklahoma City who cleared the deck and let the kids play and they have been terrific together. The key here is they have Kevin Durant.

I am working on a larger story about how you immerse youngsters into your roster. While doing that I found a very interesting comparison. Derrick Favors career is mirroring that of LaMarcus Aldridge.

It is not a perfect comparisom, but understanding Aldridge spent two years at Texas and Favors spent 1 year at Georgia Tech then comparing Favors 2nd year in the NBA, 3rd year out of high school and Aldridge’s rookie year also his 3rd year out of high school and it looks incredibly similar.

Considering LaMarcus played in his first all-star game this year it shows it is a process but Favors maybe on track better than people realize.

BREAKDOWN – Why Warriors might be better with Monta.

This is too long for a tweet. Why the Warriors could be better without Monta Ellis? Monta Ellis used 24 possessions a game at a rate of .89 points per possession. The league average is .91 points per possession.

Last night the Warriors played without Monta Ellis. It is not easy to tell exactly where the 24 possessions went because Stephen Curry was out as well. However, narrowing in on shooting guard possessions and you can get close.

Last night Klay Thompson used 12 more possessions than he usually does. He averages .97 points per possession. This makes the Warriors .72 pts better. Dorrell Wright who averages .98 points per possession got 4 more possessions, an increase in .28 points. Brandon Rush got an extra 3 possessions and he averages 1.07 pts per possession, an increase of .48 pts per game.

This accounts for 17 of the 24 possessions used by Ellis and an increase of 1.48 pts per game. The other 7 possessions are harder to track but you get the gist of the concept.

The real issue is whether the Warriors shut down Steph Curry. Curry uses 15 possessions a night at 1.00 a possession and Robinson (.89) and Jenkins (.83) who use his possessions are much worse.

BREAKDOWN – Search to prove Derrick Favors defensive impact

My eyes are telling me that Derrick Favors is becoming a game impacting defensive player. Coaches and people I trust are talking about the same thing. But, how do we equate it?
Defense in the NBA has become the nearly indefinable. The fear is that once you make the conclusion that something is happen, in this case Favors impacting the game defensively, you only notice moments that reconfirm your belief.
Talking to people around the game, they all say he is the best pick and roll defender of the Jazz bigs. They mention that he protects the rim. He is rotating instinctually rather than thinking and therefore covering more ground. His athleticism allows him to recover from mistakes better than most bigs in the NBA.

Those are the items we can see. However, what do the numbers tell us about Favors defensively? This is where analytics really struggles because the 9 other players have such huge impact.

Our first stop is 82games.com. According to 82games.com when Favors is on the floor the Jazz allow 105.6 pts per 48 minutes and when he is on the bench they allow 108.4 pts. The defense allows the opponent 48.6% EFG% and when he is on the bench it is 49.6% More data shows we block more shots, the Jazz offensive rebound dramatically better (35% to 30%) and defensive rebound better (72.7% to 69.4%).

However, these can be very misleading because Favors is usually playing against the second unit. Moreover, he plays with Kanter the majority of the time therefore it makes sense the rebounding is better.

Moving to basketballvalue.net to confirm these findings we find much of the same. When Favors is on the floor we allow 103.47 pts per 100 possessions and when he is off the floor the Jazz allow 107.8 pts per 100 possessions, other than Watson and Kanter the best on the roster.

Basketballvalue.com does great work to look playing groups. When Favors plays with Watson, CJ, Howard and Kanter (122 mins this year, the most of any 5 Favors has played with) the group has a defensive rating of 95.67. However, when you take Howard out and insert Alec Burks the rating skyrockets to 104.05. When you replace CJ with Burks it is even worst at 105.56. How this is possible is beyond my logic.

The Jazz best defensive line-up is Harris, Hayward, Howard, Jefferson and Favors with a defensive rating of 78.31 in the nearly 30 minutes they have played together.

The last and final stop in trying to prove the unprovable is mysyenrgysports.com. This is where it all falls apart. However, the flaw here is that this only counts when the possession ends in the hand of the player Favors is guarding. It doesn’t count if he denies the post or if he comes from the weakside to block the shot.

With that said we see some signs of his defensive prowess. On defending isolation allowing just 6 of 17 shooting and .86 pts per possession. On post ups opponents are shooting just 7 of 21 33% and score .77 pts per possession. He struggles with the spot up, which means the stretch 4’s who make him defend the outside shot. He was annihilated by Matt Bonner and that is skewing some of his numbers.

However, when you compare him to the other bigs it is not that imprssive. In contrast Paul Millsap allows opponents to shot 42.6% on post ups but he forces turnovers 21% of the time so his ppp is the same as Favors at .77. Millsap is better on isolations allowing just 9 of 27 shooting and .54 pts per possession. These numbers would lead you to believe Millsap is the better defender.

The story is similar with Jefferson, Favors is better on isolations, but they are the same on post-ups and spot up shooting is an issue for both.

At the end of the day the numbers tell us very little. My eyes however tell me that Favors is becoming a major defensive player. What do we trust?

BREAKDOWN – What stats lead to wins and how do Jazz rank?

A good hoops conversation with Ron Boone today lead into a discussion about what statistically area lead most directly to wins. Four or five years ago Tom Nissalke and I did this exercise and were stunned to find out one of the primary indicators to wins was 3 pointers attempted. Not made but attempted. The game has changed since then since the 3 pointer has become more universal.

Here are what we discovered today. The methodology is very simplistic. Rank the teams top 5, top 10, bottom 5 and bottom 10 in certain statistical categories and see what the combined winning percentage is for top 5, top 10, bottom 5 and bottom 10 in those categories.

If the statistic has no correlation to winning it should be near 50%.

3 point shooting is where this research started and it is not as a big factor as it once once. The 5 teams that use the most % of their possessions to shot three’s only win 52% of the time, the top 10 teams using three’s as part of their offense win 56%. However, if you don’t shot the three it is hard to win. The bottom 5 teams in the NBA using three pointers win just 35% and the bottom 10 win 50% of the time. The Jazz use the 2nd fewest possession to shot a three.

Does offensive rebounding help a team win? Maybe not. The top 5 offensive rebounding teams have a combined 50% winning percentage, the top 10 a 46% winning percentage. In fact, the argument might go the other way you are better off not offensive rebounding as the bottom 10 offensive rebounding teams win 60% of their games. The Jazz rank 4th in offensive rebounding.

Defensive rebounding, on the other hand, seems to be important. The top 5 defensive rebounding teams have a combined 62% winning percentage and the top 10 are at 58%. What is clear if you don’t defensive rebound it is going to be hard to win, the bottom 10 teams in defensive rebounding win 40% of the time and the bottom 5 win 41% of the time. The Jazz are 20th in defensive rebounding.

Let’s turn to turnovers. Lots of being made of the Thunder’s problem with turnovers is this legitimate. Taking care of the ball seems to have very little indicator if you win or not. The top 5 teams at taking care of the ball are winning at 51% and the top 10 win 54% of games. The worst teams in the NBA do about the same, the bottom 5 teams win 53% (have OKC helps) and the bottom 10 teams win 50% of their games. The Jazz are 6th best at taking care of the ball.
Surprisingly, it looks as though forcing turnovers can hurt your team’s chances to win. Or at least the best teams don’t force turnovers. The Top 5 teams in the NBA at forcing turnovers win 55% of the time and the top 10 teams forcing turnovers only win 53%. Here is the surprise, the bottom 5 teams in the NBA at forcing turnovers win 57% of the time and the bottom 10 teams in the NBA forcing turnovers win 60% of the time. The Jazz are 14th in the NBA at forcing turnovers.

The big indicator is free throw, teams that get to the line win. The top 5 teams going to the line win 65% of their games, and the top 10 teams going to the line win just 50% of the time. Teams that don’t go to the line come in at the mean line. The bottom 5 and the bottom 10 teams win at 50%. Jazz are 8th in the NBA at getting to the line.

The biggest indicator yet is if you foul or not. The top 5 teams at keeping the opponent off the line win at 67%. The top 10 teams at keeping teams off the line win at 60%. If you put teams on the line it is significant as well. The 10 teams that put teams on the line the most win at just 40% and the bottom 5 teams win at just 41%. Jazz are 29th in the NBA.

The #1 issue as it always has been if you make shots. Using effective field goal % which weighs three point shots you get the expected results. The top 5 teams in the NBA at making shots win 69% of the time and the top 10 teams win 63%. For all the talk of defense if you don’t make shots you are not winning . The bottom 5 teams in the NBA at EFG% win at just 26% and the bottom 10 teams wins at 40%. The Jazz are 19th in the NBA at EFG%.

Finally is defense more important than offense? You better be great at 1 or the other. The top 5 teams in DEF% win at 66% and the top 10 teams are at 61% whereas the bottom 5 teams win just 33% of their games and the bottom 10 win just 40%. The Jazz are 23rd in the NBA.

Digest how you wish.

BREAKDOWN – Jazz Defense v. Rockets last night compared to Feb 19th

Last night the Jazz put together one of their better defensive performances of the season. Ten nights earlier against the exact same team the Jazz got blitzed. Looking at synergy sports revealed some interesting numbers.

In the game on Feb 19th the Rockets ran 29 plays that were initiated and ended off a pick and roll. 21 of the 29 ended in the hand of the ball handler. On those 21 plays the Rockets shot 7 of 12, 2 of 3 from three and scored on 53% of the possessions. The roll man scored on 4 of the 8 possessions.

Last night, the Rockets only had 13 plays end on a pick and roll. This means that on the initial attempt off pick and roll well and forced the Rockets to move to the next option. Of the 13 pick and rolls the Rockets consummated they shot just 4 of 8 and scored on just 30% of the plays.

By denying the pick and roll the Jazz seemed to force the Rockets into more spot up shots. Unlike the game on the 19th when the Rockets hit 10 of 17 spot ups and 7 of 11 from three the shots didn’t fall last night. The Rockets were 10 of 22 on spot ups and 5 of 14 from three. The score % on spot ups on the Feb 9th game was 61% this time it was 42.3%.

The defense of the pick and roll meant the Rockets weren’t able to penetrate the same way and therefore didn’t have as much room and time for their spot up shots.

Favors and Kanter both defending the pick and roll well last night as I watched the film. It was a stark contrast to how Paul Millsap defended the pick and roll in Houston.

BREAKDOWN – Why Starting Matters?

A regular refrain in the NBA is that it isn’t who starts it is who finishes. That makes players feel good who are told they aren’t starting but I would argue it is not true.

Who starts matters for two reasons. One it guarantees minutes. Second, it is the most commonly used 5 man unit on every team.

The first issue is a math issue. Most coaches don’t make their first substitution until after the first timeout which happens under 6 minutes. Therefore, the starters usually play the first 8 minutes of the first and third quarters. Therefore, the maximum a bench player can play in a game is 32 minutes and that is only if he is never taken out of game.

If the team is typical the starters or some variation of the starters will usually come back with 6 minutes left in the 2nd and 4th quarters. Then the bench player only plays 20 minutes a night.

The other issue is 5 man units. Starters play together and other units don’t. It sounds so simplistic but look at the Jazz this year.

Harris, Bell, Hayward, Millsap, Jefferson 383.25 mins
Watson, CJ, Howard, Favors, Kanter 113.67 mins
Harris, Hayward, Howard, Millsap, Jefferson 76.77 mins
Watson, Burks, Miles, Favors, Kanter 63.32 mins
Watson, Burks, Howard, Favors, Kanter 49.07 mins

This is universal around the NBA, in fact the Jazz are a lesser extreme. The Pacers starters have played 547 minutes and the next unit has played 69. The Houston Rockets starters have played 368 minutes together and the next closest is 84. This list could go on and on.

That is why starting matters.

BREAKDOWN– How have the Jazz gone from best to last in 4th Quarter Defense

In the last post I showed how the Jazz defense has changed in February compared to January. The difference is more stunning when you isolate 4th quarter play. This is important because at home in January the Jazz were finding ways to win games and in February on the road they have not been winning those game.

The Jazz have gone from the #1 FG% defense in the 4th quarter in January to the #30 FG% defense in 4th Quarter in February.

The amazing difference is a nearly 10% FG% defense.

Here is the 4th quarter Jazz defense in January

Now here is February

How does this happen? It is two fold. The Jazz are not defending the shot, they are sending people to the line at a much higher rate.

I dug a little deeper into the advanced stats and found some more revealing numbers.
The Jazz pace of play is not changing so these numbers are comparable.
In January the Jazz allowed 43% EFG and in February 53%. That is a major issue but it is even worse when you consider the increase in fouling.
In 15 games in January the Jazz opponents shot 98 free throws and in 13 February games they have made 94 in 128 attempts.
Therefore the True Shooting % of opponents, (Pts/FGA+(.44*FTA)*2) (pts/scoring chances*2) has gone from 48% to 59%.
The other way to look at that which I talk about a lot is pts per scoring opportunity has gone from .96 to 1.18. Stunning.

Interestingly, the offensive rebounding issue of late has not been a month long issue.

BREAKDOWN – PART 1 – How the Jazz Big Men are Performing in the Post?

Throughout the year I have been reviewing the numbers on Synergy Sports to see how our players are performing in different areas.

Today I am looking at the post play of the 4 bigs. According to Synergy these are the numbers for the season. Later, I will post how they looked watching film.

PLAYER # FGM FGA FG% %TO %SCORE
MILLSAP 141 46 120 38.3% 5.7% 41.8%
JEFFERSON 283 106 246 43.1 4.9% 45.2%
FAVORS 73 30 74 40.5% 16.7% 39.2%
KANTER 54 13 40 32.5% 18.5% 31.5%

MILLSAP IN THE POST BY THE NUMBER

Millsap has hit on just 1 of his last 15 post plays, he has been fouled 4 times in that span. Millsap converted 28 of his first 60 post shots of the year and has since hit just 18 of his last 60 post shots. Paul hit on 24 of his first 45 post shots and since then is 22 of his last 75 (29%).

JEFFERSON IN THE POST BY THE NUMBERS

This is what Al does and he has been scoring in the post well as of late. Last year he had 587 post ups for 42.7%, this year he is right on at 43.1%. He is passing more this year and his turnover number is down last year he turned it over 6.1% of his post ups and this year it is 4.9% In turn he score % is up slightly. Last year , he ranked 74th in the NBA in post up according to Synergy this year he is 36th.

KANTER IN THE POST BY THE NUMBERS

Kanter started the year 4 of 20 in the post with 4 turnover, in the last 20 shot attempts he has hit 9 of 20 and has 5 turnovers. He has converted on 5 of the last 10 shots in the post. Turnovers are still a major issue for Kanter in the post and he has no idea how to pass out of the post.

FAVORS IN THE POST BY THE NUMBERS

Favors has slumped as of last after being very productive. He has converted on just 5 of his last 15 and even more recently has been 0 for his last 6 but has drawn three fouls in that time.

If you break Favors 74 post shots into 5 groups of 15 he makes 4 the first 15, then 6, then 7, then 8 and slips most recently down to 5. However, in the last 15 he started drawing fouls. His biggest problem is he turns the ball over a ton. In his 45 shots he turned it over 8 times, in the last 30 he has turned it over 5 times. Truly all of these numbers show some progress.

Next I will watch the film and post how they look and what they are doing.