Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Better Than Last Year? (Stats Edition)

I do my best not to listen to Skip Bayless, but just like Jim Traber, sometimes...you just can't avoid him.

I wish I could quit you...

I recently heard Skip and Stephen A. Smith discussing the Thunder.  Skip's mouth was flowing like a fire hydrant, and I couldn't help but think the following:

Disclaimer:  Philosophical soapbox coming...

In day to day speak, we use our opinions to discuss things we enjoy.  Those opinions are sometimes loosely based on facts, and sometimes very based on facts...depends on who you are and what liberties you take with reality.  However, in the end, journalism isn't supposed to be two friends forming their opinions based on information extracted from their rectal areas...that would be irresponsible journalism.  I had an intuitive feeling that Skip was doing this very thing...letting his emotions overshadow the facts.  Words mean things, and journalists are supposed to be the leaders of our media world with the best use of information, real information, put together with meaningful words to represent a meaningful opinion.

If you know Skip, then you know he can't stand Russell Westbrook, and believes that Sam Presti should be committed for trading Harden, and that Scott Brooks's goal in life is to keep Maurice Cheeks from shining.

So, I thought to myself..."Self, why don't we look at the statistics of this clearly inferior Thunder team without James Harden, to see why Skip-Bo thinks they suck so bad and should be dismantled managerially from the top down."

Well...here is what I found...  

Disclaimer:  statistics taken from Basketball-Reference.com, and stats don't lie, but they don't always tell a clear story either.

Through 67 games this season, as compared to the 66 game season last year:

Thunder - scoring 3.6 more points per game (103.1 to 106.7), while allowing only a .3 increase in opponents scoring (96.9 to 97.2)...Margin of victory is 9.5.

So, the Thunder appear to have expanded offensive capabilities, while still defending very well, but at a slightly less effective level...I mean .3 more points per game is not really a mountain to overcome.

However, we have Uncle Skippy to deal with on the Devil (Russell Westbrook) and the Jail-break (Harden vs Martin)...so, let's see how the Thunder are accomplishing this increased offensive effort.

2012 Harden vs 2013 Martin (NBA Death Match)

- Martin has played 111 less minutes than Harden last year.
- Martin has 10 less makes with 40 more shots, and a shooting percentage of 45% to Harden's 49%.
- Martin has 23 more 3 pt makes over 32 more attempts than Harden, Martin's 3pt shooting is at 42%, whereas Harden's was 39%.
- Assists and points make up the largest margin of difference.  Martin has 141 less assists than Harden did a year ago, and has scored 117 less points than the Beard dropped in last year.
- Harden pulled down more rebounds (103 in fact), and had more blocks, but also had more turnovers (48 more) than Martin.  Martin also has 3 more steals, while committing 34 less fouls.
- Harden has 120 more made FT's than KMart has this year.

Overall, a couple of factors need to be blended in here...KMart isn't running the point for the B team, like James did...Reggie takes care of that now.  Also, KMart's role is more a defined 2 guard, rather than the "save our ass" jack-of-all trades  role that Harden played.  And, if these two represented the entirety of the difference between last year and this year, we could end up with an efficiency rating based on points per minute that might tell us something (actually, no...KMART = .5 and HARDEN = .53)...

[Paul Harvey enters the conversation, a true journalist, back from the grave and the vault]

What about the Rest of the Story?

Kevin Durant (2012 vs 2013 to date)
  • 30 more minutes played
  • 25 less made FG's on 7 less shots
  • 13 less 3pt's made on 52 less 3pt attempts
  • 139 more FT's made on 127 more attempts than last year, with a 4% higher 90% FT's percentage.
  • 4 more rebounds p/g
  • 72 more assists
  • 12 more steals
  • 46 more total points
The Devil (Russell Westbrook)
  • 45 more minutes played
  • 21 more 3pt attempts at 33% (+2% from last year)
  • 38 more FT's made on 58 more attempts
  • 49 more rebounds
  • 147 more assists
  • 9 more steals
Air Congo (Serge Ibaka)
  • 272 more minutes played
  • 107 more FG's made at 57% shooting
  • 16 more 3pt makes at 36%
  • 47 more FT's made at 75% (+9% from last year)
  • 26 more Def Rebs and +16 Total Rebounds
  • 10 more assists
  • 277 more points
The Game Chose Me (Thabo)
  • 975 more minutes played
  • 120 more FG's (48% @ +6 from 2012)
  • 54 more 3pt makes at 41%
  • 29 more offensive boards
  • 104 more defensive boards
  • 59 more assists
  • 51 more steals
  • 22 more blocks
  • 300 more points
(Note: Thabo was hurt a bit last year, but this is ridiculous)

Big Perk
  • 80 less minutes
  • 24 more assists
  • 12 steals
  • 26 less TO's
Nick Collision
  • 26 less minutes
  • 29 more FG's at 60% shooting
  • 5 more FT's, but at 79% (up 8% from last year)
  • 17 more Def Rebs
  • 17 more assists
  • 9 more steals
  • 63  more points
Reggie Jackson
  • 191  more minutes played
  • 50 more FG's at 46% (+14% from last year)
  • 63 more Tot Rebs
  • 19 more assists
  • 116 more points
The Thunder have have committed only 4 more fouls through 67 games than in the 66 games they played last year...one more game...4 fouls...do the math.

Opponents fouls are 1415 up from 1322 last year.

The Thunder are shooting better FT% this year (82% vs 80%).

So, what am I trying to say to Uncle Skip and friends...


When the Thunder traded James Harden, it wasn't only about a contract negotiation for a high profile / allstar player.  

It was about the maturity process of a team.  

Last year, many fans, including myself were upset because our 4th quarter offense consisted of James, Russell, or Kevin setting up an isolation or catching a pass and taking on the entire defense.  It's ok, you can admit it...that feeling of your blood pressure rising when one of those three just dribbled out front for 10 seconds, letting the shot clock drip away, then taking the entire basket of eggs into the lane, or pulling up for a shot.  We wanted change.  We wanted to see the Spurs wearing Thunder faces and uniforms...Making Hickory's patented 5 passes before a shot went up.

Well, this year, the scoring load, and offensive load has changed dramatically.  On the surface, you may not feel as though we look like the Spurs, or dance as pretty as the Heat...but, statistically, we are outperforming last year's Thunder.  Sure, Offensive rebounding is down, but so are turnovers (52 less TO's for the players listed above).

The key point in looking at this year's team, from last year, isn't to look at KMart vs Harden...rather it is to look at Harden vs KMart, Thabo, Serge, Perk, Nick and Reggie.  We already know, intuitively and through observation that Russell and KD have taken on added responsibilities, but the burden of success has come on the shoulders of the rest of the team...starters and bench players combined.

The Thunder have 348 more assists this year than they had a year ago (for the players listed above...again need to qualify).  Three Hundred Forty Eight...3-4-8...that's 348 made baskets that were not coming off a pass last year.  That's moving the effing franking ball around!  

So, Skipper, how did we replace Harden?
  • The Devil passes the ball a lot more.
  • KD passes the ball a lot more.
  • Serge makes more shots, from everywhere.
  • Perkins passes the ball effectively with less TO's.
  • Thabo has increased every positive stat category across the board, with only more fouls as a negative.
  • Nick, passing the ball.
  • Reggie, passing the ball.
  • KMart passing and scoring efficiently.
I know Uncle Skip, you need to have an argument, I honestly understand that...but, try as I might, I just couldn't create a Hasheem Thabeet'esque blog entry in ALL CAPS...so you could make it an argument...

Because...there's not one.  This team is better than last year's, the stats show it.

Now, in the midst of your emotional breakdown...please don't let facts and statistics stand in your way...I'm sure Russell is indeed the devil...in a blue dress anyway.


  1. I loved this post. An actual thoughtful analysis of the Harden trade's impact on the team. I hate whenever Simmons talks about the harden trade. He says we should have kept Harden this season because we would have gotten the same deal from Houston in a sign and trade which is complete shit. We would have 0 leveraging power then. Look at what happened with Howard and Paul. He then says we should have got more from Houston. What he fails to understand is we needed to replace what harden did for OKC not what he can do for Houston(ala Moneyball). OKC couldn't utilize Harden to his full value because he would always be the third option. This is why Presti didn’t want to give him the max. Not because Harden isn’t a great player or because OKC is a small market but because giving Harden the max would have hurt Presti's ability to sign players and trade for players. Not to mention Ibaka just took a paycut and what message would OKC have sent to Ibaka if they gave harden the max.

    To replace harden we needed an ultra-efficient 2 guard who is okay with coming off the bench and can make an offensive impact with few touches. How many SG's like that are there? 5 maybe? We were able to get one of those guys and a prospect and some good draft picks. I say we got as much as we could have. Even Houston's GM said so. We got more for harden than Orlando got for Howard, NO got for chris paul and any other big name trade of the last few years.

    1. Thanks Jeff, I just got tired of listening to the Harden trade be the root of all our evils this year. I appreciate the comment and agree with your assessment of getting better trade value than most other teams. So, assume we gave Harden the max...looking at what he's done this year, how long was that gonna last, with him coming off the bench? When would we have made a transition to a better ball-movement based offense? I think our challenge now, is to figure out the system that works best...the Spurs really do have a plug and play system. I think our challenge is figuring out the system and personnel to create our own excellence.