Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Five Game Fix: Game 1-5

Six games are in the books (actually, seven, since the Sixers lost to Dallas earlier this evening), and I thought it was a good time to look at the Sixers statistics to see what (if any) offensive and defensive trends are emerging. I'm going to do the analysis for just the first five games (ignoring the blowout loss to the Hornets for now), and then I'll do a follow up post after every five game increment.

Looking at my basic statistics, the first thing that jumps out at me is that the Sixers are a pretty good defensive team, but a terrible offensive team. The Sixers have held their opponents to an offensive efficiency rating of just 94.4 (last year, the league average was 103.8, and I assume it'll end up being close to that number again this year). How are they doing it?

First, they're forcing a huge number of turnovers, clocking in with a defensive turnover rate of 19.0%. Last year, the Sixers had a DTOR of 16.6% (2007 NBA average = 15.9%), so it isn't surprising that they have a high DTOR. That said, last year the highest DTOR in the NBA was the 18.2% rating posted by the Golden State Warriors. Right now, the Sixers are forcing turnovers at a higher rate than any team did over the course of last season. We should probably expect this number to come down a little as the season progresses, but for now the forced turnovers are an important and positive part of the story.

Second, the Sixers are holding teams to a true shooting percentage of 50.1%. Last season, the Sixers had a DTS% right at the league average of 54.1%. While last year's Sixers forced turnovers but gave up shots of average difficulty when they didn't get those turnovers, this year's squad is forcing turnovers AND forcing difficult shots. That's a pretty nice combination. The Sixers have been particularly good at defending 2-point FG attempts-- allowing opponents to shoot just 42.3% from inside the arc, compared to last year's league average of 48.5%. The Sixers are giving up slightly above average shooting from behind the arc (37.5% compared to the 35.8% league average from last season), but considering how strong this part of the Sixers game has been I think dwelling on the one negative shooting stat is a bit nitpicky.

Finally, at least on the defensive side of the equation, the Sixers are basically holding their own on the defensive glass, grabbing 71.2% of the other team's missed shots. Last season, the Sixers grabbed 70.8% of the defensive rebounds (compared to the league average last season of 72.9%). Not that different, but possibly some positive movement. I'd love to see improvement on the defensive glass, but I guess you can't have everything at once.

While the Sixers might be playing very good defense, they're playing horrible offense. With an offensive efficiency rating of 99.8, the Sixers are like a JV team compared to the NBA varsity. Last season, not a single NBA team had an offensive efficiency below 100.0 for the year, and only the Celtics and Hawks were even close. The Sixers weren't very good (101.1 compared to the league average of 103.8), but they weren't as mind-boggling bad as they have been this season.

Just like on the defensive end, turnover rate and true shooting percentage are the main factors driving the Sixers performance.

In the comments to my post yesterday, Louis wrote:
One of the catogories that bridges the offense/defense divide also gives me a little hope. Even though the Sixers are not getting many steals, they're 23rd in the league, they must be protecting the ball well because they are 12th in steal differential.
Unfortunately, the steal differential stat is very misleading since turnovers don't just result from steals (as far as I can tell, it also isn't pace adjusted, although I don't know how the Sixers compare pacewise to the rest of the NBA at this point). While the Sixers are forcing turnovers on 19% of opponents possessions, they're giving much of that advantage back by turning the ball over at a rate of 17.5% (remember last season's average TO rate was 15.9%).

And when the Sixers don't turn the ball over, they also aren't shooting it very well, putting up a putrid 50.8%. The shooting woes can't be traced to just one aspect (although 3-point shooting has been getting the attention)-- the Sixers are below average (compared to last season's NBA average) with regards to free throw shooting (68.8% vs. 75.2%), 2-point FG shooting (46.7% vs. 48.5%), and 3-point shooting (30.7% vs. 35.8%). Every one of these marks is below the Sixers mark for last season, and only the 2-point FG% is within one percentage point of where it was last year.

The lone bright spot on the offensive side of the equation for the Sixers is that through the first five games they were grabbing an astounding 33.9% of available offensive rebounds, compared to last season's NBA average of 27.1%. Last season, the Utah Jazz led the NBA with an ORR of 31.7%, and only the Jazz and NY Knicks(!; at 31.0) had ORR above even 30%. The Sixers had an ORR of 27.2%, just slightly above the league average.

The offensive picture is pretty negative, but what really scares me is that these offensive numbers include the Sixers blowout win, but don't include their blowout loss. That said, while the picture is bleak on the offensive side of the ball, all is not a lost cause. If the Sixers can just come down to the league average in TOR and FT%, they'll raise their offensive efficiency to at least close to the league average. If they can maintain their defensive performance at the same time (and I don't see how turning the ball over less and making more baskets can negatively imipact a defense--if anything it should help the defense), then the Sixers will be in the thick of the playoff chase all season long even with a below average offense.

1 comment:

Louis said...

Though it’s true that steals are not the only way to get turnovers, I was using the differential as a judgment of guard-play. The fact that the Sixers were 12th in steal differential means that game-by-game they are less sloppy than the other team passing into the post and aren’t getting their pockets picked. Or they are doing a great job making up for balls they give away by stealing them back and taking some extras too.