Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Last 10 Game All-Stars

I thought it would be fun to take a look at some players who have been putting up unusually high numbers (compared to their own averages) in the last 10 games. 10 games isn't a whole lot, so this is just for kicks, and to shine some light on some accomplishments that may be flying under the radar nationally.

Brandon Roy
Roy's obviously been having a great season overall, but he had some particularly huge games before missing the last three games and counting with a hamstring injury. In the seven games before the injury, he was averaging 28.6 points per game on just 13.2 field goal attempts (for a scorching 89.5% TS%) to go with 6.1 assists and only 1.6 turnovers, really working that pull-up mid-range game. That's really brilliant. This span of course includes his 52 point explosion against the Suns a little while back.

Kobe Bryant
It seems like every winter, Kobe goes through at least two insanely hot streaks between the months of January and March. I think we're in the middle of the first right now -- through the last 10 games he's averaging 32.2 points per game on just 22 field goal attempts. That's a remarkable level of efficiency, and it's possible because he's shooting 51.4% from the three point line and 54.1% overall. That shakes out to an effective field goal percentage of 58.4% and a true shooting percentage of 63.4% -- that TS% over the entire year would be first among all guards, just ahead of Jose Calderon and Ray Allen.

Kobe's also posting his usual 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.4 steals to go with his hyper-efficient scoring over the last 10.

While it's true he's on a bit of a hot streak, if you watch the games there's something else that's apparent about Kobe Bryant's game -- he never takes a shot he hasn't practiced hundreds or thousands of times before. Every movement is rehearsed. I point this out because he may not continue to hit on such a high percentage of his shots throughout the season, but this is not the same kind of "streak" that we might see with, say, Jamal Crawford, and when he cools off, he'll still be efficient. Check out his shot chart for this year:

Those jumpers from the right elbow are like layups for him, and it's no shock that he's taking close to a quarter of his two-point jumpers from there.

That's something that irked me in the first quarter of the Christmas day game against Boston. Kobe hit several jumpers in a row from the right elbow over Ray Allen, as the Celtics avoided double-teaming him at the start. Jeff Van Gundy commented that Allen was playing great defense, and Kobe was just hitting contested jumpers. That was sort of correct, but not exactly accurate given Kobe's strengths -- once Kobe got to that right elbow, it didn't really matter if Ray Allen was trying to contest or not, he had already basically given Kobe one of his most efficient shots. Western Conferenc players who are more used to defending Bryant (and are good enough defenders to do it) such as Bruce Bowen will know ahead of time where they don't want Kobe to go. Rather than just staying in front of him and then contesting when he goes up, they'll beat him to his spot and force him to shoot from a few feet further back or further to the right, or body him into directions he doesn't want to go in (if the refs aren't too whistle-happy). Obviously, Kobe can still hit from anywhere, but the difference between playing good defense and not against Kobe is the difference between allowing him to shoot (contested or not) from places where he can hit over 50%, and forcing him to shoot from spots just a few feet away where he'll hit closer to 40% or less. The difference isn't necessarily apparent when you look for the normal signs of good defense -- harassing and irritating and being up in a players face or making highlight blocks -- beating a man to the spot he's trying to get to is completely forgettable as a spectator, but vital for the defense. This isn't meant to be a criticism of Ray Allen's defense -- I'm sure if the teams meet in the playoffs and both sides are preparing specifically for each other, he'll be more purposeful in his strategy, but it's something to watch for, because with a shooter like Kobe who isn't really bothered by hands in his face, it's hard to see the difference sometimes between someone who's doing a good job defensively and someone who isn't.

Anyways, recently Kobe's been doing more than just hitting shots from his preferred locations, he's been hitting from everywhere. While last night's third quarter explosion (20 points on 8-9 shooting in the quarter) was awe-inspiring, it didn't just pop up out of nowhere -- he's been pretty hot for a few weeks now. When he's hot like that, I don't think there's any defensive option other than bringing the second defender and trapping to get the ball out of his hands, which is what the Hornets eventually did.

Also, yesterday Kobe did this:

Marcus Camby
Marcus Camby has been averaging 18.3 rebounds per game over the last 10. That is absurd, even by Camby's lofty standards. A lot of that production has come from necessity, as Chris Kaman's been out with injury and Zach Randolph went down recently as well. The Clipper guards aren't particularly good rebounders, so Camby's been picking up the slack, accounting for close to half of the team's rebounding totals in recent games.

Eric Gordon

Camby's teammate Gordon hasn't necessarily been on a shooting streak recently, but he's been playing increased minutes due to team injuries and making the most of them by scoring more and maintaining a high level of efficiency. In the last 10 games, Gordon's averaging 19.6 points per game on 59.7% True Shooting. While Gordon is a pretty good shooter from the outside, the way he's been able to maintain such a high level of scoring efficiency is by relentlessly attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. He's a strong guard, but it's surprising how effectively he's able to utilize his strength around the basket so early in his career. Over the last 10 games, he's averaging 6.2 free throw attempts per game in just over 42 minutes, which comes out to about 5.3 per 36 minutes (for the entire season, he's at 4.2 per 36). As a comparison, Dwyane Wade, a similarly sized guard who's made a career out of getting to the charity stripe, averaged 5.3 free throw attempts per 36 for his entire rookie season (he was up to 10 by his third year). Gordon is a much better shooter than Wade was as a rookie, so it's impressive to see him not settling for jumpshots as a lot of rookies probably would.

Randy Foye
I wrote about his move to the shooting guard position in the previous post. Maybe it's paying off? He's been shooting 59.7% TS% (including 43% from the 3-point line) and scoring 18.2 points per game, to go with 4.8 rebounds, over the last 10. It would appear that the Timberwolves have a solid starting 2-guard. Congrats!

Have you noticed any other players going through particularly productive stretches recently? Leave anyone I might have missed in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. interesting observation on kobe's rehearsed game and corresponding requirements for defending him. the rehearsed bit seems to apply to all aspects of his life--or at least whenever he's on camera.