Just By The Numbers: Evaluating This Year's Center Crop

Just By The Numbers:  Evaluating This Year's Center Crop
Jun 24, 2008, 10:12 pm
In part five of our "just by the numbers" series, we take a look at the top centers in the 2008 draft class on a purely statistical basis. While stats certainly don’t paint the entire picture of what a player can do on the court, they have become a very valuable measure in evaluating certain aspects of the game. As statistics become more advanced, and you stack up the players side by side, you can even start to predict where a college player might have struggled in an area because of a limited role, and it becomes easier to predict the areas where they still have upside.

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The numbers for Alexis Ajinca, Ante Tomic, Nathan Jawai, and Peja Samardziski weren't available for this comparison.

To gain a better understanding of the statistics used, visit the glossary by Noah Libby-Haines. Interested in making your own statistical comparisons? You can do so here.

Points Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


Brook Lopez at Stanford led all the centers in this class in scoring thanks to his high usage rate and ability to score with his back to the basket. 7-footers who can create shots for themselves and put the ball in the net are clearly commodities, which helps explain why he is considered a potential top-5 pick. Physical big man Nikola Pekovic was a top scorer in the Euroleague all season long, and comes after Lopez with 24.2 points per 40 minutes. This might be the most impressive figure on this table, considering the superior level of competition “Shrek” was able to accomplish these numbers against. He’s an absolute bull around the rim. Marreese Speights of Florida showed very good scoring tools during the season as well, and is intriguing because of his physical tools, youth, and ability to score with his back to the basket, playing off the ball, and facing the hoop.

Robin Lopez remains well behind his brother in terms of offensive skills, and his scoring average reflects his lower usage and productivity on that end of the floor. Freshman DeAndre Jordan's low scoring averages also reflect on his unpolished skill-set on the offensive end.

Rebounds Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


Aleks Maric used his wide frame and good positioning to rebound the ball more effectively than any center in the class. Jason Thompson and Marreese Speights also did quite well here, and DeAndre Jordan ranks in the top five as well. Brook Lopez ranks towards the middle of the list, and his brother Robin sits towards the bottom.

Offensive Rebounds Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


Offensive rebounding can be a good measure of toughness, aggressiveness, and athleticism, particularly when looking at players who competed in stronger conferences. Aleks Maric used his body quite effectively in this area to lead all the centers with five offensive rebounds per 40 minutes, even if no one is going to confuse him with any kind of jumping jack. C.J. Giles did quite well in this area in his limited number of appearances, and Nikola Pekovic appears towards the top of the list despite average overall rebounding numbers. Turkish center Omer Asik showed good toughness and athleticism playing in the advanced stages of the Euroleague, which he joined later on in the season. It’s definitely disappointing to see an athlete of DeVon Hardin’s caliber with his NBA ready body rank out so low on this list. Trent Plaisted also could have shown a bit more hustle against inferior competition in the MWC.

Blocks Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


Turkish center Omer Asik impressively blocked over 4 shots per 40-minutes playing against seasoned professionals in the top-16 of the Euroleague, which is one of the reasons we labeled him as one of the biggest sleepers in this draft. He's joined at the 4 block per game mark by JaVale McGree, who used his length and athleticism quite well despite his poor man to man defense. Robin Lopez shows a quick vertical leap and good timing, which allowed him to block nearly 4 shots per game in the very tough Pac-10 this season. Brother Brook ranks closer to the middle of the pack. Nikola Pekovic seems too burly to have much explosiveness getting off the floor, and ranks last of all the centers in this comparison. Roy Hibbert ranks out fairly well, which is encouraging for him. Jason Thompson continues to rank out near or at the top of almost every category.

Steals Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


A high steal average can indicate that a big man possesses good timing, length, anticipation skills and quickness. Aleks Maric showed good hustle and timing on his way to an average of nearly two steals per game. Omer Asik and Semih Erden also did quite well here. JaVale McGee and Jason Thompson have the athleticism to be effective in this area at the NBA level. DeAndre Jordan and Marreese Speights both struggled in this area throughout the season.

Assists Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


David Padgett of Louisville leads all centers in this class in assists, and Roy Hibbert learned how to pass quite well playing in the Princeton offense at Georgetown. Jason Thompson spent his development years as a wing, and developed a solid feel for the game during that time. JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos and DeAndre Jordan all struggled to find the open man out of double teams.

Turnovers Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


Turnovers can be a strong indicator of a power forward's decision making ability and awareness passing out of double teams. Players with high numbers here tend to force things when trying to create offense, or may have been relied on too heavily by their college team for production. Longar Longar turned the ball over 4 times per game at Oklahoma, and JaVale McGee also struggled with driving it into traffic and turning it over on double teams. DeAndre Jordan turned it over quite a bit considering his low usage rate offensively. Brook Lopez did quite well here considering how much Stanford relied on him to produce through double and triple teams during the season.

Assist to Turnover Ratio


David Padgett averaged 1.3 assists for each turnover, and Roy Hibbert was the only center to join him with a rating of over 1. Jason Thompson, Aleks Maric and Brook Lopez rank towards the top as well, despite the high number of possessions they used each game. JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan came in last.

Pure Point Rating


Pure point rating can be a strong indicator of awareness and feel for the game that teams look for in this type of player, and is calculated with the formula [100 x (League Pace / Team Pace) x ([(Assists x 2/3) - Turnovers] / Minutes]. None of the centers in this class scored a positive rating, but Padgett and Hibbert again top the list. C.J. Giles joins JaVale McGee at the bottom.

Free Throws Attempted Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


A center with a high rating will generally either show a well-developed back to the basket game or good hands and athleticism near the rim. Trent Plaisted averaged over 10 attempts per game at BYU, and Brook Lopez used his strong low-post game to average over 9. Kosta Koufos ranks last of all the centers, a surprising number for a player with his plethora of skills on the offensive end.

Free Throws Attempted Per Field Goal Attempt


Getting to the free throw line is a far more efficient way of putting up points than shooting from the field, and thus players that “live at the line” are huge assets in the NBA. DeVon Hardin and Omer Asik both lack polish on the offensive end, but have the physical tools to create havoc from just catching the ball in the right position at the rim. Some of the more skilled centers like Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert are in the middle of the group of centers. Koufos, McGee and Speights have been criticized for being too soft because of their low number of attempts despite their physical tools and the skills they have on the offensive end.

Three Pointers Made Per 40-Minutes Pace Adjusted


In certain NBA systems, a big man who can space the floor becomes a valuable asset to open driving lanes for guards. Brian Butch of Wisconsin was the only center to average one made three pointer per game, but Koufos was quite close at .9. JaVale McGee showed the ability to hit the college three at times during the season as well. Outside of Jason Thompson, none of the other centers really showed the desire or ability to shoot the three this year.

Three Pointers Attempted Per Field Goal Attempt


Brian Butch attempted the most threes per field goal attempt of the centers in this class, followed by Koufos, McGee and Giles. 10 centers on the list didn't even attempt one three pointer at any point during the season.

True Shooting Percentage


True shooting percentage effectively measures a player's scoring efficiency by taking free throws and three pointers into account, giving us a better overall picture of how effectively he puts points on the board. David Padgett, Marreese Speights and Roy Hibbert all scored at a very high percentage this season. Brook Lopez sits fourth from the bottom on this list, much lower than you'd expect from a probable top 10 pick.

Effective Field Goal Percentage


Effective field goal percentage measures the difference in value between two point and three point attempts, and accounts for the difference. This stat can reward excellent long range shooters and big men who stay in the paint and take high percentage shots. Padgett and Speights sit at the top again, and DeAndre Jordan makes a surprising appearance in the third slot on the list. Brook Lopez had an effective field goal percentage of under 50% and is second from the bottom.

Points Per Possession


NBA coaches want their players to maximize every possession they have, and efficient scorers are highly rated in this measure. Padgett, Speights and Hibbert were the most efficient of the centers with each possession, and Sasha Kaun cracked the top 5 as well. Brook Lopez managed to score 1.12 points per possession despite his low field goal percentage.

Player Efficiency Rating


Player efficiency rating was created by John Hollinger to measure the overall impact of a player in one catch-all stat. The rating uses an average PER of 15 derived from the NBA, which leads to inflated PERs for top college players in some cases. Aleks Maric leads the way with a rating of 33.8. Four players in Marreese Speights, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, and Jason Thompson join him with a rating over 30. DeVon Hardin, DeAndre Jordan, and Sasha Kaun all rank quite low in comparison.

Efficiency Per 40-Minutes


The "EFF" Statistic was created by the NBA to measure the overall statistical production of a player on the court. It adds up all the positive stats a player accumulates and subtracts all the negatives. For all intents and purposes, this stat makes more sense when calculated over 40 minutes rather than per game. Jason Thompson leads the way this time, followed by Marreese Speights and Aleks Maric. Brook Lopez, Pekovic, and Hibbert also rank towards the top, while Robin Lopez and DeAndre Jordan's lack of offensive skills place them lower on the list.

Win Score Per 40-Minutes


David Berri’s statistic is created by taking PTS + TRB + STL + .5* BLK + .5*AST - FGA - .5*FTA - TO - .5*PF / Min * 40. The average win score for an NBA center is 9, but the number will typically be higher for a college player. Aleks Maric, Marreese Speights and Jason Thompson rank at the top again, while Omer Asik also ranks very high. Brook Lopez ranks in the middle, while his brother Robin appears fourth from the bottom.

Percentage of Team's Possessions


As was consistent with our observations, Brook Lopez was used at a very high rate by Stanford this season. Rider used Jason Thompson at a very high rate as well. Maric and Plaisted join them as the only centers with a percentage higher than 20. DeVon Hardin, Omer Asik, and Sasha Kaun all were used very little on the offensive end of the floor.

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