Situational Statistics: This Year’s Center Crop

Situational Statistics: This Year’s Center Crop
Jun 16, 2010, 02:26 am
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Continuing our series of analyses, we break down easily the most intriguing position in this year’s draft. Last season, just two true centers were selected in the first round. This season, as many as nine players could go in the first round, with another nine very much in play from picks 31-60.

Thanks to our friends over at Synergy Sports Technology, we have access to the most thorough situational statistics available today. Synergy keeps track of all the possession that takes place in nearly every college basketball game, accumulating an incredible wealth of extremely informative data.

Many of these statistics offer excellent insight into the players we evaluate, so we’ve taken the time to compile and sort through them in an effort to distinguish which players are, for instance, the most productive back to the basket threats, the most effective finishers around the basket, the most likely to draw fouls on a given possession, and the most efficient jump shooters.

With 21 of the top centers tabulated on our spreadsheet, we’ve created a short list of the most interesting things we’ve learned about this year’s crop of prospects.

Before you look at our findings, it is important to realize that there are some limitations to our analysis. For example, prospects on lower level teams will have some possessions missing each year because not all of their games were logged.

The exact breakdown of specific possession types can be highly subjective and thus somewhat inconsistent at times, which means that this data always needs to be taken with a grain of salt. We’ve tried to steer away from utilizing data that wouldn’t be considered statistically significant, but considering how short the college season is, that’s not always easy.

Our data obviously does not account for neither the strength of a player’s teammates, or his level of competition. Our sample of centers includes a number of international players in Miroslav Raduljica, Paulao Prestes, Tibor Pleiss, and Boban Marjanovic.

What We Learned Last Season
2009 Center Article

• Unsurprisingly, we had very little to work with when making observations about the handful of centers selected last season.

Hasheem Thabeet appeared in 6 NBADL games during his rookie season in Memphis, showing some glimpses of the type of production that Memphis hopes they’ll get out of him down the road in the NBA, but still looking light years away from contributing at the NBA level relative to his lofty draft status. B.J. Mullens played the majority of last season for the Tulsa 66ers, having some moments of brilliance and some less-than impressive outings. Neither player made any real contributions to their respective NBA teams as rookies –a great reminder of the learning curve big men face in translating their games to the NBA.

• The depth at the center position is the one of the defining characteristics of this draft.

In addition to Thabeet and Mullens, the only other centers to hear their names called on draft night in 2009 were Chinemelu Elonu and Goran Suton. We had a hard time coming up with enough prospects to even write an article on last season.

Luckily for us, there’s no shortage of talent at the center spot in this year’s draft. We’ll likely be able to draw some much more valuable conclusions about this group after their rookie season than we could about the continued development of Thabeet and Mullens.


DeMarcus Cousins does not look incredibly impressive on first glance from a situational perspective, but has some extremely interesting attributes about him and fares pretty well against his peers in the top-ten. His ranks are skewed by lower usage players from smaller conferences in the lower part of our rankings.

Cousins ranks well above average in terms of usage at 14.3 possessions per-game, despite playing only 23 minutes per game, and his 0.99 PPP ranks him right around the average for his position. Cousins does stand out in how small of a proportion of his possessions he turned the ball over (13.4%) and how frequently he drew free throws (22.9%, 3rd). Clearly, his ability to use his body allowed him to clear out space and create contact underneath. He also runs the floor extremely well, getting out in transition (10.8% of his possessions) more than any other center except for Mac Koshwal.

In post up situations, Cousins ranked right around average with his 49.6% shooting, but he ranked third in drawing fouls, doing so on an impressive 26% of his back to the basket opportunities. Though Cousins proved capable of creating his own shot, he was at his best when crashing the glass. He created 3.2 possessions per-game for himself rebounding his teammates’ missed shots.

One area that Cousins’ does not stand out in is as a finisher. His 1.165 points per-shot rank third last on our list, hinting at the average explosiveness he possesses around the basket.

To his credit, he ranks near the bottom in the amount of pick and roll plays he was put in, an area of his game which should become his bread and butter in the NBA thanks to his terrific length, girth, hands and touch. Although he only took .6 jump-shots per game according to Synergy, Cousins shot a solid 1.083 PPP on them (3rd after Solomon Alabi and Tibor Pleiss), which hints at good things to come in this area in the future. On another team he probably would have gotten a lot more than just 5 possessions per game in the post, especially considering that he draws a foul on over 1/4th of those possessions.

It will be interesting to see how a different system allows Cousins to utilize his tools down low next season. Despite his terrific per-minute productivity, Cousins is still only 19 years old and has plenty of room to continue to grow as a prospect, especially if he’s willing to put the work in.

Cole Aldrich resembles, in some ways, the solid role-playing he center projects to be at the next level from a situational perspective.

At 9.8 possessions per-game, Aldrich didn’t see too many looks on Kansas’ loaded roster, but his 1.037 PPP overall ranks him well above average in our sample, as do his low 11.9% turnover percentage and 11.9% shots-fouled percentage.

With the ball getting worked around to make sure all of KU’s options got their touches, Aldrich relied on post possessions for his offense. He got nearly 60% of his possessions down low, scoring a third ranked 1.029 PPP in the process. He also turned the ball over at the second lowest rate (8.7%). Clearly, Aldrich’s decisive approach and size were too much for most college big men to handle.

Despite the fact that Kansas removed number of quick hitter plays that afford Aldrich some easy baskets as a junior from their playbook, he finished 82.6% of the shots resulting from basket cuts. Easily the top-ranked finisher in the top-5 at 1.318 PPS, Aldrich’s low usage didn’t afford him the opportunity to put up huge scoring numbers, but he looked solid in a role that very well could be similar to the one he’ll play next season, and could benefit from getting more of his touches as a finisher instead of being forced to create in the post.

Greg Monroe’s versatility hurt his numbers from a situational perspective, but make him a potential cog in many systems.

Monroe’s role as Georgetown’s primary option is clear in his 3rd ranked 17.2 possessions per-game. His 0.91 overall PPP is below average, and his high 19.1% turnover percentage is a product of how frequently he put the ball on the floor in comparison to the other players in our center rankings. His 1.5 possessions per-game in transition (3rd) makes Monroe appear like a strong candidate to make an impact in an up-tempo system on the next level.

In post up situations, Monroe didn’t stand out in efficiency (0.933 PPP), but he didn’t turn the ball over at a high rate either (12.9%). Clearly, his turnovers weren’t a byproduct of back to the basket situations.

Monroe didn’t really stand out in terms of his raw scoring tools. Monroe took the third most jump shots of any player in our sample (1.5 Shots/G), but made just less than 25% of them. A simply below average finisher (1.26 PPS) due to his lack of explosiveness, Monroe’s value proposition doesn’t reside solely in his ability to put the ball in the basket or dominate in one situation.

Monroe’s savvy offensive game gives him the ability to create for his teammates and generate some easy looks for himself. Monroe was one of the top finishers in our sample in basket cut situations, scoring 1.41 PPP despite not possessing great athleticism. Obviously, Monroe does a good job of moving into the open area at the right time and making some smart plays on the offensive end.

•Daniel Orton didn’t see many touches last season, and even with limited touches, looks underwhelming on paper.

Anyone following Daniel Orton’s situation knows that his draft projection is not a byproduct of his production last season. Orton ranks last in usage at 4.2 possessions per-game, as well as overall PPP at 0.809, and turned the ball over more than anyone else (21.7%). Despite his limited touches, Orton still struggled to play efficient basketball.

Orton ranked below average in PPP in every situation, and shot a concerning 53.1% from the field in finishing situations. The composition of Orton’s touches weren’t radically different than some of the other players in our rankings, with 50% of his touches coming from post ups or offensive rebounds. Ultimately, Orton is a player who you have to watch to appreciate, and even then, remains a bit of project on the NBA level. The tools are there, and Orton didn’t struggle to display them last season, but he did struggle to use them efficiently.

Hassan Whiteside is one of the more intriguing players in this draft, and you can see why from his situations statistics.

With a usage of 12.8 possessions per-game that ranks him just above average, Whiteside scored on a very solid 56.8% of his overall touches and turned the ball over at a low 13% rate.

Whiteside received just 27% of his touches in the post, one of the lowest marks on our center rankings. Despite that fact, he scored 61.1% of those touches, good for third on our list. He was fouled on 16.1% of those shots, ranking him second. Whiteside was able to make a nice impact on the block despite his lack of lower body strength, showing a nice hook shot and unique touch for a player his age.

Outside of the post, Whiteside used his length to generate 2.9 possessions per-game from offensive rebounds (3rd). Showing impressive versatility, 26% of Whiteside’s shot were jumpers, the top mark in our sample. Making 40% of those shots and finishing at a highly respective 64.1% clip, Whiteside is one of the most unique talents in this draft. His ability to score from the outside at his height is incredible, he was one of the most impressive shot blockers in the NCAA last season, and shows the potential to score in multiple situations.

• Kevin Seraphin does not stack up well against his peers, scoring just 0.87 PPP on 7.3 possessions per-game. With a bottom-five usage level and the second worst PPP, Seraphin does not have too many redeeming qualities compared to other centers in this class. His 1.33 PPP in pick and roll situations did rank him well above average in that category, while 0.933 PPS from jumpers shows that he could have more promise as a shooter than some of the other players on this list. This is the best example we’ve seen so far of the impact that international game is capable of having on a players situations statistics. Seraphin didn’t turn the ball over a high rate, but was fouled less than any player on our list (3.9%). Clearly Seraphin must improve on his ability to draw contact in the post. Though Seraphin is considered a raw prospect, his rankings are a byproduct of a radically different system that doesn’t allow for simple comparisons to NCAA players.

• Solomon Alabi ranked above average in PPP off of cuts, pick and rolls, and offensive rebounds. However, post ups accounted for more than 50% of his total offensive possessions and he shot the third worst percentage in this group with his back to the basket (37.3%). He did manage to draw fouls on a well above average 21.6% of those shots, but his lack of polish is clear though his 1.35 PPP as a finisher is a testament to the outstanding physical tools that give him so much upside. His 1.33 PPS on jumpers (albeit on a fairly small sample size) indicates that he has more potential in this part of the game that he was likely able to show at the college level.

• Miroslav Raduljica looks pretty solid here, with a usage of 13.4 possessions per-game that is easily the highest amongst the international prospects in our center rankings. His overall 1.05 PPP is the fourth best mark on our list and the highest amongst players ranked in the top-10. Raduljica ranks above average ranks above average in post and offensive rebound scoring efficiency, which account for nearly 50% of his total offense. Raduljica doesn’t rank too far below average in any one category, faring well across the board thanks to his size and simple offensive repertoire.

• Brian Zoubek is one of the lowest usage players on our rankings at 5.6 possessions per-game, which characterizes his role at Duke pretty accurately. He got nearly 40% of his possessions from offensive rebounds, the highest mark in our sample by nearly 15%. Ranking just above the middle of the pack in finishing efficiency at 1.35 PPP, Zoubek was a consummate role player for the Blue Devils and won’t have to make many adjustments to his offensive mentality as he’ll likely play a comparable role should he make a NBA roster.

Paulao Prestes ranks as the second most efficient scorer in post up situations at 1.034 PPP. He turned the ball over on just 8.5% of his back to the basket possessions, but only yielded a free throw on 8.5% as well (lowest). A wide-bodied post who does a nice job working the pick and roll, Prestes’ 61.2% shooting as a finisher is impressive when you consider the quality of opponents he faced in the ACB.

• Artsiom Parakhouski is the second highest usage player in our rankings at 19.8 possessions per-game. He ranks a bit below average in his overall field goal shooting (53.4), but turned the ball over at an alarmingly low 13.2% rate. Playing in a small conference, many teams chose to hack the Belarus native in the post, and that shows in his 17.7% shots-fouled rate with his back to the basket (1st). He attempted the second most jump shots per game at 1.6 per-contest, hitting just 33% of those shots, but showing potential in the process. Unfortunately, he really struggled when finishing at the rim, scoring just 1.15 PPP (2nd worst).

• Tibor Pleiss has received a lot of good buzz recently, and he stacks up very well against his NCAA counterparts here, albeit in a small sample of games. Jump shots accounted for more of Pleiss’ shots than every center in our rankings aside from Hassan Whiteside, showing his impressive ability to step away from the rim and hit shots from the midrange. Toss in the fact that Pleiss scored 75% of his finishing attempts, and got fouled at a high rate, and his resume is very impressive. The only knocks we have against him is his lack of usage (7 Pos/G) and the so-so level of competition he faced in Europe.

• Jerome Jordan received nearly two-third of his touches in the post (10 Pos/G), and his 0.967 PPP in those situations is a bit above average, but his 61.7% shooting at the rim leaves something to be desired.

• Dexter Pittman and Derrick Caracter look fairly similar on paper, with Pittman turning the ball over on fewer of his possession (20.5% vs. 17.3%) and shooting a better percentage from the field (62.8% vs. 60.4%), but doing so in nearly 5 fewer possessions per-game (9.1 vs. 14.6). Both players rank well above average in the overall scoring efficiency, but are above average in turnovers as well.

• Andrew Ogilvy has been on the draft radar for what seems like forever, and though his star does not shine as brightly as it once did, he was fouled on an astounding 15.5% of his shot attempts, the highest mark amongst every player in our 2010 draft rankings. He drew a free throw in just under 30% of his 4.7 post-up possessions per-game.

• Omar Samhan ranks as the highest usage player in our rankings at nearly 20 possessions per-game, but also ranks the lowest in overall turnover percentage at 11.4% -an incredible feat considering that he was the focal point of St. Mary’s attack.

• Boban Marjanovic is the tallest player in our sample at 7’3, and he imposes his size to the tune of 1.134 PPP overall, but gets the third least possessions in the post (1.5 Pos/G) creating his own shot.

• Arinze Onuako may be on the outside looking in as a potential draftee, but his ferocious brand of basketball ranks him as the top scorer in overall PPP (1.164) and second in post up shooting percentage (62.4%).

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