Situational Statistics: the 2011 Big Men Crop

Situational Statistics: the 2011 Big Men Crop
Jun 21, 2011, 11:46 am
- Situational Statistics: the 2011 Forward Crop
- Situational Statistics: the 2011 Guard Crop

Box-scores don't always tell us everything we need to know about what happened in an actual game, and seasonal stats can be misleading at times in attempting to project what type of NBA player a NCAA or international prospect will become.

That's why it makes sense to branch out and explore other alternatives that are available to us, including those offered to us by Synergy Sports Technology, who've logged virtually every individual possession of every game this year's NBA draft class has taken part of.

These possessions are manually categorized by the type of play they resulted in, and then once again, evaluating what actually occurred in that sequence.

How good of a finisher is a prospect around the basket in non-post-up situations? How many of his shots were jumpers, and of those how many came in catch and shoot situations or pulling up off the dribble? How many were floaters? How often does he drive left or right in the half-court? How likely is he to generate an assist in the half-court, be it off pick and rolls, iso's or post-up plays?

Furthermore, they shed light on what actually happened in each time a prospect encountered such a situation—how often he got fouled, turned the ball over, converted with an And-1, and whether he was assisted by a teammate.

There is a treasure trove of information at our disposal, beyond just scouting games, which is for many NBA people, Synergy's primary value.

With that in mind, we've taken the top-100 prospects in this draft class, and sorted them into four groups, by position—guards, wings, forwards and big men. We've then looked at how each group of players stacks up in various categories, with the biggest emphasis being on the specific skills they'll need at their position.

Prospect Breakdowns

Jonas Valanciunas is an extremely intriguing prospect at 18-years old, but one of the reasons scouts like him so much is how efficient he was in the role he played for Rytas this season. In many ways, he's a clean slate, with some good habits that could serve him well in his development.

The young center played with a proficiency that belied his age, ranking amongst the top players in this group of bigmen in a number of different categories, including overall points per-possession (1.178, #1). Though it is important to note that he posted that mark in fairly small role (7.9 Pos/G), it ranks him well ahead of every prospect in this study, and 7th overall amongst all players in Europe.

Though it would be easy to point to Valanciunas's size, length and touch as the driving factors behind his efficiency, the young Lithuanian excels in a few key areas. His terrific effort level and hands made him a terrific pick and roll finisher. When Valanciunas was on the court for Rytas, he was asked to play hard and spend a considerable amount of time setting screens out on the perimeter. Roll man situations accounted for nearly a quarter of his touches (2nd) and he scored on an absurd 73% of his possessions when catching the ball rolling to the rim. This ranked him 3rd in this category behind Tristan Thompson and Kenneth Faried, who saw less than 2% of their offensive possessions in this manner, a far cry from Valanaciunas' 23.2%. Cuts also played a substantial part of his offense (20%), and he converted nearly a point and a half per opportunity (3rd) here as well.

Breaking down Valanciunas in the halfcourt, his ability to finish the touches he sees around the rim is a big part of his overall efficiency. Nearly 82.2% of Valanciunas's shots come around the basket in finishing situations, the most among all the big men in our sample, and he made 68% of those attempts last season (5th). A big target moving off the ball and a threat to score on the offensive glass, it is safe to say that Valanciunas thrived on catch and finish chances.

In terms of his ability to score one-on-one, Valanciunas has plenty of room for growth on paper. Seeing a meager 1.3 possessions per-game in the post (3rd last), and zero in isolation situations, Valanciunas wasn't asked to score with his back to the basket last season, especially in EuroLeague play. Part of the reason for that was his propensity to turn the ball over after receiving an entry pass, which he did at a 29% rate (1st). He flashed some basic post-moves in junior play, but still needs to develop a go-to-move and improve his physical strength. Additionally, Valanciunas attempted only 8 (of 427 total possessions) jumpers all season, although the fact that he did convert on 5 of those and shot 80% from the free throw line leaves some room for optimism.

The 2nd best big man in this class some teams' eyes, Bismack Biyombo, sits on the opposite side of the spectrum of Valanciunas. Where the big Lithuanian's efficiency shines through playing a very specific role, Biyombo was clearly still learning the offensive game last season, though he managed to fare well in certain areas.

Overall, Biyombo ranks last in this group in points per-possession at 0.86, primarily because he didn't finish at the rim at a high rate and turned the ball over frequently. Like Valanciunas, Biyombo saw more than 80% of his shots at the basket, but he finished them at a 12% lower rate, making just 56.1% of them last season. He also turned the ball over on 25.8% of his half court possessions, the highest mark in this group, showing that, despite his ridiculously large hands, he struggled to hold onto the ball in traffic at times. Considering this was Biyombo's first taste of high level basketball, it isn't surprising to see a player with so many physical tools, still struggle.

There were a couple of bright spots for Biyombo though. Seeing 33% (1st) of his touches as the roll man on the pick and roll, he finished at a solid 65% (6th) and draw fouls on nearly 31.8% (2nd) of those possessions. The Congolese center has a remarkable frame, and that shined through at times when he bowled his way through contact or finished a lob pass with a dunk.

Part of Biyombo's problem revolves around his desire to do too much at times. When he wasn't turning the ball over, he managed to finish his post-up plays (63% FG, 1st) and cuts (73%, 3rd) at a solid rate, getting fouled about 20% of the time in the process, so picking and choosing his spots will likely be a key for him.

Considering he played just over a dozen games before opting to attend the Hoop Summit, Biyombo's sample size skews his data a bit, but the raw aspects of his offensive game are clear. Ball security and experience are two priorities for Biyombo as he aims to play efficiently in a simple offensive role to match his elite defensive ability.

Benetton Treviso's Donatas Motiejunas is easily the highest usage European prospect in this group at 12.6 possessions per-game. He doesn't stand out in too many areas in terms of efficiency, but has some unique versatility on paper.

Motiejunas's 0.971 overall points per-possession ranks him right below the middle of the pack, but considering the young Lithuanian was the top interior option on a EuroCup and Italian league semifinals team, it is fair to say that he went up against much stiffer competition than many of the players on this list.

The differences between Motiejunas and Biyombo/Valanciunas are stark. His role included far more opportunities for him to create his own shot and his touches stretched all the way out to three-point range. Motiejunas saw only 7.4% of his possessions as the roll man in the two man game, with nearly 50% of his touches coming from spot-ups and post-ups.

With his back to the basket, Motiejunas converted a slightly below average 47.3% of his shots, and when digging deeper into his situational statistics, we can see that he had some exceptional games making plays around the rim and some subpar outings as well. His efficiency does not stand out in any one category, but he appears fairly average across the board because of his bouts with inconsistency.

The one area where Motiejunas does rank notably above average in this group is as a jump shooter. 26.5% of his shots were jumpers last season, and he scored a very good 1.01 points per-shot on those attempts. His ability to stretch the floor adds a different dimension to how he can be utilized offensively long-term.

A player that has been on the radar of scouts for years now, Motiejunas's strengths and weaknesses are well defined at this point. He's a more mature offensive player than many European big men we've encountered in the past, and if he can continue to improve his toughness and consistency, his situational versatility is going to give him an intriguing set of tools to work with at the next level, particularly when you consider his size.

Tristan Thompson is the only one-and-done player in this class, and while he doesn't stand out overall, his ability to get to the line is an incredibly valuable skill.

No player in this group of big men got to the line at a higher rate than Thompson. More than a quarter (26.3%) of his possessions resulted in a free throw, which is a pretty staggering number. Thompson only scored 0.938 PPP overall (4th last), and there's no question that his skill level has a long way to go, but he has plenty of time to improve and his ability to get his team into the bonus despite being so raw is promising.

Thompson's biggest weaknesses from a situational standpoint are his post-game and jump shooting. With nearly 37% of his touches coming down low, the Canadian big man only scored 0.749 points per-possessions with his back to the basket, 2nd to last in this group after Jeremy Tyler. As a jump shooter, Thompson scored a sample worst 0.654 PPP on a meager 0.7 attempts per-game, which is not much of a surprise considering his 49% free throw conversion rate. The 20-year old big man lacks significant polish at this point.

At this juncture, Thompson's ability to put the ball on the deck and throw his weight around down low are notable, but he's only an average finisher (64%) and has a ton of room to grow into a role in the future as his skill set begins to dictate what he can bring to a team offensively.

Like his twin brother, Markieff Morris had a very efficient season on the whole, scoring 1.08 points per-possession on the year (4th). Though some of that had to do with the development of his perimeter shooting ability, Morris's offensive abilities are still grounded in the fact that he's a terrific finisher.

Nearly 41.2% of Morris's shots came at the rim, and he converted a terrific 69% (3rd) of them. With roughly 40% of his touches coming from roll man situations, cuts to the basket, and offensive rebounds, Morris's aggressiveness at the point of attack is just one bright spot for him here.

On top of his ability to catch and finish, he also showed marked development with his back to the basket and away from the rim. With some 34% of his possessions coming in the post, Morris scored on 51% (5th) of them. Though he's not as prolific or versatile as his brother, Morris was able to score one-on-one down low at a fairly consistent level.

Anyone who watched Kansas this season knows that Morris emerged as a competent jump shooter. Nearly 20% of his total shot attempts were jumpers, and he hit them at a second ranked 43% rate. Though he was attempted just 1.5 per-game, the development of his scoring range has Markieff a situational versatility moving to the next level that he simply did not have as an underclassman.

Nikola Mirotic faced the highest level of competition of any player in this draft in 56 EuroLeague and ACB games, and managed to emerge as a consistent and efficient contributor as the season wore on.

Scoring 1.093 PPP overall (4th), Mirotic's situational breakdown lends itself to perceptions of his potential as a stretch-four. With 35% of his touches coming in spot-up situations (1st) and 47% of shots being jumpers (1st), Mirotic's job for Real was to spread the floor, knock down his open looks, and make savvy plays inside the arc. Knocking down a very respectable 41% (1.1 PPP, 4th) of his jumpers, Mirotic was able to do just that.

Inside the arc, Mirotic only finished at a 60% rate (5th last), but ranked highly in a few notable categories. He was 4th in roll man PPP (1.371), 4th in transition PPP (1.44), and 5th in cut PPP (1.296). Mirotic was notably average in isolation and post-up situations, making his efficiency as a role-player that much more significant. He isn't a prolific one-on-one threat, but amongst prospects on this list, Mirotic's situational efficiency paints him as a tremendously safe bet to be able to compete at a high level in the NBA.

That is, if he'll ever come over.

Record breaking forward Kenneth Faried is not the most skilled player on this list, but his situational breakdown is indicative of the fact that he may be the hardest working.

Shooting a third ranked 61.2% in half court situations, Faried was a dominant figure in the OVC, and showed well against top competition too. He earned a top-ranked 23% of his possessions on the offensive glass, converting 70.2% of the put-backs (2nd). Despite his relentless hustle, Faried actually saw the majority of his touches in one-on-one situations in the post (40%). Shooting 52.4% in those situations (4th), Faried's aggressiveness and toughness made him an imposing offensive presence at the college level despite his lack of advanced scoring-moves.

Faried's best asset is his finishing ability. He scored 1.484 points per-possession at the basket last season –an incredible mark and the best among big men. Faried isn't much of a jump shooter at this point, but it is hard not to be impressed with the way his motor and athleticism manifest themselves in the paint on paper.

Trey Thompkins is among the highest usage players in our sample at 17.5 possessions per-game (2nd). His perimeter orientation limits him to some degree in terms of efficiency, as he was only able to register 0.916 points per-possession overall.

Seeing a combined 20% of his offense away from the rim in spot-up and isolation situations, 31% of Thompkins's shots are jumpers (3rd most). He is not a great athlete, but has potential as an inside-outside scorer and is one of the more assertive ball-handlers in this group.

His best marks come in post-up situations, which accounted for a marginally above average 36.3% of his touches. Scoring 1.011 PPP with his back to the basket (4th), Thompkins can't quite compensate for his lack of jump shooting efficiency (29% FG%, 2nd last) and less than stellar 60.4% shooting in finishing situations in these rankings. One of the more skilled big men in this group, clearly these ranking are stacked in favor of high-level athletes playing smaller roles.

Purdue big man JaJuan Johnson ranks as the highest usage player in this sample at 18.7 possessions per-game and scored a marginally above average 1.052 PPP overall. Johnson's perimeter orientation limits his rankings a bit, but he gets a boost from the fact that he turned the ball over a sample low 8% of the time.

From a situational perspective, no player in our rankings saw as many spot-up possessions per-game as Johnson (3 P/G). Converting 46.4% of those looks, Johnson's ability to shoot the ball drew him away from the rim, and subsequently the offensive glass. Johnson pulled down a sample low 7.4% of his possessions on the offensive boards.

Despite spending quite a bit of time out on the perimeter, Johnson saw a sample best 7.7 possessions per-game in the post, turning those touches into an above average at 1.019 PPP. On the whole, Johnson is one of the more well-rounded players amongst big men in this class on the offensive end.

-USC's Nikola Vucevic has seen his stock steadily rise in recent months. He ranked average in post-up PPP at 0.922, but is one of the most skilled players in this group, ranked in the top-5 in our sample in jump shooting efficiency. It is that package of versatility, that coupled with his terrific measurements at the combine and solid workouts, have him climbing up draft boards.

-Oakland product Keith Benson saw nearly 50% of his offensive possessions in the post, the highest total in this sample. He scored a steady 0.985 PPP in those situations, and had flashes of brilliance on the offensive end early in the year. The near 7-footer carried his team on the offensive end for long stretches in Summit League play. The question mark here is how that translates to the much stiffer competition he'll see in the NBA.

Michael Dunigan ranks as the second most efficient player in our sample at 1.122 PPP overall. Turning the ball over at a 19.1% rate (2nd most), Dunigan compensates by converting 68.6% of his finishing opportunities (4th). He shot an average 50% in the post, but most of his touches came off of cuts (28.7%) and other hustle based plays. Dunigan's size and improved physique allowed him to score consistently around the basket in the Baltic League despite his relative inexperience.

Union Olimpija's Giorgi Shermadini shares a similar profile to Jonas Valanciunas, ranking just behind him in %Score at 54.5%. The main difference between the two lies in that fact that Shemadini turned the ball over at a 22.9% rate, the highest in our sample. Like his Lithuanian counterpart, Shermadini finished at a good rate overall (70%), with most of his offense coming off of the two man game, cuts, and offensive rebounds. It is interesting to see the two similarities between the roles the two young centers player for their respective clubs played in the EuroLeague. Despite the question marks about his actual age, he could be an interesting prospect for a team to draft and stash in the 2nd round.

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