Location... Location... Location
I watched the Heat play the Trail Blazers last night, and I was struck by the difference between the two power forwards, Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge. I have always thought Bosh and Aldridge were similar players in both style of play and quality. I remember when Aldridge was drafted in 2006, I listed his upside as Bosh. So it was striking to me to watch Aldridge thoroughly dominate Bosh on Tuesday, outscoring him 26 (on 55% FG) to seven (on 27% FG) in their head-to-head match-up. True, sometimes one player just has a bad game, but there was just a visible difference in the body language and confidence of the two players. And Aldridge has just had the much better year. Because this is a new thing - last season Bosh clearly had a much better season than Aldridge - it made me think about why this might be.
The obvious answer is that Bosh went to play third fiddle for the Heat while Aldridge has become the de facto number one option in Portland due to injuries to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. But that feels a bit like a cop-out to me. Playing with more talent can explain Bosh's lower volume (after all, he's taking about three fewer field goal attempts a night this year) but it doesn't do much to explain his decrease in efficiency (from 52% FG to 48.5% this season). When Boston's Big 3 got together in 2007, all three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen saw their shooting percentages spike through the roof. They may not have gotten as many shots as before, but the shots they did get were much easier because defenses weren't focused on them. The same should have happened for Bosh this year…only it hasn't. On the flip side, Aldridge is sporting his best shooting percentages since he became a full-time starter despite his new role as the focal point of the offense while also increasing his volume. So, what gives?
Well, a couple of articles this morning shed some insight into things. It's not just that Bosh and Aldridge are playing in new roles, but they are ALSO playing in new locations. Bosh vented after Tuesday's game that "I just have to get it where I'm effective. I'm a big man. I can shoot the ball, but I'm a big man. So I have to get it where big guys get it." Part of his new role in Miami involves Bosh operating almost exclusively from the high post on offense, leaving the paint free so that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade can drive to the rim at will. This shows up in his shot selection. According to 82games.com, last year in Toronto, Bosh took jumpers on 54% of his shots (making 44% of them) and shot from the inside on the other 46% of his looks (making 61% of them). This year with the Heat, Bosh is shooting jumpers 74% of the time (making 44% of them) while only shooting inside 26% of the time (making 64% of them). Mystery solved. Bosh is shooting just as well this season as he did in his huge year last season, but he's taking a lot more lower-percentage shots than he did in the past.
The 82games.com numbers for Aldridge's shot locations don't appear at first glance to be so different this season (62% jumpers and 38% inside shots) vs. last year (64% jumpers and 36% inside shots) , but John Schuhman's article used NBA.com's Stats Cube to point out more precisely where Aldridge's "jumpers" and "inside shots" have been this year vs. last. Last season Aldridge took 26.5% of his shots within five feet, and 37.9% of his shots from outside of 15 feet. This year, Aldridge is taking 40.8% of his shots from within five feet, and only 27.8% from outside of 15.
So, when trying to figure out how a player might adapt to a new team role, maybe it's about time we start thinking about whether that new team role comes with a new court location. For example, in the recent trade deadline swaps the Celtics added Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. In his early action with his new team, Green is shooting 56.6% from the field, way up from the 43.7% he was shooting in OKC. True he's coming off the bench and taking fewer shots now than he did in OKC, but over his last two games since he's found his niche for the Celtics he has averaged 16 points in 28 minutes, suggesting he might be able to sustain close to the 14.7 points he is averaging on the season if he maintains his shooting efficiency. But is that realistic? While the 13% increase in FG% may be a bit much, it is worth noting that Green is playing much closer to the rim in Boston (54% jumpers, 46% inside shots, one 3-pt attempt per eight shots) thus far than he was in Oklahoma City (67% jumpers, 33% inside shots, one 3-pt attempt per 2.4 shots). Teammate Krstic is also shooting a lot closer to the rim in Boston, which suggests that once he starts making his jump shot at his usual clip he likely sees a similar boost in field-goal percentage at his new location.
As always, just some things to think about. With all of the shiny new basketball analytic tools we have to work with these days, a savvy fantasy owner should be able to take advantage of every trick in maximizing his roster.
Around the League
• Paul's concussion: Chris Paul will not play on Wednesday as he deals with a concussion he suffered this weekend. His return date is uncertain. Trevor Ariza is also a game-time decision on Wednesday after missing the previous three games.
• Howard's Techs: Dwight Howard had to sit out Monday's game due to a one-game suspension for receiving his 16th technical foul on the season. While missing one game was a nuisance, the real danger is that he'll face another game suspension for every two technicals he receives from here on out. That's a dangerous proposition for someone as volatile as Howard, and every missed game the rest of the way is crucial.
• Love's knee: Kevin Love is a game-time decision on Wednesday due to swelling and soreness in his knee, which he banged on Monday against the Mavericks. Love is on an absurd streak of more than 50 straight double-doubles, and if he's on your team you're obviously relying on his production. So be sure to keep tabs on our Latest News for updates on his status.
• Chauncey's health: I wrote last week that I consider Chauncey Billups a top-10 play for the rest of this season, but since then he's not set foot on the court due to his sore left thigh and will sit again on Wednesday. According to Frank Isola Wednesday, Billups revealed that he has a sore left knee as well as the bruised left thigh. I'm still very high on Billups moving forward, but health is the most important thing at this juncture of the season, so keep a close eye on this.
• Deron's Happy news: Deron Williams is expected to miss the next two games for the birth of his fourth child. In the meantime, Jordan Farmar gets a short-term boost in value as the likely starter in Williams' absence.
• Baron's sad news: Baron Davis' grandmother, with whom he was very close, passed away on Monday and he has left the team for an undetermined period of time to mourn with his family. My sincere condolences to Davis and his family, and in the meantime Ramon Sessions is once again a must-start.
• Millsap's knee: Paul Millsap will miss Wednesday's game with a bad knee that he says requires rest to heal. It's uncertain how long he will be out, but this just adds further momentum to the already scorching Al Jefferson.
• Bogut's elbow: Andrew Bogut has revealed that he will need arthroscopic surgery this offseason on the elbow that he dislocated last season. Bogut is expected to continue to play through the soreness for the rest of this season. He returned on Tuesday from an oblique injury that had sidelined him for three days, and notched a near triple-double (14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) against the Wizards.
• Hurting Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari (broken left toe) says that he still won't be able to play on Thursday, and his return date is to be determined. Meanwhile, Arron Afflalo will also likely miss the game with a sore hamstring that could keep him down for a couple more contests. Good news for Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith.
• Ty Lawson (50% owned): After struggling through his first few games next to Raymond Felton, Lawson seems to have found his groove with averages of 16 points, 7.7 assists and 3.7 boards over his last three games.
• Chase Budinger (45% owned): I mentioned him in this space last week, but he's still available in most leagues and is still continuing to score in the mid double figures with almost two treys per game in Houston.
• Toney Douglas (22% owned): Douglas has been the beneficiary of the Chauncey Billups injury absence, and he's taking advantage of it to the tune of 16.3 points, 5.8 assists, 4.3 boards and 2.8 treys over his last four games. Billups is out again on Wednesday, and his return is still uncertain. WHOEVER the point guard is in a Mike D'Antoni offense is someone you want on your team.
• Tyler Hansbrough (19% owned): Hansbrough has averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 boards over his last nine games and now has six straight games with double-figure scoring including his 26-point outburst on Tuesday against Philadelphia.
• Nenad Krstic (8% owned): Krstic is finding his niche as the starting center in Boston (14 points, 61% FG over the past week), and it appears he'll remain there for the foreseeable future with injuries to Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal and Glen Davis continuing to linger. Krstic doesn't do much for you on the glass, but in deeper leagues he could provide decent scoring and percentages from the center spot.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio every Friday afternoon at 12:30 PM EST on Rotowire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 147, Sirius 211.