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Hoops Lab: Hoops Lab-Week 14

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Using advanced stats to predict fantasy part II

Last month I used advanced stats to predict whether Tim Duncan's strong free throw shooting, Paul Pierce's hot shooting from the field and Rajon Rondo's horrid free throw shooting were trends or mirages. At the time (December 4) Duncan was shooting 75 percent from the line, Pierce had just edged under 50 percent from the field (49.4% FG), and Rondo was shooting 41 percent from the line. Six weeks later, Duncan (who I predicted would keep it up) is holding steady at 74 percent from the line, Pierce (who I said would regress) is down to 46.7 percent from the field, and Rondo (who I said would pick it up) is up to 58 percent from the line. In the short term I have to give myself an 'A' on those predictions, so I decided to try it again.

Dwyane Wade and Vince Carter are both currently shooting career-low percentages from the field. Based on Wade's epic season last year, and Carter's move to a team where in theory he should have more help and thus get more open shots, I would have predicted that each would have shot much better this season. And the easy thing to do would be to say that they will pick it up as the season goes along, assuming they will bounce back later to make up for their cold starts. But you know I never take the easy route, so instead I decided to dig back into the advanced stats on to see whether I could find any trends with which to predict their futures.

Wade is a career 48 percent shooter from the field who is coming off shooting 49.1 percent last season, but when I blogged about this last Thursday he was shooting only 44.9 percent this season. I went back and examined Wade's shot pattern since he entered the league in 2003, and what I found was that in every season he has progressively taken more jumpers and fewer inside shots. As a rookie in '03-'04 he took jumpers on only half of his shot attempts, but over the last couple of years he has taken jumpers about two-thirds of the time. This season his effective field goal percentages from the inside (62%) and on jumpers (39%) are very close to his numbers from 2003-08 (average 63% inside, 39% jumpers), but the difference is that he is taking a lot more of the lower percentage shots to bring down his overall average. Last season Wade was able to shoot over 49 percent on the same ratio of jumpers as this season by shooting a by-far career best of 44 percent EFG on jumpers. Thus, it looks to me that the main culprit for Wade's "down" shooting season this year is that his jumper has reverted back to his career norm after last season's possibly flukishly high result, and thus it might not be a "cold streak" or "poor start" that has Wade's shooting percentage so low - that may just be who he actually is now.

Carter is a career 44 percent shooter from the field who is currently shooting 39 percent. When I looked at his shot pattern over the last several years two things jumped out at me. First, Carter isn't getting set up by his teammates like he used to. From 03-04 in Toronto up through 2008 when the Jason Kidd years ended in New Jersey, Carter took the majority of his jumpers off of assists. This year in Orlando, only 38 percent of his jumpers are assisted. This means that he is doing more dribbling around trying to create shots instead of taking set jumpers, which does not appear to be his forte. Second, Carter is shooting by-far the worst percentage of the last seven years on inside shots (45%, usually in the 55-60 range). This could reflect a lack of athleticism due to nagging injuries and/or advancing age (Carter will be 33 next week). Unfortunately, with Carter filling the Hedo Turkoglu "point swingman" role for the Magic and legs that just won't get any younger, these don't look like situations that will improve for him any time soon.

Wade ramped up big time in the latter part of last season once the postseason came into sight, and thus far in January he seems to be getting hot again. So I predict his field goal percentage climbs a bit, but he'll end the season shooting in the 46-47 percent range - better than he is now, but not as good as his career average. For Carter, on the other hand, I don't see his average getting up to even the 41.7 percent mark that's his career low. Let's check back in a couple months from now and see how close I get.

Situations to Watch and Quick Hits

  • Failure to launch: For the second time in three years the number one overall pick in the draft won't play a minute in his actual rookie season. Blake Griffin, we hardly knew ye, though I did waste a high draft pick on you that stings when I note that I passed on Kevin Love to take you. Be that as it may, Griffin's injury means that Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman are free to continue to produce at the highest level that their health will permit which is good news for their owners. At least somebody is happy.

  • Kobe playing wounded: Kobe Bryant has one confirmed broken finger, another finger rumored to be injured, and over the last week he has also been battling back spasms. While it hasn't hurt the Lakers much in the win-loss column, this is starting to take a toll on Bryant's owners as their top player is averaging only 15.8 points on 37% shooting in his last five games. Every report suggests that Kobe plans to play through this, which means that at least his owners will get something from him every game but perhaps at the expense of extending the time it takes for his body to heal.

  • Duncan's days off: Tim Duncan had been enjoying a throwback statistical season this year, posting three-year highs in points and blocks with a career-high in field goal percentage and a nine-year high in free throw percentage. Unfortunately, his stint as a reliable fantasy cornerstone appears to be coming to an end with Spurs coach Greg Popovich's decision to start sitting/resting Duncan during back-to-backs. Last week Duncan sat out the second game completely of one back-to-back, and in another he played fewer minutes and scored only 10 points in the first game of the sequence. It's difficult and stressful to have to plan every week for one of your best players to miss game action or underproduce, and because it could be either end of the back-to-back it is dangerous even to speculate when it's safe to start him. If you can trade him for value now, I suggest you do so.

  • Celtics defense without Garnett: Early in this season I speculated in this space whether this year's Celtics could be the basketball version of the '85 Bears, a defense that you simply did not want your players to face. They slowed a bit after a scorching start, but through the first 30 games of the year they were still stifling opponents to the tune of 91.9 points allowed on 43.9 percent shooting from the field (both of which would be top-2 in the league). Then Kevin Garnett got hurt, and the Celtics defense has gone through the floor. In the last nine games without Garnett Boston has allowed 100.2 points on 46.9 percent shooting, and if you remove their game against the putrid Nets, those averages go to 101.9 points allowed on 47.9 percent from the field (both of which would be among worst in league). Garnett could possibly be back as soon as Friday, but keep this in mind in case his return gets pushed back or if he gets injured again. With KG out, start EVERYONE against the Celtics.

  • K-Mart open for business, sort-of: Kevin Martin has returned after missing most of the season with a wrist injury, but in his first three games he is clearly still rusty. He's shooting only 13-for-39 from the field, but on the bright side he continues to get to the line to the tune of 20-for-22. Look for him to knock the rust off eventually unless the injury recurs, so if you're a gambling man you might try to secure Martin in a deal before he bounces all the way back.

  • Lee now channeling Bird: Last week I reported that David Lee was emulating Kevin Garnett from his 20-10-5 days, but over the weekend he stepped that up to a Larry Bird imitation with back-to-back games averaging 25.5 points, 15.5 boards and 9.0 assists. Lee is clearly the focal point of the high-powered Knicks offense right now in addition to his usual dominant rebounding, a combo that's putting Lee among the ultra-elite fantasy producers out there.

  • Foye–renas: Randy Foye averaged 20.6 points, 7.8 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 threes and 1.0 steals in his first five starts after Gilbert Arenas was suspended - numbers that look eerily similar to those Arenas posted all season (22.6 points, 7.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 threes, 1.3 steals). Foye had a down game over the weekend, but bounced back with another 19-point/5-assist/3-rebound effort on Martin Luther King day. A shrewd trader could make a profit off of Foye right now because if he keeps it up he's worth a lot more than his current trade value.

    New Additions

    Mike Miller (41% owned): Miller returned from a 21-game absence (calf) with a solid 13-point/4 board/4-assist effort. Miller will likely get solid minutes whether he starts or comes off the bench, and if he re-finds his shooting range could be an asset down the stretch.

    Matt Barnes (35% owned): Barnes has been consistently solid of late since moving into the Magic starting lineup, averaging 14.8 points with 7.5 boards and 2.0 treys over the last week.

    Steve Blake (11% owned): Blake is a low-ceiling short-term add candidate, as Brandon Roy is banged up which has allowed Blake to play a larger role for the Trail Blazers. Blake has averaged 13 points, 4.7 assists, 4.0 boards and 2.7 treys over the last week and is borderline start-worthy when Roy is out.

    Carlos Delfino (9% owned): Delfino is still coming off the bench for the Bucks, but with Michael Redd down he has flirted with taking on a larger role. He has scored double-digits in three straight games, including one huge 28-point explosion against the Jazz. He has also averaged more than 37 minutes played in the last two games, in which he also knocked down nine total treys.

    Robin Lopez (18% owned): Lopez has moved into the starting lineup for the Suns, and he responded with a career-high 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting, seven boards and three blocked shots in 29 minutes before fouling out. He has scored in double-figures in three straight games and is worth an add for as long as he holds onto the starting job for the fun-and-gun Suns.

    Article first appeared 1/19/10