to play football, not to play trumpet
This diary was prompted by the debate from Tuesday between Brian and the Big Ten Geeks regarding the value of defensive rebounding. I read the Big Ten Geeks article that morning and had many of the same thoughts as Brian-I've never been a fan of the stops metric, particularly the way it was being used to compare players. As the debate moved to the value of defensive rebounding percentage, I decided to look through some Kenpom numbers to make a better argument for the importance/insignificance of that particular statistic.
|D-Eff Type||eFG%||TO%||DReb%||FT Rate|
A couple of notes. While I've labeled it as "DReb%", the statistic used was actually Opponent Offensive Rebounding %, hence the positive correlation with Defensive Efficiency (both statistics are "better" for the defense when the number is lower). TO% has a negative correlation because a higher TO% is "better" for the defense, so a high TO% would lead to a lower (read: better) defensive efficiency.
(It’s interesting to see how the Kenpom adjustments to efficiency change the numbers. eFG% and TO% consistently drop when adjusting for competition, while Dreb% and FTRate rise. The smaller deltas for this year makes me believe that this is a result of conference play and the leveling the playing field between teams that played non-conference schedules of varying difficulty, due to the relatively large proportion of non-conference game in the 2013 sample. I digress.)
It is well-known at this point that eFG% is by far the most important factor in defensive efficiency, but I was surprised that DReb% was the second most important factor (I had assumed it would be turnover rate). After seeing these results, I looked at the correlations between the four factors next.
So, there is a weak, but significant (with >340 samples) correlation between eFG% and DReb%. Going back to the correlations with defensive efficiency, I ran a partial correlation between DReb% and adjusted defensive efficiency, controlling for eFG%, which produced a value of…0.41. About the same correlation as TO% (a partial correlation for TO% is almost exactly the same as one without the adjustment, as you’d anticipate based on the low correlation between TO% and eFG%).
It looks like defensive rebounding is at least as important as the non-eFG% factors. What about the effect on the offensive end? Like Brian, I believe that steals should be valued more than other defensive statistics, so I went in assuming that we’d see some sort of correlation between TO% and Offensive Efficiency.
Negative correlations are due to lack of adjustment to defensive ratings for use with offensive efficiency (switching from lower = better to higher = better). However, from this, we can clearly see that defensive rebounding is just as important as any of the other defensive factors when it comes to offense. Michigan’s offense this season has shown this fanbase how defensive rebounding can trigger the break, but it is even more evident when you watch other leagues, where fewer teams put an emphasis on transition defense and sending players back on a change of possession and the game often breaks down into 2-on-2 or 3-on-2 runouts in each direction.
However, after all of this, I still believe that defensive rebounding is overrated as an individual metric. I'm not complaining about Jordan Morgan’s season, but he just isn’t a defensive game-changer in the way of Jeff Withey, Anthony Davis, Fab Melo, Nerlens Noel, or even A.J. Hammons. As has been stated, his high “stops” count is due to both Michigan’s excellent team Dreb% and Morgan's high individual number. His block and steal numbers are very low (his block% is 7th on the team, lower than all other starters, McGary and Horford). I might even argue that his presence has some effect on Michigan’s defensive philosophy and their inability to prevent three-pointers. With Morgan not a threat to alter shots inside, Michigan has to constantly switch on screens in order to prevent easy dribble penetration and 2-on-1 scenarios. They can’t fight over the top of screens to better challenge outside shots.
There was a great example of the effect that a shot-blocker has in the Iowa-Purdue game from Sunday, where Iowa’s players often had Purdue defenders trailing them after screens, but could not drive inside easily due to Hammon’s presence. Unfortunately, there weren't any Youtube highlights for that game, so I had to make due with the Michigan-Purdue game for an example.
First, Morgan sets a good screen for Burke. Hammons did not follow Morgan out to the perimeter, and you can see Ronnie Johnson start to fight through the screen at the top.
Burke is around the screen, but Johnson has followed him, preventing Burke from pulling up for an open three. Hammons is still in the paint, while Morgan is about to roll to the basket.
Finally, Burke has picked up the ball, unable to penetrate past Hammons or shoot over him. Purdue's defensive philosophy has helped remove the threat of a 3 from Michigan's balls-screen offense. Fortunately for Michigan, D.J. Byrd is still afraid of Burke and is about to jump in to help off Stauskas, leaving him open for a soon-to-be-bured 3. Not the best result for my example, but good for Michigan.
Further validating the importance of having a shot-altering presence: Correlation between block rate and defensive efficiency is very high (0.51), largely due to its influence on effective field goal % (correlation of 0.61).
This is all part of the bigger argument that the Big Ten Geeks make in their response to Brian's criticism-that post players/taller players should score higher on defensive metrics. Taller players can more easily influence defensive play away from their man, and playing on the interior puts you in better position for defensive statistics on every possession. Seeing as the objective of a perimeter defender is usually to prevent a single player from scoring/impacting the game, the best argument or evidence for an Oladipo or Craft would be to compare single game statistics vs season numbers for their primary defensive responsibility. They can’t impact the entire opposing offense and accumulate statistics in the same way as a Hammons or Berggren, but that’s a difference between the roles of perimeter defense and interior defense rather than a gap in defensive aptitude. You wouldn't want either of those guys I just mentioned chasing Trey Burke around the perimeter the way Christian Watford did, briefly, in last year's Indiana game. While Watford may have been successful initially, Burke got over the surprise and went on to score 18 points on 9 shots.
In my opinion, the best way to statistically evaluate individual defensive impact would be something similar to what Ace posted on Tuesday, evaluating lineups and considering an individual player’s ability to improve team defensive statistics while they are in the game. Now, this isn’t as fair to players like Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht, who are rarely on the court with four other starters (theoretically the better defenders), but we could make an initial assumption that the other rotation players are all roughly equivalent when analyzing an individual player. It’s also unfair to players like Trey Burke, who might play 90% of the team’s minutes any given night and have a limited sample of largely garbage time minutes against which to compare the impact of their absence. That said, it would provide a better picture of a player’s ability to influence the opponent’s offensive strategy and results.
I am very curious to see the 3PA/FGA ratios and 3P% isolated for Michigan's three centers. Even though the team defensive philosophy remains the same for all three,it would be enlightening if opponents were taking more threes (or lower quality threes) depending on which player was protecting the paint. Ken Pomeroy wrote a blog post this week discussing the Syracuse zone and its (limited) ability to force lower quality three point attempts. Any effect at Michigan would likely be much smaller than that seen at the schools discussed in his post, but would still be worth examining.
Last night I got a chance to take in my third Michigan Basketball game this season. As I did the first two times, I wanted to share my thoughts from the game...but more importantly, I wanted to get everyone else's take on this team.
From the first game I saw Michigan (vs. WVU in the Barclays Center) until now...the improvement is pretty drastic.
I took some caveats into this game.
1. This is the 2nd time we've played this team
2. The first time we played this team we beat them like they were Pioneer High School
3. We've got the #3 team in the country coming up next
4. They're going to be playing their asses off so they don't get embarrassed again
5. Jordan Morgan is out
With those in mind, I thought we played one of our best games of the year. As many have seen me write 1,000 times...I don't care if the ball goes in, I just want to see us execute. Same held true for tonight...we were going to win, so lets execute and play our game.
Boy did we. If anyone doesn't know how to play basketball...cut on the first 9 minutes of that game and watch the guys in white. We even made mistakes (Burke and Stauskas both got backdoored), but they were mistakes because we were trying to make a play (neither was because the guy fell asleep). The whole game was beauty, but the first 9 minutes was art.
I haven't seen a team click like we can click since UNC in '05 (33-4) and UNC in '09 (34-4)...sidenote those teams were led by Raymon Felton and Ty Lawson. Trey Burke is right there. Scott Van Pelt has a saying "how good is your good?" I've seen Michigan, Louisville and Duke all play live. Our good might be 10 points better than both.
Before I get into the individual stuff, I'll say this. If you're scouting us. There's only one way to stay close...PRESSURE. You better pressure the hell out of us. And with that, we're getting better, because Illinois tried that and we responded better than we have all year. Still, it's the only way. Pressure and hope the refs aren't calling a tight game.
The reason we've gotten better since that WVU game...defense. Everyone has seen that and know that so I won't even get into it. We were an average defensive team. We're not a good defensive team that is great at times. I can't fathom us being a great defense that is elite at times.
Morgan - Obviously injured, in a boot...seen coaching Horford during timeouts. Insert "shoe is on the other foot" joke since Horford has a history of injury. Morgan was called the "glue" by Coach B, especially on defense. You can see that at times, but it's harder because GRIII and Stauskas have improved greatly on the defensive end and Burke has flipped the switch.
Horford - This kid can play. Smart. Has post moves and just understand the game of basketball. We don't have a player on our team that doesn't understand the game...time and possession...understand the moment. Horford is no exception. Happy for him too! Horford played well vs. bigger bodies at NW.
GRIII - WAAAAY more athletic than I thought. He can really take you off the dribble if he can get you on his hip. He's certainly a SF at the next level and he may be the most gifted player on the team. Scary thought. He played very well vs. NW, but he didn't have any comp. I want to see him go up against a CJ Leslie type again, I think it would be a little different the next time around.
Stauskas - Maturity. It's noticeable how he's settled back into his role. I felt like his celebrity was going to be an issue. He's back to getting his from the flow of the offense. Welcome to the B1G. He's played back-to-back GREAT games. However, what I noticed the most was him on the defensive end. He's MUCH better. I took heat for it, but he was almost awful for much of the year. He'd give you 15 and give up 12. He's gotten so much better. Even in his stance, his help side, his communication, his EFFORT. Everything. He's now an average defender. Do I trust him guarding a big time wing? No. But he's not a liability. He's grown tremendously over the past couple of months. From YELLING at his own teammates for turnovers he made to boxing out a post who'd gotten around Horford. Big Time.
THJ - Best all around player in the country. Yep. I said it. Inside, outside, offense, defense, he's the best all around player in the country. Brandon Roy and Evan Turner come to mind.
Burke - Best player in the country. Yep. I said it. I've seen him 3 times now. The first 2 times, it was a debate. During the 2nd half of the Purdue game something clicked and he started playing defense as hard as he plays O. When that happened the debate was “undebatable.”
McGary - Seemed lost vs. Illinois, played a lot better vs. Northwestern. Love his hustle, love that he runs down the court even if it's halftime. Hope he doesn't hit a freshman wall *knocking on wood* because we need his role.
Albrecht - Another coach on the floor, calm, a leader. Needs to continue to get better so we can play both he and Trey at the same time vs. pressure teams like OSU, MSU and down the road...Duke, Louisville, etc.
All in all, we're the #1 team in the country. I think we play the 2nd best team on Saturday. Just remember, no matter the outcome, tournament games aren't played in Bloomington, IN.
Back Row: asst. coach Bill Frieder, coach John Orr, Mark Lozier, David Baxter, Rickey Green, David Stavale, Thomas Staton, William Lelich, asst. coach Jim Boyce, asst. coach Dan Fife
Front Row: mngr. Mitchell Kaufman, Len Lillard, Alan Hardy, co-captain Steve Grote, co-captain John Robinson, Joel Thompson, Robert Jones. mngr. John Anderson
A lot has been made recently about this being the first Michigan basketball team to reach #1 in the standings since the 92/93 Fab Five squad Interestingly enough the National Championship winning 1989 team never reached #1 until the last game of the season so it hasn't been done that often. There was another Michigan team however, a few years further back, that started the season as #1, stayed at #1 through the first six weeks of the season, and ultimately ended the regular season ranked #1. Having lost in the National Final in 1976, this team entered the tournament as the overall #1 seed as Big Ten Champs with an overall record of 26-3. Sadly they were knocked out of the tournament in the third round (back then that game was the Regional Final) by the Cornbread Maxwell led Charlotte 49ers, this is the Michigan team I think our present squad most resembles.
In 1977 Michigan was led by All-American point guard Rickey Green. Nicknamed "Quicksilver", Green was easily the fastest player with the ball I have ever seen. A fantastic on the ball defender, Green was able to get to the rim against most teams and had a decent (but not great) outside shot. Remember, this was 1977 so the three point line as well as the shot clock were still several years away. Rumors abound that Green suffered an undisclosed injury before the Charlotte game that limited his effectiveness but that has never been made public officially. If you ever saw Green play you could easily compare his game to Burke's although I think Burke is a better shooter, Rickey was a better defender IMO.
Anchoring the inside of that team was the immortal Phil Hubbard. Hubbard was also an All-American in 1977 and was a Kevin Love "double-double" machine before the term was made popular. While the current team doesn't have a player on the inside close to Phil's ability his style of play would remind many of our Morgan. Phil was athletic (this was the year before his catastrophic knee injury) and moved without the ball a lot. He was likewise a terrific defender and tenacious rebounder averaging over 13 boards and 20 points per game.
Filling out the starters were Tom Staton, Steve Grote and Team Captain John Robinson. Grote was Zack Novak before Zack Novak and could be considered the Godfather of Grit. Yes I know Novak has moved on but his presence still looms large on this year's team. Staton was your defensive specialist (think of him like the defensive version of Stauskus) and Robinson did whatever was needed on both ends of the floor. Coming off the bench was my personal all-time favorite Wolverine Alan Hardy (when I was Freshmen in 1978 rumor had it he was able to jump and touch the top of the backboard) and Dave "instant offensive" Baxter. Most people remember Baxter not for his shot but for his hair which was long and definitely interesting to watch. Note: I think the team picture I got was taken at the beginning of the year and Baxter probably didn't cut it the rest of the season cause I can tell you by March his hair was a LOT longer than Green's was.
Coached by Johnny Orr who kinda looks like coach Beilein that team had their own Bacari Alexander in Assistant Coach Bill Frieder. Many at the time thought Frieder was the "real" Head Coach on the time and Orr was simply a figurehead. Frieder would go on to take over duties officially from Orr upon his retirement just a few years later. And at the very far right of the first row picture is a Fraternity Brother of mine who was the team manager!
The ranking, the depth, the style of play of the 2013 Michigan Basketball team all remind me a lot of this group from 36 years ago. So the next time the announcers reference the 1992-93 team as the "last Michigan team to reach #1" remember that they weren't the ONLY group to reach #1 during the regular season - just the most recent.
EDIT: I do not mean to imply that Coach Beilein is a figurehead and that Alexander is doing the "real" coaching. The point I was trying to make was both teams had colorful and well-known assistants. Each in their own way. I probably should've said both assistants used props. Alexander's vary game to game while Frieder favored a towel.
This comes from UMHOOPS:
On making the decision to start Horford: “Here’s how part of the decision was made: we were still here, because of this prep, we were still here last night at 8 o’clock. Kids had study hall before practice. We studied, we ate, then we had some more film to watch. And I said to Mitch McGary, ‘What do you feel about tomorrow? I don’t know what to do. You both practiced well.’ He said, ‘Coach, I’ve been coming off the bench for two years. I’m cool with coming off the bench.’ And that really helped to make that decision, and that’s what we have on this team.”
That is coming from a freshman who was once the #2 recruit in the country. I love this team more and more every week. I think Belien has really put a special blend of talent and unselfishness on the court. They way they play for the team and not themselves is rare these days.
P.s. I know my title sucks. Mods feel free to change it if you feel that that is necissary.
In the power ranking at Grantland, written by Mark Titus, Titus brings up an interesting potential mismatch for IU. Victor Oladipo, arguably the best defensive player in the country, would traditionally be matched up against Hardaway in IU’s man defense. This leaves Yogi Ferrell, a six foot freshman who will never be mistaken for a top tier defender, to guard Burke. I believe that this will lead to several scenarios similar to “QB OH NOES,” except on hardwood. As pointed out and picture paged in Blue-MQT’s Diary post, Burke’s ability to leave a defender inside of a screen often leads to an open shooter on the perimeter.
Tom Crean may decide to put Oladipo on Burke, in turn making a much more intriguing matchup. This, however, would mean most likely Ferrell would be guarding 6’6 Hardaway, which I would love to see. Jordy Hulls will not be guarding Burke, he proved himself to be a major liability on defense when IU lost to Butler.
While Michigan will certainly have to figure out a way to prevent Cody Zeller from being fouled over and over inside. Jordan Morgan would be extremely beneficial for this, but I can’t imagine him being at 100% after his injury.
Anyway, it should be an exciting game; I am just going to try to keep my hopes grounded. At the start of the season I felt like Michigan was going to split their series with the Hoosiers, and I don’t see it much differently now.
Go Blue! This is the biggest game since the Fisher era.