Basketball: Abra(ha)m will lead us to the promised land

Submitted by Brian on March 30th, 2005 at 5:45 PM

I am a fan of Big Ten Wonk, as any red-blooded flyover country Big Ten fan should be, and have been observing with interest his Points Per Weighted Shot tracking over the course of the year (which was cannily devised by John Hollinger, brazenly renamed by Big Ten Wonk, and appropriated for Michigan-related purposes by mgoblog). Anyone looking at Michigan's numbers can see that they are bad. This is not surprising, because Michigan is a bad team.

But let's take a fantastic voyage... inside the numbers!!! To do this, we need some numbers. Number wrangling, Excel hassling, eventual defeat and the last resort of a screenshot produces this:

I've highlighted numbers I find interesting. Included are all players of significance from this year and last year. First of all: Horton is horrible at this stat. Putrescent. He has two of the four worst scores over the past two years (one, admittedly in a season abbreviated by injury and legal issues). The other two low scores are from Coleman and Harris this year. Coleman and Harris can plead Dani Wohl and John Andrews. Horton has no such mitigating factors.

Second, the numbers seem to support the idea that Harris' awful '05 season can be excused. I tracked some difference stats at the bottom of the chart (basically '05 stats minus '04 stats, leaving all the "extra" shots players took this year). Harris's 131 extra FG attempts and 25 extra FT attempts yielded only 101 points, or 0.71 points per shot. That's atrocious. The player in dead last on BTW's final regular season chart, Purdue's Brandon McKnight, kicks the crap out of it with his 0.87. The working theory of mgoblog is that Harris was forced to take a zillion extremely tough shots because no one else on the floor could create and that his numbers this year are not his fault.

Third, break out the harps, angels, and assorted iconic imagery, because Lester's coming back. PPWS is not a perfect stat. It often overrates players like, say, Brent Petway, who get infrequent shot attempts that are usually thunder-dunks or offensive putbacks but cannot create their own shot. It's better for comparing posts to posts and perimeter players to perimeter players. The real sign of a great player is high PPWS and high volume. See Dee Brown, dominating PPWS this year and taking a truckload of shots doing it. Lester took 257 shots in '04 and finished with 1.28 PPWS, which would be good for seventh in the league this year, behind only a bunch of players from MSU and Illinois... Final Four-bound MSU and Illinois who have multiple efficient offensive options, get a lot of assists, and are generally well-coached basketball teams. Lester does not operate in that sort of environment, and he's still hanging with the very best the Big Ten has to offer. Lester is not a good college player. He is a great college player, and his loss is what murderified this year. He's the kind of player you find on championship teams.

Next year, Abram will be back. If he matches his '04 performance he'll be turning Harris's league worst 0.71 point shots into something approaching the league's best 1.28 point shots. Harris's PPWS will shoot up as well, as he'll actually have an option other than taking an off-balance runner while having his liver eaten by a giant eagle. Coleman should get a good number of open looks for his three-point stroke with better players on the floor around him.

Better days are coming.