The Boots (February 10, 2009)
Boot Up: The Phenomenon of Lamar Odom – I am sorry to bring up this sore subject fellow Cleveland fans, but I was actually planning on writing an article about the 30-year-old Odom days and even weeks before he blew up for 28-points and 17-rebounds in the Lakers victory in Cleveland on Sunday. The main reason for this potential article was that I saw a mention on ESPN recently, that Odom is a free agent and it seems like the Los Angeles Lakers are already thinking about moving on without him. Here are the exact words from Chad Ford:
“Odom will be one of the most coveted free agents on the open market. Phil Jackson likes him, but with Kobe, Bynum and Pau Gasol on the roster, the Lakers don’t need him and might explore trades for him in the coming months. Odom’s penchant for disappearing in big moments (see: 2008 NBA Finals) hasn’t helped his rep in L.A. But he is a great team guy, he can rebound the ball, he can initiate the offense and he doesn’t need the ball to be effective. If he doesn’t stick in L.A., there will be a line of teams waiting to snatch him up.”
Sure, this article is from September and there have been several more ESPN articles about the free agent class of 2009 since that date, it is interesting to ponder the possibilities. Now with Andrew Bynum theoretically out for the rest of the regular season, it seems like the Lakers will probably hold on to Odom for at least the rest of this year, yet Bynum is a big reason why he might not be back next year. In this past off-season, Andrew Bynum signed a massive contract extension with the team that just comes into effect next season. This means that while the Lakers do indeed have over $17 million in expiring contracts, they will still be well over the expected salary cap of about $61 million. Thus the only logical way for the Lakers to re-sign Odom, even though he is their own free agent, is to give him their mid-level-exception, something I would expect Odom to pass down.
Now on to the exact reasons why this article caught my eye, and why, especially after Sunday’s performance, I believe Lamar Odom could still be an All-Star in the NBA. As evidenced on Sunday, Lamar Odom is one of the best scoring threats next to the basket in the NBA. Below this article, I point out how LeBron James shot about 65% from the basket from 2004-2008, and Lamar Odom was pretty close to him last season shooting about 62.2% at that spot on the court. This year his paint numbers down a little bit because of the health of Andrew Bynum (up until recently that is). In addition, in Odom’s career he has never averaged less than 8.46 rebounds and 17.57 points per 48 minutes. In the past five years in Los Angeles, he has averaged about 18.54 points, 5.39 assists, 12.31 rebounds and an efficiency shooting percentage of 1.039 despite never being the premier scoring option on the court behind Bryant, Gasol and recently Bynum.
Odom is a 6-10 point forward with the ability to give other team’s matchup nightmares, as evidenced in the Cavaliers loss on Sunday. As Brian Windhorst wrote in his recap in the Plain Dealer, the Cavaliers were unable to find anybody capable of boxing out Odom in the paint. I expect the LA Lakers to aggressively court and re-sign versatile guard Trevor Ariza in the off-season, and I think that Lamar Odom might just find his way on the wrong end of their long-term plans. The Cleveland Cavaliers may have some salary cap issues this off-season as well, but I have a pretty good feeling that no matter where Odom goes he will have a successful few more years in the NBA.
Boot Down: Cleveland Cavaliers away from Cleveland – The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently 23-1 at home, and their 23-game winning streak to start the year at the Q was one of the most impressive streaks in NBA history. Not only was it the first streak of such magnitude in the last decade, but the Cavaliers did so just one year removed from a 45-37 season when they went only 27-14 the entire season at home. In addition, the Cavaliers longest winning streak at the Quicken Loans Arena was nine games last season, lasting from February 22 to March 21. Although the 23-game-streak was quite the feat in of itself, the Cavaliers performance on the road thus far this season has been quite ordinary. They are fifth best in the NBA, behind the LA Lakers, Orlando, Boston and San Antonio, with a 16-9 record away from the friendly confines of Cleveland, OH. Why has this happened?
Watching the Cavaliers most recent losses on the road to the previously mentioned Lakers and Magic of Orlando, I noticed that this might not a collaborative effort. Not including the Lakers game from Sunday, here are the averages per forty-eight of LeBron James and the Non-LeBron’s on the road and at home:
Minutes% = LeBron Home 14.9%, LeBron Away 16.3%, Non-LBJ Home 85.1%, Non-LBJ Away 83.7%
Points48 = LeBron Home 35.30, LeBron Away 37.11, Non-LBJ Home 74.04, Non-LBJ Away 63.71
Rebs48 = LeBron Home 9.96, LeBron Away 9.18, Non-LBJ Home 32.59, Non-LBJ Away 32.18
Assists48 = LeBron Home 9.50, LeBron Away 8.50, Non-LBJ Home 13.82, Non-LBJ Away 11.46
FGA48 = LeBron Home 23.71, LeBron Away 27.78, Non-LBJ Home 56.79, Non-LBJ Away 52.86
EFG = LeBron Home 1.101, LeBron Away 1.007, Non-LBJ Home 1.074, Non-LBJ Away 1.032
From the numbers above, we see that LeBron James does indeed play more minutes, and is more involved in the offense when the Cavaliers are playing those tough games on the road. However, he is not as effective of an overall basketball player on the road thus far this season, as seen in his large drop in efficiency shooting, rebounds and assists. By comparison, the Non-LeBrons are not as far away from their home levels, shooting much closer to their normal rate and producing similarly efficient per their usage rating. Going into that Lakers game on Sunday, the Cavaliers were averaging a score of 97.32 to 92.32 on the road, and a score of 105.09 to 89 at home. This clearly shows that their defense has been incredible both at home at on the road this year, but their offense seems to lack that special extra-ordinary gear when the Cavs are not playing at the Q.
That is how I came up with the idea of comparing LeBron James’ shot tendencies on the road and at home. Using the incredible capabilities of the Hot Spots feature on NBA.com I was able to analyze the difference in LeBron’s shooting patterns at home, and on the road, throughout his NBA career. Over the previous four seasons leading to 2008-2009, LeBron shot 65.3% next to the basket, and 35.2% away from the paint while taking 42.3% of his shots right next to the basket and 44.7% away from the paint entirely (this logic follows that it is possible to take shots inside the paint, but not right next to the basket). Now, here is a look at how his numbers break down this season on the road and at home:
Season: 69.1% Basket, 35.7% Outside, 42.4% Basket Rate, 48.4% Outside Rate
Home: 73.4% Basket, 36.6% Outside, 45.2% Basket Rate, 45.7% Outside Rate
Away: 65.7% Basket, 35.2% Outside, 40.4% Basket Rate, 49.9% Outside Rate
If you ever had the crazy idea that LeBron James takes too many outside shots on the road, and is less efficient in shooting those shots, here is your exact proof. If you ever had the crazy idea that LeBron James takes too many shots overall on the road, and is a less complete team player (not saying that he still is not phenomenal, just not as unreal) then here is your exact proof as well. Terry Pluto had a phenomenal story about this idea recently in the Plain Dealer as well, and to all fans, it must seem obvious that the Cavaliers have not played great basketball on the road thus far this season. One huge reason why is because of the play of LeBron James, as this minor change in his playing abilities is probably the same change needed between consecutive Conference Semifinal exits and a potential NBA Championship.
Boot Up: NBA Statistics – The following statistics are ones that I often report in my articles about the NBA or about NCAA Basketball. Many of these statistics are borrowed from other Web sites, and I have those linked in the following titles. Coming up soon, I will detail what some of the base averages are for these different statistics, to give you the reader a basic sense of what is average, incredible or sub-par in these different categories:
ESPN Rating per 48 minutes:
(PTS + REB + (1.4 * AST) + STL + (1.4 * BLK) – (0.7 * TO) + FGM + (0.5 * TPM) – 0.8 * (FGA-FGM) + (0.25 * FTM) – 0.8 * (FTA-FTM)) / (MP * 48)
Jacob Rating per 48 minutes:
(PTS + REB + (1.4 * AST) + STL + (1.4 * BLK) – (0.7 * TO) + FGM + (0.5 * TPM) – 0.8 * (FGA-FGM) + (0.25 * FTM) – 0.8 * (FTA-FTM) – (0.4 * PF)) / (MP * 48)
Non-Point Rating per 48 minutes (Jacob Rating minus scoring):
Jacob Rating – (PTS / (MP * 48)) or the full formula of (REB + (1.4 * AST) + STL + (1.4 * BLK) – (0.7 * TO) + FGM + (0.5 * TPM) – 0.8 * (FGA-FGM) + (0.25 * FTM) – 0.8 * (FTA-FTM) – (0.4 * PF)) / (MP * 48)
Floor Index Counter per 48 minutes (FIC48):
(PTS + ORB + (0.75 * DRB) + AST + STL + BLK – (0.75 * FGA) – (0.375 * TPA) – TO – (0.5 * PF)) / (MP * 48)
Game Score per 48 minutes:
(PTS + (0.4 * FGM) + (0.7 * ORB) + (0.3 * DRB) + STL + (0.7 *AST) + (0.7 * BLK) – (0.7 * FGA) – 0.4 * (FTA – FTM) – (0.4 * PF) – TO) / (MP * 48)
Win Score per 48 minutes:
(PTS + REB + STL + 0.5 * AST + 0.5 * BLK – FGA – TO – 0.5 * FTA – 0.5 * PF) / MP * 48
Usage Rate per 48 minutes (non-adjusted):
(FGA + (FTA * 0.44) + (AST * 0.33) + TO) / MP * 48
Free Throw Rate:
(100 * FTA) / FGA
Efficiency Shooting Percentage (Points per field goal attempt):
(2 * (FGM – TPM) + 3 * TPM) / FGA
PTS – Points
REB – Total Rebounds
ORB – Offensive Rebounds
DRB – Defensive Rebounds
AST – Assists
STL – Steals
BLK – Blocks
TO – Turnovers
PF – Personal Fouls
FGM – Total Field Goals Made
FGA – Total Field Goals Attempted
TPM– 3-Point Field Goals Made
TPA– 3-Point Field Goals Attempted
FTM – Free Throws Made
FTA – Free Throws Attempted
MP – Minutes Played
Boot Down: Big Bad Musketeers – Here we are, Tuesday, February 11, the day before the much-awaited Xavier-Dayton game. As a freshman at the University of Dayton tomorrow is just one of those dates that upperclassmen circle on your unnecessary $15 planner you bought at the bookstore during orientation. Last season, the Xavier Musketeers beat the Dayton Flyers en route to an Elite Eight appearance, and an NIT quarterfinal loss for the Flyers. Last season, Dayton started the season 13-1 in non-conference play, went 8-6 outside of Xavier, and managed not to go the NCAA Tournament despite being as high as #13 in the nation at one point during the year. This battle in Dayton has major implications for both teams yet again this season, as both are coming off upsetting conference losses.
The Xavier Musketeers come into the game tonight night as the #14 team in both the Associated Press and Coaches Poll, and have been in the top 25 off both polls for the past twelve weeks. They fell from #9 in both polls last week, because of a surprising 72-68 loss at Duquesne where the Dukes shot 81 percent from the field in the first half. Xavier has a record of 22-3 in the conference over the last two seasons, and has won their last two games in Dayton by the average score of 75 to 59. Looking at their scouting report over at Ken Pomeroy’s brilliant Web site, they are a phenomenal three-point shooting team that gets to the free throw line with incredible efficiency, and are one of the best defenses against two-pointers in the nation.
On the other hand, the Dayton Flyers are certainly in control of their own destiny in terms of the NCAA Tournament as they are 21-3 with only seven more games remaining in the regular season. Their loss on Sunday was at Charlotte where a miserable shooting performance in the second half brought them down to a 79 to 66 defeat. While the Flyers remain one of the best defensive teams in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy, they have only played one team in the top 50 of his efficiency rankings. Their phenomenal and unexpected win over Marquette in the Chicago Invitational is even more impressive now, as the Golden Eagles are currently 20-3 and in a virtual tie atop the Big East. The Flyers use their bench much more often than Xavier (and much more than just about any team in the nation,) and are great at rebounding, getting to the free throw line and controlling their own turnovers on offense.
With all of that said, here are my revised predictions for the rest of the Atlantic-10 conference season:
I no longer expect Dayton to finish second in the conference, as St. Joseph’s has barely past them in the standings thus far. Dayton had the opportunity to move into a first-place tie with Xavier Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, but could not convert in the clutch. Dayton probably will lose two or three of their five toughest games remaining, including the home game tomorrow against Xavier, road trips to St. Louis, Rhode Island and Xavier, and a home game against St. Joseph’s. In fact, Ken Pomeroy only gives Dayton about a 30% chance of winning the big game tomorrow, and they are even the three point underdogs at their home court.
Here are my predictions from January 7, at the very beginning of the conference season:
Overall, I did not do too horrible in predicting the Atlantic-10, especially when you consider this is the first time in my life that I ever used my winning percentage tools to predict conference play….
Some of the major things I was wrong on earlier during the year were over-stating Charlotte’s performance from last season, and being completely off on St. Joseph’s. Charlotte finished tied for fourth in the conference last season, but have been way off thus far in 2008-2009. They are only 2-10 this season against teams ranked in the top 100 in RPI, while last season they were 8-9 in that same category. St. Joseph’s had a rough start to the season this year losing to Holy Cross, Texas, Alabama, Villanova and Creighton early on, but since the beginning of conference play have feasted on some lower caliber-teams than they played in the non-conference schedule.