Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Appreciating Brandon Roy: Shot Distribution

It is obvious to most what Brandon Roy means to the Blazers franchise. Around this blog we like to call him Everything. His actions on and off the court have affirmed his status as a budding superstar. Roy possesses that rare combination of talent, work ethic, and awareness that leads speculators at sports bars throughout Rip City to summarize him as one who "just gets it." No disagreement here.

His resume certainly seems to be steadily building towards greatness. Year one; rookie of the year, Year two; All-Star. So far year three has Roy performing at his best level yet, and he seems likely to steer a very young team into the playoffs.

Yet Roy is rarely the player that has the tongues of Rip City wagging. We can blame a combination of factors for this. There is a lot of excitement surrounding newer Blazer arrivals, the immediate production of Rudy and constant monitoring of Oden's progress seem to be more intriguing at the moment. Roy also has a steady and quiet type of game, sort of how Joe Johnson or Tim Duncan seem to kill softly. Only the most brilliant and immediate heroics occasionally refocus our attention on Roy, and even then it is fleeting. Roy's greatness is becoming so consistent and familiar, we sort of take it for granted.

There are a great many ways to appreciate Brandon Roy: for his leadership, his growing ability, or what he means to a community that so greatly missed players that were both talented and decent human beings. Today I'm focusing on a small, very focused thing.

Brandon Roy's Shot Selection

Take a quick look at Roy's shot distribution over at 82games:

Jump: 65%
Close: 31%
Dunk: 2%
Tips: 1 %
Inside: 35%

Nothing surprising, but look how Roy's distribution changes in the clutch. Clutch statistics are defined here as the 4th quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, and neither team ahead by more than five:

Jump: 46% = -19 change
Close: 42% = +11 change
Dunk: 4% = +2 change
Tips: 8% = +7 change
Inside: 54% = +19 change

Roy shifts his shot selection dramatically in clutch time. Only 65% of Roy's shots are jumpers overall, which is pretty low for a two-guard. (For comparison: 81% of Joe Johnson's shots are jumpers, 83% for Richard Hamilton, and 74% for Mamba.) Yet in the clutch Roy is even more determined to get to the rim. In these situations over half of his shots come from inside! No surprise he is fourth among guards in total free-throw attempts.

To further illustrate the uniqueness of this aspect of Roy, we can compare him to a player with a similar overall shot distribution, and with whom Roy is occasionally compared to, Dwyane Wade:

Jump: 63%
Close: 27%
Dunk: 9%
Tips: 2%
Inside: 37%

Now lets look at Wade in clutch time:

Jump: 75% = +12 change
Close: 13% = -14 change
Dunk: 13% = +4 change
Tips: 0% = -2 change
Inside: 25% = -12 change

While they share similar overall shot selection, in clutch time the Roy and Wade divert dramatically. Wade, even with his renowned ability to finish and/or draw fouls around the rim, attacks even more from the outside.

Which is better? Conventional wisdom of FG% would seem to favor Roy's approach. But a look at Wades FG% in the clutch, even from the outside, argue against that. It seems to me that the approaches of both of these players are working quite well for them.

What I take away from this is that Roy gets inside shots off at an exceptional rate for a guard, especially in the clutch. Yet it seems to me this facet of his game goes relatively under appreciated. Perhaps this is because his finishes are less likely to be punctuated with an electric dunk or an impressive acrobatic layup than those of his colleagues.

This is just one small way in which Roy is a special player, "special" meaning both unique and really, really good. Go Blazers.

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