Thursday, February 26, 2009

Clearing up some Blazer myths, volume I

You may not know it by the way some people act, but commonly held beliefs are often wrong. Some are unequivocally wrong, and some are only in need of a little clarification. This is true in every area of life and the world of Rip City is no exception. Here we attempt to fix some incorrect beliefs shared by a few of our Blazer comrades. The hope is that the next time you enter a sports bar that has a patron spewing moronic garbage, which will be next the time you enter a sports bar because said patron is always there, you will be ready:

Commonly held belief: LaMarcus Aldridge is bad at rebounding. May also be described in the statements "LaMarcus is soft" or "LaMarcus doesn't get after the boards because he just hangs around the perimeter."

Truth: We will probably never see LaMarcus average double figures in rebounds for a season. We may never see him get all that close. But labeling him a poor rebounder is incorrect. Attributing this lack of boards to a preference for hanging around the perimeter on offense is even more ridiculous. LaMarcus is actually one of the best offensive rebounders in the League. He is currently averaging 2.9 a game, good enough for 10th in the NBA. That puts him ahead of guys like Chris Bosh, Yao Ming, and Tim Duncan.

Where Aldridge's somewhat mediocre rebounding average comes from is the defensive end. (For the extra curious, he is currently #58 in the League in this category, between Rudy Gay and Vince Carter.) Reasons for this are open for discussion. In fact, if you get roped into a "LaMarcus can't rebound" conversation, direct it to this area and let me know what you come up with.

Revised belief: LaMarcus is an excellent offensive rebounder, but what's up with his low defensive rebounds?

Commonly held belief: The Spanish Connection (Rudy Fernandez y Sergio Rodriguez) is fun to watch. But they can't play defense.

Truth: I want you to guess, of all the players that have received regular minutes this season, which two Blazers cause the opponent's effective field goal percentage to drop the most when they are on the court. From the context of the question I really hope you guessed Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez. That would be correct.

When Rudy is on the court, the Blazers allow an effective field goal percentage of 48.5%. When he is off, that number jumps to 52.5%. With Sergio on the court the opponent has an effective field goal percentage of 48.3%, compared to 51.5% when he is on the bench. These differences surpass that of even the much loved defender Joel Przybilla, and are important when you consider that around 2/3 of all NBA games are decided by six points or less.

So where does this idea that defense goes out the window when the Spaniards are on the court come from? My guess is a combination of many sources that run from European basketball stereotypes to many fans' understanding of defense to comments from head coach Nate McMillan.

A general American view of European ball players is that they can't play defense. Rudy and Sergio are also both slight in build, which isn't helping perceptions. Additionally, it seems that many fans think of defense in terms of 1 on 1 situations. We have all seen Rudy and Sergio exploited in these scenarios, but as team defenders they are actually adequate. Rudy especially is solid at staying active and playing the passing lanes. Finally, one of the few specific topics coach Nate McMillan is willing to talk publicly about is Sergio's lack of ability to defend the pick and roll. I would not disagree with Nate, but I think some fans take his statements and apply them to Sergio's overall defensive skills. That would be wrong. The pick and roll, while vital, is far from representative all defensive situations.

Revised belief: Both Sergio and Rudy struggle in 1 on 1 defensive situations, and Sergio gets exploited in pick and rolls. But neither is terrible in terms of team defense. Actually, opponents shoot a lower percentage when either is on the floor than with any other Blazer.

Commonly held belief: Travis Outlaw sucks, or, Travis Outlaw is awesome.

Truth: Outlaw could be the most polarizing Blazer. I have heard convincing arguments that he must be traded, only to hear an equally strong counter that he is indispensable. Whatever camp you happen to be in, know that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Outlaw supporters can point out his eye-popping athleticism and impressive length. His detractors then respond that he is a chronic underachiever for not getting more from these gifts. He is a player that has some of the best clutch stats in the League but will cost the team a game because he forgot the play they were supposed to run.

Think about what Travis contributes now. He is one of the more capable scorers off the bench in the NBA. His pull-up jumper is nearly impossible to defend. He has even become a legitimate three point threat, shooting 40% from deep with twice as many makes per game as he had last season. Anything else he does that may stay in your memory, from getting a clutch block to forgetting who he is supposed to guard, is unpredictable. The good, the bad, the unpredictable, this is who Travis Outlaw is right now.

Revised belief: Travis Outlaw does good things and bad things.

That is all for now, but there are many more out there. Feel free to send in your ideas.


Bart King said...

A very, very welcome entry. Thanks for the insights! (Now, if I could just understand why Bayless wasn't sicced on Tony Parker last night, I'd really be getting somewhere...)

Jack Brown said...

Comments from people who have pictures featuring a human in a human sized hamster wheel thing are always welcome.

kevio said...







Anonymous said...

Questions on the Rudy and Sergio stats thing, how can you isolate them on the defense stats part? Meaning do your numbers account for them personally or take into account all 5 players on the floor? Could this also be attributed to the fact that they play on the 2nd team playing against opposition 2nd team? Just some thoughts.....


Anonymous said...

Other Anonymous: By that logic, Bayless should have a better defensive rating than those two. Also, Sergio started for 11 games. That's only 1/6 of the season currently, but because he played a lot more minutes it's a lot higher than that for Sergio.

And naturally it takes into account all 5 players on the floor, but you run into so many different combinations out on the court that each person will have isolated stats for themselves. This isn't hockey. (Oh that second unit stuff is hogwash too. All teams sub at different rates. Dallas with have Dirk or Terry in 100% of the game. Portland will have LA or Roy in 100% of most games. There are few/no true second units.)

Jack Brown said...

Anonymous #2 explains things much better than I could.

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