Monday, June 30, 2008

Villanova Efficiency and Usage 2007-08

When I wrote the "Villanova Efficiency and Usage" post last October I knew I would eventually revisit those ideas with this past season's data in hand. Ken Pomeroy's ideas on how to use efficiency and usage stats (from "Effective Usage" over at the Basketball Prospectus) to understand an individual team member's roles during play helped me understand why some of my player evaluations and projections from the 2006-07 season were wrong. With time in the off season to work with last season's data I was curious to see how accurate his analysis of player usage was (with respect to the Wildcats) and I have reproduced the rotation from last season in the table below, providing percentage of playing time (Min%), percentage of possessions (Pos%) and offensive rating (ORtg) for all seasons in which the squad member has played (again >10% of the minutes available at their position -- Min% >10.0). To provide some context I have also included the 2005-07 Min%/Poss%/ORtg statistics for the three seniors, Mike Nardi, Bump Sheridan and Curtis Sumpter, who graduated in the spring of 2007.





S. Clark21.512.2104.060.116.3106.850.916.8111.1









Three questions going into last season...
1. How would the team fill the roles of Curtis Sumpters & Mike Nardi? Sumpter had, by graduation, evolved from a back-to-the-basket HS center to a versatile wing. As demonstrated throughout the 2004-05 season he was an inside-out player, as adept at backing down a defender in the paint as he was stepping out and dropping a 3. The 2006-07 (rehabilited from 2 knee surgeries within a 7 month period...) version was a less mobile (and still rehabbing) outside-in version of the 2004-05 edition, a bit more inclined to take the jumper and avoid the contact of the low post. He had attained borderline star status as a go-to guy who was highly efficient (ORtg of 113.2). And a challenge to replace. Mike was a highly efficient regular type player. His role (as represented by Poss%) had grown consistently in his last 2 seasons with the team. Arriving on the Mainline as a point guard with an ok outside shot who often preferred to set up his teammates, Nardi re-engineered his game to become a "take-em" style player who could attack off the dribble or (as he was eventually used most often) a catch and shoot sniper.
2. How would the freshmen (true and redshirt) fit with the returning players? The entering players did not fit the mold of the players leaving. Pena had more range than Bump (but not the technique); Fisher a classic point guard with a decent jump shot, given to distribute and penetrate, was not a Mike Nardi; Corey Stokes had a much better jump shot, but few inside skills to match Sumpter. Malcolm Grant benefited from a year of prep school, but was in the same 6-0 to 6-2 height range as Reynolds and Fisher. These four had to fit with a collection of players who, aside from Reynolds (himself a sophomore), had more experience as role players and setting up their teammates than scoring (and leading) themselves.
3. How "up" is Scottie Reynold's upside? He came to the Mainline, an MDAA guard with the reputation as a scoring point guard, the latest in a growing line of guards. As the season progressed Scottie's role in the offense expanded, in part because he was indeed a creative scorer; in part because a series of in season injuries to Nardi and Shane Clark eliminated established scoring options. Reynolds stepped up, and with a number of outstanding individual efforts, managed to earn the Big East Newcomer of the Year award.

Most attempts to classify a player's role use the individual's playing time as the yardstick for classification. Players who start are "regulars/starters"; regular members of the rotation, but tend to see limited minutes (or are used in specific situations) are "role players"; players who start, get lots of minutes and are the primary scoring options for the team are "go-to guys/stars"; players who rarely see the court except at garbage time are "deep-bench (marginal?) players". While role can be the nexus between performance and playing time (team members who play well get more playing time, etc.), that does not (as explained by Pomeroy) necessarily describe a player's function with respect to the entire team. Shifting focus (temporarily) from playing time (or Min%) to possessions allows for a similar classification system, but one that provides a little different insight into how the players function with respect to the team. Using the possessions from the table above, the 2007-08 Wildcats could be classified this way:

Go-to Guys/StarsPoss% >25 or so...
Scottie ReynoldsCarry on from 2006-07
Corey FisherPoss% tailed off at season's end
Regulars/StartersPoss% About 20%, range 17 - 23
Malcolm GrantDeclining minutes by season's end
Antonio PenaFreshman stepped in for injured Drum
Casiem DrummondGreatest improvement...until injury
Dante CunninghamPoss% improved again
Corey StokesBig improvement in Feb & Mar
Role PlayersPoss% About 15, range 13 - 17
Dwayne AndersonReshaped his role, and got more PT
Reggie ReddingAnother season as a complement player
Marginal PlayersPoss% About 10, range <13...
NoneUnusual development...for Villanova

Not having a marginal player jumped out at me right away. The Wildcats have always had a Bump Sheridan-type player -- someone who sets the screens, gets the rebounds and takes the charge (but doesn't shoot or handle the ball much, beyond passing to someone else). There was no "glue guy" type on the squad last season. Every player who logged more than 10% of the available minutes at their position also had at least "role player" type Poss%. More than half of the Big East teams had at least one "Marginal" player. Then I noticed that there was no "star" on the squad either, another unusual development for Villanova. The "star" has >25 (or so) of the possessions and a high ORtg. The star gets and converts possessions points at an efficient rate. In 2006-07 it was Curt Sumpter -- note his ORtg of 113.7, a top 500 level performance. The 2007-08 squad had 2 go-to type players (Reynolds and Fisher), but neither was extremely efficient at converting those possessions into points. Villanova's team offensive rating was 104.9, historically a bit low. Note that Reynolds was just a bit better (105.7) than the team's raw rating. Fisher's relatively inefficient rating would (94.1) not have been a problem per se (note Reggie Redding's 99.7 rating), but he took 1 in 4 available possessions when he was on the floor, but converted at a rate less than 1 point per possession, creating a drag on the overall team efficiency. An offensive rating <100 is not unusual for a freshman (see Pena in 2007-08, Redding in 2006-07, etc.), and given Fisher's gained experience, look for his efficiency to be an area of noticible improvement next season.

Casiem Drummond's numbers illustrate the problem with statistics for season-long performances. Comparing his numbers from 2006-07 with those from 2007-08 it appears he made very good (but not impact-type) progress this past season. Improving his ORtg by just over 5% even as he nearly doubled his playing time and pushed his Poss% to the 95th percentile (15.0 up to 21.4). Yet at the time of the first snapshot (12-3-07) Drum's Min% was 53.8, his Poss% 21.0, his Shot% 18.6, his ORtg 112.8 very impressive even accounting for the out of conference level of the competition. As the chart below shows, Casiem's Min% declined consistently (he appeared in only 3 of the 12 games that followed Penn on 12-1-07) until early February. While he appeared in 2 games following Penn, and no one officially acknowledged his injury until he missed the Hartford game on 12-14, the crashing minutes and steady eFG%, Poss% and Shot% suggest he was injured (most likely) right around the time of the Penn game just before or possibly just after. He returned to action in the second Pitt game (1-30-08) and appeared in every game during that 7 game stretch. His Min% rose during that period, but note also his eFG% declined even as his minutes were rising. Clearly still hampered by the foot injury he logged double digit minutes in only of the last 10 games of the season, appearing not at all in 5 of them.

This season held some promise as Clark's ORtg from 2006-07 showed he could be efficient as a scorer. At 16.2, his Poss% rate held a 50% probability of growing to nearly 20, regular/starter level involvement in the offense. Like 2006-07, he again started quickly, but faded in the middle portion of the season as he battled a malaise described by the staff as "fatigue" -- see chart below. Clark's playing time peaked in the 1-21 snapshot (just after the first Syracuse game) and his minutes declined steadily through February. His minutes bottomed out in early March, while his possessions (Poss%) and effective field goal percentage (eFG%) bottomed out in the 2-25 snapshot. The 10% overall decline in Min% from 2006-07 to 2007-08 is troubling, as it raises concerns (for me) about his durability. I suspect that next season, if the same trend holds, Stokes and Anderson will be able to pick up that time. Boosting his ORtg by 4%, even as his Poss% remained (more or less) steady is a good sign, but he did not grow into either Nardi's nor Sumpter's vacated roles.

The 2007-08 team did not feature a "star" level player, the most efficient scorers (Grant, Clark and Anderson) were either role players (Anderson and Clark) or very limited by minutes. Note there is no indication that Grant, had he received additional playing time, would have been able to maintain his level of efficiency. Though it will be interesting to see how he does in the ACC. The largest (proportionately) possession consumers did not either significantly outperform the rest of the team (Reynolds, Cunningham) or constituted a drag (of varying degrees) on the team's overall performance (Fisher and Pena). Given Fisher and Pena (and Stokes...) were freshmen, their efficiencies are not surprising. They will get better with time. The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.

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