Pace, Shot Clock Usage, and The Value of Gilbert Arenas
The precursor to this post, ‘Washington Wizards Defense: is there any good news?’ statistically assessed whether or not the Wizards defense really improved in 2007-2008. Many per game statistical changes from year to year hinge on game pace, the average number of offensive and defensive possessions. According to KnickerBlogger.net, in 06-07, the Wizards ranked 5th in the NBA in pace at 92.9 total possessions per game. In 07-08, the Wizards dropped to 26th with 88.3. The previous post outlined that the slowed down pace was not significantly affected by improved defense.
So it had to be the offense, right?
We all know that Antonio Daniels, as admirable as his job at the point was with Gilbert Arenas out, isn’t made for the transition game. He’s not enough of an offensive threat to get teams focusing on him…..leading to open teammates and increased ball movement. Let me illustrate:
As goes the theory with defense, the earlier an attempt occurs in the shot clock, the better the Wizards shoot. The numbers below from 82games.com illustrate the averages for offensive shot clock usage during Eddie Jordan’s 5-year tenure at the helm.
>> Shot clock time elapsed: Wizards eFG%
0-10 seconds: 0.531
11-15 seconds: 0.453
16-20 seconds: 0.448
21+ seconds: 0.413
>> Without Gilbert Arenas pushing the rock, the Wizards shot clock usage within the first 10 seconds decreased dramatically between 06-07 and 07-08.
- Percentage of the total attempts went down from 41% to 34% (the previous 4-year average = 42.3%)
- Assisted baskets went down from 51% to 47% (the previous 4-year average = 50.3%)
- Points scored went down from 37.3 to 29.9 per game (the previous 4-year average = 36.7)
>> Furthermore – changes between 06-07 and 07-08:
- Percentage of the total attempts in the 11-15 second range (early offense) went down from 25% to 23%. (eFG% remained the same at 47.2%)
- Percentage of the total attempts in the 16-20 second range (generally when the initial offensive set breaks down) went up from 22% to 27%. (while eFG% rose from 45.8% to 46.5%, and percentage of assisted baskets went from 57% to 59%)
- Percentage of the total attempts in the 21+ second range went up from 12% to 16%. (while eFG% rose from 41% to 44%, and percentage of assisted baskets went from 49% to 55%)
>> We can deduce two things from the numbers:
- The Wizards need a point guard like Gilbert Arenas. He pushes the ball. He’s an offensive weapon. He gets the system in motion. Other players benefit from his presence.
- Without Gilbert Arenas, as the shot clock was ticking away past the eight second mark, the Wizards did a better job at moving the ball (increase in assisted baskets) which led to better looks at the basket (increase in eFG%).
Gilbert Arenas is worth keeping around as point guards like him are not a dime a dozen. Arenas’ conduciveness to an up-tempo style benefits the Wizards by giving them more FG attempts earlier in the shot clock, when history shows that those shots are more likely to go through the net. True, Arenas has a long way to go before he can effectively balance his killer scoring instinct with an ability to distribute the ball. In the end, I’d rather taken my chances with the potential of Gilbert’s growth because cutting losses and blowing the team up is much more of a risk.