This Week in Stupid: The Post-Standard Insults Your Intelligence III

This is a picture of me eating a hot dog. You're welcome.

Installment I: Limiting Turnovers
Installment II: Blanket Shooters

We're still picking apart this The Post-Standard piece that attempted to define the five keys to Syracuse's 9-0 start.  Yeah, I'm also stunned that I've stayed this lucid for so many words.  I really need a beer, by the way.  All this thinking makes my mouth thirsty and my belly ache for shenanigans and poor decision-making (like filing totally awesome Georgetown admission applications for "Hulk, The").

Right now we're going to talk about Syracuse's offense.  Icky, right?  Well, it needs to be done.  Here's the premise statement:

3. Forgo 3-pointers
SU has shot poorly from the arc (29 percent), so what’s the alternative? Shoot 2’s. From two-point range, the team is shooting 50 percent.
Example: Against Michigan State, SU limited itself to 11 attempts from 3-point range (making two).

And here's our backdrop:

METRIC OFFENSE NATIONAL AVERAGE

3PA/FGA

46.9 (345)

32.9

3-Point Distribution

38.6 (6)

27.2

3-Point Shooting Percentage

47.6 (277)

51.7

Assists Per Field Goal Made

13.8 (338)

21.1

Effective Field Goal Percentage

46.9 (345)

32.9

Two-Point Shooting Percentage

38.6 (6)

27.2

Offensive effective field goal percentage correlation to offensive efficiency: +71
Offensive effective field goal percentage correlation to defensive efficiency: +15

This is going to hurt.  All the bloody details are after the jump.

You know the drill by now: Bullet points, because narratives are for chumps. (I should note: Some of you may look at this and shake your head.  Just a warning.)

  • There's a strain of strategy that is starting to permeate basketball: It's OK to take lots of threes if they're good shots, as three-point makes are worth more than two-point makes.  This is irrespective of whether you're a particularly good three-point shooting team.  In essence, a good shot is a good shot, and a good shot from three is potentially more valuable than a good shot from two. I think Boeheim is partially on board with is given his recent "They are good shots, but we need to start making them" sentiments.
  • Let's extrapolate this a bit in Syracuse's circumstances.  Let's say the Orange takes 10 shots, all from beyond the arc.  At its conversion rate, that's about nine points on the scoreboard.  Conversely, let's say Syracuse takes 10 shots, all from two.  At its conversion rate, that's about 10 points on the board. You should see what I'm getting at with the first bullet point: For Syracuse, the problem isn't necessarily taking two-point attempts instead of three-point attempts; it's that the Orange can't convert from anywhere on the floor at a reasonable rate.
  • Just a quick point of fact: Shooting 50 percent from two is garbage, especially considering how tall this team is compared to the rest of the country (Syracuse is 29th in effective height and 4th in average height).  This length needs to convert from inside the paint and around 10 feet.
  • There is something to be said about taking more two-point attempts (or at least attempting to do so).  First, it means that Syracuse is trying to feed the post and, specifically, Rick Jackson.  Nobody has been better for the Orange this year than Jackson (we'll talk about him in a later installment).  Second, it plays to the team's strength: Taking it to the tin.  Third, it promotes the drive-and-dish and drive-and-dump (just look at the team's assist rate -- these guys are converting a lot due to the helper).  Fourth, with the emphasis on the drive, it allows the team to draw fouls and go to the stripe (we'll talk about getting to the line in the next installment).  So, these are all good things, but does it all mean that taking more two-point attempts has helped keep the Orange unbeaten . . .
  • . . . meh, kind of.  The Post-Standard cites the Michigan State game as evidence of forgoing the triple as leading to good things.  Here's the issue: Syracuse's offensive effective field goal percentage against the Spartans (46.3) was actually worse that its regular rate (47.9).  In fact, Syracuse's offensive efficiency in that game (106.0) was also worse than its season-long rate (112.6).  Now, you're going to say that the numbers aren't matching your eyes.  You're right, to a degree and it bears out like this -- Syracuse beat Michigan State because: 1) Michigan State gave Syracuse the paint to dunk all day; and 2) Syracuse owned its defensive glass (the Spartans' offensive rebounding rate for the season is 37.3 percent; against Syracuse, it was 23.9 percent (the Orange has a season-long defensive offensive rebounding rate of 31.2)).  So, it wasn't just a "two-pointers versus three-pointers" issue, it was: 1) how Syracuse was getting their two-point attempts; and 2) Syracuse playing above its head on the glass, restricting Michigan State's secondary offensive field goal opportunities.
  • Now, I'm still not freaked out about two's versus three's.  I've written about this before.  All I care about right now is shot selection and actually making buckets.  In five games this year, Syracuse has had an offensive effective field goal percentage less than 47 percent.  In seven games, the Orange's offensive efficiency was less than its season rate of 112.6 (bottoming out against Michigan with a chilly 87.6).  Take and make a good shot: That's the goal.  I do concede, however, that taking more two-point attempts helps achieve that goal if the ball is fed to Rick Jackson, the functional facilitator for good offensive things.

So, what did we learn?  Basically, the issue focus should be: Make and take good shots.  Right now for Syracuse, that means getting the ball into positions inside and taking the ball off of the perimeter with the dribble drive.

Final Decision: Kind of important, but it won't matter much unless the Orange can hit the attempts. The focus here is that it helps peripheral concerns.

Next Installment: Get to the Line

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