This is going to come off as the ultimate form of nitpicking. If I didn’t think it was so strange — and I’ve gone over it many times in my head — I wouldn’t even bother posting on it. But he we are, trying to make sense of something as trivial and meaningless as piecing together the big twist in Saw IX.
Jared Wade, of the always excellent Hardwood Paroxysm, was at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference yesterday and wrote a good summation of the conversation about how teams use statistics. On the panel, among others, were Mark Cuban and Kevin Pritchard. Here’s how the piece ended:
Much to the chagrin of Cuban, Pritchard recounted a late-game play between his Blazers and Cuban’s Mavs in an earlier match up this year that showed how these things can effect the games on a day-to-day basis. With Portland needing a big hoop with seconds left, Juwan Howard hit a 15-footer that sealed the win. Knowing Howard’s shooting percentages and tendencies from different locations on the floor, Cuban couldn’t believe that Juwan hit that shot. That was shot he never makes, and it was a shot Cuban would love to see Howard take all game long.
Pritchard told Cuban that the look on his face after it went in was priceless. “That’s the only 15-footer he’s hit this year,” said Cuban.
“He’s hit two,” said Pritchard.
And whether or not that number is an exact figure that Pritchard can pull off the top of his head or just a quant-centric joke, I think it’s safe to say that Dorkapalooza isn’t just for dorks anymore.
Clearly, this is Andre Miller’s 52-point Universe-shaking performance on January 30th. In that game, Howard hit one shot, a 16-footer with 44.9 second remaining, one which served as the game winner in overtime. It was an off-the-dribble, left-wing bailout jumper, contested by Dirk Nowitzki. That night, Howard took three shots, all in the 16-23 foot range (according to Hoopdata.com). Nothing about it seemed strange, in light of Miller’s voodoo magic or not.
Now, in 2010, Howard is shooting 56.5 percent from 10-15 feet on 0.8 attempts per game. In December, when his minutes sky-rocketed to 21.1 minutes per game, he shot 76.9 percent from that range on 0.9 attempts per game. In January, as his attempts rose to 1.5 per game, he shot 45.5 percent. In February he cooled off, shooting 28.6 percent on 0.5 attempts.
From 16-23 feet out, Howard has been more consistent, with lower highs and higher lows. December: 47.6 percent on 1.4 attempts. January: 45.2 percent on 2.8 attempts. February: 46.7 percent on 2.3 attempts.
Howard did shoot between 30 and 40 percent from those two ranges during his time spent not playing (7.0 minutes per game) in Dallas in 2008, which might be what Cuban remembers, but the year before, when he played 26.6 minutes a game for Houston, Howard shot 37 percent from 10-15 and 45 percent from 16-23.
I’m not sure where from those numbers you get that Howard doesn’t have a mid-range jump shot. Maybe it was because it was contested, off of one dribble, and Synergy’s numbers don’t rate Howard well in those situations, but even if that is so, it is still an odd example to use in front of a room full of stat-heads. Maybe it was just an inside dig at Kevin Pritchard. Maybe he’s bitter about Miller’s happy dance. Maybe I’m just being a twit. It’s not like it matters at all. Still, it is strange.