Situational Statistics: This Year's Small Forward Crop

Situational Statistics: This Year's Small Forward Crop
Apr 24, 2009, 07:43 pm
One of the weaker positions in this year’s draft, the small forward spot is one of the hardest to analyze due to the diversity of the prospects available. Demar DeRozan headlines a group of players facing a lot of questions about how their games will translate to the next level.

Once again, we’ll be using our access to Synergy Sports Technology’s wealth of data to examine the situational strengths and weaknesses of a group of players to identify potential issues, make comparisons, and draw some conclusions moving into the draft season.

-Situational Statistics: This Year's Center Crop
-Situational Statistics: This Year's Power Forward Crop
-Situational Statistics: This Year's Shooting Guard Crop
-Situational Statistics: This Year's Point Guard Crop

The small forward position offers a number of unique challenges when attempting to analyze it thoroughly due to the fact that many of the prospects at this spot are playing in foreign Leagues and that small forwards play so many different roles for any given team.

With that in mind, we find a number of players skewing the data in one direction or another based on how they function in their team’s offense. To give you an insight into the difficulties that we ran into, consider the differences in the statistics gathered for a European point-forward like Emir Preldzic, an interior-minded bruiser like Tasmin Mitchell, and a finesse scorer like Chase Budinger. Perhaps the most important thing we’ve realized from our analysis is how a player’s fit in a particular system can make them more or less attractive in the eyes of a given team.

Rather than making broad observations like we did in our last piece, we’ve decided that it would be more beneficial to talk about each individual in an effort to understand where they fit and where they would be limited.


• Whichever team drafts Demar DeRozan will be picking him in the hopes that he’ll growing into their system, and not because he’s already a great fit.

Unlike every other player in our analysis, DeRozan doesn’t make a living in any one situation, though he is one of the most efficient players on our list. In our last piece we discussed the new %Score stat which indicates how frequently a player scored a point based on their logged possessions. DeRozan ranks first amongst the nineteen players on our list at 54.4%. However, he ranks only 16th in overall PPP. This disparity stems from the fact that he shoots nearly three less three-pointers per game than the average player on our list (4.3 vs. 1.3) and ranks last in terms of three-point percentage at just 16.7%. He doesn’t get to the free throw line at a great rate to compensate and only converts on a mediocre 65% of his attempts once there. He makes up for that by shooting 49% from the field on his isolation opportunities (4th), knocking down his catch and shoot jumpers at a 43% clip (6th), and hitting 41% of his pull ups as well (4th). Clearly DeRozan has a solid knack for operating in the mid-range area, which should serve him well in the more spacing-friendly NBA. He’s also a good offensive rebounder—a testament to his excellent physical tools.

Outside of those areas, DeRozan proves a very average player across the board. His defensive rebounding totals sit just below the mean as does his assists numbers, PPP working off of cuts (1.22) and as a finisher around the rim in general (1.14). He sits a bit further below the average in a number of other situations including spot up (1.02 vs. 0.93) and transition opportunities (1.19 vs 1.03). Considering that he didn’t do almost any posting up (0.3 Pos/G) or shooting coming off of screens (0.7 Pos/G), the weight teams put on how significantly they believe he can improve his range and ability to improve his efficiency in a defined system will likely determine where he lands on draft day. A freak athlete, DeRozan has some natural offensive talent, but he’s essentially a blank canvas in terms of what kind of player he can be in the long run. Whoever picks him will obviously need to be patient, although he may more upside that arguably any wing player in this draft.

Chase Budinger projects as role-player almost anywhere, but would be a real asset if he was as consistent as he is versatile.

Outside of his great frame and leaping ability, Budinger’s biggest strength is just how many different things he does well. His assist numbers rank him fourth on our list, his 1.25 PPP (points per possession) as a finisher ranks him third, and he’s amongst the top-5 in Pos/G from catch and shoot jumpers (5.2), pull up jumpers (2.1), transition opportunities (3.1), basket cuts (1.9), and shots off of screens (2). While he’s getting his touches from all over the place, he doesn’t rank in top-5 in PPP in any of those situations. His %TO (12.6%) and %SF (possessions he drew fouls, 12%) are both average as well, since neither figure skews his PPP statistical, it appears that Budinger is a jack of all trades, but a master of none, except possibly his spot-up 3-point shooting. He situational stats indicate that he struggles creating his own shot, pulling up off the dribble, and making perimeter jumpers with a hand in his face.

Though Budinger doesn’t stand out in any particular area, there are definitely some things to work with. Considering he won’t be relied upon to score in the NBA anywhere near as heavily as he was at Arizona, his efficiency should improve. His athleticism will come in very handy in terms of finishing around the basket and running the floor in transition, and his court vision and basketball IQ will help him become a solid facilitator in half-court offenses. This all combined means he does not necessarily have to become a one-dimensional player in the NBA. The team that drafts him can likely expect him to adjust to the NBA fairly quickly considering his experience and fundamentals. Much like DeRozan, Budinger fits in a number of systems, but while DeRozan needs overall polish to reach his potential, Budinger needs specialization to become a high-quality role-player. That doesn’t include anything regarding his defense, though, which we will explore further at a later stage.

• Austin Daye could be a first round pick if he stays in the draft based on his current production and potential, but he stands to gain more than nearly any other player by improving his game and returning to school.

Daye uses the third least possessions amongst college players on our list at 12.6 per game, but his 49% shooting percentage in logged games places him above average on our list. At 6’10, Daye’s 63% shooting as a finisher and 44% on both catch and shoot and pull up jumpers should give him excellent potential in the eyes of NBA decision-makers. However, his body gives them reason for pause, and will make them wonder if he can translate his talents to the much more physically demanding style of the NBA.

Landing in the top-5 in PPP (points per possession) on our list in spot ups (1.11), fast breaks (1.28), and isolations (.82) while adding .7 PPP in 1.6 Pos/G in the post, Daye is able to operate in a number of different scenarios—which really highlights his skill-level and versatility. His lack of strength obviously is hindering him from drawing many fouls or being able to utilize his excellent size in the post more effectively (he converted just 12/38 field goal opportunities down there), but there is no question that he is an exceptionally unique and talented prospect offensively. With three key players graduating, Daye could very easily use this summer to test himself against better talent and add weight before returning to Gonzaga to take a shot at the lottery. From a situational point of view, Daye obviously has distinctive tools, but he could boost his stock by simply adding weight before returning to school this summer since in many ways, the potential of his body is holding back the potential of his game.

• Sam Young has an awesome profile for a defender at the next level, but his ability to translate some of his situation skills to the next level will determine how effectively he can display them.

Blessed with athleticism, strength, and an excellent body, Sam Young looks the part and has the work ethic to be a defensive specialist at the next level. Certain parts of his offensive game fit the description of an effective role-player as well. Young was a real go-to guy in college, ranking second on our list in possessions used (17.8) while posting an efficient PPP of 1.03 (5th). Most of his scoring comes from two specific areas: his finishing ability and his catch and shoot jump shot. Around the rim, Young is ranked 4th in this group at 6.5 Pos/G and is 2nd at 1.27 PPP. His 44% shooting in catch and shoot situations is good for 4th and he ranks 3rd in terms of possessions at 5 per game. If he improves the range on his jumper to acclimate the 37.2% three-point percentage he posted as a senior past the NBA-line, he could become a viable offensive role-player who is an even better defender, a la James Posey.

The fact that he shot 49% from the field on 1.9 Pos/G in the post is a nice compliment to his ability to impact the game with the possessions his teammates create for him, and really highlights the toughness and physicality he brings to the table. Where Young struggles is in his ability to create his own shot , converting on just 17/56 or 30% of his isolation opportunities. His ball-handling skills don’t allow him to be much of a threat in transition or operating on the pick and roll, and he is not particularly prolific in terms of his ability to shoot off the dribble.

No one will ever know how high Victor Claver’s stock could have rose had he not gotten hurt, and we’ll probably have to see if he can bounce back next season before knowing how to fully evaluate his NBA potential.

Claver was the definition of an opportunist before losing the vast majority of his season to a knee injury. Finishing at the rim at a 60% clip (very solid in the competitive Spanish ACB) and shooting 40% from three in catch and shoot situations, the 1988-born forward appeared to be turning the corner on his immense potential. Claver’s midrange game is still lacking, as evidenced by his .44 PPP on pull up jumpers, but the biggest concerns surrounding his game stem from the fact that he turned the ball over on 22.6% of his logged possession in half court settings and was fouled on only 6.4% of his shots, ranking him as the most turnover prone and the second-worst player at drawing fouls in our group. It’s pretty clear what he needs to work on the most this summer—his ball-handling skills. Considering the serious setback he endured, all Claver needs to do to keep his stock high going into next summer is prove that he hasn’t lost any of his considerable athleticism and continue shooting the ball at an excellent clip.

DaJuan Summers has some very obvious physical tools and upside, but he will need to make some serious adjustments to his game to improve his efficiency.

His overall PPP of .96 is just below average, and much of his inconsistency can be attributed to how many catch and shoot jumpers he forced with a hand in his face. Summers took 54 guarded looks, hitting only 14 of them, but hit 45% of his 60 open looks. Considering those guarded attempts account for almost 20% of his shots and he finishes at a below average rate around the rim (1.16 PPP), Summers needs to improve his shot selection and learn how to use his terrific body around the rim in order to improve his efficiency. The fact that he doesn’t do much off the dribble either, being a very poor ball-handler, makes his jumper (clearly his biggest strength) that much more important to his offensive game. He isn’t overly efficient or weak in many other areas, and does draw fouls at a slightly above average rate (13.1%), but needs to show more versatility to complement the virtues and compensate for the weaknesses he displays from the perimeter.

The immense amount of work Danny Green put into his jumper has shown this season, but some of his weaknesses continue to stand out.

Green spent last summer completely overhauling his shooting form, and he ranks as the fifth best catch and shoot player when left open in our sample at 1.34 PPP. Though his consistency dips to a questionable .85 PPP when he has a hand in his face, Green’s .91 PPP on pull-up jumpers help compensate for that. Playing for the best open-court team in college basketball obviously has its perks, his 105 transition opportunities (nearly 20 attempts than the next higher player) definitely jump off the page, although his average athleticism and ball-handling skills only allowed him to convert on 50% of his field goal attempts in these situations—which ranks amongst the worst in this small forward class. He struggles in isolation situations and running the pick and roll for these same reasons, and only converted on 71 of his 135 shots around the rim, for a dismal 53%. While his shortcomings are pretty obvious, he still brings quite a bit to the table in terms of his role-player potential, being able to make open shots and play lock-down defense, which is what he’s most known for.

• Omri Casspi and Marko Keselj are surprisingly effective around the rim for European players, but reach that end in very different ways.

Casspi, an athletic forward from Maccabi Tel Aviv, has gotten 45 of his 83 logged possessions as a finisher at the rim, with 25% of his total shots coming transition (2nd) and another 12.9% off of basket cuts (3rd). He’s shooting 64% from the field on his interior looks, a fantastic percentage that accounts for the fact that he ranks 2nd in terms of the percentage of used possessions he was able to score on (52.3%). While the sample size remains very limited, Casspi’s numbers come only from his play in the very strong Euroleague, which is impressive.

Keselj, a Serbian native playing alongside a number of other prospects with Crvena Zvedza, has finished 26 of his 38 finishing attempts (1.33 PPP 1st), or 68% (1st). He also ranks 1st in transition shooting percentage at 76% (19/25). Keselj takes more than twice as many threes as Casspi (2.8 per game), and though he shoots only 36% on his catch and shoot jumpers, he ranks first for being fouled on 18% of his possessions. While Synergy has 21 of the 35 games Keselj has played in on file, the sample size again looks limited due to the tiny role Keselj plays for his team. Considering his physical attributes and style of play, though, he could be an interesting prospect to keep an eye on if he continues to improve his perimeter jumper.

• Vladimir Dasic has a unique game for a European forward.

The Montenegrin forward with excellent size uses nearly four more possessions than his nearest European counterpart at 14.5 per game. He is the first option for a young Buducnost Podgorica team, and though his .88 overall PPP isn’t great, there are a couple of unusual aspects of his resume. He gets 21.9% of his touches on isolations (1st) and he gets 7.5 Pos/G as a finisher (1st) a huge figure for a European player. Unfortunately, Dasic ranks last in overall PPP at .88 and his .85 PPP on unguarded jumpers ranks second to last. It’s impressive to see a player his size be able to create his own shot and get to the basket the way Dasic does, but he needs to become a much more efficient player if he’ll be able to translate his talent to a higher level of competition.

Quick Hitters:

-Lee Cummard ranks as the best pull up shooter in our sample by a huge margin. Not only did he take the fourth most attempts (69), but he made 55% of them (38), which is more than 11% points better than the next best player.

-Micah Downs is an excellent catch and shoot player (1.41 PPP unguarded), but he struggles mightily when he has to adjust his shot at all (.73 PPP guarded).

-Tasmin Mitchell is the second most effective catch and shoot player at 48%, but he takes only 0.5 three-pointers per game. He also gets 5.5 possessions per game in post up situations (1st), and scores at least one point on 50.5% of his opportunities in half court sets (3rd). His abilities on the block coupled with the fact that he only got 5% of his possessions in transition make him one of the more interesting players in our analysis.

-Slovenian point-forward Emir Preldzic is the only true point-forward on our list, leading the group in assists per 40-minutes pace adjusted at 4.4, got 20.3% of his possessions running the pick and roll (1st, 0.96 PPP), and averaged .97 PPP on pull up jumpers. Though he’s solid in some situations, Preldzic ranked last in FG% in catch and shoot situations at just 11%. The talent he displays with the ball is extremely intriguing at his size (6-9), but his horrible efficiency numbers leave a lot to be desired moving forward.

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