Home > Essays > Essay: Analyzing The Analysis—Percent Of Baskets Assisted

Essay: Analyzing The Analysis—Percent Of Baskets Assisted

If your enjoyment of basketball as a game runs deep into the whys and hows which explain the tendencies of every player, then you probably love advanced statistics. They exist to explain what’s unexplainable (at first) to the naked eye. They’re both fun to pour over when you’re bored and crucial instruments in deciding the limits of million dollar contract extensions.

The statistic being put under the microscope right now is one rarely—if ever—mentioned on television broadcasts or highlight reels. It’s awkward from the tongue and slightly confusing as to what it specifically constitutes, being that it’s so based on the subjective, but “percent of field goals assisted” (%ast) is underrated in its importance.

What the metric does is take the number of baskets a player made that were directly assisted by a teammate, and divide them by the total number of field goals made overall. What it tells us is why we study it. The general trends are what you’d expect; if the percentage is high then the player is most likely a big man who camps near the basket, or a spot shooter who comes off screens and without hesitation catches the ball then lets it go. A low percentage would go towards a player who already has the ball in his hands or is capable of creating offense on his own—a point guard, perhaps. The lower the number, the more independent (accountable?) the player.

Like most stats, this can be used to confirm what our eyes are already telling us (Russell Westbrook’s baskets are assisted just 17.4% of the time, which makes PERFECT sense given the fact that he so often is seen ending plays by himself, and off the top of my head I can’t even imagine a circumstance where he’s directly lent a helping hand). Unlike most stats, what it indicates is a player’s specific influence in the offense. It’s almost a compliment of usage percentage in that it tells you how the player is scoring, not just that he’s involved.

When it isn’t applied to the league’s better known superstars, we can really learn a lot about the common folk with this stat. How dependent he is on teammates opening doors for him? How autonomous is he as a player? How delusional? How confident? How scared or unwilling? It’s a great way to gauge aging players and see where they’re at in terms of how much their legs can give them. Are they passing off when three years ago they would’ve tried taking their man one on one?

Kevin Garnet is a great example. At 78.8% last season (up from 59% in 2007, his last year in Minnesota) he’s clearly benefiting from teammates like Rajon Rondo creating for him as he gets older. He’s spotting up from outside more on jumpers and providing less and less of his bread and butter, back to the basket turn around fade away from 15 feet. For crying out loud, in his short tenure with Boston, Krstic was lower. Another example is Tim Duncan, whose %ast has increased each year since 2007, the last time San Antonio won a championship.

Looking at Kobe Bryant—a player who, according to popular belief, had a down year last season (for him)—his number of baskets assisted by a teammate actually went down instead of up, which is rare for a player so late in his career. This could be used as evidence in the argument that Los Angeles’ greatest strength is its front court, and in order for them to win another championship with Bryant on board, their offense needs to transition into making their longtime franchise player more of a natural scorer within the team’s offense, instead of a one on one threat.

Those are a couple interesting takeaways I got from looking at the numbers. Here are some others:

  • In his rookie season, DeMarcus Cousins sandwiched himself between Jordan Farmar and Brandon Jennings with 37.6% of his baskets coming by way of an assist. The Kings’ coaching staff should take a look at this and make the proper changes in terms of how they run an offense with their talented yet volatile big man. (One suggestion might be eliminating all shots from 10-15 feet—he takes just over one per game and is assisted on only 20% of them—which would open things up for a more efficient offensive option.) Having Cousins create all this offense on his own may have been a result of Tyreke Evans’ foot injury, but if it doesn’t go down then there’s a big problem, especially for someone who turns the ball over at such a high rate and is somewhat of a blind bull when his eyes are set on the basket. Using %ast as a measurement tool for Cousins won’t launch the Kings into postseason contention, but it will make them more efficient if it’s closely watched.

 

  • Last year the league average for %ast was 59.9%. The only player to land exactly on that number was Chris Bosh, which can be analyzed any which way you’d like. I’ll use it to say Chris Bosh isn’t very good.

 

  • Jeff Green is right next to Joakim Noah, which is weird. (57.1 and 57.3%, respectively). Green should have much more opportunity to create baskets on his own, yet he remains so tentative, and the numbers here confirm what we all see.

 

  • In exact same minutes per game, Greg Monroe had a lower percentage than Andrew Bynum.

 

  • LeBron James (32.3%) and Dwyane Wade (36.7%) finished right around where we’d expect them to, as they’re both more than comfortable with the ball in their hands and creating instant offense on their own. Their team depends on them doing so, so it wouldn’t be right to say these low numbers reflect selfish play in any way, shape, or form. But comparing them to Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant, two guys who are on their level as scorers, makes things a bit interesting. Dirk finished last year at 63.1% and Durant at 62.4%, yet they both were high volume producers whose team’s offense revolves around their ability to devise action. Nowitzki is most known for backing his opponent down, spinning and falling away off one foot, and raining down an unblockable shot that he fabricates all on his own. It’s a shot Dallas would be wise to use as much as possible, as it’s nearly impossible to guard, but Dirk also elevates his game when running the pick and pop with guys like Barea, Kidd, or Terry. It’s interesting to have a stat like this one let us know that Dirk not only scores on his own, but also recognizes it’s a team game, feeding off his partners on more than half of his buckets. Durant’s high number comes as equally surprising for all the same reasons. All it does is pour gasoline on the Westbrook vs. Durant imaginary argument. Those two may need to learn to coincide just as much as LeBron and Wade.

 

  • Dwight Howard posted a 53.2%. I’m holding the complaint for now, but it’d be nice if this number went down as his offensive game continues to evolve.

 

  • Reggie Evans, a player who makes Joel Anthony look like the most harmonious assortment of limbs ever put together, was assisted on only 54.8% of his baskets. I don’t care how many shots he took last year, this is reason # 2,394,723,562 why the Raptors aren’t a good basketball team.

 

 

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