Thursday, December 07, 2006

On Duke and Offensive Efficiency, Part 2

Last night's game compels a little bit of a follow up to the first edition of this post (note: those looking for a recap of last night's game, check back late tonight). There are four components to a team performing well on offense: good shooting, holding on to the ball, offensive rebounding, and making free throws. The last factor is less significant than the first three, but it still plays a part. The key to understanding offensive efficiency is understanding, and embracing, the following: a team does not need to do all four things well to have an efficient offense. Here's a comparison of two teams, Air Force and Georgia, both currently in the top 10 in raw offensive efficiency. Air Force is very good in shooting (1st), not turning the ball over (10th), and free throw rate (14th). They are, however, downright awful in offensive rebounding (302nd). Georgia, on the other hand, relies heavily on its offensive rebounding (2nd) and shooting (6th), but is not so hot holding on to the ball (189th) and simply doesn't make any free throws (318th). Overall, Air Force is 1st in efficiency (1.26 ppp) and Georgia is 4th (1.20 ppp). Both have very successful offenses, even though they go about it in much different ways.

So, back to Duke. I commented that cutting down turnovers would make our offense very efficient. The common response was in the vein of "have you seen how bad we shoot/finish." To which I say, yes, you're right to a certain extent, but you miss the forest for the trees. Take, for example, Texas. The 'Horns are only 100th in efg%, and don't shoot free throws very often (207th in the country). However, they rebound their misses extremely well (21st) and never turn the ball over (16%, 5th in the country). Thus, a slightly above average shooting team has the 10th best offense in terms of raw efficiency. This shows why shooting, alone, is an incomplete measure of an offense. As an extreme example, it doesn't matter whether you shoot 90% or 20% from the field if you rebound all your misses - you can shoot 1 for 5 if your rebounding gets you 5 shots a possession. Duke has done two things very well so far this year - offensive rebounding (24th) and free throw rate (8th). The shooting is above average, but not great (85th). Our shooting and rebounding look a lot like Texas, even slightly better. We get also boost from free throws that the 'Horns don't. But the difference between their offensive efficiency being 10th in the country and ours being 95th (in raw terms) is turnovers, where Duke checks in at 297th in the nation after last night's game. If we were even mediocre at holding on to the ball, the combination of our above average shooting, excellent offensive rebounding, and excellent free throw rate would make our offensive efficiency very good. Hopefully I made this point a little clearer this time around: you don't need to be exceptional (or even good) in all aspects of offense in order to have a very efficient offense. Duke has been exceptional in two categories, above average in a third, and downright dreadful in the fourth. Turning downright dreadful into mediocre could very well be the key for the season: Devils, aspire to turnover mediocrity!


Anonymous said...

Your point is conceded. Obviously they need to cut down on turnovers. Also obviously, there is still room for improvement in the FG% department, which would improve overall efficiency. Also, I think the larger point here is that "cutting down on turnovers" is easier said than done. It's not like these TOs are all mental errors. A lot of them have to do with poor offensive execution and lack of polished offensive players. Very few guys seem to be be able to create their own shot consistently, and without running good sets, that's going to lead to TOs and poor shooting. I guess in the coming weeks we'll see how Coach K adjusts. I don't think anybody believes that he is an offensive mastermind. In previous years our offense has been pretty basic (i.e. run some curls for JJ, or, previously, high screen and roll for JWill and let him attack the basket or shoot). Any chance we'll start to see some adjustments to the Coach K
motion offense?"

Anonymous said...

I like your posts. I agree, the turnovers are a huge story here. As for adjustments by Coach K and the motion offense, that's not happening. He's played one way and one way only the last 25 years. Sure, they have been spotty with the ball but it's still early in the year, Paulus is still coming back from an injury, and the offensive continuity isn't there yet trying to incorporate freshmen all over the place. When you get a chance, check out my blog:

Anonymous said...

As you know, I agree wholeheartedly with your take on turnovers being key and the actual relative strength of our offense. As for Ryan's comments about our players not creating their own shots, he is half right. We are terrible at creating our own shots. We don't have a JJ or JWill or even Duhon to find a way to score. However, motion offense should create better TEAM opportunities to score. Spacing (as mentioned by Dawkins), making the extra pass and moving without the ball are absolutely critical, and we are still obviously on the low, steep end of the learning curve.

I have faith that K will bring them around. The best communicator in the game (and maybe sports) will get his team where we need them by February/March.

And remember, defense wins championships. We just need our offense to be good enough to give us the chance.