Thursday, December 31

Bobcats Struggle to Force Bad Shots

Unlike most discussion about the Bobcats, this post is not about trading Tyson Chandler or Boris Diaw. This is about perimeter defense. The Cats are not highly regarded amongst most NBA fans, but most consider the team a strong defensive unit if nothing else. Teams field goal percentage against the Cats would indicate that this is a good assessment, however a look inside the numbers reveals a serious concern for Larry Brown's Cats.

For full disclosure the idea for this thread spawned from Tom Ziller's recent post on Fanhouse. His initial point about shots at the rim and from 3 point range being the most efficient served as the impetus for my research and I like him used for the numbers.

Good defense cannot be solely defined by a team's FG% being below average, but also in forcing teams to take less than optimal shots. A quick analysis of the Bobcats defensive stats showed what should be considered some alarming numbers.

Some league-wide background numbers:

Average number of shot attempts against is 81.2/game.
Of those 44.3/game are shots at the rim or 3-pointers. (55% of total)
That leaves 36.9 shots/game from (termed loosely) midrange (45% of total)

Looking at the Bobcats they allow 77.7 shots/game, 4th lowest in the league. Of those 46.4 are at the rim or from 3 point range. Only 5 teams in the league (tied with two others) allow more shots from those two areas and all play at a fast pace. Those five teams: Detroit, Toronto, New Orleans, Memphis and the Lakers (here's an article to help explain the Lakers inclusion on this list). No team in the league forces fewer of those "midrange" shots than the Cats at just 31.3/game. The result is the Cats' opponents taking a league high 59.7% of their shots from these high efficiency areas.

The Bobcats have done a good job of keeping their opponents below the league average for FG% from every area on the floor except from 16-23 feet where the FG% is just .2% higher than the league average, but a look at the assist percentages reveals a primary concern. Only 46.9% (league avg 51.2%) of the opponents made FGs at the rim are assisted. This can be attributed to multiple things, putbacks being a primary one but the Cats have been surprisingly efficient at clearing the defensive glass (thanks Crash) leaving the primary culprit to be penetration. On the flip side, teams attempt 20 threes/game against the Cats and connect on 48.7% (eFG%) which is lower than the league average, but 89.4% are assisted, 3rd highest % in the league.

All these point to a fairly simple gameplan to beat the Cats. Drive and kick and if necessary, rotate the ball around for a shot (think Bargnani from last night). Although I don't have the data to prove it, these numbers could certainly contribute to the team's road troubles, since teams typically shoot better at home. Even though the FG% against remains above the league average, it would be foolish to ignore that teams are shooting from the most efficient locales against the Cats more than any other team in the league. I am not suggesting that this is the only problem, but one that perhaps has gone overlooked to this point.

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