Feb 06 2014

Major League: Considering Philly’s Cast of No-Names

Hollis Thompson. Daniel Orton. James Anderson. Vander Blue. No, these are not literary figures from 16th century Britain. These are players who (at least in part) have been associated with the Sixers’ 2014 season. The potpourri of well-traveled players, largely unknown to the casual fan, serves as a telling metaphor for Philadelphia’s plight – unrecognizable and, to some extent, sui generis.

The 76ers’ campaign has continued to chug along like the faltering locomotive that it is: affording experience to long-term linchpins (i.e. Michael Carter-Williams) and steadily inflating the playing time (and trade value, ideally) of the team’s unwanted veterans. Disregard regular season wins, acquire currency. It’s a fundamentally simple strategy.

So, where does that leave the evaluation of the team’s faceless rotation fillers, and what may the future hold for Philly’s youthful, less-identifiable contributors?

We’ll start with Mr. Anderson. The journeyman, playing on his third team in four seasons, has started in 32 of a possible 50 games with the Sixers. Despite the hefty playing time, he hasn’t been the marksman that we’d anticipated. The former Oklahoma State star’s attributes have been marginalized in the context of his lacking team, as he has registered career-worst marks both from beyond the arc (30.0%) and at the charity stripe (73.3%). His otherwise very solid 56.4% conversion on 2-point attempts has helped to stabilize his trigger-happy decline, contributing to his True Shooting percentage of 53.8%.

Ultimately, the characteristics of his game have functioned as the ideal fit for this floundering franchise – a one-dimensional “shooter” armed with a decent touch who is scarcely hesitant to let it fly, often in voluminous quantities.  Given the statistical decline, It will be interesting to see how his 2014 endeavors (while transient at times) fare as an audition for further, more limited roles in the future.

Philadelphia’s gaping backcourt holes are equally responsible for Elliott Williams’ resuscitated career. Williams, though, has failed to entrench his candidacy for a place in the league during his 30-plus game pit stop in Philadelphia. Paltry shooting across the board (including an underwhelming 29.4% from deep), non-existent defense (he owns an eye-gouging individual defensive rating of 113), and continued carelessness with the ball suggest the former first-round pick hasn’t delivered replacement-level production.

Fortunately for the Sixers, perimeter struggles haven’t dogged the entire roster.

The undrafted Hollis Thompson has steadfastly earned playing time under Brett Brown. With precipitous outside shooting, Thompson’s offensive efficiency in reserve spots – connecting on 53.9% of his shots from within the arc and an above-average 36.6% from beyond it – has been a welcome addition to the Sixers’ setup. His rebounding is not overly flattering for a 6-8 forward, yet the 56.5% TS% and modest turnover percentage of 11.5% work to compensate for the gaps in his unpolished, developing game.

This level of play, combined with the realistic possibility of a post-trade deadline vacuum on the wings, is why some (note: me) forecast Thompson to be a “breakout” candidate in the season’s second-semester. His output reflects glowingly on the potential of taking a flier on untested prospects.

Finding value in low-cost, unguaranteed D-League alumni is a practice that Sam Hinkie is all too familiar with after his tenure in the Rockets’ front office. The intermediate cost of such a strategy is sturdy, and the brand of basketball put forth as a result is often anything but aesthetically pleasing, yet it’s not hard to imagine why 2014 may be the year where a sojourn as a 76er created a launching pad for sustainable, role-playing careers — whether in Philadelphia, or elsewhere.

  • robbybonfire23

    Nothing “Magical” about Michael, Dept. – Last night I, yet again, researched the stats for the careers of Michael and Magic. Every time I do this it serves to stun me as to how over-rated Michael Jordan is, all the NBA titles to his credit, notwithstanding. The parallel with Bill Russell’s career is apropos, too, in that a case can be made that both Michael and Russell benefited enormously from having, arguably, the best two coaches in NBA history.

    The first, and perhaps the most important stat I look at is PPXFG, or points scored per missed field goal attempt. Total points, talking about, of the 1+2+3 variety. Michael scored 32,292 points in his career, while missing 12,345 shots from the floor. That computes to 2.62 points scored per XFG.

    Magic scored 17,707 total points, while missing 5740 field goal attempts. That computes to 3.08 points scored, per XFG, fully 18 per cent more efficient that the other guy, and the perfect illustration as to why high scoring individual point totals need to be analyzed in context, given that floor shooting efficiency is not always a straight line correlation, here.

    Where Magic really puts Michael into the popcorn machine is in the category of assists per game. Michael tallied 5633 assists in his 1072 game career. That comes to 5.25 assists per game. Magic, by contrast, tallied 10,141 assists in his 906 game career, which comes to an average of 11.19 assists per game, fully 113 per cent superior – more than double Michael’s rate of production, here.

    The DR category has Michael at 5004 DR’s for his career, which comes to 4.66 DR’s per game. Magic compiled 4958 DR’s over his 906 games, which comes to 5.47 DR’s per game, a plurality of 17 per cent stacked against Michael’s rate of production.

    Michael does top Magic in two minor categories, Blocks and Steals. Per game rates are: Blocks: Michael 0.83 – Magic 0.41; and Steals: Michael 2.35 – Magic 1.90.

    As regards Offensive Rebounds, Magic scores 1.77 per game; while Michael scores 1.56 per game, understanding that from the standpoint of regression analysis, this category is neutral = a wash.

    The career proprietary regression score each player earns, going by today’s NBA values, comes down to Magic at 672, just about Lebron James country, these days; while Michael, showing a pedestrian career regression score of 392, would rank with the John Wall’s of the world, in today’s NBA game, not a bad level to reside, but not earth-shaking, either.

    By the way, current NBA regression values are: Assist: 1.41; DR: 1.39; Steal: 0.84; Block: 0.94; and Turnover: – 0.60.


  • Dan Johnson

    Bobby bobby… I have been reading hoop 76 for a few weeks… you are the only one pretty much on these board and I think you are the reason it is dead… this was my final straw every team playing Jordan was trying to stop him from scoring and he was the best ever to do it… stop throwing all of these bizarre analytical stats that don’t mean jack… you can flip them and make any argument you want. Jordan and soon to be Lebron are the best to ever play the game… quit talking about the draft because you don’t know jack. I ran some numbers and you have .00094 CR (comment rating) which is the worst ever.

  • robbybonfire23

    We can agree, or maybe not, in your case, Mr. Johnson, that “emotion” trumps facts, far too often in every society. And, free free to be “popularity” oriented in your approach to otherwise intelligent discussion. When you cannot make a case refuting mine, you go after the man – sounds just like the M.O. of all the lawyers and politicians out there.

    BUT, I invite you, personal diatribe tactics aside, to make the concrete case for Michael Jordan having been a better basketball player than Magic Johnson, something I directly addressed on behalf of Magic Johnson – but a major detail you conveniently overlooked as a corollary to your first contentious volley. Waiting with baited breath for that one. (And by the way, there was nobody here when I got here, too, and given your sputtering invective, I would say I am still all alone, here.)

  • Dan Johnson

    Nothing better than head to head when it matters most (Finals) and guess what they played against each other…91′ finals bulls win in five…

    Jordan 31.2 6.6 11.4 2.8 1.4
    Magic 18.6 8.0 12.4 1.2 0.0
    I would easily take the Lakers team over the bulls if Magic and Jordan did not play. Pippen was the 3rd best player but Lakers have the next 4 best players… some would slip Grant in there but I have Worthy, Divac, Green, and Perkins over him.
    Game Over Bob!!!

    • Dan Johnson

      wanted to re-stress 57 assist in 5 games Jordan was a winner who did what he needed to win a game. 6 championships in his last 6 years playing.

  • egoldwein

    Comment police here:
    Guys, keep it civil and on topic. Bonfire, try to keep the comments Sixers related (with exceptions), and maybe cut down a bit on some of the posts too. I think you start some fun conversations, but they can be kinda out of nowhere.
    Dan: welcome to the site! Please no more CR jokes.

    Appreciate you stopping by the hoop76, hope you stick around.

    • Dan Johnson

      what CR analytical stats are not a joke…

      • Dan Johnson

        since you are a “MOD” any thoughts on having a forum on the site… I know a lot of folks not on any boards since ESPN did away with em… hoping espn brings em back in some form.

        • egoldwein

          Comments will do for now but we might in the future if we get more comments. (we only launched a year ago).

          • Dan Johnson

            well then for the time being you really cant tell your best reader (robbybonfire23) to stay on topic… can you. you need to bring in forum section if you are going to try to keep people on topic.

          • Dan Johnson

            I guess even the MOD is dead…and that makes true hoop 76 dead… ill just head to bleacher report and maybe catch the best of true hoop76… Fatdan7…Over and out

          • egoldwein

            We’ll miss you!

    • robbybonfire23

      Just want to say I think this is a really great site for intense fans, like myself, and casual fans alike, to really learn more about the NBA game of today, from your staff of highly knowledgeable experts.