Offensive Stats The NBA Needs
by Alexander Wildes
In the NBA, offense rules supreme. Talented offensive players are considered much more valuable than those who are defensive-minded, and are paid as such. Sadly, the normal base statistics don’t really tell us as much we really need to know about the average offensive player, especially relating to ball movement and offensive creation.
To help shed light on this otherwise uncovered area, I created two stats which I believe would help better demonstrate how good players are at creating offensive opportunities for their team.
These are two offensive stats the NBA should adopt.
1. Free Throws Created off Passes
Imagine this scenario: The year is 2014, and the Clippers’ star point guard Chris Paul brings the ball up the court. DeAndre Jordan sets a perfect screen for Paul at the top of the key, and because Paul’s defender is afraid of a Paul three point shot, he goes over the screen. With his defender lagging behind him, Paul drives to the lane, and Jordan’s defender steps up to help out on the drive, opening a lob opportunity to Jordan that Paul happily takes.
If Jordan finishes the lob, Paul gets a deserving assist (setting up the most efficient shot in basketball for one of the best finishers in the league). However, if Jordan is fouled and cannot convert the shot, he goes to the line for two free throws, while Paul gets absolutely no statistical credit for setting Jordan up with those two free throws. Even if Jordan doesn’t hit both free throws, didn’t Paul create the same number of potential points for his team in the end? Two free throws and a dunk are both worth two points.
Therefore, I propose a new stat to help solve these situations in which the passer gets no credit: Free Throws Created off Passes, or FTCoP. This way, in the situation where Paul sets Jordan up for free throws, instead of not getting any statistical bump, he gets credit for setting Jordan up for those two free throws. A foul on a 2 point shot is 2 FTCoP’s, and a foul on a 3 pointer is 3 FTCoP’s (and an and-1 free throw is 1 FTCoP). The reason why I chose to make this stat free throws created and not free throws made is quite simple. If I pass to Stephen Curry who gets fouled on a three pointer, the chance of him making all three free throws (.906^3 = 74.4%) is statistically higher than a player like DeAndre Jordan at least one free throw out of two ([.474*.474]+[.474*.526*2] = 72.33%). Therefore, the free throws made stat can clearly be influenced by who the pass was intended for, which would put people on teams with bad surrounding free throw shooters at an extreme disadvantage.
A byproduct of this stat would be figuring out what is the actual percentage of a player’s points that come off of assists. While this stat is already in effect, I would modify it a bit, as the stat does not account for what I just mentioned (when a player gets to the line because of a teammate’s pass). If we were to take a look at DeAndre Jordan’s points off of assists right now, it would not count free throws. However, I am sure that the majority of his free throws in that 2014 season were created by elite playmakers like Chris Paul or Blake Griffin. This stat should include free throws created by others, just like it includes field goals created by others. This way, we can truly look at how often certain players create their own scoring chances and how often they score with the help of another teammate.
2. Shots Created
Another stat I created to benefit the passer in this situation is called Shots Created, which would show how many shot opportunities a player makes for his teammates. This would be regardless of if the player hit the shot, missed the shot, got fouled, or any other possibility. There are two different categories in shots created (each with sub-categories), as there are many different types of created shots.
Category one is as follows: If a player passes the ball or sets a teammate up for a bucket (and puts himself in position for an assist), this should be considered one shot created. I call the category the Shots Created for Assist Opportunities, and it has three sub-categories: credit to passer, credit to shooter, and credit to third party. Quite simply, credit to passer means the passer was the one who got the teammate the shot (like a drive-and-kick or a pick-and-roll), credit to shooter means the shooter got open on his own (like a running JJ Redick or a backdoor cutter), and a credit to third party means one of the other three teammates got the player open (most likely by an off-ball screen). This way, not only can we show all assists opportunities a player had, but we can account for all types of reasons the potential assist was made. Using this breakdown, we can see which players are better at setting up teammates, finding teammates at the right time, or count on others to get open.
Now, go back to the original case of Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. If they executed a perfect pick-and-roll, and Jordan converted on the layup, Jordan would have a higher FG%, and Paul would get another assist for the setup. But what if Jordan misses the shot? Jordan’s FG% would be lowered, but what about Paul? He set up a scoring opportunity for his rolling big man which had gone to waste, and while Jordan takes a hit for his negative play, Paul gets no positive statistic for setting up his teammate, regardless of the result. Therefore, Paul would get one shot created, and it would fall under the category of credit to passer under the assist opportunities category, as Paul set his teammate up for a shot.
The second category in shots created is called Shots Created for Non-Assist Opportunities, and it has two sub-categories: non-attempted creation and attempted creation. There is a key difference between these two; specifically, in one case the shot creator is not making a move with the intention to create a shot, and in the other case the shot creator is making a move.
How could this be? How could a player be credited with a Shot Created without intending to create a shot? Picture this: Kevin Durant receives the ball at the post. Durant takes a second to try and break down the defense in his mind, and think of what to do. All of a sudden, Durant gets double teamed, so he whips the ball to teammate A in the corner to get rid of it, and teammate A (now with the ball) sees a defender guarding teammate B running over to help on him, and whips the ball to teammate B (whose defender is running towards him). This triggers one or two more hockey-style passes because of the help defense each time, leading to an open three at the end for a different teammate. Durant did not do anything to create a scoring opportunity, but still was able to create an open look for his team because of his star power. Thus, I would credit this as a non-attempted creation in shots created. While some may say that there is no reason to chart this, I would respond that this type of play (which happens quite frequently to stars) creates the exact same type of shot as a traditional drive-and-kick assist, and should be credited as such, albeit under a different section.
Let’s change the scenario a little bit. Kevin Durant has the ball on the right elbow, makes a move to the hoop, and draws a double team (due to being a step ahead on the defender). Once Durant notices this, he kicks the ball to teammate A, creating the same exact hockey style passes that leads to a shot that was in the previous example. In this example, Durant should be credited with an attempted creation, as he clearly made a move with the intent to create a shot, whether it be for himself or for a teammate. In a normal box stat, Durant receives nothing for this play, even though he was the one that created the scoring opportunity by drawing the original double team. In other words, while Durant was not the one who made the final pass (which gets the assist), he effectively created the shot for his teammate by drawing the extra defender and starting the chain reaction of passes. Therefore, Durant deserves to also be credited with a Shot Created.
What does it look like if we put both stats together? In the circumstance of Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, if Jordan converted the shot, Paul would get an assist and a shot created, and if Jordan missed the shot, Paul would just get a shot created. Furthermore, if Jordan got fouled and missed the shot, Paul would get two FTCoP’s and a shot created, and if Jordan got fouled and still scored (for an and-1), Paul would get an assist, one FTCoP and a shot created.