Friday, May 10, 2013

Maybe George Karl Shouldn't Have Been COY, But These Aren't The Reasons Why

This is my response to Andres Alvarez's article at WoW on why George Karl shouldn't have won coach of the year. Alvarez is a really smart guy, but I disagree strongly with him on this issue.

Let’s be straight: the key reason Karl got this award is that the Nuggets won 57 games — a franchise best! And many think this was more than people expected. Enter wiLQ at Weakside Awareness! He tracks what analysts predict at the start of the season and how well they do. Of the analysts wiLQ tracks, 8 thought the Nuggets were a 55 win team or better, including John Hollinger and Wages of Wins (yes, we do agree occasionally).
 I'd hazard to say that most of the media members who vote on this award, (mostly old school newspaper reporters and broadcasters) don't look at the projections from from statisticians like Hollinger or Pelton and bloggers like Moore and Harper. So in the voters' (wrong) perception, the Nuggets overperformed. I don't agree with this, but you can't argue against it by looking at the projections of really smart people the mainstream media doesn't read.  

When it comes to Effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%), the best three players with major minutes are: Kosta Koufos, Javale McGee and Kenneth Faried.
What about offensive rebounds? Kosta Koufos, Kenneth Faried, Javale McGee
Getting to the line? Danilo Gallinari, Javale McGee, Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried.
The Nuggets offense is really good and the three players that consistently show up are Koufos, Faried and McGee!
Alright, last fun test. The driving force behind the Nuggets were three talented bigs. This is a pretty proven recipe for success. So clearly Karl played them a lot, right?
So just because these three players are at the top of the statistical categories the Nuggets succeed in, we're supposed to believe that they are the ones that make the Nuggets good in these categories? Huh? Sure, these three are the driving force behind the offensive rebounding which has been big. But eFG%? The reason these guys have high eFG%s is because they take all their shots at the rim, a good thing to be sure, but they aren't creating those shots and that high eFG%. Consider this: all three players are assisted on more than 65% of their shots including 74% for Koufos. How can these guys be the driving force behind the offense when all their shots are created by the Andre Iguodalas and Ty Lawsons of the world. 
Playing time and rank for Denver’s big three, regular season:
·             Kenneth Faried – 28.1 MPG, 4th
·             Kosta Koufos – 22.4 MPG, 8th
·             JaVale McGee – 18.1 MPG, 9th
Uh…what? Karl has two good seven footers that rock on offense (the thing driving his team’s success) and he can’t even play them a combined 48 minutes a game?
There are 96 minutes of playing for PFs and Centers per game. These players take up about 71% of that, too little in Dre's opinion. There are a couple other factors that can be considered here including:
  • The defensive struggles of McGee and Faried. McGee is a historically horrible defender, despite what his block numbers may indicate, who struggles with help defense and is lost far too often. Faried is inexperienced, undersized, and struggles defending in space. Dre notes that defense was not the key to Denver's success, but why does that justify abandoning it? A large reason this year's Nuggets are better than previous year's versions is the improved focus on defense (Thanks, Iggy).
  • Note that the Faried/Koufos 2-man lineup's Net rating is lower than the Nugget's average on the year, and that the Faried/McGee lineup is minus 0.3 points per 100 possessions. These aren't small sample sizes either. So the three guys he wants to play more fit into only 2 positions and don't really play that well together. OK, then. 
  • Denver's small lineups were A. Just really damn good B. Skewed opponents mathups (See, Zach Randolph trying to guard a Danilo Gallinari pick and pop) and C. Improved the Nuggets turnovers forced and team speed, which fed into a lethal transition attack that was such a huge part of the offense. And the offense has been "driving [George Karl's] team's success," right? 
Alright, well in the playoffs — where teams shorten their rotations and increase their best players’ minutes — surely Karl realized their importance and upped their time, right?
Last thing: the COY is a regular season award. 

1 comment:

  1. Well, I wasn't high on the Nuggets, but that's because of the Nene-McGee trade. McGee is loved by box-score metrics, but his +/- impact is terrible. It's the opposite for Nene. It goes without saying McGee makes a lot of stupid decisions, but Nene was underrated in how he boxed out, defended, and scored well within the offense without stopping the ball or disrupting things.

    As for how well they finished at the rim, one player needs to be mentioned: Andre Miller. He's arguably the greatest alley-ooper ever.

    Looking at the highest proportion of assists that lead to at the rim attempts (with a certain number of assists), Andre Miller leads by a mile, and he's done this consistently over the years. His ratio is 0.653. However, Lawson and Iguodala also ranked high. Iggy has a ratio of 0.586! This is what happens on a team that scores at the rim a lot (since they don't have outside shooters, really.) But Miller's lead is substantial enough and his track record is such that I trust him as a guy who can find inside shots well.