Advanced Stats: Isaiah Thomas is Flourishing, Rest of Kings Guards Aren't Half Bad Either

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 22: Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates after scoring against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Verizon Center on February 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Last month we went back and took a look at how our players had been performing through the first few weeks of the season. That sample was of just 10 games or so, mostly under Paul Westphal. Now we have half a season's worth of production to look upon, with Keith Smart coaching most of them. This is still a small sample in the long run, but the numbers will be more meaningful this time around.

We start again with the guards, the deepest part of the Kings rotation. Three of them (Tyreke, Thornton and Isaiah) are now fixtures in the starting lineup. The other, Jimmer Fredette, leads all bench players in scoring. All of our guards have made great strides in terms of their playmaking ability under Keith Smart. The one thing the Kings guards have struggled with this season is making shots, as all four are currently at 41.3% or below, but one thing that has picked up is three point shooting, as Jimmer (37.3%), Isaiah (37.0%) and Thornton (35.3%) have been the Kings best deep threats, accounting for almost 64% of the Kings three pointers between the three of them.

In terms of points scored, the Kings guards have scored almost exactly half of the Kings' entire point total for the season-to-date. They've been the centerpiece of the Kings' offense, but haven't had much help from anyone else besides DeMarcus Cousins.

I will be using several sources for my analysis. First, I'll be using the Advanced Statistics found on Basketball-Reference (PER, TS%, AST%, etc.). I will also be using mySynergySports.com to give a more in-depth look at how our players perform each possession, both offensively and defensively. mySynergySports.com uses PPP (Points Per Possession) to track individual players. They track individual play types on both ends of the court and I will be provding samples of each players major play types. For the shot location statistics, I'll be using HoopData. For On/Off court statistics, I'll be using 82games.com.

The following statistics were compiled as of February 22nd, 2012, before the Washington game. If you would like some explanations of the following statistics, Basketball-Reference has explanations here.

Tyreke Evans

PER: 16.6

TS%: .490

ORB%: 3.0%

DRB%: 12.7%

AST%: 26.7%

STL%: 2.0%

BLK%: 0.9%

TOV%: 14.4%

USG%: 24.2%

Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 101.4

Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 96.1

Overall Offensive PPP: 0.82

  • Isolation (31.2%): 0.73
  • Transition (24.9%): 1.07
  • P&R Ball Handler (15.7%): 0.61
  • Spot-Up (11.7%): 0.68
  • Cut (4%): 1.46 (6th in NBA)

Shot Locations

  • At Rim: 4.2 FGM / 6.8 FGA (61.4%)
  • 3-9 Feet: 0.5 FGM / 2.0 FGA (23.8%)
  • 10-15 Feet: 0.2 FGM / 0.7 FGA (21.7%)
  • 16-23 Feet: 0.9 FGM / 3.5 FGA (26.5%)
  • Threes: 0.5 FGM / 2.2FGA (24.3%)
  • Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.34

Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 108.0

Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 110.9

Overall Defensive PPP: 0.87

  • Spot-Up (33.1%): 1.08
  • P&R Ball Handler (29%): 0.73
  • Isolation (14.4%): 0.67
  • Off Screen (11.1%): 0.76 (T-21st in NBA)

Analysis:

Tyreke has made both strides and regression in his game under Keith Smart. First of all, he's assisting at a higher rate and generally just moving the ball around much better. The problem however comes when Tyreke tries to score. Tyreke's 0.82 PPP is the worst of any of our guards, and he has the worst TS% of any of them as well.

Tyreke is one of the best players in the NBA at attacking the rim, and is still converting there at a high rate. But he's getting to the line less, and he's taking more jumpers despite shooting terrible percentage. He has absolutely no mid-range game either and rarely takes shots from there. My theory that he's a much better shooter when he's spotting up is shot to pieces by Synergy, as he only scores 0.68 PPP on spot-up shots. Tyreke still relies on Isolation for most of his offense, and he's not particularly good at it, mainly because teams know that they can give Tyreke room to shoot jumpers and they won't get punished. It's also why he's relatively ineffective off of Pick & Rolls, since teams go under the screens. One thing Tyreke is doing very well is as a cutter, where he's doing an amazing 1.46 PPP. The only bad thing is that cutting makes up just 4% of his offensive possessions, but it does point to the fact that Evans could be very good playing off the ball if he puts his mind to it. But as evidenced by the Kings offense with him on the floor, he still makes a big impact on that end even when he's not scoring efficiently. That's because of all the attention he draws, leaving other players open to make plays, and he's done a much better job of finding those guys, particularly right at the rim.

Defensively, Synergy backs up what my eyes see: Evans has the makings of a great individual defender, but is a terrible team defender. 33.1% of Evans' defensive possessions are spent closing out on spot-up shooters, because he has a very bad habit of slacking off of his man and trying to recover with his length, something that may have worked in college and high school, but won't in the NBA. A lot of the players on the Kings have this bad habit as well, and the whole team will need to buy in to defense as a unit if the Kings ever want to be a competent defensive team. We've seen spurts of that type of play this season, so it is possible.

Marcus Thornton

PER: 15.8

TS%: .530

ORB%: 3.8%

DRB%: 7.1%

AST%: 10.3%

STL%: 2.1%

BLK%: 0.6%

TOV%: 11.2%

USG%: 23.2%

Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 101.7

Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 98.2

Overall Offensive PPP: 0.93

  • Spot-Up (24.0%): 0.96
  • Transition (22.1%): 1.38 (14th in NBA)
  • P&R Ball Handler (16.6%): 0.78
  • Isolation (15.4%): 0.63

Shot Locations

  • At Rim: 2.4 FGM / 3.6 FGA (66.7%)
  • 3-9 Feet: 0.7 FGM / 2.4 FGA (29.3%)
  • 10-15 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 1.0 FGA (28.0%)
  • 16-23 Feet: 0.8 FGM / 2.3 FGA (33.0%)
  • Threes: 2.1 FGM / 6.1 FGA (35.3%)
  • Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.23

Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 106.9

Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 110.8

Overall Defensive PPP: 0.85

  • Spot-Up (31.3%): 0.81
  • P&R Ball Handler (27.9%): 0.83
  • Off Screen (14.6%): 0.76 (T-21st in NBA)
  • Isolation (9%): 0.76
  • Post-Up (9%): 1.19

Analysis:

Marcus is still the Kings' leading scorer, but he's been much less efficient this year. For whatever reason, he still doesn't get to the line all that much despite attacking the basket aggressively several times a game.. He also hasn't had a really effective mid-range game this season. He's mostly been scoring off of spot-up three pointers and layups at the rim. The 29.3% from 3-9 feet concerns me a little bit, because Marcus has a go-to move in that area he likes to use that hasn't been particularly effective: a teardrop floater. Marcus can get that shot off pretty easily, but he doesn't seem to have the right touch on it. With practice, it could become a deadly weapon. One thing that Marcus has improved upon since the last time we checked up on him is in his playmaking, with his Assist % steadily climbing as well. That's a by-product of Smart's system that gets the guards out in transition quickly, where Thornton has been very efficient.

Defensively, the stats say he's been better than I would have thought, particularly guarding players coming off of screens. Marcus has poor defensive fundamentals (as do many of these young Kings) but he does play aggressively. For a guard, Marcus does get posted-up quite a bit, probably because he's usually guarding a much bigger player. It's been a pretty solid strategy for opponents to use this season, as evidenced by the 1.19 PPP allowed by Thornton in those situations.

Jimmer Fredette

PER: 11.0

TS%: .499

ORB%: 1.9%

DRB%: 4.4%

AST%: 16.4%

STL%: 1.5%

BLK%: 0.0%

TOV%: 14.1%

USG%: 19.5%

Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 98.7

Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 101.1

Overall Offensive PPP: 0.85

  • P&R Ball Handler (30.6%): 0.75
  • Spot-Up (24.8%): 1.2 (24th in NBA)
  • Transition (15.9%): 0.95
  • Isolation (12.8%): 0.64

Shot Locations

  • At Rim: 0.5 FGM / 0.9 FGA (62.5%)
  • 3-9 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 1.0 FGA (25.9%)
  • 10-15 Feet: 0.2 FGM / 0.8 FGA (28.6%)
  • 16-23 Feet: 0.5 FGM / 1.3 FGA (35.0%)
  • Threes: 1.4 FGM / 3.6 FGA (37.3%)
  • Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.16

Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 113.7

Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 105.3

Overall Defensive PPP: 0.88

  • Spot-Up (26.9%): 0.77
  • P&R Ball Handler (25.7%): 0.96
  • Isolation (15.4%): 0.56 (19th in NBA)
  • Off Screen (11.4%): 1.05
  • Hand Off (10.9%): 1.05

Analysis:

Jimmer is still not playing well for an average NBA player, but he's also not playing awful, like he was at the beginning of the season when it seemed he had no confidence in anything he did, combined with his shot not falling. Jimmer is an incredibly good Spot-Up shooter, by far the best on the team, and one of the best in the NBA already. I wouldn't pay too much attention to Fredette's On Court stat, because Fredette has spent most of his minutes playing with a bench featuring Chuck Hayes, J.J. Hickson, and Travis Outlaw, not exactly a bunch of players who are going to score a bunch of points. The worrying thing with Jimmer on offense is when he's not spotting up and is asked to create for himself. This is where he has had trouble all season.

Defense has been Jimmer's bugaboo ever since being drafted. It was his biggest perceived weakness, and it is a weakness. But it's not unfixable. That isolation number up there really surprised me. It shows that Jimmer has only allowed 0.56 PPP in Isolation situations. That only has happened 24 times so far, so it's Small Sample Size Institute approved, but it is intriguing. The toughest part for Jimmer defensively has been fighting through screens and dealing with switches where he sometimes gets lost. He's also been pretty bad at guarding opposing fast breaks (although he's done a good job of getting back in transition) and trying to draw charges.

Jimmer is more of a work in progress than I would have hoped for coming off of 4 years of college. But there has been noticeable improvement from the beginning of the season, and he is a rookie, so I'm not too worried yet.

Isaiah Thomas

PER: 17.0

TS%: .545

ORB%: 3.7%

DRB%: 8.9%

AST%: 26.1%

STL%: 1.5%

BLK%: 0.5%

TOV%: 13.6%

USG%: 20.6%

Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 102.2

Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 99.0

Overall Offensive PPP: 0.95

  • Spot-Up (27.6%): 0.93
  • Isolation (24.4%): 0.84
  • P&R Ball Handler (22.2%): 1.07 (3rd in NBA)
  • Transition (15.3%): 1.17

Shot Locations

  • At Rim: 0.9 FGM / 1.6 FGA (53.1%)
  • 3-9 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 0.7 FGA (38.1%)
  • 10-15 Feet: 0.2 FGM / 0.6 FGA (36.8%)
  • 16-23 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 0.8 FGA (39.0%)
  • Threes: 1.1 FGM / 3.0 FGA (37.0%)
  • Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.32

Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 108.2

Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 108.9

Overall Defensive PPP: 0.79

  • P&R Ball Handler (41.3%): 0.59 (14th in NBA)
  • Isolation (22.4%): 0.71
  • Spot-Up (19.9%): 1.05

Analysis:

Isaiah Thomas has been a revelation this season. He's gone from third string guard to starter in a month, and he has earned it through his play. His 17.0 PER is second among all rookies that have played at least 500 minutes this year, behind only Kyrie Irving. He has the third highest AST% among rookies, behind only Ricky Rubio and Irving. He is 5th among rookie guards in TS%. You could make the argument that as of right now, Isaiah Thomas has been the 2nd best Point Guard taken in the 2011 NBA Draft, and the stats would back you up. Offensively, he can get to the basket with ease as well as shoot from distance, where he's been a very respectable 37%, up from 33.3% earlier in the year. Perhaps most remarkable is how well he's managed to score in Pick & Roll situations: Synergy has him as the 3rd best Pick & Roll scorer in the entire NBA.

On the other end, his defense of the Pick & Roll has been just as good, allowing just 0.59 PPP there. He has the best defensive PPP of any of our guards, and any of the other rookie Point Guards. Isaiah utilizes his quickness and strength to stay in front of his man, and doesn't tend to gamble on steals like some of our other guards. He'll likely always have trouble on Spot-Up shooters because of his height. The best part about the defensive numbers for Isaiah is that they're good even though he's been asked to defend some very good point guards this year. Defense is what initially earned Isaiah playing time, and he's made the most of his opportunities.

Isaiah, at age 23, may not have as high a ceiling as some other guys, but he's already pretty damn good, and looks to be a big part of the team's future, something a lot of 2nd rounders can't say, let alone the last pick in the draft.

Coming Tomorrow: The Wings

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