Advanced Stats: Watch Out NBA, Isaiah Thomas is Coming For You

April 22, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas (22) signals to his team during the game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE

Throughout the season, I took several looks at the Kings players using advanced stats. As the months passed, the sample sizes became larger and so more data was able to be gleaned from them. Now with the season complete we can take a look at a much bigger picture and see how the statistics agree or disagree with what we saw.

The Kings' Guards are perhaps their strongest and deepest assets. Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, and Isaiah Thomas have all shown that they can be above average NBA players. Their weakest guard, Jimmer Fredette, is but a rookie with room to grow. While the Kings could certainly use talent everywhere (no team that won just 22 games can claim they're stacked at a position), this is probably the position with the least area of concern for Sacramento heading into the offseason.

If there's one thing the Kings lack in their backcourt, it's experience and playmaking. All four of the guys they have there are within their first few years of their NBA career, and all are scorers at heart. Isaiah Thomas has the most playmaking ability of them all, but even he is still better as a scorer than a playmaker.

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.

The following statistics were compiled as of the end of the 2011-12 season. If you would like some explanations of the following statistics, Basketball-Reference has explanations here.

NOTE: I took off 82games.com's On/Off court ratings as they hadn't been updated since April 1st. If you're interested they can be found here.

Tyreke Evans

PER:16.4

TS%: .512

ORB%: 3.1%

DRB%: 12.0%

AST%: 22.1%

STL%: 2.0%

BLK%: 1.0%

TOV%: 14.4%

USG%: 23.8%

Offensive Rating: 103

Overall Offensive PPP: 0.86

  • Isolation (28.7%): 0.74
  • Transition (25.7%): 1.11
  • P&R Ball Handler (13.6%): 0.71
  • Spot-Up (11.7%): 0.7
  • Cut (5.9%): 1.31

Shot Locations

  • At Rim: 4.6 FGM / 7.0 FGA (64.6%)
  • 3-9 Feet: 0.5 FGM / 2.0 FGA (26.6%)
  • 10-15 Feet: 0.1 FGM / 0.5 FGA (23.5%)
  • 16-23 Feet: 0.9 FGM / 3.1 FGA (30.0%)
  • Threes: 0.3 FGM / 1.6 FGA (20.2%)
  • Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.29

Defensive Rating: 111

Overall Defensive PPP: 0.88

  • Spot-Up (33.9%): 1.01
  • P&R Ball Handler (25.7%): 0.79
  • Isolation (13.1%): 0.7
  • Off Screen (11.6%): 0.96

Analysis:

It was an interesting year for Tyreke. He played more like the rookie version of himself than last year, but also had to adapt to a new role under Keith Smart. For the first time he had to play a position where he was off the ball for the most part, and you can see that by his lowered Usage rate.

Offensively, he got back to doing what he does best: attacking the rim. Tyreke's 7.0 attempts at the rim per game was the highest for any guard or wing player in the league, with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James being the next closest. While that is impressive, a lot of that unfortunately has to do with the fact that Evans is simply ineffective when shooting anywhere else. Outside of the rim, he's shooting a dismally low sub-30% from the field. It's the biggest part of his offensive game that he needs to improve. Evans also isn't drawing nearly as many fouls as he did in his rookie year, which is a tad worrisome considering how much he attacks. He's a good Free Throw shooter too, so getting to the line is a big asset. I think a lot of this has to do with Evans shying away from contact to try to make the basket.

Defensively, we saw some slippage from Tyreke over the course of the season where he started out as a terrific individual defender and a terrible team defender. At the end he was simply a passable individual defender and still terrible team defender. This may have had a lot do with the fact that Evans moved to the Small Forward position, forcing him to match up against guys that are bigger and stronger than him for once. Ideally he'd be playing next to Isaiah in the backcourt, but for that to happen, the Kings need to have a competent SF who can hit his outside shots so Thornton can come off the bench and do his thing.

Tyreke's major area of improvement for next season are the same as they've always been: Shooting, particularly in the mid-range area and off the dribble, moving without the ball, and a renewed commitment to the defensive end.

Marcus Thornton

PER: 17.4

TS%: .544

ORB%: 4.9%

DRB%: 6.7%

AST%: 9.4%

STL%: 2.0%

BLK%: 0.5%

TOV%: 8.8%

USG%: 23.4%

Offensive Rating: 111

Overall Offensive PPP: 0.98

  • Spot-Up (21.8%): 0.92
  • Transition (22.6%): 1.34
  • P&R Ball Handler (14.1%): 0.84
  • Isolation (12.8%): 0.69
  • Cut (7.6%): 1.28

Shot Locations

  • At Rim: 3.1 FGM / 4.5 FGA (67.5%)
  • 3-9 Feet: 0.6 FGM / 2.2 FGA (28.3%)
  • 10-15 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 0.8 FGA (32.5%)
  • 16-23 Feet: 0.9 FGM / 2.1 FGA (40.0%)
  • Threes: 2.1 FGM / 6.1 FGA (34.5%)
  • Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.20

Defensive Rating: 112

Overall Defensive PPP: 0.88

  • Spot-Up (31.8%): 0.91
  • P&R Ball Handler (26.5%): 0.8
  • Off Screen (13.3%): 0.84
  • Post-Up (11.2%): 0.87
  • Isolation (9.2%): 0.91

Analysis:

There's a reason this guy's name is Buckets. That's about all he does. Marcus Thornton is a scorer by trade and he's exceptionally good at it. However that doesn't mean he's efficient. Far from it. Marcus chucked a lot of shots up this year, particularly from outside. Even though he missed 15 games, he still managed to finish 10th overall in three point attempts. That's not a good habit. A lot of Marcus' shots come in rhythm off of spot-up attempts, but he doesn't convert them at nearly the rate he should. Offensively, Marcus' assist rate was a clear low, an indicator that he took on more of a focused scoring role, which belies the diverse game he showed last year.

Defensively, Marcus is still bad in most facets. He's small for a shooting guard, and doesn't have insane quickness or length to make up for it. The fact that the Kings are a young, lazy defensive team doesn't help matters. Defense (or lack thereof) is what got Marcus traded from New Orleans.

Still, the Kings were better with Marcus on the court than off of it, because 18.7 points per game is nothing to sneeze at. I'd like Marcus to start taking much better shots however, and continue his excellent progress with regards to moving off the ball. He's great off of cuts but they make up relatively few of his offensive possessions. To me, Marcus is much better suited as an off-the-bench stud than his current role, but again, that's not going to happen until the Kings find a Small Forward that can replicate the floor stretching Marcus provides.

Jimmer Fredette

PER: 10.8

TS%: .495

ORB%: 1.6%

DRB%: 5.7%

AST%: 15.1%

STL%: 1.3%

BLK%: 0.2%

TOV%: 12.5%

USG%: 20.4%

Offensive Rating: 100

Overall Offensive PPP: 0.86

  • P&R Ball Handler (25.2%): 0.86
  • Spot-Up (23.9%): 1.01
  • Transition (17.6%): 1.1
  • Isolation (12.1%): 0.7
  • Off Screen (8.9%): 0.68

Shot Locations

  • At Rim: 0.6 FGM / 0.9 FGA (67.3%)
  • 3-9 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 1.0 FGA (25.8%)
  • 10-15 Feet: 0.2 FGM / 0.5 FGA (30.3%)
  • 16-23 Feet: 0.5 FGM / 1.3 FGA (39.0%)
  • Threes: 1.3 FGM / 3.5 FGA (36.1%)
  • Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.11

Defensive Rating: 114

Overall Defensive PPP: 0.89

  • Spot-Up (29.1%): 0.85
  • P&R Ball Handler (31%): 0.91
  • Isolation (15.8%): 0.67
  • Off Screen (8.3%): 0.97
  • Hand Off (8.0%): 1.0

Analysis:

Jimmer improved as the season went on but he was still an awful basketball player by NBA standards. Offensively and defensively, Jimmer was sub-par and that's being nice. Jimmer's greatest strength offensively was shooting on spot-ups and he was much weaker when trying to create his own shot. That's a bit worrying, because creating his own shots was his strength in college.

Jimmer's biggest problem is the size and speed of the NBA, just on a whole other level from NCAA ball. Jimmer faced pressure often and early, dribbled for too long at times, and got in trouble. He got a little better as the season went along but there's no doubt he needs to get quicker. Jimmer already seems to be in fantastic shape to me already, so I don't know how much he can really improve in that area.

Defensively, Jimmer actually wasn't that bad in one-on-one isolations. But as soon as you set a screen on Jimmer, boom he's gone. On screens and pick-and-rolls Jimmer has a tough time recovering to make any sort of defensive impact.

Most of Jimmer's shots and makes this year came from three, but he wasn't amazing from there as his reputation would lead you to believe. Part of that is confidence (he passed up a lot of shots he should have taken, particularly early in the year) and part of that is not getting the ball when he does get open. Jimmer needs to earn his teammates trust to get the ball in places where he deserves.

The Kings have a big decision to make with Jimmer on whether he's a PG or a SG. For my money, I'd groom him as a SG because while he has decent passing instincts, they're not spectacular and it belies his scoring ability. I think Jimmer has the work ethic and attitude to become a good scorer in this league, so I'm not too upset by his performance his rookie year.

Isaiah Thomas

PER: 17.7

TS%: .574

ORB%: 3.0%

DRB%: 8.4%

AST%: 25.6%

STL%: 1.6%

BLK%: 0.4%

TOV%: 13.9%

USG%: 19.9%

Offensive Rating: 116

Overall Offensive PPP: 0.98

  • P&R Ball Handler (25.2%): 1.04 (4th in the NBA)
  • Spot-Up (23.6%): 0.98
  • Transition (17.9%): 1.24
  • Isolation (17.8%): 0.92 (24th in the NBA)

Shot Locations

  • At Rim: 1.4 FGM / 2.2 FGA (62.9%)
  • 3-9 Feet: 0.5 FGM / 1.2 FGA (40.0%)
  • 10-15 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 0.6 FGA (43.9%)
  • 16-23 Feet: 0.5 FGM / 1.4 FGA (38.0%)
  • Threes: 1.3 FGM / 3.4 FGA (37.9%)
  • Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.33

Defensive Rating: 113

Overall Defensive PPP: 0.83

  • P&R Ball Handler (43.1%): 0.76
  • Spot-Up (23.2%): 1.02
  • Isolation (16.1%): 0.69
  • Post-Up (7.2%): 0.6 (9th in NBA)

Analysis:

Isaiah Thomas may have been more than an amazing rookie steal that was taken 60th. He may just be the best guard on the Kings roster already. At least statistically, Isaiah far outstrips his teammates. His efficiency is great. He has the highest assist rate on the team, while not turning over the ball too much. His offensive rating shows that the team becomes dramatically better when he's on the court. He pushes the tempo and gets the Kings into their offense early.

Defensively, he more than makes up for his lack of height with his quickness, strength, and low center of gravity. I mean, look at that post-up number. This is a guy who is 5'9 and guys have a really hard time posting him up. It's a small sample size, sure, but guys are going to be less likely to try to post Isaiah up given how tough it is.

Isaiah's all-around game is already so complete, I'm not sure he has any glaring weaknesses. He's a master of the Pick and Roll, both offensively and defensively. The reason he's so good in Pick and Roll situations is that he can either use the pick to go to the basket or to get free for a jumper. He's also equally comfortable playing with the ball in his hands and off of it, as evidenced by how easily he gets free for spot-up opportunities, usually the corner three that he loves.

If there's one thing Isaiah does need to improve on, it's becoming more of a pure point guard. Isaiah is probably more of a scorer at heart, and while he showed great propensity to get his teammates involved and run the point this year, his assist rate of 25.6% is fairly mediocre for a Point Guard. That being said, he scores more efficiently than his teammates and he's not allowed to pass to himself.

There's no doubt in my mind that Isaiah Thomas deserves All-Rookie First Team honors as well as the starting spot at PG for the foreseeable future.

Coming Tomorrow: The Wings

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