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Game Charting: Do Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson Need a Point Guard?

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Shot creation is a funny thing. That term -- "shot creation" implies something positive. Shots are the only way to score in basketball (whether from the field or the line), and the idea that they are "created" is one that would seem to boost the perceived value of the creators. This would be shooters/scorers and assist men.

The Kings do not have any assist men, per se. Beno Udrih, the top assister, ranks No. 36 in the league in per-minute assists. Udrih (as we told you before he arrived) is a shooting point guard. He's a minor (and not nearly as good) Bibby -- not the pass-first cat Petrie and the local media made him out to be. I think the last two seasons of games have beared that out.

Also, the team traded Brad Miller, the best passing big man and a fulcrum of the offense, at midseason. Spencer Hawes has been kneaded into the Next Brad, but he's not there. He averages roughly half the assists Miller did, even in a down-assist, down-minute season for Miller.

This team, much as Natt and Carril and Sactown Royalty and Reynolds hates it, is a poor passing team.

So shot creation comes down to the shooters, the scorers. The assumption would be that this hurts the team's offense -- that more and better passing would result in easier shots and higher efficiency levels. So I watched the Memphis game with a pen and a pad, and I charted each shot attempt with a mind on assists and potential assists.

An assist, as we all know, is a pass that leads directly to a basket. There are two inherent problems with the assist as a statistic ... beyond alleged home cookin' by loosy goosy statisticians. The first problem: passes that directly lead to free throws aren't registered as assists. This deflates the assist totals for passers on high-FT teams. (For what it's worth, Sacramento is a high FT team.) This could be fixed easily, if the league would just add 0.5 assists for a pass resulting in one made FT and 1 assist for a pass resulting in two made FTs.

The second problem: what about those would-be assists in which the resulting shot is missed? This is a trickier problem, but would help settle questions of whether certain point guards rack up easy assists because they have a team of great shooters or whether others are penalized statistically because of bad shooters around them. Frankly, counting potential assists on a leaguewide basis would solve a ton of problems in how we see and deal with assists.

Without leaguwide data, counting up Beno's potential assists isn't terribly helpful -- there'd be no reference. But on a team basis there is value at looking at all shots coming off a potential assist and those created entirely by the shooter. So that's what I did this morning.

You'll find below a chart detailed what lead to each of the team's shot attempts, broken down by player. Again, in the case of the potential assists, I didn't break down who offered the pass -- just the shooter. Even with just one game of data, I think it shows us something interesting about our team. (Note: when someone goes two-for-two from the line, it counts as 1/1 [just like a made FG] here. If someone goes 1/2 from the line, it's 0.5/1. Miss both and it's 0/1 [just like a missed FG]. There are no signifiers for three-pointers and I left technical free throws out.)

PLAYER ASSISTED NOT ASSISTED
Thompson 6/6 2/4
Martin 2/3 12.5/21
Garcia 2/4 2/3
Hawes 2/4 2/5
Booth 0.5/2 0.5/1
Jackson 0/3 0/0
Nocioni 2/3 4/6
McCants 1/3 0.5/2
Greene 0/1 2/4
Udrih 0/1 3/5
TOTAL

15.5/30

52%

28/49

57%

 

Of the Kings' roughly 79 shot attempts (FGAs and "act-of-shooting" trips to the line), 49 were created by the shooter and 30 were created by a pass. In this game, the shooter-created attempts were more efficient than the passer-created attempts. That is owed almost completely to Kevin Martin, who relied almost exclusively on ... himself. Twenty-four shot attempts ... and only three of them came off a pass. That tells me that a) the Kings do not pass well and b) Martin is not doing enough to get into scoring position when he doesn't have the ball. No one tweak fixes this -- it's a hydra of a problem.

That said, Martin does well creating on his own. The 12.5/21 figure is 60% ... and one of the makes was a three. (Creating a three off the dribble is a notoriously inefficient shot, something I want to delve into at some point.) Thompson, on the other hand, he really excelled when set up. We know he has had trouble creating cleanly; nearly all his turnovers come on broken spin moves, whether in the form of offensive fouls or travels. But set him up and HOLY! LORD! he can finish. Six-of-six off potential assists.

Hawes didn't take enough shots to judge; his game really got thrown out of whack thanks to foul trouble. But I think we've seen a glimpse that indicates Thompson can get off gloriously if someone delivers the ball to him in scoring position, and we see that Martin can be really effective creating his own shots. I'll keep an eye on stuff like this, and I really hope to do more charting the last 11 games of the season.