One Team, One Stat: Portland Trail Blazers lacking shots off the catch
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Portland Trail Blazers, who shoot off the dribble too much.
The Blazers were the only team that recorded assists on less than half of their field goals last season.
The Blazers also ranked in the bottom five in both ball movement (295 passes per 24 minutes of possession – 29th in the league) and player movement (10.2 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession – 26th), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
There’s no correlation between ball or player movement and offensive efficiency. In fact, five of the top eight teams in ball movement ranked in the bottom 10 in points scored per 100 possessions. The only team that threw fewer passes per 24 minutes of possession than the Blazers was the Houston Rockets, who ranked second offensively. Two other top five offenses – Cleveland and Minnesota – ranked in the bottom five in ball movement.
But the Blazers’ guard-heavy offense doesn’t get them the best kinds of shots. Last season, only 46 percent of their jump shots, the league’s lowest rate, were off the catch. They ranked third in pull-up effective field goal percentage (45.9 percent) and 19th in catch-and-shoot effective field goal percentage (52.0 percent), but still scored about seven more points per 100 shots on the catch-and-shoot jumpers.
The Blazers led the league with 26.8 pull-up jumpers per game, with C.J. McCollum (9.3) and Damian Lillard (8.9) ranking fourth and sixth amongst individuals. The pair ranked 10th and sixth in pull-up effective field goal percentage among the 37 players who attempted at least five per game. There’s clear value to having guards who can shoot off the dribble and force opposing big men to venture farther from the basket than they’d prefer.
But both Lillard and McCollum shot more effectively on catch-and-shoot jumpers, and some of their teammates did too.
Catch-and-shoot jumpers are much more likely to be 3-point shots. League-wide last season, 81 percent of catch-and-shoot jumpers and only 34 percent of pull-up jumpers were from beyond the arc. Three is greater than two and a catch-and-shoot 3-point attempt is worth much more (1.12 points per attempt) than a pull-up two (0.80).
The talent of Lillard and McCollum make up some of that difference, but not all of it. The Blazers had a top-five offense in 2013-14 and they remained in the top 10 for two more seasons, including their first (’15-16) without LaMarcus Aldridge. They’ve been running one of the more unique offenses in the league, accentuating the skills of their two guards.
But they’ve slipped (in points scored per 100 possessions vs. the league average) in each of the last four seasons. And it may be time for some new wrinkles that generate more shots off the catch.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).
BLAZERS NOTES – GENERAL
- Had the league’s best winning percentage (they were 33-1) when leading by at least 15 points.
- Led the league in time of possession percentage, having the ball for 46 percent of all minutes (league average was 43 percent), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- Were the first top-three seed to be swept in the first round since the first round went to a best-of-seven format in 2003.
- In the regular season, they were at their best (plus-5.4 points per 100 possessions) in the first quarter. In the playoffs, they were outscored by 25.9 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter. That was the worst first-quarter NetRtg for any team in any round of the postseason.
BLAZERS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Led the league with 11.5 screen assists per game.
- Ranked last with 8.1 fast break points per game. Only 10.5 percent of their possessions, the lowest rate in the league, were in transition, according to Synergy tracking. Also saw the biggest drop in points per possession in transition from 2016-17 (1.15) to ’17-18 (1.02).
- Saw the league’s biggest post-break drop in 3-point percentage, from 37.9 percent (third in the league) before the break to 33.9 percent (28th) after it.
- One of three teams (Indiana and Milwaukee were the others) that had a better effective field goal percentage in the playoffs (51.2 percent) than they did in the regular season (51.1 percent). All three lost in the first round.
- At the time, their free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 0.173 in the first round was the lowest mark for any team in a playoff series over the last 20 years. Then New Orleans had a lower rate (0.165) in the conference semis.
BLAZERS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Were the league’s fourth most improved defensive team, allowing 104.2 points per 100 possessions (eighth in the league) last season after allowing 107.8 (21st) in 2016-17.
- Opponents shot just 55 percent in the restricted area, the lowest mark by a wide margin in the regular season. In the playoffs, they allowed New Orleans to shoot 72 percent in the restricted area, with 38 percent of the Pelicans’ shots coming from there. Both of those were the highest opponents marks of the postseason.
- Have ranked in the bottom six in opponent turnover percentage in each of the last six seasons.
- Ratio of opponent 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts was 1.5, the second lowest mark in the league. (The league average was 1.8.)
- Allowed 19.1 points per game from pick-and-roll ball-handlers, second most in the league. Opponents recorded assists on just 53 percent of their field goals, the league’s second lowest opponent rate.
- Saw the biggest increase in DefRtg from the regular season (104.2 points allowed per 100 possessions – eighth in the league) to the playoffs (114.7 – 16th).
BLAZERS NOTES – LINEUPS
- One of two teams (Washington was the other) that had more than one lineup that played at least 400 minutes together. Both lineups – Lillard, McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jusuf Nurkic, with either Maurice Harkless or Evan Turner – were similarly successful, outscoring their opponents by 7.5 and 7.2 points per 100 possessions, respectively.
- Those two lineups recorded assists on 56 percent of their field goals (a rate which would still have ranked 28th). All other lineups recorded assists on just 47 percent of their buckets. The team’s assist percentage was highest with Nurkic on the floor.
- Outscored their opponents by 4.8 points per 100 possessions with Lillard and McCollum on the floor together, the pairing’s best mark in McCollum’s three seasons as a starter. Were also a plus-4.8 in 774 minutes with Lillard on the floor without McCollum. But they were outscored by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in 1,027 minutes with McCollum on the floor without Lillard.
- Outscored their opponents by 22 points per 100 possessions in 233 minutes with Lillard, McCollum and Shabazz Napier on the floor together.
BLAZERS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Al-Farouq Aminu averaged 17.3 points per game in the playoffs, up from 9.3 in the regular season. That was the biggest jump among 175 players who played in at least four postseason games. He led the postseason with 3.3 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers per game.
- In the regular season, Aminu took 58 percent of his shots from 3-point range. That was up from 46 percent the season prior and the 12th highest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.
- Seth Curry didn’t play last season, but still has the second best 3-point percentage (43.2 percent) among 231 players with at least 300 3-point attempts over the last three seasons, just ahead of his brother Stephen (43.1 percent).
- Maurice Harkless registered career-high marks in effective field goal percentage (57.7 percent) and true shooting percentage (59.6 percent) last season, but his minutes per game dropped from 28.9 (in 2016-17) to 21.4. That was the 13th biggest drop among 260 players who played in at least 40 games both seasons.
- Damian Lillard ranked third in both free throw percentage and total free throws made. He became just the eighth (different) player in NBA history to shoot 90 percent or better on at least seven free throw attempts per game in a single season.
- Lillard led the league with 12.4 points per game as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.
- In the playoffs, Lillard had an effective field goal percentage of 41.5 percent, the third worst mark among 92 players with at least 50 postseason field goal attempts.
- C.J. McCollum led the league in total distance traveled (218 miles). A Portland player has led the league for all five seasons for which we have full-season tracking data, and it has been McCollum for each of the last three.
- McCollum committed a turnover just 3.9 percent of the time on drives, the third lowest rate among 102 players who averaged at least five drives per game.
- McCollum scored just 0.91 points per possession in transition, the lowest rate among 41 players who averaged at least three transition possessions per game in 40 games or more.
- Lillard (9-for-17) and McCollum (7-for-20) were two of four players with at least seven field goals to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.
- Lillard (53.8 percent) and McCollum (53.2 percent) ranked 54th and 56th, respectively, in field goal percentage in the restricted area among the 56 players with at least 100 restricted-area attempts.
- Jusuf Nurkic had an effective field goal percentage of 56 percent after the All-Star break, up from 48 percent before the break. That was the fourth biggest jump among players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and 150 after it.
- Nurkic had a an assist-turnover ratio of 0.78, the second worst mark among the top 50 players in usage rate.
- Lillard had 190 assists to Nurkic. That was the third highest total (behind Westbrook-Adams and Harden-Capela) from one player to a single teammate last season.
- Nik Stauskas averaged just 12.8 minutes per game (with Philadelphia and Brooklyn) last season, down from 27.4 (with Philly) in 2016-17. That was the second biggest drop among 260 players who played in at least 40 games each season.
- Evan Turner took 62 percent of his shots from between the restricted area and 3-point range, the highest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.
NBA TV’s Blazers preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 6.
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