If you’ve read Part 1 (why wouldn’t you? Are you trying to hurt my feelings?), then you know the deal. If not, we’re going to take interesting, noteworthy, or shocking advanced stats and explain what the real-life impact of those stats are, as opposed to just regurgitating them to you.
Part 1 discussed Tony Allen’s ability to get offensive rebounds despite being a 6’5” shooting guard. Part 2 will take a look at the numbers for Mike Conley with and without Chandler Parsons.
According to nbawowy.com, here are the advanced stats for Mike Conley when Chandler Parsons is on the floor vs when he’s off.
Advanced Stats with and without Chandler Parsons
PPP= Points per Possession, eFG= Effective Field Goal Percentage, TS= True Shooting Percentage
Acknowledging that there is a smaller sample size, Mike Conley plays significantly better with Chandler Parsons on the floor with him.
If Parsons were having a good year, this would be more understandable. But before he got shut down for the season, he was shooting 34% from the field and 27% from three, not numbers one would think capable of diverting defenders’ attention from Mike Conley.
But keep in mind that this is a career-low for Parsons. Throughout his career he’s been a much more effective shooter. His career average shooting splits are .466/.373/.711, well above his 2016-17 numbers (except for free throws where Parsons was shooting .814 this season). If Parsons’ 16-17 numbers showed the shooter Parsons actually is, defenders would sag off of him constantly. But defenders still have to respect his jump shot.
Here’s a great example of that. Mike Conley is a great driver and you can see Paul George tempted to help out Jeff Teague when Conley drives. But Parsons is (usually) a good 3-point shooter, so George tries to stay home and Conley gets a very easy finger roll.
Parsons also helps out Conley by being a good playmaker. The Grizzlies have had back-up point guard problems all season and they can really only rely on Mike for playmaking. Chandler’s passing hasn’t been the sharpest this year, but on this play he shows the flashes of the playmaker the Grizzlies thought they were getting over the summer. And again, it comes from a defender respecting Parsons’ jump shot.
Here, Parsons gets the ball and P.J. Tucker immediately closes out, maybe a little too strong. Parsons drives past him, forcing Leandro Barbosa to leave his man (Conley) open on the perimeter. Once Parsons gets in the middle of the defense in the paint, he kicks it out to Mike Conley who drains an open 3.
Now what if we wanted to study Conley without Parsons? The numbers show that Conley plays worse without him, but that’s harder to identify through video. Parsons can directly impact Conley like he did on that assist, but when he’s off the floor it’s tough to see what doesn’t happen, which is why the numbers alone aren’t good enough.
But here’s a good example of a play that could have used Chandler Parsons. This play is another in which Conley drives to the basket, but the paint is far too cluttered. Vince Carter and JaMychal Green are on the 3-point line to space the floor, but their defenders stay home to protect the 3. Toney Douglas, instead of spacing the floor, cuts to the basket as Conley drives, bringing Mike another defender to deal with. Conley has to launch a floater with 3 defenders in his face, and he doesn’t connect.
Later in the same game, Conley has the ball in isolation up top. Other players are standing and waiting for Mike Conley to take advantage of Davis Bertans being the unlucky soul to guard him. But since the other 4 players aren’t getting open or pressuring the defense to react, all of the pressure is on Conley, and it leads to an already inefficient long two hitting off the front of the rim.
But something should be noted from numbers like the ones above. When looking at the numbers when a starter is off the court, there’s a good chance more than one starter is off the court. If Parsons isn’t on the court, then maybe the rest of the 2nd unit is in, which means no Gasol or Tony Allen. Conley’s numbers are lower without Parsons, but it could also be an indictment of the players in the game instead. So it’s important to take off-court numbers in context (magic word today) and not take them as gospel.
Advanced stats are sensitive, but very useful. We’ve seen that no single statistic can be a litmus test for NBA players. They may be the most unbiased way of assessing skill, but without bias does not mean without faults. So I hope to expose how numbers come to be and how they can be useful while also explaining they are not be-all end-alls of player evaluation. We live in a fantastic basketball age where so much information is available to anyone who wants to seek it. I can find out the best shooters on the Milwaukee Bucks in a few seconds. If I want to find out exactly what percentage of their shots are mid-rangers, I could do that too in the same amount of time.
But what good is the information if you can’t apply it to real-life games, let alone if you aren’t aware what the information even is?
So that’s what I hope to do in the future with this piece. I want to teach some advanced stats and analytics (just what they are, not how to do them. I am a writer for a reason) to look for and how to apply them with the eye test. It’s about putting together pieces of a puzzle until you get the full picture of the player or team in question.
A puzzle that is never truly complete.