If you've been following along with Jeff's outstanding "Inside the Numbers" series, you should have a good understanding of what the advanced metrics are telling us about the team performance. Today, though, I want to look at individual player production through the prism of advanced stats.
If you're not already familiar with these metrics, you're going to want to take a few minutes to read through this primer by Ken Pomeroy, from whose database these stats are drawn. Broadly speaking, the reason to prefer these metrics over traditional stats is that they take into account opportunity -- minutes played, possessions played, number of rebounds available, etc.
For example, if we were to look only at traditional stats, we might conclude from his average of 2.7 defensive rebounds per game that Jaylen Bond is not very good on the glass. If, however, we take into account how many minutes he played, and the number of shots that opponents missed, we see Bond has a Defensive Rebounding Percentage (DR%) of 20.2, tops on the team.
After the jump, we'll dive into the data and hit on some of the numbers that stand out and what they tell us.
Note that for point of reference I've included the advanced stats for LaMarcus Aldridge's sophomore season, as well as the freshman season stats of Kevin Durant and DJ Augustin.
Texas Longhorns 2011-12 Player Stats (through 8 games)
|Major Contributors (24-28% of possessions used)|
|Significant Contributors (20-24% of possessions used)|
|Role Players (16-20% of possessions used)|
|Limited Roles (12-16% of possessions used)|
Notes and Observations
J'Bongo! I've noted from the outset that I thought this Texas team might outperform everyone's expectations because where most teams are grateful to have even one, Texas has two elite primary ball handlers. J`Covan Brown has cooled off a bit since his absolutely ridiculous start to the year, while Myck Kabongo has steadily improved. Now through nine games of the season, J'Bongo's numbers confirm the exceptional value both players are providing.
For his part, JCB must have one of the best all-around stat lines of any guard in the country: outstanding efficiency (his Offensive Rating ranks 17th nationally among players using between 24% - 28% of possessions), terrific shooting, and elite ball handling (his 29.9 Assist Rate ranks 108th, while his 9.6 Turnover Percentage ranks 75th).
As for Kabongo, after a bit of a slow start following two forgettable performances in New Jersey, the freshman point guard's numbers are rapidly improving, and he already ranks among the nation's best in Assist Rate (33rd), Steal Percentage (364th), Fouls Drawn per 40 minutes (49th), and Free Throw Rate (11th). If he can get his turnover rate down and shoot the three pointer more selectively, he's going to develop into one of the most productive and difficult-to-deal-with point guards in the country.
Compare J'Bongo's numbers with those of Durant and Augustin and you'll get a pretty good idea of how good they've been in the early going.
Julien Lewis vs Sheldon McClellan. The stats above do not yet include the numbers from last night's game against Texas State, so the numbers for Lewis -- who scored 19 points on 6-12 shooting in 23 minutes, with 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, and a steal -- will be a little bit better once they do, but he won't make up much ground on McClellan, who had another strong game himself (13 points on 5-8 shooting in 24 minutes, with 6 boards, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 block, and 1 steal).
Now, I know that Rick Barnes wants Sheldon McClellan to get better defensively, and that the superior defensive play Barnes believes Lewis provides is the reason he is starting over McClellan, but the production gap between the two is substantial. Although the two players are getting roughly the same amount of playing time as measured by minutes played, Texas is getting so much more out of McClellan's minutes that the disparity in defensive performance would need to be awfully dramatic to justify their current usage patterns.
McClellan's offensive efficiency is off the charts -- his 131.8 ORtg 39th nationally among players in his %Poss class -- he's lethal scoring both inside and out, he takes care of the basketball, and he does a good job of getting to the line. The one area where he can do more is on the glass, where right now he's contributing, but is capable of more.
The numbers for Lewis, by contrast, look much more like those of a freshman -- inefficient scoring and an underdeveloped ability to get his own shot and score at the rim or the stripe. This isn't to say that Lewis has been bad (after last night he's at 40% shooting from downtown, after all), but rather that McClellan has been really, really good -- so good, in fact, that the numbers suggest: (a) McClellan needs to play more, (b) those minutes should come at Lewis's expense, and (c) we should look to keep getting McClellan more and more involved.
Honestly, while McClellan does have plenty of work to do to be consistent on the defensive end, I don't see so huge a disparity between him and Lewis to keep using them equally. McClellan should be starting, and playing more minutes.
Chapmene delivering value. I spent a lot of time in the preseason talking about the importance of Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman giving us solid value this year -- not great play, just value. I've been awfully hard on Chapman on his bad nights (no one looks worse when not playing well), but there have been more good games than bad, and on the whole his numbers show the meaningful value he's contributing -- decent rebounding, lots of blocks, and high-percentage shooting. He's fouling too much and you really hope for more rebounding from a guy who's 6-10, but at least he's producing some value out there. A little more would be better -- and greater consistency is essential -- but he's at least exceeding the minimum threshold in terms of what we had to have from him.
For his part, Wangmene has been a good bit better than that. He's scoring efficiently, delivering as much rebounding as his height and hands probably realistically allow, and playing solid defense without fouling. If we get this from Lexi all year, it'll be a terrific season for the senior.
Holy Holmes. How good has Jonathan Holmes been? He's among our most efficient scorers, he gets to the line, and he's been our best overall rebounder. The turnovers need to come down, and the fouls really need to come down, but if he can sustain those numbers through Big 12 play, he'll have put together one of the more impressive seasons by a Texas freshman under Barnes. Compare his numbers to LaMarcus Aldridge's as a sophomore and you'll see just how productive he's been through nine games. The competition will get a lot more stiff come January, but so far so good for the surprisingly suave and diverse freshman forward.
Sterling: don't shoot, take care of the ball. Sterling Gibbs' path to more minutes is pretty clear, isn't it? Don't shoot the three. Take better care of the basketball. As talented and important as Brown and Kabongo are, there aren't going to be many minutes for Gibbs in any case, but if he can't improve his performance in those two regards he's going to be limited to blowouts and situatiions of necessity (i.e. foul trouble).
Jaylen Bond's quiet effectiveness. Rick's bringing him along slowly, but Bond has been quietly giving Texas some solid production in his limited minutes. He's fouling too much, which is a reflection of his being undersized for a forward, and if he can't overcome his height limitations to improve in that regard, his minutes will be necessarily limited. But his athleticism is legitimately impressive which in connection with his upper body strength help him be arguably the team's best rebounder. I'll be interested to see the shape of his learning curve over the rest of the season.
Next up for the Longhorns: one more tune up on Tuesday against Nicholls State, then the team's next big progress check with a home tilt versus Temple and a road trip to Chapel Hill. Hook 'em