TeamSPACE: Grand Central

The TeamSPACE 2013-2014 NBA season in review treks onward. Today we discuss the Central division, a grouping of really five of the most unique teams in the league. As we study positive and negative spatial overlap and uniqueness, keep in mind that going forward each of these teams is expected to experience drastic changes due to injuries (Paul George, Derrick Rose), free agency (Lebron James, Kevin Love), the draft (Jabari Parker), and head coaching (Dave Blatt, Stan Van Gundy, Jason Kidd) changes.

For more on this methodology, click here.

For Part 1 (Southwest division), click here.

For Part 2 (Northwest division), click here.

For Part 3 (Pacific division), click here.

For Part 4 (Southeast division), click here.

It’s the most turbulent division so far! Today we ask some hard questions about some good teams, and some easy questions about some, well, not-as-good teams:

Indiana Pacers

Record: 56-26

2013-2014 Indiana Pacers

2013-2014 Indiana Pacers

If you’ve been following each of these season reviews, you’re probably expecting something like this:

“There is a significant amount of clustering from George Hill, Lance Stephenson, and Paul George along the above-the-break 3-point line.”

“David West owns the midrange unlike any other big man we’ve seen last season.”

“Who replaces Lance Stephenson’s production next season?”

While those are all plausible lines of thought… Forget them, because it’s not really fair to talk about last season’s Pacers without accounting for the swoon.

Yes, the swoon.

Before the All-Star break: 40-12

2013-2014 Indiana Pacers Pre All-Star Break

2013-2014 Indiana Pacers Pre All-Star Break

Precise and diversified. Paul George is creatively splattered all around the court. Yes, the corners and one of the elbows are a bit crowded, and there is probably a bit too much area covered by David West (honest question: who truly was the #1 option on this team?), but this is largely indicative of a healthy, successful offense.

After the All-Star break: 16-14

2013-2014 Indiana Pacers Post All-Star Break

2013-2014 Indiana Pacers Post All-Star Break

Oh. Oh my. A few noteworthy differences (we are teetering close to the edge of the child’s game What’s Different?, comparing these two charts…):

  • Where have you gone, George Hill? Hill has nearly stopped shooting.
  • Where have you gone, David West? West is still active, but in much more consolidated areas
  • Paul George appears to have given up on passing; he’s taking up much larger chunks of space.
  • Lance Stephenson has been artificially reduced to a 3-and-D player, really only active from one corner.
  • Roy Hibbert displays some of the most non-rim-centric Hunting Grounds for any of the most-used centers in the NBA.

An important note: The differences between these two charts do not explain (or rather, provide causality to) the collapse of the Pacers. It would be wildly misguided to deduce that the change in Hunting Grounds led to their ultimate demise. Rather, these changes may help describe some of the differences and really, demonstrate that Indiana was in fact a Tale of Two Teams last season.

Chicago Bulls

Record: 48-34

2013-2014 Chicago Bulls

2013-2014 Chicago Bulls

The chart for the Bulls is pretty strongly clustered/overlapped. Some of this is positive, as the shots are coming from the “right” locations from 1-2 different players. And some of this appears to be a bit of a Hinrich-Effect. In the absence of a dominant #1 option on offense, this Bulls lineup was susceptible to significant amounts of Kirk Hinrich-occupied space. FIlling in for an injured Derrick Rose two seasons ago, similar things could likely have been said about Nate Robinson. However in this case, Hinrich’s activity appears to add more chaos to an otherwise fluid system.

The activity from Dunleavy and Butler is expected – similar areas, but less from Butler in a more corner-centric role. Dunleavy does a fairly good Kyle Korver impersonation here. Carlos Boozer has activity fairly similar to David West – diversified across the midrange, with concentrations on the elbows and baseline. Meanwhile Noah has just a little activity on the elbows, and then mostly at the rim. All of this is largely expected, and predictable.

The Hinrich-Effect, however, complicates literally every one of these unique areas. The corner 3-point, the elbows, the baseline, the above-the-break 3-pointers – everywhere. It’s almost intrusive.

This of course begs the question, (and I’m sorry for this, Bulls fans), what if Derrick Rose was healthy last season?

2013-2014 Chicago "What Ifs"

2013-2014 Chicago “What Ifs”

Of course this is only using the couple weeks of games from Rose last season, but this is simply harmonious, in a very Spursian manner. The overlap is minimized and the uniqueness is maximized. Here’s to next season, we hope.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 33-49

2013-2014 Cleveland Cavaliers

2013-2014 Cleveland Cavaliers

Well this is odd. Normally, the grey areas do not extend outside of the paint. In the curious case of Spencer Hawes, he’s a bit active from above-the-break 3-point territory. Realistically, Tristan Thompson is shooting like a traditional Big in this configuration, and Hawes is the Stretch 4. Luol Deng is playing a great 3-and-D role… on a team missing most of the other components. Further, Kyrie Irving is both incredibly precise and not very active. The yellow (on one wing, in one corner, and on one block) is pretty hard to spot. From merely studying this chart it would appear that Jarrett Jack is the #1 option here.

There’s obviously a lot of Rockets-like negative space here, but it is also telling that the ‘most used’ lineup involves 2 players acquired at the trade deadline; needless to say there was a lot of different rotations last season in Cleveland. And realistically, there’s been a couple acquisitions from South Beach and Minneapolis (as well as new coach Dave Blatt) this offseason that will drastically change this going forward.

Detroit Pistons

Record: 29-53

2013-2014 Detroit Pistons

2013-2014 Detroit Pistons

This is the THE team, and frankly THE lineup, that really spawned the idea of TeamSPACE. If Detroit never acquired Josh Smith before last season, clustering, overlapping, Hunting Ground-based shot charts may never have come to fruition.

And honestly, I’m a bit disappointed by the results of this chart. I expected massive swaths of Josh Smith completely covering Greg Monroe. I also expected Brandon Jennings to completely overpower whatever 2-guard cracked this rotation. Instead, this chart gives the false impression of balance. Does that make TeamSPACE a flawed concept? By no means; rather, it should cue further analysis deeper meaning.

Case in point: Brandon Jennings covers the entire above-the-break 3-point line, sprinkled with a dash of Josh Smith. Jennings is a career 35% 3-point shooter, shooting 34% last season (taking 40% of his shots from deep). Smith is a career 28% 3-point shooter, shooting 26% last year (using 20% of his shots). Probably not the best options from deep, and there’s no room for anyone else up there. Caldwell-Pope is active in the corners, to the tune of 38% from those spots (compared to 32% overall) last season. Simply, and obviously, put: too much Jennings and Smith from deep. The chart isn’t clustered because they are taking all the shots.

Further: the midrange. Smith’s Hunting Grounds are very precise, but there are in every key spot outside of the paint and inside of the arc. Greg Monroe literally does not have a Hunting Ground outside of the paint, or anything from beyond 6 feet from the basket (the players with the most overlap in this lineup are Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe). Josh Smith shot 34% from midrange last season. Greg Monroe shot 41% from 10-16 feet from the hoop. Even if nothing changes from Smith or Jennings (which seems highly unlikely with new coach Stan Van Gundy), the most obvious area for improvement is the baseline and the elbows. Most successful teams have a more consistent presence in those areas. This will still be one of my favorite lineups to analyze going forward.

Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 15-67

2013-2014 Milwaukee Bucks

2013-2014 Milwaukee Bucks

Welp, here’s to seeing what next season offers:

  • Refreshed (ideally) Larry Sanders occupying less midrange space than Zaza Pachulia
  • Likely ball-dominant Jabari Parker taking a lot of Ilyasova’s activity and forcing it further inside, and further outside
  • More Greek Freak, less Khris Middleton
  • An undetermined amount of Brandon Knight: the same, more, or less from 3-point land?

This lineup seems unlikely to be ‘most used’ next season, and we haven’t even mentioned John Henson yet. And honestly, I still miss Michael Redd.

Data and photo support provided courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball-Reference.com, and Austin Clemens.

Matt D'Anna