Thursday, May 21, 2009

I keep telling you guys he's not a bust

I wrote this on the Kay House wall on facebook, but I liked it so decided to share it hear. So the few people that might still read this blog – which is my fault, since I have hardly written anything in the last few months – will have already read it on that wall. Thanks anyway, J-Lew and Ek.

Greg Oden is not yet what I hope he will be. But I'm not that unhappy with what he was this year, and here are a few reasons.

1. It was his rookie season.
2. He was coming off micro-fracture surgery, and then had to do come back from that flukey foot thing and the chip in his knee later.
3. Not only did refs not give him the benefit of the doubt, they seemed to target him. (I'm not arguing he didn't make plenty of dumb fouls. But I was happy to hear some national media members complain about some of the calls against him in the playoffs, if only to give a little bit of perspective beyond the many Blazer fans I read.) (And the double negative was on purpose.)
4. He was being worked into an offense that is clearly built around two other guys, and has been working that way for the last two years.

Those reasons helped me take a disappointing season in stride. But here are some numbers to keep in mind, though. Here is where all the stat-heads I read have an influence. As Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don't Lie said, "Ignore pace-adjusted stats at your own peril, lest you think Stephen Jackson had a better year than Paul Pierce, or that Chris Duhon had a better season than Jason Kidd. Without pace adjustment, both Pierce and Kidd come out a step slow, and that isn't fair. Nor would it be correct." So let's compare a rookie Dwight Howard – yes, him – to a rookie Greg Oden. (Thanks to for making this easy.)

Sure, Dwight averaged 12 and 10 for the season. Which is awesome. But he was also the only big man on that Magic team. And while there were other scoring options, that Magic team was third in the league in pace. Oden only averaged 8.9 and 7 this year, but that's on a team with one of the top three shooting guards in the league (go ahead, argue that one) that was lost in the league in pace.

In addition, because of the aforementioned foul trouble, Oden was doing that in 21.5 minutes per game instead of 32.6.

So let's look at some of the advanced stats. The key ones for this battle are PER, rebounding percentages, blocked shot percentage, and shooting percentages. We can't really look at stats to tell us about defense, but you all know by instinct that Howard was a better defender as a rookie was than Oden was this year. That's probably true, but not by as much as you think.

To the numbers: both had PERs above the NBA average, Oden at 18.1 and Howard at 17.2. Those aren't bad, especially considering that PER favors offense because it's easier to measure. Both had okay shooting percentages. In true shooting %, which factors 2s, 3s, and FTs, Oden was slightly better at .599 while Howard was .571. In overall FG% Oden was also slightly better, hitting .564 while Howard was .520.

The block percentage (which is just the percentage of shots blocked by the player while on the floor) was really close, with Oden barely beating Howard 4.2% to 3.6%.

At this point I could say, "see, Oden compares favorably to a rookie Dwight Howard." And I don't think that would be wrong. In fact, I think Oden's offensive game is at about the same level as Howard's is RIGHT NOW. They both have that hideous hook shot. Oden isn't as good at just dunking whenever he wants, but every once in a while he remembers that he can. When you factor these numbers out to averages per 36 minutes, Oden actually wins in nearly every category. I know that we can't because of the fouls, I just wanted to repeat that their production per minute was actually quite similar.

I'm not stopping with that, though, because there's a much better stat. The rebounding percentages tell the story pretty well. I'm part of the group that has nothing but praise for Howard's prowess as a rebounder...

But Oden was a much better rebounder as a rookie than Howard was. In fact, Oden was almost as good a rebounder as Howard was THIS YEAR. Rebounding percentage measures the percent of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor. In his rookie year, Howard had an offensive rebounding % of 12.2, a defensive rebounding % of 22.2, and a total rebounding % of 17.3. Those are great numbers. He hasn't really improved that much, either. As TSG says, rebounding doesn't really change. This year Howard had an ORB% of 13.8, a DRB% of 29.5, and a TRB% of 21.8.

This year, as a rookie, Oden had an ORB% of 15.7 (best in the league), a DRB% of 24.5 (better than Howard as a rookie), and a TRB% of 20.

Since he never quite made his top shape after dealing with all the injuries this year, I fully expect that to help with his foot movement and a few of the dumb fouls. I also expect refs to give him a little more credit in the coming years, which will lower that foul number a little more.

As he does and his game improves (or even stays mainly the same), I still think that was the right pick. He is a game changing center like Howard.

And to the common claim that Oden will never really recover from his leg injuries, I point to Big Z. While Ilgauskas didn't have leg problems exactly – they were foot problems – he has gone on to play a pretty good career, playing no fewer than 62 games in any of the last eight years. And he's bigger than Oden.

1 comment:

Lewis said...

It is easier to read without all of the character limit breaks.