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Advanced Analytics: Bargnani’s Pick and Pop game

Hello World!

Okay we get it.  Andrea Bargnani has not so-called “lived up” to the hype.  He was selected No. 1 overall by the Raptors to replace Chris Bosh as the savior of NBA Basketball in Toronto and that just didn’t happen.  We get it.  But it’s those exact lofty and unrealistic expectations that may now ultimately allow New York, Bargnani’s new NBA residence, the opportunity to flourish with him.

Toronto Raptors Team page | New York Knicks Team page

Truth be told, Bargnani is not a “Franchise” player.  He is not the type of player, obviously, that can carry a team to a championship on his own, let alone carry a team through a full season.  But that’s where the evaluation of Bargnani gets interesting.  Who even knew who this guy was before he was drafted back in 2006?

Not many.  In fact, Bargnani’s talents were so unique and unknown to the masses that looking back it’s hard to actually blame the Raptors’ camp at the time for going out on a limb and selecting him with the first pick.  But since we’re all arm-chair GMs and we think we know better, we can now evaluate and criticize a franchise for doing what we always ask of them; taking a chance.

Well it didn’t work.  And unfortunately sometimes that happens.  Bargnani has been oft-injured, somewhat aloof and inconsistent throughout his tenure with Toronto, but there is no way you can tell me this 7-foot power forward/center is not one of the most talented players this league has seen in recent years.  This guy may not have lived up to the expectations of a No. 1 pick, but he is surely no bust.

Now, talent and production are two completely separate entities and at this point Raptors’ fans have every reason to be upset that their now former uber-talented 7-footer was not able to convert all that skill into production and wins.

For the Knicks, however, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Apparently the Knicks are plenty glad to take on a former No. 1 overall pick who at 27 years old has already scored over 6,500 points and knocked down 579 three-pointers in his seven-year career (Steve Novak, the sharp-shooting 6-10 small forward included with Marcus Camby and future picks in the trade to Toronto, is 30 by the way).

For Andrea Bargnani’s part he will now be utilized as the third or fourth option with New York as opposed to numero uno for years in Toronto.

But I didn’t write this here post to rant.  Okay maybe a little.  This post was created to add merit to Bargnani’s worth based on sound statistical analysis.  I admit, his history of injuries, leaves a great gaping hole in any prospective analysis, but even with that being said I’d like to give you a detailed look into Bargnani’s greatest benefit to a team when healthy.  No, not rebounding silly.  Jump shooting.  Namely, off pick and pop action.  If you think Bargnani is going to magically turn into a decent rebounder then you’re once again setting an unrealistic expectation and based on the big guy’s history, you may be slightly delusional too.  He doesn’t rebound.  Get over it.  But what he does, shoot the ball extremely well off of pick and rolls, the Knicks hope will allow Melo to have even more space and freedom to do what he does well, play ISO ball.  It is what it is people.

Some of the numbers below should help you see the immense value in having a 7-foot sniper out on the court with a guy like Melo, Felton or even J.R. Smith.  More specifically, as the analysis will indicate, based on running pick and rolls resulting in perimeter shots.  Couple Bargnani’s ability to space from the power forward or center spot with current Knicks’ C Tyson Chandler‘s underrated strength in finishing at the rim off pick and rolls and you have some very interesting lineups Mike Woodson can run with the former No.1 overall pick now in the fold.  In the NBA it’s all about spacing offensively (see Miami Heat) and Bargnani’s insertion into any lineup the Knicks run with definitely helps in that end.

Stats based on Pick & Pop play types via Synergy Sports (min. 75 possessions)
*PPP = Points per possession: Points scored by a player divided by the player’s total possessions.
*Pts/Game = Points per game: Points scored by a player per game.
*FT% = The percentage of the time a player gets fouled in the act of shooting resulting in free throws.

2011-12 Pick and Pop Statistical League Leaders

PPP Players
Andrea Bargnani
1. Bargnani 1.022
2. Duncan 1.007
3. K. Love 1.000
4. Garnett .979
5. Aldridge .969
6. M. Gasol .947
7. Jason Smith .931
8. D. West .931
9. Gooden .927
10. D. Lee .909
Pts/GM Players
Andrea Bargnani
1. Bargnani 3.1
2. Gooden 2.9
3. Aldridge 2.8
4. Duncan 2.6
5. Jason Smith 2.4
6. Garnett 2.3
7. D. West 2.0
8. B. Bass 1.9
9. L. Scola 1.8
10. D. Lee 1.8
FT% Players
Andrea Bargnani
1. Bargnani 12.9%
2. D. Lee 9.1%
3. Kevin Love 9.0%
4. Gooden 8.5%
5. Aldridge 6.9%
6. D. West 6.9%
7. Duncan 6.6%
8. Kaman 6.0%
9. Jamison 5.9%
10. Nowitzki 5.0%

So what does all this mean?  What do the above numbers actually tell us and why aren’t last season’s stats included in this?

First things first, last season (2012-13) was easily Bargnani’s worst from a production and overall comfort-ability with the Raptors franchise standpoint.  Playing just 35 games due to injury didn’t help either, but even with that Bargnani, frequently brought up in trade talks, appeared disinterested in whatever Toronto was doing roster wise.  Jose Calderon was moved.  Rudy Gay was brought in.  There just seemed to be no clear direction in RaptorLand and in Bargnani’s case, with all the moves made to bring in other guys, one couldn’t blame the man for seeing the writing on the wall.

Last season Bargnani averaged just 12.7 points per game which was his lowest average since 2007-08, his second season in the league, and almost a whopping seven points less than his 19.5 point average in 2011-12.

So to realistically evaluate Bargnani we chose to focus on his most productive seasons in Toronto namely from 2009-2012.

During the 2011-12 NBA season, as you can see from the chart above, Andrea Bargnani led the league in points per possession based on a minimum of 75 Pick and Pop possessions.  Now keep in mind these stats are based soley on the Pick and Pop play type via Synergy Sports Technology extensive database.  Take a look at the long list of All-Stars that fall behind Bargnani in this extremely important play type run multiple times during the course of an NBA game and season.  Tim Duncan, Kevin Love, Kevin Garnett, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol even former Knick David Lee, all trail Bargnani in points per possession which in essence is one of the more notable and realistic metrics used to gauge the efficiency of a player’s skill set.

Ultimately, the points-per-possession metric is a tremendous indicator of how a player maximizes an offensive possession.  In Bargnani’s case, although the sample size during 2011-12 was relatively small in terms of games played, he not only was the most efficient player in Pick and Pop play types, but he scored the most points per game and got to the free throw line the highest percentage out of all players in the league.

Understanding the metrics listed above help explain why Bargnani is such a sound option running Pick and Pop action.  Now whether he can stay off the injured list for an extended period of time is a whole other story entirely.  Back to the numbers.

As you’ll notice Bargnani scored the highest PPP in the league at 1.022 in 2011-12.  Points per possession is calculated by dividing a player’s total points by their total possessions.  In this case, each player’s PPP listed is based solely on Pick and Pop play types.  Bargnani achieves such a high rating because he attempts more three-pointers than most of the players listed while also showcasing an uncanny ability to entice defenders into fouling him while shooting off Pick and Pop action.

In fact, Bargnani led the league in FT% which is a metric designed to track how often a player is awarded free throws running a particular play type.  Bargnani was fouled in the act of shooting resulting in free throws 12.9% of the time running Pick and Pop play types during the 2011-12 season good for the number one ranking in the entire league.  Capitalizing on those opportunities, Bargnani shot a career-high 87.3% from the charity stripe.

During the 2011-12 season, Bargnani averaged 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds while shooting 87.3% from the free throw line on 5.6 attempts per game. The stretch big man knocked down just 43.2% from the field and 29.6% from three suiting up in a total of just 31 games.

2010-11 Pick and Pop Statistical League Leaders

PPP Players
Kevin Love
1. K. Love 1.351
2. Villanueva 1.221
3. Horford 1.076
4. Bargnani 1.055
5. Aldridge 1.036
6. David West 1.028
7. C. Frye 1.024
8. B. Bass 1.000
9. E. Brand .966
10. Nowitzki .962
Pts/GM Players
Al Horford
1. Horford 2.4
2. Bargnani 2.3
3. C. Bosh 2.2
4. Aldridge 2.1
5. David West 2.1
6. Jamison 1.9
7. D. Lee 1.8
8. K. Love 1.7
9. Ilyasova 1.4
10. Nowitzki 1.4
FT% Players
Andrea Bargnani
1. Bargnani 11%
2. B. Lopez 9.4%
3. B. Griffin 9.3%
4. Blatche 9.1%
5. Jamison 8.2%
6. Nowitzki 7.5%
7. C. Bosh 7.5%
8. B. Bass 7.4%
9. Duncan 6.9%
10. Jason Smith 6.0%

The 2010-11 NBA season was arguably Bargnani’s most productive and although he wasn’t the overall league leader in all of the major Pick and Pop statistical categories, you can see from the chart above that he still ranked in the top 5 in points per possession, points per game and free throw percentage metrics.

Even more, Bargnani’s body of work was sufficient enough in terms of games played to add merit to his above-average ability to score efficiently and effectively running Pick and Pop action.

Behind only Kevin Love, who tallied an extremely impressive 1.351 PPP for the season, three-point happy Charlie Villanueva, and the steady Al Horford, Bargnani registered a consistent 1.055 PPP while suiting up for action in 66 games.

Again you will notice that even as a then 25-year-old, Bargnani ranked higher than many of the well-known Pick and Pop artists in the league while leading the entire Association in fouls created out of Pick and Pop action ultimately resulting in free throws.

Bargnani averaged 21.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game on 44.8% shooting from the floor and 34.5% from three.  He got to the line an average of 5.3 times shooting 82% from the stripe during the 2010-11 season.

2009-10 Pick and Pop Statistical League Leaders

PPP Players
Channing Frye
1. C. Frye 1.083
2. Jamison 1.075
3. D. West 1.073
4. B. Diaw 1.062
5. C. Bosh 1.043
6. J. Green 1.032
7. Nowitzki 1.000
8. Ilyasova .99
9. Aldridge .986
10. Rasheed Wallace .965
12. Bargnani .938
Pts/GM Players
Antawn Jamison
1. Jamison 2.8
2. Aldridge 1.8
3. B. Miller 1.8
4. Nowitzki 1.8
5. C. Frye 1.4
6. C. Bosh 1.4
7. U. Haslem 1.3
8. D. West 1.3
9. Villanueva 1.2
10. Kevin Garnett 1.2
24. Bargnani 1.0
FT% Players
Antawn Jamison
1. Jamison 13.2%
2. J. Green 10.5%
3. U.Haslem 9.6%
4. Jason Thompson 9.6%
5. B. Miller 9.0%
6. Beasley 7.2%
7. Nowitzki 6.9%
8. C. Bosh 6.4%
9. D. West 6.3%
10. B. Diaw 6.3%
15. Bargnani 4.9%

As you probably noticed from the chart above, during the 2009-10 NBA season Bargnani’s Pick and Pop statistics were not nearly as impressive as the next two following seasons.  He simply was not used in Pick and Pop action as frequently, however the inclusion of his Pick and Pop numbers here is solely to detail the stark improvement he showed throughout the 2010-12 seasons.

Bargnani averaged 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on a career-high 47% shooting from the floor and 37.2% from three in 2009-10.

What is important to note here from a statistical perspective is just how efficient he was in the play type that he was most frequently involved in that season; the spot up shot.

Incredibly Bargnani ranked in the 85-percentile in spot up play types out of all NBA players per Synergy Sports Technology’s database.

Spot up play types constituted for 37.5% of his offense that season.  In fact, the Italian-born big man shot 46.3% while tallying 1.111 PPP for the season.

The guy can hit shots from the perimeter.  That’s no illusion.  The numbers not only back that claim, but they indicate that he has proven to add to an already solid shooting skill set with efficiency each season.  At the close of the 2009-10 NBA season, Bargnani registered 121 three-point makes many come via spot up opportunities.  As he progressed and expanded his game to incorporate more Pick and Pop opportunities, as you can see from the charts listed above, from season to season he got better.  His improvement in not only spotting up from the perimeter, but from connecting on Pick and Pop chances simply cannot be ignored.

The numbers don’t lie.  The big question remains though, can Bargnani stay healthy enough for a long enough period of time to legitimately help the Knicks win?

If so, and it’s a big if admittedly, Knicks’ fans may look back at this seemingly odd move as one of the more strategic and savvy transactions in recent New York memory.  Time will only tell.

Andrea Bargnani Highlights

2/16/11 38 points 15-26 fgs at Miami 12/16/10 41 points 16-24 fgs 110-113 at NY
One of the more deadly Shot Fakes in the Game Bargnani’s Top 10 Plays as a Raptor

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4 Responses to "Advanced Analytics: Bargnani’s Pick and Pop game"

  1. Davieriec says:

    Good article, Bargnani will start and will surprise many people

  2. […] I threw the question out there on twitter and thankfully my buddy Jarrod Gillis did some research. Check out his read, it’s a good one. In 2011-12 Bargnani was the game’s best pick and pop big. Better than Duncan and better than […]

  3. […] I threw the question out there on twitter and thankfully my buddy Jarrod Gillis did some research. Check out his read, it’s a good one. In 2011-12 Bargnani was the game’s best pick and pop big. Better than Duncan and better than […]

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