Profiles Intro Part 1: What They Tell Us About the Lakers

We’ve recently rolled out Player Profiles for 2019-20 NBA players to our $5/Month Data & Tools Package, costing me countless hours looking through Anthony Davis vs [enter DPOY candidate here] comparisons with various filters. I’m here to share some of those insights about what our player profiles tell us about the Lakers.

Along with that release, we put out a Glossary to help explain the statistics used. Please refer to that if there’s anything you see in this article you’re curious about.

There’s a lot of data in these profiles, so this may be a longer read. Since these profiles have an incredible amount of data, we’ll be splitting the release of this article into two parts. In fact, the profiles include 220+ data points on 516 current players, split into 25 different categories. This article will follow the flow of those 25 categories for the 16 Laker players this season. It’ll start with more boring/background data, then get into the good stuff we can derive insights from.

To get access to this data for the cost of a cup of coffee per month, go here!

1. Biographical Data

Perhaps the most boring place to start, the biographical data section will inform us on each player’s:

  1. Team: Lakers
  2. Height: Alex Caruso is 6’5″!
  3. Weight: Alex Caruso is 186 lbs (and probably more now that he’s put on a bit of muscle)
  4. Age Today: LeBron James is 35.4 years old

Let’s move on.

2. Position & Role

This section is where it starts to get interesting. For each player we can see:

  1. Offensive Position (PG/SG/SF/PF/C)
  2. Advanced Offensive Position (Guard/Wing/Big)
  3. Offensive Role (among the 11 roles defined here, but we’ll have a new list out soon)
  4. Defensive Position, based on matchup data showing which offensive players each defender spent time guarding for each possession. The color gradient shows us which positions more time are spent guarding.
  5. Defensive Role, between Anchor Big, Movement Big, Perimeter Big, Point of Attack, Wing Stopper, Helper, and Chaser. Role explainer info is found here.

So for example, we can see here that LeBron James is utilized like a Point Guard on offense and in a Mega Creator offensive role (lots of pick & roll and isolation) as a Guard, and defensively is more of a Wing (and spends some time guarding 1-5, but mostly 2-4) and primarily is a Helper, meaning on defense he’s often involved in the play even if it’s not his man with the ball.

When analyzing players’ performance, it’s important to understand what their job is. My theory is that Talent + Job/Role + Context/Team Environment ⇨ Impact, so understanding how a player is deployed is critical context to any discussion about performance in particular areas of the game.

3. Player Top Talent Areas

This section is summary information that helps identify the high level talent areas that are the players’ biggest strength. For KCP, Off-Ball Movement and Perimeter defense lead the way. One on One play leads the way for Morris.

For Anthony Davis, it looks like this:

4. Badges

Our badges are something I’m excited to roll out and see continue to evolve. So far we have about 25 complete, and there are another dozen or so on the way.

1176 badge allocations are recalculated every day, and at the team level the Lakers rank 4th in total badge points. We award points like the Olympic model: Gold = 5 Points, Silver = 3 Points, Bronze = 1 Point.

Among the top Laker badge holders:

  1. LeBron James: 9 badges, 27 points
  2. Anthony Davis: 8 badges, 22 points
  3. Dwight Howard: 7 badges, 19 points
  4. Danny Green: 4 badges, 12 points

Let’s dig a bit deeper into Anthony Davis’ 8 badges and 22 points.

AD has two Gold badges: Transition Phenom and Nuclear Upside.

  • His Transition Phenom badge indicates he’s an elite high efficiency and volume scorer in transition.
  • The Nuclear Upside badge indicates his elite ability to take over games with his impact (using game by game BPM 2.0), which happens at a frequency rivaled by few.

Davis has three Silver badges: Contact Finisher, Pick & Popper, and Rebound Chaser

  • AD’s Contact Finisher badge was awarded based on his finish rate through contact at a reasonably high volume
  • The Pick & Popper badge recognizes high impact through high efficiency and volume as a pick and pop scorer
  • The Rebound Chaser badge looks at Davis’ offensive rebound frequency per 75 possessions on court, as well as his success rate on his opportunities vs expectations, based on his positioning on the court, the percentage of the chances that were contested, and a few other variables.

5. Highlighted Stats Among Top Talent Areas

This section will change based on the four top talent areas shown for the player. The highest performing metrics in each of those four categories will be displayed here. If your top skill is Post Play, your highest performing Post Play metric will be depicted here.

At this point, we’ve covered the summary pieces of a player’s profile. For example, here’s how LeBron’s profile looks in everything covered so far:

6. Opportunity & Usage

From a quick glance at Rajon Rondo’s Opportunity & Usage data, it stands out that while his minutes volume isn’t anything spectacular, his consistency of minutes is quite high. That might be bad news for Laker fans hoping he’ll disappear from the rotation during the playoffs.

Rondo’s tendency to dribble the air out of the ball is also evident in this data, where we can see his Ball Control Percentage (the time of possession among the 5 guys on the court) being in the 96th percentile and his Team Time of Possession Share being in the 88th percentile despite his Minutes Share being a C+ and his Team Scoring Possession Share being a C+.

That discrepancy tells us he’s holding onto the ball quite a long time. In fact, from our Leaderboards tool in our Data & Tools Package we can tell that no player has a lower Scoring Possession Share than Rondo for players with his Time of Possession Share or higher. Rondo is truly unmatched in that regard.

Likewise, we can tell that Rondo’s impact on the game is highly from his passing and not as much from his offensive scoring based on the discrepancy between his Usage Rate and Total Offensive Load. Using our Leaderboards tool, we know that only Tyus Jones has a Usage Rate lower than Rondo’s and an A- or higher Total Offensive Load. It’s quite unlikely for a player to have such a high load yet be so one sided in their contributions.

7. Contextual Data

Now we get into some of the more juicy data. This Context Data section is full of more concrete data to the “what about” answers people give when comparing players. “What about the lineup spacing he has to deal with?”  Well, now we can look at it. You’ll also see stats like this sprinkled throughout other parts of the profile.

The lineup stats are explained in more detail in our glossary. For now, I’ll share that they look at key areas we feel would impact performance and are measured by looking at the four players around the player in question to calculate the values. So LeBron’s Lineup Playmaking and Dwight Howard’s Lineup Playmaking for the same lineup will show different results.

For example, Danny Green’s lineups have been the most spaced of Lakers playing for LA the whole season and Kyle Kuzma’s have been the lowest spaced.

Here’s how that data looks for Avery Bradley. High defensive talent in the lineups he’s played within, mediocre offensive talent (LeBron and AD are obviously high, both others not so much). Poor playmaking, and awful spacing. That’s the kind of environment that’d help someone shine on defense but wouldn’t do them too many favors on offense.

Also in this category, and in that graphic, are matchup data based defensive ratings. Our Matchup Difficulty rating, where Bradley is at an elite level, measures difficulty by looking at the importance of players to the opposing team. We’ll get more clarity on this later in the profiles.

The next two values, which capture defensive versatility looking at the offensive positions and offensive roles they spend time defending, together help us understand how versatile a defender is. Part two will dig into this deeper. Just know that Bradley’s defensive versatility isn’t particularly inspiring.

8. Perimeter Shooting

Comparing one player’s 3PT% to another’s is a bad idea. Why? Because you miss a TON of context.

  • How open were those shots?
  • What’s the breakdown of pull ups vs catch & shoot 3s?
  • How many were from the corner (shorter shot) vs above the break (longer shot)?

On top of that, even if you do know those values, it’s hard to know how good 38% is overall vs on a pull up vs catching & shooting, etc.

Our Perimeter Shooting data gives you data on how effective a player is for each kind of 3-point shot, how hard the shots are that they’re taking, data on their 3-point attempt rate and foul rate on 3s, and estimated gravity of their perimeter shooting.

For example, here’s data for Danny Green:

Green’s shots are generally tightly contested, but he has a favorable balance of catch & shoot 3s compared to pull ups, and a high proportion (relatively) of his 3-point shots come from the corners.

Green’s shooting percentages vary from 34% to 41%, but his percentile performance in each of the four areas is remarkably consistent, never varies more than two percentage points.

We know from Green’s 3PTA Rate that 3-point shots are a huge part of his scoring attempts. More so than 95% of the NBA.

Due to Green’s high volume and good effectiveness, his total 3PT gravity is an A-.

Now let’s look at LeBron James’ data:

LeBron is a good pull up 3-point shooter (and from this we know his ratio skews towards pull ups more than 94% of the NBA), and an even better catch & shoot 3-point shooter. His 3s are generally quite contested.

From his low 3PTA Rate we know that 3s are a smaller part of LeBron’s game, but we also know he takes a lot of them, based off of his high 3PT Gravity values (particularly for his good but not great shooting percentages).

On their own, these data points can tell us a lot about a shooter’s 3pt abilities and breakdown of shots. Combining the data points can generate even further insights.

From our Leaderboards tool, we can also look at Bigs who have made 1.5 3-pointers per game and see that of those 11 players, Markieff Morris ranks 2nd in catch & shoot 3-point percentage:

To get access to this data for the cost of a cup of coffee per month, go here!

9. Off-Ball Movement

Our off-ball movement category looks at cutting and attacking from off-ball screens (flares, pin downs, etc.). This data sheds light onto how often players attack in these ways, how effective they are in those ways, and in what ways.

For example, here’s KCP’s Off-Ball Movement data:

From this, we can see that the percentage of KCP’s offense coming from these off-ball movement areas is higher than 64% of NBA players, and he scores 1.8 points per 75 possessions at a +0.1 impact over average rate. He attacks from off-ball screens often at an above average eFG%, and as a cutter his volume is fairly average but his efficiency is quite high.

Using our Leaderboards tool, here’s a look at the Laker players’ cuts per game volume (removing dump offs) and FG% on those looks.

  • JaVale has A volume and A- efficiency, while Dwight and AD have very strong data as well. LeBron and Morris have data that’s not too shabby either.
  • Kuzma cuts an above average amount (B grade) and 5th most frequently on the team, but has a poor (D) shooting percentage.
  • KCP hasn’t cut nearly as much as other players on the team, but has been quite efficient on his attempts (A- FG%)

10. One on One

The first disclaimer I want to make about our One on One data is that it’s inclusive of all isolation situations, not just those on the perimeter. We combine perimeter and post up isolation data for our “total isolation” data utilized.

Taking a look at Anthony Davis’ One on One data, we can see that his isolations skew heavily toward the left side of the court. From our Leaderboards tool, we can see that’s the third highest skew toward the left of all players isolating 2.5+ times per game. Three quarters are from the post rather than the perimeter. His eFG% is slightly above average, but he draws fouls often and on his high volume has a positive isolation impact.

From our Leaderboards tool, we can take a look at the players who isolate at least 2.5 times per 75 possessions on the court offensively and see some familiar names. That minimum, plus a 1,000 minutes minimum, leaves us with 59 names.

Here are the top 8:

  1. James Harden
  2. Joel Embiid
  3. Nikola Jokic
  4. DeMar DeRozan
  5. Kawhi Leonard
  6. Luka Doncic
  7. Dame Lillard
  8. D’Angelo Russell

Towards the bottom, we unfortunately see a Laker in the bottom 8:

  • 52: Kyle Kuzma
  • 53: Bobby Portis
  • 54: Nikola Vucevic
  • 55: Julius Randle
  • 56: Paul George
  • 57: Kristaps Porzingis
  • 58: Caris LeVert
  • 59: Rudy Gay

Those players aren’t necessarily the most or least efficient at isolating, but their efficiency and their volume lead to aggregating high/low levels of points scored over/under expectations for an average player. Kyle Kuzma has been a negative impact isolation player this season, as he was last year.

To get access to this data for the cost of a cup of coffee per month, go here!

11. Finishing

Our Finishing data takes a look at how good a player is at getting to and finishing at the rim, which is something the Lakers are pretty good at. But to help illustrate some of the metrics in our profiles a bit better, we’ll look at Alex Caruso’s data:

While Caruso has some spectacular defensive data, his offensive data is fairly mediocre and his finishing data is slightly below average.

Section One

From the top three metrics we learn about how AC drives a decent bit (including pass outs), but the unassisted shots he actually gets at the rim are fairly low and the percentage of his shots at the rim that are unassisted is about average.

Section Two – Pass Outs

The next chunk of data show a bit about Caruso’s passing. AC’s pass out rate is average and he has a B assist rate. The B relative to his C for pass outs tells us he’s a pretty effective passer on drives. This contrasts players like Rajon Rondo, who pass out a ton but have assist rates lower relative to their pass outs. Using these two numbers in combination can tell us a bit about a player’s passing volume and abilities on drives.

Section Three – Drawing Fouls

The next section looks at drawing fouls and finishing through contact (when fouled). AC is good but not great at drawing fouls on drives. His contact finishing rate is an impressive 31%, higher than 80% of NBA players.

Section Four – Results

Lastly, we get to the results. Caruso’s FG% at the rim is 58.3%, higher than 61% of players (B- grade). The “adjusted” part of this metric regresses small samples with league average rates for their offensive role to deal with small samples. This shows us how successful Caruso has been on his attempts.

But that value doesn’t tell the whole story. Much like how comparing raw 3PT percentages may not be a fair comparison, the same is true for FG% at the rim. So we developed a metric to account for the variables that matter to better assess finishing ability. This metric looks at lineup spacing, physical tools, and the percentage of the time the player is creating their own shot at the rim (harder) vs finishing an assist (easier). Based on all of that, Caruso grades out slightly below average as a finisher at the rim (C- grade).

Moving to the team, LA has six players with B or better grades in our FGM at Rim +/- metric, which is the one looking at spacing and percentage unassisted for shots at the rim. Bradley, Rondo, Caruso, and Morris are notable names not among that group.

We can then use our Leaderboards tool and look at Laker players with 500+ minutes played this season and how often their shots at the rim are assisted vs unassisted, as well as their adjusted FG% at the rim.

From this, we can see how guys like McGee, Bradley, and KCP haven’t been getting their own shots at the rim much at all. KCP has converted well on those easier assisted looks, but AB has not.

We also see that Rondo and LeBron have been mostly shooting at the rim when they themselves created the opportunity, but their shooting percentages on those attempts are starkly different.

If we add a filter to only look at players who have had average or better floor spacing in the lineups they’ve played within on the season, players disappear en masse. Only Markieff Morris, who is a more recent addition to the team, has seen the benefit of spaced lineups this season.

12. Playmaking

Playmaking is another critical skill when evaluating players, and an area where using combinations of the statistics in our profiles can yield insight into style and ability of passers.

We’ll walk through several Laker Playmaking profiles to help illustrate all that can be learned from this section of the profiles.

First, we’ll look at a non Laker player, and focus just on their top few metrics:

We can see that the player’s data above average for their Assist Points per 75 Offensive Possessions on-court. From their role adjusted (RA) assist points per 75 possessions being much higher (B+) and the fact that their Assist Pts / 75 Poss is just a bit above average, we know that this player is in a role that isn’t geared toward high playmaking but is a pretty good passer within that role.

As you might guess, the top two players this season in RA Assist Points / 75 Possessions are Draymond Green and Nikola Jokic, two very good playmakers in roles not expecting much in that regard. On the opposite end of the spectrum, guards like Alex Caruso and Darius Garland live in the range of guys who are in high playmaking roles by default but are underperforming what you’d expect for players given their opportunities and deployment.

Another key stat to use is our Passing Aggressiveness metric, which is just Bad Pass TO%. So why the rebrand? Because this by itself isn’t necessarily bad, but rather helps us glean insight into the passing style/degree of difficulty the player is pursuing. Using this, in combination with other metrics, is where we can really learn about a player. Here are some examples:

  • High passing aggressiveness and low RA assist creation = bad passer/decision maker (ex: Thybulle (A Aggressiveness and C- Ast Pts/75), Abdel Nader (A- and D-), Terrence Ross (A- and F), Darius Bazley (A- and F))
  • Low passing aggressiveness and low RA assist creation = not a skilled passer, and being fairly conservative about it (Gobert, Mitch Robinson, etc.)
  • High passing aggressiveness and okay RA assist creation, but a discrepancy between their aggressiveness and their High Value Assist (HVA) creation (3PT Assists + FT Assists  + Rim Assists) = okay passer that’s turning the ball over too much for the degree of difficulty they’re pursuing (ex: Malik Monk, Svi Mykhailiuk)
  • And then we get to the high HVA creators with varying levels of low to high passing aggressiveness. Combining those two factors along with ball control percentage (as seen way above in the Opportunity & Usage section), we calculate our HVA +/- (or HVA Over Expectations) metric.

To help show how that works, here’s KCP’s Playmaking data. He has high Passing Aggressiveness compared to relatively lower HVA creation, so his HVA +/- is poor (D).

Another good example is Rajon Rondo, who despite having As in every metric and an A- Passing Aggressiveness rating, has a B- in his HVA +/- per 100 passes. Why? Because he holds onto the ball so long each possession he’s on the court.

Using this stat, similarly to the Rim FGM +/- stat in the Finishing category, allow us to take into account those factors we know impact getting to the final result (FG% at rim or HVA creation) and better evaluate players than if we were to just line up FG% at the rim or HVA creation on their own.

Looking at the Lakers as a team, we can see in this data how the team, outside of LeBron and Rondo, are severely lacking when it comes to playmaking from their passing:

In Orlando, the team will need other playmakers to step up to win the title.

And by the way, the crown for LeBron’s total season High Value Assists +/- means his value is number one in the entire league.

13. Roll Gravity

Roll Gravity, as introduced here, is a section dedicated to the areas we feel would impact a player’s ability to earn the respect of the defense when being the screener and rolling, popping, or slipping.

There’s a good degree of variance between those three activities, so we break out impact (looking at volume * relative efficiency) and style to show exactly where each player attacks and the impact they have.

Here’s JaVale McGee’s data:

JaVale rolls a decent bit (B grade) and makes up an even higher relative percentage of the team’s roll man possessions (12%, A- Roll Man Share). His impact overall as a roll man is strong, but when we break it down we can see that it’s really not at all about popping or slipping for him (and he’s be inefficient in both areas).

We include Screen Assists in this section for a rew reasons. First, because those can help us identify how often a player has the opportunities to leverage this skill set. Secondly, that also gives us some insight into which players are having the higher impact on generating looks for teammates from their screens.

Rim Gravity, similar to 3-point gravity described above, is the final stat we’ve included in this section. We do this to help identify players who may not be actively utilized as a roll man a ton, but due to their strong abilities finishing at the rim may be an effective roll man (and slip man) if used those ways. A good example is Lebron James:

LeBron doesn’t roll often (but is good when he does), which we can tell from his C Roll Man Volume and Screen Assist values, but would likely still generate a high degree of Roll Gravity based on his abilities scoring at the rim (and A Rim Gravity / 75 Poss).

14. Post Play

Post Play, which has some overlap with One on One’s post isolation section, digs deeper into a player’s impact and style scoring on their post isolations.

Here’s a look at Dwight Howard’s Post Play data:

From this, we can tell:

  • Dwight posts up a ton (98th percentile frequency)
  • His post attacks aren’t too complicated (no jumpers, no up & under, 80% to rim)
  • He had 0 shots turning baseline this entire season(!)
  • Howard is fairly balanced attacking from both blocks, but doesn’t often post up in the middle of the floor
  • Dwight had 0 successful post pins this season. Those are where he gets inside position on a defender and the passer lobs the ball into him. Post pins usually end up with an easy dunk/foul drawn.
  • His post move style tends to lead to higher efficiency. Some players (Anthony Davis) tend to go after the harder, generally less efficient attempts (like post jumpers)
  • Dwight hasn’t drawn a shooting foul in the post all season
  • Dwight’s impact (volume * relative efficiency) is an elite, higher than  94th percent of NBA players
  • Dwight isn’t a good post facilitator, based on his F Potential Assist per Post Possession rating

And using our Leaderboards tool, we know the only other two players who post up with at least 20% of their offensive scoring opportunities that haven’t had a shot going baseline all season are Derrick Favors and Daniel Theis.

That wraps up part 1. Hopefully you learned something new about the Lakers, and can see the sort of info available in our new player profiles and leaderboard tools.

To get access to this data for the cost of a cup of coffee per month, go here!

We will cover rebounding data, defensive data, more on matchup data, efficiency data, and impact data in the next part of this article series.

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