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A Tale of Two Tristans

10/19/2012

 

I’m high on our Canadian big man going into his sophomore season.  A look at his stats from last season tells me that he was a quietly productive rookie.  I say quietly because his glaring inability to make the ball go into the hoop often overshadowed his beastly work on the offensive boards.  He also has a range of 3 ½ feet on his jumper so he can’t stroke your wild dreams with smooth 18-footers.  That said, there is encouraging evidence that Tristan’s production will make a big leap this season.

 

Tristan Thompson 2012 – All Minutes

Minutes

PER

ORTG

TMORTG

DRTG

TMDRTG

ORB%

DRB%

FG%

USG

AST%

q AST%

TOV%

FT rate

1423

13.7

97

99

110

111

14.4

16.6

43.9

19.2

3.5

49

13.3

43.4

 

You’re probably familiar with this table if you spend any time on basketball-reference.  To your benefit, this one has a few additional nuggets of info, colored red. 

The bad news is that the Cavs were worse on both offense and defense with Tristan on the floor.  “TMORTG”  and “TMDRTG” are the numbers I’m referring to, which compare unfavorably to the Cavs 24th ranked Offense (101 points per 100 possessions) and 26th ranked Defense (109 points per 100 possessions); five man units featuring Tristan were 2 points worse for each rating.  It's probably not news to anyone that Tristan's atrocious 44% shooting from the field sandbagged the Cavs offense. Maybe he’s the Canadian Tyrus Thomas or a morbidly obese Shaun Livingston, but I dug deeper to find the silver lining.

Encouraging stats appear when you split Tristan’s stats into two parts: the minutes he played with Kyrie Irving and the minutes he played without Kyrie Irving. Tristan played 524, or 37%, of his 1423 minutes on the floor with Uncle Drew.  I was naturally curious to see how his production changed, and naturally furious that Antawn Jamison played so many freaking minutes last year.

 Check it out:

Tristan Thompson 2012 – Without Kyrie Irving

Minutes

PER

ORTG

TMORTG

DRTG

TMDRTG

ORB%

DRB%

FG%

USG

AST%

q AST%

TOV%

FT rate

899

12.3

90

95

107

109

14.2

18.5

40.5

19.7

3.5

44.3

14.8

40.1

 

Tristan Thompson 2012 – With Kyrie Irving

Minutes

PER

ORTG

TMORTG

DRTG

TMDRTG

ORB%

DRB%

FG%

USG

AST%

q AST%

TOV%

FT rate

524

16.1

109

106

115

115

14.8

13.4

50

18.3

3.5

55.7

10.7

49.4

 

Tristan was an entirely different player when he shared the floor with Kyrie.  In fact, he looks a lot like the player we hoped for after Chris Grant spent the fourth overall pick on him.  The most substantial change was his field goal percentage; 40% without Kyrie nearly shocked the economy into a second recession and 50% shooting with Kyrie matches the mark we want him to hit this year.

At least part of the improvement is rooted in the stat labeled q AST%.  Hardly an advanced metric, q AST% tracks the percentage of a player’s field goals that are assisted on.  It’s arbitrarily left out of box scores, but if it weren’t you would know that 94% of Steve Novak’s buckets are assisted.  For perspective, the league average is about 60%-- guards usually fall in the 20s-40s and big men in the 50s-70s.  There are many exceptions, but Tristan’s rate has no business under 50 unless you think he’s the league’s next great point forward.

The combination of Kyrie being a superstar and Tristan playing well off him meant the Cavs were dramatically more efficient with the two guys running the floor together, with a team rating of 106 points per 100 possessions.  Across the whole season it would’ve made a top 10 offense alongside the Heat, Suns and Lakers.  Tristan’s individual rating of 109 and 18% usage rate says he was a key component of the team’s success during these minutes.  Other positive differences include a lower turnover rate and increased free throw rate.  Free throw rate (FTA/FGA) measures the proportion of a player’s point-scoring opportunities that come from the free throw line.  Despite his poor free throw shooting, more time spent at the line is a good thing. In John Hollinger terms, these stats all add up to a 16.1 PER, quite respectable for a rookie big man of the Serge Ibaka/Derrick Favors mold.

Unfortunately this silk stocking is loaded with turds I can’t ignore, namely the Cavs defense.  While the offense thrived, team defense was a dumpster fire when our two lottery picks shared the floor.  The TMDRTG of 115 made the collective efforts of their opponents look like the ’96 Bulls.  You may have heard rumblings on the internet that Kyrie Irving was the worst defensive player in the league last year.  A not-too-distant post on this site will corroborate the fact that Cavs D was indeed always worse with our golden boy on the floor (spoiler: 90% of Kyrie’s minutes featured Antawn Jamison). 

As far as Tristan figures into this, his defensive rebounding rate ominously sank from a respectable 18.5% to a really bad 13.4%.  That's a ton of second chances allowed, so this stat figures to be an important measure of his progress down the road.  Tristan also played minutes in some of the Cavs better defensive units (Alonzo Gee seems to be a factor in these) so I won’t speculate much one way or the other.

I like to think these with Kyrie/not with Kyrie splits lend a few hairs of legitimacy to my speculating that Tristan is headed into his breakout season.  Taking over at starting power forward all but guarantees he'll be playing most of his minutes with Irving.  So if the numbers I've laid out are any indication, Thompson will be turning the ball over less, getting to the free throw line more, and more importantly, getting buckets at 50%.  Rough mental math based on these numbers says that at 30 minutes per game he'll average an efficient 12 points.  It’ll be an improvement over the trigger-happy 17 pts/gm Antawn Jamison leaves behind. We'll have to watch the season unfold to see what kind of defensive rebounder Tristan becomes and whether he can anchor a respectable NBA defense. 




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