What is Mike D’Antoni’s Offense? (Part III)
The chart below shows all of the players who have played 1,000 minutes for SSOL Suns (including the last two non-D’Antoni years, since they’ve largely held to the same system). I also included Carter and Barbosa, since they will both qualify by the end of the season.
Threshold age: The age the player was during the full season before or after that player left or joined Phoenix that is closest to that players prime. I defined a player’s prime as his 27 year old season. For example, Raja Bell played for Phoenix from ages 29-32. His stats with Phoenix below are those from his 29 year old season, and the stats for when he was not with Phoenix are from his 28 year old season (with Utah). I do this so as to prevent interference from players’ rise and decline due to age.
WS/48 w/ SSOL: The player’s win score for the chosen season (as described above) that he played for Phoenix.
WS/48 w/o SSOL: The player’s win score for the chosen season (as described above) that he played for another team.
WS differential: The amount a player’s win score increased/decreased when comparing his Phoenix season to his season without Phoenix (positive numbers mean improved WS/48 with Phoenix).
subjective player type: My subjective description of the player’s skillset.
|Player Name||threshold age||position||WS/48 w/ SSOL||WS/48 w/o SSOL||WS differential||subjective player type|
|Shawn Marion||28||3/4||0.191||0.101||+0.09||2 way offensive double threat|
|Channing Frye||26||4/5||0.141||0.054||+0.087||offensive perimeter big|
|Quentin Richardson||25||2/3||0.098||0.023||+0.075||2 way 3pt threat|
|Raja Bell||29||2||0.110||0.060||+0.05||2 way 3pt threat|
|Shaquille O’Neal||36||5||0.166||0.119||+0.047||slow scoring big|
|Amare Stoudemire||27||4/5||0.181||0.145||+0.036||offensive mobile big|
|Brian Skinner||31||5||0.069||0.035||+0.034||defensive mobile big|
|Steven Hunter||23||5||0.121||0.090||+0.031||defensive mobile big|
|Joe Johnson||23||1/2/3||0.112||0.086||+0.026||distributor, volume scorer|
|Leandro Barbosa||27||1/2||0.038||0.014||+0.024||offensive double threat|
|Tim Thomas||28||3/4||0.069||0.054||+0.015||offensive double threat|
|Grant Hill||35||3||0.127||0.123||+0.004||jack of all trades|
|Jason Richardson||28||2/3||0.119||0.116||+0.003||offensive double threat|
|Matt Barnes||28||2/3||0.069||0.077||-0.008||wing defender|
|Jim Jackson||34||2/3||0.078||0.102||-0.024||3pt threat|
|Kurt Thomas||33||5||0.087||0.112||-0.025||slow defensive big|
|Boris Diaw||26||4/5||0.063||0.103||-0.04||jack of all trades|
|Eddie House||27||1/2||0.054||0.094||-0.04||3pt threat|
|James Jones||26||2/3||0.077||0.139||-0.062||3pt threat|
|Vince Carter||34||2/3||0.065||0.154||-0.089||3pt threat, volume scorer|
I make five conclusions from this list:
- D’Antoni seems to get a lot of value out of defensive mobile bigs when he uses them.
- Guys who do nothing but shoot threes (i.e. don’t add anything defensively and can’t dribble drive) contribute less to SSOL than to more traditional offenses.
- If you are capable of defending the four or the five, and either faster than the average 4/5 or a good perimeter shooter, you can help SSOL a ton. If you can do more than one of those things, then you are a SSOL god.
- Volume scorers, if they don’t reform their ways, can be cancerous to SSOL (Vince Carter and Joe Johnson).
- Shaq likes to prove neigh-sayers wrong.
Let’s start with number three and who I dub the king of SSOL. Shawn Marion is the crowning example of what SSOL values. Despite the fact that during the 07/08 season his primary backups were Shaq and Boris Diaw, both of whom are bigger and stronger than him, the defense was a full 5 points per game better with him on the floor. The offense, meanwhile, improved by 1.9 points. I’m sure if we incorporated pace into the equation, that difference would be even larger. On offense, Marion can do things that pressure opposing bigs in ways they are not used to being pressured. He can run the floor, he can shoot, and he can get to the basket quickly.
Remember how the pick and roll forces a defender to hedge in? Well, Marion’s man is likely bigger, slower, and quite possibly uglier than the guy guarding the two or the three. These differences make it harder for the Marion’s man to recover to Marion after a pick and roll, giving Shawn more space.
The reason Marion’s numbers declined so much, even in the season immediately following his departure from Phoenix, is because he is not a good scorer. He has no post game and he is not good at beating a set defender off the dribble. These are the skills that most offenses demand. His strength on offense in SSOL mostly comes from his speed.
The last point I want to make about Marion’s success in the D’Antoni offense is that it he was never a good three point shooter. He was a 33% three point shooter on his career with D’Antoni, exactly the same number as his career average, and only averaged a little over one make per game. Having a 33% three point shooter attempt threes is not good value — the equivalent of a 49.5 TS%: less efficient than the Milwaukee Bucks’ offense this year, the least efficient team in the league. (I have this weird feeling that there’s a guy on our bench with exactly these skills. I can’t figure out who though…)
In regard to scorers, I think the plain and simple fact is that if they can reform their game to that of the offensive double-threat (shoot, drive, or pass, but don’t stop the ball) then you can be effective in SSOL (Joe Johnson), but if you are used to stopping the ball and taking over the offense, then you are not going to be as efficient in SSOL.
Finally, I want to briefly (D’Antoni style…) talk about defense. Much of Marion’s value comes from his defense — his rebounding, shot blocking, thievery, and general capacity to do things that bigger players can do without the cost to his speed. In general, I think that’s why seven of the ten guys whose value increased most are above average defenders. Two of the remaining three (Nash, Stoudemire) are the dynamos of the offense, and then there’s Channing Frye, whose value comes from his amazing efficiency from the perimeter. This to me is a result of the fact that because SSOL interior players are generally less imposing, it falls to the wings to compensate. Q-Rich helped on the boards, Marion helped with boards, blocks and steals, Bell helped with his man defense.