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Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, and Hasheem Thabeet: Inside the Numbers

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

It seems like we're privy to more information on draft prospects than ever this year. Want to see how a player shoots the ball? That's simple -- just press play on any number of workout videos that are floating around the web. Is a draftee personable? See for yourself.

We're inundated with more stuff than ever, yet when it comes to raw data about a player's tendencies, there's still a lot that even most basketball junkies don't know.

Synergy Sports is on it. They supply sortable video and data to NBA teams, and have been developing meticulous reports on this year's draft class. They were nice enough to send some samples of their research to TrueHoop. These are multiple-paged spreadsheets with evidence plucked straight from video. Here are some highlights of what the reports deliver:

Stephen Curry

  • Isolation plays accounted for 27% of Curry's offense -- more than any other category. Pro point guards who share this distinction include Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams. Curry's 0.95 points per possession in isolation is very strong. As the report points out, "This bodes well for Stephen ... Point guards have the ball most of the time anyway and so a strong isolation point guard is a real plus."

  • Transition opportunities constituted 24% of Curry's offensive possessions at Davidson. In transition, Curry generated 0.94 points per possession, which is lower than some 2008 prospects coming into the draft, such as Eric Gordon (1.27) and Jerryd Bayless (1.23). The Synergy report says that "this seems to be due to the high number of jump shots he takes in this situation."

  • Where does Curry need to improve? The pick-and-roll. Curry managed only 0.78 points per possessions -- though the pick-and-roll accounted for only 8% of his offensive possessions. In the 45 instances Synergy studied, Curry went 12-36 from the field, and turned the ball over about a sixth of the time. The pick-and-roll is the linchpin of most NBA offenses. In contrast to Curry, Gordon and D.J. Augustin came into the NBA as proficient pick-and-roll guys in college, which probably helped their rookie campaigns.

  • Curry was a very proficient as a spot-up shooter (1.19 points per possession), and coming off screens (1.3 points per possession). This presents an interesting dilemma. As a kid trying to morph into a point guard, there will be fewer opportunities for Curry to spot up and come off screens in the pro game.

Blake Griffin

  • The first thing that jumps off the page in Griffin's report is the percentage of his offense that comes from post-ups -- 44%. To put that in perspective, Al Horford came ouf of Florida with a 43% number, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many amateurs who get out of the 30s. Horford was a bit more efficient than Griffin on the block (1.11 vs. 1.00 points per possession), but Griffin's number is still very strong. As the Synergy report states, "Blake's proficiency in this area will not only produce a high percentage shots for his team when he goes to work on the block, it will also create open shots for his teammates when players are forced to leave their men to help defend Blake's post-ups."

  • Baron Davis, take note: Griffin's numbers indicate that he moves as well off the ball as any big man we've seen in recent years. He recorded a whopping 1.5 points per possession on cuts. The reports says it all, "This indicates that Blake is active, has good hands, and knows how to score the ball attacking the rim. This is a valuable asset that produces easy scores and cause the defense to track yet another offensive threat. Combine a good passing point guard with Blake and his team will burn the defense in this type of offense."

  • Griffin will need to spend a lot of time developing his jump shot. He generated only 0.64 points per possession on spot-ups. At Oklahoma, those opportunities accounted for only 2% of his offense, but at the pro level, he can't be an elite power forward without some range.

  • Griffin is a terrific big man in transition, where he chalked up 1.32 points per possession. The comp here is Brandan Wright, who had similar success on the break at Carolina in 2007-08. If the Clippers can get stops and control the defensive glass (two big ifs), they'll be able to use Griffin to get out of the offensive efficiency cellar -- they finished 30th in the league last season.

Hasheem Thabeet

  • Would you be surprised to learn that Thabeet was more efficient in the post than Blake Griffin? It's true. Thabeet's points per possession number down on the block, 1.02, was a hair better than Griffin. Post-ups accounted for 36% of Thabeet's offensive possessions.

  • How did he do it? According to the report, Thabeet was "effective from either block and surprisingly effective from the right block for a right-handed player. Very effective at pinning his man in the post (with defender on the high side)."

  • Like Griffin, Thabeet's face-up game is nonexistent -- 3% of overall possessions with only a half-point per possession. Unlike Griffin, Thabeet doesn't get out on the break very often (only 6% of possessions), though he converts at a nice rate when he does (a whopping 1.64 points per possession).

  • When you study the breakdown and the comps, Thabeet's 2008-09 season appears eerily similar to the Greg Oden's single season at Ohio State. Oden got the ball on the block far more frequently, but both Thabeet and Oden generated a lot of their points on offensive rebounds and on basket cuts.