Situational Statistics: the 2014 Center Crop

Situational Statistics: the 2014 Center Crop
Jun 21, 2014, 01:28 pm
Box-scores don't always tell us everything we need to know about what happened in an actual game, and season averages can be misleading at times in attempting to project what type of NBA player a NCAA or international prospect will become.

-Situational Statistics: the 2014 Power Forward Crop
-Situational Statistics: the 2014 Small Forward Crop
-Situational Statistics: the 2014 Shooting Guard Crop
-Situational Statistics: the 2014 Point Guard Crop
-Just By the Numbers: the 2014 Center Crop
-Just By the Numbers: the 2014 Power Forward Crop
-Just By the Numbers: the 2014 Small Forward Crop
-Just By the Numbers: the 2014 Shooting Guard Crop
-Just By the Numbers: the 2014 Point Guard Crop

That's why it makes sense to branch out and explore other alternatives that are available to us, including those offered by Synergy Sports Technology, whose detail-heavy archives include a staggering number of data-points representing the play of prospects all over the world.

With that in mind, we've taken the top-100 prospects in this draft class, and sorted them into five groups by position. We've then looked at how each group of players stacks up in Synergy's various playtypes, with the biggest emphasis being on the specific skills they'll need to succeed at their position at the NBA level.

Breaking Down the Top 12 Centers

The main attraction in this group, Joel Embiid, lives up to his billing as an elite center prospect on paper. In studying Embiid's situation statistics, his terrific instincts for scoring are obvious, though his lack of experience is equally as clear in a few areas.

Looking at the bigger picture, although Embiid averaged a slightly below average 10.5 possessions per-game playing a smaller offensive role than some of his peers, he ranks as the 3rd most efficient scorer in this group having averaged 1.026 points per possession a year ago. He drew free throws on a top-ranked 27% of his possessions, as his size and footwork were often overwhelming for opposing centers at the college level, but also turned the ball over on a group-leading 22% of his possessions, appearing a bit green at times with his decision-making in the half court.

Embiid did most of his damage this season scoring in the post, ranking 2nd among all players on this list with 49.3% of his possessions coming on the block. He ranks an impressive 2nd in this group, scoring .95 points per-post up possession, making 54.9% of his attempts with his back to the basket. Embiid was most effective spinning baseline where his size allowed him to get his shot off fairly effortlessly when he didn't have an angle to take the ball all the way to the rim. He has room to refine his post moves, but he had some flashes of brilliance a year ago scoring one-on-one down low.

Similarly, Embiid was also impressive as a jump shooter and finisher at times. Though Embiid attempted only 11 jump shots this past season, sinking 7 of them, he flashed intriguing touch when defenders gave him space in the midrange and when facing up. Though he took a sample-low 2 shots per-game in finishing situations in the half court, Embiid shot a 2nd ranked 72.9%, thriving in cut and put back situations.

Kansas ran very little pick and roll, as Embiid averaged a mere .4 possessions per-game as the roll man last season, finishing ahead of only Sim Bhullar. He only scored .73 points per possession on those select few opportunities, which stands in contrast to how effective he was around the rim overall. While it is safe to assume sample size has something to do with Embiid's limited efficiency in the two man game, he has plenty of room to gain experience operating on the pick and roll given how infrequently he was involved in it in the Jayhawk offense relative to how big a part of the NBA basketball it has become.

Though Embiid entered this season with plenty of hype, some of the things he showed offensively simply aren't common among freshman centers, regardless of how highly touted they are. His overall efficiency is impressive, which coupled with the coordination and skill he flashed at times, make it easy to see why he's viewed as the likely number one overall pick, even if he's still early in his development curve.

Jusuf Nurkic is not as impressive here as he was in our study of basic statistics as his per-possession efficiency numbers are not on par with his per-minute productivity numbers at this stage in his career. Generally speaking, Nurkic's 10.8 possessions used per-game (in just 16 minutes) ranks just average, as does his .979 points per possessions overall, but he does excel in a few notable areas.

Unlike many of his counterparts in the college game, much of Nurkic's offensive usage come as the screen setter in the pick and roll. His 1.6 possessions per-game as the roll man are the 3rd most among players in this group, and his 55.7% shooting ranks above average. That might not seem overly impressive, but when we dig a little deeper, we find that Nurkic's numbers on the whole are suppressed by his limited jump shooting efficiency. Shooting 65% when he rolls to the rim, but only 29% when he pops to the perimeter, Nurkic made just 7 of the 36 jump shots he attempted last season, which hurts him in some areas here, although perimeter shots didn't account for a large proportion of his total attempts. The Bosnian center has nice mobility for a player his size, which helps him in the European game where the pick and roll is an even more prominent component of some teams' offenses than it is in the NBA.

On top of his experience in the two-man game, Nurkic also provided a reliable back to the basket threat for Cedevita. He scores a third ranked .93 points per possession with his back to the basket, converting an above average 49.4% of his shots, but got to the line on a top-ranked 26.2% of his post up possessions. Nurkic's physical strength makes him a load on the block. He likes to turn over his left shoulder to either get to the rim or step into his hook shot, both of which yielded highly consistent results for him a year ago. He tossed in a few hooks with his left hand, but doesn't have quite as good touch as he does shooting with his right.

Nurkic finished at a slightly below average 60.9% clip around the rim this year, but is at a disadvantage around the rim relative to his peers, as the lowest percentage of his possessions per-game (10.3%) came from cuts, which usually amount to highly efficient catch-and-dunk opportunities for his counterparts in the NCAA.

If the 19 year old big man can improve as a shooter and continue to use his strength and footwork effectively around the rim, he has a chance to become the best back to the basket player to make the jump from Europe to the NBA since Nikola Pekovic.

Walter Tavares ranks as easily the lowest usage player on this list, averaging only 5.8 possessions per-game, but the center's small role also affords him tremendous efficiency, as he leads this group scoring 1.093 points per possession overall. The 7'3 Tavares seldom gets a touch in the post, averaging a sample-low .5 possessions per-game on the block, but he ranks among the top-3 most efficient scorers on rolls to the rim and put backs. Unlike some of the players on this list, Tavares was already being asked to do essentially the same things he would in the NBA a year ago. He doesn't try to do too much one-on-one or away from the basket, as his role revolves around his ability to use his size to rebound the ball and finish the shots created for him by others inside. Tavares is not a glamorous prospect, but he has showed improvement throughout the year in his ability to contribute as a roleplayer in the ACB, and this study doesn't even start to analyze the contributions he's expected to make as a rim-protector or rebounder, which are arguably his biggest strengths.

Michigan big man Mitch McGary saw his season cut short as a nagging back injury got the better of him after only 8 games. In those 8 games, McGary made a major impact on a glass and as a complementary player in Michigan's half court offense, neither of which help him here, as his profile as a scorer looks fairly average. Scoring a below average .949 points per-possession overall, McGary did his best work in transition. He ranks second in this group scoring 1.1 points per transition possession and saw more of his transition possessions (11.5%) on the break, than any of his peers. While McGary isn't a great athlete, he runs the floor extremely hard for a player his size.

Aside from his ability to make use of his hustle, McGary's role was somewhat unique for a college player. 16.7% of his possessions came as the roll man in the two man game, the most among his peers in the NCAA, but only 11.5% of his possessions came in the post, easy the lowest mark among collegiate players. Jim Beilein's big men rarely see extensive usage on the block, even those as rugged as McGary who scored an above average .89 points per possession with his back the basket on limited touches.

Ranking well below average scoring only .44 points per jump shot and 1.23 points per finishing opportunity, McGary's efficiency doesn't stand out in many areas, but as we alluded to above, his value at the next level isn't tied solely to his scoring ability. McGary's health and conditioning are the most important things for him to shore up in the short term, but finding a niche offensively so he can bring all the other positive things he does to the floor will be high on his list after he hears his name called on draft day.

Tennessee big man Jarnell Stokes ranks as the 2nd highest usage player in this group, averaging 14.7 possessions per-game. Perhaps more impressively, the burly center ranks above average in efficiency scoring 1.021 points per possessions overall. One of the most unique players in this group physically standing 6'8.5 inches in shoes with a 7'1 wingspan and powerful 263-pound frame, Stokes's offensive profile reflects the advantages and disadvantages of his size and strength, particularly in the post.

Averaging 5.3 post up possessions per-game, Stokes is the 2nd highest usage back to the basket scorer in this group. He shows a well below average 42.3% with his back to the basket, but still ranks exactly average scoring .88 points per possession. Seldom turning the ball over less and getting fouled as frequently as almost any player in this group down load, Stokes' lack of size and touch limited his shot making ability last year, but his powerful frame made it extremely difficult for defenders to strip him and prevent him from establishing deep position inside, leading to his surprising efficiency. Capable of making a hook shot with either hand, Stokes will need to add some finesse to his post repertoire to help him take the next step as a post scorer and help overcome his height disadvantage at the next level.

Stokes did show some touch a year ago, making 35.1% of the 1 jump shot per-game he attempted, which ranks above average in this group, but wasn't a weapon he fell back on frequently. He was more adept and using his wide body to shield defenders from the ball when finishing inside. Attempting 4.2 shots at the rim in the half court per-game, more than any other player on this list, Stokes scored a 3th ranked 1.38 points per-possession, outshooting a number of taller, more athletic, and more skilled players thanks to his combination of strength, sure hands, and toughness. Leading this group averaging 2.6 put back attempts per-game, there's an aggressiveness to Stokes's game that has inspired confidence among decision-makers that he'll be able to make it work at the next level to the extent that it wouldn't be shocking to hear the young big man hear his name called in the first round.

-Stokes's SEC counterpart, Florida's Patric Young, doesn't look particularly impressive here. Despite turning the ball over less frequently than any player in this group by a considerable margin at just 11.1% of his total possessions, Young scored a below average .974 points per possession last year. He was excellent in limited touches on the pick and roll and very reliable finishing cuts, but shot a dismal 44% shot on put backs, pulling his overall finishing numbers below average despite his relatively high efficiency in other areas. His lack of great touch and hands showed at times both when he was finishing put backs and when he couldn't bully an angle in the post.

-Green Bay's Alec Brown is the only jump shooter among this year's center prospects. Leading this group in usage overall, averaging 14.9 possessions per-game, Brown stands out in a number of areas. He saw a larger proportion of his possessions in transition than any of his peers at 10.8%, would rank as a well above average spot-up scorer at any position scoring 1.14 points per possession, and was even involved in a fair amount of set plays that had him running off of screens. The most prolific jump shooter in this group by a wide margin, Brown's unique perimeter skill level is apparent on first glance, but his lack of great strength rendered him a slightly below average post scorer and finisher inside.

-Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski ranks as the most efficient NCAA scorer in this group, averaging 1.033 points per-possession. His .98 points per possession in post-up situations, which accounted for roughly half of his possessions, is easily the top mark among his peers, though he finished at a slightly below average 1.26 points per-shot rate inside. The 7'2 big man improved in the post considerably over time, and it is worth noting that his finishing numbers are skewed somewhat by what is one of the more efficient groups of centers we've covered in the last few years.

-Baylor's Isaiah Austin ranks as the least efficient player in this group scoring .891 points per possession last season. Ranking average in the post and scoring an above average .85 points per jump shot, Austin's touch shines through in some areas, but his 52.9% shooting around the rim is the lowest percentage in this group by over 5%. His skill level of intriguing, but his toughness on the block is apparent in his numbers and is worth monitoring as he makes the transition to the next level.

-Massive 7'5 center Sim Bhullar ranks as the top finisher in this group, shooting a tremendous 77.6% around the rim in the half court. Bhullar was below average in the post, and his lack of mobility made him one of the lowest usage roll men among his peers. While his size has its advantages offensively, the constraints it places on his foot speed are clear in his profile as well.

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