Making the Case for Jeremy Tyler

The current rules of the NBA prohibit a player from jumping from high school to the NBA.  And that seems to indicate that American players must spend at least one year creating revenues for NCAA school (a level of revenue that will exceed the value of one year of college education). 

Jeremy Tyler, though, has taken a different path.  Not only did he not go to college, he also skipped out on his senior year of high school.  Instead of going to class, Tyler first went to play professional basketball in Israel.  When that didn’t work out, Tyler spent this past year playing professionally in Japan.

Tyler’s odyssey was discussed last April in the New York Times. Missing from this story, though, was a review of the statistics Tyler posted while playing in Japan.  For this analysis, you need to see a discussion offered by Andrew Lowman.  My sense, though, is that many people missed this analysis.  So for readers of this forum, here is Lowman’s review of Tyler’s play in Japan.

Seven months ago, when I first decided to follow Jeremy Tyler’s Japan adventure, I knew it would be interesting, but did not expect a season as wacky and turbulent as this one. As everyone knows, the Tokyo Apache ended their season prematurely as a result of the massive earthquakes and tsunami that rocked Japan in March.  This catastrophe ended a season that was different from the start. For instance, the Apache did not have a home floor for the first two and a half months of the season, so only played half the number of games as other teams as they played only their away games. But even stranger, in a land where interest in basketball is iffy at best, there was an ex-NBA coach (Bob Hill) with a team consisting of a former lottery pick (Robert Swift), a D-League veteran (Kendall Dartez), two big-time college ball players (Byron Eaton and Michael Chappell), an assortment of Japanese players, and Jeremy Tyler: the wild card.

The New York Times article about Tyler a few weeks ago was well done and analyzed the human side of Jeremy Tyler’s season in Japan. What they did not do was geek out and analyze his stats over the course of the season.  That is what I am going to do here.

This first table contains Tyler’s basic stats from this season.

The above stats do not really tell us that much regarding how Tyler’s season actually played out. We see that generally he scored and rebounded well but fouled and turned the ball over way too much. This is absolutely true; Bob Hill said as much in the Times article. But if we break things down a little further, the story of Tyler’s season becomes somewhat more interesting. In the two tables below you can see his season divided into three parts. This first table merely breaks the boxscore stats by the three time periods.

The following table shows his averages per 40 minutes, a statistic that gives a better understanding of how he was playing.

The first eight games were the honeymoon period for Tyler. Four of the games were against the Saitama Broncos and the Akita Northern Happinets, two of the worst teams in the league, both with relatively weak frontlines. The next 13 games were the low point of his year as Tyler struggled offensively and, as a result, saw increasingly less playing time. While the Times article mentions the February series against Akita as the turning point in the season, I think it is hard to ignore the sudden improvement in Tyler’s play that occurred the week before when Kendall Dartez left the Apache. Dartez’s departure coincided with an increase in Tyler’s efficiency and, ultimately, his minutes played. Watching the games, it is clear that Tyler thrived as Hill played him more at the 4 spot alongside Robert Swift at the 5. Tyler showed his versatility away from the basket, including a drastically improved outside shot. Tyler’s turnovers also dropped during this part of the season as he spent less time in the post getting double-teamed.

While seeing those statistics should give one a better impression of Tyler’s season, the stats are still relatively useless as we have no context to place them in. Tyler’s performance is best analyzed when compared to similar players in the bj-league. I defined “similar player” as an import player taller than 6’7” who played primarily an inside game (players with less than 1/3 of their shots from behind the arc). I then removed any player who had not played in at least 20 games or 400 minutes during the season. In the end, 37 players matched these criteria. Most of these men were at one point fringe NBA prospects, but have since made a living overseas. While only the most hardcore basketball fans will know players like Julius Ashby (Colorado ’06), George Leach (Indiana ’04), Jeff Newton (Indiana ’03), Gary Hamilton (Miami ’06), or Abdullahi Kuso (Gonzaga ’08), these are all experienced professional basketball players.

I chose to use Dave Berri’s Win Score per 40 minutes (WS40) as my metric of comparison as it is:  a) straight forward; b) did not require me to crunch league-wide statistics; and c) actually took personal fouls into account. It is shocking to me that so many of the efficiency ratings out there do not use personal fouls in the calculation. Anyone who watched Tyler this season could see how big an impact his foul trouble had on his and his team’s efficiency.

WS40 is calculated through the following formula: (Points + Rebounds + Steals + ½Assists + ½Blocked Shots – Field Goal Attempts – Turnovers – ½Free Throw Attempts – ½Personal Fouls)/Total Minutes Played x 40.

Tyler ended the season with a WS40 of 10.1. His Position-Adjusted WS40 (PAWS40), though, is a meager -1.73, meaning that Tyler’s performance was below average for import post players in the bj-league. Looking at only the last 12 games of the season though shows Tyler with a PAWS40 of 2.3. This figure would place him in the top 20% of import post players in the league. As I mentioned earlier, while the other import players in the league are not household names, almost all of them played DI ball and have since played professionally all over the world. While the overall level of competition in the league may not be high, that is largely attributable to the Japanese players in the league, not the imports. Tyler had to earn his stats playing against seasoned professional athletes, not other 18 year-olds.

Looking at the stats from various angles, it is obvious that Tyler learned a lot about basketball this year. As I mentioned before, he added an outside shot to his repertoire to go along with his spin moves in the post. It is clear that Tyler’s future is not as a back-to-the-basket post player, but more as an athletic 4 who can play out to 15-18 feet. He is most definitely a project, but at 6’10” and 245 pounds there are few prospects who can match his size and athleticism. His ceiling at this point is largely up to him. DeAndre Jordan, JaVale McGee, Amir Johnson, and Andrew Blatche have all become solid NBA players over the past few years. There is no reason to think that Tyler will not be able to at least progress to their level. Is a late 1st Round pick out of the question at this point? In a draft weak with big men I would not rule it out.

- Andrew Lowman

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