And Your Top Performer is Rudy Gay?

Last night Rudy Gay did something few people in NBA history has ever accomplished.  He took 37 shots from the field and managed to get only 11 to go through the hoop.  Many people took to Twitter to celebrate this accomplishment.  Here is some of what people said:

‏@TheNBAUpdate Rudy Gay FEWEST POINTS ever (since 1984) for players averaging 20fga/g through their team’s first 8 games.

@TheNBAUpdate Median score for a player with 37 or more FGA: 48 pts.

@tomhaberstroh Most shots Kevin Love has taken in a game this season: 25. Kevin Durant: 24. LeBron: 20 … Rudy Gay MISSED 26 tonight.

 ‏@tomhaberstroh Prior to tonight, 72 players had taken at least 37 shots since 1985-86. Only 1 failed to score 30. MJ = Rudy Gay. http://bkref.com/tiny/ybkPg 

‏@TheNBAUpdate DeRozan and Gay go 17/62 (27.4%). Ironically, the Raptors are also playing their “star” players $27.4 million

‏@ArturoGalletti Congrats to Gay for being the 2nd player to make as few as 11 fg on at least 37 fga http://bkref.com/tiny/IYaQi  He needs to sue his eye doctor.

‏@TheNBAUpdate Rudy Gay’s 29 pts on 37 shots is the fewest pts for any player taking 37 or more shots (tied with MJ who had 29pts on 39 shots 11/3/97)

Even I chimed in on the story.

@wagesofwins http://espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400488976 … Rudy Gay hits 11 of 37 shots and is ESPN’s “Top Performer”. Quick snapshot of what’s wrong with NBA analysis.

As one can see, people on Twitter understood that Gay had a bad night.  Whoever chooses the “top performer” at ESPN.com, though, disagreed.  According to this person, Gay was the top performer for the Raptors last night.  And who can argue?  Gay did score 29 points.  And if you only look at points scored in a box score, then you have to agree Gay was the Raptors “best” player.

But if you understand the other numbers in the box score, you would disagree.  In fact, if you simply understood the basic rules of basketball you would have to disagree.

Here is how basketball works:  To win the game you have to…

  1. Acquire the basketball from the other team, preferably without the other team scoring (i.e grab rebounds and force turnovers)
  2. Maintain possession of the ball until you can take a shot (i.e. avoid turnovers)
  3. Make sure your damn shots go in the basket.

Last night Gay had four steals and ten rebounds (in 49 minutes).  So he helped with step one.   And he only committed two turnovers (in 49 minutes).  So he helped with step two.

But on step three he was a disaster.

As Tom Haberstroh noted, Gay MISSED more shots last night than Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James have TAKEN in a single game this year.

And that is why Gay was clearly not the top performer on the Raptors last night.

One should note that Gay (the highest paid player on the Raptors) – and DeMar DeRozan (the second highest paid player on the Raptors – played last night as past performance and their own comments would suggest.

As DeRozan said before the season started:

‘He takes a hell of a lot of pressure off me and vice versa,’ DeRozan said of Gay. ‘A lot of people get into the analytic stuff — we don’t pay no attention to that because we know how much we can help this team. As long as we play on the defensive end, we don’t have to worry about scoring — nothing, none of that — because we can score the ball at will.’

Last night Gay and DeRozan demonstrated that they can take shots at will.  In addition to Gay’s poor performance from the field, DeRozan attempted 25 shots and only made six of these.   And apparently they were not bothered by the simple story told by “advanced analysis” that the ball has to actually go in the hoop to help your team.

When we turn to current and past performance, we see that none of this is a surprise.

The following table presents what the players for the Raptors have done this season and what we would have expected given what the players did last year.

Raptors11-11-13

As one can see (maybe you can’t see, after 7 years I still can’t get WordPress to present a damn table the way I want — the table is presented badly again below), DeRozan and Gay are below average this season.  And when we look at what each did last season, we see that the two highest paid players were below average last year as well.

Despite this, the Raptors – given a slightly positive efficiency differential – should have four wins so far.   In other words, because the team also employs Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry, Tyler Hansbrough, Landry Fields, and Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors are so far not a “bad” team.

But clearly if this team was not dragged down by two “unproductive stars” who insist on just throwing the ball at the hoop, this team could be much better.

Of course, we should remember that last year this collection of unproductive stars was a trio.  So if the Raptors can find another sucker like the New York Knicks (who took Andrea Bargnani from the Raptors), a better team can be built in Toronto.

Or maybe, the team just needs to place another call to New York.

Perhaps the call could go like this… “just imagine Mr. Dolan.  You could have a team of Melo, Bargnani, Stoudemire, Gay, and DeRozan. With all those scorers, who could stop the Knicks?  Every night you could have FIVE “top performers…”

- DJ

Raptors 13-14

POS

GP

MIN

WP48 12-13

WINS 12-13

WP48 13-14

WINS 13-14

Amir Johnson

PF

8

245

0.213

1.09

0.243

1.24

Kyle Lowry

PG

8

271

0.194

1.09

0.196

1.11

Tyler Hansbrough

PF

8

155

0.127

0.41

0.326

1.05

Landry Fields

SF

8

162

0.192

0.65

0.177

0.60

Jonas Valanciunas

C

8

207

0.113

0.49

0.128

0.55

Terrence Ross

SG

8

139

0.038

0.11

0.134

0.39

Julyan Stone*

GF

4

28

0.171

0.10

0.341

0.20

Quincy Acy

PF

2

27

0.256

0.14

0.249

0.14

DeMar DeRozan

SG

8

303

0.065

0.41

0.007

0.05

Dwight Buycks**

PG

4

44

0.007

0.01

0.007

0.01

Aaron Gray

C

3

12

0.020

0.00

0.019

0.00

Austin Daye

F

2

11

0.051

0.01

-0.282

-0.06

Steve Novak

F

3

15

0.112

0.04

-0.365

-0.11

Rudy Gay

SF

8

280

0.042

0.25

-0.023

-0.13

D.J. Augustin

PG

7

71

0.105

0.16

-0.281

-0.42

SUMMATION

4.95

4.62

* – Stone only played 28 minutes last year, so his 12-13 WP48 is from 11-12

**- Buycks is a rookie so his numbers are the same in 12-13 and 13-14

WP48 12-13 numbers are my own calculation.

WP48 13-14 come from boxscoregeeks.com

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