"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Who Will Score? Part V: Calculating eFG%

Graphic from fourpointplays.wordpress.com

For basketball stats nerds, Effective Field Goal Percentage is king. Offensive efficiency is measured with four factors. The original explanation from Dean Oliver, author of Basketball on Paper, is included in that link, but essentially eFG% tells you how many points a team or player scores per shot taken. It is by far the most important predictor when it comes to winning basketball. The more efficiently you shoot and the less efficiently your opponent shoots, the more you are likely to win. It is similar to typical field goal percentage except three point shots made get an extra 0.5 points per made shot to reflect that 3 is 50% more than 2.

Our predictions were based on returning player that had adequate stats and comparable players that allowed our projections with reasonable mathematical confidence. In short, it's easier to look at what Tyler Kolek did the past two years and compare that to other up-transfers that with similar paths than to project what Ben Gold will be with no idea how his NBADL experience will translate to the D1 level.

We focused on the six most prolific returning players, which led us to look back at the six players who played the most minutes last year. Here are the top-six in minutes, their makes by category, calculated eFG%, and cumulative eFG%:

2022 2PFGM 2022 3PFGM 2022 FGA eFG%
Justin Lewis 137 58 443 50.6
Tyler Kolek 36 36 225 40.0
Darryl Morsell 106 43 334 51.0
O-Max Prosper 57 19 165 51.8
Kur Kuath 82 0 115 71.3
Oso Ighodaro 73 0 108 67.6
Combined 491 156 1390 52.2

While this doesn't include prolific three-point shooters like Kam Jones and Greg Elliott, that 52.2% eFG% is very close to being in line with the team eFG% of 52.1% in 2021-22. As go the top players on the team in terms of minutes, so goes the team as a whole. That 52.1% eFG% ranked 77th overall and helped lead to an Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Rank of 66. So what does that have to do with next season?

David Joplin & Kam Jones putting in work
 Photo by Jovanny Hernandez | JS Online

Because we are projecting expected eFG% for the top-six returning players, we can line up those players against the players above. For further context, the above players accounted for 73.4% of minutes played last year. Using our 2022-23 projections, the top-six (Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, O-Max Prosper, Oso Ighodaro, Stevie Mitchell, and David Joplin) would account for 69.1% of minutes. A little bit less, but close enough to be relevant for our purposes.

Using the following formula, we can estimate the number of shots each player will take per game:

60 x % Minutes x % Shots = ?

60 is the number of expected shots per game, and by calculating the percentage of minutes played and the percentage of shots taken when a player is on the court, it gives us an expected number of shots taken per game. Then by multiplying that by 32, which is the number of games Marquette played in 2021-22 and the number of games they would play in 2022-23 assuming all regular season games and one Big East Tournament game, we know the number of shots each player would take. By multiplying that total by the eFG%, we have a number of effective makes. It won't give us actual 2PFGM or 3PFGM, but for instance in 2021-22, Justin Lewis would have an effective make total of 224, taken from the eFG% numerator calculation. Divide that 224 into his 443 field goal attempts and you get 50.6%, matching his eFG%.

The same would apply to our 2022-23 projections, with the added bonus that by calculating the top-six players' effective makes, we can measure those against their expected field goal attempts and by adding it all together, come up with an expected eFG% for those six players, and by extension the entire team. Here are the numbers:

Eff. FGM 2022-23 FGA eFG%
Tyler Kolek 129.4 265.7 48.7
Kam Jones 173 302.5 57.2
O-Max Prosper 123.1 218.2 56.4
Oso Ighodaro 109.7 164.4 66.7
Stevie Mitchell 79.2 148.7 53.3
David Joplin 100.2 207.4 48.3
Combined 714.6 1306.9 54.7

To provide some context in terms of reliability, the minute tally above equates to 94.1% of the 2021-22 minutes and the field goal attempts equate to 94.0% of the 2021-22 attempts. So if 2022-23 team eFG% is in close alignment with the top players in terms of minutes the way the 2021-22 team was, this is a strong indicator of eFG% improvement.

If the players improve at a rate comparable to the average sample (which included both the worst case and best case, so about average development) we can expect a 2.5% increase in eFG% in 2022-23. This makes sense as the two players that took the highest percentage of shots both had eFG% ratings under the team 52.2% average. While Marquette will be losing points, there is reason to believe they will be increasing their offensive efficiency.

To put into context what that hypothetical 2.5% increase would mean, Marquette's 52.1% ranked 77th in eFG% in 2021-22 but if they increased their team eFG% to 54.7% they would've ranked 21st in the category. And while the overall offense finished 66th, in 2021-22 every high-major team that ranked in the top-30 of eFG% was ranked in the top-41 of overall Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. That would mean an minimum expected 25-spot jump for Marquette in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.

While Marquette doesn't project to have the individual scoring leaders they had last year, they are in line to have more players capable of stepping up on any given night and a more diverse and efficient offense. So the answer to the question of "Who will score?" is "It doesn't matter, as long as it's more efficient."

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Who Will Score? Part IV: The Dark Horses

Today we continue our Who Will Score series for Marquette in 2022-23. Our first installment looked at the lack of correlation between returning volume scoring and offensive efficiency, particularly for teams that lose between 20-60% of points from volume scorers, like 2021-22 Marquette. In our last installment, we looked at the three most likely candidates to lead the way offensively. Today we turn to a fourth very strong candidate as well as the highest projected "best comparison" player whose potential ppg exceeds even Kam Jones.

Our initial focus today will be on returning players, with some words reserved for newcomers at the end. There will be one more installment after this with some takeaways as far as what to watch for offensively in 2022-23 as well as providing some reasons for optimism.

Before we begin, a reminder of how this will work. We are going to look at the following three categories that lead to scoring:

  • Minutes Played: The more you are on the court, the more you have chances to score.
  • Percent of Shots Taken: This tells us how likely a player is to get scoring opportunities when they are on the floor.
  • Effective Field Goal Percentage: This calculates what a player's shots are worth, with a 50% boost given to three point field goals made since three is 150% of two.

Expected scoring totals are based on 60 shots per game incorporating the three above factors as well as free throw rates and percentages from last year.

Determining the three categories will come by using multiple comparisons from Marquette, Shaka Smart, and kenpom comparison history to establish how similar players' games evolved from season to season in the past., also creating worst and best case scenarios by using the three season developments at the low and high ends of the developmental spectrum. Enough explanation, let's dig in:

Fourth Starter: Oso Ighodaro
Photo by Jeff Hanisch | USA Today Sports

Our last article focused on the three returning players with starting experience, but it seems like a virtual certainty that Oso Ighodaro will also enter 2022-23 as a starter since he is the only returning center on the roster that logged minutes last year. Of returning players, Ighodaro also led the team in offensive efficiency, eFG%, and free throw rate. Here are the projections:

  %Min %Shots eFG% PPG
Sophomore Sample 44.4 13.4 55.1  
Junior Sample 55.8 16.2 54.5  

Oso Ighodaro (So) 45.4 12.4 67.6 5.5
Oso Ighodaro (22-23) 57.1 15 66.7 8.3
Oso Ighodaro (Worst) 29.8 15.8 65.6 4.5
Oso Ighodaro (Best) 74 17.9 74.6 14.1

Oso is probably least likely to be close to his worst case scenario. Barring injury, he is going to log heavy minutes on a team without much depth at the 5. The question is which Oso we get. The one that was #2 nationally in eFG% at 77.3% through the first 23 games or the one that slumped to 45.5% in the final 9 games? Much of this will likely rely on the success of the pick and roll and whether the staff can develop providers other than Tyler Kolek. If they can regain that early season form, don't be surprised if Ighodaro is among the team's leading scorers.

Oso Ighodaro Comparisons: Ousmane Barro, Mike Edwards, Dan Fitzgerald, D.J. Haley, Theo John, Scott Merritt, Akil Mitchell, Jericho Sims, Ray Spalding, Kameron Woods

Worst Case Comps: Mike Edwards, Dan Fitzgerald, D.J. Haley

Best Case Comps: Ousmane Barro, Akil Mitchell, Jericho Sims

X-Factor: David Joplin
Photo by Jeff Hanisch | USA Today Sports

For this Marquette team, David Joplin is the ultimate wildcard. The reason for this is because he was a high usage, low minutes played option as a freshman. If his minutes spike to Justin Lewis levels while maintaining his percent of shots taken, the sky is the limit. That potential is why people like Scrambled Eggs' Phil Bush are on the Jopwagon. But if he takes a step back like sophomore Steve Taylor, he could be an afterthought. Check out the wild projection variances:

  %Min %Shots eFG% PPG
Freshmen Sample 18.6 19.5 49.7  
Sophomore Sample 42.9 19.9 49.7  
David Joplin (Fr) 17.6 26.1 48.3 2.8
David Joplin (22-23) 40.6 26.6 48.3 6.6
David Joplin (Worst) 17.7 24.5 36.7 2.1
David Joplin (Best) 78.1 29.9 65.7 19.2

Minutes will be the primary factor in determining Joplin's scoring, because he's never met a shot he didn't like. If a player who's willing to take shots is earning minutes, players like Troy Daniels show how quickly a star turn can come. But if his defense keeps him off the floor, going the other direction is possible. I think something in the middle is far more likely. Becoming a secondary scoring option off the bench feels most likely and despite the gaudy best case, I expect averaging double-digits will wait until next year.

David Joplin Comparisons: Ousmane Barro, Joe Chapman, Troy Daniels, Drew Friberg, Davante Gardner, Jajuan Johnson, Andrew Robinson, Steve Taylor, Daniel Utomi, Tyler Wood

Worst Case Comps: Joe Chapman, Steve Taylor, Tyler Wood

Best Case Comps: Ousmane Barro, Troy Daniels, Drew Friberg

Sparkplug: Stevie Mitchell
Photo by Collin Nawrocki | Marquette Wire

Did anyone do more to establish themselves late in the season more than Stevie Mitchell? When Marquette was struggling, he was the guy trying to pick them up. Mitchell's minutes dropped early in Big East play. After the calendar turned to 2022, he posted double-digit minutes 10 times and 100+ AORtg games 7 times. 6 of those 10 and 4 of those 7 were in the last 8 games of the year. So how does 2022-23 look?

  %Min %Shots eFG% PPG
Freshmen Sample 27.4 15.2 47.4  
Sophomore Sample 50 17.1 48.5  
Stevie Mitchell (Fr) 26.7 14.1 52.1 2.8
Stevie Mitchell (22-23) 48.7 15.9 53.3 5.9
Stevie Mitchell (Worst) 32.3 13.4 43.1 2.7
Stevie Mitchell (Best) 59.5 17.2 68.3 9.6

Mitchell has the look of a potential starter who will likely be part of four guards competing for three spots. However it's unlikely that he'll have a major scoring impact. Quite simply, guys with modest minutes and usage rates, even when they are efficient from the field, rarely explode into offensive focal points. He will more likely have an impact on the defensive end, though reports out of early camps are that Stevie is one of the most improved players in the offseason.

Stevie Mitchell Comparisons: Brendan Bailey, Ousmane Barro, Joe Chapman, Raheem Dickerson, Marcus Dickinson, Jase Febres, Theo John, Jajuan Johnson, Jeremiah Martin, Steve Taylor, Darius Theus, Kellon Thomas

Worst Case Comps: Raheem Dickerson, Steve Taylor, Darius Theus

Best Case Comps: Jase Febres, Jeremiah Martin, Kellon Thomas

The Rest of the Roster
Photo from @marquette.basketball Instagram

Last year, the top six players in terms of minutes accounted for 54.6 ppg in 73.4% of the minutes. Using the baseline projections, the six players we've highlighted would account for 50.8 points per game in 69.1% of the available minutes. Factoring that out would equate to 73.5 ppg as a team, about on par with the 74.0 ppg scored last year.

Kam Jones was not one of those top-six in minutes, nor was Greg Elliott, which means there is room for players outside those mentioned to break through. Without any track record, any projection would be a sheer guess, so we're going to focus on the rumors out of camp rather than trying to project points.

Zach Wrightsil: The NAIA Player of the Year seems likely to earn minutes, but without floor stretching ability he'll have to do his work inside. Wrightsil will likely have some games where he can exploit mismatches and put up some points, but his impact should be on the defensive and rebounding end more than as an impact scorer. We do see the occasional Ryan Hawkins or Max Strus type of up-transfer, but until he proves otherwise, tempering expectations seems wiser.

Sean Jones: All the reports indicate Sean Jones (pictured above) is the real deal. Despite being small of stature, he's strong, has great leaping ability, and is incredibly quick. The worst case scenario is likely a freshman impact somewhere between what Stevie Mitchell and Kam Jones did last year, though playing point his production may come more from creating for others than scoring himself.

Ben Gold: I've been pleasantly surprised by how strong the positive vibes are around Ben Gold. He is said to be a better than expected shooter and everyone I've talked to believes he will be able to contribute right away. Of all the newcomers, he seems the best positioned to add some bench scoring.

Keeyan Itejere: The simple lack of depth in the middle will probably give Itejere some opportunities. He is clearly an excellent athlete, though I would hedge my bets in terms of how much he offers on the offensive end in his first year on the court.

Emarion Ellis: He remains the high-upside player that might not be quite ready yet to have a major impact.

Chase Ross: True wildcard in that I haven't heard anything one way or the other about what impact he might have.

In our final piece, we are going to look at the most important factor in offensive success and why despite the lack of big-time individual scoring projections, Marquette may be in line for a significant improvement in offensive efficiency next year.