August 16, 2014

All the numbers on new Cleveland star Kevin Love

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves

Analyzing the statistics on the soon-to-be-acquired power forward

Where does Kevin Love rank in the NBA’s elite class?

Confidently, I’d say he’s a top-12 player. In case you haven’t done this exercise in a while, it is indeed very difficult to rank NBA players. We know pretty well that the top three are LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. From there … there are lots of possible directions one could go, both anecdotally and statistically.

ESPN Insider’s Kevin Pelton ($) recently argued that Love is a current top-five player. For me, that seems a bit too high too soon. Love is only 25 years old, after all1. He’s only a three-time All-Star. He missed most of 2012-13 and was inefficient when he played that season. He’s at best a purely average defensive player. Is he that concretely better and more dominant than Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard AND Anthony Davis? He’s maybe better than some, but not likely all. That’s why I prefer to say top-12 with confidence. And I hope to explain why in this post. [Read more...]



  1. Here’s your scary reminder that Durant is three weeks younger than Love, but we never use age as an excuse for his ranking. []

Indians playoff odds, Craiglist, stats and Byron Scott… While We’re Waiting

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Holding out hope: The Cleveland Indians are 47-47 at the All-Star Break. There are only 68 games left to play in the regular season. In order to make the playoffs again, the Indians will likely have to go on a torrid second-half run yet again Last year, you might recall how I often updated the team’s playoff odds from three different outlets. Today, as we begin the second half, I’ll take a look at where those odds stand: [Read more...]

On Andrew Wiggins’ ‘fast-twitch’ abilities: There’s an app for that


When the national TV cameras shifted over to Cavs general manager David Griffin last night, he used a phrase that sparked my analytical curiosity. The particular phrase is highlighted below in his comments:

“We really believe, at this point, for Andrew [Wiggins], his defense is a skill set. He does it with the fast-twitch muscle fiber in his body. That’s unusual. I had the opportunity to work with Shawn Marion at one point. He’s an incredibly quick player off the floor and quick laterally and guarded multiple positions. That was something that really spoke to me about Andrew, and I know it spoke to our coaching staff as well, and all of our scouts felt he had the most upside.” [Read more...]

Hey Nate Silver, you ignored Kyrie Irving’s age

Kyrie Irving

As expected, FiveThirtyEight czar Nate Silver was hot at the scene of another topical NBA story with a long, data-heavy feature last week at his relaunched site. This time around, the story was about Kyrie Irving’s future in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform and whether the team should offer him a max contract this summer. While Silver’s article was valuable in theory, it misfired badly with its token data.

[Read more...]

Playing the Odds: Everything we know about the Cavaliers and analytics

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Where numbers and charts collide with the “eyes and ears” of NBA decision making

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On defensive analytics and the Cavs’ recent issues

Cleveland Cavaliers v Dallas Mavericks

“Math is winning out on offense in the NBA.”

These were the words of Grantland’s Zach Lowe, the man whose writing represents basketball’s best combination of analytics with the league beat. But what does Lowe mean by that exactly? And where can we see information relevant for the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers, owners of the NBA’s worst defense since Luol Deng’s debut last month?

Looking into those questions requires background information on the rise of basketball analytics and a look into what we actually do know about defensive analytics in the game today. [Read more...]

The Diff: Revisiting ShotScore and how the Cavs are terrible

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote about the downfall for the Cavs in four terrible home losses. This week, I’m focusing on shooting data again.

The Diff

Within the next 15 days, this Cleveland Cavaliers roster should undergo yet another significant shift. The past few weeks of speculation have made it perfectly clear that not everyone – front office and/or personnel-wise – will survive this season from hell. While there are storylines for days about what that means for the organization’s future, I wanted to focus – perhaps for one of the final actually meaningful times – on what we’re seeing out on the court from these Cavaliers of late. Today, I’ll be looking at the Cavs’ efficiency from a number of different areas, again highlighting the ShotScore statistic. [Read more...]

The Diff: C.J. Miles, Cleveland Cavaliers difference-maker

The Diff is your (usually) weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sport statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Two weeks ago, I recapped all of the Cleveland Indians pitching moves this offseason. Today, I’m writing about an unheralded Cleveland Cavaliers hero.

The Diff

C.J. Miles is an inconsistent NBA player, generally regarded as a near-average shooting guard. He’s been around the block and has a decent amount of career minutes for only being 26 years old. This season, he played fairly miserably for a solid six-week stretch. The season is exactly halfway over so that’s a pretty large chunk of the total games played. But yet, somehow, he’s numerically been the Cavs’ biggest difference-maker on the court. This post will attempt to show how exactly that’s happened. [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Assessing Luol Deng’s value in Cleveland

deng bulls2Luol Deng, 28 years old, represents a tremendous upgrade at small forward for the 11-23 Cavs. He’s a back-to-back All-Star scoring the most points in his career this season. He’ll take away minutes from Alonzo Gee et al in the team’s rotation. While the future ramifications of this move are up in the air, here are my four favorite statistic-based notes when it comes to showing Deng’s worth and his value with this team.

1. Cavs SFs have a 9.2 PER this season. Yes, that’s astoundingly correct, per the mathematical minds at As you may recall, PER is normalized to be an average of 15.0 for all NBA players, not position-adjusted. On the season, Alonzo Gee has a 6.3 mark in 564 minutes and Earl Clark is at 9.7 in 551 minutes. I’m not a huge fan of PER, but at the extremes, I think it tells a pretty decent story: Gee is a near-replacement level player and Clark is a below average starter. Luol Deng has a 15.9 career PER and is at 17.4 this year; more than Gee and Clark combined and clearly a valuable starter in the NBA. He has a far higher usage than either Gee or Clark, inflating his numbers, but is undoubtedly a far better all-around player. [Read more...]

The Diff: The Cavs and their terrible, horrible offense

The Diff is your (usually) weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Welcome to 2014. Two weeks ago, I wrote about Omer Asik trade rumors and the Cavaliers. Today, I’m writing about the Cavs’ no good, very bad offense.

The Diff

The Cleveland Cavaliers somehow won last night to improve to 11-21. Within this disappointing season, there have already been a number of issues on and off the court. The most troubling aspect of this year’s terrible start might just have to be the team’s abysmal offense. Overall, the Cavs now sport the NBA’s 27th-best offensive efficiency rating at 97.0 points per 100 possessions. That might surprise you a bit based on the presence of All-Star Kyrie Irving. But 2013-14 has proved to be a collective offensive mess of epic proportions. [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: C.J. Miles’ extended slump

The Cavs are now 10-19. There are a myriad of reasons why they’ve been a bad team through the season’s first two months. But of late, one of the issues is starting shooting guard C.J. Miles.

Miles, plucked away in free agency from Utah last summer, actually was off to a great start to the year. In the season’s first six games, he averaged 14.3 points in just 20.7 minutes off the bench with an uber-efficient .645 efficiency field goal percentage.

Since then, over the last 19 games (16 as a starter) and including his 10-day absence with a calf injury, he’s been quite the opposite. The damage: 17.5 minutes per game, 6.1 points and a dreadful .402 efficiency field goal percentage. Take a look at the stats below for a more complete breakdown of the shooting zones.

He had a .433 efg in the 2011-12 season, his last with Utah. In his first Cavs season, he shined en route to a .519 efg, a huge jump in efficiency. But was that improvement sustainable? One can note that about 50% of Miles’ shooting attempts are now more profitable three-pointers, a huge increase over his Utah days.

Of late, he’s been pretty bad at his usual above-the-break three-pointers and very bad in the restricted area. He has always seemed to struggle with paint shots not in the restricted area, a zone that sees 40% as the NBA average along with mid-range. Miles is not usually average in either zone.

It’s not certain what Miles’ future might hold. He is what he is, in a sense, that he’s just a 26-year-old scoring guard/forward. Those should usually be replaceable, but his struggles are reflective of the Cavs’ difficulty of finding any suitable small forward over the past four years.

[Related: Cavs at NBA’s one-third mark: How much patience is left?]

The Diff: Cavs big men trio among NBA’s best of late

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote about “ace” Justin Masterson’s future with the Cleveland Indians. This week, it’s back to basketball to talk Cavaliers big men.

The Diff

The Cleveland Cavaliers have suddenly won four of their last five games. During these contests, the triumvirate of Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson has averaged a combined 37.6 points and 32.0 rebounds on 54.9% true shooting. The resurgence of these three has been a huge reason for the recent streak. Now that they’re all (currently) healthy, they might be one of the best frontcourts in the very weak Eastern Conference and perhaps in the entire NBA. Let’s dive into their recent success and look at their possible future together in leading the Cavs. [Read more...]

Cavs thoughts on Dion’s success, trades, Kyrie’s struggles and more

Kyrie Irving, Dion WaitersDuring Thanksgiving eve and the actual holiday itself, I got a lot of questions from family and friends about those pesky 4-11 Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m sure you did too. Here are my assorted takes on the hottest of Cavs topics at the moment.

On the Dion Waiters trade options listed so far … meh. That’s what I have to say. The three main options rumored via ESPN’s Chris Broussard: Chicago’s Luol Deng, New York’s Iman Shumpert and Philadelphia’s Evan Turner. Don’t get me wrong; Deng and Turner would be excellent fits on this small forward-lacking roster. But both are free agents on the verge of big paydays in summer 2014.

Deng is an old 28 because he has nearly 25,000 career NBA minutes including playoffs. He never has been a major offensive weapon, but has been a consistent piece for Chicago for the last decade. Turner, on the other hand, is having a breakout season at still only 25. He’s averaging 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the overachieving 76ers. Which means his agents will make some unfortunate team pay massive money for his services next year. [Read more...]

The Diff: Making sense of Dion Waiters’ present and future

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I shared some stats after the Browns’ depressing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. This week, I’m talking at length about Dion Waiters.

The Diff

Dion Waiters is the most polarizing player on the Cleveland Cavaliers. He supersedes the tweener rookie with a 2.3 PER, the former All-Star coping with his battered present state, the current All-Star perhaps struggling to lead the charge and all the other enigmatic players on this disappointing 4-10 squad. In just 17 short months since the 2012 draft, the soon-to-be 22-year-old Waiters continues to be a target of negative commentary. David Thorpe of ESPN and Scouts Inc. is the latest to do so. [Read more...]

The Diff: SportVU and early Cavaliers shooting data

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I looked at the Cleveland Indians offseason with their 2014 salary situation. This week, I’m talking about advanced shooting stats in the NBA.

The Diff

The NBA is on the verge of something humongous. And it has to do with big, gigantic data. MLB had its signature data moment with the 2003 publication of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball.” Now an over-used economic reference, “Moneyball” was actually about past events and what the Oakland A’s were already doing with proprietary data. In the NBA, the ground-breaking data just was released en masse in its most complete form. And there’s no telling what the consequences of SportVU could be. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Still giddy about Cavs’ opening victory

Cleveland sports fans are waiting. Thus, while we’re all waiting, the WFNY editors thought you might enjoy reading. Because you never know how long we might be waiting. So here are assorted reading goodies for you to enjoy. Send more good links for tomorrow’s edition to

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Great read from the fantastic Opening Night victory: “Cleveland was the most thirsty place on the planet last night. There’s a pain, but also a power to that. It makes you cheer for violence and other things you are normally against. You sit among the thugs, you are them. You are thinking unspeakable thoughts. It’s if a boat has landed full of us on a beachfront. We are exploding with glazed eyes and savage ideation. And the season begins.” [Cleveland Jackson/Stepien Rules] [Read more...]

The Diff: Projecting the Cavs’ 2013-2014 rotation

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote about how Kyrie Irving might actually be over-rated. This week, I’m writing about typical NBA rotations.

The Diff

The Cavs have had some strange players take the court over the three years of the Byron Scott era. I’ve shared this chart before many times that breaks down the minutes of those three seasons. It’s dreadful. You’ll see players like Samardo Samuels, Ryan Hollins, Manny Harris and Christian Eyenga with over 1,000 minutes! Alonzo Gee is the overall minutes leader! Anthony Parker and Ramon Sessions are in the top seven! That’s the biggest change for the 2013-14 season: The entire bench has been remodeled and fans will see a very, very new Cavs rotation. [Read more...]

The Diff: Estimating NBA ShotScores through shooting zones

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote about three intriguing stat-lines to watch for the 2013-14 Cavaliers. This week, I’m getting into NBA shooting charts.

The Diff

One of my favorite sportswriters is Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry. Like many of my favorites, he’s a non-traditional writer. A geography professor at Michigan State, he emerged onto the NBA scene via the 2012 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. His project, titled CourtVision, applied his signature specialty of spatial analysis to the game of basketball. It went viral – or at least basketball Twitter viral. Since then, Goldsberry has taken off, and the visiting scholar at Harvard also contributes regularly to Grantland and ESPN properties. His latest column from last week, about a new statistic called ShotScore, is what I’ll be writing about today. [Read more...]

The Diff: Fun Cleveland Cavs facts fans keep forgetting

The Diff is your weekly Wednesday WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I provided an All-Star Break update of the top prospects in the Cleveland Indians system, This week, I’m talking about the Cavs’ offseason.

The Diff

This NBA offseason seems like it has lasted quite a long time. The Cleveland Cavaliers last played a regular season game exactly three months ago on April 17. While one could point out it’s been even longer that since they played even a somewhat meaningful game, the team’s flurry of moves this offseason has passed by like a blur. Thus, today, we’ll review four Cavs facts that fans may have been forgetting of late. Feel free to chime in with your own as well. [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Tristan Thompson’s improving blocked rate

I noticed this comment on my latest edition of The Diff from Wedensday. This one fellow believes that Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson is being blocked less often than last year.

So, I decided to look into his game log from this season, before/after Dec. 19, the game when center Anderson Varejao got hurt.

Since 12/19 28 11.29 1.50 13.3%
Thru 12/18 26 7.42 1.27 17.1%

Verdict: Yes. Along with the better shooting percentages (or intuitively because of it?) Thompson also is getting blocked less often since Varejao’s been out. Still a pretty high number. But noticeably less.

For a bit of added context, according to HoopData, the average blocked percentage in the NBA this season is 6.1 percent. Among full-time regulars, I only spot three players that are clearly worse than Thompson this season at this category: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Reggie Evans and Austin Rivers. Yikes.

Also notable, ESPN stats guru Kevin Pelton mentioned rookie Thomas Robinson’s blocked percentage in his trade analysis today. He wrote: “He has had a tough time dealing with shot-blockers in the paint and is getting more than 10 percent of his shots rejected, per, one reason he’s shooting just 42.9 percent from the field.”

So yes, again, this isn’t exactly time to celebrate boisterously about Thompson’s blocked shot improvements as he’s still well below league-average. But improvements are improvements nonetheless.

[Related: The Diff: Cavalier notes on Tristan, turnovers, trades, etc]