Short Shot Clocks

One item on Nate McMIllan's agenda today that wasn't mentioned in my earlier practice report is McMillan's belief that his team needs to get shots earlier in the shot clock.  

This afternoon, Dwight Jaynes asked me whether there was a way to find out how many shots the Blazers have taken with the shot clock winding down. Jaynes asserted, "This team has to be leading the league."  Given that the Blazers are currently the slowest-paced team in the league according to John Hollinger, this prediction makes a lot of sense: slower pace = longer possessions = more shots with the clock winding down. 

But how much does milking the clock and taking late shots help or hurt the Blazers? Does it matter?

Thanks once again to Synergy Sports and the Invisible Ninja we have some pretty definitive statistics to answer these questions.

Synergy tracks shots that it calls "short shot clock" shots, those taken with under 4 seconds on the clock.  According to Synergy, through games played last night...

  • Portland leads the entire league in field goal attempts on a short shot clock (160). The Utah Jazz (158) and Detroit Pistons (157) are in second and third respectively.  
  • The Blazers, Jazz and Pistons all have 7 to 8 percent of their halfcourt possessions ending with short shot clock field goal attempts.  This leads the league.  
  • To no one's surprise the Phoenix Suns (64), Los Angeles Lakers (73) and the Golden State Warriors (75) are the three teams that find themselves in this situation the least.  These teams find only 3 to 4 percent of their possessions ending with short shot clock field goal attempts.
  • Unfortunately for the Blazers, while they are 1st in the league in short shot clock field goal attempts, they are 26th in the league in short shot clock field goal percentage.  The Blazers shoot 29% overall on short shot clock shots.  For comparison, the team shoots 45% from the field overall.  Their short shot clock percentage is better than only Indiana (28% on 113 attempts), Detroit (27% on 157 attempts), Denver (27% on 81 attempts) and Philadelphia (26% on 92 attempts). 
  • The best shooting teams on short shot clocks: Sacramento (44% on 103 attempts), San Antonio (40% on 90 attempts), Cleveland (39% on 151 attempts) Houston (39% on 118 attempts), Washington (38% on 93 attempts).
  • Synergy rates the Blazers "Below Average" in this category overall. They are "Poor" on jump shots taken on a short shot clock.  
  • The one bright side: the team is "Very Good" on shots taken around the basket on a short shot clock. Unfortunately, the ratio of short shot clock jumpers to short shot clock shots around the basket is 4.6 to 1.  Eek.
Also unfortunately for the Blazers, the trend has been heading in the wrong direction.  On the team's recent four game road trip, the Blazers took more short shot clock shots and made less of them.  Looking only at the recent four game trip -- at New York, Indiana, Cleveland and Milwaukee -- here are some numbers...
  • The Blazers had 11% of their possessions end with short shot clock shots.
  • The Blazers converted just 20% of their field goal attempts in these situations.
  • For comparison on this trip, the Blazers shot 46% in their overall halfcourt offense.
I think it's fair to call this a critical problem right now.

Update

A great question came in: how does this compare to last year for the Blazers? For the entire 2008-2009 season...
  • The Blazers had 557 field goal attempts on a short shot clock. This put them at 6th most in the league. This year they are #1.
  • The Blazers finished 8% of their total possessions with short shot clock shots, almost identical to this season so far.  
  • Last year the Blazers shot 6.8 FGA per game on a short shot clock.  This year they are shooting 6.4 FGA per game on a short shot clock.  So slightly down this year.
  • The big difference?  The Blazers connected on 38% of their short shot clock shots last year.  This tied them for 6th best in the league.  This year?  As mentioned above: 29% and 26th best.
  • In other words, the Blazers are now shooting 9% lower on these attempts than they did last year. This 9% drop year over year ties them with 4 other teams for the largest percentage drop year over year.  Brutal.
  • The biggest individual culprits when it comes to this year over year short shot clock drop?  Steve Blake is down from 35% to 13%. Brandon Roy is down from 37% to 30%. Rudy Fernandez is down from 45% to 39%.
-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter
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