FanPost

Big men scoring in the 4th quarter and LaMarcus Aldridge



As was addressed by Dave in the most recent mailbag and repeatedly recently and not so recently throughout the site, LaMarcus Aldridge has clearly not been a big 4th quarter weapon for us, despite being our 2nd leading scorer for the past two years.  Despite averaging 18.1 ppg last year, LaMarcus averaged a measly 2.9 ppg in the 4th quarters as compared to 6 ppg in the 1st quarters of games.  However, it's been pointed out in responses that big men have a harder time scoring the 4th, so LaMarcus's 4th quarter production (or lack thereof) should be expected.  This explanation just smacked too much of truthiness to me, so I figured it was worth investigating just how unusual LA's dip in production in the 4th is.

First off, the idea that bigs see a big dip in their production in the last frame comes from the indisputable fact that the 4th quarter scoring leaderboard is dominated by wings.  The former Nick Van Excellent, The Running Man pointed this out in the Pistons recap thanks to the good folks at 82games.com.

For whatever reason it’s hard for big men to score in the fourth quarter. Just look at last years 4rth quarter scoring numbers.

2008-2009 4rth quarter points
James: 7.7
Granger: 7.5
Wade: 7.4
Bryant: 7.3
 Paul: 7.1
Roy: 7.0
Crawford: 6.4
Johnson: 6.2
 Harris: 6.1
Terry: 6.0
Durant: 6.0
Robinson: 6.0
Butler: 5.8
Parker: 5.8
Smith: 5.6
Jackson: 5.6
Gordon: 5.5
Pierce: 5.4
Williams: 5.4
Bosh: 5.4

The top 19 players are all wing guys and Bosh is the only big in the top 27 players. LMA scores about one point less per fourth quarter than Pau Gasol. Considering pace that seems pretty reasonable.

 

So clearly, elite (and non-elite, Jamal Crawford?) wings are more prolific scorers than big men in the 4th quarter.  However, the question remains, is this due to big men scoring less frequently, or wings scoring more frequently?  Certainly Brandon Roy gets the ball a lot more in the 4th quarter for the Blazers than he does for the rest of the game.

I'm going to ignore the question of whether wings are scoring more frequently (they are), and narrow the focus to the big men.  Specifically, big men who are primary or secondary offensive options for their team.  Obviously as you get down to crunch time, guys like Erick Dampier, Matt Bonner, and Kendrick Perkins are going to lose shots to Dirk/Terry, Duncan/Parker/Ginobili, and Pierce/Allen, so I'm focusing on the big men who would be expected to be large parts of the offense.

This peer group was loosely determined by filtering all the PF/C's who either led, or were the 2nd-leading scorer overall on their teams last year.  This filtering leaves the following 18 players:

Dirk Nowitzki
Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Al Jefferson
Antawn Jamison
LaMarcus Aldridge
Tim Duncan
Pau Gasol
Chris Bosh
Al Harrington
Josh Smith
Charlie Villanueva
Yao Ming
Amare Stoudemire
Josh Smith
David West
Mehmet Okur
Zach Randolph

82games.com doesn't have the quarter-by-quarter data for Z-Bo, presumably because of his midseason trade, so he'll be left out of the following analysis.  Here's a look at how many points per game each of these players scored in each quarter last year (I included a couple extra notable Blazers at the end).

Player

1Q PPG

2Q PPG

3Q PPG

4Q PPG

Howard

7.4

3.9

5.5

4.4

Duncan

6

4.3

5.3

4.3

West

6.1

4.3

5.8

5.1

Jefferson

5.8

5.3

6.8

5

Smith

4.6

3.3

4.3

4.2

Jamison

6.5

4.9

6.6

4.5

Villanueva

4.4

4.6

4

4.8

Yao

5.6

4.4

5.5

4.5

Stoudemire

6.9

4.2

6.5

4.2

Aldridge

6

3.3

6

2.9

Okur

5.4

3.6

4.5

4.2

Nowitzki

6.6

6.5

7.6

5

Green

5.1

4.2

4.1

3.4

Lewis

5

4

4.2

4.7

Gasol

6.4

3.9

5

3.9

Harrington

4.8

5.7

6.1

4.3

Bosh

5.8

5.7

5.9

5.4

Outlaw

1.7

4

2.1

4.9

Roy

5.6

5

5.9

7

A couple things jump out.  First off, adding up the quarter by quarter totals for any of these players will result in a per game average that's higher than their actual scoring average.  This is not an error.  This is presumably because many of them sat out some 4th quarters of blowouts or missed other parts of games due to injury (there's a little uncertainty on this point, but this seems to be the case based on the 82games data).  Also notable, Aldridge is the lowest scorer of the group in the 4th quarter, but multiple players show the same pattern of scoring more in the 1st and 3rd quarters than in the 2nd and 4th quarters.  The reason for this is pretty obvious looking at the minutes each player plays in each quarter.

Player

1Q MPG

2Q MPG

3Q MPG

4Q MPG

Howard

10.38

6.87

10.47

9.25

Duncan

9.63

7.53

9.65

8.13

West

10.76

8.00

11.52

9.83

Jefferson

10.00

8.00

10.58

7.96

Smith

9.97

7.91

9.89

9.31

Jamison

11.49

8.00

10.98

8.31

Villanueva

7.22

7.00

7.51

7.64

Yao

10.06

6.66

9.89

7.41

Stoudemire

11.15

6.98

10.94

8.85

Aldridge

11.06

7.30

11.02

7.71

Okur

10.01

7.27

9.20

8.28

Nowitzki

10.37

8.25

11.06

8.05

Green

9.90

8.83

9.87

8.94

Lewis

10.34

7.73

9.84

8.57

Gasol

11.37

7.55

11.20

7.80

Harrington

8.43

8.99

9.22

8.69

Bosh

10.26

9.30

10.00

8.83

Outlaw

4.89

8.53

5.20

9.02

Roy

9.87

8.47

10.49

9.33

 

Here, it's pretty clear that some of the discrepancies can be found.  Amare plays almost double the number of minutes in the first than he does in the second, and not coincidentally, scores almost double the points.  Similarly, LA scores far more in the 1st and 3rd while playing 4 more minutes in each of those quarters than he does in the 2nd and 4th.  A guy like Charlie V who plays roughly the same amount of minutes in each quarter scores roughly the same number of points in each quarter, so no big surprise there.

Still, it's clear from these numbers that minutes don't account for the entire discrepancy.  LA scores less than half as much in the 4th as he does in the 3rd, but he doesn't play double the minutes in the 3rd.  To get a better picture of how a player's production varies from quarter to quarter, each player's points per minute for each quarter are presented below:

Player

1Q PPM

2Q PPM

3Q PPM

4Q PPM

Howard

0.71

0.57

0.53

0.48

Duncan

0.62

0.57

0.55

0.53

West

0.57

0.54

0.50

0.52

Jefferson

0.58

0.66

0.64

0.63

Smith

0.46

0.42

0.43

0.45

Jamison

0.57

0.61

0.60

0.54

Villanueva

0.61

0.66

0.53

0.63

Yao

0.56

0.66

0.56

0.61

Stoudemire

0.62

0.60

0.59

0.47

Aldridge

0.54

0.45

0.54

0.38

Okur

0.54

0.50

0.49

0.51

Nowitzki

0.64

0.79

0.69

0.62

Green

0.52

0.48

0.42

0.38

Lewis

0.48

0.52

0.43

0.55

Gasol

0.56

0.52

0.45

0.50

Harrington

0.57

0.63

0.66

0.49

Bosh

0.57

0.61

0.59

0.61

Outlaw

0.35

0.47

0.40

0.54

Roy

0.57

0.59

0.56

0.75

A couple things jump out here.  First off, the points each guy scores per minute can vary drastically from quarter to quarter.  Dwight Howard scores a ton of points for every minute he's in during the 1st quarter, but relative rarely during his time on court in the 4th.  Still, it's hard to tell from these numbers just how much each player's 4th quarter production is per minute relative to the rest of the game, so I broke it down even further.

First, a weighted average of the player's points per minute for the first three quarters was calculated, this was done through the following formula:

(1Q MPG * 1Q PPM + 2Q MPG * 2Q PPM + 3Q MPG * 3Q PPM) / (1Q MPG + 2Q MPG +3Q MPG)

This more heavily weights the quarters in which the player is playing more rather than simply averaging the three quarters out.  The table below compares this weighted average to each players' scoring production in the 4th quarter.

Player

1-3Q PPM

4Q PPM

% change

Howard

0.61

0.48

-21.51%

Duncan

0.58

0.53

-9.14%

West

0.53

0.52

-2.98%

Jefferson

0.63

0.63

0.31%

Smith

0.44

0.45

2.68%

Jamison

0.59

0.54

-8.30%

Villanueva

0.60

0.63

5.00%

Yao

0.58

0.61

4.33%

Stoudemire

0.61

0.47

-21.58%

Aldridge

0.52

0.38

-27.72%

Okur

0.51

0.51

-0.47%

Nowitzki

0.70

0.62

-10.95%

Green

0.47

0.38

-18.84%

Lewis

0.47

0.55

15.92%

Gasol

0.51

0.50

-1.61%

Harrington

0.62

0.49

-20.63%

Bosh

0.59

0.61

3.88%

Average (bigs)

0.56

0.52

-6.57%

Outlaw

0.42

0.54

29.55%

Roy

0.57

0.75

31.13%

 

First off, the huge increases in their scoring rate for Outlaw and Roy are impressive, to say the least. Second, the stats here confirm the conventional wisdom; Aldridge's scoring takes a gigantic drop in the 4th quarter, greater than every other player in his peer group.  Additionally, the average performance for each of these players also indicates that the conventional wisdom is true, big men do seem to have trouble scoring late, particularly looking at Roy's increased production as a wing that's a primary offensive option.

Still, the majority of these bigs saw small drops in their scoring production, maintained a similar scoring rate, or even improved their scoring rate.  Howard, LaMarcus, Green, Amare, and Harrington were the only guys with declines larger than 15%, and of those, two of them are clearly players that found themselves within the peer group filter by default; no one would expect to win a title with Jeff Green or Al Harrington as their second offensive option.  Amare and Dwight, however, are both guys who would be expected to carry an offensive load, although LaMarcus still showed a markedly greater decline in his scoring numbers.  So while the numbers for the overall peer group indicate that a small decline in production from a big is to be expected, LaMarcus's drop fell far outside that typical effect.  Of course, you'd really have to look at multiple years to really get an idea of the expected range.

Also interesting to note that the two players who are normally attributed to be most similar to LA's game offensively, Bosh and West, essentially maintained an identical scoring rate during the 4th as compared to their performance over the rest of the game.

Now, I know most of this probably comes off as LA-bashing, and I'll be the first to admit, I think he has plenty of flaws, but pinning this entirely on him would be a fallacy.  As Dave pointed out, he often doesn't get passed the ball late, which makes it hard to score, and as InvisibleNinja pointed out with some Synergy data in a fanpost earlier this year, we essentially don't call any plays for him down the stretch, particularly compared to earlier in the game.

Regardless, before this becomes a novel, I'll try to sum up the relevant points.  Yes, anyone expecting LA to score at Brandon Roy levels in the 4th is delusional, even with Roy out. Big men that account for a lot of their team's offense do seem to see a slight dip in their production in the 4th quarter.  HOWEVER, even with this dip, LA's 4th quarter decline appears to be much greater than we would expect given his large role in the offense throughout the rest of the game.  How much of this is on LaMarcus is definitely debatable, however, given our playcalls, our other options, etc., etc.  Still, the data definitely point to this being a somewhat unique situation for the Blazers, in the sense that one of our primary offensive options was largely ignored during the 4th last year (and presumably this year, when 82games finally releases the stats) compared to the rest of the game, big man or not.

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