The NBA's SportsVU data is one of the coolest things that has happened this year. Before it was introduced to the public, I never knew how much I wanted to know who ran the most miles in the NBA, or who did it at the fastest speed. I didn't realize how cool it would be to know that Monta Ellis led the league with 596 drives to the basket this year. I wasn't aware that Dirk scoring 680 points on catch and shoot jumpers would be a metric we could ever measure so precisely.
So good job, SportsVU. Way to blow my mind.
But the coolest thing about this data is that there's so much more to it that the public doesn't have access to. For example, the playoff series previews on NBA.com right now. They released a smattering of different stats and numbers to break down this Mavs-Spurs first round showdown. Here's a breakdown of what we learned. Obviously, nearly all the stats referenced are courtesy of SportsVU and NBA.com/stats.
Jose Calderon may play very little this series
In the four-game series this year, Calderon has played a normal amount of minutes, averaging 29.5. However, two of the games were pre-Devin Harris, and on paper, Harris looks like a much better match-up.
For whatever reason, Tony Parker has been able to shut Calderon down this year. In the 23 minutes Parker has guarded him, he has made just 4-of-19 shots (21%). Why? Because Parker hasn't left him open for three -- just 1-of-3 from behind the arc. Calderon has only drove four times, so Parker really is doing a good job forcing him off the 3-point line and into a long jumper that he can, but doesn't always, hit.
Flipping the switch, it's hardly surprising that Calderon also does a poor job of defending Parker. In nearly 17 minutes guarding him this season, he has allowed 13 Parker drives and 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting. That's...that's not good.
Unless Harris starts playing poorly and out of control on offense, it makes more sense to have him running around with Parker and Patty Mills.
Monta's biggest problem will be overcoming the playoff lights
Ellis played phenomenally this season, but even though he doesn't have a reputation of being a "choker" in the playoffs, there are clearly questions about his ability to keep producing under the playoff lights, against the elite Spurs.
Well, the good news for him is that San Antonio's best defender, Kawhi Leonard, hasn't shown the ability to shut him down. In about 17 minutes guarding him this season, Leonard has allowed him to drive 11 times and hit 9-of-19 (47%).
If Monta does have a playoff letdown, he probably can't go around blaming the Spurs defense. The stats just don't back it up.
Worth noting: the Spurs have prevented him from shooting the 3-pointer well -- which makes sense, because they're one of the best at defending the 3-point line. He made just 1-of-7 from distance in the season series.
Was "Boris Diaw can defend Dirk" actually a thing
I seem to remember Diaw guarding Dirk a couple times this season and forcing him into a tough fadeaway. He might have even blocked a jumper. But while Diaw might be better than most at staying down on Dirk pump fakes, the numbers don't play out in his favor.
In just over 18 minutes of guarding the Big German, Diaw has allowed him to score 28 points on 12-of-24 shooting (50%). With only four free throw attempts, I suppose that does suggest the "doesn't bite on his pump fakes" part might be right. But defending him all together? Nah.
Tiago Splitter, in about eight minutes, has done no better. 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
The takeaway? Enjoy Playoff Dirk. He might be the only enjoyable thing in a series that will probably look a little like the Red Wedding.
Keep DeJuan Blair away from Duncan
Not even a pre-game hug -- I don't CARE that they were teammates last year.
But seriously, despite all those reps in practice and training camp, Blair still hasn't figured out how to defend Timmy. In the four game series, he's guarded him for 14 minutes and allowed Duncan to score 20 points on 7-of-14 (50%).
The only reason it might be worth it is that Blair does have four offensive rebounds when being guarded by Duncan. But playoff Duncan is equally fearsome, and thinking Blair can handle him is probably not the best option here. I'd almost rather try Sarge James.
Don't let Danny Green shoot
Stats back this up, but I don't even think I need to include them. It's simple -- don't let him shoot. He doesn't miss against the Mavericks. Ever.