Hoosiers In The NBA: Over-Analyzing A Small Sample Size

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We’re not even a full week into the NBA season and there are already so many things I could write about. However, there will be plenty of time this season to discuss Victor Oladipo’s continued improvement and his role as a leader in Orlando, Eric Gordon’s hopeful resurgence, Noah Vonleh’s quest to improve in Portland, and Cody Zeller’s ever-changing role in Charlotte. Instead, since it is really early in the season and each players’ stats are based off of a very small sample size, let’s take a look at some of the more eye-opening stats and predict whether these will be continuing trends or just numbers from a random string of games.

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

@ Golden State (L 111-95): 14 points (5-17 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, steal, 4 turnovers, personal foul, 33 minutes.

@ Portland (L 112-94): 20 points (6-13 FG)(5-7 FT), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, steal, turnover, personal foul, 41 minutes.

Vs Golden State (L 134-120): 9 points (3-11 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, steal, 5 personal fouls, 24 minutes.

Last season it took until his 16th game for Gordon to score 20 or more points. This year Gordon scored 20 points in his second game of the season. Now it should be noted that last year was an anomaly as Gordon had the worst start to his career before turning things around after he came back from his shoulder injury. In addition, Gordon currently has a lot of offensive responsibility with Tyreke Evans currently out. So if I was to predict whether or not Gordon keeps up his current scoring pace (14.3 points a game) I would lean towards saying yes. In fact I see Gordon averaging between 15-16 points during Evans absence. Gordon has had a rough shooting start, hitting only 14 of his 41 shots (34.1%), but I look for that to improve, increasing his point totals. However when Evans returns I see Gordon averaging around 12-13 points a game like he did last season. Add both together and I think Gordon will end up keeping his 14 points a game trend.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

Vs Washington (L 88-87): 17 points (7-20 FG)(2-2 FT), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 36 minutes.

Vs Oklahoma City (L 139-136 2OT): 21 points (8-27 FG)(2-2 FT), 13 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, block, 5 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 51 minutes.

@ Chicago (L 92-87): 13 points (5-13 FG)(1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, personal foul, 39 minutes.

Oladipo had five double-digit rebounding games before coming into this season so I think it is safe to say that he won’t continue averaging nine rebounds a game. Of course, five to six is still a very realistic goal when you consider that the Magic don’t have a great rebounder outside of Nikola Vucevic. What I am more focused on is Oladipo’s very slow shooting start. Both Oladipo’s overall and three-point field goal percentage are the worse it has ever been after his first three games (33.3% FG and 25.0% 3FG). What’s even more concerning is that he has also taken the most shots he has ever taken in his first three games (60), which just compounds the issue. I know Oladipo has the ability to turn this around but I fear that if he doesn’t do it soon he may lose the lead scoring role in the offense that he has worked so hard to achieve. Head Coach Scott Skiles will still play Oladipo no matter what, but if Oladipo doesn’t turn his shooting around his 17.9 points a game last year might end up remaining his career-high.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

Vs New Orleans (W 112-94): 2 points (1-4 FG), turnover, 2 personal fouls, 14 minutes.

@ Phoenix (L 110-92): 2 points (1-2 FG), 6 rebounds, assist, block, 2 personal fouls, 21 minutes.

Vs Phoenix (L 101-90): 0 points (0-1 FG), 4 rebounds, assist, 6 minutes.

Of all the Hoosiers, Vonleh’s stats are the hardest to decipher because there aren’t many to analyze. Despite playing a career-high 13.7 minutes per game, we are still seeing the same old stat totals we are accustomed to seeing (good rebounding numbers and nothing else). It is still very early and Vonleh is still trying to fit in with the Trail Blazers, who he has only been with for a couple of months, but it has been a slight disappointment to not see any clear improvement right away after such a promising summer-league performance. I think we will start seeing a noticeable improvement but it looks like it will take a little longer than expected.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

@ Miami (L 104-94): 7 points (2-4 FG)(3-4 FT), 12 rebounds, steal, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 30 minutes.

@ Atlanta (L 97-94): 5 points (2-5 FG)(1-1 FT), 2 rebounds, steal, 3 personal fouls, 17 minutes.

Vs Atlanta (L 94-92): 6 points (3-6 FG), 5 rebounds, assist, steal, block, turnover, 23 minutes.

Some of Zeller’s stats have been so up and down that they end up looking rather normal (for example Zeller had 12 rebounds in his first game and then had only 2 rebounds in his second game), but there are two stats that look rather interesting when you consider his expectations coming into this season. While he had quite a few steals in college (1.19 per game at IU), Zeller has never really generated them during his time in the NBA. Yet he has had steal in each of his first three games, marking only the third time in his NBA career he has had a steal in three consecutive games. Meanwhile Zeller went from being an improving passing big man to having only one assist in three games. Zeller’s role as first big man off the bench means that his stats are going to differ the most on a game-to-game basis in comparison to other former Hoosiers because his job for the team will change depending on the situation. However, with Zeller being the only above-average defender on the team with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out, the improvement in steals may be here to stay. As for the decrease in assists, I think that will balance out. He made too much progress last season in that area to revert back.

Season averages:

Eric Gordon: 14.3ppg, 3.3rpg, 3.0apg, 1.00spg, 1.7tpg, 2.3fpg, 34.1% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 81.8% FT, 32.7mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 17.0ppg, 9.0rpg, 5.7apg, 2.33spg, 1.33bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.7fpg, 33.3% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 83.3% FT, 42.0mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 1.3ppg, 3.3rpg, 0.7apg, 0.33bpg, 0.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 28.6% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 13.7mpg.

Cody Zeller: 6.0ppg, 6.3rpg, 0.3apg, 1.00spg, 0.33bpg, 0.7tpg, 1.7fpg, 46.7% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 80.0% FT, 23.3mpg.

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