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

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA.

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.

Hoosiers In the NBA: Everyone’s Goals Entering the 2015-2016 Season

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Welcome to a new season of Hoosiers In the NBA! Just like Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller (who were the main focus back when this was just called Zeller and Oladipo Watch) this column is entering its third season. Also just like them, I hope I am able to improve upon the progress I made last season and I hope you all continue to enjoy reading it. For this week’s addition, I’ll begin by posting each ex-Hoosier’s previous season stats and their preseason stats this year. I’ll also go over everyone’s goals for the upcoming season as well as how I think they can attain those goals. Finally, I’ll give my statistical projections for each Hoosier. Now, let’s take a look at the players we will be following this season and what they are trying to accomplish:

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

2014-2015 stats: 13.4ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.8apg, 0.82spg, 0.23bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.4fpg, 41.1% FG, 44.8% 3FG, 80.5% FT, 33.1mpg. (61 games)

2015 Preseason stats: 13.4ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.6apg, 1.00spg, 0.6tpg, 2.0fpg, 34.0% FG, 32.0% 3FG, 78.6% FT, 24.4mpg. (5 games)

This season’s goals:

  • Stay healthy
  • Continue to shoot around 40% from three-point range
  • Have the occasional throwback game when the team needs it

How to obtain those goals: Some things you can’t control and that can be especially true when it comes to injuries. However, one way Gordon can avoid injuries is to not take too any unnecessary risks. By this I mean don’t go diving out of bounds to save a loose ball. I know some people may disagree with what I am saying, but Gordon is a bigger asset to the Pelicans healthy than sitting on the bench. Of course that example is circumstantial. If that loose ball occurred in the final minute of a game in late March with New Orleans fighting for playoff positioning, then Gordon should take the risk and dive for that loose ball. It’s those throw away loose balls in the middle of the second quarter in December that he should avoid altogether.

Gordon is very important to this Pelicans team, as he is basically the team’s best guard and arguably their second best player at the moment. With Tyreke Evans out a couple months and Jrue Holiday being put on a minutes restriction, Gordon needs to be healthy and play well these first few months so the Pelicans don’t fall behind early in the season. That means Gordon may have to reach back and play aggressively (drive to the basket, generate more free throws) for the first few months so any and all unnecessary risks need to be eliminated. When Evans returns and Holiday is off his minutes restriction, Gordon can reprise his role from last season, a knockdown three-point shooter. Last season was a career year from behind the arc and while I doubt he will near 45% again this year, as long as he doesn’t neglect that part of his game the first part of the season when he’s playing more aggressively, he should find his stroke and average around 40% for the rest of the season.

Predicted stats: 14.3ppg, 3.1rpg, 4.2apg, 46% FG, 40% 3FG, 83% FT.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

2014-2015 stats: 17.9ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.1apg, 1.67spg, 0.26bpg, 2.8tpg, 2.6fpg, 43.6% FG, 33.9% 3FG, 81.9% FT, 35.7mpg. (72 games)

2015 Preseason stats: 10.1ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.6apg, 1.38spg, 0.25bpg, 1.1tpg, 2.1fpg, 47.6% FG, 40.9% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 24.3mpg. (8 games)

This season’s goals:

  • Improve on defense
  • Become a more efficient offensive player/better three-point shooter
  • Cut down on the turnovers

How to obtain those goals: Coming into the NBA, it was thought that Oladipo was guaranteed to be a great defensive player who could become a great overall player if he developed his offensive game. Two years in and it turned out that the opposite was true. Oladipo has blown away expectations offensively, nearly averaging 18 points in his sophomore campaign and shooting decently from three-point range until a late-season slump brought down his shooting average. It has actually been the defensive side of his game that has troubled Oladipo. To a lot of people’s surprise, the Orlando Magic actually gave up 4.6 less points per 100 possessions when Oladipo was off the floor than they did when he was on the floor. Part of the reason has been that Oladipo has focused more on the offensive side of the ball because the Magic had a very hard time scoring for most of the season, but he no longer has that excuse. In addition to rookie Mario Hezonja and an improving Elfrid Payton likely to make the offense more lethal, the Magic brought in new head coach Scott Skiles, who is one of the better defensive NBA coaches in the league. Oladipo needs to learn everything he can from Skiles and regain his defensive form, because if he does he has the potential to become the superstar this team needs.

While Oladipo has been a successful offensive player, there are still a few things he needs to fix. He still needs to be a more consistent shooter. While not as bad as his rookie season, Oladipo still had far too many games where he just kept putting up brick after brick. That leads me to the other part of his game that needs fixing: forced turnovers. Oladipo improved a lot in terms of ball security last season, but he can improve even more this season. Part of that is realizing that while it doesn’t show up as a turnover on the stat sheet, a bad shot is basically the same thing as a turnover. Oladipo needs to play more disciplined offensively and if he can do that he will become a more efficient scorer.

Predicted stats: 18.6ppg, 5.1rpg, 4.7apg, 48% FG, 37% 3FG, 84% FT.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

2014-2015 stats (Charlotte Hornets): 3.3ppg, 3.4rpg, 0.2apg, 0.16spg, 0.36bpg, 0.4tpg, 0.8fpg, 39.5% FG, 38.5% 3FG, 69.2% FT, 10.3mpg. (25 games)

2015 Preseason stats: 6.4ppg, 7.9rpg, 0.4apg, 0.29spg, 0.43bpg, 0.9tpg, 2.3fpg, 44.2% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 53.8% FT, 22.6mpg. (7 games)

This season’s goals:

  • Continue to learn the game
  • Continue to develop the three-point shot
  • Take advantage of every opportunity

How to obtain those goals: Although the goals I laid out for Vonleh may seem silly, you need to remember that this guy, or should I say kid, isn’t even old enough to legally drink. Vonleh just turned 20 years old two months ago, making him around the same age as many of this year’s rookies. For the most part he still is a rookie after he wasted away on the Hornets bench neither being good enough to play in the NBA but at the same time too talented to play in the NBA’s D-League. While Vonleh is still a backup in Portland, his role is much more different and much more beneficial for his growth. He will be a part of the Trail Blazer’s second team lineup and will routinely see 10-15 minutes each game against other team’s first and second unit players. This should help develop Vonleh more than when he was just playing in garbage time, when you can’t guarantee that the opponent will be going all out, especially if they are the ones with the big lead. Vonleh needs to take advantage of this opportunity so that when he eventually gets his chance at starting he will have experience playing against high-level competition.

That brings us to Vonleh’s game. The former Big Ten Freshman of the Year was a lottery pick in 2014 for his upside, especially as a rebounder and a three-point shooter. While last season was a disappointing year for Vonleh, he did confirm to everyone that his rebounding skills will easily transfer to the NBA, averaging nearly 12 rebounds when adjusted to 40 minutes per game. Now he needs to work on his outside shot. While he didn’t shoot badly from behind the arc, it’s the fact that we don’t have that much of a sample size to judge him. Vonleh’s potential to stretch the floor makes him a valuable player, and if Vonleh wants to be starting by the end of this season or the start of next season, he’ll need to prove that he can consistently hit three-pointers, which means he needs to focus on that part of his game in practice until shooting threes becomes natural for him.

Predicted stats: 5.1ppg, 5.7rpg, 0.8apg, 48% FG, 35% 3FG, 71% FT.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

2014-2015 stats: 7.6ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.6apg, 0.56spg, 0.79bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.1% FG, 100.0% 3FG, 77.4% FT, 24.0mpg. (62 games)

2015 Preseason stats: 7.4ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.5apg, 0.88spg, 0.25bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.3fpg, 60.6% FG, 66.7% 3FG, 57.7% FT, 22.1mpg. (8 games)

This season’s goals:

  • Continue last season’s defensive improvement
  • Become a more reliable offensive player
  • Find your niche on the team

How to obtain those goals: Just like Oladipo, Zeller has also defied expectations, but for the exact opposite reason. Expected to be an offensive threat who would struggle to defend bigger players, Zeller ranked as one of the 25 best defensive players in the NBA according to Defensive Plus-Minus (+2.5). Subjective and complicated stats aside, Coach Steve Clifford, a coach who values defense heavily, is expected to still start Zeller at power forward even after an offseason where the Hornets brought in big men such as Frank Kaminsky, Tyler Hansbrough, and Spencer Hawes. Despite each one likely being an upgrade over Zeller offensively, Zeller’s defense is so crucial for the Hornets that Clifford will live with Zeller’s offensive shortcomings. Now that speaks volumes of a players defensive skill.

Now about those offensive shortcomings. Zeller holds the Indiana University record for best career shooting percentage. While college performance doesn’t always translate to NBA performance, there is a big drop off from being a 59% shooter in college to being a 44% shooter in the NBA. Those scouting reports that talked about Zeller struggling against bigger players were correct, but it has been bigger defenders that have given Zeller problems. Last season, Zeller shot better away from the basket than he did under the basket. You read that correctly: Zeller made 46.1% of his shots last season but when only counting layup attempts he shot 42.6%. Zeller has two options, either he bulks up and continues to try and battle in the post, or he can finally use his range to good use and become a stretch-four or a stretch-five. This is the season Zeller has to choose and it seems he has chosen the stretch big man route which I think is for the best. While it would be great to see Zeller dominate the post like he did back when he was donning the candy stripe pants, Zeller knows his niche in the NBA is currently his defense, as his athleticism and mobility let him guard both traditional and stretch power forwards. Bulking up would only slow him down and take away from his defensive versatility. If Zeller can start knocking down threes (he hit only one three last season but he hit dozens of 20-footers), we may start to see Zeller’s full potential.

Predicted stats: 9.2ppg, 7.4rpg, 2.0apg, 54% FG, 33% 3FG, 79% FT.