Introducing a new performance metric; the Rudy

During the 4th quarter of the Blazers victory over the Toronto Raptors there was a moment that drove Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett absolutely crazy. Ex-Trailblazer Jerryd Bayless drained consecutive threes and hit four of them in about a four minute stretch of game time.
After the second one Barrett had his patented disgusted tone of voice as he said something along the lines of, "A 29% three-point shooter and he hits another one."
Improbably, after hitting two more without a miss, Bayless would have been surprised to hear Barrett lament, "A 28% shooter and he cannot miss." It is not often someone makes four consecutive shots and has their percentage decline.
Naturally, it had not. The issue was a player having a short stretch of game that reflected a statistical outlier. As a general rule if Bayless attempts three 3-pointers he will miss two of them. However, that is an average, not an ironclad statistical truth.
Bayless was illustrating a basic truth about basketball players. Averages reflect their results over time, not in any particular stretch. Who can forget Ray Allen hitting eight triples in Game 2 of the Finals last year? Or going oh for eight on the same shot the next night?
Neither result was truly representative of what could be expected but neither was either outside the realm of believability. Players like Allen, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, and so forth are stars because performances of high scoring outputs, usually on a relatively low volume of shots, are expected and taken as a matter of course.
When Carmelo Anthony scored 50 a few nights ago it was notable but not outside the realm of what we might expect from him. Anthony is a very capable scorer who puts up a large volume of shots. Scoring totals in the high 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s are not infrequent. A night when the ball bounces just right a couple of times turns those high 20 point night into a high 30 point night, and if he averages out a night where he missed more shots than expected with a night he gets to the foul line and makes more shots than expected we see one of those magical nights where one player puts on a transcendent performance.
Blazer fans surely have been enjoying this with LaMarcus "LaMarvelous" Aldridge as he has recently exploded for a pair of 40 point games sandwiched around games tipping into the mid thirties.
It is becoming regular enough that as one individual recently noted, his career high 42 was "just" a "quiet 30 point night" until the last four minutes of the game.
I would not go so far as to say we expect big scoring outputs but I would say we are not surprised when superior offensive players put up big numbers.

What surprises us is when lesser players have those same explosions. For example, when Bayless, carrying a robust 9.5 points per game average, entered the fourth quarter with no points the other night, who expected he would finish the night with 18? It was a huge quarter.
Of course, any Raptor fan who watched the game might easily be justified in pointing to Rudy Fernandez and saying, "What about him?"
Fernandez had a tremendous first half Friday. He was everywhere. Tipping passes. Jumping into the lane to redirect drivers. Flying out to the perimeter to contest formerly open shots.
Knowledgeable Blazer fans are nodding their heads. We have seen those nights when Fernandez controls a game in every area except scoring. Recently, however, he has been scoring very well.
This is a refreshing change, as he was expected to contribute more than nine points a game. He has been in essentially a season-long slump interrupted by occasional brilliant outbursts.
Friday was such an outburst. In the first half he absolutely erupted, burying all eight shots he attempted en route to 23 first half points.
Raptor fans who are only casually aware of his playing style were probably shocked and devastated, expecting more of the same in the second half.

Unfortunately for Blazer fans, that is the difference between players such as Rudy and someone along the lines of a healthy Brandon Roy.
It is unreasonable and unlikely to see this sort of production continue over the course of a full game. Indeed, after taking and making eight shots in the first half (including six threes) he attempted but three shots in the second half and made none. His total at the end of the game matched his total at the end of the first half.
Now, on the one hand, his play in the first half was everything and more a Blazer fan could ever want. He was active, effective, and deadly. He more or less carried a Blazer team so lethargic they managed 3 turnovers in their first three possessions to a half-time lead.
He was so effective his contributions made up for Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Andre Miller combining for more turnovers than points in the first half. He was so effective a Raptor fan could be excused for assuming the game was over at the half time.
His second half was, from a scoring standpoint, so ineffective it is nigh on unbelievable the Blazers found a way to win.
But that is just the point. Good teams often have players like Fernandez. They plod along game after game providing their comfortable single digit points, a couple rebounds, maybe throw in an assist here and there.
Then there comes a game where they have one of those outliers, statistically speaking, where they score a weeks worth of points in a quarter, game, or half.
I am reminded of the night Martell Webster scored 26 points against the Jazz. Of those 26, 24 came in the third quarter. This was in a year in which he averaged 10.7 points per game. The Jazz never saw it coming and unexpectedly lost a game when a role player had a star-level night.
Most often when players like Fernandez, Webster, and players of their ilk have big nights, they come over the course of a single quarter or half.
A case in point would be the night DeJuan Blair of the Spurs had last Tuesday. He was absolutely dominant in the first half, leading the Spurs to a five point half time advantage with 14 points and eleven rebounds.
The rebounds were not unexpected. It is a pace any NBA fan might expect him to continue. He is a smart player who uses his knowledge and timing to grab large numbers of rebounds. The points were a bit unexpected, however, and it was reasonable to assume he would end the game with maybe 15 - 16 points.
As is so often the case with role players who have star quarters or halves, however, he was even less effective in the second half, dialing up a whopping zero points and collecting just one rebound.
Therein lies the problem, if there is one, with second line players taking on major and unexpected scoring loads in the first half.
If the stars are having an off night, how they respond to the outburst often determines the outcome of the game.
Talented, winning teams like the Spurs accept it for what it unexpected and much appreciated bonus...and continue to run their offense to get their best players more attempts.
Teams with less stellar records seem to be more prone to trying to replicate the first half success in the second half, only to find that guy who typically scores ten a game is not going to have the same second half success as he did in the first half.
Unexpected success is difficult to maintain. But it sure is fun while it lasts.
There are some players who seem to specialize in it. Rudy Fernandez might be the king of impressive explosions followed by extreme disappearances. He seems to regularly have a double digit scoring quarter only to not score again for a game and a half.
So in honor of Rudy and with a nod of the head to the home of such great basketball terms as "The Voskuhl", "the Mario", etc., I propose we begin using the term, "a Rudy" to describe an outburst wherein a player scores double their average or more in a half, but is non-existent statistically speaking for the other portion of the game.
As a Blazer fan, let me say I hope to see many more Rudys from Rudy and his running buddy Patty Mills this year. They sure are fun to watch.


Are the Blazers more fun to watch without Brandon Roy?

There is an oft-cited saw among Blazer fans that, for many, has become an article of faith. It is repeated often and loudly.
The Blazers are more fun to watch without Brandon Roy.
This is typically followed by a recitation about how they have better movement, more fast breaks, share the ball more, and thus are more entertaining.
It is stated as a basic, unalterable, indisputable truth.
The Blazers are more fun to watch without Brandon Roy.
It is so ingrained in the psyche of many Blazer fans that on a local radio show, legendary broadcaster Bill Schonely attested to the truth of the statement, making it himself almost verbatim.

The Blazers are more fun to watch without Brandon Roy.
Seemingly everyone has bought into that statement.

Well...everyone but me, that is.
I see basketball differently than the guy next to me. I understand that, accept that and even embrace that truth. At the same time, it is an open question how anyone enjoys the game. There are probably as many ways to enjoy watching basketball as there are fans and that is a good thing.
Some people enjoy watching post players bang. Others like watching a transition-heavy game. Others appreciate the beauty of a jump shot while still others get very engaged in checking out defensive rotations, shot blocks, steals or other defensive endeavors. Still others enjoy a well-run pick and roll or pick and pop.
Some fans follow individual teams for the entire run of their fandom. Others follow specific players. Still others follow whichever team or teams are playing the best in any given year.
There are even some people, such as Basketbawful, who take a certain perverse and highly entertaining joy in watching the incompetent side of basketball.
All of these are valid ways to enjoy the game.
Arguably, those who prefer watching the Blazers play without Roy to watching them play with Roy have a surprising amount in common with the writer of Basketbawful.
As of January, the Blazers ranked 5th in shooting. That is...5th from being the WORST shooting team in the entire NBA.
They are 25th in shooting percentage. 25th in 3 point shooting percentage. They make up for it by letting the opponent out shoot them, being just over half a rebound per game better, and having the third fewest possessions per game of any team in the league. (Admittedly these are not sorted pre-and post Roy. They were low in most categories before he shut it down and have not markedly raised them.)
In fairness to one defense against the rather twist able "pace" ranking, they do have several long possessions due to garnering numerous offensive rebounds. Rebounds, I might add, that are available due to their pathetic shooting.
The Blazers, as constructed without Brandon roy in the line-up, center around LaMarcus Aldridge on the block and a number of streak shooters.
When he gets hot Wesley Matthews has shown he is capable of making seven consecutive threes. When he is cold he will miss the same number. The same holds true for his mid-range shooting.

The same could be said of Patty Mills, Rudy Fernandez, or Nicolas Batum. Andre Miller is traditionally not going to shoot a high percentage.
They have no mid-range or outside shooter who consistently shoots a decent percentage night in and night out where the 1-for-15 debacles are unusual rather than something you expect at least once every two or three games.
The Blazer shooting is so abysmal that Real GM posited they are in fact a lottery team as opposed to a playoff team.
With that said, watching an under talented team work extremely hard to defeat more talented teams can be very entertaining. There is certainly a satisfaction to be garnered in watching a team fight and scratch and claw to snatch a victory away from a team that deserved to win.
I would key in on the nearly insignificant article in that sentence, "a", when considering how much fun it is to watch the Blazers currently.
I personally find more satisfaction in watching a game where the players are able to put the ball in the basket relatively often. I find far more enjoyment in watching a game where both teams show enough offensive skills that a three possession string of baskets does not feel like an anomaly.
The current Blazer team does provide some pleasure to watch. They work hard, they have some excellent defensive stretches, some incredible streaks of shooting, and LaMarcus Aldridge is changing his game in front of our eyes.
This season, they even have managed a better record without Roy than with to the tune of 14-8 without Roy and only 11-13 with the shell of Roy we saw on the floor this year.
Overall, however, their record without Roy is much worse. Even the majority of those saying the Blazers are more fun to watch without Roy acknowledge the team will never escape the first round without Roy.
Thus, in the current construction of the team we see a poor-shooting, mediocre team that consistently has long scoring droughts.
The argument then becomes that this team which shoots over 2% worse than last season, scores nearly 3 fewer points, and wins fewer games than they did last season with Roy in the line-up and healthy is more fun to watch without Brandon Roy.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I just do not buy it.
Personally, I would much rather watch an talented player who scores efficiently, has averaged 4.9 assists per game for his career, and leads his teams to wins than watch a team that is out-talented more often than not.
It does not mean I find other people wrong when they say "The Blazers are more fun to watch without Brandon Roy". They are more than entitled to enjoy the game their way.
But it does mean that I struggle to understand it. This edition of the team, sans Roy, has all the hallmarks of a mediocre team playing mediocre basketball, unlike the team that had a real shot to advance to the second round two years ago with a healthy Roy.