3 Observations About Playoff Teams

Devin Harris’s On-Off Numbers Are Ridiculous

Since he came back from injury Harris has played fairly well for the Mavericks, posting decent numbers on okay shooting in limited minutes. At a glance he appears to be filling some important minutes off the bench that had previously been allocated to inexperienced players. This is the kind of thing that a team needs to solidify heading into the playoffs, but ultimately Harris doesn’t appear to move the needle too much.

Then you notice his on court-off court numbers.

While the team has played about the same defensively with Harris as without him, they have been over 8 points better in offensive efficiency with him on the floor. Without him, Dallas would still have a top-10 offense; with him they are off the charts with a 117.2 offensive rating. This of course all comes with a huge grain of salt. On-off data is notoriously finicky in small sample sizes, especially any sample that’s less than a full season.

Nonetheless there are some obvious ways that Harris helps the offense. Aside from Monta Ellis there really isn’t another rotation player who likes to drive the ball. Harris provides that off-the-bounce element for the Mavs – according to nba.com/stats he averages nearly 9 drives per 36 minutes. He’s only shooting about 40% on these drives, but the bigger impact is simply in making the defense adjust to protect the rim. For a jump shooting team this can be critical to getting good shots.

Harris may not end up making too much of a difference in the playoffs, and his impact is probably overstated due to the sample size, but it’s nice to see a guy come back from injury and see some measurable success right away.

Terrence Jones Has a Handle

In December Omer Asik’s discontent with his role (a demotion from starter last season to weird lineup 2nd center to the bench) boiled over and Houston started searching for trade partners while Asik stayed away from the team. He eventually returned, but in the meantime the Rockets were left to fill the minutes he left behind. A lot of those minutes went to Jones, who had taken over the starting power forward spot.

Jones has acquitted himself quite nicely next to Dwight Howard. He scores and rebounds when needed, although his outside shooting could use some improvement if he’s going to continue letting fly this often. The best part of his game thus far is his surprisingly effective ballhandling.

Though he’s a natural power forward, he can dribble around his defender with relative ease like a guard, getting low to the floor and keeping a tight handle as he drives towards the basket. He’s also comfortable leading the break, although this can lead to some comical decision-making once he gets to the other end of the floor.

As he polishes off other aspects of his game expect Jones’ dribbling skill to create more and more unsavory matchups for opposing 4’s.

Toronto Got Some Good Pieces for Rudy Gay

Following the trade of Gay to Sacramento in early December the Raptors have posted a stellar 31-17 record, vaulting them to 3rd in the Eastern Conference. This prompted a round talk about how Toronto got its boost from “addition by subtraction”. While that may have played a role, it glosses over the fact that some quality depth came back in that trade.

The Raptors sent Gay along with Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray, neither of whom had seen hardly any court time for the team, in exchange for Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes.

All four of the new players have averaged at least 10 minutes per game since the trade, and all except for Hayes have seen over 20 minutes per contest as the core of a re-tooled bench. Salmons has had shooting woes all season, but can still hit 3’s and serves as the backup to new starter Terrence Ross. Hayes has continued doing Hayes things – mainly improving the defense despite being a 6’6” center. The team’s defensive efficiency improves by nearly four points with him on the court. Vasquez has provided some ballhandling assistance in the backcourt, but he is being asked to shoot too many 3’s, which he has never consistently hit. This season he is around his 3-point percentage is lingering in the low 30% range, right at his career average, despite taking nearly half of his shots from this range since the trade.

Each of these guys has provided quality depth and some rotation flexibility for head coach Dwane Casey, but the biggest boost has easily come from Patterson. Since leaving the Kings he has shot lights out from all over the court, hitting 43% of his 3’s and draining over 45% from every other distance. His addition to the frontcourt has added a floor-spacing element that was otherwise lacking, opening up space for drives and for the other big to operate. The excellent shooting may not be completely sustainable, but if his jumper remains reliable enough to open up space for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan this team may be able to make a little noise in the playoffs.