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Taking a Look Back (part 1) -- NC State

NC State reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in a while, but the 2004-2005 season was a disappointment to most. Hindsight tells us that the pre-season expectations put on this team were too demanding (at no point was the Wolfpack deserving of a ranking in the top 15), and unfortunately it is those pre-season expectations that shape our post-season impressions.

Injuries and illness hit the Wolfpack hard in December, and those setbacks nearly killed the entire season. NC State had to win critical games in the last week of the regular season and in the ACC tournament in order to reach the NCAAs.

What's on the horizon? Does NC State have enough talent to reach the NCAA tournament without Julius Hodge? Let's have a look at some pertinent numbers.

Below is a chart which attempts to illustrate the value of each NC State player in several different ways. Here are some necessary explanations for what you'll see:

1) Offensive Rating (O Rtg) -- O Rtg, like many of these statistics, was developed by Dean Oliver and explained in his book Basketball on Paper. This statistic uses the same concept as the team Offensive Efficiency stat I've been using all year. It is simply:

(Points Produced / Possessions) x 100

Bear in mind, however, that points produced are different from points scored. Points produced are (this is straight from Oliver's book) "the number of points an individual generates through various offensive contributions, including assists, field goals, free throws, and offensive rebounds." For the sake of comparison, you should consider the "league average" to be around 100.

2) %Poss -- Also developed by Oliver, this indicates what proportion of a team's possessions a player uses when he is in the game. Five average players who share the ball evenly will each be expected to use 20% of the team's possessions. Star players tend to use a higher pecentage since their teams look to them to score, while role players will often use a lower percentage.

3) Floor Percentage -- This is the fraction of an individual's possessions on which there is a scoring possession. Anything above 50% is pretty good.

4) Points per Field Goal Attempt (PPFGA) -- Developed by John Hollinger and also called Points Per Weighted Shot, this is:

Points Scored / (FGA + 0.44(FTA))

This takes into account every shot a player takes, rather than just field goal attempts as measured by points-per-shot (PPS). Have a look at Big Ten Wonk's (linked above) lists of best and worst PPFGA, as that'll give you a feel for what the good and bad numbers in this category look like. Suffice it to say that no NCSU player is exceptional in this category.

The other categories are self-explanatory. If you've got any questions or would like more detailed explanations of any of these numbers, e-mail me.

I would also like thank Ryan of Hawkeye Hoops for helping me iron out some of these difficult calculations. If you're interested in reading more about a lot of these stats, I highly recommend Ryan's site.

Wolfpack 2004-2005PlayerO Rtg% PossMin/GPPGFG%3FG%Floor %Pts Prod/GPPFGAIlian Evtimov10717.7%30.49.844.7%42.6%0.459.31.2Gavin Grant9023.5%13.14.241%26.5%0.434.50.97Cam Bennerman11519.5%23.19.647.5%39.3%0.498.41.21Engin Atsur11515.1%32.69.440.6%38.3%0.479.21.12Levi Watkins10418.5%11.33.940.7%31.30.443.51.05Tony Bethel11018.2%25.68.041.4%33.60.468.31.12Julius Hodge11728%34.617.049.3%25.5%0.5618.41.13Jordan Collins12017.6%17.86.650%46.2%0.536.11.23Cedric Simmons10021.4%103.550.6%00.503.51.06Andrew Brackman12119.5%18.77.447%36%0.557.21.21


Departures (that I know of): Julius Hodge, Jordan Collins, Levi Watkins

Incoming Freshmen: Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley, Courtney Fells

Several things stick out from the table: Julius Hodge is a huge chunk of the offense, Gavin Grant needs to learn some patience, and Evtimov plays too much.

The more possessions a player uses, the less efficient he generally becomes. The best players are capable of maintaining high Offensive Ratings while using a lot of possessions. Julius Hodge is a good example. Hodge uses 28% of the team's possessions when he's on the floor, and that's a huge chunk. I haven't run the numbers for every ACC player yet, but I'm guessing Hodge will rank first in that department. That he maintains the third best ORtg on the team is a credit to his skills. You can see why he's efficient: his FG% and Floor % are among the best on the team.

If you've seen a lot of Wolfpack basketball this year, Gavin Grant's numbers should come as no surprise. On too many occasions, Grant decides it's the Gavin Show when he's in the game, eschewing the offense for poor shots. He seems to say, "I won't be in for long, so I better get my shots." Grant uses 23.5% of the team's possessions when he's on the court, which is second only to Hodge. That number is much too high. Players like Chris Paul, Justin Gray, Eric Williams, and Shelden Williams don't even use that high of a proportion of possessions. His ORtg is awful, his shooting percentages are bad, and his PPFGA is a joke. Grant has potential, but if he's not going to work with the rest of the team, he's only going to waste everyone's time.

My main concern for 2005-2006 is workload. With Hodge gone, those extra possessions are going to be distributed among the other players. Everyone is going to have to pick up the slack to an extent. The problem is that guys like Evtimov have an unimpressive ORtg despite using a low percentage of possessions. If Evtimov's %Poss jumps to 21% next year, how will that affect his ORtg? Atsur had a light workload despite playing 30+ minutes per game, so he could be the person most significantly affected next season.

The good news is that Andrew Brackman was excellent in limited playing time--he posted the best ORtg on the team. Cameron Bennerman will definitely be expected to take on some of the scoring load next year, and I think he's up to it. He should have played more this past season. He'll need to improve on his ability to pass.

Tony Bethel dealt with a lot of injury/illness this year, so I'm not sure we've seen him at his best for anything close to an extended period of time. When he was healthy at the start of the season, he was still adjusting to playing after having sat out the previous season. Hopefully this portends better things to come for Tony. NC State will need better.

Cedric Simmons shows promise, particularly on the defensive end. Simmons averaged 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes, and that's big time. He's also one of the best rebounders on the team. If he can improve his game to the point where Herb Sendek feels comfortable playing Simmons for 20 minutes, he'll make NC State a lot better at the defensive end. For now, most of his value derives from his defense.

It'll be interesting to see how the incoming players factor into the rotation next season. Will Costner or McCauley have impacts similar to Brackman's? Fells is supposed to be an athletic scorer...will he play intelligently, or will he turn the ball over a lot? Will he follow Grant's path?