As the tide has turned against ET the last few weeks, I've been seeing the same thing again and again - that he's an awful shooter whose shots just don't drop and that's why he's inefficient offensively. I don't think that's quite true. I think he's inefficient offensively, I just don't think it's simply because he's a bad shooter.
My argument (and even I have my doubts at times, but bear with me) is that he's actually a good close and midrange shooter, comparable to the best SGs in the league, but that midrange shots are still bad and he relies too much on them instead of making up for his godawful (and largely absent) 3 point shooting by getting to the rim and trying to draw fouls.
Beyond that, I put forward in FNM's "Confessions" thread that it isn't just ET, it's the entire team: relying on the mid-range instead of getting to the rim and shooting threes seems to be a product of Doug's system (or at least common to all the wings on our team last year), and I think it's a large reason why we were less efficient last year than we should've been. ET's the worst at it, but it isn't just him.
I don't mean this as a defense of ET - if anything it's a criticism of his infuriating affinity for the midrange, and an attempt to refocus the discussion to something more resembling reality - he's an awful three point shooter, a good shooter other than that, and just doesn't know how to deal with it. "He's just a bad shooter so he's bad" is wrong.
So here's some data (all from 2011-12 and from hoopdata.com) to back that up and hopefully spur some conversation. Sorry in advance for the excel charts - I didn't have the energy to fire anything else up.
First, ET's FG% (and eFG% for threes) from each distance that hoopdata tracks, as compared with the league's top SGs. For the average I'm taking SGs with 25+ mpg, so it's only the decent guys, ie the ones we'd like to be able to compare Evan to some day:
In short, ET is a horrendous three point shooter, just a couple of percentage points below average on long twos (but still right within the range of good SGs) and above average (and even above most of the other top-10-ish SGs) from closer midrange and at the rim. Evan's shots, inside the three point line, go down just fine. That's not his problem. (And before you argue he's an SF, his shooting numbers look even better against them).
As a good example, his FG% line tracks D Wade's almost exactly, inside the three point line. So how is D Wade a so much more efficient shooter than ET (5% higher FG%, 5% higher eFG%, 8% higher TS%), despite shooting much the same?
Answer: they take different shots.
Both D Wade and ET deal with being bad three point shooters by just not shooting the 3. Problem is, Wade makes up for it by attacking the rim more, getting high percentage shots and getting to the line. ET, on the other hand, shoots more long twos.
He's above average at the rim and from 3-9 feet, and he desperately needs to go there to make up for the fact he can't get threes, but instead he settles into long twos, where he's merely average (or even below on the longer twos).
Notice also that his free throw rate (ie FTR = FTA/FGA) is pitiful, largely because he doesn't get to the rim and draw fouls. That's why his TS% is even worse than his eFG%.
Here's the point - even if you're bad at the rim, you're still better there than from mid-range (almost without exception) so you need to be focussing on going there. Evan's good at the rim, and yet still doesn't. attack it.
(Side note: James Harden's 62.5% from 10-15ft isn't because he's a mid-range-shooting savant, it's because he's a shot selection savant - that 62.5% represents 5-8 shooting last year. 8 shots from 10-15ft, all season).
Is it possible to be a good SG while not shooting threes? Well, here's a list of guys who've shot less than 10% of their FGAs from three for a season: BBR. The answer is a pretty overwhelming yes. But more importantly, can you be a good SG while not shooting threes and not going to the rim? There's very very little evidence of that, and that's the problem with ET.
In short, ET doesn't put up bad shooting and scoring efficiency numbers because he's a bad shooter, he does it because he focuses way too much on the mid-range in lieu of attacking the rim. It's shot selection more than it's how often those shots are going down.
Of course, shot selection isn't just a function of choice but of ability. Many of the guys on the list above can get to the rim because they're fast and super athletic, which Evan just isn't.
For example, maybe ET's shooting numbers at the rim are only good because he only goes there on fast breaks, never in traffic. Definitely a nice argument, but it doesn't explain why he's so good from 3-9ft, nor why his FG% at the rim (66.7% last year) is higher than guys like Lou (54%) and Jrue (53.6%) and others in the league, despite getting to the rim much more than the former and just about as much as the latter (see Figure 8).
Whatever the cause is - it isn't just ET. It was the 2011-12 Sixers as a whole. Here's our FG% from each distance compared to the top 6 offenses in the league (by points per 100 possessions), and the league average:
The Sixers weren't a bad team from any distance - in fact we were above the NBA average everywhere except 16-23ft (where we were just a shade below), and in fact were amongst the best at the rim and from 3. Yet, like Evan, we put up inefficient shooting numbers - 15th in FG%, 19th in eFG%, 25th in TS%, and 17th in points per 100 possessions.
Why? Same reason.
Just like ET, when you compare us to the best, suddenly the problems are obvious. We settled way too much for mid-range shots, instead of getting high efficiency shots at the rim and from 3. And, again, because we weren't getting to the rim, we weren't getting to the line, as seen in our awful free throw rate.
We weren't a bad shooting team from any spot, but we were a bad shooting team overall because we focused on low efficiency mid-range shots while the good teams got high-efficiency shots and got to the line.
ET wasn't a bad shooter from inside the arc, but he was a bad shooter overall because he focused on low efficiency mid-range shots while the good SGs got high-efficiency shots and got to the line.
How bad were we at getting to the rim and getting free throws?
And how much difference can that make to an offense?
Again, there's a lot of reason to think the causation could run either way, here, so I'm fully willing for this to be shot down. It may just be that we shot so much from mid range as a team because we had players that do that - next week when I've got more time I might take a look at that by comparing guys under Doug's system and other systems. One piece of support for this argument is that the FO went out of the way to get shooters this offseason, suggesting they understand the impact of the three but just didn't think they had the personnel. Definitely a strong argument there.
It's also possible we are actually bad around the rim and from three because we learned only to take the easier shots there instead of looking for them. That's particularly compelling when looking at our 3 point shooting, but I'm still not convinced. If you look at Figure 2, the good players' lines generally look like a U - high amount of shots at the rim, not many in the mid range, high amount from three (with Kobe and Wade the lone exceptions). If you take the entire league SG average you get the same thing. The 25+mpg SG average in Figure 2 takes a small dip beyond the 3PT line, but when you break it down that comes entirely down to guys like Ellis, DeRozan, B Gordon who you don't exactly want to emulate, and bad 3 shooters who have the discipline to avoid it like Kobe, Wade, and ET. Efficient play gives you a U, in general.
Yet here's what the line looks like for our wings last year:
It seems unlikely that we'd just happen to have so many guys who like to shoot from mid-range and not from three, which to me suggests that the causation runs more from the system to the players than the other way. Again, though, I'm going to try to figure out if there's a bit more evidence either way for that next week.
Figure 8 also shows, though, that in Evan's case it very likely isn't just the system - it's him. He's the worst of the bunch. If he can't shoot threes then he shouldn't, but that shouldn't mean he should shoot as many midrange shots as he is, and get to the rim as little as he is. Not if he wants to be any good.
Same goes for the team offense. Of course it'll already be completely different this year with the changes to the roster, but it's worth discussing the extent to which this ailed us last year - if it is a scheme thing, maybe Doug isn't over it yet.
I can't be around much the next few days, but hopefully someone has some thoughts on all this. Discuss.