Well done. I like the fact that the author includes some of his high school work to the story also. I agree that Austin has a terrific first step and will become a great basketball player as soon as he learns how to pass to his open teammates. I think it is awesome that teams respect him so much this early as to double team him.
He'll learn; he's got the greatest teacher in the game.
To my eye, in his first several games (exhibition and real) Rivers demonstrated a fantastic first step, but his lack of elite athleticism frequently allowed the defense to recover by the time he shot, leading to a lot of drives that began with him making a great move to create separation and ended with a contested shot anyway. In the last two games, he’s had a few great drives where he’s successfully built on the initial separation, including a very nice drive tonight in which he incorporated a jump-stop and a couple of quick changes of direction. His first step is a huge asset. When he develops the ability to capitalize on it by maintaining separation to get clean shots -- and by finding teammates left open by a shifting defense -- he’ll be a truly elite offensive player.
I think it more likely that the separation closes simply because he is not used to the closing speed of opposing defenses at this level. Either that, or the separation closes because a help defender comes into the picture- and no matter how athletic you are, it's hard to avoid help defenders at all times.
That said, I agree with your point about his need to learn how to capitalize on the separation he is able to create. I think defenders can close on him or catch up to him because he tends to hold the ball too long before making a decision. Thus, he drives into the teeth of the defense or gets stripped or takes contested shots. He definitely needs (and will!) to learn to capitalize on his quickness by making decisions quickly as well. When his decision-making catches up to his first step, he will pull up for a jumper and still have that space, he will find the open man when the space is still available, or he will get to the basket when there is room for that as well. It's his mental quickness, not physical quickness, that is lacking at this point.
Perhaps some people on the board recall what kenpom's rankings used to look like early in the season before he adopted preseason weighting last year. It took a very long time for the results to tell us anything, and for quite a while many of the results were actively misleading. It would have been insane to say, "Well, the data to this point says Old Dominion is the best team in the country. This is by no means final, but I think we can ..." No. The correct thing at the time would have been to say that the data was not yet telling us anything upon which we could rely, full stop. Eventually, more data accrued, the rankings stabilized, and the stats became an immensely powerful tool. That point was well past the fourth game of the season.
I truly appreciate the time and effort that Sebastian Pruiti put into his analysis of Austin's "tendencies."
My only reaction is that Coach K and staff (along with their own high tech video equipment) have probably already gone over this with Austin, maybe even multiple times, before this insightful article was even posted.
It will just take some time before Austin incorporates the suggested skill set into his repertoire of moves. It is, after all, a big step up for him (to be playing at this level). But I have no doubt that he will catch on and eventually be using his newly learned skill to help the team win more games. The more interesting question to me is how soon will we be seeing him "get it" in games?
For me the fun of being a Duke fan is not in all the victories, altough I certainly enjoy each and every one, but in watching Coach K and staff help each player maximize their abilities and blend them all into one "fist."
Let's say you were to run a Chi-squared hypothesis test between Ryan's free throw results (0's and 1's) and Mason's. The sample size is still small, but I think the test would tell you there's a statistically significant difference between the data sets and the conclusion would be that Ryan has been shooting FT's better than Mason. Are we shocked? No.
Similarly, Austin's PPP results after four games rank rather low nationally. This small data set may be lead us to the conclusion that Austin is not using possessions very efficiently. Does this match up with the observations we've made thus far? Yeah, I think so. So, I think the question is the advanced metric Pruiti quotes tells us anything new?
Fortunately, basketball players are not normal distribution functions. This snapshot is not necessarily predictive of future results. I'm not sure that more data will validate or invalidate Pruiti's analysis because Austin will be a different player next week than he was last week as he climbs the learning curve of playing D1 ball. The analysis of four games "is what it is." It's a progress report of a freshman season in progress. I'm excited to see what the next grading period brings.
Let's go, Duke!
I agree that it's silly to make relative comparisons (e.g., "he's ranked Xth in efficiency") after 4 games. But using those 60ish possessions worth of data to support a qualitative statement ("he hasn't played great yet, and he's struggled with Y types of plays") is completely reasonable. And that was the crux of Pruiti's article. He used the data to support the point that Rivers hasn't been terribly efficient, and his inefficiency so far has stemmed from a particular type of play (not great decisionmaking off the drive).
I enjoyed the article. After watching Austin last night vs. Tennessee, I have to say that the author has a point. He was 1-7 at one point IIRC, and almost all of his misses were on drives where he beat his defender on the first step, but then failed to finish. He got going once he hit those two big three's, then altered his approach to start using a teardrop/giant killer shot and began to have some success. So kudos to Austin for realizing the drive wasn't working and going to some other weapons. That shows some maturity right there.
Personally, I believe Austin has the unenviable position of following the most NBA ready Freshman to ever play at Duke. He is already starting, and once he establishes a rhythm, I have no doubt he will mean as much to Duke as HB does to UNC.
"There can BE only one."
My question about Austin is simple: how did a coach's kid end up with such an ugly, fundamentally unsound stroke?
As long as his elbow is sticking out at that crazy angle, he's going to be a streaky jump-shooter at best.
Ask Chris Collins. His was hardly textbook, either.
My theory FWIW....a young Collins or Austin is probably the kid on the team of 8-year olds or 10-year olds who has the best chance of hitting long jump shots, so he gets the "green light" while the other kids don't.
Still, at that young age, it's a bit of a heave, and the form takes second place to getting the ball somewhere near the basket.
Then the bad habit sticks.
(For what it's worth, which is nothing, Austin's been better with turnovers the two games since the article. Has he developed into a better player? Possibly, probably, in some ways. But maybe it was just a small sample size, and we are getting a better idea of his ability to control the basketball. I won't venture a numbers-based guess, and I don't think Pruiti should either.)
Nor do I think Pruiti is being as forthright as he's being given credit for here. He talks about the 44.8% of Austin's plays that are pick-and-roll and the 29.3% that are isos. "29.3%" sounds impressive--until you realize he's talking about 17 plays. 17 plays is NOTHING. Taking the percentage out to the tenth place is the definition of meretriciousness, and exists only to paper over the non-robustness of the data.
It was nice to see Austin drive the lane against Michigan tonight and pass the ball out to Seth, who promptly swished a three. Maybe he's been reading this thread... .
Hopefully we'll see more of that against Kansas.
And that's what Pruiti did. He analyzed what Rivers has done to this point, and suggested where Rivers will need to do better to be as good as advertised. He hypothesizes as to why that might be the case, and you can quibble with that. But when he does so, he states that it's just his opinion. And in a few cases, he suggests counterarguments that are made.
You can quibble about the jump to the decimal place if you'd like, but that's nibbling at the margins. He could have been more general in his analysis (rounding to 30% instead of 29.3%, for example) and still made his point. And he could have done so without the national ranking in PPP. But I think that's focusing on the trees and missing the forest.