Saturday, February 9, 2013

Is Ben Gordon a Good Fit for the Nets?

With less than two weeks until the trade deadline, trade talks are starting to surface. The first wisp of trade rumors for the Nets came yesterday, when Chris Broussard of ESPN reported that the Charlotte Bobcats and Brooklyn Nets were in talks which would swap Ben Gordon and Kris Humphries. Nothing is imminent, but the talks are there.

In the initial  post we had on the trade discussions, we talked briefly about how Ben Gordon could help the team offensively.
What Ben Gordon brings to the Nets, if the deal falls through, is that he can help space the floor. In Charlotte, Gordon is shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc to go with 13.1 points per 22.1 minutes per game. As Broussard put it, "Ranked 21st in the league in 3-point shooting, Brooklyn regularly has seen opponents clog the lane."
Ben Gordon has been an excellent three-point shooter this season, clipping 55% from corner threes and 41.7% from around the arc. The Nets, as a team, average a rate much lower than that, converting on only 35.1% of their threes. It's not only three-point shooting that Gordon would help in, its his shooting in general. The Nets as a team convert on a mere 37.5% of shots outside of the paint for the season whereas Ben Gordon is scoring on 42.6% of his shots from outside the paint. What that does, as mentioned before, is clear out space in the paint for Nets big men to maneuver and operate. It makes room for both Joe Johnson and Deron Williams to drive, which would help their offense since both have shot poorly from the field this season. He will expected to provide sparks off the bench offensively and could eventually play in minutes down the stretch. Just having him on the court, if he continues to shoot well, will allow the Nets offense to be more efficient.

However, aside from his shooting, there isn't much that Ben Gordon does too well. His turnover stats is not something to be admired. In just 22.1 minutes of play, Gordon turns the ball over 1.8 times game. Amongst guards, Gordon is ranked 23rd in turnovers committed per 48 minutes who play more than 20 minutes a game. Amongst all guards, Ben Gordon is ranked 152 out of 186 with his 1.26 TO/AST ratio. Of the players lower than him, 25 play less than 20 minutes a game. Ben Gordon not only commits turnovers, they happen at the most inconvenient of times, such as in close games down the stretch or when the Bobcats have momentum. He tends to force things resulting in bad decisions and shots after extensive dribbling.

Even offensively Gordon has his problems. He's not a spot-up shooter in Charlotte, although that role may change in Brooklyn. Throughout the season, 16.6% of his plays become isolation plays, and 13% of those isolations result in turnovers. As a pick-and-roll ball handler (18.5% of his offense), 16.1% of those situations end in a turnover of some sort. Ball security and his decision-making has to be questioned, despite his shooting prowess.

What Ben Gordon makes up for in offense, he loses even more defensively. He's allows 1.03 points per possession (PPP) to his opposition when having a PPP of 0.95 himself. The team allows nine points less per 48 minutes with Ben Gordon off the court as opposed to him on it. That is a huge decrease in defense with Gordon playing. What this leads to is a negative Defensive Win Share (-0.1). This is not something that we need from our guards.

Gordon has his strengths and weaknesses, but if he is brought into Brooklyn, it will be because his offense. His defense and turnover statistics are testimony to how poorly he plays without the ball. In Brooklyn, he'll be playing under a new role.

Ben Gordon led the Bobcats as their third-highest scorer with 13 points per game. Playing with the Nets, he will not be held to high offensive expectations  As the possible sixth man, he would be brought in for this three-point shooting to spark the Nets as well as help close out games down the stretch. The Nets have shot a tremendous amount of threes this season while converting a low rate. The Nets have taken more shots beyond the arc than they have taken two-point shots outside of the paint but are converting at a lower rate. As stated above, the Nets rank 21st among teams in three-point shooting despite being 7th in the league in three-point attempts. If the pattern continues, Gordon will likely continue to take a majority of his shots from there. The question then is not how many, rather how will he take them?

His tendency to play in isolations fits in with the system that the Nets currently have (however despised it is).  The Nets run 13.4% of their plays as an isolation which results in a 40.9% FG percentage. Gordon converts on 42.7% of his isolation plays. From isolation threes, the Nets only hit at a rate of 27.8% whereas Gordon is shooting 44.4%. It should be noted that less than 10% of isolations end in threes for both the Nets and Gordon. What we see is an increase in efficiency in a play that the Nets run several times.

Spotting up will be an aspect of the Nets offense that Gordon will have to adjust too but may thrive in. A little over 20% of Nets positions result in spot-up plays where the team coverts just 37.5% of them and 36.4% from beyond the arc. A little over 70% of these plays become three-point shots. That means that a big chuck of plays run by the Nets come from a play that has a low conversion efficiency. On spot-ups for the Bobcats, Gordon shot at a 44.3% clip and 37.5% from deep, which is a leap statistically in the right direction. Given the players Gordon will play with in Brooklyn compared to those in Charlotte, Gordon will likely end up with better shots, possibly from the corner three areas where his percentage is around so high. It's an aspect of the offense that Gordon will undoubtedly have to get used to given the Nets system. If he adjusts correctly, his arrival could improve the Nets bench offense immensely.

Gordon in general is an excellent shooter and there is no denying it. Some other aspects of his game bring doubt to how he can preform in Brooklyn. It's unlikely he becomes even an average defender just by joining the Nets and his arrival will actually probably make the team defense worse. On a positive note, Gordon can be relied on given his history of injuries (or lack of, thankfully) and is in general a good locker room guy. He has potential to fit in well with the Brooklyn offense but there are other variables that are holding back how much he can help the team.

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