Numbers that make you say "Duh"

(We've used a lot of cyber-ink on the Dee Brown signing.  I promise this is only tangentially related).

The premise of this post is simple.  The addition of Dave Hopla to the coaching staff helped the Wizards' shooting this year. 

Pretty obvious, right?  There's nothing anyone can really quibble about, is there? 

Well, there isn't, really.  The thesis doesn't change at the end of this post.  Still, it's kind of interesting to see how the numbers bear out this conclusion.

As far as I can tell, Hopla brings some sort of magical presence, able to turn any crappy shooter into a very good one.  The obvious star pupil is Brendan Haywood, and there are also guys like Roger Mason and DeShawn Stevenson whose shots have improved tremendously during their time in D.C.  Going down the roster, is there anyone on this team who looked like a better shooter before last season?  The only guy that comes to mind is Antonio Daniels, but he's always been a poor shooter. 

One would think that Hopla's tuiledge would be displayed in the team's field goal percentages, but it really isn't.  This table kind of blew me away.  According to 82Games, the Wizards shot the second-lowest percentage on two-point jumpers in the league.  Only Cleveland was worse.  Interestingly enough, our biggest strength was actually on shots inside the paint.  We had the second-highest percentage despite attempting just 31 percent of our shots inside. 

That doesn't look so good for Hopla, but remember that shot selection plays heavily into this equation.  Last year, the Wizards were a much more one-dimentional offensive team than in years past.  We've heard the phrase "jump-shooting team" tossed around a lot, but this historically has always been problematic.  Thanks primairly to Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards were among the league leaders in free throw attempts and the percentage of possessions that ended with free throw attempts.  Without Arenas, though, our free throw rate tumbled nearly four percentage points from 2007 to 2008.  We were forced to rely more heavily on jumpers because we didn't get to the rim as much.

Yet despite that deficiency, we still managed to keep our shooting percentages level with previous years.  Our team-wide effective field goal percenate went from 49.1 in 2007 to 48.9 in 2008.  That's an insignificant drop, and it occurred even though we were attempting far fewer free-throw attempts.  Possessions that once ended in Arenas forcing his way to the basket for a foul ended in contested jump shots, yet our shooting percentage barely dropped.  That's a credit to Hopla.

Still, the best way to measure a shooting coach is looking at free throw percentages.  Here, there's nobody contesting the shot.  It's just the player and their free throw stroke.  Look at the differences from 2007 to 2008

Player 2006/07 FT% 2007/08 FT% Difference
Andray Blatche 61.2% 69.5% +8.3%
Caron Butler 86.3% 90.1% +3.8%
Antonio Daniels 83.2% 77.6% -5.6
Brendan Haywood 54.8% 73.5% +18.7%
Antawn Jamison 73.6% 76% +2.4%
Roger Mason 87.5% 87.3% -0.2%
Darius Songaila 85.2% 91.8% +6.8%
DeShawn Stevenson 70.4% 79.7% +9.3%

Hopla's work with Haywood has been well-documented, but look at his impact on the other key players on the team.  Only Daniels' free throw percentage dropped significantly last year.  Besides Haywood, Andray Blatche, DeShawn Stevenson and Darius Songaila saw their percentages rise significantly.  Butler went from an outstanding free throw shooter to one of the very best in the league, and even Jamison, a veteran who has probably been through a zillion shooting coaches, saw his percentage rise.

Not too shabby for a shooting coach, ey? 

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