Monday, January 3, 2011

Eric May's Different Approach in December

Similar to the Gatens post, I want to take a deeper look at Eric May's December. In November he was the best player on the Iowa basketball team. December, though, was a different story. If you look at the number's May seems to have changed his strategy like Gatens did, but with different results.

Just like in the Gatens post let's start with Eric May's shooting:

You can see there is a big difference in the shooting percentages in both months. In November he was hitting almost any shot that he took. He made 60% of his three pointers, which led to a 60.42% effective FG%. Now, there is no way that May was going to keep shooting 60% from three point range. That is an unrealistic percentage for even the best shooters. In December he hit 36.36% of his three points shots. This is actually more realistic for May. He shot 28.7% from behind the arc last year, and it isn't crazy to think he could have improved his three point shooting into the mid 30% range. The problem with his shooting in December is that he only hit 30% of his two point shots. That knocked his unrealistically good effective FG% from November down to an unrealistically bad 40.38 FG%. The graph also shows that May has also not shot real well from the free throw line in either month.

Next let's look at what kind of shots May took:

He clearly had a different strategy in December than he did in November. He shot a lot more three pointers and less two pointers. So, his point distribution went from relying on two pointers to relying on three pointers. In November, May went 30-57 from two point range. In December, he shot 9-30. He went from averaging 8.14 two point shots per game to 5 two point shots per game. For three point shots he averaged 2.14 three point attempts per game in November and 3.67 three point shots per game. May also took about 1.5 less shots per game in December (possibly a result of Gatens taking about 2 more shots per game). So, May took more three point shots and missed more of them than in November. This was expected. What wasn't expected, was for May to average 3 less two point shots per game and miss more of them.

Finally, let's check out his points per game:

Similar to Gatens, the percentage of possessions that May used did not really change from November to December. However, his points per game fell off. Now, eight points per game is pretty much what he averaged last year as a true freshman, and is still a pretty good average. May, however, has shown that he is better than 8 points per game, but his game is clearly not best suited for behind the arc. May is at his best when he is driving and cutting to the basket and getting points in the paint.

What do we make of this? Well, Hawkeye fans should hope that May gets back to being more aggressive in getting to the basket. However, even if he does continue to keep taking about 40% of his shots from three point land (like he did in December) his points per game should still go back up. Why is this? Because while May's three point FG% regressed to the mean in December, his two point FG% was unsustainably bad. When May takes 30 two point field goals Hawkeye fans expect him to make more than 9, and rightfully so. Last year, he was a 54% two point shooter, which means we would expect him to make around 6 or 7 more of those shots than he hit in December. If he would have done that in December he would have averaged about 10 points per game. Not as good as his 13 points per game in November, but still better than December.

That last paragraph was originally supposed to be a conclusion, but I'll try to sum it up shorter here. Eric May is at his best when he is driving to the basket and getting in the paint (November), than when he is taking 40% of his shots from three point range. However, even if he keeps this approach from December, the results should still be better than they were in December. In other words, Eric May is a really good basketball player, but he can be better. He has proven this before.

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