Saturday, March 5, 2011

What is Wrong With Eric May?

Coming into the season, a lot of people thought that, by the end of the year, Eric May could be the best player on the team. In November, he clearly looked the part. Now, though, he has become a role player, who doesn't seem to know his role. So, what the hell happened? Let's look at some numbers.

First, lets look at his points per minute and points per scoring attempt.

Clearly, Eric May shot out of his mind in November. He put up 1.20 points per scoring attempt that month, which helped him score 0.47 points per minute. Since then, however, he has pretty much dropped off the map. His points per minute have declined every month, and February is currently his worst scoring month this year.

Last year, May averaged exactly 1 point per scoring attempt. He is at 1.01 for the season thanks to his monstrous November. But, it's pretty clear to see over the last three months, that he is not putting the ball in the basket as efficiently as he is capable of.

So, what has led to the dip in shooting efficiency? Well, let's look at his shooting percentages.

It was pretty obvious, that May wasn't going to continue to shoot a 60% effective FG% after November, and he didn't. But, with a 48% effective FG% last year, it was hard to expect May to hover around the lower 40's for the rest of the season.

The only real trend to discern from this is that, November was the only month that May was able to shoot very well from both two point and three point range. Other than that, it has been one or the other. So, that would explain the shooting dip. But, would May shooting close to a 42% effective FG% for the last three months, fully explain his shooting dip? Cartwright shoots a 41.67% effective FG% this year, but averages 0.34 points per minute. So, what has May done differently?

Let's see how much May's minutes per game have changed, along with how many possessions he is using during those minutes.

His playing time rebounded a little bit in February, probably because he was battling an injury in January. However, his playing time has clearly gone down since conference play started. Interestingly enough, as his playing time has gone down, so has his usage rate.

Usage rate, for those who aren't familiar, basically measures the percent of a team's possessions a player uses while on the court. The term "use" refers to refers to field goals attempted, free throws attempted, and turnovers committed. Basically, things that a player does to end a possession. So, clearly, May has been doing less of these three things. Let's find out which one(s) it is.

Since May's playing time declined, I calculated these stats as per minute. He has turned the ball over at a pretty consistent rate this year. February was his best month for that category. His free throw rate has been up and down lately, but his decline in January could probably be chalked up to his injury.

The trend that is most glaring here, is the amount of shooting May has done month to month. He has taken less and less shots every month since November. So, he's shooting less and not making a great percentage of them. What exactly does that look like? Well, let's look at that too.

As you can see, more and more time passes in a game, between Eric May taking and making a shot. Back in November, he was putting up a shot every 2 minutes and 51 seconds, and making one every 5 minutes and 16 seconds on the court. That has slowed down to a pace of May taking a shot every 4 minutes and 33 seconds, and making one every 11 minutes and 23 seconds. Basically, double the amount of time is going off the clock, between when May shot and made a basket in November than when he shot and made a basket in February. Do we have any idea why? Well, maybe.

The chart above, shows the usage rate month to month, of May and Basabe. As May played less of a role on offense, Basabe played a bigger one. It is also worth noting, that Marble's usage rate jumped from 18% in November, and has been around 21% the past three months. However, it looks as if May and Basabe decided to switch roles on offense. Cartwright and Gatens, both have remained steady in the amount of possessions they have used this year. Everybody else, has remained consistent, or used less possessions as the team moved into conference play.

So, what does this mean? Well, I can only speculate, but my best guess is that May has lost his confidence. He was still a big part of the offense in December (21.37% usage rate), but he went through a terrible slump that month. Not to mention, he got hurt in January. He seems to have lost confidence in his offensive game, which has resulted in less shots for May and more for other players, such as Basabe. 

To wrap this up, it's pretty obvious to see, that something is wrong with Eric May. He went from the best player on the team in November, to being nowhere on the radar. He's lost. His shooting percentage is down, as are the amount of shots he's taking. This caused his scoring to decline every month. As May faded away offensively, Basabe became a star. Now, it looks as if May has no confidence in his game, and doesn't know exactly what his role is. With a minimum of two games left this year, it doesn't look like May will turn it around before the season ends. That is going to leave him with a big question to answer next year. Where does he fit? He is never going to be the best player on the team (nobody will take that from Basabe anytime soon). But, will he step up and play to the level that he is capable of, or will he continue to be a role player, who doesn't quite know what his role is?

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