Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Does Okaro shoot too much, or not enough?
Yelling at Okaro
The first time I yelled at Okaro White was during the FSU-Duke game in last year's ACC Tournament. I yelled at him - or rather, toward my television as Okaro was 3,000 miles away in Atlanta - because he'd been selfish by not jacking a three early in the shot clock. Okaro had just taken a pass at the top of the key, a foot beyond the 3-point line, and was basically unguarded due to a heavy screen set by Xavier Gibson. But all Okaro did was offer an unconvincing shot fake and then passed the ball. At that point Okaro wasn't known as a 3-point threat, but over the previous three months he'd quietly made half his attempts. He just wasn't shooting them at volume. So I yelled at him to take the freaking* shot!
(*actual language unavailable for non-game threads)
Duke is one of the best teams in the nation at forcing the worst shot in basketball - a long two. So when you get an opportunity to let fly with a straightaway three from a good shooter, you have to take it. Unless he's dishing to someone who has an uncontested dunk, the simple act of making a pass lowers the projected points FSU will score on that possession. So by not shooting, Okaro was being selfish.
I continued yelling at Okaro throughout the finish of last season and carried it on straight through this season. Through the first eight games he averaged 1.9 threes a game, which is far fewer than the wide open looks he had during those same games. So I yelled, and he deserved it. He's made 50% of his 3s on the year. Since the Michigan State game a year ago November he's made 47%.
And then Maine happened, and I stopped yelling. I started to yell out of reflex, but Okaro shot. And then he did it again. And again. He may have even been trolling me when he let fly a three with two guys in his face. In all he took seven long range shots and made three and I went to bed happy.
Of all the percentage based stats I both love and hate TS% the most. TS stand for True Shooting, and % stands for percentage. And the reason I love it is because it's awesome, and the reason I hate it is because it's not actually a percentage.
The person who invented TS% - John Hollinger - is an optimist, and the reason I know he's an optimist is because once he realized that you could tweak his original formula for TS to mimic the more popular and less meaningful Field Goal Percentage (FG%) he thought "hey, that's a good idea," and went ahead and tweaked it and stamped a % on the end of it. And the reason he thought it was a good idea is that he felt the public would me more accepting of a more meaningful statistic if it mirrored something they were already familiar with. But I'm not an optimist like John Hollinger. I'm a realist. I know that most fans aren't like the average Tomahawk Nation reader, and that most fans, when faced with something new which will help them better understand something old, will quickly tell you to f* off and then they'll go pop a beer.
The formula, for those wondering, is (PTS*0.5)/(FGA+[FTA*.44]). But don't worry about that. Worry about what it tells us. And what it tells us is beautiful in its simplicity. To put it in the hands of Okaro White - how many points does Okaro White score when he takes a shot? That's it. That's all TS tells us. The answer, by the way, is 1.32 (which TS% represents as 65.1%), and the formula accounts for the reward differential between a 2 and a 3, and also how good the player is at getting to the line.
The Value of Volume
Basketball is simple - in order to win you need to score in volume. But for some reason the best way to that is difficult to comprehend. The interwebs were all a twitter yesterday debating the value of Oklahoma State's stud freshman Marcus Smart. And Marcus Smart scores a lot (13.6 points a game). And so the old school guys who have no concept of what TS% means, much less what it measures, think "hey, Marcus Smart is a scorer." Which is fine. They can think whatever they want. They'll spew their nonsense and people will read it and people who don't know better will become misinformed. The problem is when they confuse points with value, and when they confuse value with volume. Oklahoma State has two guys who score more (in the ppg sense) than Marcus Smart. Fellow 5-star recruit LeBryan Nash scores 16 a game, while Markel Brown adds 14.2. All three players have taken roughly the same amount of shots (94, 88, 87) for the year, yet Smart is the one getting all the attention (because a) Oklahoma State was bad last year, and b) Marcus Smart looks really damn good in his uniform and the national media loves nothing more than a guy who looks like he should be in the NBA). But if you dig a little deeper, you'll see (using TS%) that Oklahoma State scores just 0.97 points every time Smart shoots the ball, compared to 1.12 for Nash and 1.06 for Brown. I don't need to go deeper into the Oklahoma State old-school vs new-school argument (except to say that 100% of their improvement this year is due to the fact that they now play defense), so instead I'll say get the rock to Nash or Brown while I get back to Okaro and telling you why I yell at him so much.
The rub with relying on TS% to tell you who should be shooting is that not all shots are created equally. Four seconds on Google will show you that Okaro White's sick TS% is eclipsed by Terry Whisnant's (65.1 vs 69.6), so does this mean FSU fans should be rooting for Whisnant to shoot every time he gets the ball? The answer is simple - it's yes and no.
Whisnant is a spot up shooter. He's shown some ability to get to the rim, but for the most part he dives to the corner when someone else drives in hopes that the defense will collapse and give him an open three. If Whisnant has an open three and fails to shoot it, he needs to be pulled from the game. That's why he's there. He shoots better than angels. But beyond that he's not the threat opposing coaches are game planning against. In stat-geek terms, his TS% drops precipitously when he's not shooting an open three.
But Okaro is different. Okaro is the classic stretch-four which Leonard Hamilton covets, and he's given the ball in the exact same spots Ham and Co. schemed to get Al Thornton the ball. This occurs in one of three places - on the low block, 16' out on the baseline or foul line extended, or somewhere between the top of the key and the elbow extended. The reason is that in all three of those places Okaro presents an immediate threat. On the low block he's the best post player the Seminoles have. 16' out he can either use his speed to go by defenders or his jab step to score immediately. And from beyond the arc - as noted above - he's made 47% since last November.
Those three locations have been determined and confirmed by the eye test. I watch every game at least twice. And they're also confirmed by adding another simple statistic to the mix. This statistic - %Shots - is exactly what it says it is. It's the percentage of shots a player takes when he's on the floor. A perfectly balanced team would have every player shooting 20% of the shots. But no team is perfectly balanced, and here again is the difference between value and volume.
Marcus Smart takes 24% of the shots when he's on the floor, which is a lot. And due to his low efficiency the Cowboys staff would be smart not to let Smart shoot even more, but should rather focus on how to get Nash and Brown more shots. But FSU is in a different boat. Yes, Whisnant is the most efficient scorer, but the only smart way to get Whisnant more shots is to get him more open 3s. And that's not something which is easily game-planned.
What is easy to game plan is Okaro White and his shots, because he can score from anywhere. So it is easier to increase his volume without diminishing his value.
In other words Okaro, shoot the frickin* ball.