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The Stretch PF – Fact or Fiction? What Type of Player Do the Rockets Need at PF?

As I have been reading the explosion of articles here on TDS as of late, I keep reading the same basic comment in various forms; the Rockets need a forward that can stretch the floor in order to give Harden and our guards the room to drive to the basket and Howard the room to operate down low. Another form of that same comment has been that Greg Smith is expendable because he can’t stretch the floor.

So I asked myself two questions: 1. What type of player constitutes a "stretch" four? 2. Is a "stretch" four what this particular Rockets team needs?

Since the answer to question #1 varies upon who you talk to, I made up my own. I believe that a "stretch" PF is a player that can shoot well enough and often enough from long distance (a distance yet to be determined) so as to prevent the defense from being able to clog the lane, take away driving lanes and make it easier to double team the post. Please feel free to give your definition in the comments section.

As for the answer to question #2, I think that I still up for debate. I do believe that the data seems to indicate that more PF’s are taking shots from longer distances these days; however the data also indicates that these same "stretch" PF’s may have less than the desired impact while on the floor due to their deficiencies in other aspects of the game. For example the data indicates that most of the "stretch" PF’s in the game today are weaker rebounders and defenders than their traditional counterparts.

I chose 17 of the top PF’s in the game today and I analyzed three different distances on the floor to see where they took their shots from in the 2012-13 season. Those three distances, which will be referred to as "stretch" shots from here on out, are the three point line, 16-23 ft, and 10-15 ft. I then ranked the PF’s according to various percentages and statistical categories to get a better handle on how the "stretch" PF’s stacked up against the more traditional PF’s.

Players Analyzed

The 17 PF’s that I chose were: Dirk, Love, Ryan Anderson, Garnett, Bosh, Al Jefferson, Boozer, Horford, Aldridge, Ibaka, Lee, Griffin, Josh Smith, Millsap, Randolph, West, and Duncan. This list has the players listed in order of total number of "stretch" shots attempted per game; with Dirk taking the most and Duncan taking the least number.

Note: When ranking, I used Kevin Love’s data from 2011-2012 since he was hurt much of last year and I don’t believe that using last year’s results would truly help in this comparison. And let me just say right now that Kevin Love is a different breed than any other player on this list. He shot the second most three’s per game, the second most "stretch" shots per game BUT he also had the most rebounds per game (when using his 2011-2012 stats).

So in order to give us a better comparison of the typical PF position in the NBA today I removed Love’s stats and only ranked the other 16 PF’s.

Initial Results

After crunching the numbers I found two interesting results; interesting because I expected today’s "stretch" fours to actually be shooting from further distances more often than they actually do.

1) Only four of the 16 PF’s attempted 1.0 or more three’s per game. The fifth ranked PF only took 0.7 three’s per game and the remaining 11 PF’s took 0.5 or fewer three’s per game. In order of attempts per game the four players were Ryan Anderson (6.0), Josh Smith (2.6), Dirk (2.9), and Bosh (1.0).

2) Only five of the 16 PF’s attempted more combined "stretch" shots per game than their combined shots per game from nine ft. or less. In order of total "stretch" attempts per game the five players were Dirk (10.8), Ryan Anderson (8.7), Garnett (7.4), Bosh (7.0), Ibaka (5.1).

Shooting Percentages

I ranked the 16 PF’s according to best FG% from the three "stretch" distances. Below I listed the rankings for the five "stretch" shooting PFs and the results are what you might think they should be because "stretch" shooters are naturally better shooters than the typical PF. The lowest number (ranking) represents the highest shooting percentage at that distance – in other words the player ranked #16 was the worst shooter for that distance and #1 was the best.

10-15ft % - 15th, 12th, 4th, 2nd, and 1st

16-23ft % - 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1

Three % - 12, 8, 4, 3, and 2

Defensive Categories

Here I ranked the 16 PF’s according to three defensive categories. Below I listed the rankings for the five "stretch" shooting PF’s. Again, the results are what youI thought they might be in that the typical "stretch" shooter appears to have less of a presence on the defensive end.

Defensive Win Share (DWS) - 16, 15, 11, 9, and 7

Defensive Rating (DRtg) - 16, 14, 10, 7, and 4

Defensive Rebound Percentage (DRB%) - 16, 15, 14, 8, and 4

Rebounding

No explanation needed on this one. Again, the results speak for themselves.

Rebounds per game (RPG) – 16, 15, 14, 12, and 10

Overall/General Player Categories

Here I ranked the 16 PF’s according to five general categories which are typically used to depict a players overall impact on the game. Below I listed the rankings for the five "stretch" shooting PF’s.

Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM) - 15, 10, 9, 5 and 4

Hollinger’s Value Added (VA) - 16, 14, 12, 10, and 6

Player Efficiency Rating (PER) - 12, 10, 9, 6, and 5

Win Shares per 48 (WS/48) - 14, 13, 10, 5, and 3

NBA Efficiency Rating (EFF) - 16, 14, 13, 11, and 10

Bottom Line For Me

I am not a mathematician so if any of you math wizards want to correct the following data please feel free to do so (or there might be someone that wants to explain my bottom line analysis better).

Of the 45 available rankings for "stretch" PF’s (9 categories x 5 players) only 12 of the total rankings put a particular player in the top 50 percentile. Conversely, of the 99 available rankings for PF’s who attempted more combined shots per game from nine ft. or less than their combined "stretch" shots per game (9 categories x 11 players) 60 total rankings put a particular player in the top 50 percentile.

In other words the five "stretch" shooting PF’s only outranked the "non-stretch" shooting PF’s 17% of the time in these nine categories that I analyzed (is this statement correct?)

Final Thoughts

Based on the data I analyzed, I do not believe that a Ryan Anderson type of player is what the Rockets should be looking for. I say that because I believe that his deficiencies in rebounding and on defense outweigh any positives he adds to the Rockets because of his ability to stretch the floor. I believe that the Rockets should be looking for a more traditional PF who can rebound and defend PLUS keep the defense honest by being able to consistently knock down a jump shot out to about 18 ft.

I think that an Al Horford type player would be perfect for this team since he has the ability to do all that I just described as the ideal PF for the Rockets. He may not be as flashy as Aldridge or intimidating as Ibaka but he outranked both of them in seven of the nine categories I used to rank the players...and by a wide margin in many of the categories.

What say you? Sound off in the comments and vote in the poll.

No cursing in title. No pirated material, such as links to online game streams. Do not cut/paste entire sections of content from other websites. Thanks.

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