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Basic Stats Primer: Kevin Martin vs. Tracy McGrady

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(The off-season has officially entered its boring stages, so it's time to talk about something less boring: statistics! You will all feel smarter for joining the Dark Side, trust me).

As the Rockets enter their first full season with Kevin Martin at the 2-guard position, I'd like to make a simple comparison using Martin and his predecessor at the position, Tracy McGrady.

We keep hearing how efficient a player Martin is. He's not flashy, but he's apparently supposed to be "efficient." Less fun to watch, but more effective on the offensive end. Is this true? Is Martin a better offensive player than McGrady? Since shooting is the most important statistic on offense, we will look at each player's shooting statistics.

Here are Martin's and McGrady's career field goal percentages (rounded to second decimal):

Martin: 45%

McGrady: 44%

Well, that sucked. Not much to write home about, because they shoot basically the same percentage. Thanks for wasting my time.

Not so fast, my friend. The numbers lie, at least these numbers do.

In this case, disregard FG%. Actually, in most cases, disregard FG%. It's not a good statistic to evaluate shooting. Why is that? Because it leaves out a few crucial factors:

1. FG% does not take into account the value of the shot being taken. Players such as Martin or Jason Kapono see their FG% fall because they shoot more three-point shots, which are tougher shots to make. eFG% (effective field goal percentage) is the correct statistic to use here. It correctly identifies the added value of a made three-point shot.

Let's take a look at Martin's and McGrady's career eFG% (rounded to second decimal):

Martin: 51%

McGrady: 47%

Martin correctly is allotted bonus points for his effectiveness behind the arc. However telling this may be, we can't stop here.

2. FG% only looks at field goals. It does NOT account for field goals and free throws. So why should FG% automatically be the measuring stick for shooting ability? Dunno. You tell me.

Many players with low field goal percentages still manage to play efficiently because they are able to get to the free throw line. Chauncey Billups is a good example. He doesn't shoot a good percentage from the field, but his ability to make his free throws must count for something. Conversely, a player like McGrady may shoot a decent percentage from the field, but his missed free throw opportunities can destroy a possession.

While eFG% measures two-point shots and three-point shots, TS% (true shooting percentage) measures the aforementioned numbers as well as free throws. This is the appropriate statistic to use when comparing shooters.

Let's take a look at Martin's and McGrady's career TS% (rounded to second decimal):

Martin: 60%

McGrady: 52%

Reggie Miller: 61%

Clearly, Martin's ability to get to the free throw line bumps his percentages up higher than most, and nearly to the level of one of the best shooters in NBA history, Reggie Miller.

When it comes to shooting, the key element of offensive ability, Kevin Martin reigns comfortably over Tracy McGrady. Does this cover one's ability to carry an offense? We'll discuss that another day. At my current posting rate, that may not be until late October. Heh.