Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Missing Al's Everything

Back when I first previewed Florida State, I noted that the Seminoles offense had held together without Al Thornton better than I'd expected it to. But it was still early in league play at that point; as the Noles have worked their way through the conference over the last month, things have fallen apart. In the seven games they've played since our late January meeting, they've managed to score better than a point per possession just twice.
        Off_Eff   eFG%     TO%     OR%     FTR
2007 109.7 52.4 19.6 35.3 29.2
2008 97.1 48.0 22.3 31.7 23.9

Those are conference-only numbers. I really can't overstate just how good Thornton was against the ACC in 2007; he took more than a third of FSU's shots while he was on the court and still managed to shoot over 56% and turn the ball over less than 12% of the time. That's incredible efficiency for such a massive workload. By handling so much all by himself, he demanded a ton of attention and allowed his teammates to assume role player-level workloads (aside from Thornton, only Toney Douglas used more than 20% of the team's possessions), and they were better for it.

This season, Douglas and Jason Rich have been forced to step up their involvement. The results (conf-only again)...
               ORtg    %Poss    %Shots    eFG%      TO%
Rich 2007 109.7 18.2 17.1 53.9 22.8
Rich 2008 94.8 24.6 26.1 47.3 21.1

                  ORtg    %Poss    %Shots    eFG%      TO%
Douglas 2007 108.5 22.6 22.4 49.5 20.4
Douglas 2008 106.8 25.5 27.7 54.4 20.6

Isaiah Swann's knee injury put even more pressure on these two guys to produce, and it's evident in Rich's case that he wasn't ready for this. Douglas has been fine, and that's not surprising considering his talent and his 2007 numbers; an extra three shots per 40 minutes isn't a huge deal for a player of his caliber. Rich, on the other hand, was the least frequent shooter among FSU's starting five in 2007, and he is attempting five more shots per 40 minutes in '08. So he has made the bigger transition, going from taking 17% of the shots to 26% of them; that's tough on anybody.

If the Noles were playing defense this season like they did in 2007, they'd be battling NC State for the worst efficiency margin in the ACC. Fortunately for them, they aren't. The defensive factors:
        Def_Eff    eFG%      TO%      OR%      FTR
2007 109.0 52.9 19.5 34.8 37.1
2008 103.2 51.1 23.5 35.9 42.9

Opponents are hitting their shots (two-pointers, more specifically) less frequently, while FSU is also forcing a lot more turnovers. Douglas, who has doubled his steal percentage from 2.6% in '07 to 5.2% this year, is a big reason for that. He's the best thief in the ACC.