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Too much one-on-one PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doug Thonus   
Thursday, 14 May 2009 16:01

Does Ben Gordon go one on one too much?   This is a common complaint put forth by Gordon detractors.   Since I have the means, the time, and the intense desire to find out the truth I decided to research this topic by the numbers.

First, let’s look at the Bulls perimeter players themselves, here’s a list of the percentage of times each guy goes 1 on 1 followed by the NBA percentile in their effectiveness of doing so.

Bulls players isolation usage and effectiveness:
John Salmons 25.65% / 51%
Ben Gordon 20.34% / 69%
Derrick Rose 14.24% / 47%
Luol Deng 9.09% / 6%
Kirk Hinrich 9.02% / 52%

What does this mean?   Well first, it means supporting John Salmons to take over for Ben Gordon because Gordon goes one on one too much is ridiculous.   Salmons goes one on one more and is a lot worse at it.   It also means those who feel Rose is the best scorer in an isolation appear to be wrong.  His 47th percentile in the league makes him an average scorer one on one.  

Luol Deng should never have isolation opportunities as his numbers are scary bad, and Kirk Hinrich looks like he does a decent job for the limited chances he has.    This also backs up my assertion that the Bulls were better off giving the ball to Gordon at the end of a game than Rose as Gordon was a substantially better scorer in an isolation situation.  

Now, looking at these numbers you could certainly argue that Gordon stops the ball more than Hinrich, so those who feel Hinrich would facilitate better ball movement than Gordon would appear to be correct.   Whether that ball movement facilitates more scoring than Gordon is certainly debatable given how successful Gordon was in the isolation role though.

Looking at the Bulls players is fine and dandy, we can learn something about how the Bulls operated as a team, however, I don’t want to stop there.   Let’s take a look at how Gordon matches up with the rest of the league.    The following is a list of every team’s best perimeter scorer except for teams which have no real perimeter threats and only have guys who just shoot kick outs. The list contains 37 different players.   Of that group, Pierce, Martin, and Redd didn’t have a percentile.  I believe in the case of Redd/Martin it was due to not enough games played with Pierce it appeared his possessions weren’t logged correctly.   The list is ordered in terms of how frequently the players used isolation in their game.

Usage and effectiveness of isolation around the league:
Kobe Bryant: 32.45% / 84%
Joe Johnson: 30.66% / 72%
Carmelo Anthony 30.28% / 47%
Brandon Roy: 29.33% / 87%
Caron Butler: 28.68% / 58%
Corey Maggette: 28.52% / 83%
Tracy McGrady: 28.12% / 35%
Stephen Jackson: 27.55% / 73%
John Salmons: 25.65% / 51%
Baron Davis: 25.07% / 38%
Allen Iverson: 24.52% / 41%
Jamal Crawford: 23.6% / 43%
LeBron James: 22.78% / 69%
Paul Pierce: 22.22% / NA
Deron Williams: 22.2% / 88%
Dwyane Wade: 20.59% / 91%
Vince Carter: 20.45% / 73%
Ben Gordon : 20.34% / 69%
Kevin Martin: 19.38% / NA
JR Smith: 19.16% / 74%
Michael Redd: 19.08% / NA
Kevin Durant: 18.49% / 42%
Andre Iguodala: 17.58% / 40%
Randy Foye: 16.49% / 54%
Josh Howard: 16.45% / 43%
Russell Westbrook: 16.16% / 37%
Eric Gordon: 15.69 / 46%
Gerald Wallace: 15.17% / 46%
Manu Ginobili: 15.13% / 88%
Nate Robinson: 14.72% / 68%
OJ Mayo: 14.48% / 62%
Chris Paul: 13.17% / 62%
Danny Granger: 12.04% / 79%
Steve Nash: 10.61% / 94%
Rip Hamilton: 10.51% / 34%
Jason Terry: 7.77% / 55%
Ray Allen: 4.56% / 86%

In terms of how often the players used isolation play Gordon ranked 18 out of 37 which is basically right in the middle of the list.   In terms of effectiveness he ranked 14 out of 34 which is in the upper middle portion of the list.   In terms of overall scoring rate he ranked 14 out of 34 on this list.  

So is Gordon selfish?   It would not appear so.    His scoring rate and effectiveness both were greater than his use of isolation relative to his peers even if all three of the NA players were to have greater efficiency than Gordon as isolation players.    

It would appear that Gordon uses an appropriate amount of isolation plays for a big time scorer and for the effectiveness in which he performs in those situations relative to his peers and that complaints about Gordon using too much one-on-one are simply out of line with what the rest of the good scorers in the league use. 

It's also worth noting the majority of two guards whom most people would agree are clearly better than Gordon (Roy, Wade, Kobe, Joe Johnson) all use more isolation than Gordon, with only Wade being close to Gordon's rate while the other three far exceed his isolation usage.   Of the players most frequently compared to Gordon Ray Allen has almost no isolation usage (gets most of his shots as a spot up shooter or coming off screens) while Redd has a very similar rate of isolation usage.

What to take from these numbers is up to the individual.   They show me that Gordon definitely uses isolation plays quite a bit.   There is no denying that fact, and the complaints about Gordon using too much isolation clearly stem from the fact that he does go to the iso quite a bit.   However, the numbers also bear out that his usage of isolation is well within the bounds of what other quality shooting guards use especially given his effectiveness as an isolation player.   What is scariest is the amount of people clamouring for John Salmons to start at shooting guard who claim Ben Gordon is a ball stopper given that Salmons use a significantly higher percentage of isolation plays at a significantly lower rate of effectiveness.


(stats provided by synergysportstech)

Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 May 2009 16:42 )

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