Raymond Felton: I wanna go fast -

Raymond Felton: I wanna go fast

Raymond Felton as Ricky Bobby
Raymond Felton wants to go fast – how else to explain his leap from solid starter to borderline All-Star in his first year in New York? I know I just talked about Ray a bit last week in anticipation of the home-and-home with the Knicks – but his continuing strong numbers compelled me to take a further look. For instance, this year Raymond Felton has a PER of 19.4 – a full 4 points better than his previous career best, set last year – which itself was a point better than any previous year. That’s a big jump. Another big jump? His points per game – 18.1 this year, previous high of 14.4. Want another one? 58.4% true shooting percentage this season – previous high of 50%.

How to explain this? Answers in order of interesting-ness:

  1. Small sample size – the season is not even a quarter of the way done and Ray is just having a good month and change.
  2. ?
  3. Profit Raymond plays better when the pace increases

You may have guessed this by now – but I am focusing on number 3. Does the pace a game is played at influence Raymond’s stats? (Don’t worry – I bring this back around to current Bobcats by the end) Well – I have limited stats at my disposal, with detailed player game data going back only to 2008-09 – but for Raymond, it still paints a pretty compelling picture. Observe:

Season Speed # of Games Avg Pace Pts per 100 Poss FG% TS% PER
2008-09 Slow 69 87.9 20.3 40.6 48.2 13.1
Fast 13 96.6 20.1 42.0 51.6 16.4
2009-10 Slow 55 88.7 18.7 41.6 48.8 13.7
Fast 25 96.6 20.5 56.3 62.8 18.5
2010-11 Slow 2 88.2 24.6 39.4 55.4 15.4
Fast 16 99.5 23.2 46.9 59.6 19.6

Quick notes: The cut-off for fast and slow is the league average pace – about 94 possessions per 48 minutes. The number of games and the selection is only dependent on the pace of the game while Raymond was on the court – it does not matter what happened the rest of the night, as the focus is on Raymond, pace, and his statistics.

What do you see?  Well, besides the Bobcats playing slow, which must be endured for now:  Hopefully, the jump in PER and TS% that is evident in each year when going from a  slow to fast pace.   Between two seasons of improved play in Charlotte when the pace rises and his early returns in New York, there’s enough here to make you at least stroke your chin and say “Hmm..”

Which brings me back to the Bobcats:  Is there a chance another Bobcat would appreciate a chance at a more frenetic pace, beyond it being more fun, but rather actually beneficial to their stats, if not the team’s bottom line?  The first name that comes to mind is Gerald Wallace – and Boris Diaw not far behind.  Diaw?  Well, I actually wondered if a slow pace is not better suited for him and if he might not display the reverse results of Raymond’s.  Good news:   There’s nothing as suggestive for the rest of the Bobcats I looked at as exists for Raymond, so Larry Brown is not being negligent for having this team play at a snail’s pace (at least not negligent as can be determined from this particular inquiry).

Boris Diaw
Season Speed # of Games Avg Pace Pts per 100 Poss FG% TS% PER
2008-09 Slow 65 87.7 20.5 49.3 54.9 11.3
Fast 16 97.3 22.4 56.6 65.0 18.5
2009-10 Slow 57 88.5 17.8 49.1 56.4 13.4
Fast 25 96.7 14.6 46.1 53.6 11.1
2010-11 Slow 10 90.2 16.6 50.0 57.5 10.6
Fast 7 97.1 20.7 55.1 62.5 15.5

As this chart indicates – it is not pace that drives Boris’ production – Boris (and his current mindset, motivation, level of engagement) drive his production.  He is beholden to no man.

D.J. Augustin
Season Speed # of Games Avg Pace Pts per 100 Poss FG% TS% PER
2008-09 Slow 62 86.4 24.3 43.2 59.2 14.7
Fast 10 96.1 25.1 41.3 61.5 15.4
2009-10 Slow 62 87.4 18.2 36.5 50.4 9.9
Fast 18 97.7 19.3 45.5 57.7 15.3
2010-11 Slow 12 90.4 20.8 43.9 58.7 17.2
Fast 5 97.7 16.8 40.7 51.0 16.8

A little early to make much sense of anything D.J. does – his rookie year, he was a gunner off the bench.  Last year, D.J. spent the season in the doghouse.  This year – the starting point guard on a club with playoff aspirations and a mandate to drive and distribute more.

Gerald Wallace
Season Speed # of Games Avg Pace Pts per 100 Poss FG% TS% PER
2008-09 Slow 51 87.7 23.7 48.9 60.1 18
Fast 20 96.2 23.5 45.8 58.1 19.7
2009-10 Slow 55 88.6 21.1 44.9 56.6 15.4
Fast 21 96.7 29.7 56.3 66.4 26.9
2010-11 Slow 12 90.6 22.1 46.8 57.8 15.6
Fast 5 98.7 25.3 40.8 55.2 16.7

The only thing to add about Gerald:  I looked at a few other players besides just these Bobcats, but did not find anything compelling enough to work it in here.  Just let me say that the gap of +11.5 PER from fast to slow for Gerald last season was easily the biggest jump of any player I looked at, as the next highest was only +6.0 (Kobe last season as well, with him also more productive when going fast – I was surprised, since I think of Kobe doing work in the halfcourt, in and out of the triangle offense).

Stephen Jackson
Season Speed # of Games Avg Pace Pts per 100 Poss FG% TS% PER
2008-09 Slow 7 91.4 23.5 43.6 55.0 13.4
Fast 52 100.3 25.6 41.1 53.4 17.4
2009-10 Slow 48 88.8 29.5 43.2 54.1 15.9
Fast 33 98.6 25.0 40.9 49.5 15.0
2010-11 Slow 10 89.1 25.2 40.9 51.9 11.1
Fast 7 97.3 27.6 47.6 62.8 22.0

Jax’s numbers last season are interesting to consider:  In slower games, the Bobcats relied on him far more heavily to score points – he (until the last couple of minutes, when Raymond would assert himself more) was the guy responsible for getting a shot up as the shot clock wound down, which it seemed to do so often.  The odd thing – Jackson still managed to score more efficiently in that higher-usage, slower game than he did when the Bobcats increased the tempo.  Filling the lanes on a break is a young man’s game, perhaps?  Gerald and Raymond shouldered the load when a track meet ensued, it would seem, and Jackson was there for the tractor pulls.

Nazr Mohammed
Season Speed # of Games Avg Pace Pts per 100 Poss FG% TS% PER
2009-10 Slow 36 87.9 25.3 55.7 58.9 19.5
Fast 22 99.8 22.8 54.4 57.8 19.6
2010-11 Slow 9 90.1 23.2 55.0 56.9 16.9
Fast 7 97.3 25.0 44.0 49.3 15.9

I’m as surprised as you – nice work on the consistency, Nazr. I really expected to see his stats take a dive in a faster game, but, at least last season, Nazr provided impressive consistency regardless of style of play.

What to conclude from all of this?  The first thing I think of is how John Hollinger created PER to be a pace-independent statistic to help compare players across teams – and it does that very well.  But it is worth considering how the pace of a game suits players and the potential for increased (and decreased) output based on their fit in a particular system.  Or maybe Raymond will regress to closer to his career numbers as the season progresses and it will have been a blip that ultimately means nothing other than some idle speculation.  Time (and pace) will tell.

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