Thursday, December 15, 2011

Breaking Down: How good is Florida when they use Patric Young

Past Breaking Downs:

- The efficient assassin
- What is the Michigan system?
- How Jared Cunningham defended John Jenkins
- The breakdowns in the Pitt defense

Florida needs to let the Big Dog eat.


Isn't that what we were all saying after Patric Young went for 25 points and 10 boards in a dominating performance against Arizona? That if the Gators are going to be successful, they have to pound the ball in to their big man? That the Gators will be the most successful when they 'let the big dog eat'?

Well, I decided to try and figure that out.

Patric Young is much improved in the post this season. You don't need a video breakdown from me to tell you that he actually has a post-move more advanced than a dunk in his repertoire this season. His hard numbers are up across the board (3.4 to 11.6 ppg, 3.8 to 7.9 rpg, 55.6 to 58.7 FG%) as are his efficiency numbers (11.3 to 20.5 usage rate, 110.8 to 118.4 offensive rating), but just because Young is better doesn't mean that he is a dominating low-post threat right now.

On the season, Young is scoring 1.02 PPP according to Synergy. That's not terrible. In fact, Synergy lists him in the 80th percentile and qualifies Young as "very good".

When you breakdown the numbers, however, it paints a bit of a different picture. Young's PPP numbers on put-backs (1.33), cuts (1.33) and shots around the basket that aren't post-ups (1.49) are all very high. But those numbers drop to 0.93 PPP in all post-up situations and 0.77 PPP and 0.73 PPP in left and right block post-ups, respectively. More eye-opening, however, is that Young is averaging just 0.96 PPP in post-up situations in which he has been single-covered, which drops him down to the 71% percentile for big men.

The kicker?

Only three times in Florida's nine games this season has Young seen a double-team. In other words, given the number of shooters and playmakers that Billy Donovan has hanging out on his perimeter, opponents are opting to allow Young to go one-on-one in the post instead of doubling him and risking that a shooter gets left open or given an easy driving lane to the rim. They are, for better or for worse, saying that they don't believe Young is going to be the guy to beat them.

To get an answer for whether or not Florida is better off pounding the ball into Young or using him as a pressure release to keep defenses honest, I went through the tape of Florida's three 'real' opponents this season -- Ohio State, Syracuse and Arizona. For the 96 minutes that Young was on the court for those three games, I charted every single Florida possession, finding a number for the PPP the Gators scored when Young got a touch in the post and when he didn't get a touch in the post.

Here is the chart (A couple of notes here: offensive rebounds that Young grabbed and went back up with or kicked out, leading directly into a shot, I counted as a post touch. Also, since Young didn't have a transition possession in these three games, I pulled those out at the bottom of the chart to try and figure out just how effective Florida was running their half-court sets when the ball doesn't get into Young's hands):

According to my data, in two of the three games, Florida was more effective (albeit in limited sample sizes) when they got the ball to Young on the block. Against Ohio State, the Gators got Young the ball on 28% of the possessions he was on the floor, but the big fella struggled early in the game. It was understandable; there aren't going to be many people capable of posting up Jared Sullinger. In fact, most of the damage that Young did came later in the game when he was being guarded by either Evan Ravenel or DeShaun Thomas. Young finished with 14 points and 12 boards on 5-10 shooting in that game.

The Arizona game is where Young really dominated. He got a post touch on 38.5% of the possessions that he was on the court and absolutely made the best of them, shooting 12-15 from the floor for 25 points while grabbing 10 boards and handing out a pair of assists for Will Yegeute dunks. More than anything, this game was an example of Young taking advantage of a smaller front line and his back court realizing the advantage.

The game where Young struggled came against Syracuse, but he was in trouble from the beginning. He picked up two fouls in the first six minutes of the game, killing any chance he had to get into a rhythm. That rhythm would have been very important against the Orange, because the combination of their big front line and their zone, a defense that is not exactly conducive to post-up isolations, essentially took Young out of the game.

But that doesn't mean that he was a non-factor.

Here, you can see Kenny Boynton attacking the Syracuse zone. He gets by the guards, but Fab Melo doesn't step-up to defend Boynton because he is worried about Young. Florida has the most success against the Syracuse zone when they were able to get the ball to that foul line area due to Young's presence:

Melo is worried about Young because of the lob. Young is a tremendous athlete and he has developed a knack for being able to get to the weak side of the rim and make himself available for the easiest assists that his guards are going to get. Here's an example of that from the Arizona game:

Florida runs a pick-and-roll heavy offense against man (and against zone; in the second half of the Syracuse game, they were running strictly man-to-man offense), and Young is very good in the pick-and-roll:

But the Gator's offense goes beyond just a simple pick-and-roll. In this clip, you'll see Young run a pick-and-roll with Erving Walker at the top of the screen. Arizona defends it well, and the ball gets swung to Bradley Beal. Erik Murphy sets a ball-screen for Beal, and as the freshman dribbles to the top of the key, Young seals his man hard. This is called a duck-in, and it may actually be what Young is the best at:

Even when his teammates don't give him the ball on a duck-in, the strength with which Young can hold a seal opens up driving lanes to the rim. In this set, you'll see Beal pop to the top off the key off of a downscreen from from Murphy. As Young holds his seal, Beal drives to the rim and gets a wide-open layup as Young holds off his defender:

While Young has the ability to be overpowering on the block, Florida has enough talented perimeter scorers that asking them to forsake their ability to pound the ball inside is not necessarily the smartest way for Florida to play. The issue is the decision-making of the back court players. Far too often, they settle for tough, ill-advised shots when they actually do have Young in perfect position. In the first clip, you'll see Walker get into the paint and miss a tough, 12-foot runner when he has Young all alone at the rim:

And in this clip, its Beal missing Young on a textbook seal and missing a challenged layup:

When Young does get the ball in position to score, he is capable of doing this:

And this:

As good as Young is, he's not yet Jared Sullinger. He doesn't have the kind of post game or ability to pass out of a double team that would allow him to be the star of this show. And, as I said, taking the ball out of the hands Florida's excellent back court is not the best option for Florida, not with the way that group can shoot.

But what Florida does need to improve on is getting Young the ball in spots that he can be effective. When he's got a seal on the block, dump the ball in. If his man comes to help a penetrator, put the ball up for him.

If Florida truly is going to compete for an SEC title, they need their back court to play well. And part of playing well is recognizing when they have a favorable matchup with Young on the block.

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