Nov 9, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) is consoled by power forward Tristan Thompson (13) and shooting guard Dion Waiters (3) after missing a shot at the end of regulation against the Philadelphia 76ers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Catching up with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson via SportVU Data

Last week RDE writer Trevor Magnotti wrote a piece on a new camera system being placed underneath the hardwood floors of NBA arenas to further enhance how fans and journalists look at statistics. As Trevor pointed out, these statistics are available here.

Looking at this data a week (and three games) later, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson still sit within the Top 10 of several of the nine statistical categories that the player tracking system measures. Now that Kyrie is getting back into the flow of things offensively and Tristan is still on track to log loads of minutes this season because no one is apt (yet) to hold down the power forward position off the bench for 20 or so minutes, we can get (somewhat) of a better look at the roles Irving and Thompson play in the Cleveland offense.

Tracking Kyrie via SportVU Data

Although no one is close to touching Point God in regards to touches per game (Chris Paul is averaging 103.9 touches and is absolutely shredding opponents in every category so far this season), Irving has climbed his way back up to third place with an average of 83.7 touches. It comes to no surprise, then, that Irving ranks fifth in the league in passes per game. Being more involved in sharing the ball, despite his tendencies as of late to control games offensively near the end, Kyrie has upped his APG to 8.0 through seven games this season. He’s sharing the ball a lot more, has reliable teammates and is rebounding at a much higher rate, so it comes to no shock that Irving is passing the ball almost 60 times per game.

A statistic that we may want to pay more attention to, though (as Trevor also pointed out), are the amount of chances that Kyrie has to assist compared to what percentage of passes he is actually producing points from. That would happen to be 55.9 percent, which isn’t horrible granted that Kyrie only ranks four spots higher in APG than he does in assist opportunities per game. To draw some comparisons, Paul is converting on 58.3 percent of his assist opportunities.

Now let’s take a look at drives–any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop and excludes fast breaks:

Kyrie Irving ranks fourth in drives per game (10.0) and seventh in player PPG on drives (6.1), but has only converted on 40 percent of his drives this season. As we saw at the end of the Philadelphia game on Saturday night, Irving has been struggling to get layups to fall as games come to a close. I don’t think that there is that much of a problem here other than just a slow start, so we should see his percentages when finishing shoot up on this site sometime soon.

Lastly, Irving ranks second in total points off of pull up shots–any jump shot outside 10 feet where a player took one or more dribbles before shooting–with 73 points and in pull up shots PPG (10.1). His PG buddy Stephen Curry ranks above him in this particular category.

Tracking Tristan via SportVU Data

Tristan is a little more interesting to look at than Kyrie, because I believe a lot of the numbers that indicate he is a top performer in a certain category are because of his 37.3 minutes per game (11th in the League). For example, Tristan ranks ninth in total rebounding (68), but ranks seventh in the NBA in rebounding opportunities (17.7). However, his 54.8 percentage of rebounds per chance indicates that he is no better a rebounder than he was last year. Little has changed about Thompson’s defensive game other than the fact that he looks more comfortable in his role. He still is getting beat up by the bigger players, much like last season.

Again, as Trevor pointed out in his article, the more minutes a player is logging per game, the higher he will be in the distance traveled rankings. The Cavaliers power forward ranks third in distance traveled per game (2.8 miles) and second in total distance traveled (19.4 miles). Tristan has been very active on the court this year, ranking first among those donning the Wine & Gold in minutes per game. It’s nice to see this trend of Tristan moving around on the court a lot, because that means he’s not struggling with pausing when going up in the paint.

Tracking the rest via SportVU Data

Here are some quick rankings of some other Cavalier players this season:

Anderson Varejao – 4th in elbow touches per game (11.1):

Varejao has expanded on his ever-growing offensive game, branching out to the side elbows and knocking down jumpers like its been his job his whole career. Keep up the great work, Andy.

C.J. Miles – 9th in points per touch (0.48):

It’s no surprise that Miles ranks so high in this department, but there are some things that should be pointed out. A lot of the players in this group see very little court time. There are four players ranking in the Top 10 that average over 20 minutes per game: Klay Thompson, Brook Lopez, Miles and Jodie Meeks. In catch and shoot situations–any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player possessed the ball for two seconds or less and took no dribbles–Miles ranks fifth in total points with 48. This is a big reason why he has had so much success against defenses to start the season.

Alonzo Gee – 8th in average speed among players averaging double-digit minutes (4.6 mph):

There are a few players in front of Gee in the SportVU rankings who just have too small of a sample size to count in the rankings. With Gee re-entering the starting lineup in the previous game against the 76ers, we’ll see how much longer he remains in this category. Gee is, however, a very athletic and quick player, especially when driving to the hole, so as long as his game doesn’t suffer, I’m fine with the switch and with seeing Gee bolt down the court as a starter.

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Tags: Alonzo Gee Anderson Varejao C.J. Miles Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving Tristan Thompson

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