Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Playoff Preview, NBA Playoffs, Nylon Calculus

Nylon Calculus: Bucks-Pistons win probabilities, assist maps, style charts and more

Previewing the first-round series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons with shot charts, assist maps, offensive style charts and expected win probabilities.

Shot charts

The chart presents the approximate shooting percentages for Giannis and the remainder of the Bucks’ roster from less than 16 feet and from beyond the arc. It is important to note that these are smoothed approximations and should not be analyzed down to the pixel. Further, they are descriptive, not predictive. Unsurprisingly, Giannis is incredibly effective right at the rim, dropping off markedly from within dunk range (which I assume is the farthest in the league) to floater and mid-range. Non-Giannis players are less effective at the rim, but are shooting a better percentage from floater and mid-range. When moved behind the 3-point line, Giannis is shooting relatively poorly (approximately 25 percent), and demonstrates more accuracy from the left side than the right. The other Bucks are shooting well from 3 and have a reasonably smooth distribution across the full arc, indicating that they do not have any serious deficiencies from any one spot behind the line.

If you haven’t been watching the Pistons this year, you’ve missed some truly excellent play by Blake Griffin, who is having the best statistical season of his career by certain advanced metrics. He’s at a career-high 4.4 OBPM and tied a career-high of 4.8 BPM. This is even more impressive given that he’s no longer got Chris Paul throwing him alley-oops or prime Deandre Jordan attracting attention at the rim. He’s doing this by throwing up 7.0 3-point attempts per game, and making them at a 37 percent clip. As an example of his shot profile change, he is shooting nearly 5.5 fewer 2-point field goals per game and 6.5 more 3-pointers per game than he did in his last All-Star season, 2014-15. He’s even increased his true shooting from 55.1 to 58.4 over that same time period. Most importantly for Griffin, he’s remained healthy this year, marking only the fourth time he’s played in more than 70 games.

— Andrew Patton (@anpatt7)

Offensive style chart

These charts are not meant to evaluate whether an offense is good or bad. They are designed to help illustrate how teams go about the goal of trying to put the ball in the basket. Each team’s offense is evaluated on four stylistic spectrums.

Ball movement is measured with the average touch time for each team, from the NBA’s player tracking statistics. A lower average touch time means the ball is moving from player to player more quickly.

Player movement is measured with a combination of different NBA.com tracking statistics and works out to average distance traveled per 24 seconds of offensive possession.

Pace is measured with the average length of an offensive possession from Inpredictable, a more accurate representation for how quickly a team is working than traditional pace.

Shot selection is measured with MoreyBall percentage — in this case the percentage of a team’s true shooting opportunities that came at the rim, from the free throw line, or on a 3-pointer. It’s a generalized measure but captures something about how much each team hews to the shots that are, on average, the most efficient.

Obviously, this matchup depends a ton on whether Blake Griffin will be healthy. In the Pistons marks, you can see how constrained things are and how much they rely on Griffin to create offense or move the ball out to spot-up shooters. There is a lot more involved in the Bucks style but they’ve been incredible at leveraging all those different elements to create efficiency this season.

— Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh)

Assist maps: Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is the hub of Detroit’s offensive system — the team leader in touches (88.5) and assists (5.4) per game. The Pistons like to run plays through Griffin on the inside; where his 8.4 post-ups per game rank as the fifth-most of any player in the league. From the post, Griffin is a dangerous distributor with two potent passing options. He’s very skilled at dropping bounce passes to cutting teammates in tight spaces, but he can also pick out open shooters around the perimeter. Griffin’s ability to initiate Detroit’s offense from the inside-out sets him apart from other primary creators in the league. Among the top 50 most prolific assist leaders, Griffin is one of only three players whose assists led to more 3-pointers than 2-pointers.

Stepping away from the basket a bit further, Griffin is also effective at setting up his teammates using dribble handoffs. The Pistons use handoffs to create scoring opportunities more often than most other teams in the league and they are the second-most-efficient team at converting these types of plays. Griffin’s passing-lane chart shows his use of the handoff on both wings.

Detroit’s hopes of upsetting top-seeded Milwaukee will surely hinge on the status Griffin’s sore left knee. Without their All-Star forward distributing assists from the middle of the court, the Pistons may not stand a chance.

— Todd Whitehead (@CrumpledJumper)

Win probabilities

To project the series, I am using my in-season game projection model. The model is trained off historical game data and accounts for rest, travel, team strength, and matchup. Since I began using the model to predict outcomes, I have been able to correctly identify the winner in about 70 percent of games.

The Bucks come into the series as heavy favorites, winning in 89 percent of the 10,000 simulations. The average length of the series was 5.3 games, with the Bucks given over a 25 percent chance to sweep the series. The Bucks have been a dominant team all season long behind potential MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and there is no reason to expect them to slow down in the playoffs. Even missing a few players, the Bucks have the depth and star talent to put this series away quickly. The Pistons put together a really good year, but ultimately they don’t have the talent or shooting to keep up with the loaded Bucks.

Jacob Goldstein (@JacobEGoldstein)

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