Paul Millsap came into the league as an undersized big, from a small school, who was very limited offensively. In his rookie season (2006-2007), the raw 2nd round draft pick shot 67.3 ft% and took 67.6% of his field goals at the rim. Today (2011-2012) Millsap is shooting 73.3 ft%, and takes only 37.2% of his shots at the rim. As a rookie, taking the vast majority of his shots close to the basket, he shot 52.5 fg%. Today, taking nearly 2/3rds of his shots much farther away, he is actually shooting 55.4 fg%. It would be an understatement to just suggest that Millsap "got better" on offense. He did, but he did so in such significant ways that he should be (if we’re living in a fair and honest society) in the running to be an All-Star and the Most Improved Player in the same year.
After the jump – a complete run down of the numbers; which support my wild claims. And also the type of Web 2.0 hustle that’s putting newspapers out of business – fast.
We all could easily see Millsap was way more comfortable taking that mid-to-deep range 2 pt shot this season. He is hitting it from the face up, the spot up, off the bounce, creating his own shot, and even fading away. According to the quantitative data at Hoopdata.com we see that over his career he has gone 363/843 from 16’ to 23’. That’s only 43.1 fg%. It’s a poor value for a guard, but for a 2nd round PF you can totally live with that. This season, though, Paul has gone 27/53 from this very same spot – making 50.9 fg%. He’s shooting almost +8 fg% better, that doesn’t look like much, right? Well, for his career he’s shot this distance shot 843 times in 413 games – that’s 2.04 FGA per game. This season he’s shooting this shot at 3.53 FGA per game. He’s shooting from here with greater frequency *and* with greater success. How much greater? Well, his +7.9 fg% is actually +1.5 standard deviations (STDEV) above the norm. We like to reserve significance to be greater (or less than) 2 standard deviations; as this is the case we can’t call ‘Sap’s +1.5 STDEV as "significant", but seeing how he’s taking this shot 173% more of the time, and doing so with a greater success rate I’d call this pretty damn significant-ish.
He’s making more outside shots, and for some that’s probably as far down the statistical rabbit hole they want to go. But it’s even more simple than that – Paul Millsap has gotten even better from close range too! This dude, all 6’8 of him (in shoes), is working so hard on offense right now, he’s nearly unstoppable. Like an engineer’s dream, he even improved on his signature efficiency, and is now working at peak levels that lesser power forwards can only hope to one day play at. As a younger player he was about as much of a sure thing at the rim as anyone else in the league. This season? He’s a virtual lock – despite being much shorter than the guys protecting the basket. He’s scoring at a 74.6 fg% rate at the rim this year. It’s a +10.3 fg% improvement from his career average; and more importantly, it’s +1.8 standard deviations above the norm. If +1.5 was pretty damn significant, then +1.8 standard deviations is absolutely damn significant. But you know what’s even better than his improvement at the rim?
Paul Millsap has never shot better from 3’ to 9’ from the basket. His career average from this range is only 40.3 fg%. This season he’s shooting at 55.9 fg%, which is actually a better success rate than his success rate at the rim in his second season in the NBA. That is a +15.6 fg% improvement, and, lo and behold: it’s a +2.1 standard deviation augmentation. Friends, we call that "officially" damn significant.
He’s shooting more. He has diversified where he’s shooting from. And he has improve his over-all shooting percentages. But this is just one part of his game, and only on one side of the ball. There’s plenty more-sap to talk about in the coming weeks before we hear who gets picked (and snubbed) for the All-Star game; I think we'll hear who the coaches picked for reserves around February 10th this year. Some of the other 'Sap-Statdowns will talk about other aspects of his game: like how he’s doing passing the ball (career high in AST%); how he’s doing as a focal point of the offense (career high USG%); or we'll look at his amazing defense this year (career best in DRtg) . . . all to come in the next few days. Of course, if you wanted to see how Paul Millsap smacks around the other Top 8 Western Conference Power Forwards (Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nene Hilario, Tim Duncan, and Pau Gasol), you can always click here to read that post.
Paul Millsap was good last season. This season, he is great. It’s a damn shame few people are recognizing it though. People who love the truth and honesty of statistics see Millsap though. If you are one of these objective basketball fans you should see him too.