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But who will score?

If you think dealing with two of the kids is tough, just wait until you're facing all four of them.
If you think dealing with two of the kids is tough, just wait until you're facing all four of them.

I've been a very noisy fan of the kids for a long time now. Last year I did a little stat projection to see what Hayward and Favors could become if they progress as is typical for young, talented players. The results were impressive.

I'm going to do again right now. The results will look slightly different, though.

I relied on usage before, and I'll do the same again. But there's a very situation now: I'm looking at four players, not just two. Basically, there's only so many shots to go around. So if there are two stars, they each can have a higher usage than if those shots are divided between four stars.

I'm going to go with the lineup I would love to see: Burks, Hayward, Favors, Kanter. Now imagine a fifth player with low usage. A hustle guy at SF (DeMarre Carroll). Or a pass + spotup PG (Calderon type). Guys who won't take away lots of shots. Here's the specific stats I'm looking at:

If all guys split shots perfectly even, all five players have a 20% usage. I'm going to give the fifth guy a 13% usage. That is Raja Bell-type usage (he scored about 10 per game for Phoenix with that usage ... that's a scoring role for the fifth guy I'm comfortable with). So there's an extra 7% available for our Core Four. Based on their scoring abilities and personalities, I'm going to put that extra 7% to Favors and Burks. The Core Four usage for this thought experiment will go this way:

  • Burks: 24%
  • Favors: 23%
  • Hayward: 20%
  • Kanter 20%

Find out what they produce after the jump

A couple more assumptions for this stat experiment:

  1. They are exactly as effective as they were last year. No improvement in turnovers, FG%, FT% ... nothing
  2. They all play 36 minutes per game (which they ought, within two years tops)
  3. Other stats are the same: rebounding, assists, etc. No improvement.

So here's what these guys will produce:

Alec Burks

18 ppg, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal ... 43% FG, 33% 3P, 73% FT

Derrick Favors

17 ppg, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks ... 50% FG, 65% FT

Gordon Hayward

16 ppg, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 0.5 blocks ... 46% FG, 35% 3P, 83% FT

Enes Kanter

15 ppg, 11 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block ... 50% FG, 67% FT

* * *

That's what the numbers say these guys would put up with no improvement ... just bigger roles and minutes. That's four guys putting up All-Star numbers. Plus those four guys have shown decent-to-elite defense. And this is straight math: my calculator gave me these numbers. If you don't think these are accurate projections, you have to believe they will regress.

Sorry, but I don't know any way to argue that those guys with those numbers make the team worse than the lineup we saw last year. That kind of offense AND their defense? Wow.

* * *

Now I'm going to ask you to do some thinking. Some hard examination of your own beliefs. Young talent often makes huge strides in effectiveness during their first 2-3 years. Rebounding rates go up for good rebounders. Players score more effectively and shoot better percentages. They become better passers. So you, on your own, YOU think about what you believe is a reasonable amount of improvement to hope for. And then adjust these numbers accordingly.

Here's some info to that you may find interesting as you think about improvement:

  • Burks shot 78% and 82% at the line in college—much higher than his rookie year. He also shot 50% from the field in college, including a lower college 3P% than at the NBA.
  • Favors' FT% has gone from: 60% as a rookie to 66% as a soph.
  • Enes Kanter shot 60% FG and 68% FT in the Eurobasket tournament last summer
  • What will happen to their assists as Hayward and Burks are the primary playmakers?
  • What will happen to the pace of game (and thus total shots available) with these guys vs. last year's lineup?
  • With all these steals and blocks, what will happen to the number of transition baskets?
  • Every top rebounder in the NBA today improved his rebounding rate since his rookie year.
  • Will Burks and Hayward ever get the hang of technical FT's?

* * *

Here's what I think. You may think differently—more optimistically, or less—so just take this as one guy's opinion.

  • Kanter and Favors end up regularly at about 53% FG. Favors will reach about 70% FT, Kanter about 73%. Kanter's rebounding rate improves a bit, while that of Favors stays about the same (not that he doesn't get better, but Kanter will eat up 1-2 of what Favors would otherwise get per game)
  • Usage of Burks and Favors will be slightly higher than this projection, and Hayward's will be slightly lower than 20%. But Hayward's per game stats won't be affected much because he's a machine and will play 38+ minutes per game.
  • Hayward's percentages will end up about 48%, 37%, 85%. Burks' will end up about 46%, 36%, 85%.
  • If Hayward and Burks are the backcourt, they'll average about 8-10 assists between them. If they are the wings, they'll be more like 6-7 between them.
  • Kanter and Favors will show the normal acquisition of passing ability we've seen from our bigs and will each give out a minimum of 2 assists.
  • Blocks and steals will be slightly higher across the board if they do a Burks/Hayward backcourt and a guy like DeMarre Carroll as the SF.

So if my predictions of improvement come true ...

Alec Burks

22 ppg, 5 rebounds, 3-5 assists, 1 steal ... 46%, 36%, 85%

Derrick Favors

19 ppg, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks ... 53%, 70%

Gordon Hayward

16 ppg, 4 rebounds, 4-5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block ... 48%, 38%, 85%

Enes Kanter

16 ppg, 12-13 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block ... 53%, 72%

Those are ridiculous numbers. And primarily done with a calculator—if you accept the premises, these are the numbers that churn out. It's even more ridiculous when we remember that these guys are also all decent-to-elite defenders.

I believe these stats represent a hopeful, but still reasonable ceiling for our Core Four. And THAT, everyone, is why I'd love to see them reach their peak as soon as possible. That is why I get exasperated by the team playing guys with less potential. This is why I would love the team to accept that these guys are talented and let them do their thing. This is why I don't want their minutes held back just because they're young ... if they can play the minutes, then give them the minutes now. The team will win more.

And please also remember these stats when anyone ever asks: "Without __________, who's going to score?"

These guys will score ... and rebound, defend, pass, run, steal, and block.