But how much truth is there to this statistic? Is it coincidence? Is it only an easy-to-digest, TV-friendly fallacy? Could it really be that simple?
Full disclosure: I came into this analysis as a healthy skeptic. I couldn’t possibly believe that the key to Georgetown winning was Chris scoring in double digits. What I looked for, though, was something larger. What does Wright’s scoring mean in terms of the offense as a whole? If he’s not scoring, what is he doing (or not doing) instead?
I went to the fantastic Individual Win/Loss splits here to find out, and the results were more than a little surprising.
The most obvious win/loss split:
- Wright shoots 27/60 (45%) from 3FG in wins
- Wright shoots 1/23 (4%) from 3FG in losses.
I started by looking at shooting metrics among the starting five to see if there were any other similar trends (click any figure to enlarge):
Nothing too shocking or revealing, outside of Chris. But what’s more startling isn’t the shooting percentage; it’s the shot selection. Here’s a graph of 3pt FG attempts as a percentage of total FGs attempted:
First of all, I had no idea just how much of a sniper Jason Clark has turned into. 60% of all of his shots are 3s. But when you’re making them at 45% clip, go right ahead!
It also follows that if you’re trying to get back into a game, you’re going to pop a few more from behind the line (see: Austin Freeman and Jason), but look at that 23% jump from Chris. In losses, he's taking more than half of his shots from behind the arc, and we already covered how many of those he’s making.
To me, this appears to be a fundamental and philosophical change in his game. He’s not just taking a few more 3s to try to shoot the team back into a game, Wright averages 12.9 2FGA / 100 possessions played in wins, but only 7.2 2FGA / 100 possessions in losses. If he’s also less inclined to try to score off of the dribble, it would be expected that he’s not getting into the lane and to the FT line as much either:
That’s not a precipitous drop, but it’s a drop, especially compared with the posts (well done, Mr. Monroe) and Jason on the wing.
So if he’s not scoring in the lane and he’s not drilling three-balls, is he deferring to his teammates more?
He’s passing a lot more - that is a staggering jump. Chris’s overall ARate this year is 22.1 or 363rd best in the country. The 35.6 overall would be good for 23rd(!) overall in D-1.
The only problem? It’s not helping win ball games.
At this point, I’m convinced. Chris Wright’s play is critical to the success of the team. However, the low scoring in losses is a symptom, not the problem.
The problem is that, in games Georgetown has lost, he’s changing his game to be more deferential and it’s impacting the rest of the offense (not just his own), and the offense can’t function properly if Chris isn’t a threat in the lane.
Zones can spread out on the shooters and teams in man can double Greg more easily. Wright needs to drive and shoot, especially against zones, to pull defenders in and give open looks to Austin and Jason, either as a direct assist or after ball movement. It also frees up Greg from facilitating so much at the high post, keeping him down low for better looks and chances at offensive rebounds (Monroe's OR% is 5 points higher in wins).
Chris is the team's lead threat in terms of slashing to the hoop. Unlike the “more than 10 point” bromide, his role isn't to be the leading scorer every night, but when he looks to score more off the dribble it opens up other options. It makes him a multidimensional threat. If being more aggressive driving means he scores over 10 a night that's great, but he doesn’t need to carry the load himself.
It's also interesting because it goes against the early-season conventional wisdom that Chris needed to become a better pass-first PG to lead this team. It actually looks the opposite - when he takes that dimension of his game away it neuters his effectiveness and stagnates the offense.
So drive, Chris, drive, and as the inimitable Bill Raftery would put it, let’s hope to see a little more lingerie on the deck in the future.