Consistency vs going ham: Player efficiencies from elite offenses

Yesterday I broke down the top 10 offenses in college basketball, with an eye on how they get it done. I was interested to see if elite teams get consistently solid efforts from a number of positions, or do the rely more on superb individual performances. As expected, there was a lot of variation in the top 10.

Today I'm dropping down a level and looking at the players.

Offensive ratings are highly variable from game to game, and the formula for developing them is complex. The take home is that an offensive rating of 100 (a point per player possession) is just about average in college basketball. So you want your guys scoring more than that.

First, who is the most consistent player? I was only looking at the top 10 offenses, so the teams in this are Indiana, Florida, Michigan, Gonzaga, Creighton, Pittsburgh, Duke, NC State, Colorado State, and St. Mary's. For "consistency" I wanted to know who was the best at avoiding games with a sub 100 offensive rating. These are the guys you can count on every night to at least be average.

Kelly Olynyk 95.8
Erik Murphy 95.7
Ryan Kelly 93.3
Christian Watford 92.3
Pierce Hornung 90.9
Nik Stauskus 88.5
Cody Zeller 88.5
Jordan Hulls 84.6
Trey Burke 84.6
Victor Oladipo 84.6

The top three players have all had one game below 100. The difference is the number of games they've played.

Of course, this leaves out a valuable piece of information, which is the number of possessions each player uses. Olynyk and Murphy have both been remarkably consistent producers, but how do you account for their roles? And what are their roles? Here is the same table with %Possessions included.

  %>100 %Poss
Kelly Olynyk 95.8 29.6
Erik Murphy 95.7 20.8
Ryan Kelly 93.3 20.4
Christian Watford 92.3 21.1
Pierce Hornung 90.9 17.1
Nik Stauskus 88.5 16.8
Cody Zeller 88.5 25.6
Jordan Hulls 84.6 16.2
Trey Burke 84.6 28.3
Victor Oladipo 84.6 22.4

Kelly Olynyk is called upon to use almost 30% of his team's possessions, while Murphy only uses 20.8%. Olynyk uses more possessions than Murphy, uses more possessions than any player from Florida, and uses more possession than all but one player in the entire SEC. In other words, the Zags offense flows through Olynyk, and he's still the most consistent player in this study.

How about the most likely to have a exceptional game? These are the ten players most likely to put up eye popping numbers (offensive rating >140).

  >140 %Poss
Jordan Hulls 57.7 16.2
Scott Wood 56.0 13.8
Nik Stauskus 50.0 16.8
Erik Murphy 47.8 20.8
Trey Burke 46.2 28.3
Pierce Hornung 45.5 17.1
Matthew Dellavedova 44.4 24.3
Victor Oladipo 42.3 22.4
Beau Levesque 40.7 21.3
Brad Waldow 38.5 21.8
Lamar Patterson 38.5 21.2
James Robinson 38.5 16.2

The top three make complete sense as they are all 3-pt specialists who aren't called upon to do much more. Here is the same table with % of shots taken from beyond the arc added. Though, they all put up huge offensive efficiency numbers in at least half their games – freakin solid.

  >140 %Poss %3s
Jordan Hulls 57.7 16.2 66.8
Scott Wood 56.0 13.8 80.0
Nik Stauskus 50.0 16.8 62.9
Erik Murphy 47.8 20.8 53.3
Trey Burke 46.2 28.3 36.3
Pierce Hornung 45.5 17.1 10.8
Matthew Dellavedova 44.4 24.3 55.0
Victor Oladipo 42.3 22.4 20.0
Beau Levesque 40.7 21.3 40.6
Brad Waldow 38.5 21.8 0.0
Lamar Patterson 38.5 21.2 44.7
James Robinson 38.5 16.2 27.3

We don't get below 60% attempts from beyond the arc until the No. 4 player (Erik Murphy), and at No. 5 (Trey Burke) we get a value below 40%. Burke's numbers are really staggering. He uses over 28% of Michigan's possessions, isn't a 3-pt specialist, and still routinely puts up hugely efficient games. Matthew Dellavedova is the only other player on the list who could be considered high volue (>24% of his team's possessions), and he's still uses 4% fewer possessions than Burke.

Next are the players most likely to bomb. These are the % of games where they have offensive ratings below 80.

  %<80 %Poss
Daniel Bejarano 28.0 16.6
James Robinson 26.9 16.2
Brad Waldow 26.9 21.8
Tyler Thornton 24.0 11.7
Talib Zanna 23.1 23.2
Jahenns Manigat 22.2 12.9
TJ Warren 20.0 18.7
Will Yeguette 20.0 18.3
Tim Hardaway 20.0 22.8
CJ Leslie 20.0 25.2

The good news for most of these teams is that these are mostly guys in the rotation who aren't called upon to do that much. Only four of them use more than 20% of their team's possessions when they're on the floor, and only CJ Leslie uses more than 23%. It's alarming that there's a 1 in 5 chance that Leslie is going to completely lay an egg on any given night, but it's also not surprising – and keep in mind I'm focusing solely on offense and nothing else.

Also note that there is some common ground between those most likely to put up huge numbers, and those most likely to bomb. James Robinson and Brad Waldow I'm looking at you. If Kelly Olynyk is the most consistent player in the nation, then certainly Robinson and Waldow are competing to be the most inconsistent.