Category Archives: UCLA

Where They Affect the Game: Kyle Anderson

At this point in the season if you haven’t picked up on my new found fascination with shot location data then I should welcome you to the blog. Welcome! But as different shots hold different values, and different players different skill sets, I wanted to learn how and where different players are affecting a basketball game. This is the story of how I got to asking the question.

The transit between my first two BART stops on the way home from work gets no cellular reception. If I’m able to get a Twitter refresh before frantically boarding, it means I scour over the last few hours of tweets. That night I came across this:

In a further panic than the aforementioned refresh, I managed to email myself that tweet as it had piqued my interest. I then went home, ordered $45 of Indian food and watched Elysium with my brother. He passed out while I grabbed my laptop. I was setting out to answer Nieves’ question. Where does a specific player (Kyle Anderson in this case) most effectively and frequently affect a basketball game?

We first needed to know how often Kyle even had a chance to affect the game. One component of this would be to look at a player’s %poss or usage rate. This tells us how often a player is shooting, passing, turning over. It’s a great number but without context it just shows us where the ballhogs are (for better or worse). KenPom often marries usage with ORtg to see if players are being efficient with the possessions they get. It’s a far better marriage than anything Kardashian but not good enough for Neal’s answer.

I needed to know how much of Kyle’s usage was coming at the rim or otherwise. From the hoop-math, I can tell you Kyle’s FG%, percent of shots and assists at the rim, on 2-point jumpers, and from three. I could have told Neal some of these numbers and perhaps satisfied his question. But I wanted to answer it. I knew we’d have to marry up KenPom and hoop-math.

From Pomeroy we could capture Kyle’s possession data and from hoop-math his location data. Our first calculation was to understand how often he had the ball, uncovering how many possessions Kyle was involved in per game. It’s a complex stat but after consult of greater minds than my own, we agreed that the following would suffice in ball parking Kyle (or any player’s) individual possessions per game:

Individual Possessions/game = (team possessions per game)*(%min)*(%poss)

This is taking into account the total number of possessions a player’s team is getting per game, the percentage of minutes he’s on the floor for those possessions, and the percentage of possessions he’s involved in. With this number we understand approximately how many shots, assists, and turnovers Kyle is a part of. More visually:

Player Team PP % Min % Poss Poss/Game
Kyle Anderson 71.20 0.82 0.26 15.37
Slow-Mo gets the third most possessions per game amongst ‘participants’ in my initial study involving the Pac-12 elite (only Roberto Nelson and Jahii Carson were getting more touches per contest). With the knowledge of how often Anderson was doing something, it was time to discover where he was doing it.
Here is where I have to tell you that our final answer is going to be inexact. That’s ok, right? A study like this is a fun examination into that great middle ground between perception and reality. Without Synergy Sports I’m not soon going to look at all of Kyle’s possessions to discover how often he is indeed getting into the paint and scoring or dishing. But the perception is that he’s doing it often; it’s why Nieves asked the question and I imagine you’ve noticed it too because I know your team’s struggled to stop it. What we’re figuring out here is approximately how often Kyle Anderson is helping his team be successful from inside the arc. Kapeesh?

And so how often are those 15-ish possessions resulting in something around the rim?

Player % poss resulting in rim score % poss resulting in play at rim Success % at Rim
Kyle Anderson 33.57% 41.64% 80.63%

So more than 40% of the time Kyle Anderson is involved in a play, it results in something happening at the rim. And on 34.51% of Anderson’s possessions, someone in powder blue (Anderson or otherwise) is scoring at the rim. Stand alone numbers are rarely significant but let me tell you something: that’s significant. I’ve exhausted rim data on the blog but if the average FG% at the rim is 61% then it would seem to behoove your team to shoot there. Kyle Anderson ensure that it happens more than 40% of the time!It was the fourth highest percentage of possessions in the study but the third most scores at the rim per game (5.16) against the fifth most plays there (6.4).

And he’s not just flailing in there, diving recklessly into the paint with no where to go. Looking at the difference between his scores and plays at the rim (those last two numbers from the paragraph above), we find that 80.63% of his rim possessions are resulting in two for the blue. That’s the fourth best percentage amongst the guys I studied. By comparison, Jahii Carson has 40.06% of his possessions at the rim (shot taken or assist made) but only 62.05% of those result in a rim score (more on Carson later this week).

Here is the full table ranked by success at the rim:

Player % poss resulting in rim score % poss resulting in play at rim Success % at Rim
TJ McConnell 44.25 49.84 88.79
Nick Johnson 28.04 32.18 87.13
Delon Wright 50.65 61.23 82.71
Kyle Anderson 33.57 41.64 80.63
CJ Wilcox 21.80 27.25 80.00
Pe’Shon Howard 38.34 48.54 78.99
Nigel Williams-Goss 26.17 35.09 74.59
Askia Booker 29.00 38.95 74.45
Justin Cobbs 29.93 40.62 73.68
Brett Comer (2013) 51.18 72.47 70.63
Roberto Nelson 26.96 40.43 66.67
Chasson Randle 20.96 33.14 63.25
Jahii Carson 24.86 40.06 62.05

This is a ranking of effectiveness when making plays at rim (third column). The players chosen was essentially arbitrary and ad-hoc based on who I thought was driving and dishing. Email or tweet me if you want me to get your guy. There are infinite depths by which to dive further into this and I intend to do that on a team-by-team basis over the coming weeks. But above is a Pac-12 snap shot.

Oh, and you’ll notice Brett Comer. Brett was Andy Enfield’s Florida Gulf Coast point guard and I figured the leader of Dunk City would be an interesting study. Turns out I was right as he CRUSHES the Pac-12 guys in percentage of plays at the rim (72.47%). Anyhow, more on that later.

Back to your question, Neal. Kyle Anderson is creating a play at the rim 6.4 times per game and turning 5.16 of those into a score or assist. Only Delon Wright creates more scores at the rim and he’s a freak (7.08). But as the question asked about Kyle’s time in the paint, we could also include the two-point data. I was hesitant to do such considering that’s a much bigger and less effective shooting range. Plus, the Wear twins love shooting twos with their foot on the arc and ain’t nobody but evidently Kyle Anderson got time for that.

As it were, amongst those studied, he creates the second highest percentage of scores from 2-point range (3.92/game, 25.5% of his possessions). He’s the fourth most successful at converting these plays to points (54.75%). Once again, Anderson is setting his teammates up to be successful, but like I said, the two-point data doesn’t fully scratch the itch. The rimformation answers Nieves’ trigger question.

But to examine Anderson as a complete game affecting package, we had to see what he did in creating threes, too.

Anderson blows the rest of these players out of the water when it comes to effectively creating three pointers. Of his possessions that result in a trey,  78.95% of them are successful. Next best in conference is Jahii Carson’s 69.93% (which is why I believe he has such a low rim success rate but, again, more on him later). And this isn’t even a diluted stat. Anderson creates the second most three point scores per game (3).

So between the rim and three data, I’m drawn to three conclusions: 1) Kyle has a great ability to draw multiple defenders to himself, 2) he’s very adept at finding the man left or the hole created, and 3) his own shooting. Slow-Mo in an efficient 22-42 from distance this year and so he’s either shooting a good three or passing to one.

To summarize (again): 80% of Kyle Anderson possessions that result in a rim shot or three point shot go in the hoop. Kyle’s helping you help him.
Steve Alford Kyle AndersonWe’ve long known Anderson was a terrific basketball player and we’ve long called him a unique talent. As we said early on, this was a look at the balance between perception and reality. We assumed this about Kyle, we’ve proven this about Kyle. Only he and TJ McConnell rank in the top four of all three locations by way of success percentage and he’s the only one who is 6’9″ within that two-man subset. Unique to be certain.

I’m going to use this information to hopefully learn a little more – and share -about each of your teams. As I mentioned, I found the Dunk City stuff to be fascinating as well as the Jahii Carson stuff (Jahishalls are real). Stay tuned and thanks for reading through this 1567 word marathon.

UCLA’s Transition Offense from Defense and More. Much More.

Take this journey with me because that’s what it became. I’d set out to discuss UCLA versus Cal and their contrasting abilities to steal the ball and to not let the ball be stolen, respectively. But then a Wonderland twist of fate had me follow John Wooden down the rabbit hole and I wound up with an opinion on Westwood’s coaching situation. Like I said, buckle up cause it’s a long strange journey and that’s not even a Walton reference.

The UCLA Bruins aren’t soon going to be confused for a great defensive team – they’re good so don’t get me wrong – but not great. They yield 97 points per 100 possessions which is 50th in the nation. That’s good but like I said, it’ ain’t great. They rate as just the sixth best defense in the conference (the same conference that rates Oregon’s defense).

But what you might be able to say about their defense is that it is opportunistic. Like any intelligent entitiy, they recognize what they do well and they exploit it. It’s why Katniss Everdeen grabs the bow and Jordan Belfort grabs the blow. What UCLA does so well is get into transition. They take 29.7% of their offense in that go-mode (12th in the nation) and having watched them play, they make a very concerted effort to get into this facet of their game.

Before going into the offense – because I already defined this a defensive article and the Bruins are really effing good at the offense – I want to establish the components of UCLA’s defense and how it opportunistically feeds their offensive beast. We could break this down by a good, bad and ugly with the caveat that it’s really more like the good, less good, and meh:

The Ugly/Meh: Kyle Anderson’s goatee. Too far? Sorry. UCLA doesn’t protect the rim. They allow opponents to shoot 61.8% (260th nationally) and take more than a third of their shots there. That’ll add up.

KA HairThe Bad/Less Good: Teams manage to shoot pretty well against the Bruins. They “limit” teams to an average eFG% which is a combination of the aforementioned rim protection and a very high percentage of three pointers taken against them. Make more threes, increase your eFG%. This is essentially a matter of math but it’s an average output by the Bruins regardless. Regarding the threes, teams have been allowed to jack up 6th highest percentage of threes in the nation and they make a little bit below the average 3FG%(33.8% ranks 153).

The Good/Good: Steals! UCLA has the third highest steal percentage in the nation and has taken away 192 basketballs (interestingly that’s second most in the nation to Shaka Smart’s VCU team whom many UCLA fans thought should be the head man in Westwood because of the defense he coaches – just an interesting note). Furthermore, while the ‘less good’ section informed us that teams are making shots against the Bruins, when teams do miss, the Bruins do a pretty good job of jumping on the defensive glass. Go Joe Bruin was quick to note it isn’t necessarily a Bruin strength but they do manage to clean up alright: teams garner just 27.3% of their own misses against the powder blue (26th best in the nation).

Feeling settled on the defense? I feel like I understand it better and recognize that – again – it’s not great but it more than gets the job done. But what is the job? Traditionally a defense is built to limit the opponent. But if defense isn’t necessarily the Bruins’ strong suit, if they play more zone than a Steve Alford team is accustomed to, then the ‘job’ of the defense isn’t necessarily to stop the opponent but to accentuate the Bruins’ strengths. That’s arguably why they play more zone than man. They’re just better suited to it.

Here is a breakdown of how UCLA uses it’s defense to feed their offense:

UCLA's Transition OffenseIt’s pretty clear to me that UCLA would get a higher percentage of their transition shots off a rebound as teams are likely missing more shots than UCLA is stealing basketballs. The chart confirms that they use all those steals to ignite their fast break (12.8% of which I wish I had a national ranking). But we still don’t really have much context. Allow me another sweet graph, this time comparing the transition ignition breakdown including the next best Pac-12 transitions teams, Oregon and Colorado:

UCLA, Oregon, Colorado TransitionUCLA blows these guys out of the water in our third column (steals) while Colorado leads the break out of rebounds and Oregon out of opponent scores. The Buffaloes are great defensive rebounders. The Ducks are great opponent-letter-scorers.

But more on Steve’s team. UCLA’s offense ranks 22nd in the country by ORtg and 10th in eG%. It is their greatest strength and it is fed – as stated – by their transition offense which is fed by the aforementioned defense. The equation of it all looks a lot like this:

Steals + Defensive Rebounds = Transition Offense

Very simple, yes, and probably flawed, but this where it all gets fascinating. Steve Alford, in the Ken Pom era (since 2003) has never coached a top-100 steal percentage team. Additionally, the last two teams he coached at New Mexico didn’t come remotely close to the top of any transition offense list (ranking greater than 200th in % of offense in transition in both 2012 and 2011). Furthermore, this team’s defensive efficiency is the fifth worst amongst Alford coached teams since 2003 and the hands down best offense in that span.

What I think just happened is that I explained to us that Steve Alford is doing one helluva job. This team – a team he inherited and didn’t build but with his own son – is doing things no team of his has ever done. He recognized where and how this team could be its best and made sure to accentuate what he felt they could be best at.

I opened this piece by telling you that the defense was opportunistic. We moved our way along to discover that they used steals and defensive boards to ensure they could do what they do best. Then the journey took us down the path of discovery that Steve Alford has made adjustments, been anything but bullheaded, as the leader of the most storied basketball program in the history of the sport.

In light of such, I’m tempted to follow another tease down the judging coaches rabbit hole. But that would put us in some sort of a Catch-22/hypocrite scenario in which I’d diatribe about not judging a coach with 900 words sitting above that diatribe about what a great coach the coach we shouldn’t judge is. I’ll refrain.

Besides, Alford and his transition show just dropped a game at Utah and has one tough assignment ahead of them with Stanford and Cal coming tonight and Sunday, respectively.

And with that, I’ll transition out. The journey endures.

One Final Post on UCLA and Arizona. Victory Edition.

I wanted to know everything about that game so I spent my week scouring the numbers. I knew what UCLA would try to do. I knew what Arizona would try to do. I knew that Pauley Pavilion was going to be loud which Bryce Alford did not:

“I did not know it could get so loud in here. My teammates couldn’t hear me. I couldn’t hear myself. It was crazy.”

The point here is that teams have a definitive fingerprint. They try to do specific things that either demonstrate their strengths or expose an opponent’s weaknesses. When you can exact that strategy, in theory, you stand to be successful. You play your brand of basketball to not let them play theirs. Coaches make money for this stuff. They also get fired.

So Thursday’s game was fascinating as I threw up all over the stats trying to figure out who was going to do what to win. These two teams match up in such a way that it truly was going to boil down to execution. Who could do what they do, just better?

Arizona.

Defensively, as I told you yesterday, the Wildcats force this:

AZ Season DAnd then on Thursday they did this:

AZ UCLA DNot the same graph twice, I swear. Sure, UCLA got a touch more to the rim – a tribute to their very good ability to get in transition and force turnovers – but Arizona played their defensive game. Meaning UCLA did not play their offensive game. Against Arizona, teams are shooting an eFG% of just 40.9% – third best in the nation. UCLA meanwhile  has the ninth best eFG% in the nation (57.1%). I bet you can guess what I’m about to tell you. 43.1%. Some say like a boss. I’ll say like #1. Tomato, tomato (that idiom doesn’t play out so well in print, does it?).

But we already knew defense was Arizona’s bread and butter. That’s their strong suit. It’s their flaunted strength to get you out of your effective strategy. Whatever it may be.

But what would they do on the offensive end? UCLA was going to force Arizona to shoot threes in that zone of theirs and so Arizona went ahead and took half of their shots at the rim. Yes, the Wildcats took 26 of their 52 shots at the cylinder. I could go on – and on, and on – but if a picture’s worth 1000 words, then an Instagram video is worth $1B:

And I’m not really sure of the value of a GIF. But here’s one anyway:

AG DUNK

By the way, full credit to UCLA.

More on UCLA-Arizona: Stats!

Maybe I’m exhausting this game but as I look more and more into it, the game grows and grows in intrigue. I’ve quantified the game to an almost boring extent below but here’s the most interesting stat I’ve discovered amongst all of my research:

Not one Arizona or UCLA fan has told me their team is going to win

And how awesome is that header image? I’m about to yak forever about UCLA taking jump shots and in that picture there are TWO BRUINS TAKING JUMPERS!  Anyhow, chew on all this cud and make your own decision about who wins.

Transition Stuff: This is a part of the game I’m finding increasingly more fascinating. It projects to play out differently than the mid-range jumpers conundrum. That’s the scenario I’ve mistakenly called “unstoppable object vs. immovable force.” This feature of the game best fits that analogy as UCLA does it really well and Arizona stops it really well. See how that works? Here’s how the whole thing looks:

I don't really discuss Norman, but he's an athlete, too

I don’t really discuss Norman, but he’s an athlete, too

UCLA gets 30.8% of their offense in transition. That’s the 11th most in ‘Merica. Additionally, they have the third best steal percentage in the nation (or 11 picks per contest) which  leads to that high transition offense. They have the likes of Zach LaVine whom I will celebrate on these pages below via GIF. He’s a long athletic wing-type who can get into lanes. And jump. I’ve read and listened to and watched the Bruins’ ability to get into places they shouldn’t in order to take basketballs away from people. Jordan Adams snags the third most steals per game amongst all of the basketball players (3.5 per). The Bruins use these take aways to run out and try for easy shots. Amongst the top-25 teams getting out into transition (as per % of shots in), UCLA has the highest FG%. To break it down: steal, run, bucket. It’s pretty simple.

Meanwhile, Arizona allows teams to get into transition on just 17.4% of their possessions That’s the ninth best transition D we’ve seen this season. It’s well noted what a great rebounding team Arizona is and that helps. But here’s another stat suggesting Arizona’s defense is more Cheddar than Swiss: 13.6% of their defensive possessions are forced into the after 30 seconds of shot clock. I struggle to contextualize this as hoop-math doesn’t rank that number nationally, but because I love you guys I’ve looked through the whole Pac-12 (the things I do for us). Arizona forces the second most late possessions (Stanford leads) in the conference. One more stat regarding timing: Arizona forces the longest possessions amongst all D-1 teams. The average possession for a Wildcat opponent is 20.5 seconds per KenPom. Thursday night that number will be tested by UCLA’s seventh swiftest offense (14.6 seconds). I’m telling you guys: unstoppable force:immovable object::UCLA transition O:AZ transition D.

So what happens? I dunno, but Arizona isn’t GREAT at taking care of the basketball (a pedestrian 106th rating in TO%) so I’m seeing an opportunity for UCLA to do what they do best (stealrunbucket).

Shooting Stuff: I’ve examined this one in many places and to many faces. I’m diving into it one more time because UCLA is like kryptonite. Arizona Superman. No one shoots jumpers anymore. But the Bruins do.

Arizona plays the pack line defense. Their version of it is meant to protect the rim (15.9% of shots there) and close out on threes (29% of shots at a 28.2% FG%). That leaves the two-point jumper; neither an easy layup nor a valuable three-pointer. Teams are forced to take 54.5% of their offense there when they play the Wildcats. UCLA, meanwhile, has the fifth highest FG% on 2pt jumpers (44.7%), shoots very few threes (26.9% of their offense), and has Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. Let me elaborate on those two and it won’t take long: they make 50% of their 2-pt jumpers. To further synopsize, Arizona forces jump shots, UCLA makes jump shots. WHAT GIVES????

AZ-UCLA MathBut this is where I might want to elaborate with some less quantifiable information. Namely, I can’t explain to you that Kyle Anderson hasn’t been defended by the likes of an Aaron Gordon. He’s a 6’9″ freak athlete capable of guarding any and everything. As uniquely talented as Anderson is on the offensive side of things, Gordon is as unique on the defensive side. He and fellow freshman phenom, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, will pose a challenge of athletic length Anderson has yet to see this year. I’m also keeping an eye on this Jordan Adams character. In last season’s he touched the ball game, Adams destroyed the Wildcats: 6-13 for 24 points including 11 FTs. All in Mark Lyons’ eye because Nick Johnson was busy beheading the Bruins, holding Larry Drew II to zero points and just 4 assists. When Johnson drew the Adams straw a few weeks prior in Pauley it was a different story. Adams was 1-5 for 6 points. Yes, I’ll be keeping an eye on that matchup, too.

What’s more, UCLA is fairly effective at and around the rim. They’re connecting on greater than 65% of their shots rim-side of which 42.8% are taken. Solid stuff, but wait! There’s more! The Bruins have the second fewest percentage of shots blocked. Likely helping them get those buckets. While the Wildcats don’t block a ton of shots, they dismiss the 55th best percentage of shots. Food for Bruin thought.

More but Different Shooting Stuff: Howland talked about his team’s lack of athleticism as the reason for poor defense. He never coached Zach LaVine:

zach-levine-windmill-slam-against-missouri-b
The point here is that perhaps Alford has better embraced the overarching lack of athleticism and will play a zone. And in such a defensive schematic, Alford is willing to let teams shoot the three pointer. Teams are shooting the fifth highest percentage of threes against the Bruins (43.8%). The flip side of the coin – and the long perceived achilles heel of these Wildcats – is that they don’t shoot many threes. There are a few reasons for that:

  1. It’s thought that AZ doesn’t shoot well from deep. Reality is they have the 74th best 3FG% in the nation so they’re really not that bad at all. In fact they’re above average. They shoot the three effectively.
  2. They have a ridiculous front court that allows them to make 78.6% of their shots at the rim. That second best FG% at the rim is reason enough for the Wildcats to take more shots at the rim. To elaborate: 34.8% at the rim vs. just 25.4% from three. If I made more than three-quarters of a certain shot, I’d take mostly those.

But this is where the game gets really interesting. UCLA really doesn’t want to get beat down low. It’s why their entire team spends defensive possessions in the paint. But because Arizona won’t soon succumb to another team’s defensive philosophy, I think Brandon Ashley and Gabe York become the games most important players. Or at least offensively. You know what you’re getting out of Arizona’s backcourt: McConnell and Johnson can keep a team fairly honest from deep. Johnson does a great job slashing and can hit an open three. McConnell has shown he can hit threes (42% career 3 shooter). But he’s cold as ice since moving to Tucson, shooting just 29%. Ultimately, however, McConnell’s role is to just feed the TarAshDonAe monster. That’s why I think York, off the bench, is critical. He can keep a team like UCLA honest – a secret weapon of sorts not unlike what Kenny Kaminski did on Tuesday night for Michigan State. Off the bench, the sharp shooter played 16 minutes and went 3-4 from deep, including the go-ahead-and-never-look-back three in overtime. But York is just icing on the cake, really. He’s no defensive specialist and this game is ultimately going to be won by Arizona’s defense. Will he even see the floor? Ashley, on the other hand and to refocus on offense, is the kind of dynamic post player that can really expose UCLA’s rebounding ineptitude and lack of athleticism. Ever seen a Wear child do this:

Final Thoughts on the Matter: Is it 6pm PST yet?

Q & A with Go Joe Bruin. He Touched the Ball

Since 1985, either UCLA or Arizona has won 21 of the 28 conference titles. That’s 75% of the championships. That’s domination. That’s a rivalry. The bastions of Pac Hoops and there have been some ball games, some players, and some heat. We could play word association but I don’t’ want to watch Wildcat reactions to Gadzuric, Kapono, or Mata-Real.

I do, however, want to know more about these new look Bruins. Do we even call them that? Whatever they are, they’re Steve Alford’s baby blues now and he has two sons on the team and that’s kinda cool. And their point guard leads their team in rebounding by a per game margin of 3…so yeah, I want to learn. Enter: Go Joe Bruin, the internet’s most reasonable, insightful, and complete UCLA site. It’s different than the other kids. And their witty twitter handle. I asked, he answered. The game is at 6pm Thursday on ESPN. The rivalry rages on.

Let’s start with what Steve Alford’s preferred film room temperature is…?
It depends on a lot of things. Actually, it doesn’t. I bet he watches film cold. Freezingn. Cold.

I grew to appreciate LD2 a ton last year and his leadership and skill was a huge part of their success. In turn, that led many to wonder how the Kyle Anderson point guard experiment would go. Fourteen games deep, it looks to be going quite well. Tell us about how he makes UCLA better?
People were pining for Anderson to take over ball-handling duties last year and so it took a lot of time for fans to warm up to Larry Drew. They did warm up to him, but the expectation was that Anderson would be running the offense, coach be damned.

Well it happened, and I gotta say, overall, it works for me. He’s got pretty remarkable vision, is really damn smooth, and is really unselfish. He’s got his issues and sometimes I think he tries to do too much. The 2.27 AST/TO ratio isn’t bad, though, so maybe I’m just being picky.

Most importantly (and perhaps most surprising) has been his improved scoring skills. He’s got quite a few moves down low and we both know he’s pretty deadly I’m the mid-range game. I think what’s really scary is he can knock down threes when he’s got the open look, and that’s a part of his game that I haven’t really seen. He doesn’t do it often (confirmed by his only taking 24 three-pointers over the past 14 games) but I think it adds a dimension to his game that already makes him one of the best do-it-all point forwards I’ve ever seen.

Of course, there’s his rebounding abilities, but I have a million more questions to get to.

KyleandSteve

You’d never guess by this photo, but Steve also has his own two sons on this team

All of that said about Slow-Mo…how awesome is Jordan Adams?
Adams is awesome. He’s been awesome. He’s struggled at times – and he had an uncharacteristic shooting slump not too long ago that he shook off rather quickly – but he’s a stud.

I don’t know if UCLA has a better shooter than Adams. He’s a deadeye from there. He can stroke it with a hand in his face, off balance, in transition, on a boat, in a train, all that jazz. He’s gotten better in nearly every statistical category because he’s gotten *that* much better.

A little input from the fan base at large – a lot of fans felt he should’ve been UCLA’s first option on offense somewhere close to halfway through the season, and I think that makes sense. His production outmatched Shabazz Muhammad’s on a per-minute basis, and I’m sure he’d be getting so much more recognition now if that had been the case.

Another reason I love this matchup is that stylistically, the UCLA offense is built to beat the Arizona defense. The Bruins are terrific from mid-range and used that to torch AZ last season (3-0). This year, the Bruins are more effectively getting to the rim (LOVE YA J.ADAMS!!!!) but are still shooting the 5th best FG% from 2pt range. Meanwhile, Arizona’s third rated KenPom defense is built to force 2pt jumpers: 54.5% of shots against leads the nation and teams shooting just 32.5%. Immovable object, unstoppable force. What makes the UCLA mid-range game so effective, if not lethal?
As much as I talk trash about the Mildcats, you’re right – UCLA has all the match-ups necessary to beat Arizona, and not just once, but, oh I don’t know, three times in a season.

That’s not because Arizona sucks, but really, it’s because they’re willing to give up the most inefficient shot in the game, and that just happens to be an annoying strong-suit of UCLA’s. (Although I guess you could argue the most efficient shot in the game is an open one.)

Adams is a lock to drain those open jumpers, and we know Kyle can drill ’em, too. The Wears — when they’re picking-and-popping, a weapon that has disappeared since LDII left the team — can drain them. And now you’ve got Zach LaVine, another shooter, albeit one who is partial to threes and dunks, and Bryce Alford, who’s quickly coming to his own as a shooter and floor general.

Of course, as much as UCLA was cool with taking those mid-range jumpers, it kinda feels like this team’s tempo dictates more of its offense than it did last year. I don’t believe they’re much faster than Howland’s squad last year, but they definitely attack the basket in transition more frequently than their 2012-13 counterparts.

So yeah, to answer your question, the personnel makes the mid-range game lethal. It’s not as emphasized as it was last year and again, i think that’s largely because LDII was so quick to penetrate on pick-and-pops, but I do think Alford should specifically vitalizes that aspect of UCLA’s game against lengthy, athletic Arizona.

He did touch the ball.
He didn’t. I think we should ask Sean Miller what he thinks though, so long as we tape it.

Sean Miller He Touched the Ball

“By the way, full credit to UCLA”

The two-point jumper is one weapon, but UCLA also thrives in transition (11th highest % of their offense there). Meanwhile – and I’m about to expose this immovable/unstoppable theme – Arizona allows just the 9th highest percentage of offense in transition. How are the Bruins getting out into transition so much? How cool are Zach LaVine dunks?
I didn’t know about Arizona’s transition defense but I could’ve guessed that. They’ve done a good job against teams who want to get out on the break.

I think the one thing that people haven’t noticed about UCLA’s success in transition is the gambles they take to get out on the break, primarily on defense. UCLA is a bit ridiculous at forcing turnovers (note that they’ve got 150 steals through 14 games; that’s third in the country), and we know what happens when the perimeter guys can force turnovers.

And it’s not like UCLA is a rebounding team – this has to be the worst team in terms of rebounding I have ever seen in my life, and statistically, I’m pretty close to being right!

If Arizona really wants to stop UCLA’s uptempo offense? Take care of the ball.

All-time favorite Bruin?
All-time favorite Bruin: Darren Collison, and honorable mention to unconventional one-and-done Larry Drew II.

All-time favorite Wildcat? I know you have one. Ed O’Bannon and Darren Collison are tied for my favorite Bruins.
I like Steve Kerr. As a player, a commentator, and as a friend. (I’m not his friend yet but it’s definitely happening.)

Wear family?
Wear family. I don’t know what else you want me to say — they’re a frustrating duo that plays their asses off. I’d probably love them if they could rebound.

weartwins-600x437

<3 <3

And talk to me about the Bruins’ frontcourt. I’ve been underwhelmed and we’ve tweeted about as much. Talk about it because it’s Arizona’s strength:
You’ve been underwhelmed? Your expectations for UCLA’s front court may have been a tad unreasonable.

They’re pretty bad. Really bad, even, as long as we don’t include Kyle Anderson. In fact, he leads the team in rebounding and rebounding percentage — he’s a perimeter player.

Parker comes in as a close second in rebounding rate, but the Wear twins are well below every starter and nearly every rotation player.

I mean, they just don’t have the fundamentals down. Positioning, hands, etc. They’re rather ‘soft’ and don’t necessarily do well when grinding down low with other bigs.

Is that a key to this game though? I don’t think so. UCLA is annoyingly content with huge rebounding disparities and they even win convincingly in spite of them. They’ll beat good teams without rebounding (see: Arizona, 0-3), and I find that shocking.

When the rebounding is even, it’s almost a surefire UCLA win because they just don’t do it on a regular basis. When they’re getting boards, they create opportunities in transition and they also stop the opposing team from earning second chance shots.

But it doesn’t happen often. I don’t need stats to tell you that, and no, I’m not too lazy to look them up!

The Bruins have settled into a zone for much of their defensive season and this question is two-fold: 1) How does that make you feel? 2) Which zone has it been, primarily, and do you think it’s effective?
One of the narratives surrounding Ben Howland’s downfall was his stubbornness on defense. He kept saying his teams weren’t athletic enough to compete but he refused to play zone. We know zone defenses can mask a lot of deficiencies, and UCLA’s lack of athleticism is a deficiency that the zone can ease.

That said, too much zone, and teams adjust. The well-coached teams dismantle it within a couple of possessions, sending a ball-handler to shoot those gaps on the perimeter and make the defense collapse with penetration.

Alford doesn’t always allow that to happen – he’s been good about switching up his defenses to throw different looks at opponents. Aside from a basic man defense and and a 2-3 zone, he’s totally willing to roll with a 3-2 zone, and he’s just as willing to play ultra-aggressive man defense in both the half-court and full-court. It depends on the situation.

So why does UCLA suck so bad defensively on paper? Well part of it is that UCLA just isn’t athletic, especially down low. That’s where Arizona can and should abuse UCLA, and they should do it with reckless abandon. They should crash the offensive boards because those kill the Bruins, and they should just plop in the paint and penetrate and do all that.

Which Wildcat are you most concerned with?
I’m most concerned with the bigs. They’re really talented, really long, and really good. The points in the paint margin is going to be brutal.

Enough funny business: Tell me what happens Thursday?
Arizona wins. I question whether UCLA can exploit the mid-range game, and that’s because the pick-and-pops aren’t there like they were. If they can’t, Arizona is going to murder them inside.

Plus UCLA hasnt beaten a good team. Conference games are different, but still.

If UCLA wins? You’ll never hear the end of it. Ever.

Jordan Adams Makes Layups Not Jumpers

I’ve long felt that Jordan Adams is a tremendous basketball player. And then yesterday afternoon happened.

I was meandering through KenPom, looking at the percentage of minutes played lists. I was curious which players were getting run into the ground by their coaches. This endeavor lead me to the discovery that there are only 3 players taller than 6’6″ on the top-100 of %min played list. Big men can’t run. But back to Adams.

The primary Player Stats page defaults to ORtg and I saw Jordan Adams at the top of it. I didn’t think too much of it as I spend a lot of time around Pac-12 stats and he tends to be at the top of a lot of lists. What’s more, he’s alphabetically inclined to top lists. But as I dug down my %min worm hole, I realized that Jordan Adams was atop the national ORtg list.

 

My oh my that’s impressive. I’ve said it in many places but Jordan is one of my favorite players in the conference and it came as no major surprise that he led in this category. Last season he put up a highly respectable 114.9 ORtg which out ORtg’d even the great Shabazz Muhammad.

Now quickly let us be clear that he leads in ORtg amongst players with at least 28% of possessions used. Which is to say that he’s the best offender amongst the players making the most offense.

But here’s where things begin to get interesting.

We’ve all raved about Adams’ mid-range game. And it’s good. He built last season’s formidable 114.9 rating by taking 39% of his shots in that range. Like we said, he’s a sound mid-ranger and one would expect that talent to continue into this season. Let’s take a look:

JordanAdamsShooting

First let’s confirm that in 2012-13 Jordan was a good mid-range shooter. He took 39% of his shots from there and hit 45.1% of them. It was the highest 2pt FG% on the team aside from Josh Smith’s 1-of-2 shooting and Sooren Derboghosian’s 1-of-1. Mid-range, indeed.

But here’s where things get really interesting.

We expected Adams to continue to hit his pull ups and floaters. Knock down jumpers in Alford’s pro-style sets. But look at the size of the red slice in 12-13 versus 13-14. He’s halved the number of two point jumpers he’s taking. A season ago he wow-ed us with 39% mid-range offense and now he’s taken that two-fifths of offense to the rack!!!!

We spent the entire off-season talking about how slashing guards like Carson and Dinwiddie would benefit from rule changes intended to “open the game up.” Well those two continue to do their thing. Not a ton has changed, the rules just supplemented their game.

But what we’re seeing with Jordan Adams is the game actually opening up. Perhaps a step slow last season, he now has the freedom to get past a defender and connect at the rim. His ORtg sky rockets and he gets easy buckets.

Further demonstrating Adams’ transformation and genius is that his FTA/FGA rate has improved by a gaudy 21.9 percentage points (41.5% –> 63.4%). Carson’s is actually down 13.3 points and Dinwiddie is just stupid. Last season he had the 19th best FT rate at 76.7% and he’s now 16th at 102.6%. Holy charity stripe.

What Pac-12 teams must concern themselves with, however, is that while Adams is taking fewer 2-point jumpers – which are traditionally considered a “good shot” for the defense – he’s currently connecting on 52.5% of them. From three he’s upped his FG% to 37% and I suppose it goes without saying but his FG% at the rim is high. How high? He shoots 67% at the rim which leads me to the question:

What can’t Jordan Adams do?

Note: This piece would not be possible without the glorious insights of hoop-math.com. Go there and have your mind blown.

Arizona on the break, Oregon Transfers, Pace

We prognosticated and assumed and ran with things that coaches or scouts told us before the season started. That’s well and good but now’s the time to begin the accountability train. Let’s take a look at a few thoughts I (we?) want to keep an eye on as the season progresses and what we’re learning about them.

Arizona in transition –

All the pre-season long we’ve glowed about Arizona’s need and ability to get out into transition. That they’d struggle from distance but that the team’s true strength came in the form of defensive length and  versatility which would lead to easy transition buckets. #LOBPUEBLO. So I took to hoop-math.com, paid the more-than-worth-it-$15 subscription to discover that Arizona ranks 117th in % of total FGA in transition. That seemed low. They’re getting just 21% of their shots in transition. The Cats are, however, pretty damn efficient at these buckets, dropping a 73.4% eFG (16th in the nation). #LOBPUEBLO. Anecdotally, Arizona sure seemed to get into transition last night against Fairleigh Dickinson in the most lopsided Wildcat win since Arizona’s coach had white hair – and was a good. Against FDU, the Wildcats took 26.5% of their shots (18) in transition, or slightly above the D-1 average. NOTE: This is not cause for concern. It’s just a notice that perhaps Arizona’s strength isn’t necessarily in transition. Or it isn’t their happy place or primary means of points. Whatever the case, Arizona seems to be effectively using its size, taking just 22% of their shots from beyond the arc and have the 14th best offensive rebounding percentage.

The pace of play in Westwood and Tempe –

Steve Alford’s Bruins have jumped out to a blistering 72.8 possessions per game. That’s 57th best in the nation and the fastest UCLA team since Bruins Nation on the Alford hiring. For further context, only Howland’s last team outpaced the rest of the nation; playing 3.6 more possessions than the average D-1 team. Every other Howland season played below the D-1 average pace including his best team, 2008, which operated at 65.6 vs. 67. We all knew he was slow and many complained that Alford was too despite a UCLA coaching hunt for a “different style.” Thus far – and I’m acutely aware of the infancy of this season – Steve’s baby blue baby bears are burnin’ the floor and Kyle Anderson is comfortable at the point.

Meanwhile, in the land of Herb, he’s been talking about picking up the pace since he had back-to-back seasons without reaching the teens in wins. Last season was really the beginning of it but did you know the Sun Devils were only average in the tempo department? The 2013 D-1 average was 65.9 while the Herbivores got 65.8 possessions. But improvement – increased pace in this case – is relative to the Herb system, right? Let’s look. In his previous six Tempe seasons, the Sen Devils put up an average tempo of 61.9. In 2013 they jumped that number by 6% to get to the Jahii-led, blistering tempo of 65.8. That’s significant and this year they’ve upped the anti to 71.2 possessions. Perhaps Herb’s 3-12-24 is working?

Assimilation of the transfer Duck –

Points Rebounds Assists ORtg %Poss %Shots
Mike Moser 20.5 6 3 143.1 21.6 32.7
Joseph Young 30 5.5 1.5 156.3 26.3 26.8
Jason Calliste 10.5 2.5 3.5 131.9 17.9 11.9

Next subject.

Getting to know UCLA: Who cares if they’re slow

We’re all getting to know UCLA right now. Will they play fast? Well? With a point guard? Recruit well? Collapse? Thrive? With Steve Alford at the helm, I’m fascinated. And it’s not so much an Alford thing as it is a UCLA thing. Alas, he’s in charge and he’s only going to be successful if he’s allowed to be his own man. He had that at New Mexico whereas at Iowa, it seemed he was still that hot shot Indiana kid, biding his time to take the lead chair in Bloomington. He never quite got it going there. But now he has no other chairs to fill. This is it. Steve Alford has reached the pinnacle of college basketball coaching – by way of job title – and it’s one of the most unique jobs around. The nameplate in his office drips with history and the expectations of a pyramid that he must uphold. A glorious set of standards but not necessarily Steve’s. Step one is surely to respect that history and embrace himself. Prepare yourself for me to opine on this a lot in the coming months.

Why I love them: The mid-range game is a dying art and understandably so. It’s the longest distance from the basket with the lowest reward (2 points). That’s high risk, low reward. There are defenses designed (like the packline at Arizona) to force teams into shooting mostly in this area. Last year, the Wildcats forced 39% of shots from that range. UCLA, meanwhile, took 44% of their shots in that range (compared to 29% at the rim and 24% beyond the arc). Subsequently the Bruins swept the Wildcats in three games. MATH! And the man I want to highlight here is Jordan Adams. He’s a terrific talent that got lost behind Shabazz and his very similar game. Did you know Adams made zero post-season lists? I mean, honorable mention all-freshmen, sure, but damn. Welcome back Pac? He’s one of seven returning Pac players to score 15ppg last year. He’s going to score in bunches and greatly utilize that 2-pt jump shot. Last year he took 40% of his shots from there and made them at a 45% clip – the highest rate of any contributing Bruin (only Josh Smith, yes that guy, and Tony Parker had higher FG% there). Now it’s worth noting here that there was a regime change in Westwood – I’m not sure if you noticed – and so one might wonder if that will have an effect on the Bruins’ style of play. The short answer is: duh. However, with regards to what we’ve been discussing here, we can peak at New Mexico’s shot distribution. In 2012-13 the Lobos took about 36% of their shots from 2pt jumper-town. Alford offenses are generally deliberate and predicated on set plays, getting a shooter – say, Jordan Adams? – an open jump shot. Conclusive? Hardly, but if you’re touting a team who’s primary ball handler is likely to be a 6’9″ bad three point shooter and that has the Wear family, I imagine there will continue to be jumpers abound in Westwood.

Why I hate them: Kyle Anderson is a very talented basketball player. That’s not why I hate the Bruins, mind you. Kyle’s so talented that this is his final season at UCLA. It’s yet to be determined if he can be the primary ball handler – as I think he’ll need to be – for a highly competitive basketball team but that doesn’t really concern me. Kyle Anderson at the 1 is a defensive liability and defense is the cornerstone of Steve Alford teams. He’s never coached a team who’s AdjD didn’t rank in the top-100. He’s also never coached a team without a direction in its name to the sweet sixteen (Southwest Missouri State, 1999 S16). No one is soon to call Jordan Adams a stopper. Same with the Wear family (who by the way are remarkably solid basketball players with roles escalated beyond what they’re equipped to produce). Norman Powell is a great athlete and might be their best defensive player but ultimately, I’m not certain this group of Bruins can play the excellent defense that’s going to be asked of them.

Stat you need to know:

1.3

Percent increase in AdjT between Steve Alford’s last 11 seasons (67.11) as compared to Ben Howland’s last 11 seasons (66.22). Personally, I think style of play is overrated. One of my favorite hoops fans has little to no problem annually cheering his Badgers to 24 wins on about 60 possessions/game. Winning is all that matters. I’ll judge Steve’s left column.

In their words: Making his PacHoops debut here, Luc Bergevin brings some fresh UCLA perspective as all things become new again in Westwood. Read more of his good word at The Stoop Kids

And so year one of the Alford experiment gets underway. Coach Alford was not the guy many of us wanted, (that would be Stevens, Donovan, Pitino, Shaka, etc.) but he’s the coach we’ve got, and so we support him. I especially like his hiring of assistant coach Ed Schilling, who previously ran Adidas Nations and has great credibility as a clinician. I could also see Alford being a guy the players get up for, which is something we sorely lacked in the last few years of the Howland regime.

We’ve got solid depth on the wings, but the questions this season hinge on who will be running the point and who will separate themselves down low. For my money, I hope we see Kyle Anderson as the primary ball handler, with Wanaah Bail and Tony Parker getting meaningful minutes over the same old Wears. Be ready for quick and loud cries of nepotism should the young Bryce Alford get too many minutes at the point without stunning success.

I think the overall athleticism of this team is improved from last year, especially if my hopes for the post come to fruition. Alford is not the stubborn gruff Howland was, so I expect to see more zone on the defensive side of the ball. I love the athletic upside of freshman combo guard Zach Lavine, and I think this could be the year things finally click for Norman Powell. I don’t know exactly where to set my expectations for this year, and that may set up for a pleasant surprise as the season unfolds.

Quotable:

“Steve Alford fails in an epic fashion in the recruiting trail in his first year by striking out with all key point guard recruits in his first year at UCLA, possibly making him a damaged good for rest of his time in Westwood.” – Bruins Nation

Outlook: By no stretch do I dislike this team. I’m not sold on their top asset, defense, but I love Jordan Adams and while Kyle Anderson may be porous on the defensive end, he’s a matchup nightmare offensively and has no bones exploiting that: “Some games I’m going to be asked to score the ball more or go inside and rebound more. And I’m willing to.” As I’ve stated ad nauseum, I love seniors, and David and Travis will be hometown seniors. Their long and unique collegiate journey is coming to an end. How will they be remembered? They won’t soon be remembered as Bruin legends but they’re damn fine ball players. I imagine the Bruins to be one of six Pac-12 teams dancing in March.

Now You Get to Say Goodbye to Kyle Anderson

Allow me to introduce you to the Kyle Anderson Road Show.

Monday afternoon it was made known that Kyle and his family felt that this would likely be his final season at UCLA. That he’s improved his deficiencies and could be hitting a few more jumpers. Or at least consistently (last year he shot 35% on 2pt jumpers and just 21% from distance). I read about it on the Worldwide Leader:

“Kyle has made great strides in his mental approach to the game and his work ethic since being at UCLA,” his father, Kyle Anderson Sr., told ESPN.com. “The major deficiencies in his overall game are his lack of strength, quickness and explosion, and inconsistent shooting. We feel that both of which can be addressed more efficiently with more time and repetition. It’s more than likely that it will be time for Kyle to move on at the end of this college season.”

Now, every chance you get to see Kyle Anderson is a fleeting one. The powder blue swan song. Kyle’s last game in Pauley will be Sunday, March 2 against Oregon State. His last trip to Corvallis will be February 2. He’ll never play in McKale ever again.

But does this perhaps highlight issues already in the Westwood? Is Kyle Anderson unhappy with the Korey McCray off staff? Is he bickering with Jordan Adams or BRYCE? Has Dollar Shave Club been slipping him cash (or at least razors I hope)?

Come on! I’m better than that.

Kyle is a good player but probably not league ready. Maybe he did find a consistent jumper. Maybe the Bruins’ lack of a point guard is no lack at all but rather Kyle’s path to display more of his skill set, in which case go for it. We all watched as Grant Jerrett was picked up and it’s still unclear whether he’s ready.

STORYLINE WATCH: What if he doesn’t have a great 2013-14? Or even just a good one? Does he have to go? Obviously he doesn’t but I question if he’s setting himself up to fail here? Which subsequently alerts the is-he-unhappy or behind-closed-doors radar. I don’t want to speculate on that but this does put additional pressure on what’s already shaping up to be a unique season in Pauley. Of course it can’t get much stranger than last year but they’re without a voice of leadership reason (LD2) and he’s playing for a brand new coach. I’m just saying, there’s a lot going on this season in Westwood, is this just one more unnecessary thing to worry about? (short answer is yes)

For the record, I was impressed that Anderson filled the role the Bruins needed last year. He boarded because they needed bodies down low. It worked. This year, in the absence of LD2 or any other experienced or skilled primary ball handler, he’ll be relied upon to distribute and initiate offense. A true point-forward who might be best suited just dumping the ball to Jordan Adams.

Anderson is not listed on any 2014 1st Round NBA Mock Drafts. As it’s widely known that this is a loaded draft, it seems strange for a positionless talent to consider himself ready to play with the big boys. And to announce such before playing a single game following the aforementioned deficiency fixing begging the question: Did he fix it?

He’s ultimately going to be a very good player for the 2013-14 Bruins. I’m just not sold on him being on a 2014-15 NBA bench.

But hey, one time there was a Bruin who said this was going to be his last and that turned in to the 1975 national title. The announcement came in the press conference following the national semi-final. The Bruin? The Bruin, John Wooden.

Jordan McLaughlin Picks USC and the Battle for LA is On

Jordan McLaughlin – the four or five or four star PG out of Southern California (Etiwanda) – is staying in SoCal. USC to be exact. Not UCLA to be inexact.

And this had many a-person surprised as McLaughlin was the top available PG prospect on the West Coast. And because UCLA’s current roster is sans PG with no incoming class-o-13 help. And because former UCLA star, Darren Collison, also attended Etiwanda High. And because…well…it’s USC?

In what’s been the most notable if not first head-to-head recruiting battle in the Enfield-Alford era of Los Angeles, Enfield wins. Which is what’s got everyone up in arms and has offered some the opportunity to further question the hiring of Alford. Here he’s missed out on a local prospect of promising talent at the position he most coveted. On the surface this appears to not only be a mano-e-mano loss to a bitter rival, but also failure to complete a roster. Ouch.

Now all week I’ve found myself mired in a myriad of Pac-12 coaching rankings. You can read a good one here. The one component that consistently arises in these debates is where to rank Mr. Alford. Most want to push him right down to the latter half of lead men, swimming with the Bones and Robinsons of the Pac (for the record he ranks fifth on my list based on career achievement and program expectations). By many accounts, he’s already hated and he’s destined to fail – if he hasn’t already. Yet amidst these conversations I contemplated the devil’s advocacy.

He’s won 385 games (3rd most in the Pac). He’s danced seven times (3rd most in the Pac). He’s won five NCAA tournament games (5th most in the Pac). He’s won four conference titles. He’s coaching his own damn son!

And then McLaughlin chose to Fight On and my position was dissolved, the discussion continuing to pile on Alford and a far-from-grace-UCLA program. The opening line to the Los Angeles Times’ article on the commitment:

UCLA‘s drought in attracting top-rated talent at point guard continues.

Before ever breaking any news, the Times was already dumping along with everyone else.

But let’s, for a second, refrain from dogging the coach everyone loves to hate and recognize that the Battle for Los Angeles is on. Andy Enfield and all 41 of his career wins has waltzed into town and won the first battle. Competition begets success so how can we not see this as a possible tipping point for UCLA? Or at least the wake up call that never rang on Ben Howland’s phone?

Alas, this should be more about kudos to Enfield and staff. They have their first major piece of the Galen Dunk Center:

And while it’s beyond evident that the UCLA job is a coveted gig, it is by no means an easy one. This Trojan splash serves as exhibit A that it’s only getting tougher.

I played devil’s advocate in ranking the Pac-12 coaches because Steve Alford is a good coach. I applaud Andy Enfield’s first recruiting success – a coups if you’re willing to accept that LA is Alford’s to lose – because it’s a great pick up.

But to cite this as Alford’s ineptitude is premature. He’s no doubt got a battle on his hands but maybe we see how this thing plays out? Or at least for a little more than 5 months?

After all, UCLA’s next coach needs to fail in Boston first, right?