Jet versus RayJul 12
If you live in Boston, you “get” to consume Boston sports media. This is a treat. Although, the Boston Media (BM for short, you guys) is rightfully satirized nationwide, there’s no more unintentionally entertaining sports market in the US. Exhibit A is the “Beer-and-Chicken” fiasco that dominated the BM for 2 solid months last fall.
So, when Ray Allen signed with Miami this past weekend, the BM did not miss the opportunity to show off its rabid glory. There was outrage: “Ray’s a traitor!” There was sadness: “I’m gonna really miss him, he was my favorite player.” There was spite: after all this is the same market that tarred and feathered Terry Francona when he left. There was the “good-riddance” crowd: “If he doesn’t want to be here, we don’t want him anyway!”
But it seems like there was one thing missing: a measured analytical response. Only a few days earlier, the Celtics acquired Jason Terry, a very good NBA player who plays a little bit like Ray Allen. Not many people were talking enough about that. So, as a temporary Bostonian (Cambridgian, technically speaking), I thought I could contribute to the Ray Allen discourse by comparing Jason Terry and Ray Allen. The simple fact is Terry will be replacing Ray’s minutes and his shots, and at this stage it is worthwhile to evaluate them in tandem.
First off, many people may not be aware that Jason Terry has a higher Player Efficiency Rating than Ray Allen. With a PER of 15.8, Jet ranks as the 12th best shooting guard in the NBA; Ray Allen is 25th with a 14.8. Also, Ray is 2 years older than Jason; Ray will be 37 next year, Jet will be 35. One more thing to consider: Jason Terry is a 6th man - he thrives in that role. With the emergence of Avery Bradley last season, the Celtics can rest assured that Terry will be comfortable in that 6th-man role; this may not have been the case with Ray.
Anyway, on to the analytics. Let’s start with where they shoot. I mentioned earlier that these guys have similar offensive styles; when we look at their shooting clusters this idea is confirmed. Both guys love to shoot from beyond the arc, especially in the corners and along the wings. Both players exhibit fairly symmetric 3-point shooting tendencies, with one big difference: Terry shoots more than Ray these days. Jason Terry averaged about 14 field goal attempts per game, Ray averaged a career-low 11 in 2011-2012. Ray’s favorite shot is the left corner 3, where he is incredible. Jet prefers the wings; over half of his 3-point attempts come from the wing. However, he was the 9th best corner-3 shooter in the NBA last season. Ray was number 1.
Another big difference in these two charts is in the midrange: Jet is much more active in the midrange than Ray. 40% of Jason Terry’s field goal attempts occur in the midrange; that number for Ray is much closer to 30%. The midrange is very important to the Celtics offense (Bass, Garnett, et.al. 2012).
But what about efficiency? Considering that Ray Allen is perhaps the most efficient jump shooter in NBA history, it’s a credit to Jet that this is even a conversation. Ray is obviously a beast from that left corner, and along the right wing; Jason Terry’s hot spots are almost a mirr0r-image of Ray’s: he prefers the right corner and the left wing.
I’ve highlighted the major differences here. Basically in the green areas, I see Terry as the better scorer; in the black areas, I give the edge to Ray. The basic ideas are that Ray is a slightly better 3-point shooter than Jet, but Jet is a much better midrange scorer at this stage than Ray.
When we conduct a zone-by-zone comparison we see these guys excel at different places. Each guy is #1 in the league from 1 particular spot: Ray is #1 from the left corner where he shoots 57%, Jet is #1 from the right longish baseline area, where he shoots 60%. Beyond that, both of these guys have fairly similar shooting numbers around the court; of course I give a slight edge to Ray Allen, who is my favorite shooter ever, but again, I’m not sure if people realize that Jason Terry is also an elite shooter.
Next year will be fun to watch how these guys play in their new cities, and in their new systems. Miami proved that it can get open looks from the corners during the playoffs (Battier shot 50 corner 3′s during the playoffs; he made 30% of them); Ray will knock those down over half the time. Similarly, with Rondo running the show, Boston has proven it can get guys great looks at their hot spots in the midrange; I expect to see Jet shooting a lot of open jumpers from that right-side baseline area.