A New Way of Looking at Team Performance: Power and Finesse Rankings
By John Krolik, @krolikjohn July 28, 2022
This is my first year covering the BIG3. There are a ton of reasons why I love doing it. I’ll share two of them with you today. The first one is the joy of covering a sport that’s so young. This is only the fifth season of FIREBALL3. There’s no telling how the sport will evolve in the years to come, and that’s really exciting.
The second reason is that there are only six games a week, and each game only lasts approximately an hour. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to watch more FIREBALL3. However, the comparatively light schedule allows me to do something people who cover other sports aren’t able to. I get to watch every single possession of every single game. That means I can get a pretty good sense of what every team is doing without having to rely too heavily on numbers.
Still, I do like numbers, especially when they’re of the fairly simple variety. To me, the best analytics consist of “hey, here’s some data on a thing we didn’t or weren’t able to count before.”
With that in mind, I decided to try and find which teams rely the most on smash-mouth basketball to be successful and which ones rely on finesse. I decided to make the amount of 3’s a team has made and how many assists they’ve totaled my “Finesse” factors, and offensive rebounds and free throw attempts my “Power” factors.
I quickly figured out that instead of creating a list of which teams relied the most on power and which relied more on finesse, it was best just to create a profile of each team. The only “advanced statistic” I created was to smash a team’s rank in the respective power and finesse categories to make a crude score for each, but I want to make it clear that it is not something that should be relied on as any sort of definitive analysis.
Also, since four teams have been eliminated from playoff contention and will not play the last two games of the regular season, this was the last week I could do this sort of analysis with every team on the same level.
Without further ado, let’s get to the team profiles:
3 Headed Monsters:
27 3s Made (5th in the BIG3), 45 Assists (T-4th), “Finesse Score” (5+4) of 9, tied for 2nd in the BIG3
41 Free Throw Attempts (2nd in the BIG3), 24 Offensive Rebounds (8th), “Power Score” (2+8) of 10, tied for 5th in the BIG3
The Three-Headed Monsters are a balanced team, and an extremely good one. The only area where they pop off the page is free throw attempts. That’s largely due to league leading scorer Kevin Murphy’s ability to get to the line at will. They’re a bit low on the offensive rebounding charts, but to be fair they don’t miss all that many shots.
18 3s Made (8th), 43 Assists (6th), “Finesse Score” of 16 (T-6th)
29 FT Attempts (T-7th), 21 Offensive Rebounds (9th), “Power Score” of 16 (8th)
Up until Week 5, this was not a good team. They relied far too little on moving the ball and far too much on Michael Beasley, and big man Julian Wright was struggling to get involved. They seemed to have turned a major corner in their Week 5 destruction of the Ghost Ballers, and their ranks are catching up.
They’re still dead-last in 3s made and finesse rank overall. A lot of that can be attributed to how many isolation plays they ran for Michael Beasley, who’s currently shooting 15.4% from three-point range this season.
29 3s Made (T-4th), 63 Assists (1st), “Finesse Score” of 5 (1st)
33 FT Attempts (5th), 53 Offensive Rebounds (1st), “Power Score” of 6 (2nd)
So yeah, the Aliens are really good. Anyone who’s watched them play this year won’t be surprised they lead the league in assists, as their European-style offense is predicated on ball movement and man movement.
When they do miss, they do a better job than anyone else of getting an extra possession, mostly thanks to Deshawn Stephens, who has a 7’3 wingspan, the ability to get off the floor in the blink of an eye, and a nose for the ball.
What’s really scary is that this team is this good even though they haven’t been connecting from outside. Captain Dusan Bulut, whom I called the best shooter in the league coming into the season, finally got over the 30% mark from deep after his Week 6 performance, and is currently shooting 34.1% from three-point range. Co-Captains Karlis Lasmanis and Tomislav Ivosev are shooting 24.1% and 14.3% from three, respectively. Adam Drexler is 1-5 from three-point range. Stephens is shooting an impressive 42.9% from outside, but he’s only made six threes this season.
If this team can continue to move the ball and clean the glass the way they have been and start getting perimeter shots to fall, I’m not sure it will be possible to stop them.
Ball Hogs (Eliminated):
23 3s Made (T-8th), 44 Assists (5th), “Finesse Score” of 12 (5th)
20 FT Attempts (9th), 41 Offensive Rebounds (2nd), “Power Score” of 11 (6th)
Hard not to feel bad for the Ball Hogs. The timing was never right for them this season, and now it looks like Team Captain Leandro Barbosa may miss significant time with a lower leg injury. With Barbosa out, it’ll be much harder for them to rack up assists. I was surprised by this team’s offensive rebounding prowess – that could be something to build on going forward.
30 3s Made (3rd), 24 Assists (10th), “Finesse Score” of 12 (T-4th)
46 FT Attempts (1st), 35 Offensive Rebounds (3rd), “Power Score” of 4 (1st)
Not the team I would have expected to have the highest “Power Score,” but I suppose it makes sense. Gerald Green is a phenomenal rebounder for a wing and gets to the line, Corey Brewer is a pure slasher, and Jeff Ayres may be the most physically imposing center in the league.
The Bivouac offense is a bit of a one-man show at present. Since Green can get a good look whenever he wants one, Bivouac is iso-heavy, and they’re one of only two teams with less than 30 assists at this point in the season.
26 3s Made (6th), 23 Assists (10th), “Finesse Score” of 16 (T-6th)
30 FT Attempts (4th), 26 Offensive Rebounds (T-5th), “Power Score” of 9 (T-3rd)
Oh, the Enemies. Since “losing” Elijah Stewart to the Pelicans’ Summer League team after his epic performance against Bivouac in Week 2, this team hasn’t had it going. They rely almost entirely on shotmaking, which isn’t ideal. They’re dead last in assists, and are tied with 3’s Company for the worst “Finesse Score” in the league. They do a solid job inside, thanks mostly to Isaiah Austin, a 7’1 center with serious athleticism who currently leads the BIG3 in blocks.
36 3s Made (1st), 39 Assists (T-8th), “Finesse Score” of 9 (T-2)
17 FT Attempts (10th), 30 ORB (T-5th), “Power Score of 15 (T-7)
This is what it looks like when you have players far too content to sit out on the perimeter. Chris Johnson may well be the most talented player in the league, and was giving teams fits early in the year with his combination of size and skill. Later, he resigned himself to being a high-volume outside shooter, and the team suffered for it, especially as Mike Taylor got less possessions. In Week 6, the ultra-high energy Taylor was back to being the primary playmaker. Also, Coach George Gervin put Darnell Jackson on the bench, shifting Johnson from a supersized wing to a big with impressive skills, which I think suits him better. We’ll see if they can carry that over into Week 7.
25 3s Made (7th), 48 Assists (3rd), “Finesse Score” of 10 (T-2nd)
34 FT Attempts (T-4th), 29 Offensive Rebounds (T-4th), “Power Score” of 12 (T-4th)
Considering the Killer 3s’ primary action is Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session finding a way to get the ball into the teeth of the defense, everything pretty much checks out here.
Session trails Dusan Bulut for the league lead in assists by just one, and Donte Greene’s smooth stroke keeps the floor nicely spaced. Greene is a bit perimeter-oriented for a big man, but Frank Nitty is somehow third in the league in rebounds, so their solid rebounding numbers make sense.
21 3s Made (9th), 60 Assists (2nd), “Finesse Score” of 11 (T-3rd)
30 FT Attempts (6th), 32 Offensive Rebounds (T-4th), “Power Score” of 10 (T-5th)
This is a team built around some unique talents. 6’8 Royce White is tied with Frank Nitty for 2nd in the league in assists and serves as the team’s de facto point guard, but also loves to bully defenders in the post and has yet to make a three-pointer this season. TJ Cline has a knack for cutting and passing, and can stretch the floor. The team prefers to look for actions and passes that lead to layups instead of looking for free throws or perimeter shots. Some unique talents, very fun to watch, and some numbers that would seem out of place next to each other if you weren’t familiar with the team.
34 3s Made (2nd), 39 Assists (T-8th), “Finesse Score” of 10 (T-2nd)
29 FT Attempts (T-7th), 19 Offensive Rebounds (10th), “Power Score” of 17 (8th)
Now here’s a team squarely on one end of the spectrum. Tri State is a perimeter-oriented team, and they don’t make apologies for it. They’re dead-last in both offensive rebounds and “Power Score.” Their starting lineup includes one of the only true point-guard sized players in the league in the 6’0 Justin Dentmon. Their other two starters, Jason Richardson and DaJuan Summers, are both swingmen.
What makes Tri State work is that they have tons of discipline. (When Coach Julius Erving talks, players listen.) They rarely go into iso-ball or get suckered into taking tough shots, with the exception of Dentmon, who makes his living on draining seemingly impossible shots, specifically his patented one-footed three-pointer.
Also, the trio of Richardson, Summers, and Dentmon are all dead-eye shooters. Unfortunately, Tri State’s perimeter-oriented style caught up to them in the last two weeks, when they shot 2-14 and 5-15 from three point range, and lost both games while getting pounded on the boards. More than any other team in the league, Tri State is a make or miss ballclub.
23 3s Made (T-8th), 45 Assists (T-4th), “Finesse Score” of 12 (T-4th)
37 FT Attempts (3rd), 28 Offensive Rebounds (T-6th), “Power Score” of 9 (T-4th)
If I had to pick the most smash-mouth team in the league based on the “eye test,” I’d definitely go with Trilogy. Isaiah Briscoe shot the ball extremely well in Week 5, but he’s far more confident in the paint than he is on the perimeter. Amir Johnson is an absolute monster down low, and leads the league with a hilarious shooting percentage of 76.9%. Maybe the reason this team doesn’t have many offensive rebounds is because Briscoe and Johnson so rarely miss when they get a layup opportunity.
29 3s Made (T-4rd), 42 Assists (7th)), “Finesse Score” of 11 (T-3rd)
21 FT Attempts (8th), 26 Offensive Rebounds (7th), “Power Score” of 15 (T-7th)
Another team very squarely on one end of the spectrum. The explanation is fairly simple. This team is generally built around the scoring prowess of Joe Johnson. However, Johnson took a backseat to the sharpshooting Pargo Brothers when they both caught fire in the Triplets’ 50-33 demolition of the Aliens in Week 2, and with Johnson out since week 3, the Pargo Brothers have continued to run the show.
With “Iso-Joe” out, Coach Lisa Leslie has adjusted her offense, which is now built around pick-and-rolls with one of the Pargo Brothers and Ryan Hollins, who can get to the rim and slam it home as well as anyone in the league. That’s helped the Triplets rack up more assists than they do with their Captain present. The pick-and-rolls with Hollins have actually been executed so well the defense has rarely had a chance to foul him, which would help explain the team’s low number of free throw attempts.
So there you have it – every team in the league, how much power and finesse they play with, and why.