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Introducing Synergy (and why opponents should screen Will Bynum more)

I’ve holding off an writing about this for a while – because it’s so awesome. The TrueHoop Network has been given access to Synergy, a video scouting service. Every time I’ve opened it, I’ve been drawn in and spent a significant amount of time watching plays. With work, I had to put it away for a while.

Here’s an example of what I’ve learned:

Will Bynum doesn’t fight through screens

Will Bynum allowed 1.24 points per play when his man took him off a screen last year. There were only 25 such plays all season, so Bynum didn’t have enough data to rank on Synergy’s database. But for perspective, the Pistons allowed .88 points per play of that type, 16th in the league

With Synergy, I could easily call up video to watch every time Bynum was in that situation – and it wasn’t pretty.

Bynum shows absolutely no ability to fight through screens, and opponents almost always ended up making an open jumper. Even when they missed, they had good looks.

And double screens? Forget about it. Bynum ran in a giant loop to avoid contact, completely taking him out of the play.

His defense in this situation is so bad that I question how how much value he really has this summer.

The caveat

I think the previous example shows what’s great about Synergy. Bynum wasn’t taken off enough screens to really make me notice this deficiency during the season. But because of the way Synergy sorts its data, I could watch every play like that in a row and learn something.

But only plays that end with a shot, turnover or free throws are included. Maybe Bynum is great at covering his man off screens, closing on him and taking his shot away. When this happens it’s not included. And of course, when he makes the play well, his man is far less likely to shoot.

So, this data may be skewed against Bynum. But he looked so terrible in the videos, I doubt it. You’d think sometimes he’d cover the play well, and his man would shoot anyway. But that maybe happened once.

So, I think I learned something, but I don’t think I can say Synergy is a be-all, end-all for this type of analysis.

What this means to you

I will use Synergy in the analysis you read on this site , but if you want to see it for yourself, you can. You can go to Synergy and sample what it offers for two players: LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire.

If you want to go further, it costs $29.95 to sign up. If you’re a die-hard or are writing about basketball, it may be worth it. Honestly, if you’re only a casual fan, it’s probably not (although as Synergy continues to enhance its system, that may change).

Of course, if you have any tips about what I should investigate with Synergy, please drop a note in the comments or e-mail me (danfeld11[at]gmail[dot]com).


  • May 25, 20109:56 pm
    by Tads


    That synergy thing sounds cool.  It’d be cool to see just how bad Charlie V is post defense and helpside and pick and roll.  I also think it’d be cool to do some kind of measure of rodney stuckey on isolations, and as a pick and roll ball handler, and in transition and how that compares to other point guards.
    It might be cool just to do a general profile of the pistons on offense and defense and how that compares to the numbers the celtics have put up in the last couple games, just because that has been the grittiest, most piston-esque performance in the playoffs.

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  • May 26, 201010:09 am
    by khandor



    There are several reasons why I have said over the last 2 seasons that the Pistons would be best served to trade Will Bynum. What you’ve outlined in this entry explains one of them. Despite what casual NBA observers might think, astute watchers of the NBA game know that Will Bynum is a defensive liability as a possible starting PG.

    When Will Bynum plays well as an individual … invariably the Pistons play poorly as a team. In general, this is a sure-fire sign that Will is not the type of player which a top tier team would want to have as their main-frame PG.
    PS. What casual observers can pick up from watching “Synergy” is what astute observers can already see with their own two eyes when looking at a NBA game, live or on videotape.

    • May 26, 20108:25 pm
      by Dan Feldman


      Khandor, first of all, I think many casual observers have similar feelings about Bynum being a defensive liability against starting point guards. But I think most people are evaluating him as a backup, and he stacks up a little better there.
      I think the Pistons playing poorly when Bynum plays well has been an issue at times. But before his ankle injuries, Bynum played really well this year — and in ways that helped the team. He passed, rebounded and defended better than he ever had. Maybe that waos to small of a sample, or maybe his injuries limited him, but his play wasn’t the same afterward. I’m not sure, given what he showed early in the season, I would give up on him.
      As far as Synergy, one thing it does well is remove the human element. If someone makes a shot over Bynum, you might think he’s too short to contest jumpers well. If it happens again, you really start to believe it. And on and on. I think a lot of the time, those type of observations tend to be correct. But not always. I think it’s human nature to recall every time someone make a shot over Bynum and discount the times he forces a miss as aberrations. But Synergy allows you to watch every play in a row and confirm (or occasionally, challenge) your belief without the detriment of selective memory.
      In addition, Synergy provides detailed statics. From watching games, can you tell me if Bynum is better when his opponent takes him off a screen off the ball or when he’s defending the pick-and-roll? Obviously, he leaves a lot to be desired at both, but Synergy tells you numbers that I don’t think many can estimate by just watching games.

  • May 26, 201012:50 pm
    by krabal


    If you weren’t seeing Will Bynum get beat on screens then you weren’t specifically watching him enough on the defensive end.  Nothing wrong with that in my view given there are plenty of other players on the team to focus on, but khandor isn’t the only one who picked up on it sans Synergy.
    I would never say it the way khandor did, I think that’s about as condescending and rough as one can get, but the point still remains true.  For Bynum to be often lauded for his defense by Blaha or the press, it’s pretty ridiculous.  The guy simply isn’t good on that end.
    He’s got this cute little Mike James-Lindsey Hunter ball hawk thing going which makes him look tenacious on defense and sometimes produces desired results, but that’s a decent amount of smoke and mirrors (and the cause of a few unnecessary fouls), but get him moving a lot and he is toast.  I don’t think he’s a terrible defender generally speaking, but I’m sure he’s average or below average.

    • May 26, 20108:36 pm
      by Dan Feldman


      Krabal, opponents only took Bynum off screens off the ball 25 times all year (pick and roll defense is a separate category). I’m not sure it’s enough to have a reliable opinion of him in those situations by just watching games. But when you watch them all in a row, I think you can learn something. And as I told Khandor, I a key use of Synergy will be to confirm observations.

      To Bynum’s defense:

      I think at his best earlier in the season (pre-ankle injuries), Bynum was an average-to-slightly-above-average defender. I could never figure out why he got more credit, but I think you raise a good point. He looks like a ball hawk when he’s out there, even if he’s not actually defending well.

      Bynum could be a fairly good defender against slower point guards. So, when Greivis Vasquez enters the league, Bynum will finally have a good defensive matchup. Besides Vasquez, well, there just aren’t many slow point guards anymore.

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