Power Ranking the Postseason's Biggest Ball Hogs
The “ball hog” is one of the most acrimonious labels that can be placed on a player. It indicates a player who places individual statistical success over the success of the team. Particularly in the postseason, it becomes even worse.
It can be a bit of an unfair label. Players like Kobe Bryant and even Michael Jordan have “hogged” their way into championships if you quantify ball-hogging as simply taking a lot of shots.
Sometimes the hoggery is by design. Players are asked to be looking for their shot first. Would the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers have even gotten to the finals without Allen Iverson taking an unseemly amount of shots? Being a volume shooter doesn’t necessarily make you a ball hog.
Here we identify the biggest ball hogs so far this postseason, and grade them accordingly.
How the Rankings Were Compiled
There are volume scores and there are ball hogs. They aren’t the same thing. It can be a tricky to parse one from the other though.
Admittedly, no one method is going to work perfectly, but using a combination of objective and subjective analysis we can try.
Objectively, I considered what is a ball hog? A ball hog is a player who wastes possessions by using extra possessions badly, i.e. he shoots or turns the ball over when he could have passed to an open teammate.
So in order to measure “hoggery”, there needs to be two criteria met: First, he has to use a lot of possessions. Second, he has to throw away a lot of possessions.
Possessions are characterized as positive or negative. If a player ended a possession with a score (field goal or free throw) or assist, I considered it a positive possession. Assists are counted because part of being a ball hog is forcing a shot when you have an open teammate. Ergo, the converse should be true: passing to an open teammate instead of shooting is “unhog” behavior.
Negative possessions were plays that ended in a missed field goal, missed free throw or turnover. Missed free throws were counted as .44 of a possession, which is pretty standard fare with advanced metrics.
I then filtered out players who used a high volume of possessions (at least 20 per game) and determined ball hogs by those who actually had more negative possessions than positive possessions.
The formulas were as follows:
- Positive Possession=PTS/2+AST
- Negative Possession=(FGA-FG)+((FTA-FT)*.44)+TO
- Total Possessions=Positive Possessions + Negative Possessions.
For that purpose we established an “oink” rating on a scale of one to five. Five oinks is a full-on Hawaiian luau pig roast, and a one is a bag of pork rinds. I even used my amateur photoshopping skills to give a little visual reference, and made some culinary references for extra flavor.
They are ranked here according to their objective score, but do not consider that the final say in the matter. Take into account the subjective analysis as well.
- Net Possessions= Positive Possessions - Negative Possessions
There were eight players who were determined to be “ball hogs” in that they had a negative net possession ranking. However why they were hogs still needed a determination.
8. Jeff Teague, -0.03, 2 Oinks
Jeff Teague barely had a negative rating at all, but he still gets two oinks. His first two games were fine, as he scored 37 points on 30 attempts and had 12 assists. That’s not bad, especially considering how the rest of his team was playing.
But the last four were just awful. He shot just .255 from the field and saw his assists drop by one full count per game. The horrible finish earns him that extra oink.
He was like a nice salty prosciutto. It’s really pleasant if you don’t get too much of it. Have a taste with a good cracker and a sweet cheese, and it’s downright delicious. Throw away the cheese and cracker and over-indulge though, and it’s ruined.
Teague is the point guard of the future for the Hawks, and hopefully he’ll develop beyond this season, but his conclusion to the playoffs had us wanting to wash the aftertaste out of our mouths.
7. Joe Johnson, -0.21, 4 Oinks
Joe Johnson was playing with a bum foot, so he gets some mercy. That’s why he’s getting four oinks instead of five.
If you’ve never smelled “chitlin’s” being cooked, you’re lucky. They stink something fierce. Chitlin’s is just a pleasant way of saying “pig intestines,” which is ironic, because Joe Johnson’s Game 7 performance, when he was two for 14, was hard to stomach.
To cover up the stink, when you’re boiling up the chitlin’s, you throw in some sweet onions. When you serve them, you fry them and douse them in hot sauce to cover the taste. In Johnson’s favor, he had a little bit of both.
He sweetened the pot with his game-tying shot in Game 5. He spiced things up in helping lead the Brooklyn Nets in their Game 6 win.
But all in all, he stunk it up this postseason with his hogging.
6. Josh Smith, -0.41, 3 Oinks
Josh Smith represents the third consecutive player who was on the Hawks in 2011-12 on this list. There’s a chance that none of them will be on the Hawks next year, as Johnson is already gone, and Teague and Smith are free agents.
Josh Smith is sweet and sour pork. On one hand, he’s quite efficient underneath the basket. On the other, his jump shot literally is more likely to rain boos from the Atlanta faithful than it is to rain points for them.
For whatever reason, Smith wants to pretend he has a range he most emphatically does not. He attempted 3.3 shots per game from deep and made 25 percent of them. The sad thing is when he stays close to the rim, he’s pretty efficient. He's like "that contestant" on American Idol whose mom told him he could sing, but in this case his mom told him he could shoot.
Of players who attempted 500 jumpers this year, Smith had the second-worst field goal percentage, and that carried over into the postseason. At the same time, among players with more than 250 shots in the restricted area, he had the third-best field goal percentage.
When he’s hogging the ball inside, it’s sweet. When he’s hogging the ball outside, it’s sour. Ergo, Smith is sweet and sour pork. He gets three oinks because it's the average of one and five.
5. Paul Pierce, -1.80, 2 Oinks
Paul Pierce is pretty close to a borderline ball hog. Earlier in his career it would have been pretty easy to put him on here, but over the last few years, he’s been much more contained. This is the most shots he’s attempted in a postseason since 2004, so clearly there’s more to it than just Pierce.
Even then it’s only 17.7 shots per game he’s taken, which isn’t a huge amount. Still, he shot just .368 for the postseason which is positively awful. He did average 5.3 assist per game, and on a team that has as many shooters as the Boston Celtics do, it doesn’t seem irrational that he could have found someone else to pass the ball to.
Overall we give him a pass for the most part because he is being pressed beyond his normal role, but it does seem like he could have passed on at least one of those missed shots per game to an open teammate.
Pierce is the bacon of ball hogs. It tastes great. It’s a great addition to virtually anything. But it’s not all that healthy if you have too much of it.
4. Carmelo Anthony, -2.21 Net Possessions, 5 Oinks
New York Knicks fans will instinctually defend Carmelo Anthony, but bear in mind, it’s pretty indefensible. In spite of his Game 2 performance, which was quite solid, that was the anomaly, not the rule.
Anthony has the fourth (2008) and fifth (2006) hoggiest postseasons in history. Prior to Game 2 against the Pacers, he was on track for the sixth.
They could establish an MHP (Most Hoggy Player) award, name it the Anthony Award, and have it sponsored by Kawasaki.
Anthony is like a meaty slab of barbecue pork ribs, perfectly slow cooked. The meat is falling off the bones, and the yummy factor is so off-the-charts. So you eat waaaaay too many of them, at the exclusion of everything else, and then your tummy hurts after the barbecue is over.
Anthony is meaty, and tasty and there’s a lot that's positive about him, but even with ribs and ‘Melo, there can be too much of a good thing. Often times you look back at the Knicks box-scores to see why they lost, and you recognize just way too much Anthony.
3. Luol Deng, -2.63 Net Possessions, 1 Oink
Probably the biggest surprise on this list is Luol Deng, but to be fair to him, he’s playing outside of his comfort zone. He’s not typically the type of player who wants to take a lot of shots, but because of the Chicago Bulls' injury situation, he’s being forced to.
His usage rate of 21.2 percent is the highest of his postseason career. It’s pretty plain he is just trying to extend himself beyond what he’s normally doing. It's also his history to do what his coach asks him to do.
Combine that with the fact he’s been playing with a torn ligament in his shooting wrist for a year-and-a-half, and that he was likely playing with an illness which landed him in the hospital for at least one of the games.
All things considered, he gets a pass. We’re not going to label Deng a ball hog just yet. He’s just pork-rinds. There’s no real pig substance in there.
2. Brandon Jennings, -2.68 Net Possessions, 5 Oinks
Brandon Jennings boasted that he and the Milwaukee Bucks would beat the Miami Heat in six. Some have defended him by asking, “What was he supposed to say, they were going to lose?” Well those aren’t the only two options.
But regardless of what he said, if he had acted a little less like a spherical swine during the series, it might have been a little easier on him, but a point guard averaging 13.4 points on 14.3 shots and .298 shooting out and out screams, SUUUUUUEEEEYYYY!!”
Jennings is going to try and parlay that phenomenal performance into serious bacon next season as he’s a free agent now in search of a max contract.
He is a full-on hog roast. The expression, “whole-hog” could not be more apropos.
1. J.R. Smith, -3.72 Net Possessions, 3 Oinks
J.R. Smith is hot and cold and you kind of know what you’re going to get with him. You know you’re going to get some crazy shots. Some will go in. Some will be air balls. You know there are games where he can't hit a barn with an elephant from inside the barn. You also know that he can catch fire and carry your team at any time.
You don’t hope to stop Smith. You just hope to contain him, whether you’re the New York Knicks or the opponent. His Game 2 performance against the Indiana Pacers was just horrendous.
But with Smith, you get that. He could just as easily go 12 for 18 the next game and hit six threes or do something ridiculous. He’ll carry you or crush you. The one thing he could learn is to understand when it’s not his night.
You have to admire his chops. You just wish there weren't quite as many pork chops, with apple sauce...and all the trimmings.