The Toney Douglas Files
By Tim Greene (@tenpercenttony)
When backup point guard and resident folk hero Jarrett Jack left Oakland for the Cleveland Cavaliers this past summer, the Golden State Warriors signed veteran 3-and-D man and former Houston Rocket Toney Douglas to help fill the void.
While not many expected him to duplicate Jack’s offensive output, Douglas was at least expected to share time with Kent Bazemore guiding the second unit, handling the ball and providing a bit of offensive spark.
Douglas was also tasked with helping the Warriors’ defense, providing some much-needed skill and intensity on that end of the floor. While he has performed admirably on defense, he has looked pretty rough on offense. Were the Warriors wrong about Toney, or are they simply failing to play to his strengths?
Most Warriors fans have, I’m sure, felt a peculiar sinking feeling in the pits of their stomachs when Coach Jackson removes the starters and throws in his bench unit.
While it’s too early to say the team’s expectations of him were completely ill founded, this year’s Douglas-led second units have been absolutely horrendous on offense.
With Douglas on the court, the Warriors have scored a paltry .931 points-per-possession (PPP); even the league-worst Milwaukee Bucks score at a higher rate. In the hyper-competitive Western Conference, lacking a potent—or at least offensively average—second unit can be the difference between a deep playoff run and a quick first-round exit.
The Warriors’ woes with Douglas on the court are not all Toney’s fault, of course—he’s been injured and short on playing time to begin with, and has been sharing time with players like Marreese Speights and Kent Bazemore who might have trouble tossing a tennis ball into the ocean this year.
Even the best individual players find it difficult to create an efficient offense out of scraps, and to expect Douglas to do so would be silly. But no New York Knicks fan would be surprised that an offense in which Douglas maintains primary ballhandling responsibility more closely resembles a heap of flaming wreckage more as opposed to a finely tuned sports car (as @netw3rk so eloquently described here)
What seems clear, though, is that Douglas’s lack of impact this year may have more to do with misuse and lack of imagination on the Golden State coaching staff’s part than a lack of skill on Toney’s.
Last year’s Houston team actually scored at an appreciably higher clip with Douglas on the floor than off (1.123 PPP against 1.088 PPP). Much of this had to do with how Douglas was used.
First, Houston routinely played Douglas with a much more skilled ballhandler, which allowed him to get looks off the ball.
The vast majority of Douglas’s minutes for the Rockets came with James Harden or Jeremy Lin on the floor. (Out of 912 total minutes played with the Rockets last year, Douglas played only 245 without Harden or Lin, and of that 245, 165 were played with Chandler Parsons, a very capable ballhandler.)
Both were, and are, far better with the ball—in the senses of both ball security and court vision—than Douglas’s most frequent ballhandling Golden State running mate Kent Bazemore (No offense, Baze).
By giving Douglas more time off the ball, the Rockets allowed him to thrive as a spot-up three-point bomber. 31.4 percent of his total offensive plays last year were spot-up shots, and he hit a solid 41 percent of his spot-up 3-pointers.
Moreover, the Rockets generally didn’t rely on Douglas as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, and with good reason: on those pick-and-roll plays he initiated, the team scored only 0.64 PPP with an unreasonably high-turnover rate.
The Warriors, by contrast, have split his on-court time between spot-up shooting and the pick-and-roll. He has used 20.8 percent of his total offensive plays this year on each type. And the results remain consistent with his work last year.
He’s remarkably inefficient as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, and is actually quite good as a spot-up shooter—particularly from three, where he’s hit 55.6 percent of his attempts so far.
The Rockets also tried their best to push Douglas’s 3-point looks to the corners. Over the entire 2012-2013 season, Douglas, playing for the Rockets early and the Sacramento Kings after February, put up 82 corner threes and hit them at a rate of 42.6 percent. He was also well above average shooting from above the break, shooting 22 threes at a 45.5 percent clip.
Neither number shows Douglas lighting the league aflame, but those numbers are more than respectable. He was, however, an absolute mess from midrange (27.5 percent on 80 attempts) and the wings (31.8 percent on 113 attempts).
Douglas’s reliance on shooting from the wings is problematic. While a Knick, Douglas regressed from decent at the wings to almost unspeakably bad.
His shot charts from his last two years in New York, shown below, look like murder scenes. However, the good news is that the numbers from last year show Douglas dramatically increasing his volume of shots from the short corners. He still took too many shots from the left and right wings, but headier play-calling for Douglas can fix that.
Over the last several years, these trends have been relatively consistent: he’s become a good shooter from the corners, is middling to bad at the wings, and his midrange numbers will give you nightmares. (He’s pretty good at the rim, though!)
Douglas has reverted to his pre-Houston ways with the Warriors, however, and has started taking too many wing threes again.
He has shot relatively well from the right wing so far, as shown below in his shot chart, but the sample size is so low that there’s likely a lot of noise there; ditto with his poor shooting from the right corner.
The Warriors would do well to push Douglas to focus on shooting from the corners or on hard cuts to the rim while cutting down on his wing attempts.
For his minutes to be valuable offensively, Douglas needs more time next to Curry and Iguodala, who can help ensure that he gets the good corner looks he needs to keep the Golden State offense humming while most of the starters rest. The bench mob just isn’t a good look for this team without a better ballhandling backup.
Toney Douglas is capable of great things on defense—or at least sustained effort, which often is all that’s needed—and that’s where he’s been most valuable. But by tweaking Douglas’s place in the Warriors’ rotations and his offensive usage, rather than simply trying to stop the bleeding when certain starters are out, the team’s bench units can start inflicting some wounds of their own.
Statistical support courtesy of NBA.com, Synergy Sports, Basketball Reference, and nbawowy.com.