Saturday, January 2, 2010

In defense of Henry Sims

Seaweed has made a post very similar to this on HoyaTalk (see here: Link) but since I already had this post planned out and might have a slightly different angle, I'm doing it anyway.
"Sims absolutely killed us today with his non existant defense"


"Negatives: 1) Henry."

"Sims was absolutely godawful in the second half. I've never seen anyone play so badly that they were solely responsible for a 10 point swing, but that was basically what you saw when St. John's took the lead by 1 - and the sad thing is we're only talking about a 2 minute stretch."

Confirmation bias is one of the key reasons why I always make sure to check the statistics. No matter how self-aware, every person has a tendency to to remember data that supports their preconceptions and ignore anything that that contradicts them.

This post could have been written about Chris Wright, but its about Henry Sims, who is the current Hoyatalk whipping boy.

Sims has had more than his share of struggles, but his detractors no longer see Henry in an unbiased light. His performance in the St. John's game is a perfect example.

Of particular focus to his detractors was this sequence:
10:19   Justin Brownlee drives past Henry Sims for a dunk
10:06   Henry Sims turns it over
9:55    Justin Brownlee (Sims' man) makes a three
9:42    Henry Sims turns it over
That's not a good sequence. Positioning the three as a defensive breakdown is somewhat up for debate, but I'll give it to the detractors. The Hoyas' seven point lead shrunk to one.

Still, that's not a ten point swing. There WAS a ten point swing in there, but it included a Chris Wright turnover, an offensive rebound given up, two forced threes by Jason Clark and two crazy-I-can't believe-that-went in threes that occurred when Henry wasn't in the game.

So this sequence, while bad, wasn't nearly as bad as folks would have you think.

Second, the turnover-fueled loss of a lead is hardly a Henry Sims-only phenomenon. While this is not exactly a dynamic defense of Henry Sims, it is an interesting data point in the area of preconceived notions altering reality.

For example, this was Greg Monroe's offensive sequence at then end of the first half when the lead suddenly went from ten to two:
4:12   Monroe Missed 3pter
3:12   Monroe Turnover
2:50   Monroe Offensive Foul
2:00   Monroe Missed Jumper
1:29   Monroe Missed Layup
Five of six offensive possessions ended at Monroe -- and he failed to convert any one of those-- but this sequence was not mentioned after the game. Yes, Monroe is a much, much better player. But this sequence was just as damaging as Sims'.

Finally, and most importantly, why ignore the good in Sims' game?

From the HD box score:
  • Henry was +11. The team was better with him on the floor in this game. It doesn't mean Henry is the driving reason, or even playing well, but it does mean the team wasn't losing ground overall, even despite the four play breakdown.
  • Henry assisted on 2 of 13 made buckets in his time on the floor -- a 15% Assist Rate -- and saved a would-be Hollis turnover and dished it to Monroe for some free throws. There's no assist there, but it was a nice play on both counts.
  • He stopped a three on one playing excellent position defense.
  • He grabbed two of 11 possible defensive rebounds. Not superman on the boards, but not awful. He didn't grab any offensive boards, but there were only three Hoya misses while he was on the floor.
So yeah, Henry has his ups and downs. But his detractors see only what they are predisposed to see. Sims' mistakes cost the Hoyas five or so points but he becomes the sole reason for a ten point swing. What was a bad match-up with no help on defense becomes "looking lost." What was a solid first half stretch (and a very effective stretch for his role) becomes forgotten.


  1. I think you are understating some of the difficulties he had the other night.

    It isn't a big deal, but regarding the rest of that 10 point swing- Wright's turnover was at best a bad call and at worst a reasonable misjudgment about who touched the ball last. I didn't think Clark's threes were forced.

    The sequence from Monroe is definitely ugly and I think his scoring game hasn't been great this year. That said, he's playing almost three times as many possessions with twice the usage rate as Sims. Those kinds of runs are expected from your primary offensive creator.

    Lets talk about the good things Sims did. The assists and the pass to Monroe to draw the foul were good plays. Sims is already an excellent passer. That said, you have to be careful with this +/- stuff. Hoyatalk sees it here and suddenly no one can get past it. But an unadjusted +/- for 43 possessions is as good as useless. A lot of people think 82, 48 minute NBA games aren't enough for adjusted +/- to mean much. The +11 is really irrelevant.

    Now I really didn't have a huge problem with Sims offensive play, those two turnovers were him getting flustered by the previous play. The issue is defense. It wasn't just Brownlee giving Sims problems. Evans was doing it to him in the first half. At least once, though I think twice he drove by Sims for lap-ups and two other times drew the foul on Sims while penetrating (once not shooting, the other time missing one of the freethrows). Frankly Sims couldn't stay in front of either of them reliably.

    So yes these were "bad match-ups with no help defense". The problem is these match-ups didn't happen after Sims switched to them on a screen. They weren't penetrating guards. These were his men, these were power forwards. As for help defense it would be pretty sad if we had to double on these guys. Evans eFG% is 41. Brownlee's is 46.2 And neither is creating their points- they're the two best offensive rebounders on St. Johns. They're getting their high percentage shots from put-backs not dribble-drives.

    Sims is a fine passer and help defender, but he needs to learn to stay in front of his man or he is going to be a liability. +11 or not.

  2. I wasn't meaning to overstate Sims' abilities. But while I have plenty of issues with +/-, I'd say it is entirely relevant when people are claiming that when Sims is on the floor, the team sucks.

    The premise of most of Sims' detractors is that he's a walking disaster. That's not even close to true.

    As for the defensive "breakdowns" I have to disagree. Our players are obviously taught to challenge the three and commonly allow drives -- where we ALWAYS collapse. No help this time for some odd reason.

    As for Brownlee, though, you have to give Sims something. What is it? He failed to challenge Brownlee (recovering from a switch) and the dude drops a three. He challenged Brownlee and gets driven. Yes, ideally Sims can lock down any four, but the dude is not going to be a lockdown defender on the perimeter. Brownlee's a combo style forward and I expect him to be better on the perimeter than Sims. Sims' defense will help on the interior, hopefully.

    Maybe my post wasn't clear, but the whole point wasn't that Sims is awesome, but that he's nowhere near as bad as painted. People only think that because they remember a 2 minute sequence and not the rest of his minutes.