Jason Collins: The Dwight Stopper?
Written by Robert Eckstut   
Monday, 18 April 2011 02:05


I wanted to do a follow up from the latest PPP podcast, Podcast #6. Check it out if you haven’t yet! The Hawks stole game 1, and although I remain unconvinced that they will win the series, they employed the strategy of using one big man to cover Dwight and not double team. In all fairness, most big men are incapable of such a task. Game 1 was a perfect illustration of that. Let’s touch on the game real quickly…


Game 1 was a 92 possession game where the Magic scored 93 points and the Hawks scored 103 points. Boiled down, the Magic had a 101 ORtg while the Hawks had a 112 ORtg. Individually Dwight Howard put up one of the finest performances of the opening weekend and perhaps of the entire 1st round. Dwight finished with 46 points, thanks to 16/23 from the floor and 14/22 from the line. Since Dwight turned it over 8 times, he finished with 46 points on 40 possessions (a staggering four of his 22 FTs were thanks to “and 1s”). His teammates scored 47 points on 62 unique possessions.

Points   Possessions Used   Points Per Possession (PPP)
Dwight Howard
46 40 1.15
Non-Dwight 47 62 0.76

This fully encapsulates the “let Dwight get his share, but don’t have his teammates beat us” strategy, as a 1.15 ppp is very positive. His teammates were not very supportive; possessions above are blind to offensive rebounds, as the Magic for the game had 102 individual plays. (The Magic finished with 13 offensive rebounds compared to just 5 for the Hawks, so a created shot for the Magic is worth slightly more than that for a Hawk)

Dim lights

Even against the best defenders in the NBA, Dwight will still get follow up slams from time to time. This was from 4 months ago.


All that said though, we can delve a bit further. You see, single-covering Dwight is sometimes a good strategy. It depends who that single-coverer is! Some of Atlanta’s bigs got absolutely destroyed, to such an extent that it’s not really a feasible strategy when they're in the game:

Defender   FG   FT*   TOV   PTs   Poss  . PPP
Etan Thomas 3/3 2/2 0 8 4 2.00

Josh Powell

5/8** 2/2 0 12 8 1.50
Zaza Pachulia 2/4 3/5 2 7 8 0.88
Jason Collins 3/5 6/9 6 12 15 0.80
Other*** 3/3 1/4 0 7 5 1.40

*Dwight had 4 And-1s; 2 against Josh Powell, 1 against Jason Collins, and 1 against Zaza Pachulia

**One of Dwight’s shots was a halfcourt heave with 0.8 seconds left on the shot clock. This was registered against Josh Powell. I'm including it in the data, although it wasn't a standard half-court shot. Removing it, Powell's PPP against becomes 1.71.

***Other included a brief stretch against Horford as well as transition baskets/off-ball fouls (which resulted in Dwight going to the line)

Defender   Minutes   PFs   PF per 36   Poss  . Usage*
Etan Thomas 7 1 5.1 4 29.8%
Josh Powell 8 4 18.0 8 52.1%
Zaza Pachulia 9 3 12.0 8 46.3%
Jason Collins 18 6** 12.0 15 43.4%

*The Magic had roughly 1.92 individual poss./minute. (92 possessions in a 48-minute game) Although this isn't perfect, it's a decent approximation of how often the Magic went to Dwight when each particular defender was in the game. Since Dwight played 46 of the 48 possible minutes, we can estimate his usage as using 40 possessions out of 88, which is 45.5%. (46/48 is 95.8%, 88 is 95.8% of 92)

**Jason Collins fouled out in the middle of the 4th Q.


The main point from all of this data is that Jason Collins did an extraordinary job. It doesn’t show up in the conventional boxscore, since field goal attempts against and non-steal turnovers aren’t there, but Jason Collins drew charges, forced 3 second violations, bodied Dwight up so that others could strip him, and basically turned Dwight into less than even what his teammates offered. However, Jason only lasted 18 minutes. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they can't match Jason up on Dwight for the entire game, since Dwight is still able to target Jason frequently and put a high number of fouls on him.

All this said, if the Hawks could play Jason Collins the entire game, I'd expect the Hawks to be favorites in the series. Dropping Dwight's efficiency to less than a point per possession while still single-covering his teammates is incredible. Zaza Pachulia also did a particularly good job.

The Magic lost from a combination of Dwight’s teammates playing terribly and sub-standard Orlando defense which allowed an uncharacteristic 1.1 ppp against. One thing is for sure: The answer is NOT Josh Powell or Etan Thomas guarding Dwight. Those two players got absolutely destroyed and frankly should not be in the game; if they are, Atlanta will get pounded in those single coverage match ups.


Last Updated on Thursday, 12 May 2011 16:38


#1 Aaron Jones 2011-04-18 16:16
I remember hearing something about Collins being matched up against Dwight, does he have a history of guarding him (effectively)?

Slightly off topic, what do you expect Dwight's usage to be in the playoffs? Not that there are necessarily better options, but I question how effective their offense can be when four guys stand around and watch Dwight. Seems like there is no reason not to get him the ball in more creative ways (PNR, diagonal dives, maybe even in the high post with quick re-post options).
#2 Robert Eckstut 2011-04-18 17:25
Aaron, Jason Collins has had a great historical 3 yr, 5 yr, and 6 yr APM. It's no mystery teams defend incredibly well when he's on the floor. This is in spite of the fact he's a poor boxscore defender. (He has a low rebound rate, lowish block and steal rates too, high foul rate) His counterpart data has been excellent however and his adjusted rebounding is phenomenal too. His value completely hinges on who the match up is; against the Heat, for example, he's a massive liability since he offers nothing offensively. Against Dwight... He's the solution.

The H2H doesn't mean a TON since it's not as though that filters for when Jason is paired on Dwight, but: http://bit.ly/ij350L
Basically over his career Dwight is putting up 16.5/12.4 on 57.3 TS and 3.5 to/g vs Jason Collins. Dwight's career averages over that span are 18.2/12.9 on 60.5 TS and 3.1 to/g. So, Dwight's scoring, rebounding, and efficiency go down and his turnovers go up. Still a super star but not an MVP.

I think Dwight is competent enough vs the 2nd rung of defenders to go 1on1 every single time. I mean, he absolutely carved up the non-Zaza/Jason defenders. He had a 40.0 USG in G1, and I wouldn't deviate from that. It's hard to funnel any MORE offense than that, but I'd try.
#3 greyberger 2011-04-19 18:24
This series became fascinating in game one. It's a big part of why the playoffs have been great so far (Miami/Philly and Chicago/Indy not included).

Dwight Howard is destroying the Hawks. I don't know how his game two sample will play out, but he just put his third foul on Collins and is 7-9, 11-15 FTs... Demon! Robot! Alien!

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Points Per Possession