What does Rodney Carney do well?

Posted on October 12, 2010 by


Andres Perezchica grew up in California and was at UC Berkeley during the Warriors’ We Believe era. He then studied a master’s program in Finance in Monterrey, Mexico, where he became intrigued by the growing field of Sports Economics. He is currently living back in California.  Andres previously authored a study of D-League players and last first round draft choice.

In their new book Pro Basketball Prospectus: 2010-11, Bradford Doolittle and Kevin Pelton preview every team in the NBA. When assessing Golden State Warriors’ new addition Rodney Carney, Doolittle and Pelton write that he “needs to figure out what he does well and cut out the rest.” Here is a hint as to what he is good at, and what he may need to cut out:

“Carney’s love affair with the three-point line continues unabated, though he barely cracked a 30 percent success rate from there. He is pretty effective in isolations, when he is less prone to settle for the outside shot, and also runs the floor well. Defensively, Carney’s teams have been consistently better when he’s on the floor.”

Warriors Head Coach Keith Smart already named his starting line-up, and Dorell Wright is going to start at the small forward position. But Carney will see spot minutes behind Wright or at shooting guard behind Monta Ellis. Let’s take a look at what kinds of things will keep him on the floor.

First, we turn to Alberto Alvarez’s Wins Produced to see his overall effectiveness. Carney was a below-average performer last season but has been steadily improving over his four-year career. After producing in the negative for his first two seasons in the NBA, essentially taking wins away from his team, he has seen his production rise into the positive range the last two years. In the following table, we see Carney’s production over the first four seasons of his career.

Carney has seen an improvement every season in the league, even with less playing time last season for the Philadelphia 76ers. In this table, we can also see that Carney has gone from a bad investment to somewhat of a bargain. His rookie contract expired after the 2008-09 season, in which he made $1.656 million. He then signed for the veteran’s minimum of $855,000. Because of this pay cut and his increased improvement, Carney more than doubled his Wins Produced per Million dollars earned from his third to fourth season. The Warriors hope he can continue his improvement and develop into an above-average performer for them this season, at a discounted rate.

So how has Carney been able to make this improvement, and what does he need to focus on to keep it up? For answers, we look at the numbers in Doolittle and Pelton’s comments on the Warriors. Below are some of the statistics used in their evaluation of Rodney Carney.

As the table shows, Carney’s Usage rate has decreased over the last three seasons. (Basketballprospectus.com defines Usage rate as FGA + (.44*FTA) + TO.) A decrease in Turnovers is one reason why his Usage rate was lower and his efficiency higher last season. Another reason for this change is his shot selection. The percentage of Carney’s shots that came from the free throw line is represented in Table 2 by the statistic FTA%. You can see that he got to the free throw line more last season than in any other. In addition, he has improved his free throw shooting percentage in every season, making his ability to get to the line more effective. This is a major reason Carney has seen his production rise over his career, and something that will earn him minutes in the Warriors’ rotation.

We can also see improvements in Carney’s rebounding and passing of the ball. Last year he posted his highest ratings in both Rebound and Assist Percentage (Here, Rebound Percentage is the percent of total rebounds available that Carney grabs; Assist Percentage is the percent of his team’s assists that he gives out.). Carney is adding possessions to his teams by rebounding at a higher rate and being more efficient when making decisions with the ball. This is especially important on a team with small guards in Ellis and Stephen Curry. His ability to help rebound and start the fast break will allow the Warriors to play at a fast pace.

The best way for Carney to get extended minutes off the bench will be by playing good defense. He has shown that he can defend perimeter players, taking on the responsibility of defending the opponent’s best perimeter player in the past. His teams have been better defensively with him on the floor, so this is something Coach Smart will count on when he puts Carney on the floor.

– Andres Perezchica