Tonight Mike Bibby will make his debut with the Miami Heat. There has been much debate over whether his arrival can incrementally boost the Heat in their quest to compete for a championship. Some among the basketball community have especially questioned his signing because it came at the expense of Carlos Arroyo – the veteran guard Miami was forced to cut to free up the roster spot needed to sign Bibby – who played relatively well at the beginning of the season before falling out of the rotation. Bibby himself is long past his prime, and his contributions on the court have been little more than marginal. He no longer creates enough plays for himself or for teammates to be a viable option as a starter, and on the defensive end he requires good defenders around him and a good scheme in which his weaknesses can be protected or even hidden. (Here Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com’s Heat Index discusses Bibby’s much maligned defense.)
With all of this said, there is a notable trend in Bibby’s play so far this year that, if he can continue it, will be a plus over what Arroyo and Mario Chalmers, the other player who has played starters minutes at point guard for the Heat, have provided. In a word that contribution would simply be: shooting. If your first thought of shooting takes you to field goal percentage, a quick search will turn up Bibby’s unimpressive 43% shooting from the field this year, while Arroyo, the player whose seat he now fills, was shooting almost 46%. Even looking at 3-point FG% – the shots each player is most likely to find within the Heat offense – they are both shooting just under 44%. But their FG% doesn’t tell the whole story.
If one considers their effective field goal percentage (eFG%) – a percentage that accounts for the extra point earned when shooting threes – Bibby’s shooting begins to stand out from the others. Bibby’s eFG% is 55% while Arroyo’s and Chalmers’ marks are at 51% and 52%, respectively. This simply means that Bibby is spending more of his shots on what he does best at this stage in his career – spotting up for threes, making 2 per game on 4.6 attempts. That is clear to see when comparing his numbers with Chalmers’ – 1.3 makes out of 3.5 attempts/game for 35% 3FG% – and Arroyo’s – 0.6 makes out of 1.3 attemps/game for 44% 3FG%. (Also of note is the fact that Arroyo hadn’t made a three in his last 12 games played.) A statistic like effective field goal percentage allows us to see more than the more-traditional offering of regular field-goal or three-point percentages, and a site like Hoopdata (where I compared these players’ production) allows us to look at their shot locations or shot-mix and see how each player is using his attempts.
Bibby’s offense is not what it used to be, and his defense has never been a thing of beauty. When Heat coach Erik Spoelstra inserts him into the game, however, he will primarily be looking for Bibby to be ready to launch from deep when he is found open off of drives by teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. As long as he continues to take and make enough shots to let his superior accuracy be a factor, he will be an improvement on either Chalmers or Arroyo.