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NBA Playoff Hustle Stats point to winners and losers in upcoming free agency period

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Perhaps the New Orleans Pelicans should not focus their attention on Harrison Barnes or Kent Bazemore but rather on more unheralded names like Maurice Harkless and Jeff Green.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

There are certain players in the NBA whose names have become synonymous with words like effort and hustle. Vicious competitors like Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green should immediately spring to mind for their game-changing abilities away from the rim. However, the vast majority of deserving players typically go unnoticed by the mainstream, normally not rewarded for similar accomplishments... until now.

If you haven't visited NBA.com in some time, you might be unaware of the new set of data now available for public consumption during this postseason. NBA Hustle Stats made a brief appearance in the 2016 Summer League games, but the numbers were more for entertainment purposes considering the setting. Most rosters were filled with prospects who never had legitimate hopes of making it to a regular season game, much less become an important cog for one of the 30 professional teams. In essence, the off-used slogan, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." applies to a tee.

Don't forget this exquisite taste of tantalizing statistics come on the heels of some very antiquated measurements. Casual and expert fans alike have always had difficulty finding common ground for quantifying individual defense. For as long as I can remember, those without access to privileged data have relied upon traditional counting stats like steals and blocks. Consequently, it shouldn't surprise why so many still mistakenly continue to base a player's hustle or defensive performance on outdated morsels.

The decision to divulge some of the hidden data accumulated by the SportsVU cameras has the power to change this notion. No longer will defensive ratings need to serve as a persuasive argument for or against individual contributions --readily discernible statistics are on the verge of telling a much more complete story. Of say how player x specifically influenced the outcome of a game without scoring a point, grabbing a rebound or dishing an assist!

At this present time, the Hustle Stats comprise of screen assists, deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn, and several contested shot categories. Quite a few names towards the top of the postseason leaderboards should be familiar to everyone. No one has set more screens that directly have resulted in a made field goal by a teammate than DeAndre Jordan. Or that Trevor Ariza, Paul George and Danny Green have been among the best at getting their hands on non-shot attempts.

Ready for some small sample size theatre? Keep in mind some free agents have been credited with only a handful of games, thanks to their respected teams bowing out in the first round. So, players could have had a poor game, or two, or drew a difficult matchup in a series that severely affected the numbers.

Nevertheless, here is a list of the Hustle Stat figures for key performers, many who should be of great interest to the New Orleans Pelicans. All the numbers have been adjusted to per 36 minutes for ease of comparison, and in each grouping, I included a highly regarded defender (Green, George, Jordan).

Guards Screen Assists Deflections Loose Balls Recovered Charges Drawn Contested 2pt Shots Contested 3pt Shots
Danny Green 0.0 4.7 1.8 0.0 10.4 2.8
Kent Bazemore 0.2 2.9 0.4 0.22 5.2 3.5
Allen Crabbe (R) 0.1 1.5 0.6 0.0 4.2 3.1
Gerald Green 0.0 1.7 1.0 0.0 6.0 2.7
Courtney Lee 0.0 1.4 0.8 0.0 9.8 2.1
Evan Turner 0.3 1.0 1.2 0.0 4.0 3.5

None of the guards came close to matching the performance of Danny Green. Crabbe and Turner profiled weakly, as evidenced by the superior numbers of Gerald Green, a player who fell out of favor in Miami during the final months. Courtney Lee's high number of contested twos coinciding with a low amount of contested threes were probably a reflection of spending big minutes guarding Dwyane Wade.

Bazemore was fine, thanks to a healthy dose of deflections, but for a player acclaimed to be one of the rising defenders in the association, I expected more. Six of Bazemore's ten played games came against the Boston Celtics, the playoff leaders in field goal attempts and third in turnovers. In addition, both the Celtics and Cavaliers have averaged over 30 three-point shot attempts a game, so Bazemore's 3.5 contests from behind the arc do not appear special.

Forwards Screen Assists Deflections Loose Balls Recovered Charges Drawn Contested 2pt Shots Contested 3pt Shots
Paul George 0.0 3.4 1.6 0.79 5.6 4.2
Harrison Barnes 1.0 1.2 0.9 0.0 6.5 3.0
Matt Barnes 0.0 1.6 1.6 0.0 4.1 2.8
Nicolas Batum 0.0 1.5 1.0 0.0 4.8 1.5
Luol Deng 0.9 1.0 1.0 0.22 6.8 2.4
Jeff Green 1.6 2.0 0.9 0.0 8.2 4.3
Maurice Harkless (R) 0.4 2.6 0.8 0.0 6.4 2.9
Solomon Hill 0.5 0.7 0.4 0.0 5.6 2.4
Joe Johnson 0.3 0.5 0.5 0.0 3.2 2.6
Marvin Williams 0.8 1.4 1.1 0.0 3.3 2.5

Joe Johnson or Solomon Hill? Please stay far, far away. Marvin Williams numbers were rather pedestrian too, especially in the contested twos department. He's used to mixing it up in the paint against opposing power forwards, yet inexplicably the numbers suggest otherwise?

Harrison Barnes screams closer to average than anything else. The contests are fine but it scares me how closely he mimicked Luol Deng, a player who Tom Thibodeau reportedly broke years ago. I plan on devoting an article entirely to Barnes in the near future, but I can confidently say at this point in time, he's not remotely worth a max contract.

Batum was not much to marvel at either but we should question how much of his production was affected by the ankle injury. It is interesting to note that the Hornets won both games in his absence.

It's frightening to say, but the clear winners of the forwards were Mo Harkless and Jeff fricking Green! A lot has been made of Crabbe's restricted status in Portland, but is there a chance the Trailblazers might want to move on from Harkless? And maybe Jason was right, Green is the hero the New Orleans Pelicans deserve!

Centers Screen Assists Deflections Loose Balls Recovered Charges Drawn Contested 2pt Shots Contested 3pt Shots
DeAndre Jordan 7.3 2.2 0.4 0.0 9.6 1.3
Bismack Biyombo 5.1 0.4 0.7 0.0 11.9 1.9
Al Horford 2.6 2.8 0.9 0.0 13.4 4.0
Ian Mahinmi 4.2 2.1 0.8 0.0 12.6 1.9
Jared Sullinger (R) 0.4 0.4 0.0 0.0 9.3 4.4
Hassan Whiteside 3.1 2.2 0.5 0.0 16.7 0.6

Al Horford is as deserving of a max contract as any superstar in this league. There is no denying it, Whiteside is going to get paid as well because he's an impenetrable beast around the rim.

On the flip side, Sullinger failed to impress, but it must be mentioned he appeared in just 81 minutes. Bismarck Biyombo was indeed a screen-setting manic, but I fear the early predictions of a $17 million dollar a year contract will not be money well spent. Where are the deflections or recovered loose balls? Sorry folks, but he's never going to develop into Ben Wallace.

Instead, should the Pelicans in some unthinkable circumstance happen to be in the market for a center, Ian Mahinmi deserves to be paid, but he likely won't fetch nearly as much as he should. If only Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca were not signed to longterm deals!

*****

With every team's cap space set to explode, the free agent market is going to be highly competitive. It certainly would have been useful to have Hustle Stat data from the regular season for a slew of other free agents including Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, but alas, maybe next year!

In coming days, I'll further extrapolate on my thoughts regarding free agency and the specific avenues I'd prefer to see the New Orleans Pelicans explore.