The Clippers resorted to zone for a good part of the second half last night against Minnesota, and the results weren’t favorable. The decision prompted me to pose the following:
Someone smart needs to look at the data, but my best guess is that any advantage in defensive efficiency that’s derived from zoning up is negated by the additional possessions/attempts generated by the offensive glass.
Sure enough, statistical guru, Haralabos Voulgaris, who’s doing some of the best work in the basketball analytics field, ran some numbers from the 2007-2008 season, and came up with this:
Clippers Not Playing Zone: Allowed 0.9523 points per possession
Clippers Playing Zone: Allowed 1.0404 points per possession.
Mike Dunleavy predilection is toward man-to-man, and the Clips played zone for only 99 possession.
The league as a whole gave up 0.9377 points/possession not playing zone, while yielding 0.9708 points/possession in the zone.
So far as the league-wide numbers, one might conclude that aside from some notable exceptions [Flip Saunders' Detroit teams], weaker defensive teams are more apt to zone up. This could explain a small degree of the margin.