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Banner Review: SoF Vaan & DH Penelo (Final Fantasy XII)
This banner is one many have looked out for for a longer time and you'll see why. For one, this is the first banner that gives us 130% imperils! So if you're building your team, you might be able to benefit from that as they come with fire, ice, dark and wind 130% imperils. Now we're missing the other half!
Banner Review: CG Vaan SoF Vaan & DH Penelo Dancer Penelo by Memel0rd
CG Vaan Seeker of Freedom Vaan:Trust Master Reward : A Brother's Sentiments (Materia) - Increase physical evasion (20%) Increase resistance to paralyze (100%) Increase equipment ATK (50%) when dual wielding
STMR : Durandal (Sword) - 163 ATK, 30% Provoke, 30% Physical Evasion (doesn't stack btw)
Overview:Vaan is the highly anticipated unit for quite a few reasons. Not his character though, not too many people like him as a protagonist.
His base stats are really well rounded with high HP, DEF and SPR but focuses a lot of his ATK. Which can be used properly unlike a good bunch of other breakers. And while he does have 100% TDH, his own TMR focuses on TDW, it's easier to cap and can use the 6x chain cap. Other than that, he has only 120% ATK, which is significantly lower than meta damage dealers. In terms of survivability, he can be built in different fashions. His innate 70% HP and total 60% physical evasion can turn him into an evader extremely easily, and if you want some SPR and don't care about dealing damage, equipping a shield will grant another 40% SPR and 10% HP. In the meta section I'll go over the different build choices that SoF Vaan can utilise. He's resistant against paralyze through his TMR ability and through his TMR, double the trouble, petrification, poison and disease, which overall are decent resistances but leave out important ones such as Sleep or Confusion. He does have a 100% beast / human killer though, which are very common enemy types and his damage is definitely not bad either.
SoF Vaan can W-/T-Cast all of his abilities except for Luminescence, which is a shame as it is his only form of chaining via Aureole Ray. With Dualwield you can still cast it twice, which can be paired with MM Xon, Regis, Nichol of the Epsilon Star or if you're using her, SS Charlotte. It's a solid option for DV, though you'll have to seperate it from all other actions due to the limitations on it.
To match his massive 60% innate evasion well, SoF Vaan can use a 100% provoke that lasts 2 turns easily due to the T-Cast, but we'll talk about better options later down the road.
From here on, SoF Vaan has a set of incredible breaks and decent finishers. We'll start off with his damage options and then take a closer look at his breaking capabilities.
Vaan is really simple when it comes down to acting as a side finisher. He has three different finishers with 2000% modifiers, buffed up to 3000% later on, that either apply an 80% ST fullbreak or 120% fire wind imperil while unlocking stronger versions of themselves. The fullbreak itself is extremely useful to have on-demand and if his LB isn't available his best source of breaks.
After using the Fire or Wind Achilles, True versions will be unlocked that will keep unlocking themselves each time you use them. If you wait too long, you'll have to use the regular versions once. The difference isn't huge but sets a milestone in the FFBE meta: 130% imperils. SoF Vaan is the first unit to provide us with 130% imperils. The finishers are also slightly stronger with 2200% / 3200% modifiers.
How do you gain the modifier boost? Through Earthen Eruption, which is his first CD, available at Turn 1 with a 4 turn cooldown and neat self-buffs. For one, the 1000% modifier boost on all prior abilities as well as Red Spiral, his main finisher, while having a 4000% modifier itself and granting us a 250% ATK buff for 5 turns. Thus easily maintainable. Red Spiral itself is a plain 3500% / 4500% finisher that's on-demand and can be fit in whenever you want.
Outside of his ST 80% fullbreak, Vaan also has an on-demand AoE 75% fullbreak, which, yet again, is a great one to have on-demand, though due to the T-Cast you might just want the ST version a few times.
If that doesn't suffice, he is a CG Protagonist and thus gets his LB filled up fully at the start of the battle and it's amazing. It costs 34 crysts so can be a bit finicky to maintain without external support, but it surely does the job. An AoE 2 turn 85% fullbreak and an AoE 130% fire imperil while dealing decent-ish damage, which is nice for mob / event clearing. If you want a unit for events, this is likely the best deal. Instant access, huge breaks and imperil before dealing damage and then a nice mod. The breaks compete with last banner's Healing Avatar Lid with less turn duration but the novelty of having it available at Turn 1. Which makes this the highest Turn 1 break available without external support.
Now, SoF Vaan still has two aces up his sleeve in form of two different CD abilities.
His first one, Assault Strike+, shares the same niche as Healing Avatar Lid's though instead of having a 4 turn cooldown, has 6 turns. It's still a removal of all enemy buffs, leaving on all of your debuffs saving you additional work and it's just good.
The second one is truely remarkable. We all love to see some AoE mirages. At least I hope we do, because I do. Rikku (FFX-2) is great because of the AoE mirage that she can use each turn with her multi-cast. SoF Vaan simply uses Jade Parry once and then immediately casts an AoE mirage. The twist? Next turn, it'll auto-cast another AoE mirage. 2 turns after again. 3 turns after yet another time. So you use Jady Parry once and receive AoE mirages 3 times each turn without having to do anything. It's on a 4 turn cooldown as well so you can maintain it all the way unless he dies.
How does he fare in the meta?SoF Vaan is an amazing unit hands down and is the one you most likely want from this banner.
He has two different main build choices.
If you have been around for some time and obtained a lot of the event gear in the past, such as K Producer's Jacket, Wrapped Gift and most importantly Moogle Charm, as well as grinded the FF12 event materia that grants 10% auto-provoke and physical evasion, you can gear him towards auto-provoke and evasion. All that on a unit with amazing breaks and other really good utility as well as a decent amount of finisher damage or AR chains.
If you don't need that because your e.g. Paladin Cecil absorbs everything by default, you might want to focus all on ATK because while his damage per se isn't as huge as other finishers, he's an excellent breaker and doesn't rely on more damage. It's there for you, for free, as long as you have natural chains going on you can just slap them in. His average damage that way is similar to WH Raegen, so it's excellent side damage for sure. "For free".
As the breaker role has it, I wouldn't say he's straight up the best breaker or outclasses Healing Avatar Lid, because he doesn't. He has a way inferior chaining game and can't grant his allies AMoE chains either, but if you're already settled on chainers in your team then I'd definitely recommend SoF Vaan over her any day of the week. That being said, he CAN still chain. Not super well, but you could break on Turn 1 with his LB and then AR chain with e.g. MM Xon.
For Dark Visions you could build him a bit more tankier if there are ambushes, outside of that can act as an amazing breaker due to his LB always being available at the start, even if you don't use it immediately on Turn 1. You don't have to build anything up and if you finish the fight on Turn 1 or Turn 2 is very likely the best option to use.
Definitely another well designed unit with cool niches similar to what people used Kryla for. With higher breaks and AoE mirages.
His TMR is so and so, great for him as it perfectly fits and could also be used for an evade provoking MM Xon, but 50% TDW with 20% phys dodge is often inferior to 50% TDW + ATK% or Dual Form (100% TDW). His STMR is the perfect fit for the type of build SoF Vaan goes for. 163 ATK, 30% phys dodge and 30% auto-provoke, which means this is also the first weapon we have to get 30% auto provoke. In terms of Auto-Provoke, it'd ease up on the chest slot and another materia slot while obviously granting 30% evasion on top of that. Even as another 30% evasion weapon itself it's great as the 30% provoke will be ignored as long as another unit has 100%. So you can pair it up with Butterfly Knives or Locke's Dagger and boom. One of the few STMRs I might actually STMR moogle simply because it can be used on so many different builds and benefit from a lot. Heck, even Paladin Cecil could use this extremely well.
Build + Maths:Seeker of Freedom Vaan Damage Build: https://ffbeEquip.com/builder.html?server=GL#8f3b13f0-cf48-11ea-8219-c768f320c4e6
Evade Provoker Build: https://ffbeEquip.com/builder.html?server=GL#d784a1d0-cf48-11ea-8219-c768f320c4e6
Seeker of Freedom Vaan Damage ATK post 250% buff: 3250 RH Assuming chain capping Rotation: Turn 1: Earthen Eruption + True Fire Achieles + Red Spiral Turn 2: True Fire Achilles + Red Spiral x2 Turn 3: Red Spiral x3 Turn 4: Red Spiral x3 Turn 5: True Fire Achilles + Red Spiral x2 Turn 1: [ 3250^2 x 40 + ( 3250^2 x ( 32 + 45 ) x 2.3 ) ] x 6 = 13758712500 Turn 2: 3250^2 x ( 32 + 45 x 2 ) x 6 x 2.3 = 17783025000 Turn 3: 3250^2 x 45 x 3 x 6 x 2.3 = 19677937500 Turn 4: 3250^2 x 45 x 3 x 6 x 2.3 = 19677937500 Turn 5: 3250^2 x ( 32 + 45 x 2 ) x 6 x 2.3 = 17783025000 Average Turn 1-5: 17,736,127,500 Highest Burst: 19,677,937,500
Character Design: 9.5/10 Sprite: 8/10 Breaker: 9.5/10 Trust Master Reward: 7.5/10 STMR: 9.5/10 Arena: 7/10 Limit Burst: 9.5/10 Future Proof: 9/10 Dark Visions: 9.5/10 Free 2 Play: 9.5/10 Pay 2 Play: 9.5/10 Personal Rating: 9.5/10 Optimal Rating: 9.5/10
Dancer Penelo Dancing Heart Penelo:Trust Master Reward : Desert Bloom (Materia) - Increase MAG (40%) Increase equipment MAG (50%) and accuracy (25%) when single wielding any weapon
STMR : Rabanastre Dancer's Clothing (Clothes) - 22 DEF, 21 SPR, 71 MAG, +40% MAG
Overview:If you have one amazing unit on a banner, good chance you'll have a....
DH Penelo's base stats have the classy mage spread: Decent HP, mediocre DEF, high MP/MAG/SPR. Also what happened to her blue shining dagger? In offensive passives, not many mages can be as impressive as DH Penelo. I mean, with her own TMR she has an innate 200% MAG and 300% MTDH. Only with her TMR you already capped MTDH, which helps a lot, especially in gaining some bulk. Because the innate bulk is mediocre. 60% HP/DEF/SPR isn't bad and we've seen much worse but she'll need a helping hand. She does have a guts passive on top of it though, but due to her ease of use isn't a huge deal if she does die during the fight. She's resistant against confusion and charm, which leaves almost all status ailment widely open, but just like Vaan has a 100% beast / human killer, which are common enemy types.
Also I'm just assuming, so don't get offended when I do, I doubt any of you will use the 40% DEF/SPR + 10% HP passives from equipping shields. Hey... don't point at me like that.
DH Penelo can W-/T-Cast all of her abilities except for Lumiscence, which is the same as SoF Vaan's just that it scales with her MAG. It has all the physical mechanics going for it but the modifier of 2500% is too low in comparison and her innate killers also don't work. It's nice to have to bypass magic immunity if necessary, though would require a MTDW build to cast twice.
She does have a small set of supportive abilities but... they aren't super good. Well, some aren't. Her Mist Curaja and Mist Banish aren't that worth to use. The heal is too minor and a ST mirage has to be better than two stacks to be truly worthwhile. Mist Shellga can be good if you're still lacking magic mitigation and would need that 30% mit to survive, but in a good amount of team comps isn't needed. Mincing Minuet is a fantastic ST 70% fullbreak in emergency cases, but it's more likely for her to die first than the breaker. If you're a new player, this break will easily suffice for a long time.
And from here on we only have her damage dealing kit left. That was quick, eh?
All chains from here on are CWA chains and truth be told it's as simple as modern mages can get.
The structure is very very similar to SoF Vaan's mechanics.
You have a set of either Fire, Ice or Dark chains that have 3600%/3700% modifiers as well as their respective imperils and after using her CD ability, Channeling, which can be used right at the start and grants you an undispellable 250% MAG buff, upgrade.
These upgrades unlock themselves again, so once you get them you're basically settled. These upgrades have 4600% modifiers, or in dark's cases 4800%, imperil their respective element by 130% and imbue DH Penelo. The imbue isn't too important.
From here on you can either keep upgrading your Fire or Ice chains, while Fire is way superior.
Her fire chains have a matching CD ability, Ardor, which is available at Turn 1 with a 3 turn cooldown, imperil fire yet again and has a 6500% and then proceeds to buff Mist Firaja up by another 1000% for a total of 5600%. Which is nice.
The less ideal option would be Mist Blizzaja. You can get the modifier boost through her LB, which isn't a great LB, and the modifier boost would only be 600% instead of 1000%. It lasts for the rest of the battle though.
Mist Darkja has no modifier support what so ever but with T-Cast can chain nicely alongside Umbral Dragon Dark Fina, who has really high damage output.
How does she fare in the meta?DH Penelo is... she's good.
Her damage is vastly inferior to UDD.Fina while also focusing on CWA chains and having less bulk, but also works nicely with her and proves to be the best partner for her in Dark Visions since all of Penelo's chains are ST, too. This does give her a good-ish niche in the meta, though every area that doesn't prefer dark element she'd lose out on Ace and Rem.
Her average damage is very similar to both BB Rem and WC Ace while lacking the bulk they have and lacking the great physical mechanics they utilise, thus limiting her quite a lot in DV due to only having three elements and having the common mage issues for finding proper chaining partners outside of the dark element. Especially since all other decent chainers with fire or ice element are AoE chaining instead of ST.
In trials she is decent though the damage difference between DH Penelo and UDD.Fina is massive. Yet again, you can use them simultaneously for dark damage in trials as long as it works.
In terms of pure damage she sets a good middleground but isn't ground breaking.
As long as you have a rod equipped, DH Penelo's TMR is a worse version of Top Operative, but they can stack with each other and can make for a good addition for MTDH builds. Besides, the MAG difference is minor and still makes a good TMR to get. Her STMR can be a really strong piece of clothing for mages with 71 MAG and 40% MAG, but you gotta keep in mind that it's Clothes, not robes. So some materias that depend on robes... you might want to equip different ones. It's a good STMR but I wouldn't moogle it.
Build + Maths:Dancing Heart Penelo Damage Build: https://ffbeEquip.com/builder.html?server=GL#55626c50-cf48-11ea-8219-c768f320c4e6
Realistic Build: https://ffbeEquip.com/builder.html?server=GL#3a46c460-cf49-11ea-8219-c768f320c4e6
Dancing Heart Penelo Damage MAG post 250% buff: 3845 Assuming spark chains Rotation: Turn 1: Channeling + Ardor + Mist Firaja Turn 2: Mist Firaja x3 Turn 3: Mist Firaja x3 Turn 4: Mist Firaja x2 + Ardor Turn 5: Mist Firaja x3 Turn 1: [ 3845^2 x 65 x 3.6115 + 3845^2 x 56 x 4 ] x 2.3 = 15598909369 Turn 2: [ 3845^2 x 56 x 3.6115 + 3845^2 x 56 x 2 x 4 ] x 2.3 = 22110414169 Turn 3: [ 3845^2 x 56 x 3.6115 + 3845^2 x 56 x 2 x 4 ] x 2.3 = 22110414169 Turn 4: [ 3845^2 x 56 x 3.6115 + 3845^2 x ( 56 + 65 ) x 4 ] x 2.3 = 23334531439 Turn 5: [ 3845^2 x 56 x 3.6115 + 3845^2 x 56 x 2 x 4 ] x 2.3 = 22110414169 Average Turn 1-5: 21,052,936,663 -> 141% of Serah's damage ( 14,967,170,643 ) -> 128% of Four Winds Physalis' damage ( 16,424,984,030 ) -> 102% of Benelovent Beauty Rem's Damage ( 20,587,710,541 ) -> 99% of Wild Card Ace's damage ( 21,172,119,331 ) -> 65% of Umbral Dragon Dark Fina damage ( 32,323,930,256 )
Character Design: 6.5/10 Sprite: 8.5/10 Chainer: 8/10 Trust Master Reward: 9/10 STMR: 9/10 Arena: 1/10 Limit Burst: 6/10 Future Proof: 6/10 Dark Visions: 5.5/10 Free 2 Play: 9/10 Pay 2 Play: 7/10 Personal Rating: 7.5/10 Optimal Rating: 8/10
ConclusionFor those with Healing Avatar Lid or Rikku a passable banner for sure but if you dig into it and get a nice Seeker of Freedom Vaan AND got the auto provoke gear.... rejoice my friend. Vaan is a valuable unit even past the introduction of Neo Visions and has two amazing niches other breakers don't fulfill while still having huge breaks to offer and some additional mirage support. Unless you're settled with another high tier breaker such as Rikku or HA Lid, I'd definitely recommend trying your luck. DH Penelo is a good mage but that's all you can really say about her. If you haven't gotten any good mages so far and you got her while pulling for Vaan, she is definitely a lot stronger than other mages that will just suffice, but if you're already invested into mages I wouldn't recommend going for her as she doesn't add a whole lot to the roster of mages and is behind the powercreep curve by a slight amount. And trust me, that curve will ramp up.
Hope you had a great weekend and a good start into the week. And hopefully I'll pass all the exams! NOW OFF to hang out with my flatmates a bit and then sleeps.
EVEN MORE miscellaneous tidbits about the 2019-20 NBA season that you probably already knew about but I decided to write about anyway:
Previous "Miscellaneous tidbits" posts:
per 75 = per 75 possessions, i.e. points per 75 possessions = measure of a player's scoring rate, an alternative to PPG. Each team plays at a different pace (and the league as a whole plays slightly faster or slower each season), so adjusting for pace like this allows us to compare players' scoring more fairly than PPG will. (Question: Why 75 possessions? - Answer: The average high-usage modern NBA player simply uses roughly 75 possessions/game, so "per 75" stats are perhaps easier to intuitively understand for most people than "per 100" stats, which are available on Basketball Reference.)
TS% = true shooting percentage, i.e. a player's scoring efficiency, basically FG%, but accounting for 3-pointers and free-throws
rTS% = relative TS%, i.e. how efficient a player's scoring is compared to league average scoring efficiency, which is 56.4 TS% in 2019-20 according to Basketball Reference
ORTG and DRTG are a team's offensive and defensive rating, respectively, with numbers taken from Basketball Reference.
rORTG/rDRTG = relative ORTG or DRTG, i.e. how good a team's offense is compared to league average offensive and defensive rating, which are 110.4 in 2019-20 according to Basketball Reference
- #1: Nikola Jokic, clutch god
- #2: Anthony Davis, future Hall-of-Famer
Just as a comparison, here's how BBRef's HoF tracker stacks up AD against other active likely Hall-of-Famers (left out the Warriors trio, and any players above >98% probability):
|Player||HoF Probability||Age||Experience (years)||All-Star awards||Others|
|Vince Carter||94.55%||43||21||8||2 x All-NBA|
|Pau Gasol||93.35%||39||18||6||2 x NBA Champ, 4 x All-NBA|
|Anthony Davis||91.27%||27||7||7||3 x Blocks Champ, 3 x All-NBA, 3 x All-Defensive|
|Kyle Lowry||85.74%||34||13||6||1 x NBA Champ, 1 x All-NBA|
|Damian Lillard||68.62%||29||7||5||4 x All-NBA|
|Paul George||65.44%||30||9||6||1 x Steals Champ, 5 x All-NBA, 4 x All-Defensive|
|Kyrie Irving||64.77%||28||8||6||1 x NBA Champ, 2 x All-NBA|
|Kawhi Leonard||54.77%||28||8||4||1 x Steals Champ, 2 x NBA Champ, 3 x All-NBA, 5 x All-Defensive, 2 x DPOY, 2 x Finals MVP|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||23.82%||25||6||4||3 x All-NBA, 2 x All-Defensive, 1 x MVP|
- #3: That Bron-Brow thing
Vertical spacer: AD is arguably the GOAT lob-finisher (75 FG% from 0-3 feet). Davis's catch-radius is one of the best in NBA history. Just throw it up in the general direction of the rim and he'll make it work somehow with his touch and athleticism. His addition to the Lakers is a major reason why LeBron's leading the league in assists (2.8 of LeBron's 10.6 assists/game go to AD).The Lakers' chemistry this season has been fabulous, with the team exceeding all expectations and leading the West. At the head of the team, the LeBron-AD connection, in particular, has been even better that people probably imagined coming into the season--- of all 2-man assist-combos in the league this year, James to Davis ranks 1st by a vast margin, with 172 assists between the two leading the league, far ahead of Lillard-Whiteside with 130 and Lou-Trez with 127.
LeBron hits AD in a variety of ways: in the pick-and-roll, with lobs and snappy interior dishes; pick-and-pop or drive-and-kick, with AD positioned in the midrange or out on the 3-point line; simply dumping it to AD in the post and letting him go to work; hitting AD quickly and accurately in transition as part of a new-age "Showtime" ; in semi-transition, or off made-field goals, LeBron lets AD leak out early in the shot clock to establish good post position quickly, and then hits him with a long-range outlet pass so that AD can ISO against an unprepared defense. The Lakers often get 1-2 buckets per game in this fashion alone.
- #4: Mitchell Robinson, making history
The Knicks' young shot-eraser averaged 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks on historic, league-leading, 74.2 FG% (alongside also-league-leading 74.2 eFG% and 72.6 TS%). It's the first figure we're concerned about here, as Robinson has potentially beaten Wilt Chamberlain's single-season FG% record of 72.7 FG%, set in 1972-73.
The biggest hurdle standing in the way of Mitchell's record being officially ratified by the NBA is, unfortunately, COVID-19.
The nba.com website provides a glossary of statistical minimums to qualify as a league-leader in any particular category. Under the assumption of an 82-game season, a player would need to make 300 field goals to qualify as the league leader in FG%. Through 66 games, Mitch made 253 field goals. In the absence of a shortened season, Mitch would be 47 made baskets short of qualifying as the league leader.Soooo, yeah. C'mon Adam Silver, do your thing. Let the Knicks fans have this.
What muddies the question even further is that most teams will end the 2019-20 season playing an uneven number of games. NBA teams played anywhere from 64-67 games at the time of the shutdown.
The league needs to determine the number of games that will become the baseline for qualifying as a league leader in any statistical category. Will the league go with the higher threshold (72-75 games) or will the league consider that nearly a 1/3 of the league played a shorter schedule (64-67 games)?
Through 64 games – the fewest number of games played by an NBA team – a qualifying player would need to play in 45 games and make a minimum of 235 field goals to qualify as a league leader in FG%. Mitch would qualify based on a 64-game schedule. Additionally, Mitch would breakeven and qualify even if the NBA increased the qualifying games from 64 to 69.
However, if the NBA determines eligibility based on a 72-game schedule, a qualifying player would need to make 264 field goals to become the league leader in FG%, leaving Mitch 11 field goals short or breaking Wilt’s record.
- #5: Brandon Ingram's historic single-season shooting improvement
Sometimes, though, very rarely, players can show unprecedented jumps in shooting improvement (both free-throw and 3-point shooting) over the course of 1 or 2 seasons.
A good example of this is Pascal Siakam:
Now, while this is very cool, how is it relevant to Ingram? Well, what Ingram has done in 2019-20 is reproduce what Siakam did over the course of two seasons, within a single season, to an even higher degree:
- Almost quadrupled his 3-point volume, and went from a below-average to elite 3-point threat in terms of 3P%, jumping 3 percentage points from 33% to 39%, all while --- hold my drink here--- taking much much harder threes: pull-up 3s, 3s off PnR and PnP, 3s around screens, stepbacks, deep threes, contested 3s, 3s off handoffs.
- (Perhaps even more incredibly) Completely reworked his jumper to the point that his FT% improved by almost 20 percentage points. Twenty. Like, what?! And this isn't a fluke or low-sample-size improvement, either - he's taking almost 6 free throws a game!
Now, some Lakers fans are certain to chime in at this point that Ingram, in fact, shot 39% from 3 in his sophomore season, in 2017-18!
However, that season, he only shot 68% from the line, which, combined with his very low 3P volume (only 1.8 3PA), suggests that this season was more of a fluke. This is supported by the fact that his FT% and 3PA remained pretty unchanged in the following season (2018-19).
No, what Ingram's accomplished this season is pretty much completely unheard-of. Simply watching him shoot this season is a different experience altogether: "His motion is faster and more efficient now, he's no longer releasing this near the top of his jump, and so he doesn't pause the ball back at his right ear. The whole thing's just smoother now."
The credit for this unlikely improvement should go to Brandon and New Orleans's awesome assistant coach slash shot-doctor Fred Vinson, who worked very closely with both Ingram and Lonzo Ball this offseason, and allowed both of them to experience massive single-season shooting improvements.
- #6: Luka Dončić, the rightful 2019-20 Most Improved Player?
There's some validity to this idea, of course. A recent notable example is Sacramento Kings lottery pick DeAaron Fox, who struggled in his rookie year before exploding in his sophomore season (last year) as a top young point guard in the West.
However, those assumptions simply don't make sense for Dončić.
For one thing, Luka was the runaway Rookie of the Year. He averaged 21.2/7.8/6.0 as the number one option on a decent Mavericks side, and was even a fringe-mention in All-Star discussions. He was incredibly clutch, too. If there were any 'rookie struggles', Luka basically sidestepped them all.
Furthermore, and more importantly, Dončić has just had perhaps the greatest sophomore season in NBA history.
In the span of one season , Luka's gone from a sub-All Star to an undisputed top 5-10 player. With all due respect to Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo, Pascal Siakam, Devonte' Graham, or any other MIP candidate who is out there, Luka's improvement this season across the board trumps them all. Compared to his rookie year, he's scoring much more often, more efficiently, facilitating more, facilitating more efficiently, rebounding more, leading a much more efficient offense, and just has a much higher impact on the court overall:
|.||2019-20 Luka Dončić||2018-19 Luka Dončić|
|Summary: PTS/AST/REB, FG%/3P%/FT%||29/9/9, on 46/32/75 shooting, 53 eFG%||21/8/6, on 43/33/71 shooting, 50 eFG%|
|Scoring rate (Points scored/75 possessions)||31.3 PTS/75 (3rd)||23.9 PTS/75|
|Scoring efficiency||58.4 TS% (+2.0 rTS%), 53.1 eFG%||54.5 TS% (-1.5 rTS%), 49.7 eFG%|
|Assists/75, Assist %||9.5 AST/75 (4th), 45.3 AST% (2nd)||6.8 AST/75 (19th), 31.6 AST% (17th)|
|Turnover %, AST/TO ratio||14.6 TO%, 2.07 AST/TO||15.0 TO%, 1.76 AST/TO|
|Passer Rating (Backpicks)||8.3||7.0|
|Rebounding||9.3 RPG, 15 TRB%||7.8 RPG, 13 TRB%|
|Team ORTG + How much it improves when he's on the court||116.7 ORTG (1st); +4.7||109.8 ORTG (20th); +0.0|
|Box Plus Minus (Backpicks)||6.9||2.3|
|Box Plus Minus (Basketball Reference)||8.4||3.9|
|WS/48 (Basketball Reference)||.205||.101|
|Real Plus Minus (ESPN)||3.80 (5th)||1.29 (86th)|
|RAPTOR (538)||+6.6 (7th)||+2.2 (57th)|
Ultimately, I came back to what I felt after the first quarter of the season: As impressive and valid as all the other brands of improvement are, and as difficult as all of those leaps are to make, there’s nothing more impressive or difficult than becoming a top-five player in the league. While I wound up leaving Doncic just outside my top five in MVP balloting, it was by the slimmest of margins; he’s fucking unreal, in a way that even the heady early days of “Halleluka” hype didn’t quite project.
This season, Doncic became just the fifth player ever to average 28 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists per game, joining Oscar Robertson, James Harden, Michael Jordan, and Russell Westbrook. He led not only this season’s no. 1 offense, but statistically the no. 1 NBA offense ever, and did it while combining usage and scoring efficiency to a degree matched only by Harden and Giannis.
...as John Hollinger noted at The Athletic, Doncic has also worked diligently to improve his left hand, opening up angles that defenses used to be able to close off to attack, probe, pass, and shoot. Now, the whole floor is unlocked, and opponents have to fear Doncic picking them apart from all over the court.
No player in the league made a bigger or more significant leap this season than Doncic. He returned Dallas to playoff contention, teaming with Kristaps Porzingis, sideline genius Rick Carlisle, and a deep roster of complementary role players to create an offensive juggernaut—one that promises to get even scarier as Doncic continues to work on his jumper. If Luka and the Mavericks offense are already this good while he shoots 31.8 percent from 3, what fresh hell can they unleash if he follows in Harden’s footsteps and gets up to 35 or 36, or even higher?
- #7: Patrick Beverley hates the Rockets
- #8: The Goddess of Fortune also hates the Rockets
- "Lonnie Walker IV Scores 28 Points, EPIC 4th Quarter!", 2-point Spurs win in double OT, Dec 3 2019. This was not only the sole instance Lonnie scored more than 18 points this season, but a James Harden dunk was also inexplicably discounted by the referees.
- "Nemanja Bjelica CALLS GAME in Road Win Over Houston!", 1-point Kings win off Bjelica game-winner, Dec 10 2019.
- This isn't really bad fortune, but it's too incredible to not mention here: The Warriors shock James Harden, Rockets on Christmas Day, 12-point Warriors win, Dec 25 2019. "No Steph Curry? No problem. A Warriors team led by Draymond Green, D'Angelo Russell, Damion Lee and Glenn Robinson III defeated the Houston Rockets on Christmas Day, 116-104." Yes, the 15-win, worst-record-in-the-league Warriors. Oh dear.
- "Bojan Bogdanovic Hits Game-Winner With 1 Second Left In Wild Ending To Rockets-Jazz", 1-point Jazz win off Bogdanovic game-winner, Feb 9 2020.
- #9: Ben Simmons, good at defense
This season, Ben Simmons has graduated a level on defense, becoming, as The Ringer's Rob Mahoney succinctly summarised in an excellent article, "one of the NBA’s very best defenders, full stop and without caveat."
Krishna Narsu's Defensive Versatility Index ranks players by time spent guarding all 5 positions. Among players who've guarded at least 1500 possessions, Simmons ranks 6th in the league, notably guarding each of the guard and forward positions at least 18% of the time. He guards everyone from Bradley Beal and James Harden, to Aaron Gordon and Pascal Siakam.
Simmons moves his feet with the fluidity of a guard but also has the bulk and length of a big (6-10 and 240 pounds with a 7ft wingspan), able to shadow slippery jitterbugs around screens and have the footwork and IQ to deny Luka and Harden their stepbacks, but also able to bang with behemoths in the post.
Of course, no discussion of Simmons's defense would be complete without mentioning his hustle. Ben ranks 1st in steals/game (2.1), 3rd in deflections/game (4.0), and 2 in loose balls recovered/game (1.7). Though he hasn't offered too much in the way of rim protection this year (0.6 blks/G), Simmons is tremendously disruptive off the ball, constantly poking players' dribbles away from behind, reading passes before they happen, harassing ball-handlers, denying handoffs, ambushing passing lanes, and battling for rebounds (7.8 rebs/game, him and Embiid have helped the 6ers to the 2nd-best DRB% in the league).
Joel Embiid is still the most impactful defender on the team - the Sixers' defensive rating is 6.7 points better when he's on the court - but with him missing 21 games this season, it's been up to veteran defensive big Horford, and crucially, Simmons, to plug in the gaps, play multiple positions, and help maintain a passable team defense in JoJo's absence.
- #10: Midrange Mastery
For high scoring players, though, it remains a key component of the offensive arsenals of many stars - the ability to make these shots when defenses give them up in clutch situations or in the playoffs has been often discussed among fans and analysts.
This season, the 5 most efficient midrange scorers (minimum 100 midrange shots attempted) have been:
5. Damian Lillard's sharpshooting Portland running-mate CJ McCollum (49.3 FG%),
4. "50-40-90 club" inductee Malcolm Brogdon (50.6 FG%),
3. Cleveland's veteran star power-forward Kevin Love (52.0 FG%),
2. Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton (52.3 FG%), who's had an excellent season co-starring alongside likely-MVP Giannis leading Milwaukee to a historing winning pace, and is a literal hair away from "50-40-90 club" induction himself this year (49.9/41.8/90.8 splits),
1. and finally, last but certainly not least, with an incredible bounce-back season in Oklahoma at age 34, Chris Paul, who shot a scorching 53.9 FG% from his favourite zone on the court.
The 5 least efficient midrange shooters are a fun and varied bunch as well (these dudes should really be taking fewer of these particular shots):
5. brand-new Golden State Warriors employee Andrew Wiggins (33.8 FG%),
4. Chicago's promising young rookie guard Coby White (33.6 FG%),
3. the defending champion Raptors' newly minted All-Star Pascal Siakam (32.1 FG%),
2. a fellow All-Star who's perhaps finally found his perfect home in Miami and has had an excellent season overall, Jimmy Butler (31.0 FG%),
1. and finally, last and most certainly least, shooting a putrid 25.4 FG% from the midrange: full-time rapper, part-time Slam Dunk Contest runner-up, the Orlando Magic's do-everything-except-shooting-quite-well Power Forward... Aaron Gordon.
Now, efficiency is all nice and dandy, but you might be wondering at this point - who's actually taking the most midrange shots in the league? Most of these names will likely be some familiar to fans as well-seasoned practitioners of the midrange - the 5 most prolific midrange shot-takers in the league in 2020:
5. CJ McCollum (280 attempts, 49.3 FG%), who we've mentioned previously,
4. defending Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard (282 attempts, 44.0 FG%), who led the nation of Canada to their maiden title last year with the midrange fadeaway as a trusty and now iconic weapon in his arsenal (cries in Sixers),
3. the newest entry in the top three (he was 15th last season), Phoenix's 1st-time All-Star Devin Booker (288 attempts, 44.4 FG%), who's had an excellent offensive campaign (25.7 points and 6.5 assists per 75 on awesome +5.3 efficiency) leading the oft-maligned Suns to a league average offense,
2. the guy who replaced Kawhi Leonard on the Spurs, fellow midrange enthusiast DeMar DeRozan (331 attempts, 44.7 FG%), whose game is now synonymous (to a slightly unhealthy degree) with his love for the midrange,
1. and finally, DeMar's fellow San Antonio running-mate and stretch big LaMarcus Aldridge (352 attempts, 44.9 FG%). Fun-fact: these two finished 1st and 2nd in last year's list as well.
- #11: Yo speaking of DeMar... what's he been up to recently?
- The first thing you probably notice about 2020 DeMar DeRozan is that this is easily the most efficient version of him we've ever seen - he's averaged 23.3 points and 5.9 assists per 75 on 53% shooting from the field and 60 TS%, 3.3 points higher than league-average efficiency (i.e. +3.3 rTS%). His previous most efficient volume-scoring output was in 2015-16, where he scored 25.3 points per 75 on +0.9 efficiency (55 TS%). DeMar's shooting percentage at the rim has been incredible for his position - 70.7 FG% in the restricted area, which is similar at-rim efficiency to someone like LeBron James (69 FG%) or Anthony Davis (73 FG%) - on far fewer attempts, of course, but still highly impressive.
- The second thing you might is that this season has been a tale of two DeMars. Including and prior to 12-22-2019, a 25-point loss to the Clippers, DeRozan averaged 20.7 points and 4.7 assists on 56 TS% (-0.4 rTS%). Since that date, over 33 games, he's averaged 23.4 points and 6.3 assists on blistering hot efficiency, 55/27/87 splits, or 63 TS% (+6.3 rTS%). As a result, DeMar DeRozan now holds the record for the longest streak of 20+ points and >50 FG% by guards in NBA history. Cool stuff!
- This wasn't a random change, though. Coach Pop made two key changes after that horrific Clippers loss. First, he moved DeMar to Power Forward, to reduce Rudy Gay's playing time and veer away from having LaMarcus Aldridge and non-shooting center Jakob Poeltl share the court, to try and improve spacing. Second, he moved LMA to the 3-point line and implored LMA to shart shooting 3s. The effect was near-instantaneous - all of a sudden, with LMA bombing away from 3 (4.2 3PA, 42 3P% in 23 games since 12/23/19), DeRozan has had more driving lanes to work with, abusing more mismatches and drawing more fouls (5.8->7.3 FTA/G), having more midrange real-estate to find clearer looks and also finishing more cleanly at the rim (49.9->55.0 FG%), and attracting more defensive attention as a result to facilitate the Spurs offense (4.7->6.3).
- The third thing you might realize is that DeMar is still a very poor defender. The Spurs are a whopping 5.9 points better on defense with DeMar off the court, and most available defensive metrics available all paint DeMar as a bottom 10th-15th percentile defender - D-PIPM (17th-worst), D-RAPM (449th), D-RAPTOR (226th out of 250), D-RPM (469th). He consistently ranks near the bottom of the league in hustle stats, is terrible at fighting over screens, is a non-factor in transition defense (he has a penchant for complaining for missed calls), is inconsistent in closing out to shooters, strikes out when gambling for steals, has questionable decision-making and often finds himself a step or two behind opponent plays, stuck in no-mans-land, making him a poor team defender. He's not terrible at man defense, and the move to power forward actually helped his defense somewhat, as opponent PFs only have a 15.1 PER (around league average) when facing DeRozan, whereas opponent SFs have an excellent 19.7 PER with DeMar as the primary defender. Not all of San Antonio's defensive woes can be attributed to DeMar. The team is in a constant state of defensive flux - a dearth of shooting forces Popovich to often play proven floor-spacer but absolute defensive sieve Bryn Forbes, while inconsistent shooting and offensive production limit the Spurs' best all-round defender, Dejounte Murray's, court time, and a lack of spacing also stops excellent rim protector Jakob Poeltl from earning consistent minutes as lineups pairing him and LMA have been awful on offense.
- The fourth and final thing, perhaps, is that the situation in San Antonio is very tenuous for both DeMar and the team alike. The Spurs are currently stuck between eras, trying to churn out winning seasons and maintain their streak of 22 consecutive playoff appearances by playing veterans like DeMar, LMA, and Gay large minutes while simultaneously trying to develop younger promising players like Murray, White, Lonnie Walker, Lyles, and Poeltl. This has yielded mixed results this season because of a lack of spacing and inconsistent defense. Meanwhile, DeMar is on the wrong side of 30 and has a possible contract extension looming ($150M, 4 years, if I'm not mistaken). Some say he'll leave, some say a potential cap-drop resulting from COVID-19 could convince him to opt-in. Either way, this season is a turning point for the team and for DeMar.
- #12: The Memphis Grizzlies' Funky Big Trio
- #13: Marcus Smart vs Terry Rozier, as 3 point shooters
This season, Rozier has hit an elite 41% of his 6.7 3PA while Smart has connected on a decent 35% of his 6.9 3PA. To be more precise, Terry Rozier is one of the league's best catch-and-shoot players, hitting an incredible 45.7% of his catch-and-shoot 3s, with a more pedestrian 34% on his pullup 3s.
On the other hand, Marcus Smart is one of the league's best pull-up shooters, hitting an elite 40.4% of his pull-up 3s, but a horrendous 31.4% on catch-and-shoot 3s. A fun contrast!