You gotta love 82games.com.
Well, actually I find it very confusing, but basketball nerds really seem to love looking at the statistical breakdowns of players and the such, so I do occasionally visit the site to beef up. While looking today, I was surprised to find some interesting things in the breakdowns of the Celtics, particularly when it comes to how different units mesh.
First, a word on statistics. Personally, I think they’re garbage, particularly when viewed outside of the context of a game. Okay, one stat isn’t meaningless and that’s the final score. However, most of the time stats lie, it’s a fact. For example, Dwight Howard had a monster night on Monday by any normal, statistical measure, even though we all would probably agree that Perkins had a stronger game all around.
Still, I do find the +/- statistic to be really interesting as a measure. This stat measures the team’s net gain or loss of points when that particular player is on the floor. It’s not a great way to measure a player’s worth, but it does provide a small measure of worth if a player plays enough minutes, bench guys like O’Bryant, who only get burn in garbage times will have terrible plus/minuses, so it’s not worth looking at. But, as a whole, its especially interesting when weighing how teams perform with certain tandems on the floor, because basketball is such a game of pairings (speaking of pairings…where’d that wine guy go?). So, here’s what we learned from our friends at 82games.
First, the obvious: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are great and pretty much having any two of the three on the floor guarantees success.
Second, the not so obvious: Glen Davis is a very skilled player, but according to the stats, he’s actually a bit of a drag statistically. When you combine him with any of the starting five the teams plus/minus goes into the gutter. However, when combined with bench players like Tony Allen and Eddie House, the team does better. Not surprisingly, one of the more effective tandems for the team is Glen Davis and Leon Powe, who in their 206 combined minutes playing together this season are a +24 for a per-48 average of +6. So, you’re not just stoned on wheat thins when you say, “Damn, those guys really play well together.” They have been playing very well together. Also, that whole Rajon Rondo and Eddie House pairing that Doc played with in the pre-season turns out to be a stink bomb so far with an average of -66 when the two are on the floor. However, that’s probably skewed due to limited sample size.
Third: Leon Powe is very valuable. Powe and Garnett have an astounding +43 on a per 48 minute basis. He also seems to play very well with Rondo (+23) and Ray Allen (+21). Meanwhile, Perkins and Powe do not work well together (+3), due to duplication of skill set. Similarly, Tony Allen has played very well when he’s on the court, and at this point is duplicating the output of James Posey.
Fourth: Perkins and Garnett remain a very effective combination with an average +17 when on the floor together.
Not surprising stuff, but interesting nonetheless. You should check it out and play around if you have a chance.