Welcome to the first regular season installment of our weekly feature here at IndyCornrows, Stat of the Week. This feature, posted each Monday morning, focuses in on one statistic or number to recap and tell the story of the Pacers' performance for the previous week.
This week was quite the letdown, following the Pacers' 2-1 start. The team got embarrassed in Philadelphia, 101-75, before losing a close but equally frustrating game to the Milwaukee Bucks 94-90. Despite the team's disappointing week and losing record there have been some strong individual performances and plenty of reason for optimism. Today, I thought we would take a look at the Plus/Minus numbers for some of the individual Pacers to get an idea of who has been helping and who has been hurting the team.
Plus/Minus is a relatively new basketball statistic, with the premise borrowed from hockey. Essentially, Plus/Minus shows the difference between the points scored and the points allowed by the team with a certain player on the floor. A positive Plus/Minus means the team scored better with that player on the floor, a negative means they performed worse. The benefit of Plus/Minus is that it theoretically gives a picture of how a player's entire statistical output affects his team. Plus/Minus can be inconsistent from year to year and doesn't always do a good job of explaining why something is happening.
These numbers can be found in their raw form on NBA.com and also in ESPN boxscores. The site I use most frequently, BasketballValue.com, presents their numbers in a slightly different format. Basketball Value calculates the Offensive and Defensive Ratings (points scored and allowed per 100 possessions) and uses that differential as a player's +/-. Basketball Value also calculates an Adjusted Plus/Minus which accounts for the quality of ones' teammates as well as opponents. For our purposes today we will be using the regular Unadjusted Plus/Minus.
Below is a table showing the Pacers' Offensive, Defensive and Overall ratings for when each player is on an off the floor:
Off. Rating ON
Off. Rating OFF
Off. Rating NET
Def. Rating ON
Def. Rating OFF
Def. Rating NET
There is a lot of information here and it can be confusing, so let's take it category by category.
A positive Net Offensive Rating means the team scores that many more points per 100 possessions with that player on the floor than with them off it. A negative Net Offensive Rating means just the opposite, the team scores that many less points with the player on the floor than off it. The players with positive Net Offensive Ratings are the starters and Hansbrough, which is a good sign. However, having your top six guys with positive Net Offensive Ratings can also speak to the offensive ineptitude of the second unit, which is obviously a factor here.
The real standouts are Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, Mike Dunleavy and Josh McRoberts. The Pacers' are averaging 110 points per 100 possessions with Tyler on the floor, the best such rating on the team. The team's performance with Dunleavy on the floor is surprising given his shooting struggles to start the season. The team's disappointing Offensive Rating with Danny Granger on the floor is probably heavily influenced by the minutes he has played with the second unit. It's also very apparent how much Roy Hibbert and Mike Dunleavy help the offensive flow, as evidenced by the team's Offensive Rating in the mid 80's when they are off the floor.
Solomon Jones and James Posey's effect on the team offense couldn't be more clear. The team has posted an Offensive Rating in the 70s with either of them on the floor. The Pacers also put up Offensive Ratings under 95 with T.J. Ford or Paul George on the floor.
A positive Net DefensiveRating means the opposing team scores that many more points per 100 possessions with that player on the floor than with them off it.. A negative Net Defensive Rating means just the opposite, the opposing team scores that many less points with the player on the floor than off it. Therefore, a negative Net Defensive Rating indicates a strong performance.
The stars here for the Pacers are Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert, with the team giving up over 20 extra points per 100 possessions with them off the floor. Every starter besides Josh McRoberts has a negative Net Defensive Rating, which is a good sign, but also speaks to the weaknesses in the Pacers' bench. Despite the strong defensive impression his play has given, the team is giving up an atrocious 116.02 points per 100 possessions with Paul George on the floor. Although, playing a number of his minutes with Solomon Jones defending the basket certainly isn't helping George. The team is giving up 122.41 points per 100 possessions with Jones on the floor.
T.J. Ford impressed Jim O'Brien enough with his defensive play to earn heavy 4th quarter minutes through the first two weeks. Despite giving O'Brien that impression, the team defense has actually been better with Collison on the floor (103.92) than Ford (108.38).
The key category here for me is the Overall On the court rating for each player. This is the team's Offensive Rating minus their Defensive Rating while that player is on the floor. The Overall Net Rating combines the player's Overall On and Off court ratings to show their value to the team, but the Overall On the court rating shows what the team is producing compared to their opponents while that player is on the floor.
The only two players with positive Overall On the court ratings are Roy Hibbert and Mike Dunleavy. Hibbert shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has watched the Pacers' this season. Granger's numbers are again impacted by the heavy minutes he has played with the second unit.
Dunleavy's impact is a surprise. It's true that he plays the vast majority of his minutes with the first unit. However, his impressive rebounding numbers and ability to move the ball in the flow of the offense clearly have some benefits to the team. At the end of the preseason I had advocated moving Dunleavy to the second unit when Rush returns from his suspension. The rationale was that Rush could provide a greater defensive impact as a starter and Dunleavy could act as a focal point and additional facilitator for the bench players. At this point I am retracting that suggestion. His role playing with starters has been to the benefit of the team and with his shooting slump I'm not sure he is ready to take on that focal point role.
I understand the limited options Jim O'Brien has in the front court and the benefits of veteran leadership, but James Posey and Solomon Jones have been killing the Pacers when they are on the floor. The team's differential is 45.02 points worse when Jones is on the floor, and 20.94 points worse when Posey is playing. McRoberts is averaging only 20.6 minutes per game and Tyler Hansbrough is averaging only 17.8. Hansbrough is still building up his endurance but I find it difficult to believe that both players aren't capable of playing significantly more minutes. The numbers clearly show that every minute that O'Brien can give to McRoberts or Hansbrough over Posey or Jones should have a huge positive impact for the team.
It's only 5 games into the season, and probably too early to be drawing long term conclusions about season long playing rotations. Things will also tighten up at the wing spots with the return of Brandon Rush on Tuesday night. However, it's not too early to be identifying players who are not producing up to acceptable levels and attempting to move their minutes to more productive players.
The Pacers have three games this week, with Denver and Houston at home, and then traveling to Cleveland on Saturday. The second unit has been underwhelming and it might be time to make some adjustments both in minute allocations and substitution patterns.
Rebound Percentage Update:
In the first installment of Stat of the Week we discussed Rebound Percentage and identified it as a season long focus, and bellwether statistic for the team. The team's percentages 5 games into the season look like this:
Offensive Rebound Percentage: 22.3% (26th in the NBA)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: 75.0% (9th in the NBA)