Advanced Stats


In honor of xandersdad being the first to comment, I present this post talking a bit about advanced stats in relation to the Knicks.  This comes from the Dallas Mavericks former stat guru, Wayne Winston.  It was Wayne Winston who before the season began said he wouldn’t take Kevin Durant for free because of his adjusted plus/minus stats.  Shortly thereafter the Mavs fired him.  Coincidence?  Who knows?

For those who aren’t up on stats, a brief explanation.  Normal plus/minus is just a measure of while a player is in, how much did his team outscore, or get outscored, by the other team.  The idea is that say someone like Houston’s Shane Battier who’s a phenomenal defender, you can’t determine that from the traditional stats of points, assists, rebounds, blocks, steals, etc.  But if he IS playing great D, then his team should theoretically be scoring more when he’s in.  So if Houston scored say 63 points while he was in, but their opponent only scored 47, he’d have a plus/minus of +16.  Or maybe it’d prove the opposite, that even though he’s a good defender, he’s such a liability on offense that the other team scored 84 points to his team’s 63.  That’d give him a plus/minus of -21.

Now there’s a ton of problems with normal plus/minus.  For instance, let’s say the Rockets were going up against the Lakers, so whenever Kobe was in, Battier went in.  If Kobe sat, Battier sat to rest so he’d have more energy to hassle the Black Mamba.  Meanwhile Houston’s bench guy only has to cover like Adam Morrison’s corpse or something.  Chances are that Bench Guy will have a better plus/minus than Battier, even though Battier’s far superior.  Adjusted plus/minus is supposed to account for not only the difference in the opposition, but also for which teammates are on the floor at the same time.  Meaning just ‘cuz Derek Fisher starts and plays with Kobe, it won’t effect that Jordan Farmar has to play with Morrison The Undead (or actually The Dead).  How do they do that?  I dunno.  It’s a bit hush-hush.  Also, all the stat-heads say that small sample sizes are useless for plus/minus.  If Adam Morrison happens to be on the floor when Kobe suddenly scores 29 points in 1 minute, then it’ll show Ammo has +29 when he just stood there and watched.  However, over a long enough period of time, the fact that Ammo is useless will be shown ‘cuz he won’t always have someone else on fire while he’s on the court.

Anyhoo, so here’s some stuff from a recent Q & A interview with Wayne Winston on ESPN’s TrueHoop Blog:

"10. You have told me that many coaches do things you simply cannot understand, for instance by ignoring some really good lineups. What are some of the best lineups from this season, and are some of them not being played enough?"

"As I described above, the Lakers have the best lineups. After that, some of the best in the League are:"

"Hawks: Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson Rating: +37Cavaliers: Daniel Gibson, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, LeBron James, Anderson Varejao and Delonte West or Anthony Parker Rating: +53Mavericks: Erick Dampier, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion Rating +31Warriors: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Randolph, Vladimir Radmanovic Rating +40Bucks: Charlie Bell, Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings Rating +29Knicks: Chris Duhon, Danilo Gallinari, Larry Hughes, Jared Jeffries and David Lee Rating +51 [Note: I, Short White Boy, bold-faced this for you, not TrueHoop.]Thunder: Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Nenad Krstic, Thabo Sefelosha and Russell Westbrook Rating +32Magic: Ryan Anderson, Matt Barnes, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick Rating +56Magic: Matt Barnes, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard and Jason Williams Rating +36Raptors: Andrea Bargnani, Marco Bellinelli, Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu Rating +35Jazz: Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyrylo Fesenko, Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews Rating +26Jazz: Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur, Deron Williams Rating +26With all that in mind, some notes:* For the Knicks, Wilson Chandler, Chris Duhon, Al Harrington, Larry Hughes and David Lee is bad (minus-21). Put Gallinari (+30 rating) or Jeffries (+8 rating) for Chandler and the Knicks are much better. So why has first lineup played almost as often as the other two put together (85 minutes vs. 87 minutes)? [Again, that’s my bold-ifying, not TrueHoop.]"

So according to WW, the Knicks can play the fourth best line-up in the ENTIRE league.  However if you watch the actual games that are a few things about this don’t pass the Something’s-Egregiously-Erroneous (S.E.E.) test.  First, when Hughes was playing, the Knicks weren’t winning.  When he’s played more than 8 minutes, the team’s record is 9-17.  In the remaining games they’re 6-4.  The real issue was that Chandler started off the season playing like doggie doo.  That said, I do believe that adding Jeffries to core group has been a huuuuge plus for the Knicks (much more so that Gallinari, despite Gallo’s +30 to Jeffries +8).  As many have noted, the key to the Knicks’ recent run of success has had a bunch to do with their suddenly improved defense.  And that’s all Jeffries.

So I like the idea of advanced stats, but to blindly follow ’em as WW does is to misuse ’em.  As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben (no relation to the rice king) once sorta said, “With great power (from stats) comes great responsibility.”