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What is Wrong With Brian Scalabrine?

 

Picture 7On this site and just about every other Celtics site out there, we spend a lot of time picking apart Tony Allen, criticizing every confounding turnover and awful-looking shot (and expressing cautious optimism at every drive to the basket and drawn foul).

But let me ask you: Do you realize how awful Brian Scalabrine has been this season, at least statistically?

I don’t say this lightly or before doing the required research and number-crunching: You could pretty easily make the argument that Brian Scalabrine has been the worst player receiving regular minutes in the NBA this season.

And the disturbing thing is that Scal’s production has gotten even worse as his minutes have increased due to injuries to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

But let’s take the big picture first. Over the course of the season, Scal is shooting 32 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three-point range. He has taken just four free throws all season and hasn’t scored more than three points in a game since November 7.  And  he’s rebounding like Eddie House; Scal is pulling down 2.4 rebounds per 36 minutes, easily a career low.

Guess where that rebound rate would have ranked among forwards who qualified for the scoring title last season?

Dead last, behind the Holy Trinity of Forward Rebounding Awfulness (Steve Novak, Bruce Bowen and Jason Kapono, according to Basketball Reference.

As for advanced stats, John Hollinger at ESPN.com compiles his Player Efficiency Rating for every player who appears in an NBA game—415 players through Saturday night’s action. Brian Scalabrine’s PER is 2.9. Guess where that ranks?

 

That would be 398th, ahead of 17 players, none of whom have appeared in more than 12 games this season. Scal has appeared in 25 of the C’s 32 games, logging 240 minutes—about 9:40 per game. The only guy with a PER in Scal’s range who receives regular minutes is Washington’s DeShawn Stevenson.

But Scal’s playing time has jumped a bit recently thanks to the KG and Pierce injuries. Scal has played in 13 of the C’s last 14 games and logged about 169 minutes in that span—about 13 minutes per game.

And his production has, somehow, dropped. Over those 13 games, Scal is shooting 3-of-24 (12.5 percent), including 1-of-15 from three-point range.  He has grabbed just 14 rebounds in that 168:30 span—one every 12 minutes.

I know what you’re thinking: Scal’s game isn’t about numbers, it’s about helping the team by playing to his strengths and avoiding mistakes.

Here’s the thing, though: The Celtics have performed abysmally with Scal on the floor. His overall plus/minus for those 13 games is -36, and he has recorded a positive plus/minus number in (and this is fairly remarkable) just one of those games: The Dec. 12 blowout win at Chicago, when Scal was +11 in 16:22 of playing time.

Take away that game, and we’re talking about a -47 mark in 12 games (and just 152 minutes).

For the full season, the C’s are 21 points worse per 100 possessions (which amounts to a little more than a 48-minute game) with Scalabrine on the floor versus with him on the bench, according to the raw plus/minus numbers at Basketball Value. No Celtic regular even approaches that type of negative number. In fact, that plus/minus mark is worse than any NBA player who has logged at least 480 minutes this season, according to BV.

In other words: It’s hard to find any statistical evidence showing Brian Scalabrine helps the Celtics in any way.

I knew Scal was having a tough season, but the awfulness of his numbers caught me off guard. I thought he did a nice job making Vince Carter work hard for his points—and generally staying in front of Vince—in a pinch on Christmas Day, and Scal generally runs the C’s sets correctly on both ends.

And maybe that’s why we, as fans, let Scal slide while harping on every wrong thing Tony Allen does. TA’s mistakes are easy to spot, and he usually makes them only after using his athleticism to put himself in a position to make a play. Example: TA steals the ball, streaks down the court and attempts an ill-advised fast-break lay-up against two defenders, committing a charge in the process. Or: TA uses his speed to beat his defender off the dribble, draws the defense and attempts a high degree of difficulty pass that misses its target by five feet and lands out of bounds.

We all shake our heads at the idiotic plays and bemoan TA’s inability to harness his athleticism.

Scalabrine, in comparison, is a fairly invisible player. Scal doesn’t seem to turn the ball over nearly as often (about 1.4 turnovers per 36 minutes for his career, compared to 3.2 per 36 for TA), and when he does cough it up, it lacks the Bonehead Effect of a classic TA turnover.

Guess what though? Their career turnover rates are nearly identical, according to Basketball Reference. TA gives the rock up on about 17.6 percent of the possessions in which he tries to do something with it; Scal’s turnover rate is 17.2 percent. It’s just that TA tries to do something with the ball much more often than Scal does.

So Scal enjoys a pretty friendly relationship with fans in part because he blends in and stays out of the way on the court. TA’s reputation suffers because he tries to do things but screws up sometimes.

But Scal’s numbers—both the traditional stats and the advanced plus/minus variety—suggest that giving minutes to a player who merely blends in may be more destructive than giving them to someone who plays a more active role and makes mistakes.

This isn’t to say Scal should suddenly start taking people off the dribble and launching off-balance runners. He obviously shouldn’t. There is value to playing within your limitations. But even players who stick to what they are good at (like, say, Steve Novak, Jason Kapono, Reggie Evans and Bruce Bowen) are good at something. They make shots, or they get rebounds or they play hard-nosed defense.

What about Scal?

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    its still early in the season and scal is a loveable character….but his SOMETHING at this point is what his expiring contract might fetch in return….

  • Brendan Jackson

    Ohhhh stats. I’d like to see the raw numbers of the turnovers. TA has the ball in his hand way more than Scal does so regardless what the ratio is, I’d bet anyone a beer that TA has far more turnovers than Scal does.

    It is true though that Scal is having a down year, which is scary considering what an up year for Scal is/ would be. Still, stats don’t take in to consideration things you mentioned like “staying in front of your man” or defensive rotations or tipped balls.

    As for the rebounding rate, isn’t it pretty obvious as to why the rebounds are so low for nearly all the guys on your terrible rebounding rates for forwards list? They all are almost exclusive three point shooters and wing defenders.

    So many reasons to loath stats….but they do serve a purpose and provide good fodder for content. Overall interesting post Zach.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    The raw #’s are in there for turnovers/36 minutes.

    Yes, all of those forwards are three-point shooters. And they all have lower rebound rates than Ray Allen.

  • Jay

    I know this will be considered completely out of line by other commenters on here, but might some of the unearned love for scal have to do with, I don’t know, the fact that he’s the only white guy on the team? You have to work harder to come up with arguments against that theory than arguments for it.

    Personally, I’d be happy if neither TA nor Scal ever saw the floor.

  • Brendan Jackson

    Scal’s TRB per game is 2.2, per 36 minutes is 5.5.

    Ray Allen’s TRB per game is 4.4, per 36 minutes is 4.3.

    What creates this discrepansy? Also, yes Ray Allen is and has been one of the best perimeter shooters this league has ever seen. That said, for the majority of his career, he has been a swing man. There is also a noticeable drop off in rebounding rate from the time Ray arrived in Boston- where he has been much more of a spot up shooter.

    I make no excuses for a 6’9″ guy who can’t rebound but the explanation for why Scal doesn’t grab as many rebounds as Ray is pretty clear: less minutes and I would venture to guess that Scal has spent less time in the paint over his career than Ray Allen. Is there anyway to check this out?

  • Brendan Jackson

    @ Jay

    I don’t think it has anything to do with race, but rather ability and body type. If the C’s had Steve Nash, he wouldn’t be a fan favorite for his skin color, he’d be a fan favorite for his play. Conversely, I doubt Adam Morrison would be a fan favorite because he’s white-I don’t think he’d be a fan favorite at all. I think he’d be the team pariah.

    Scal looks and acts like a clown. He’s very personable, likeable, and funny. Just listen to the 2008 Finals Press conference.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    I’m talking only about this season. The stats you list are for his career. This season–which is the subject of the post–his rebound rate any way you slice it is worse than Ray Allen’s.

    That is inexcusable for a forward.

  • Brendan Jackson

    James Jones is averaging 1.7 boards a game this season. Is there something wrong with him? I would say given the minutes he’s getting there’s something more wrong with him than Brian Scalabrine.

    Still, even Austin Croshere averaged 4 boards a game over his career which makes Scal’s rebounding numbers look very bad.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Brian Robb

    As the unofficial president of the Scal fan club for this site, I have to say Zach you are……dead on with this post. Scal has been beyond awful for the majority of this season but especially so for the last month. Bill Simmons referenced him in his podcast saying he was trying to say more invincible than ever on the floor this year and I couldn’t agree more, especially on the offensive end.

    As bad as Scal’s numbers are in this article, check them out in the last month where Scal has played 155 of his 240 minutes this year.

    FG %: 13.6
    3PT FG %: 6.7%
    PTS/G: 0.8
    REB: 1.1
    AST: 0.7

    Even for the most bias Scal fans, that is beyond unacceptable. 6 percent from downtown? Really? One of the few things Scal brings to the table is his outside range and he hasn’t shown any of it in the last 40-50 days. Now he’s just been good for not turning over the ball, and playing “pesky” defense. Offensively though the C’s have been playing 4 on 5 with him out there.

    Hopefully his shooting will reappear during this upcoming stretch with KG out, but if not he should be relegated to the bench on a full time basis. He should be now anyway for that matter, but we all know Doc won’t do that.

  • Tom

    I thought Scal was good last year before all the concussions, but he is truly awful this year. I think it’s time to pull the plugs on him and give Bill Walker a try now since JR and Scal don’t seem to be very efficient.

    I do have to say Scal did an okay job against Hedo, also he seems to be active on the offense glass by tapping balls back out.

  • http://www.djryb.com Dj RyB

    I refuse to let Scal slide under the radar without any repercussions like some Celtics fans. It pisses me off beyond belief when I am at a game and the crowd starts a Scal chant or cheers him on to shoot when he’s in the game. I know it’s mostly a joke because he is the only fat and slow redheaded white guy on the team but it’s getting really old.

    He has been useless for 3 years now but this season it’s beyond ridiculous. Doc let’s him play big minutes without proving anything while he is on the floor and as you just broke it down, he is actually hurting the C’s when he plays.

    Someone like Sheldon Williams, who has played much better than expected and makes things happen while he is on the floor (blocks, boards, dunks) gets stuck behind Scal for no reason at all and sometimes even gets DNP’s. It is beyond frustrating. Scal also gets minutes over young guys like Giddens and Walker who might be decent if given a chance and could very easily give us the same production as Scal (it couldn’t be any worse). I would rather see them get a chance to play and fail then watch Scal get run over on defense and brick wide open threes. He is HORRIBLE!!!

  • Dan

    Finally someone writes an article about this! I have been saying this almost all season. Scalabrine is one of the least productive players in the NBA. He may actually be the worst of any player who plays regular minutes. He has the worst +/- rating on the Celtics. He is a power forward, yet in over 50% of his games, he scores no points or grabs no rebounds.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/gamelog?playerId=1021

    He should play 0 minutes at power forward. Sheldon has been racking up DNP-CDs for some unknown reason but Scal never seems to get in Doc’s doghouse.

  • cmoney

    Scal’s been one of the least productive players in the NBA for multiple years now.

    Lost in all the fan favorite hoopla for this clown is the fact that he’s very unprofessional. No, I don’t blame him for taking the payday that Ainge foolishly handed him. Anyone would. However, he’s done nothing to improve his game. Now, I wouldn’t expect him to make any great strides in his basketball skill given his age (looking over his #s from his NJ days, it can’t be stated how god awful this signing was by Ainge, but I digress). However, there is one area he is in complete control of: his strength and conditioning (which conversely would improve a couple areas of his game: defense and rebounding). He’s a pro athlete in a sport where most guys are below 15% body fat. There is absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be spending his offseasons hitting the weights hard (a solid barbell program would do wonders), improving his diet, and slimming down.

    Instead he rested on his laurels and we saw a significant dip in his already paltry production the moment he signed a big contract. Not exactly a shining example of the “blue collar hero” he’s portrayed as. More like an entitled, over-privileged hack.

    Then again, his presser after we soulcrushed the Lakers is one of the greatest moments in modern nba history.

  • Tom

    When KG went down last year, he was excellent in his role until someone knocked him out

  • thepeopleschoice

    Seems a little petty to pick on a guy who doesn’t play that much and has been a pretty great teammate over the years.

    Perhaps the fact that he was derailed for the first three weeks of the season has hurt his productivity. I don’t think he’s been any worse than Sheldon Williams or JR Giddens. Come on.

    Why don’t you get some guts and take Ray Allen to task for being pretty pedestrian this year? Or, how about Eddie House? Both of them have a lot more responsibility to the team’s overall success and they’ve been awful.

    Scal played terrific last year and I suspect over time, and played at his natural position will do a lot better.

    And, no Celtics fan should ever mention Bill Simmons. He’s an idiot.

  • cmoney

    Shelden has been excellent, stone hands and all. Seems primed to fill Leon Powe’s slot as a superior player to Davis who Doc plays less. He defe

    Giddens probably ranks #2 in worst decisions Ainge has made behind the Scal signing, especially considering CDR was available. He too is terrible. Expect Doc to keep playing him over Walker.

    The fact that the past two posts refer to Scal’s play last year as “excellent” and “terrific” just goes to show that the majority of Celtics fans are not qualified to objectively measure Scalabrine’s performance. He was better than expected, but quite bad overall.

  • http://facebook.com James

    scal and ta are simply garbage, i cant wait 4 them to 2 b off the team next year

  • nowayout

    I expect Both Scal’s and TA’s contracts (feel free to add JR or Billy in) to be shipped out at the trade deadline…and that will be the best thing Scal will give us this year.
    Playoffs are usually 8-9 man rotation (unless there is an injury). Other than the starting five, you have Sheed, House, Marquis and Baby…I’d bet Danny would get another wing or a back up PG for those expirings…Cs playoff roster in a nutshell, which is what matters.

  • BossTweed

    There is nothing wrong with Scalabrine, he is horrible and always has been. No other team in the league would play him.

    I always thought the Celtics kept him as a joke.

  • Tebucky

    I like Mr. Jackson’s stance. There is something to be said for doing everything a coach asks of you even though most are hard to quantify. That being said, 25% from downtown needs to come up for him to be a productive player for us.

  • GGW

    Meanwhile, Shelden is on the bench.

    What gives?

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  • Idaho

    I haven’t watched as many games as everyone else but every time I do I love how Scal plays hard, hits the big shots (other than lately), gets to the loose balls (he has done this very well lately) and at times seems to be the only guy on the court playing hard.

    The game vs. phoenix made me embarassed to be a C’s fan with the team effort. Scal was the only one playing hard. He does need to give them somethign offensively though I a agree. I love efficient guys that don’t take what talent they do have for granted and work hard – guys like that are always valuable on a team. I despise guys who have all the talent in the world but don’t listen. Scal spends more time pre-game getting better than anyone, and rightly so. But many guys would be all-stars if they had his work ethic.

    Get better Scal.

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