Introducing (For the Last Time?) The Plus-Minus/40 Salvation Scale
Posted by Hayes Davenport on Nov 15, 2010
A personal fact about me is that I really like plus/minus. It’s noisy and messy and often a little stupid, but I like that it offers a measure of performance without any individual counting stats. I don’t think it’s a great metric, but it can supplement a larger evaluation and it’s fun to talk about.
Plus/minus per 40 minutes (that’s what I’ll be using here, with raw figures from the glorious Hoopdata) can entertain us in a number of ways. It can help us confirm things we already know, like that Pau Gasol is the best player on the Lakers (outscoring opponents by 11.03 to Kobe’s 7.93) or that Dwyane Wade (5.83, zero or below in all four Heat losses) is ruining everything for LeBron (9.55). It can also offer a few surprises, like that Chris Bosh has the highest plus/minus of the Miami guys (10.83) or that Kevin Durant is being outscored by 3.21 points when he’s on the floor this season. Eesh.
Let’s take a look at the C’s plus/minus per 40 spectrum, presented here in chart form as a gift to your eyeballs.
Is there anything of value that we can take away from this chart, other than the comforting knowledge that there is beauty in the world? Maybe not, but we should probably blow a few hours discussing it anyway. Here are a few things that jump out at me:
- Overall this chart ranks the C’s performance this season pretty much as you would by sight. For example, the starters have been outplaying the reserves by a pretty wide margin. Not great for a team that, you know, gave its bench a name, but also not a huge surprise. Among the non-starters, it appears that the earlier you get into the game (Glen, Marquis) and therefore the smaller a percentage of your floor time you spend with Nate Robinson, the higher your plus/minus value is. The C’s bench situation could be worse; this isn’t Miami. But we should nonetheless be thankful for the neck-tattooed Christmas elf who’s about to rejoin the team.
- Glen is probably the one guy whose position on the chart jibes the least with his perceived performance so far this season. He looks like he’s been succeeding with the starters and likewise failing with the bench, with an end result of general mediocrity. Glen had five games with a plus/minus of exactly 1, including a bizarre four-game stretch from Milwaukee to Dallas. He’s still been good, he just spends time on the floor with a lot of different lineups of varying quality. He doesn’t hurt the good ones, but also doesn’t do much for the bad ones. Nothing to call the cops over.
- The Nate-Semih combo has been getting absolutely torched. It’s not a given that bench players come with a low or negative plus-minus: they’re usually on the floor with the opposing team’s bench players, guys they should be at least capable of outscoring. And they’ve posted a couple of huge games: they were big in last week’s Memphis win and basically won the OKC game on their own. But Nate’s had negative scores in 7 out of 10 games and the two of them were almost solely responsible for the loss in Dallas. Overall you can look at this as a referendum on Nate’s shooting, which will probably improve, and his ability to run an offense, something he’s never been at all interested in doing anyway and that seemingly nobody has ever demanded of him. Cool. By the way, how happy is Nate to have three days off right after Call of Duty: Black Ops came out?
- Marquis is a pleasant little surprise here, but not a huge one, as he’s looked good so far. He posted two big plus/minus games against Chicago and OKC, and has been pretty consistently in the positive. Looking back at the chart, I think we can all agree that that is the face he would make in reaction to this or any score.
- No surprise that Rondo’s leading the team in this metric, even though he’s also leading the team in minutes and spends a decent chunk of his floor time with bench guys. If not for that Cleveland game, where everyone posted a pretty bad plus/minus except KG, Rondo would have outscored the opposition in every game.
- I find Ray’s middling performance here to be a little curious. The prevailing wisdom with Ray is that he provides a floor-spacing element that makes every lineup he’s in better. But his plus/minus this season generally comes in substantially lower than the other starters, and he’s posted a negative value in three wins, including a -12 in the Chicago game. I have a feeling this has something to do with A) his defense and B) the fact that he historically plays a few more minutes with the bench than, for example, KG and Pierce do.
- As if Jermaine wasn’t giving you enough to be disheartened about, the C’s have barely outscored the opposition when he’s on the floor even though he started 5 of the 7 games he played in and the starters generally performed very well in those games. The Milwaukee game, for example, saw Jermaine get outscored by 5 while all the other starters ended up with a plus/minus of at least 9. This seems like a good place to end this discussion.
What do you guys think? About the chart, I mean. Awesome, right? I guess you can also talk about plus/minus if you want. Also feel free to let me know if you never want to talk about any of this ever again.