Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bulls Statistical Breakdown; 3-Guard Lineup Is Shockingly Average

A stat that has gone in and out of vogue in NBA circles is something called "plus/minus". It's essentially a hockey statistic that shows the point differential when each player or unit is on the floor. For instance, if Deng comes into the game with the Bulls down 3 and leaves the game with the Bulls down 10, his +/- would be -7. The same applies vise-versa. While this statistic is misleading since minutes on the floor can affect it (Demetrius Nichols leads the team in +/- per 48 minutes with +157.8!), it can be useful in analyzing what 5-man groups are most effective working together. 82games.com keeps extensive statistics on the NBA and I have pulled most of my numbers from their site.

For starters, let's take a look at +/- statistics for individual players. This is a very misleading statistic for individual value since it does not take into account minutes played, opponents, or what other players are on the court at the same time:

Nocioni: +29
Gordon: +27
Hinrich: +26
Noah: +25
Nichols: +13
Gray: +4
Simmons: +1
Gooden: -12
Thabo: -19
Rose: -27
Deng: -36
Thomas: -41

A few things jump out here. While Deng's poor play is reflected here in these numbers, Thomas at -41 is cause for concern. At times he seems to be playing with a lot of energy at both ends and you would think this would cancel out his inefficiency on the offensive end. Also the loss of Hinrich, who is on the floor 43% of the time, may hurt the Bulls more than we think. All those minutes will be replaced by Gordon, Rose, and Thabo, all having varying levels of effectiveness, but none as high as Captain Kirk (besides BG). Also Rose's -27 is somewhat a concern, but considering he's been on the court 77% of the minutes (highest on the Bulls) and taking into account the Bulls overall point differential (about -.3), it is probably a reflection of the team's overall effectiveness more than Rose's ineffectiveness.

Now onto the more interesting statistic: +/- for different 5-man units:

These lineups were on the court substantial minutes:

Rose-Sefolosha-Deng-Thomas-Gooden: -17
Rose-Gordon-Deng-Nocioni-Noah: +1
Rose-Gordon-Deng-Thomas-Noah: -11
Rose-Hinrich-Deng-Thomas-Gooden: -5
Rose-Hinrich-Gordon-Nocioni-Gooden: +7
Hinrich-Gordon-Nocioni-Thomas-Noah: +1
Rose-Gordon-Nocioni-Thomas-Noah: +19
Rose-Gordon-Deng-Nocioni-Gooden: -10
Hinrich-Gordon-Deng-Nocioni-Gooden: +15
Rose-Hinrich-Deng-Gooden-Gray: -1

The thing that jumped out at me was the non-shittiness of the 3-guard lineup. In fact, through the first 4 games, Rose-Hinrich-Gordon-Nocioni-Gooden managed a +/- of +7! That doesn't necessarily negate all my rantings about how shitty that lineup was (I made my case that it's effectiveness was only a result of good matchups or playing against bench players since it's most utilized to come back from large deficits), but it does show that the unit can be somewhat effective.

The most important thing to note about this is the ineffectiveness of the Rose-Thabo-Deng-Thomas-Gooden starting lineup. At -17, it's amazing that VDN still trotted that lineup out ever again. Thankfully he must have looked at the numbers too (or watched the first 5 minutes of ANY game this season) and got Thabo out of the starting lineup and got Gordon/Hinrich in.

Also the effectiveness of the Rose-Gordon backcourt is apparent across the board, no matter who the frontcourt is (except of course when Noce is at the PF position and we get outrebounded 3-1).

I will update these numbers as the data becomes available, as it will be interesting to see how Hinrich's absence, Thomas's demotion, Hughes return, and Gordon's increased minutes will affect the Bulls +/- numbers and their overall W-L numbers.

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