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Plus/Minus

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  • Gary Collard
    A couple of the local talk radio guys here in Dallas were debating the merits (or lack thereof) of Shawn Bradley this morning. The pro-Bradley guy noted that
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 14, 2001
      A couple of the local talk radio guys here in Dallas were debating the
      merits (or lack thereof) of Shawn Bradley this morning. The pro-Bradley
      guy noted that Bradley led the Mavs in +/- last year and was third, close
      behind Nowitzki and Nash, this year. I suspect that somebody has done some
      work in this area, and I was wondering if it had any utility, or if it is
      too dependent on what combo of players a guy is typically with on the
      floor. For example, Bradley might usually be part of the lineup with
      Nowitzki and Nash, and be riding their coat-tails to some degree. And
      anybody who is usually on the floor when an Iverson or O'Neal is on the
      bench might necessarily suffer. Any thoughts on +/- out there, and are the
      numbers available in-season somewhere online?

      --
      Gary Collard | Office: garyc@..., 469-357-8485
      i2 | Mobile: 214-924-3263
      SCP QA Team | Fax: 469-357-8613
      | Home: collardg@..., 972-790-1166

      Co-Moderator, Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)
      mailing list
    • Dean Oliver
      ... the ... pro-Bradley ... close ... done some ... it is ... the ... Harvey Pollack records this annually (does anyone know how to get his book?). I have
      Message 2 of 4 , Feb 14, 2001
        --- In APBR_analysis@y..., Gary Collard <garyc@i...> wrote:
        > A couple of the local talk radio guys here in Dallas were debating
        the
        > merits (or lack thereof) of Shawn Bradley this morning. The
        pro-Bradley
        > guy noted that Bradley led the Mavs in +/- last year and was third,
        close
        > behind Nowitzki and Nash, this year. I suspect that somebody has
        done some
        > work in this area, and I was wondering if it had any utility, or if
        it is
        > too dependent on what combo of players a guy is typically with on
        the
        > floor.

        Harvey Pollack records this annually (does anyone know how to get his
        book?). I have never seen the stat online and it is a bear to record
        independently. Perhaps Pete Palmer is getting some of this and he was
        invited to this group, though he hasn't joined.

        I think it is a "good" number, not an end-all rating. You end up with
        subordinate players looking very good because lineup correlations are
        strong. I think Adam Keefe had a really good +/- with the Jazz one
        year, but he clearly was someone who just fit well with their system
        (that year, because it fell off again). If a player's +/- is bad, you
        have a hard time saying they're great player, but you also can't use
        it to say they are awful.

        As far as Bradley, my numbers did show him to be a positive influence
        for once last year. He scored about 105 pts/100 possessions and
        allowed 98. I had his individual win-loss record at 6.1-2.0,
        percentage-wise the best on the club. He contributed net points at a
        rate just below that of Nowitzki. I haven't checked this year, but I
        think he still is a positive influence. I can check tonight, but I'm
        pretty sure that Bradley is no longer a bum. He's not great, but he's
        no longer a liability. (Finley is indeed over-rated, so it wouldn't
        terribly surprise me to see Bradley behind Nash and Nowitzki, then
        Finley or even someone else, like Hubert Davis. Michael Finley would
        be an interesting career study, by the way. I have never seen anyone
        fluctuate as much as he has from year to year, both in college and the
        NBA.)

        Dean Oliver
        Journal of Basketball Studies
      • bchaikin@aol.com
        it is this man s opinion that the +/- ratio, especially in basketball, is for all intent and purposes a useless statistic. there has been a yearning by many
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 14, 2001
          it is this man's opinion that the +/- ratio, especially in basketball, is for
          all intent and purposes a useless statistic. there has been a yearning by
          many people over the past few decades to come up with "new" and better
          numbers based on statistics for evaluating players, unfortunately for some
          reason those same people search for new statistics that are "easy" to
          understand and calculate, and then try to affix importance to them...

          take the +/- ratio, or the difference in the number of points scored by a
          player's team versus the points scored by that team's opponents while that
          particular player is in the game. here you are attempting to evaluate an
          individual player's performance, but based on a team concept number. right
          there the bias and error are obviously inherent. and unlike hockey,
          basketball is a game where the majority of good players play upwards of
          75%-85% of each and every game, consequently the players playing the most
          minutes on the teams with the best W-L records will have the best +/- ratios,
          and the players playing the most minutes on the worst teams the worst +/-
          ratios, more so even than in hockey. in basketball you will never see an
          obviously great player who plays on a bad team with a high +/- ratio, nor an
          obviously poor (or one dimensional) player on a great team with a low +/-
          number, so just what does the number tell you?...

          if a bench player happens to have a great +/- number on a team where the
          regulars do not, again what does it mean? as a bench player that sub is
          obviously playing in the 2nd and late 3rd to early 4th quarters, playing most
          of the time not against the opponents best players, but against the opponents
          subs. so again what good is that +/- number if it is not achieved against the
          opponents regulars?...

          last year in the NHL 7 of the 8 players with the worst +/- numbers played for
          the team with the worst W-L record in the league. 6 of the 9 players with the
          best +/- numbers played for the two teams with the best W-L records in the
          league. since hockey players don't play anywhere near the whole game, you
          might expect a few, even just one or two, players from bad teams with great
          +/- numbers, and maybe one or two players from good teams with really poor
          +/- numbers, but you don't. kind of reminds you of the infamous GWRBI (game
          winning run batted in) in baseball...

          another "number" that has gained alot of prominence over the past decades in
          basketball but means little is the AST/TO ratio (assist to turnover ratio).
          it's quoted alot, is easy to figure out (surprise), but just what does it
          really tell you? just what is a high AST/TO ratio supposed to mean? is it
          supposed to tell you a player is a good passer (as i've often heard), or
          protects the ball well? what does comparing two different players' AST/TO
          ratios tell you?...

          again - nothing. last year in the 1999-2000 NBA season PF/C horace grant of
          the sonics had a better AST/TO ratio than point guards david wesley, sam
          cassell, and everybody's main man at the point jason kidd. so what is this
          telling you about horace grant? his TOs per minute are very low because he
          doesn't handle the ball much on offense, and he's certainly not as good a
          passer as those aforementioned point guards. i even heard that tim hardaway
          of the miami heat had a clause in his contract that he got a huge bonus at
          year's end if his AST/TO ratio was 3 or better. ut in reality this number
          means next to nothing...

          an assist occurs when a player passes the ball to a teammate who then shoots
          and scores (thats the technical definition). however a turnover can occur
          whenever a player has the ball, not simply when he is passing it. i fail to
          see a direct correlation. following this logic i'm surprised players don't
          get bonuses for high ST/PF ratios, the assumption being if a player goes for
          a steal but doesn't get it he's likely to commit a foul. its obvious the
          reason AST/TO ratio is quoted so often is because its easy to calculate, and
          +/- ratio number because its easy to understand...

          on the subject of shawn bradley - he, in my opinion, has never been a poor
          player. on the contrary, he has been just the opposite - quite good
          throughout his career. what he has been, however, was/is misused, and if
          played regularly, can be a defensive "stud". centers like jim mcilvaine and
          stanley roberts, who got big contracts based on little previous performance,
          were washouts, along with the likes of the chris washburns of the world. but
          shawn bradley, if used correctly, could easily be a defensive force. is he
          worth the contract he has? probably not (who is?). but is he a damn good
          player when used right? - absolutely....

          mark eaton played with the utah jazz as a starting center playing major
          minutes from the mid to late 1980s. he was a one dimensional player, who
          played defense, blocked shots, and rebounded. he gave the jazz exactly what
          they needed - what the team wasn't getting from other starters, and he did
          not attempt to add scoring or passing - he rarely handled the ball on
          offense. he blocked 300+ shots in a season six times and 200+ shots nine
          times. he averaged 10 reb/g only twice in nine seasons, and never averaged 10
          pts/g or more in a season, yet he was the team's starting center all that
          time because he was a defensive force....

          shawn bradley's rebounding and shot blocking numbers on a per minute basis
          are very, very similar to eaton's, and he commits fouls at just about the
          same rate as eaton did. so why doesn't he play as often? you got me - i don't
          know, because he certainly should be playing more often - and especially now
          on a team like dallas where he doesn't need to score (finley/nowitzki/nash)
          or pass (nash/finley/nowitzki), nor handle the ball much on offense. its not
          like the mavs have a player of equal or near equal ability to play in front
          of him at center....

          what most people in the NBA fail to realize is that a great shot blocker is
          much more important to a team than a great rebounder. the simple reason is
          that a great rebounder does not reduce the opponents FG%, simply their number
          of field goal attempts. but a great shot blocker does in fact decrease the
          opponents FG% with their shot blocking, not to mention all the shots that
          miss their mark as players shoot but try not to get their shots blocked. here
          are how eaton's and bradley's numbers compare for their career:

          reb/min bs/min pf/min
          eaton .276 .122 .117
          bradley .271 .114 .124

          right now shawn bradley is a better rebounder and shot blocker than theo
          ratliff, but for some strange reason doesn't play as often (larry brown knows
          what he has, but the nelsons do not - but then these are the same people that
          drafted high schooler leon somebody-or-other and a 7'4" chinese fellow that
          may never play in the NBA). he does foul more often than ratliff, but any
          coach worth his salt would play bradley 36-40 min/g even if he commits 4, 5,
          or 6 fouls each and every game - his positives far outweigh his negatives.
          bradley over his career has blocked 7% of all shots taken by the opposition
          while he has played, while no other center over than same stretch of 6-7
          years has come even close to that (the best are at 4%-5%)....

          and while i don't particularily espouse the statistic called the performance
          rating (TENDEX, production rating, other various names =
          pts+reb+ast+st+bs-FGmissed-FTmissed-to-pf), its still a good all purpose
          general single number rating, and bradley over the past 4 years in dallas has
          4 of the top 10 end of the year performance ratings per minute of all mavs
          players, but continues to play few minutes...

          bob chaikin
          bchaikin@...

          p.s. dean - i bought harvey pollack's book each year from the late 1980s to
          the late 1990s (not the last 2 years) and it is indeed a wealth of
          information. you can reach him by calling the 76ers front offices and asking
          for him, and then ordering the books straight from him...
        • NYFan@aol.com
          I personally agree with your philosophy on the +/- being a useless stat. But I disagree on assist/turnover. What you have yet to find is how to interpet that
          Message 4 of 4 , Feb 14, 2001
            I personally agree with your philosophy on the +/- being a useless stat. But
            I disagree on assist/turnover. What you have yet to find is how to interpet
            that stat. The A/T ratio tells you different things depending on how you use,
            and who you use it on. To say that Horace Grant had the highest A/T ratio, I
            would say this. Grant being a forward (and not one that commands the ball) is
            probably one of the best players when it comes to not making stupid mistakes
            with the ball. How can I say this? Well, being that he doesn't have the ball
            a ton the fact that he is able to accumulate more assists, than TOs means
            that he is able to make the smart pass more often than an ill-advised pass,
            or a drive where he has no lane. If you factor in FG% this would give you a
            great idea of how efficient he is offensively; creating offense vs. turning
            the ball over. Ok, so that's one way to interpret it for a forward who
            doesn't touch the ball much.

            If you used it on point guards for instance, the use for this stat would be
            vastly different. First of all, it would show whether or not he makes poor
            decisions. Regardless, turnovers translate into bad decisions, about 99% of
            the time. Secondly, it will tell you how much he gets his teammates involved
            (assists). Believing in assists as a statistic is crucial to beliving in A/T.
            So, based on those two statements, it tells you the ratio of him getting his
            teammates involved, to making poor decisions. In my opinion, those are the
            two biggest factors in deciding whether you have a good point guard, or a bad
            one. I don't care how much he scores, if he's doing too much as to make too
            many poor decisions, that it's hurting his ability to get his teammates
            involved, then he's doing a bad job.

            As for Shawn Bradley, he's surrounded by an extremely talented frontcourt.
            Nowitzki, Finley, Laettner, create an extremely talented frontcourt. Not only
            offensively but defensively. Steve Nash and Eisley are also extremely
            talented. My point being that Bradley is an excellent role player, but a role
            player is only as good as the importance of his role. The Mavs with Christian
            and Dirk don't need size (they are both over 6' 10"), and despite their more
            perimeter orientated games, cause most teams problems driving (the main
            influence of a shot blocker). Plus, the offense, and overall skill they lose
            by putting in Bradley is not enough to make his role more valuable. Don't get
            me wrong, I respect Bradley as a legit center, but his role on this team is
            better as it is defined now, than it would be to play him big minutes.

            ~Ray        

            it is this man's opinion that the +/- ratio, especially in basketball, is
            for
            all intent and purposes a useless statistic. there has been a yearning by
            many people over the past few decades to come up with "new" and better
            numbers based on statistics for evaluating players, unfortunately for some
            reason those same people search for new statistics that are "easy" to
            understand and calculate, and then try to affix importance to them...

            take the +/- ratio, or the difference in the number of points scored by a
            player's team versus the points scored by that team's opponents while that
            particular player is in the game. here you are attempting to evaluate an
            individual player's performance, but based on a team concept number. right
            there the bias and error are obviously inherent. and unlike hockey,
            basketball is a game where the majority of good players play upwards of
            75%-85% of each and every game, consequently the players playing the most
            minutes on the teams with the best W-L records will have the best +/-
            ratios,
            and the players playing the most minutes on the worst teams the worst +/-
            ratios, more so even than in hockey. in basketball you will never see an
            obviously great player who plays on a bad team with a high +/- ratio, nor
            an
            obviously poor (or one dimensional) player on a great team with a low +/-
            number, so just what does the number tell you?...

            if a bench player happens to have a great +/- number on a team where the
            regulars do not, again what does it mean? as a bench player that sub is
            obviously playing in the 2nd and late 3rd to early 4th quarters, playing
            most
            of the time not against the opponents best players, but against the
            opponents
            subs. so again what good is that +/- number if it is not achieved against
            the
            opponents regulars?...

            last year in the NHL 7 of the 8 players with the worst +/- numbers played
            for
            the team with the worst W-L record in the league. 6 of the 9 players with
            the
            best +/- numbers played for the two teams with the best W-L records in the
            league. since hockey players don't play anywhere near the whole game, you
            might expect a few, even just one or two, players from bad teams with great
            +/- numbers, and maybe one or two players from good teams with really poor
            +/- numbers, but you don't. kind of reminds you of the infamous GWRBI (game
            winning run batted in) in baseball...

            another "number" that has gained alot of prominence over the past decades
            in
            basketball but means little is the AST/TO ratio (assist to turnover ratio).
            it's quoted alot, is easy to figure out (surprise), but just what does it
            really tell you? just what is a high AST/TO ratio supposed to mean? is it
            supposed to tell you a player is a good passer (as i've often heard), or
            protects the ball well? what does comparing two different players' AST/TO
            ratios tell you?...

            again - nothing. last year in the 1999-2000 NBA season PF/C horace grant of
            the sonics had a better AST/TO ratio than point guards david wesley, sam
            cassell, and everybody's main man at the point jason kidd. so what is this
            telling you about horace grant? his TOs per minute are very low because he
            doesn't handle the ball much on offense, and he's certainly not as good a
            passer as those aforementioned point guards. i even heard that tim hardaway
            of the miami heat had a clause in his contract that he got a huge bonus at
            year's end if his AST/TO ratio was 3 or better. ut in reality this number
            means next to nothing...

            an assist occurs when a player passes the ball to a teammate who then
            shoots
            and scores (thats the technical definition). however a turnover can occur
            whenever a player has the ball, not simply when he is passing it. i fail to
            see a direct correlation. following this logic i'm surprised players don't
            get bonuses for high ST/PF ratios, the assumption being if a player goes
            for
            a steal but doesn't get it he's likely to commit a foul. its obvious the
            reason AST/TO ratio is quoted so often is because its easy to calculate,
            and
            +/- ratio number because its easy to understand...

            on the subject of shawn bradley - he, in my opinion, has never been a poor
            player. on the contrary, he has been just the opposite - quite good
            throughout his career. what he has been, however, was/is misused, and if
            played regularly, can be a defensive "stud". centers like jim mcilvaine and
            stanley roberts, who got big contracts based on little previous
            performance,
            were washouts, along with the likes of the chris washburns of the world.
            but
            shawn bradley, if used correctly, could easily be a defensive force. is he
            worth the contract he has? probably not (who is?). but is he a damn good
            player when used right? - absolutely....

            mark eaton played with the utah jazz as a starting center playing major
            minutes from the mid to late 1980s. he was a one dimensional player, who
            played defense, blocked shots, and rebounded. he gave the jazz exactly what
            they needed - what the team wasn't getting from other starters, and he did
            not attempt to add scoring or passing - he rarely handled the ball on
            offense. he blocked 300+ shots in a season six times and 200+ shots nine
            times. he averaged 10 reb/g only twice in nine seasons, and never averaged
            10
            pts/g or more in a season, yet he was the team's starting center all that
            time because he was a defensive force....

            shawn bradley's rebounding and shot blocking numbers on a per minute basis
            are very, very similar to eaton's, and he commits fouls at just about the
            same rate as eaton did. so why doesn't he play as often? you got me - i
            don't
            know, because he certainly should be playing more often - and especially
            now
            on a team like dallas where he doesn't need to score (finley/nowitzki/nash)
            or pass (nash/finley/nowitzki), nor handle the ball much on offense. its
            not
            like the mavs have a player of equal or near equal ability to play in front
            of him at center....

            what most people in the NBA fail to realize is that a great shot blocker is
            much more important to a team than a great rebounder. the simple reason is
            that a great rebounder does not reduce the opponents FG%, simply their
            number
            of field goal attempts. but a great shot blocker does in fact decrease the
            opponents FG% with their shot blocking, not to mention all the shots that
            miss their mark as players shoot but try not to get their shots blocked.
            here
            are how eaton's and bradley's numbers compare for their career:
                                  
                             reb/min      bs/min      pf/min        
            eaton           .276            .122         .117
            bradley         .271            .114         .124

            right now shawn bradley is a better rebounder and shot blocker than theo
            ratliff, but for some strange reason doesn't play as often (larry brown
            knows
            what he has, but the nelsons do not - but then these are the same people
            that
            drafted high schooler leon somebody-or-other and a 7'4" chinese fellow that
            may never play in the NBA). he does foul more often than ratliff, but any
            coach worth his salt would play bradley 36-40 min/g even if he commits 4,
            5,
            or 6 fouls each and every game - his positives far outweigh his negatives.
            bradley over his career has blocked 7% of all shots taken by the opposition
            while he has played, while no other center over than same stretch of 6-7
            years has come even close to that (the best are at 4%-5%)....

            and while i don't particularily espouse the statistic called the
            performance
            rating (TENDEX, production rating, other various names =
            pts+reb+ast+st+bs-FGmissed-FTmissed-to-pf), its still a good all purpose
            general single number rating, and bradley over the past 4 years in dallas
            has
            4 of the top 10 end of the year performance ratings per minute of all mavs
            players, but continues to play few minutes...

            bob chaikin
            bchaikin@...


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