Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Shove as many refs as you want...
Amir, you deserve as much shoving as you want, as you're the best Toronto Raptor of the season (which, admittedly, isn't saying much).
Let's break it down as simply as possible:
With Johnson on the court, the Raptors have outscored their opponents by 32 points. With him on the bench, they've been outscored by 160 points.
Why is that? Well, Toronto's rebounding gets much, much better with Johnson on the court. Offensive rebounding percentage jumps 8 percent, while defensive rebounding goes up by 3. The Raptors also attempt more free throws with him on the court (likely a by-product of the offensive rebounding jump), and turn the ball over less often (11 per 48 mins, compared to 14 per 48 with him on the bench).
What does it all mean from a league-wide perspective? 188 players have been on the court at least 40% of the time this season. Here are the 9 players among that group with a net plus/minus above 17:
1. Thaddeus Young 25.2
2. Kevin Durant 24.2
3. Wesley Matthews 22.4
4. Kobe Bryant 21.5
5. Ron Artest 19.7
6. John Salmons 17.9
7. Jared Dudley 17.5
8. Kevin Garnett 17.2
9. Amir Johnson 17.1
Net plus/minus is, by no means, a perfect statistic. It tends to underrate players who play on teams that have good benches, for example. Limitations aside, it still does a pretty good job of showing who's playing well, especially on a team-by-team basis.
Using data from NBA.com, it's not clear whether the Raptors are really rewarding Johnson for his good play this year. There are six possible two-man combinations of Toronto's four most-used post players and I've listed them in terms of net rating (pts per 100 poss - pts against per 100 poss):
1. Johnson-Bargnani 1.8
2. Johnson-Davis 0.6
3. Johnson-Valanciunas -1.5
4. Bargnani-Valanciunas -8.2
5. Bargnani-Davis -9.3
6. Valanciunas-Davis -16.8
Notice a trend with that top 3?
What I find most interesting is that you don't really notice anything about Johnson's personal statistics to explain why the team is playing better with him on the floor. His field goal percentage is down, his scoring and rebounding per minute ratios are right around career norms.
Regardless, the real disappointing thing to consider about these numbers is this: What would Toronto's season look like if they had chosen to bring Valanciunas along slowly, cherry picking only the best possible scenarios for him to play in (10 mins a night), and giving those extra 12 or 13 minutes to Johnson?