The inspiration for today's 'The Numbers Game' colum comes from Rotoworld reader Kevin Bott, who asked, "Have you ever incorporated usage, minutes played, and team pace into one stat to measure a player's propensity to accumulate offensive stats? I feel like this would be a good number to have ... if I'm looking to pick someone up off the wire, I would look to this new stat when making my decision."
I rarely know where my analysis will lead and that's never been more true than today. It’s worth noting that this would have been impossible, or at least far more labor-intensive, without the impressive array of stats available on NBA.com. After accumulating every player's raw numbers for the 2014-15 season, I tossed out anyone averaging under 15 minutes per game as well as players who have appeared in five or fewer games. That left a population of 291 qualifying players.
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I then determined the means and standard deviations for minutes, usage rates (what percentage of a team's offensive plays end with a given player) and pace (how many possessions are averaged per 48 minutes with a given player on the court). I was then able to combine the three metrics into a single number, though I make no claim that minutes are as important as usage rates or pace, etc. That's a discussion for another day.
All I hope to create is a rough guide, as Kevin succinctly put it, "to measure a player's propensity to accumulate offensive stats." Let's see what happens. (*Note: I'm counting each player's full z-score values for minutes and usage, but am weighting pace at 50% to account for its diminished impact on individual production). I've dubbed these combined z-scores (Offensive Metric #1).
Kobe Bryant is a somewhat predictable leader for this offense-only metric, which doesn't include any measure of efficiency (he's shooting just 38.6 percent this season...more on that later). He's followed by Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Carter-Williams, Blake Griffin, Tony Wroten, LaMarcus Aldridge and Monta Ellis.
We reach the first surprise with Jeff Green at No. 15 overall. Green has quietly crept into top-50 nine-cat value this season while averaging 20.0 points, 1.6 threes, 4.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steals in nearly 35 minutes per game, so his lofty status on this offense-minded list isn't a total shock. After Green comes another string of predictable players including Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis.
Players noteworthy for how high they finished on this list include: Brandon Knight (No. 25), Jimmy Butler (26), Tobias Harris (32), Josh Smith (37), Darren Collison (38), Trevor Ariza (48), Andrew Wiggins (56) and Avery Bradley (64).
Players noteworthy for how low they finished include: Kevin Love (60), Brandon Jennings (87), Lance Stephenson (94), Al Horford (104), Derrick Favors (106), Andre Drummond (110), Nicolas Batum (122), Kenneth Faried (129) and Joakim Noah (135).
Brandon Knight at No. 25 underscores his central role in Milwaukee's attack, and the Suns' prolific bench scoring is represented with both Gerald Green and Isaiah Thomas making the top-55. At the other end of the spectrum, most Miami Heat veterans fared poorly, and four of the five lowest spots among qualifying players were occupied by Chris Andersen, Justin Hamilton, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. Miami is dead-last in the league in pace, averaging 91.7 possessions per game. Even with pace weighted at half-value, it’s not surprising to see the Heat bench bringing up the rear.
This has been an interesting way to quantify players' offensive impact and/or potential, but it doesn't account whatsoever for offensive efficiency. I'll pause here to introduce a new list which represents the summed z-scores for qualifying players' minutes, usage rates and pace (again weighted at 50%), while introducing True Shooting Percentages, which summarize a player's shooting percentage while including the impact of 3-pointers and free throws. The addition of True Shooting Percentages (TS%) adds a measure of efficiency which is almost always a factor in fantasy leagues. For instance, Kobe Bryant's aforementioned poor shooting drops him from No. 1 on the previous list to No. 7 in this new metric (Offensive Metric #2).
I mentioned above that Kobe drops from No. 1 to No. 7 when you add TS% to this analysis, but there are 58 players who fare even worse. Lakers' starter Ronnie Price and Magic backup Elfrid Payton are among the five players whose TS% takes the biggest toll, but other serious offenders include Nerlens Noel, Mason Plumlee, David West, Nicolas Batum, Andrew Wiggins and Andre Drummond, as well as usual suspects Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and Kemba Walker.
I also ran z-scores for Offensive Efficiency and you can see those results and more by viewing or downloading my spreadsheet from Dropbox.com. Different combinations of z-scores result in new and intriguing lists of players, exposing nuances in fantasy values while emphasizing the value of attributes like 3-point shooting, high-volume FT shooting or a high usage rate. I plan to re-visit these concepts to refine and enrich them, and I encourage you to share any other interesting findings.
I'll be back with another 'Numbers Game' next Wednesday, until which time you can communicate with me on Twitter @Knaus_RW, where I often chat through Direct Messages.