The NBA's Unsung Heroes

All NBA fans know Kobe, LeBron, DWade, and Dirk are great players. In today’s post we want to put the spotlight on some of the NBA’s unsung heroes. As you probably know, we believe in evaluating players based on Adjusted +/-. An Adjusted +/- rating of +10 for Player A, for example, means that our best estimate is that if Player A replaced an average NBA player for a game, his team would play 10 points better.  Let’s now look at how Adjusted +/- reveals some unsung heroes.

The Knicks are bad but Larry Hughes is Playing Great!

                The Knicks currently have a 3-11 record and have played 7.3 points worse than league average. When Larry Hughes is in, however, the Knicks play 1 point (all figures are per 48 minutes) better than average! When Hughes is out the Knicks play 20 points worse than average. Looking at these numbers it is not surprise that Larry’s Adjusted +/- is +18. The key to Hughes’ great play has been his defense. His defensive rating of -13 means that adjusting for other players on the court our best estimate is that Hughes causes the Knicks to give up 13 fewer points per game.

            By the way, with Hughes, Gallinari and Harrington in the Knicks play 22 points better than average! Please play them together more often. On the other hand with Duhon, Lee and Chandler in and Hughes out the Knicks play 15 points worse than average while Duhon Chandler and Lee in with Hughes plays only 6 points worse than average.

Maybe the Best Gasol does not play in LA?

                Pau Gasol’s younger brother Marc Gasol is having an all star year for the Grizzlies.  When Marc is in the game the Grizzlies play 5 points better than average and when he is out the Grizzlies play 26 points worse than average. It is no surprise that Marc currently ranks 3rd in the NBA (behind Dirk and Kobe) with an Adjusted +/- of +27 points. Zach Randolph is also having a great year (Adjusted +/- of +17). When Zach and Marc are in the Grizzlies play 8 points better than average and can compete with anyone. When both these guys are out the Grizzlies play a woeful 40 points worse than average.

Is Beno Udrih is the Best Point Guard you never heard of?

                The Sacramento Kings are no longer the laughing stock of the league. This year they have played only 4 points worse than average, and the major region for their return to respectability is the great play of point guard Beno Udrih. Udrih currently has an Adjusted +/- of +13 points, due to his Offense rating of +13 (his defense is average).  When Udrih is in the Kings are actually 2 points better than an average NBA team. When he is out, the Kings play 11 points worse than an average NBA team.

            Backup Ime Udoka also deserves some credit for the Kings’ resurgence. When Udoka is in the Kings play 6 points better than average. With Udoka and Udrih in the Kings play 10 points better than average. Maybe Udoka should play more?

Marco Belinelli is Awesome!

                Marco Bellinelli was traded from the Warriors to the Raptors during the off-season. He is certainly making the most of his increased playing time. Bellinelli has an Adjusted +/- of +15 points. To see why look at the following amazing stats:

  • When Bellinelli is in with Bargnani, the Raptors play 23 points better than average. When Bargnani is in without Bellinelli, the Raptors are just an average team.
  • When Bosh and Turkoglu are in without Bellinelli the Raptors are 4 points better than an average team. Enter Bellinelli and the Raptors play 23 points better than average.

The Raptors have one of the NBA’s best lineups: Bosh, Turkoglu, Bellinelli, Calderon and Bargnani. So far this lineup has played 44 points per game better than an average NBA lineup. Put four three point shooters in with a good low post player and you are virtually unguardable. This may be the best NBA quintet in history that includes only one American.

Chuck Hayes is still Amazing!

                By now the Rocket’s Chuck Hayes has been praised so much he may no longer qualify as an underrated player. Nevertheless he is an amazing story. Undrafted out of college, he averages only 6 points per game but he has an Adjusted +/- of +24 points. Amazingly, he makes the Rockets 12 points better per game on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. When Hayes is in the Rockets play 12 points better than an average NBA team, and when he is out the Rockets play 1 point worse than average. Every NBA team should be looking for the next Chuck Hayes.

Luol Deng keys the Bulls Success

                Joakim Noah leads the NBA in rebounding so most fans think he is having a great season. Our Adjusted +/- ratings instead point to Luol Deng as the Bull’s best player. When Deng is in the game the Bulls play 3 points worse than average; when Deng is out the Bulls play 14 points worse than average. When Noah is in without Deng the Bulls are a woeful 24 points worse than average, but when Deng is in without Noah the Bulls are 11 points better than average. The quartet of Miller, Deng, Salmons and Noah is very effective, playing 12 points better than average in 64 minutes. By the way if you take away the time Miller, Deng, Salmons, and Noah are on the court or Miller and Deng are in without Noah, the Bulls play a woeful 13 points worse than average.

For more details on how to compute Adjusted +/- ratings you may look at chapter 40 of my new book Mathletics.