October 13, 2009

Kevin Durant vs Russell Westbrook?

Filed under: Uncategorized — wwinston @ 8:32 pm

Who contributed more to the Thunder’s (limited) success in 2008-2009: Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook? Most NBA fans would say clearly Kevin Durant. As Henry Abbott courageously pointed out on True Hoop http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-45-42/Memo-to-a-Young-Baller.html, this may not be the case. Looking over all the lineup combinations used by the Thunder during 2008-2009 our adjusted +/- system found Westbrook to be better than Durant. How can this be? Some intuition can be found by looking at the following tables. The numbers show per 48 minutes (after adjusting for the ability of opponents faced, how well the Thunder played in several situations. From the first table we find that with Westbrook and Green in, for example, the Thunder played 4.03 points worse than average while with Durant and Collison in the Thunder played 8.63 points worse than average.

 

 

 

 

 

Both in

     

-6.879466525

Durant

Westbrook

Durant

-8.50

-6.13

Westbrook

-6.13

-4.84

Green

-8.04

-4.03

Krstic

-9.14

-4.22

Collison

-8.63

-1.20

Watson

-10.73

-5.58

Sefolosha

-11.64

-2.39

Rose

-5.23

-18.63

Mason

-2.56

-0.48

Weaver

-7.11

-5.30

Petro

-11.94

-7.08

Wilcox

-12.26

-7.87

 

   

 


 

 

 

The next table tells us, for example, that with Durant out and Krstic in the Thunder played 5.68 points better than average, but with Krstic in and Westbrook out the Thunder played 4.06 points worse than average.

Row Player in Column Player Out

 

Durant

Westbrook

Durant

dnp

-13.82

Westbrook

-1.07

Dnp

Green

1.13

-11.56

Krstic

5.68

-4.06

Collison

-1.96

-15.46

Watson

-5.95

-11.51

Sefolosha

9.34

-1.55

Rose

-5.10

2.84

Mason

-6.99

-11.39

Weaver

-0.02

-1.88

Petro

-10.72

-15.23

Wilcox

-6.44

-15.00

 

Note that in most cases, the Thunder played better with Durant out relative to Durant in and better with Westbrook in compared to Westbrook out.

This table shows how the Thunder did with both players out. For example, when Westbrook and Krstic were out the Thunder played 12.92 points worse than average.

 

Both Out

 

Durant

Westbrook

Durant

-2.60

-5.17

Westbrook

-5.17

-11.09

Green

-7.11

-10.33

Krstic

-7.06

-12.92

Collison

-3.12

-5.39

Watson

1.13

-8.97

Sefolosha

-7.61

-12.24

Rose

-1.90

-13.56

Mason

-1.21

-11.00

Weaver

-5.20

-17.20

Petro

-1.83

-10.38

Wilcox

-1.79

-9.98

 

I know we should look at holding the other players constant, like Green Westbrook and Collison with or without Durant etc. That is what Adjusted +/- does!!!!!!! If you can look at these numbers and see how Durant contributed more to the Thunder’s success last year than Westbrook, please let me know what I am missing. Thanks.

Of course, these numbers are based on lineup combinations used by the Thunder, but what else can we do?

9 Comments »

  1. I want to try to address for certain time factors. I like the stats, but I know a lot of the websites defending Durant out there mentioned how the first 2 months, the Thunder were truly horrible, going something like 4-20. Here, Durant played a lot of minutes while Westbrook was still on the bench. It may have caused the sample size to be much different.

    This doesn’t mean he won’t improve though, so we’ll have to wait.

    I just want to ask (seperate topic), has anyone seperated the + and the -? I was just curious to see that who has the best adjusted – (so removing the offensive side of the game), whereby the best people will have the highest negative. This way we can directly see ONLY someones defensive contribution, whereas +/- is the offensive and defensive contributions. Here we can see who truly great defense, as some people might have good +/-’s due to having bad defense, just much better offense.

    Comment by Garrib — October 14, 2009 @ 1:19 am

  2. Durant’s play was not much better near end of season. We do evaluate defense.

    Comment by wwinston — October 14, 2009 @ 5:16 am

  3. One thing I want to point out is Durant was hurt at the end of February and missed 7 games, plus he was hurt 8 minutes into the game so effectively he missed most of that game too.

    During this stretch the Thunder went 5-2 with wins over Memphis on the road, Dallas and Washington at home, a loss at New Orleans, a win over Philadelphia at home, a win at Sacremento and a loss to Denver on the road, with the game he was hurt being a road win in Memphis, so 6-2 if you count that game.

    Not great opposition, only 1 quality win vs Dallas and a decent win against a playoff team in Philadelphia, but as the Thunder were one of the worst teams in the league last season a win over Memphis and Washington is significant to them. For a team that won 23 games last season, to win 25% of their season total during an 8 game stretch when their best player was out is yet another piece of evidence that they play better when he is not on the floor.

    Looking at Durant’s monthly splits he played his best month in February, playing 39.3 minutes a game, scoring 30.6ppg, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks with 3.0 turnovers per game. He also shot 53.8% from the floor and a staggering 51.4% from 3, and 87.6% from the line (although he has always been a good FT shooter). The Thunder were also 2-9 in that month when he played his best basketball.

    I don’t have the luxury of looking at advanced stats as I only have access to the standard box scores for monthly totals, but those are some amazing numbers for a player to be putting up, it’s hard to believe that he can do so much offensively and yet his team play so badly when he is in.

    Scoring at a point per minute and shooting such high % (his effective fg% must be in the 60′s in that month) is not easy to do, and conversely it would not be easy to be scoring so efficiently on the offensive end, while putting up such bad numbers in all forms of the +/- statistic across the board, which would mean that no matter how well he plays on offense, he is that much worse to the Thunder defensively.

    Another thought that comes to mind is Elton Brand in Philadelphia, they played much better basketball when he was out injured. Surely this can’t be a co-incidence as well, I’d like to know why this is. Is it because Brand was playing bad (had he fully recovered from his Achillies injury last season?), was he a bad fit in the lineup and did playing the offense that utilised him more come at the expense of the other 4 guys on the floor?

    Comment by John — October 14, 2009 @ 7:48 am

  4. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I think when a player has impressive boxscore stats (including efficiency) and has simultaneously been shown to be a negative for the team on adj +/- , it often says more about the coaching staff and other players than him. The only exception would be a player that is woeful on defense.

    From what I gather (haven’t seen a lot of stats), Durant is not a very good defensive player yet. So I’m sure that accounts for part of the difference between perception and reality. However, I think the biggest problem is probably that the coaching staff, his teammates, and Durant himself still haven’t figured out how to incorporate his incredible talents into an effective “team effort”.

    From my perspective, you would have to be a total madman to not be anxious to have this kid on your team. He is clearly one of the greatest young talents we’ve seen in NBA history and is close to 100% certain to continue improving barring injury. In the years to come, the challenge will be to organize an effective system that gets as much as possible out of him WITHOUT hurting his teammates.

    Comment by Italian Stallion — October 14, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

  5. I haven’t seen the Thunder play much, but I suspect that what is happening is what I call the “Kobe effect.” Before Kobe recently discovered that he can’t win a championship all alone, he used to score 30 or 40 or even more. When he did that, you often saw four Lakers standing around watching Kobe go one-on-five. I suspect that is what is happening in Oke City. When that happens I would expect all the other players stats to look worse when the “star” is playing.

    Comment by dart — October 15, 2009 @ 12:58 am

  6. Dart,

    Yep, I agree that that is probably part of the problem.

    When one guy is incredibly talented and skilled relative to his teammates, the natural inclination is to try to get him to do as much as possible on the offensive end. That has the tendency of reducing his overall efficiency and minimizing the talents of the other players on the court with him. There is a balance in there somewhere that maximizes the results for the “team” and I don’t think they’ve found the system, style of play etc.. that does it yet.

    Comment by Italian Stallion — October 15, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  7. By the numbers Sefolosha and Krstic were the least productive or worst fit with Durant but Brooks (and Presti) decided to start them with him late last season to very poor results. Will they again?

    Harden, White and Ibaka offer new options and beating the existing ones does seem too tall a task.

    “I know we should look at holding the other players constant, like Green Westbrook and Collison with or without Durant etc. That is what Adjusted +/- does!!!!!!!”

    Yes, but it can be done of many levels- platers, pairs, triplets, quads, 5 man lineups, without and without players as you’ve shown here.

    A direct Adjusted lineup set comparison of Green Westbrook and Collison with and without Durant would be beyond what others offer and perhaps even more helpful beyond what you’ve already done.

    If you want.

    Comment by Crow — October 16, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  8. Collison Westbrook Green were all on the team high end for frequency that their shots would be inside.

    Comment by Crow — October 17, 2009 @ 12:42 am

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