Every time I watch the Nuggets on TV or read a blog entry I am bombarded with the fact that Melo and Billups are the two stars of this team. Both players have PER ratings in the league’s Top 20. Ergo, they must be great.
Actually, I think there is strong evidence that Nene and Birdman key the Nuggets success far more than Melo and Billups. Both Birdman and Nene have Adjusted +/- ratings around +19, which indicates that per 48 minutes played, they make their team 19 points better. Here are some numbers that should convince you that the media hype surrounding Melo and Billups is overblown. All numbers are adjusted for strength of opponent’s players.
- When Birdman and Nene are out (91 minutes) the Nuggets play 24 points worse than an average team.
- When Birdman and Nene are both in the Nuggets in 437 min play 17 points better than average.
- When Birdman and Nene are in with Melo out the Nuggets play 16 points better than average in 232 minutes.
- When Birdman and Nene are in and Billups is out, the Nuggets play 26 points better than average in 297 minutes.
I think these numbers make a strong case that Nene and Birdman deserve a lot more money!! Birdman has a -13 Adjusted +/- Defense Rating and Nene a -9 adjusted +/- defense rating. Their defensive abilities often do not show up in box score stats, but they certainly affect the final score.