Paint by numbers: Looking at the Memphis Grizzlies' advanced statistics

John Panell

With the season in the books, let's see what picture the advanced stats paint about the 2013-14 Grizzlies.

First, lets take a look at two common statistics quoted in analytics: Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Value Added (VA). PER attempts to combine standard statistics - shooting %, rebound rate, etc., and boil it all down to a number that indicates how much a player accomplishes in his time on the court. VA is an attempt to calculate the value that player has added over the course of the season.

Player PER PER Rank* Player VA VA Rank*
Mike Conley, PG 20.07 28 Mike Conley, PG 331.0 25
James Johnson, PF 18.50 53 Zach Randolph, PF 277.4 36
Zach Randolph, PF 18.37 58 Marc Gasol, C 225.4 53
Marc Gasol, C 18.27 60 Kosta Koufos, C 119.6 118
Jon Leuer, PF 17.65 67 James Johnson, PF 99.9 138
Kosta Koufos, C 16.54 90 Tony Allen, SG 98.1 140
Ed Davis, PF 15.99 108 Courtney Lee, SG 97.2 143
Tony Allen, SG 15.64 119 Ed Davis, PF 64.0 179
Courtney Lee, SG 13.80 182 Jon Leuer, PF 58.9 187
Beno Udrih, PG 12.73 215 Mike Miller, SF 51.0 200
Mike Miller, SF 12.50 229 Nick Calathes, SG 32.5 233
Nick Calathes, SG 12.36 235 Beno Udrih, PG 16.6 251
Tayshaun Prince, SF 8.18 322 Tayshaun Prince, SF -67.4 334
Quincy Pondexter, SF 10.37 n/a Quincy Pondexter, SF n/a n/a
Jamaal Franklin, SG 4.72 n/a Jamaal Franklin, SG n/a n/a


A few things to note here:

  • Q and the Grindson are n/a's on pretty much everything because they didn't have enough minutes to be ranked.
  • Mike Conley carried the Grizzlies this year. Whether he's an All-Star or whatever criteria you want to use, he's definitely in the top 20-30 players in the league as far as producing in his time on the court.
  • James Johnson's PER is 2nd on the team. PER values production per minute highly, and Johnson always seems to pack a ton of productivity and activity into his minutes. His proclivity for turnovers and sometimes missing defensive assignments aren't things that weigh heavily on a stat sheet. Still, very impressive for a D-league callup.
  • Statistics are not kind to Tayshaun. 322nd out of 337 qualifying players in PER, 334th out of 337 in value added - and it's a negative number. Ouch.
  • Given that there are 150 starting basketball players in the NBA (30 teams x 5 starters), the Grizzlies had either 7 or 8 players who produced at a starter-like level using the PER and VA statistics. This was a deep team. Unfortunately, one of our starters - the aforementioned Tayshaun, was not near that. If you divide out, his statistical production was a 10th-11th man level.
  • What don't they have?  A player in the top 10 in either statistic - Durant, LeBron, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, et al. All of the presumptive favorites in the playoffs have at least one of these guys except for the Spurs.
  • Marc Gasol was in the top 20 in VA and top 40 in PER in 2012-13. The fact that he wasn't close to either in 2013-14, partially due to injury, certainly was a big factor in the Grizzlies having to fight to make the playoffs.
Next up we have Real Plus Minus (RPM) and Offensive, Defensive and Net Ratings. RPM is ESPN's newest stat, an attempt to isolate a player's positive or negative impact on their team while they're on the court. ORtg and DRtg simply is how many points per 100 possessions the team scored and gave up while that player was on the court, and NetRtg is the difference between the two. It's not individualized, just a raw way to look at how the team fared while that player played.
Player ORPM DRPM RPM RPM Rank** Player ORtg DRtg NetRtg NetRtg Rank*
Mike Conley, PG 4.43 0.45 4.88 13 James Johnson, PF 110 101 9 51
Marc Gasol, C -1.53 5.39 3.86 29 Jon Leuer, PF 112 103 9 53
Tony Allen, SG -0.64 2.91 2.27 66 Mike Conley, PG 113 106 7 71
Zach Randolph, PF 1.45 0.74 2.19 69 Ed Davis, PF 110 103 7 78
Kosta Koufos, C -1.75 2.63 0.88 117 Courtney Lee, SG 113 107 6 85
Courtney Lee, SG 0.42 -0.52 -0.10 159 Marc Gasol, C 108 102 6 86
Nick Calathes, SG -0.80 0.10 -0.70 188 Mike Miller, SF 115 109 6 87
Quincy Pondexter, SF -0.07 -0.77 -0.84 198 Kosta Koufos, C 106 101 5 100
Beno Udrih, PG 0.38 -1.61 -1.23 219 Tony Allen, SG 102 101 1 158
Mike Miller, SF 1.84 -3.10 -1.26 221 Zach Randolph, PF 105 105 0 163
Tayshaun Prince, SF -1.51 0.21 -1.30 226 Beno Udrih, PG 105 111 -6 248
James Johnson, PF -1.94 0.55 -1.39 237 Nick Calathes, SG 97 104 -7 263
Jon Leuer, PF -1.20 -1.05 -2.25 297 Tayshaun Prince, SF 97 108 -11 298
Jamaal Franklin, SG -1.62 -0.82 -2.44 316 Quincy Pondexter, SF n/a n/a n/a n/a
Ed Davis, PF -3.98 1.29 -2.69 327 Jamaal Franklin, SG n/a n/a n/a n/a

Notes:

  • Mike Conley continues to shine, and his overall impact during his time on the court is elite - he had the 13th largest net impact of any NBA player. Marc had the 29th largest, showing his value and importance to the team once again.
  • Tony Allen's defensive impact is huge and places him above Z-Bo on the year in plus/minus impact.
  • RPM shows Mike Miller to be our 2nd highest-impact offensive player, but by far our worst-impact defensive player.
  • The numbers are once again unkind to Tayshaun, including our team being outscored by 11 points per 100 possessions when he's on the court. While RPM gives him a slightly positive defensive grade, the team defense was not particularly good with him on the court.
  • Bear in mind that while the RPM attempts to take opponents' capabilities into account, it is not a finished product by any means, and that many of the bench player's ORtg and DRtg may have been compiled vs. a lower level of competition vis a vis the opponent's bench players rather than starters.
  • James Johnson, Jon Leuer, and Ed Davis are among the best in NetRtg, and among the worst at RPM.  What does that mean? Perhaps it's level of competition vs. the bench, perhaps it's that others helped them to those NetRtg's, and perhaps RPM still needs some work.
  • Ed Davis's offense looks pretty atrocious under the RPM calculation.
  • Kosta Koufos's name keeps popping up near the top of these lists. While by no means an All-Star, Kosta played like a solid starter statistically, which is exceptional for a bench big. It was huge for the Grizzlies to have a guy like him on the bench, especially when Marc went down.
For our last group of "net player impact" statistics, we've got the win calculations, Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Win Shares per 48 minutes (WS/48). There is a Win Shares calculation, but WS/48 levels the playing field a bit to show bench player's contribution to wins per minute played. Wins above replacement is an attempt to show, over the course of a full season, how many wins a player contributed to compared to a baseline "replacement level" player. To give an example, how many more wins did we have because we had Mike Conley vs. say, Beno Udrih starting at PG?  Let's take a look:
Player WAR WAR Rank** Player WS/48 WS/48 Rank*
Mike Conley, PG 10.51 16 Mike Conley, PG 0.161 33
Zach Randolph, PF 7.25 42 James Johnson, PF 0.150 41
Marc Gasol, C 7.18 44 Jon Leuer, PF 0.149 45
Tony Allen, SG 3.56 103 Marc Gasol, C 0.137 69
Courtney Lee, SG 2.63 125 Ed Davis, PF 0.129 84
Kosta Koufos, C 2.61 126 Kosta Koufos, C 0.124 96
Tayshaun Prince, SF 1.20 183 Courtney Lee, SG 0.114 122
Nick Calathes, SG 1.15 188 Zach Randolph, PF 0.113 124
Mike Miller, SF 1.12 189 Mike Miller, SF 0.111 131
James Johnson, PF 0.55 226 Tony Allen, SG 0.100 154
Beno Udrih, PG 0.44 233 Nick Calathes, SG 0.062 249
Quincy Pondexter, SF 0.24 252 Beno Udrih, PG 0.061 253
Jon Leuer, PF 0.04 281 Tayshaun Prince, SF 0.038 296
Jamaal Franklin, SG -0.01 315 Quincy Pondexter, SF n/a n/a
Ed Davis, PF -0.19 344 Jamaal Franklin, SG n/a n/a

Notes:

  • Mike Conley dominates these once again. You'll also notice that while Zach Randolph is high in the total wins over replacement on the season, his win shares/48 is relatively low. He was a steady presence all year long in a lot of minutes but didn't have the per-minute impact of some other players.
  • These are 2 different calculations, and without going into all the statistics that make these up, let's just note that these 'advanced' statistics are all different ways of looking at players. None of them is the perfect measure of how good or bad a player is.
Final takeaways:
  • Mike, Marc and Zach had the biggest overall impact on the Grizzlies' season. Surprise, surprise.  Mike and Marc are pretty clearly the team's statistical leaders when they're on the court, with Z-Bo a step below in 3rd.
  • Mike Miller was huge for us offensively, but pretty bad defensively. I didn't list true shooting percentage here, but Mike was 10th best in the league at it. He's still an elite shooter. The statistic combines 2 pointers, 3 pointers, and free throws to calculate how many points a player scores per shot attempted.   Courtney Lee (74th) and Jon Leuer (89th) were the only other Grizzlies in the top 100.
  • Speaking of true shooting percentage, of our big 3, Mike Conley was highest-ranked at 139th, followed by Marc at 199th and Zach at 245th. Our big 3 are not efficient scorers.
  • Ed Davis was pretty good defensively, but pretty bad offensively.
  • Jon Leuer, James Johnson and Ed Davis all had some pretty good per-minute numbers. Ed Davis's numbers are actually down pretty significantly from 2012-13 but are still good. The front office has some decisions to make at the power forward position going forward.
  • Kosta Koufos is a very good bench big.
  • Nick Calathes's numbers are skewed by a first half which saw him routinely having the worst advanced statistics in the NBA (sub-1 PER, etc.). For him to end up with respectable numbers overall is a tribute to his development and production in the second half of the season.
  • Their net numbers are similar in a lot of ways, but it would be hard to argue that Tony Allen did not have a better season than Courtney Lee. He was the most productive SG on the roster this year, and his 2.91 defensive RPM was the best among NBA shooting guards. Frustrating as he can be at times, he's still one of the best, if not the best, defensive shooting guard in the game.
  • Tayshaun played relatively average defense overall, but is pretty consistently in the lowest 10-15% in the league at most things. He really was a liability for most of the season, especially for a guy playing 26 minutes a game.
With so many personnel decisions in the air headed into this offseason, it's interesting to see a broad-level picture of what the advanced stats say.  It will be interesting to see how the front office evaluates and values these players going forward.

* rank out of 337
** rank out of 437

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