Looking at “VORP” With Colorful Charts, Vol. I: Individual Offensive Production Per 40 Minutes
Stats cannot tell us everything.
We use them a lot here on 8p9s mainly because they can be good shorthand to explain stuff, but we’re fully aware of their limitations and their inability to capture the nuances of the game of basketball. There are so many things on offense like screens, ball-reversals, positioning, spacing, making the extra pass, “hockey assists,” ball-handling, driving-and-kicking, running the pinch-post, slashing, the ability to run the break, chemistry, timing, knowing when to call your own number and dozens of other skills that go unrecorded. And when it comes to defense, essentially everything that happens other than rebounding is not measured by normal stats.
That said, we can glean a lot of stuff from the numbers that do get tallied — particularly on offense. How much a player produces particularly in relation to the other people on his team and the other players in the league says something about the guy. Do they score? Do they get to the line? Do they turn the ball over too much? Do they shoot a lot?
That’s what we’re about to look at.
In particular, we’re trying to look at something about how the players on the Pacers roster compare to the average player in the league. It is increasingly my belief that this team is full of players who are entirely average and interchangeable. More and more, it seems like the roster features one guy who is in the upper echelon of NBA players (Danny), a few useful and solid but inconsistent players who would get time on most NBA teams (Dunleavy, Murphy, Hibbert, Foster, perhaps Tyler), and then a bunch guys who look great on occasion and show a lot of promise but then, a second later, just as often look like they barely belong on an NBA court.
Don’t get me wrong — this is the NBA so everyone here is a tremendous basketball player and can have flashes of greatness. And they all have their specialized skillsets. But this roster seems to consist of Granger, a couple of role players and a couple of unreliables. Depending on the individual’s age and what they’re expected to do, it’s not necessarily an indictment on them that they are only a “role player” or even an “unreliable,” but for lack of a better way to articulate this, it is what it is. They’re not getting it down night-in and night-out and that’s what the Pacers badly need if they are going to start winning any games this year.
And, to me — in addition to Jim O’Brien’s bordering-on-schizophrenic inability to find any lineup combination — this is sort of what helps explain why we have seen so many starting combinations this season and might help speak to some of the stuff that Tim was talking about yesterday.
In baseball, there is an advanced statistic called VORP, which stands for Value Over Replacement Player. It’s a pretty complicated formula and I don’t really understand it. But it essentially looks at players to see how much better they are than any run-of-the-mill prospect who could be called up from AAA or picked off the free agent scrap heap and given their job.
This has also been used somewhat for NBA stuff and has it’s own complicated formulas.
I don’t care about such advanced calculations or making you readers learn anything new here, however. I basically just want to look at all the players on the roster and see how they compare to the average NBA player. So, this is probably more a “Value Over Average Player” analysis than anything. But VORP sounds better and has some pre-established context, so I’m stealing the acronym and repurposing it for my own devices.
When I think “average player,” I’m talking about guys like Flip Murray, Nenad Krstic, Dorrell Wright, Sheldon Williams, Boobie Gibson or Maurice Evans: players who belong in this league and can be in the rotation for even a decent team, but they are limited, inconsistent and easily attainable in a trade. Often, they might just be filler. What I’m trying to see is how the production of the players on the Pacers compare to these types of guys. Who on the roster is putting up better numbers than guys like that?
I’ll break down a few other stat categories in the days and weeks to come, but let’s start out looking at general offensive production. We’re looking at offensive production per 40 minutes, specifically. A lot of people balk at the per-40 stats because, hey, if a guy was capable of playing that much than he would be playing that much. Well, OK. That’s not a ludicrous counter-argument.
But there are two reasons, we’re doing it this way: (1) historically, most guys can keep things up once they are given extra minutes, and (2) if we’re going to look at all the guys on the roster and gauge their production versus one another, we need to equalize the minutes per game.
The chart below shows the stats, which I have assigned the following colors based upon how well the player produces in that category versus the average NBA player:
- Green = well above league average production (125% or more of the league avg player’s production)
- Red = well below average (75% or less of the league avg)
- Gatorade Lemon-Lime = above average (110% – 124% of league avg)
- Light Orange = below average (76% – 90% or less of league avg)
- Uncolored Sections = average (91%-109% of league avg)
Not a perfect system, I know, but it is at least pretty clear-cut.
Here’s what it looks like:
Offensive Production Per 40 Minutes
Well Below Avg. | Below Avg. | Above Avg. | Well Above Avg.
[Uncolored = Avg.]
I’ll let you come to your own conclusions, but here what seems interesting to me:
- Danny, Dunleavy, Tyler and AJ are the only guys who are well above average in four or more categories
- Troy is the only guy with no well-below-average ratings
- Only 5 players (Danny, MDJ, Roy, Tyler and AJ) put points on the board at a well-above-average level
- Only 2 players (Danny and Roy) make a lot of FGs
- Exactly 6 guys cannot get to the line at even an NBA average rate
- Troy and Luther both take a lot of shots for guys who can’t get to the line
- Dahntay and TJ are the only two non-big men that don’t shoot — and make — a ton of threes
- No one on the team has impressive assist numbers, and Granger, MDJ and Rush are all below average
- Jeff doesn’t do anything but rebound and him, Solomon and Josh are the only 3 players with only one above average category
- Troy is the team’s most efficient scorer (we’ll look at this more when we do a shooting percentage chart)
That’s all I’m really seeing here aside from a general reinforcement that the team seems to be full of guys who don’t produce at a high clip, particularly when you consider that the Pacers play at the 2nd highest pace in the entire NBA and should thus have inflated stats here compared to a league average player who is in a slower system. If you scaled back these Pacer players production levels to an average pace, things would look even less impressive.
And there are not a lot of guys who’s per-minute numbers suggest they “deserve” a ton of extra minutes, aside from Tyler, AJ and Roy (presuming he can handle them physically and from a foul standpoint) — which is something I imagine we’ll be seeing going forward. As for Watson, Solomon and McRoberts, however, there isn’t a lot that suggests that their production alone makes them much more qualified to play than anyone else. They each bring some intangibles and things that others on the roster might not be able to do offensively, but they have not been putting numbers on the board while they have been on the court.
Not even Patches O’Houlihan could turn the Average Joes into champions if he had to work with these five Ds: Danny, Dunleavy, Dahntay, Diener and … Danny.