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Dumpy's Statistical Analysis - Scott Padgett

LA Clippers at New Jersey, December 20, 2005
Final Score: New Jersey 99, Los Angeles 85

Golden State at New Jersey, December 18, 2005
Final Score: New Jersey 118, Golden State 90

Individual plus-minus ratings:

LA Clippers at New Jersey, December 20, 2005:

Player Min. +/- Ratings
Vince Carter 39.4 23
Nenad Krstic 36.5 15
Jason Kidd 35.3 14
Richard Jefferson 43.3 9
Jason Collins 27.8 9
Clifford Robinson 14.7 3
Scott Padgett 15.4 1
Lamond Murray 8.8 1
Jeff McInnis 1.7 0
Zoran Planinic 1.7 0
Jacque Vaughn 15.6 -5

Golden State at New Jersey, December 18, 2005:

Player Minutes Played +/- Ratings
Richard Jefferson 34.7 33
Jason Kidd 29.9 30
Nenad Krstic 26.2 21
Vince Carter 26.4 19
Jason Collins 19.4 18
Scott Padgett 22.6 11
Clifford Robinson 15.8 9
Lamond Murray 19.6 4
Jacque Vaughn 12.6 2
Zoran Planinic 8.8 -1
Jeff McInnis 12 -3
Marc Jackson 12 -3

For those that are joining us for the first time, a player's individual +/- rating is a way to measure the player's total contribution to the team on both offense and defense. In the game against Golden State, Richard Jefferson earned a +33 rating. What that means is that, when Jefferson was on the floor, the Nets outscored the Warriors by a total of 33 points—hence the +33 rating. In Jeff McInnis' case, his -3 rating means that in the time he was on the court, the Nets were outscored by 3 points. These individual ratings don't take into account who else was on the court, so they must be used in context. You can also measure +/- based on two-man combos, three-man combos, 5-man combos, etc., which can help identify the players that contribute the least or the most to team success. For instance, if we know that, over the course of the season, a unit consisting of [Kidd, Carter, RJ, Collins and Krstic] has outscored its opponent by a greater margin than a unit consisting of [Kidd, Carter, RJ, Jackson and Krstic] in the same number of minutes, then we can generally conclude that Collins adds more to the team success than does Jackson.
Unless otherwise noted, the tables are sorted in descending order of +/- rating, and are usually divided by the starters and the reserves.

* * * * *

Statistically speaking, there is little that is interesting to discuss about two games that were decided by a combined 42 points. For that reason, I'm going to alter the format of this column today, and instead of looking at the performance of various player combinations, I'm going to examine the recent play of Scott Padgett.

Padgett played his second and third straight strong games against Golden State and Los Angeles. Against the Warriors, Padgett scored eight points in approximately 23 minutes, with two assists and two rebounds. For the second straight game, Padgett posted the highest +/- rating among the Net reserves. He followed this up with a five point, five rebound performance against the Clippers in just over 15 minutes, once again earning a positive +/- rating.

Padgett's recent play has caused some Net fans to call for Padgett to receive even more playing time. But does he deserve it? In my last column, I expressed my doubts about Padgett. I wrote:

Padgett played almost the entire fourth quarter and overtime, and for a time he played alongside the four starters minus Collins. During this time, the Nets played well, but in my mind, it is a little misleading. . . . In the fourth quarter, Padgett was nearly unstoppable . . . hitting four three-pointers in four attempts. Yet, despite these heroics, the Nets didn't pull away from the Nuggets during this time. This makes we wonder just how valuable Padgett is. If he could play his best ball and still not give the Nets an advantage, what happens when he returns to earth and hits just 50% of his shots? I can tell you: in this game, had he hit just two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, he would have ended up with a +/- rating somewhere around –10 in around 16 minutes. That, I fear, is Scott Padgett's true value to this team in the long run. If Padgett is asked to log heavy minutes on a daily basis, I believe that the Nets will not be better off than with the less-offensively talented, but more defensively-efficient Collins or Robinson.

It turns out I was wrong. Against Golden State, Padgett DID return to Earth as I feared, hitting exactly 50% of his shots—and yet he still earned a +11 rating in 23 minutes, despite playing the entire fourth quarter in what was nothing more than extended garbage time. Obviously there's more here than meets the eye.

So now, having produced two more strong performances, I'm ready to take a closer look at Padgett's performance. Specifically: Were my initial suspicions right about him? Just how valuable has Padgett has been to the Nets so far this year? Do his defensive deficiencies outweigh his offensive potential? Was Coach Frank justified in reducing his playing time after a few games in early November? Has Padgett's play improved from the early part of the year? Let's take a look:

Padgett's season so far can be separated into several discrete periods.

(1) First Five Games. During the first five games of the season, Padgett played a total of eight minutes, and on only one occasion did he play more than one minute.

(2) Second Five Games. During the second five games of the season, Padgett played more than 15 minutes three times, including 30 minutes in his only start of the season. The other two games, however, he logged five and six minutes, respectively.

(3) Next Six Games. During the next six games, Padgett played just twice for a total of six minutes.

(4) Last Eight Games. During each of the most recent eight games, Padgett played at least eleven minutes, surpassing 20 in three of the last five games.

I've decided to eliminate periods (1) and (3) from the analysis due to the minimal minutes played. The large gap in time between period (2) and (4) may allow us to determine whether his play has improved as the season has progressed.

Let's look at some stats:

Nov. 11 Indiana 30 10 11 1
Nov. 15 Seattle 20 13 9 2
Nov. 21 Golden State 16 3 2 -2
Dec. 7 Charlotte 15 4 3 -1
Dec. 9 Cleveland 11 5 3 1
Dec. 10 Philadelphia 12 7 4 -6
Dec. 13 Washington 21 4 4 -12
Dec. 14 Charlotte 17 5 4 -5
Dec. 16 Denver 20 15 6 5
Dec. 18 Golden State 23 8 2 11
Dec. 20 Los Angeles 15 5 5 1
TOTAL 200 79 53 -5

Again, so there's no misunderstanding, these are not Padgett's year-to-date statistics; I've eliminated those games where his playing time was minimal.

On the surface, it looks like Padgett has played pretty well all season. With the exception of the three-game stretch earlier this month—when the entire team was playing poorly—his +/- ratings look pretty solid. This is especially true for a reserve, who we expect to have a lower +/- rating than the starters. I've said it before: If a reserve obtains a +/- rating somewhere around zero to minus five, he's probably contributing pretty significantly. Of course, we'd want to take a close look at the circumstances under which he earned that +/- rating, but it is a rough rule of thumb. But let's not stop here. Now I'm going to account for what I will call the "McInnis Factor":

DATE OPPONENT MIN. w/ McInnis +/- RAT MIN. w/o McInnis +/- RAT
Nov. 11 Indiana 10.6 5 19.5 -4
Nov. 15 Seattle 16.7 0 3.3 2
Nov. 21 Golden State 16.4 -2 0 0
Dec. 7 Charlotte 13.5 -1 1.5 0
Dec. 9 Cleveland 9.2 1 1.9 0
Dec. 10 Philadelphia 2 -4 9.6 -2
Dec. 13 Washington 17.9 -12 3.4 0
Dec. 14 Charlotte 0 -- 17 -5
Dec. 16 Denver 4.2 -9 15.8 14
Dec. 18 Golden State 12 -3 11 14
Dec. 20 Los Angeles 0 -- 15.4 1
TOTAL 102.5 -25 98.4 20

That's right: The McInnis factor. Like the rest of the Nets, Padgett has done poorly when he plays with McInnis—a minus-25 in 102.5 minutes in the games that comprise my data set. Just as enlightening, though, is a look at Padgett's numbers when McInnis is not playing. The first number to jump out at you is the +20 rating in about 100 minutes of play when McInnis is not on the court. However, that figure was completely earned (and more) just over the past two games. Regardless, that plus-20 figure is pretty significant, and once again, you can see the negative impact that Jeff McInnis has had on the play of his teammates.

Looking further, we can detect an odd pattern with regard to Padgett's playing time with and without McInnis. After that fateful Indiana game on November 11, Padgett's opportunities to play without McInnis really decreased. It has only been recently when he has been given the opportunity to play without him for extended minutes. It seems like Padgett has been the beneficiary of two completely unrelated events: Collins' recurring leg injury, and McInnis' loss of playing time. Now Padgett had an extended opportunity to play, and play without McInnis, and it looks like he's taken full advantage of it.

That Indiana game on November 11 really stands for another reason as well. Surprisingly, Padgett played better with McInnis that game than without him. How could that happen? The contest against the Pacers was Padgett's sole opportunity in the starting lineup, replacing Collins during one of the umpteen times he's been beset by some voodoo leg thingy. If you remember, that was the game where the Pacers got off to 27-point lead, and the Nets closed the gap to twelve during a run in the fourth quarter, playing against the Indiana scrubs. Not only did Padgett start in that game, but he also played in the fourth quarter alongside Murray, Jackson, Planinic, and McInnis/Linton Johnson, each of whom played for about half the quarter, when the Nets closed the gap significantly. So it was an odd game in a number of respects.

Now let's look at how Padgett has meshed with the "Big Three":

Date Opponent MIN w/ Big 3 +/- RAT MIN w/o Big 3 +/- RAT
Nov. 11 Indiana 12.7 -14 17.4 15
Nov. 15 Seattle 2.7 1 17.3 1
Nov. 21 Golden State 0 -- 16 -2
Dec. 7 Charlotte 0 -- 15 -1
Dec. 9 Cleveland 1.9 1 9.2 0
Dec. 10 Philadelphia 5.2 -4 6.4 -2
Dec. 13 Washington 1.5 0 19.8 -12
Dec. 14 Charlotte 4.2 -4 12.8 -1
Dec. 16 Denver 7.6 7 12.4 -2
Dec. 18 Golden State 2.8 2 20.2 9
Dec. 20 Los Angeles 3.9 2 11.5 -1
TOTAL 42.5 -9 158 4

Again, the anomaly was that Indiana game. As mentioned above, after being awarded with a starting role, Padgett played 12.7 minutes with the "Big Three," and the Nets were blown out early. As alluded to above in the discussion on the effect of Jeff McInnis, we can see that since that date, Padgett has played only minimal minutes with that group ever since. Recently, however, Padgett has gotten more of an opportunity to play with the "Big Three," no doubt a fortuitous result of Collins' never-ending problems with his leg. Anyway, if we remove that Indiana game from the analysis, we can see that Padgett has really done pretty well with the "Big Three," especially in comparison with his other time on the court.

MIN w/ Big 3 +/- RAT MIN w/o Big 3 +/- RAT
TOTAL (minus Nov. 11) 29.8 +5 140.6 -11

Another way we can look at Padgett's contributions is to examine how he has done with each of his potential frontcourt partners. This chart shows the minutes that Padgett has played with Robinson, Jackson, Krstic, and Collins, their overall +/- rating when playing as a pair, and the points the team would have scored and given up over a 48-minute period at that rate. These numbers are current through the games of December 13:

Teammate Minutes +/- Off/game Def/game
Robinson 13 -5 94.3 111.7
Jackson 73 3 97.2 95.3
Krstic 41 -21 84.3 108.6
Collins 11 1 72.2 68

These numbers thus do not include the last four games when Padgett received more playing time, and performed well. The far majority of Padgett's minutes have been with Jackson and Krstic. Jackson, of course, received a lot of playing time early in the season, but has seen his opportunities decrease as Padgett's have increased.

What really stands out, though, is Padgett's poor performance when on the court with Krstic. In 41 minutes, the pair registered a -21 rating. You can see that when Krstic and Padgett have been on the court together, both the offense and the defense have suffered.

Again, though, the effect of the ugly November 11 Indiana game has to be taken into account. Of the 41 minutes that Padgett played with Krstic, 13 of those minutes came during the Indiana game, when the pair registered a -14. Remove those minutes, and Padgett has earned a more respectable -7 in 28 minutes with Krstic.

As mentioned, those numbers do not reflect the last four games. Let's see if Padgett's play with Krstic has improved:

Padgett with Krstic, Last Four Games (totals):

Teammate MIN +/- Off/game Def/game
Krstic 25.9 +16 124.2 94.5

Wow, look at that. Not only has the offense been unworldly recently when Padgett and Krstic have been paired, but the defense has improved significantly as well.

Let's look at one final group of numbers. The "player pair" statistics above also show that Padgett had not been playing well with Cliff Robinson, albeit in limited minutes. More recently, though, Robinson has been receiving more playing time as well as Padgett. Let's look at whether Padgett's performance has improved when he plays with Robinson as it has with Krstic:

Padgett with Robinson, Last Four Games (totals):

Teammate MIN +/- Off/game Def/game
Robinson 34.3 +2 81.2 78.4

The offense has slacked off a little, but this is countered by a significant improvement in the defense. All in all, it is clear that Padgett has been meshing much better with Cliff Robinson on the defensive side in recent play.

Conclusion and Final Comments.

I believe I can summarize what has happened to Padgett as follows:

(1)Padgett was awarded a start back in mid-November when Collins was out with an injury.
(2)The starting unit played very poorly in the Indiana game. Some of that may be Padgett's fault. Maybe he was nervous, maybe he wasn't comfortable with the Nets' system yet, maybe he had trouble communicating with Krstic on the court and understanding what he was doing. Maybe he just played poorly. Perhaps some of the Nets' poor play that game was due to the other starters, and Padgett was just given the wrong game to start. Who knows.
(3)Over the next few games, Padgett continued to receive consistent minutes, but there was a drastic change: He was no longer playing with the starters. Instead, the vast majority of his playing time was now with Jeff McInnis. Coach Frank didn't like what he saw, and presto, Padgett was buried on the bench.
(4)An unexpected turn of events gives Padgett new life. First, Collins goes down once again with his leg injury. Second, Marc Jackson starts to receive less playing time, opening up an opportunity for Padgett to play. Third, and not to be overlooked, Jeff McInnis' playing time was also reduced due to his continued poor play. Not only was Padgett playing, he was playing without McInnis.
(5)Padgett starts to contribute on a daily basis.

It seems as though Coach Frank was premature in reducing Padgett's playing time after mid-November. It seems as though Padgett was a victim of Coach Frank's quick hook, nothing more, and given an extended opportunity after time to improve his knowledge of the Nets' system, he has flourished, as evidenced by his improved play on the defensive side with both Krstic and Robinson.

In conclusion, I'm ready to admit that I was wrong about Padgett and to state that he has been making a positive contribution to the team. His overall numbers, especially on the defensive side, are skewed due to the performance against the Pacers back in mid-November and should be ignored by this point. Recently, the Nets have been using Padgett both in a unit with 3 or four of the starters, and in a "reserve" unit with Robinson, Murray, Vaughn, and either Jefferson or Carter. Both of these units have been working pretty well. Hopefully, Coach Frank has recognized this, and Padgett will continue to be utilized in this manner.