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Dumpy's Statistical Analysis - Eight-game winning streak - Part 2

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In the second part of our statistical look at the Nets' current eight-game winning streak, we'll take a look at some of the more frequently-used player combinations that Coach Frank has used. Our goal is to identify which players have performed well together, which haven't, and which units possibly deserve more playing time.

First, a caveat: These numbers presented below may contain minor mathematical errors, and are not necessarily 100% accurate. I think they are very, very close, though, and can still be used to make general assessments about player performance despite any minor inaccuracies.

That said, before we begin, let me say that this analysis would have been impossible without the information found on www.popcornmachine.net. Popcornmachine.net presents game-by-game data in a format that lends itself to this type of analysis. Check it out.

Today, we're going to look at the contributions of Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson-the "Big Three." Recently, Coach Frank has been using his stable of power forwards and centers almost interchangeably, as Jason Collins, Nenad Krstic, Cliff Robinson, Scott Padgett, and Lamond Murray have all received consistent minutes, and Marc Jackson has also received opportunities to perform. Are the "Big Three" more effective playing with some combinations of big men than others? That's what we will try to find out.

First, some general stats. In total, the "Big Three" have played 236.8 minutes together during the winning streak. This represents about 60% of total game time (don't forget the overtime session against the Nuggets!). During those 236.8 minutes, the Nets have registered a plus-minus rating of +82 (for an explanation of the plus-minus rating, see my previous blog entry). This is a phenomenal achievement which can not be overstated. For comparison, the Pistons' starting five-the "gold standard" of player units-have to date played together for 662 minutes, and have registered a +202. At their recent pace, had the Nets' "Big Three" played together for the same number of minutes, they would have registered a plus-minus rating of-gasp!- +229. That's right, the Nets' "Big Three," when playing together as a unit, have been more effective during this spell than the top five-man unit in the league has been for the season. That's a testament to not only the sterling play of Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson, but also to the big men that have manned the power forward and center positions for the Nets during the past few weeks.

Let's look at this from another perspective. During the approximately 150 minutes during which the Big Three did NOT play together, the Nets registered a +12 rating. Obviously not as good, but still above average. This provides some hope that the Nets could weather a short-term injury to Carter or Jefferson. Breaking this down further:

Combinations containing two of the "Big Three":

Three Players Plus: Minutes Plus-Minus
Kidd/Carter 12.3 -2
Kidd/Jefferson 35.1 +13
Carter/Jefferson 24.6 -4

Combinations containing one of the "Big Three":

Four Players Plus: Min. Plus-Minus
Carter 20.4 +10
Jefferson 21.3 -6
Kidd 0 --

Combinations containing none of the "Big Three":

Min. Plus-Minus
24.1 -8

I can see that my calculations are off by about ten minutes of playing time, but that's marginal and shouldn't affect the general conclusions that can be taken from this data. There are a few things that really stick out from these charts. First, combinations including Kidd and Jefferson without Carter have been very effective in their 35 minutes on the floor-much better, in fact, than combinations involving Kidd and Carter without Jefferson or Carter and RJ without Kidd. Second, when Carter is the sole member of the "Big Three" in the game, the Nets continue to play effectively-much better, in fact, then when RJ is the sole member of the "Big Three" on the floor. Perhaps this is not surprising, as Carter is obviously superior at making his own shot. Third, Kidd has not played a single minute without either RJ or Carter alongside him. Fourth, at least one of the "Big Three" is in the game nearly all the time. Of the 24 minutes where none of the three are playing, fully half occurred in the fourth quarter of the blowout victory over Golden State. As Kidd continues to receive the fewest minutes of the "Big Three," both Carter and Jefferson will continue to get time on the court without the other two. This data does suggest, however, that there may be an opportunity for Coach Frank to coordinate the court time for Kidd, Carter, and RJ in a way that would optimize their performance. For instance, often Jefferson begins the second quarter with four of the reserve players, then he exits as Carter and/or Kidd return to the court. From the above numbers, it appears as though it would be more effective for Carter to begin the second quarter with four reserves, and then exit when RJ and Kidd enter as a pair a few minutes later. Just one thing to consider...

Let's move on and look at combinations where all of the "Big Three" are in the game:

Combination: Kidd-Carter-Jefferson-Collins-Krstic

Date Opponent Min. Plus-Minus
Dec. 16 Denver 20.7 +14
Dec. 18 Golden State 16.2 +15
Dec. 20 LA Clippers 26.7 +13
Dec. 21 Orlando 4.8 -5
Dec. 26 New York 22.6 +11
Dec. 27 Cleveland 5.4 -9
Dec. 30 Atlanta 17.9 -2
TOTAL 114.3 +37

Generally speaking, very good performance by the starting five. In the Orlando game, Jason Collins played just five minutes before spraining his ankle and was forced to leave, so I'm willing to dismiss that performance. The last few games are a bit troubling, however. We all have read that Collins is still suffering from his nagging injuries, and this could be just more evidence of their effect on his play. Remember, also, that Collins missed the Miami game in its entirety, so it has been deleted from the chart.

A few weeks ago, I showed that the Nets' starting unit had been playing better in the first quarter than the third quarter. Let's look at whether this trend has continued during the winning streak:

Combination: Kidd-Carter-Jefferson-Collins-Krstic
Totals by Quarter

1st Q. 2nd Q. 3rd Q. 4th Q.
Minutes 55.5 14.1 40.9 3.8
Plus-Minus +40 +4 -13 +6

Pretty dramatic stuff. Why is the starting unit so ineffective in the third quarter? Do the "Big Three" come out without energy? Or does Collins' leg tighten up, further limiting him? Let's compare those numbers to how the "Big Three" does without the Collins/Krstic frontcourt, by quarter:

All other combinations with Kidd-Carter-Jefferson, by Quarter:

1st Q. 2nd Q. 3rd Q. 4th Q. + OT
Minutes 17.9 21.4 34.6 8.6
Plus-Minus +2 +18 +23 +2

The first quarter-third quarter disparity is gone. This would seem to suggest that the fault lies with Collins, Krstic, or both, but I think that would be reading too much into the numbers. For the most part, these other combinations are used only during the second half of the quarter; if the team just naturally gets off to a slow start after halftime, without one individual as the primary cause, then we'd expect those numbers to improve as the quarter goes on. Still, it's interesting. I wouldn't mind seeing some other frontcourt combinations play with the "Big Three" at the start of the third quarter just to see what would happen. If it turns out that Collins' injuries are somehow responsible for the slow start in the third quarter, then clearly the Nets could adjust their rotation in the second half to remedy this. For example, perhaps Collins just needs a long time to warm up before playing, time that is available before the start of the game, but not during halftime. If that's the case-and I have no way of knowing, one way or the other-then perhaps it makes sense to hold Collins out of the game for the first half of the third quarter or so, while he continues to warm up and stretch, before eventually inserting him. At any rate, the -13 registered by the starters in the third quarter is one of the worst marks registered under any situation during the winning streak, and things probably wouldn't get any worse by shaking things up a bit by using other combos immediately following halftime.

Combination: Kidd-Carter-Jefferson-Robinson-Krstic

Date Opponent Min. Plus-Minus
Dec. 18 Golden State 4.3 -1
Dec. 20 LA Clippers 1.2 +3
Dec. 21 Orlando 5.1 +0
Dec. 23 Miami 23.9 -7
Dec. 27 Cleveland 13.0 +12
Dec. 30 Atlanta 1.8 +0
TOTAL 49.3 +7
1st Q. 2nd Q. 3rd Q. 4th Q. + OT
Minutes 17.0 7.2 17.1 8.0
Plus-Minus -1 +3 +2 +3

The second-most used combination with the "Big Three" includes Cliff Robinson and Nenad Krstic. With a plus-seven rating, this combo has been somewhat less successful that the Collins-Krstic unit. We should point out, however, that a large chunk of the minutes occurred when Robinson replaced Collins in the starting lineup against Miami, during which the Nets fell behind by twelve points in the first quarter. With that exception, this unit has been pretty successful, and equally so in each quarter. It is somewhat surprising that this combination has not been used more often, playing in just six of the eight games, and less than two minutes on two separate occasions.

Combination: Kidd-Carter-Jefferson-Robinson-Collins

Date Opponent Min. Plus-Minus
Dec. 18 Golden State 1.7 +5
Dec. 26 New York 7.6 -1
Dec. 27 Cleveland 2.4 -10
Dec. 30 Atlanta 1.1 -2
TOTAL 12.8 -8

The third possible combination involving Robinson, Collins, and Krstic has not fared as well. In fact, as far as I can tell, this is the only combination containing the "Big Three" that has registered an overall minus rating during the winning streak. This is somewhat surprising, given the defensive strengths of both Robinson and Collins. In their defense, though, we note that this combination has played very limited minutes together, and their greatest failure occurred during the fourth quarter against Cleveland, when the Cavs were unstoppable and nearly overcame a large deficit in the final minutes of play.

Next we'll look at four-man combinations, involving the "Big Three" and at least one of the secondary reserves (Padgett, Jackson, Murray, Vaughn).

Combination: "Big Three" + Padgett

Date Opponent Min. Plus-Minus
Dec. 16 Denver (1) 7.6 +4
Dec. 18 Golden State (1) 2.8 +2
Dec. 20 LA Clippers (1) 3.9 +2
Dec. 21 Orlando (2) 1.6 +1
Dec. 23 Miami (3) 3.1 +8
Dec. 26 New York (3) 2.1 -1
Dec. 30 Atlanta (3) 5.5 +2
TOTAL 26.6 +18

Notes:
(1) Fifth player on the floor was Krstic
(2) Fifth player on the floor was Jackson
(3) Fifth player on the floor was Robinson

What can we say that will give this justice? Obviously, Padgett is meshing very well with the "Big Three," and it doesn't seem to matter who the center is. We'd like to see Padgett play more minutes with the "Big Three" in the future.

Combination: "Big Three" + Jackson

Date Opponent Min. Plus-Minus
Dec. 21 Orlando (1) 5.4 +1
Dec. 23 Miami (2) 5.1 +12
Dec. 27 Cleveland (2) 0.9 +2
TOTAL 11.4 +15

Notes:
(1) Fifth player on the floor was Padgett (1.6 minutes, +1) or Robinson (3.8 minutes, +0)
(2) Fifth player on the floor was Krstic

Great results from a guy who deserves more playing time. After the success this unit had against Miami (when Collins was unable to play), we 'd like to see it have more opportunities together.

Combination: "Big Three" + Murray

Date Opponent Min. Plus-Minus
Dec. 21 Orlando (1) 14.2 +4
Dec. 26 New York (2) 0.3 +2
TOTAL 14.5 +6

Notes:
(1) Fifth player on the floor was Robinson (11.9 minutes, +6) or Krstic (2.3 minutes, -2)
(2) Fifth player on the floor was Collins

Murray has only played twice with the "Big Three," including once for just a 20-second stretch. I don't expect to see this combination used too often in the future, but it is comforting to know that it hasn't been overwhelmed when utilized.

Combination: "Big Three" + Vaughn

Date Opponent Min. Plus-Minus
Dec. 16 Denver (1) 1.4 +0
Dec. 23 Miami (2) 0.4 +0
Dec. 30 Atlanta (3) 7.7 +8
TOTAL 9.5 +8

Notes:
(1) Fifth player on the floor was Collins
(2) Fifth player on the floor was Robinson
(3) Fifth player on the floor was Robinson (6.3 minutes, +9) or Krstic (1.4 minutes, -1)

Obviously Vaughn is not a "big," but on three occasions, the Nets have gone with a small lineup while Kidd, Carter, and RJ are in the game. Obviously, this unit will be used only when the right match-ups present themselves, but something certainly clicked together against Atlanta.

Now let's examine the above combinations from a different perspective:

Combination: "Big Three" plus either Padgett, Murray, Jackson, or Vaughn, and:

Fifth Player Min. Plus-Minus
Robinson 33.1 +24
Krstic 24.0 +19
Collins 1.7 +2

This chart shows that the Nets are equally effective when the fourth player on the floor is either Robinson or Krstic, regardless of who fills out the last position. Collins essentially never plays unless Krstic or Robinson is also in the game.

Now for something completely different:

Combination: Vaughn-Robinson-Murray-Padgett [plus one]

Date Opponent Min. Plus-Minus
Dec. 16 Denver 2.4 -1
Dec. 18 Golden State 4.8 +3
Dec. 20 LA Clippers 3.2 -4
Dec. 26 New York 11.0 -4
Dec. 27 Cleveland 2.1 -2
Dec. 30 Atlanta 5.1 +0
TOTAL 28.6 -8

Recently the Nets have given floor time to a unit consisting of Vaughn, Robinson, Murray, Padgett, and another guard. Often, this unit has started the second quarter, paired with either Carter or Jefferson. We can see that this group has not been altogether successful.

Breaking this down by the additional guard:

Combination: Vaughn-Robinson-Murray-Padgett, and:

Fifth Player Min. Plus-Minus
Jefferson 14.4 -6
Carter 11.8 -1
McInnis 2.4 -1

We can see that this group is more successful with Carter than with Jefferson. This is consistent with our findings of when Carter and Jefferson are each the sole member of the "Big Three" in the game, as outlined towards the top of this piece.

Summary:

From the above breakdown, it is clear that pretty much every combination of players have contributed to the team's success over the past eight games. This is a great sign, and shows just how far the team has come from the first six weeks of the season, when everything would seemingly fall apart whenever the starting unit would exit. Our primary comment is that it appears that the "lesser" reserves like Padgett and Jackson deserve more floor time with the "Big Three." Obviously, there is only so much playing time to go around. However, as discussed above, one possible solution is to hold Collins out for the start of the third quarter, and using one of the reserves in his place. At any rate, as Nets fans, we can feel more confident that, should Collins need to sit out for a significant period of time, it appears that the current group of big men can handle the load.