Explanation for Pistons’ improvement sans Richard Hamilton absolutely needed

Chris Iott of MLive wrote a column on Richard Hamilton today, and it began:

Don’t try to figure out why.

If you’ve been reading this site, you already know I won’t listen to that advice, so let’s get into it.

Iott’s conclusion – the Pistons are better without Hamilton than with him –  is based on two main points: the Pistons win more without Hamilton than they do with him, and they perform better without Hamilton than they do with him. Both points are correct. Both points are too irrelevant.

The Pistons win more and perform better when any one of most their players misses a game. The Pistons are too deep for their own good in the short term.* Nobody can get into a rhythm or establish chemistry with their teammates. Because so many players produce at a high enough level to warrant playing time, John Kuester continuously shuffles the rotation.

*The Pistons’ depth could help them in the long term. Tracy McGrady would probably help them more next year than Will Bynum, but how would the Pistons know that unless they signed both? The Pistons wouldn’t contend this year anyway, so this short-term hit to competitiveness isn’t debilitating. They are better prepared for the future because they’re too deep now.

Iott examined winning percentage and point difference for this season and the last two seasons combined, both with and without Hamilton, so I’ll do the same for each category.

Winning percentage

Let’s start with each player’s affect on the Pistons’ 2011 winning percentage. The three players – Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady and Ben Gordon –  who have played all Detroit’s games this season aren’t included.

Player With Without Difference
Greg Monroe 17-29 (.378) 0-2 (.000) 0.378
Will Bynum 14-22 (.389) 3-9 (.273) 0.116
Chris Wilcox 9-15 (.375) 8-15 (.348) 0.027
Ben Wallace 14-25 (.359) 3-5 (.375) -0.016
Austin Daye 13-25 (.342) 4-5 (.444) -0.102
Richard Hamilton 11-23 (.324) 6-7 (.462) -0.138
DaJuan Summers 2-9 (.182) 15-21 (.417) -0.235
Jason Maxiell 10-24 (.294) 7-6 (.538) -0.244
Rodney Stuckey 14-28 (.333) 3-2 (.600) -0.267
Charlie Villanueva 15-29 (.341) 2-1 (.667) -0.326

Here’s another view.  The blue bars represent the Pistons’ winning percentage in games with that player this year. The red bars represent the Pistons’ winning percentage in games without that player this year.

2011 W-L

Yes, the Pistons’ winning percentage dropped when Hamilton has played this season. But it has also dropped for six other players, including four for whom it has dropped more.

Let’s look at the two-year totals to see whether that trend holds. Again, I didn’t include McGrady, who hasn’t missed a game since joining the Pistons, and I didn’t included Jonas Jerebko, who won’t be available to play anytime soon.

Player With Without Difference 
Greg Monroe 17-28 (.378) 0-2 (.000) 0.378
Tracy McGrady 17-30 (.362) 0-0 (.000) 0.362
Charlie Villanueva 42-70 (.375) 2-15 (.118) 0.257
Ben Wallace 39-69 (.361) 5-16 (.238) 0.123
Will Bynum 35-64 (.354) 9-21 (.300) 0.054
Chris Wilcox 18-40 (.310) 26-45 (.366) -0.056
Richard Hamilton 25-55 (.313) 19-30 (.388) -0.075
Austin Daye 35-72 (.327) 9-13 (.409) -0.082
DaJuan Summers 15-40 (.273) 29-45 (.392) -0.119
Ben Gordon 35-74 (.321) 9-11 (.450) -0.129
Tayshaun Prince 29-67 (.302) 15-18 (.455) -0.152
Rodney Stuckey 37-78 (.322) 7-7 (.500) -0.178
Jason Maxiell 34-76 (.309) 10-9 (.526) -0.217

And the bar graph, where the blue bars represent with and red bars represent without:

Two-year W-L

Again, the Pistons’ winning percentage dropped when Hamilton has played the last two seasons. But it has also dropped for seven other players, including six for whom it has dropped more.

Point difference

Here are the plus-minuses per 48 minutes for each Piston this year:

Player With Without Difference
Chris Wilcox 5.36 -4.99 10.35
DaJuan Summers -2.73 -3.96 1.23
Ben Gordon -0.79 -3.61 2.82
Charlie Villanueva -1.20 -3.46 2.26
Tracy McGrady -2.61 -2.85 0.24
Will Bynum -4.77 -2.79 -1.98
Jason Maxiell -6.03 -2.54 -3.49
Rodney Stuckey -3.61 -2.03 -1.58
Austin Daye -7.82 -1.78 -6.04
Greg Monroe -5.26 -1.64 -3.62
Tayshaun Prince -3.64 -1.55 -2.08
Ben Wallace -8.06 -0.82 -7.24
Richard Hamilton -9.62 -0.36 -9.26

And the bar graph, where the blue bars represent with and red bars represent without:

P-M 2011

Eight players hurt the Pistons’ plus-minus – none more so than Hamilton. But does that trend hold true over the last two seasons? Not exactly.

Player With Without Difference
Rodney Stuckey -2.48 -8.06 5.58
Ben Wallace -2.86 -6.28 3.42
Tracy McGrady -2.61 -5.26 2.66
Ben Gordon -3.41 -5.88 2.47
Tayshaun Prince -3.69 -5.78 2.09
Charlie Villanueva -5.11 -4.34 -0.77
Chris Wilcox -5.69 -4.55 -1.14
Greg Monroe -5.26 -3.02 -2.23
Jason Maxiell -6.23 -3.93 -2.30
Richard Hamilton -6.16 -3.78 -2.39
Austin Daye -6.57 -4.08 -2.49
Will Bynum -7.51 -3.15 -4.36
DaJuan Summers -11.54 -4.15 -7.39

And the bar graph, where the blue bars represent with and red bars represent without:

P-M total
P-M total

During the last two years, eight players hurt the Pistons’ plus-minus, including three who did so more than Hamilton.


The data shows the Pistons were wise to cut someone from their rotation. But that’s all this data shows. It doesn’t show whom the Pistons should have removed. If they simply stopped using players whose presence lowered the team’s winning percentage or plus-minus, the Pistons wouldn’t have enough players left to fill a rotation.

I think the Pistons would have improved had they removed Ben Gordon from the rotation instead of Richard Hamilton. But I don’t think that’s the key question. The key question is whether they would have improved more by removing Hamilton or Gordon.

To answer that, it’s important to examine all the factors Iott says to ignore – “Richard Hamilton, John Kuester, player combinations or offensive systems.” I think a review of those considerations – not just record and plus-minus – shows Hamilton deserved to leave the rotation, as I’ve written many times before.

So, Iott and I reached the same conclusion. We just took very different paths to it.

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Tags: Austin Daye Ben Gordon Ben Wallace Charlie Villanueva Chris Wilcox DaJuan Summers Greg Monroe Jason Maxiell John Kuester Jonas Jerebko Richard Hamilton Rodney Stuckey Tayshaun Prince Terrico White Tracy McGrady Will Bynum

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