New advanced statistics love Josh Smith and hate Brandon Jennings

Steve Ilardi writes over at ESPN:

As the name suggests, real plus-minus shares a family resemblance with the +/- stat in the box score, which merely registers the net change in score (plus or minus) while each player is on the court.

RPM is inspired by the same underlying +/- logic: If a team outscores its opponents when a player is on the court, he’s probably doing something to help his team, whether or not he’s putting up big numbers.

But the familiar +/- stat has a serious flaw: Each player’s rating is heavily influenced by the play of his on-court teammates.

For example, in the basic +/- numbers, Thunder backup point guard Reggie Jackson is ranked 27th in the league. But he’s also spent the majority of his minutes playing alongside Kevin Durant, the league’s likely MVP. What we really want to know is how much of Jackson’s elite rating is attributable to his own play, and basic +/- simply can’t tell us.

You’ll have to check out the entire article to truly grasp the ins and outs of RPM. The numbers — offensive and defensive RPM along with the newly debuted wins above replacement stat — say what you’d expect about the Pistons.

They’re not very good. Before someone gets worked up about these, don’t worry, I’m with you: advanced statistics aren’t perfect. They aren’t perfect in baseball and they won’t be in basketball, but the eye test has its flaws, too.

It’s the usual suspects rounding out the top six in WAR with LeBron James (17.07 WAR), Kevin Durant (16.73), Stephen Curry (13.68), Chris Paul (13.10), Kevin Love (13.05) and Dirk Nowitzk (12.41), but it goes off the rails at No. 7 when DeAndre Jordan (11.58) makes an appearance.

Yeah, I’m a little perplexed, too. Perhaps the ratings favor defense and rebounding (and obviously overall team success) over lackluster offensive production? That logic would surely mean that Andre Drummond grades wonderfully with this new stat, right?

Not so much. Drummond (3.01)  graded out as the No. 20 center according to WAR, trailing powerhouses like Boston’s Jared Sullinger (4.03) and San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter (4.36). The RPM stats grade Drummond as a minus player offensively (-0.09), defensively (-0.24) and overall (-0.33).

That’s not all Drummond’s fault — the Pistons’ roster and lack of wins doesn’t help him — but it is interesting to see that, despite having such a great season on the boards, that Drummond has been pedestrian in other areas.

I’ll let you guys skim through the stats and draw your own conclusions, but it is worth noting a few things:

  1. Josh Smith grades out as the No. 8 small forward via WAR (7.41) and No. 12 via RPM (2.22). Go ahead, be mad. 
  2. Can’t find Brandon Jennings‘ WAR rating? That’s because he’s ranked last at No. 87 (-3.26).
  3. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, for all the ups and downs he’s had, graded out as the No. 8 shooting guard (0.83) in the defensive RPM rankings.
  4. Greg Monroe actually graded out better on defense (1.18 DRPM) than on offense (0.95 ORPM). Whoda thunk?

Tags: Andre Drummond Brandon Jennings Greg Monroe Josh Smith Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

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