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NBA Hipster Game Preview – Cavs at Bucks – 11/6/2013

Because box score stats are so mainstream…

I spent the summer in an ‘86 Fleetwood Bounder on an Indian Rez in New Mexico, cooking up a custom version of a statistic called Adjusted Plus Minus (APM). I worked hard on the formula with some friends from Cavs: The Blog, and now we’re selling the glorious product (for free) on a new blog called gotbuckets.com. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do, and share it with your fellow NBA junkies. The writing is a lot better than it is here, and we’re going to cover the entire NBA through the lens of advanced stats—especially APM!

If you want to know more about APM—read this article by Kevin Hetrick. If you think the stat looks like total crap—read this article by me.

 

Buck Huntin’

The Cavaliers are shooting par for the course through four games—a couple wins, a couple losses, noticeably improved defensive effort, and somewhat stagnant offense compared to last year. The sample size is far too small to pass sweeping judgment on the team or alter any of our expectations. Tonight they play the Bucks, who’ve assembled an interesting collection of veteran talent around two of the most sneaky-good players in the NBA.

I anticipate the return of “Superstar” numbers for Kyrie Irving tonight. Gary Neal, meet Uncle Drew. Just don’t force it, Kyrie.

 

Caron Butler

APM is at its best when it has years of data and thousands upon thousands of minutes to work with for a player. Caron Butler is a grizzled NBA veteran playing his 12th season on his 6th team. He’s a prototype 3 who plays well on both ends of the floor. At 33, he’s on the downside of his career; you can see from the table that he’s several years removed from the apex of his career (at least in APM terms), from 2007-2011. In that period his total APM estimate ranked in the 85th, 77th, 59th, and 72nd percentiles. His “peak” seemed to have an offensive bent, landing in the 83rd, 93rd, 81st, and 52nd percentiles. I know that Butler gets a reputation as a stout defender, but his defensive APM estimate has never crossed the 75th percentile. It also hasn’t fallen below the 25th percentile. In 25,000+ career minutes on 5+ teams, that says something. At this point in his career, Butler seems like a solid veteran forward capable of shouldering a heavy load of minutes. He is not an all-star, but I’m worried what he’s capable of doing on both ends against the likes of Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee.

Season

APM

Std. Error

Minutes

Offensive

Defensive

Offensive Percentile

Defensive Percentile

Total Percentile

Caron Butler

2002 2003

-0.51

3.63

2847

1.24

-1.75

73

33

55

Caron Butler

2003 2004

-1.84

2.54

5373

-0.7

-1.15

51

40

41

Caron Butler

2004 2005

-1.16

2.45

5260

0.36

-1.52

63

35

48

Caron Butler

2005 2006

-1.4

2.32

5698

-0.32

-1.07

55

41

46

Caron Butler

2006 2007

-2.15

2.68

5431

-1.19

-0.96

45

42

38

Caron Butler

2007 2008

3.24

2.76

5023

2.33

0.91

83

64

85

Caron Butler

2008 2009

1.87

2.52

5135

4.26

-2.39

93

27

77

Caron Butler

2009 2010

-0.11

2.47

5559

2.11

-2.23

81

28

59

Caron Butler

2010 2011

1.28

2.56

3844

-0.57

1.85

52

74

72

Caron Butler

2011 2012

-1.73

2.99

2998

-3.25

1.52

23

71

42

Caron Butler

2012 2013

-1.15

3.45

4143

-0.2

-0.94

57

43

48

 

O.J. Mayo

Mayo doesn’t quite have the length of resume’ as Butler, but APM is pretty decisive when it says he is a one-way player. He’s landed in the 25th, 5th, 3rd, 8th, and 35th percentiles of estimated impact on defense. The other half of his estimate corroborates that O.J. is indeed a talented NBA guard who helps his team get points on the board, but is not a transcendent talent in that department. His 2012-2013 APM offers evidence that he started giving a crap about defense in Dallas, yielding an overall better APM stat. This is a great litmus test for Waiters tonight; I want to see Dion blow past Mayo to the bucket early and often, and hopefully contain him on the other end. 

Season

APM

Std. Error

Minutes

Offensive

Defensive

Offensive Percentile

Defensive Percentile

Total Percentile

O.J. Mayo

2008 2009

0.72

3.79

3112

3.23

-2.51

89

25

67

O.J. Mayo

2009 2010

-4.45

3.11

6216

1.23

-5.69

73

5

19

O.J. Mayo

2010 2011

-5.07

2.71

5326

1.58

-6.65

76

3

16

O.J. Mayo

2011 2012

-2.7

2.62

4135

2.05

-4.75

81

8

33

O.J. Mayo

2012 2013

-0.84

2.53

4815

0.74

-1.58

67

35

51

 

Ersan Ilyasova

Ersan has an eyebrow-raising APM table. Here’s my smug NBA Hipster take: The Bucks won 38 games last season, and it wasn’t because of Monte Ellis’ and Brandon Jennings’ FG% crapfest. Just wait for the 6-9 Turk to play in a larger NBA market—he’ll eventually get the cred he deserves. Ersan sports a scary four year run of APM domination, weighted by elite shooting percentages and all the defense you expect from a big man. He blocks shots, he hits threes, rebounds, and he doesn’t turn the ball over. His recent PERs of 14, 20, and 18 are underwhelming for this level of nerd worship, but PER famously rewards volume offense and ignores defense. If there is one good reason to watch a Bucks game, it’s to see whether Ilyasova is the real deal or just a massive failure of multiple-regression basketball models. Tristan masterfully handled Kevin Love on Monday night—I think we’ll need the same quality from TT tonight in Milwaukee.

Season

APM

Std. Error

Minutes

Offensive

Defensive

Offensive Percentile

Defensive Percentile

Total Percentile

Ersan Ilyasova

2006 2007

-4.46

4

970

-3.75

-0.72

19

45

19

Ersan Ilyasova

2007 2008

-5.02

4.05

970

-4.46

-0.56

13

47

16

Ersan Ilyasova

2009 2010

4.69

3.4

2046

1.29

3.41

73

86

91

Ersan Ilyasova

2010 2011

3.03

2.53

3548

1.77

1.25

78

67

84

Ersan Ilyasova

2011 2012

5.52

2.74

3109

4.23

1.28

93

68

93

Ersan Ilyasova

2012 2013

6.02

2.83

3732

4.42

1.6

94

72

95

 

Larry Sanders

Larry Sanders is a big deal. Not in quite the same tantalizingly mysterious way like Ilyasova, but more like a “this guy is basically a basketball goalie” kind of way. APM thinks he was the most potent defensive force in the league last year, at least when he’s on the floor. Thank the basketball Gods he doesn’t see more than 20-25 minutes per game, because when he’s in, Sanders blocks everything and alters the rest of it. On offense, he is a liability, but 50% shooting on 17% usage last season is nothing to laugh at. Even if Irving and Waiters make mince-meat of the Bucks frontcourt, they’ll still have to elude the big man under the basket.

Season

APM

Std. Error

Minutes

Offensive

Defensive

Offensive Percentile

Defensive Percentile

Total Percentile

Larry Sanders

2010 2011

-8.41

4.28

870

-9.04

0.62

1

61

3

Larry Sanders

2011 2012

1.14

3.5

1501

-3.37

4.51

22

91

71

Larry Sanders

2012 2013

8.38

3.26

2678

-3.2

11.58

23

100

98

 

Brandon Knight

The non-rivalry between Knight and Irving lives on in the Rust Belt much like Browns-Steelers. I don’t know if Brandon Knight is going to play tonight, but from Milwaukee’s perspective, nothing good can come of Sore Hamstring versus Kyrie Irving. Interestingly, APM says Knight has been a capable defender, but we’re dealing with a small sample size for the young guard. His shooting percentages are decent in two seasons, but it’s in low-ish usage (22%) and he doesn’t do anything else. At all.

Season

APM

Std. Error

Minutes

Offensive

Defensive

Offensive Percentile

Defensive Percentile

Total Percentile

Brandon Knight

2011 2012

-4.04

3.95

2088

-4.21

0.17

15

56

22

Brandon Knight

2012 2013

-3.02

3.57

4445

-4.37

1.35

14

68

30

 

Zaza Pachulia

Another quality defensive big to deal with in the paint.

“Nothing easy.” – Zaza Pachulia

Season

APM

Std. Error

Minutes

Offensive

Defensive

Offensive Percentile

Defensive Percentile

Total Percentile

Zaza Pachulia

2004 2005

1.52

3

2046

-1.55

3.07

41

83

74

Zaza Pachulia

2005 2006

2.28

2.53

3837

0.07

2.21

60

77

80

Zaza Pachulia

2006 2007

1.71

2.6

4466

-1.52

3.23

41

84

76

Zaza Pachulia

2007 2008

0.41

3.05

3064

-1.55

1.97

41

75

64

Zaza Pachulia

2008 2009

2.81

2.9

2771

-1.26

4.07

44

89

83

Zaza Pachulia

2009 2010

1.05

3.1

2971

-4.23

5.29

15

94

70

Zaza Pachulia

2010 2011

-2.04

3.21

2677

-3.99

1.95

17

75

39

Zaza Pachulia

2011 2012

-2.66

2.86

3069

-2.34

-0.33

32

50

33

Zaza Pachulia

2012 2013

0.07

2.87

2766

-2.85

2.92

27

82

61