Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Josh Smith's Value: The Great Unknown


The other day I wrote: "I would rather play the Sixers because I honestly think the prospect of a LeBron vs Wade second round would be too enticing for the league to pass up."

I've changed my mind. The Hawks don't match up well against the Sixers at all. I'm kind of vexed by the fact that the Hawks can't or won't keep up with the Sixers. It's not like the Hawks are the Phoenix Suns and are full of geriatric players who are slightly past their prime. Atlanta's legs can't be that much older than Philly's yet the Hawks always look a step slow when they play them.

I'm going to put out a little challenge to Hoopinion (I'm too lazy to do it myself and honestly I wouldn't know where to start)
We need to figure out exactly what kind of numbers Josh Smith needs to have in order for the team to be successful. He had 33 points last night and the Hawks lost by 13. He's is one of the players on the team whose production is rarely an indicator of whether or not the Hawks won or lost. I just can't figure out exactly what his value to the team is. Do we need him in that 15-20 point range? Does it matter? When the Hawks lose it certainly seems like his point production is important, but not on a night like last night. Although in his defense, he was the only thing resembling offense in the first half. I guess the only conclusion we can realistically come to is if Josh Smith is the best player on the team, they won't win many games........ I don't know. I'll wait for stats.

Speaking of stats, how is it that Josh was a -17 last night???????? Seriously if someone doesn't explain +/- to me soon my head will explode and I will no longer accept it as a measuring stick for a player's performance. Not that I accept it now.........
But, when Josh has 33 points and he only misses 2 shots, he's 3-3 from behind the arc, and he hits all of his free throws, blocks two shots, steals the ball twice and he's -17 it makes me scratch head.
I really need someone to explain it to me.

10 comments:

Bret LaGree said...

My guess is that the team's success is more closely related to Smith's rebounding numbers than his scoring numbers.

As for him being -17 for the game, that's just a function of being on the court with Mike Bibby so much. Smith was +4 in the 12:39 he played without Bibby on the court and -21 in the 27:55 he shared the court with Bibby.

CoCo said...

So basically you're telling me Josh's purpose on the team is to be a dirty work type of player?? Aren't we wasting Al's talents enough on that? LOL I can't stomach that (neither can Josh) I think he's more than a hustle guy. Although, rebounds are about effort and sometimes he falls short in the category of trying....
I still don't understand +/-........

Bret LaGree said...

Since Josh is the team's co-4th option (with Horford and behind Johnson, Bibby, and Flip) my guess is that if he's scoring a lot of points then two or three usual scorers are not and that's probably not a good sign.

If he's scoring 15-20 points and grabbing 8 or more rebounds, then things are probably functioning as planned (the quality of the plan notwithstanding) and his contributions are ably supplementing the guys the coach (for whatever reasons) wants to take the majority of the shots.

CoCo said...

Fair enough Bret. I still need +/- for dummies......

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I'll make a stab at both questions at hand...+/- is basically saying when you are on the court how many more points your team has than the other. Soooo, if I'm on the court for 20 minutes and my team scored 6 more points during those specific 20 minutes, then I'm plus 6. it's basically a measure to say whether you are positively affecting the game when you are in the game. It can be a good measure, but also sucks if sayy - you are Kobe and have to play with me, Bret, Drew, and you. Kobe's +/- would get dragged down b/c of who is on the court with him. 2nd point coming up...

Jesse said...

The exact definition is as such:
+/- = net points (+/-) for the team while the player was on the floor.

My problem with this stat is that it too often gets used singularly to measure a player’s worth when that is further from the truth. Our current Josh Smith line from last night is a perfect example of why this stat is over-valued and should not be used so frequently in evaluating players by itself.

When this stat is combined with other stats, then one can then really start to see where it's value lies, and that is in evaluating line-ups and coaching. Combine Smith's -17 with his eFG% (or in this case, just about any of his other stats) and you can see that the -17 does not accurately define his value to the team that night, but instead clearly shows how the rest of the team let him down, and consequently lost the game.

The =/- stat as a whole needs to be removed from each players personal stat line. When this stat is used to compare different line-ups throughout the course of a game, it becomes even more effective at evaluating the coaching because it allows you to find your least and most effective line-ups. I like to think that most front office management uses this stat as such when evaluating their current coaching positions.

Hope some of this helps, and that you weren't being rhetorical, haha.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Now, to Josh - here's what I'm confused about Coco. Here's what Josh did last night...exactly what everyone has ever asked of him to do nightly. He started his offensive game at the rim, he was active ALL night. Even the 3s were ok (just ok, though - I'm afraid this will result in a revisiting of 3 pters in the coming weeks) b/c he took them after he got his rhythm going and realized his shot was on (not just throwing up jumpers all willy nilly).

So, how do you not see his worth? I am on board with the fact that his b-ball IQ is his weakness (more than jump shooting), but he's only 23 and I'm still of the mindset that it's COACHING that's keeping Josh from being an All Star at a minimum b/c a coach would cure him of even attempting jump shots.

CoCo said...

Noooooo Larry, don't misunderstand me when I say I don't know what his value is. I am Josh Smith's biggest (at times lone) defender. I'm just saying if I didn't watch the game and you told me Josh's stat line was like 33 and 10 I wouldn't know if the Hawks won or lost the game. Big numbers from Josh doesn't mean big wins for the team. That's what I'm saying. I think Bret is right when he says "if he's scoring a lot of points then two or three usual scorers are not and that's probably not a good sign." I think Josh is a very good player and he is arguably the most athletic child in the league.

Thanks to all of you for trying to help me understand +/-, but now I'm more convinced than ever that it's stupid. Just because Josh was surrounded by a bunch of scrubs last night we should say his effect on the game was negative?? The fact the he was the be all and end all of the offense should have earned him two plus signs.

Jesse said...

That's exactly my point on the +/- stat CoCo. It's bogus as hell because people assume that it means how a player affected the team, when in actuality that's not what it represents at all. It's meaning is not understood correctly by all and ends up getting mis-used more often than not.

Bronn said...

Using the +/- stat for an individual game, or even a small sample of games, generally doesn't do it justice. By itself, it tells you nothing about an individual performance in an individual game. You don't see what units a single player shared the floor with, or how other players affected the others on the floor. There are nights when Josh Smith is extremely ineffective yet ends up pretty well in the +/- department-these even out in a larger sample size.

It's much more effective when you look at a sample size as big as an entire season. You can find this information easily on www.82games.com. This will tell you that the Hawks are a slightly better offensive team and a slightly better defensive team when Josh Smith is on the floor, which, despite his up and down play on the year, should make sense.

Hope that helps.