NBA Rookie Report
Pluses, Minuses Of Plus/Minus
This article appears in the March 8 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
The NBA's stats revolution is well afoot, and net plus/minus is one of the more recent tools used by the geek set. GMs, scouts and statheads like me use it to evaluate players and five-man units, despite some debate over its actual worth. More on that later.
It's a simple concept: To rate players, subtract the total points scored by the opposing team while a player is on the floor from the total points scored by his team, both per 100 possessions. (Call this A.) Next, do the same equation (points scored minus points allowed) when the player is sitting (B). Subtract B from A ... and you've got that player's net plus/minus!
Here's an example: Through the All-Star break, the Heat outscored opponents by 5.1 points per 100 possessions with Dwyane Wade on the court. Without him, they were hammered by 11.4. Subtract minus-11.4 from 5.1 (remembering that negative numbers turn positive in equations like this) and his net plus/minus is 16.5, tops in the NBA.
Some insiders like the stat because it accounts for factors -- quality D, effective screens -- that don't show up in box scores. Others, like Nuggets stats guru Dean Oliver, say, "It's noisy, uncertain and kind of a black box -- you have a hard time understanding why it's coming out the way it is."
Schedule: Friday, Feb. 26
Elias Sports Bureau
• Dwight Howard recorded his 19th straight double-double and made all 11 of his field goal attempts when the Magic beat the Rockets on Wednesday. Howard's streak of double-doubles is his career high, and it's the longest for any NBA player since the Knicks' David Lee posted double-digit points and rebounds in 24 straight games last season.
• Chauncey Billups, who scored 37 points Thursday night against the Warriors, faces his old mates from Detroit in Denver on Friday. Billups has scored 85 points in three games against the Pistons since Detroit traded him to the Nuggets last season. In those three games, Billups has made all 23 of his foul shots and 52 percent of his field goal attempts (28-for-54). Billups is averaging a career-high 20.2 points per game this season, his 13th in the NBA. No player in NBA history has set a personal best for scoring average in his 12th season in the league or later. Five players set a career high in their 11th season: John Lucas, Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Cassell, Ray Allen and Al Harrington.
• Darren Collison continues to take advantage of his increased playing time during Chris Paul's absence. Collison scored 22 points in 42 minutes in the Hornets' loss at Milwaukee on Wednesday, the ninth straight game in which he logged at least 40 minutes. The only other current NBA players who had streaks of at least nine straight 40-minute games during their rookie season are Grant Hill (1994-95), Michael Finley (1995-96), Allen Iverson (1996-97) and Shane Battier (2001-02).
• The Pistons (6-5 in February) need to win at least one of their two remaining games this month to snap a streak of eight consecutive calendar months with a losing record. It's the longest current streak of consecutive losing months for any NBA team, and it's the longest such streak for the Pistons since their stretch of 20 straight "basketball months" with a sub-.500 record from April 1978 through March 1981.