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John Schuhmann

Numbers Game

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Barry Gossage, D. Lippitt & Chris McGrath/NBAE via Getty Images

Injuries cause pains (and some gains) for contenders

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Mar 11 2009 7:37PM

The season is 78 percent complete. Every team except Philadelphia has 20 games or fewer to play. In fact, 22 of the 30 teams still have a lot of games left to play. So, it's not a good time for a team to have one of its key players out with an injury. Unfortunately, there are plenty of key players on the shelf right now.

How do their absences affect their team's success?

Which player's injury is the most damaging?

The numbers will give us some clues.

To get a gauge of how teams play with and without certain players, we'll look at their offensive and defensive efficiencies in games when the player played vs. their efficiency when the player was out.

Off. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. = Points allowed per 100 possession
G/L = Gain/Loss (positive means the team is better with the player than without)

The list of players who are currently out for teams with winning records is long. The players below are listed in order from most missed to least missed.

Editor's note: Statistics through Tuesday, March 10.

Jameer Nelson, Magic
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
42 32 10 112.2 102.9
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
21 14 7 110.5 107.0
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
+1.7 -4.2 +5.9
The buzz: The Magic's defense has suffered more than its offense without Nelson. Both have improved since Rafer Alston came aboard though. With Alston, the offensive rating is 111.0 and the defensive rating is 106.8, so Skip has had a positive effect. However, Alston hasn't been able to replace Nelson on the defensive end.
Amar'e Stoudemire, Suns
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
53 30 23 113.1 110.8
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
11 4 7 118.0 119.8
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
-4.9 -8.9 +4.0
The buzz: Amar'e Stoudemire is not a good defender, but these numbers seem to say that he is. That's because his eye injury came two games after the Suns made their coaching change. And under Alvin Gentry, they've played faster and more efficient offensively, but much worse defensively. They were a bad defensive team already. Now, they're just terrible.
Ben Wallace, Cavaliers
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
53 42 11 114.4 103.2
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
10 8 2 107.8 100.7
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
+6.5 +2.5 +4.0
The buzz: Raise your hand if you thought the Cavs' offense would suffer without Wallace. Now, put your hand down, because youre lying.
Andrew Bynum, Lakers
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
46 37 9 115.8 106.4
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
17 13 4 114.3 108.5
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
+1.5 -2.1 +3.5
The buzz: For all of these guys, how good they are is not the only factor here. How bad their replacements are also plays a part. And Bynum's absence has put Josh Powell in the rotation (15.5 minutes per game since Feb. 1). The Lakers' starting lineup is still solid without Bynum, but their depth takes a hit.
Kevin Garnett, Celtics
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
53 41 12 111.8 101.6
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
11 8 3 116.5 108.7
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
-4.7 -7.2 +2.4
The buzz: It's no shock that the Celtics have declined (a lot) defensively without Garnett. What is a little surprising is how sharp they've been offensively without him. Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins have both been efficient, while Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have taken turns putting up big numbers.
Manu Ginobili, Spurs
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
38 29 9 111.7 106.3
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
25 14 11 109.1 105.2
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
-1.6 -2.1 +0.4
The buzz: Ginobili's absence has created more minutes for Bruce Bowen, so the Spurs' defense actually benefits. But the positive effect on the 'D' is clearly outweighed by the negative effect on San Antonio's offense. As we saw in last years playoffs, the Spurs need Manu.
Greg Oden, Blazers
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
46 28 18 114.4 109.7
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
17 12 5 116.0 111.7
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
-1.6 -2.1 +0.4
The buzz: Oden has averaged less than 23 minutes per game when he's played, so the effect of his absence is small compared to the others we're listing. And it's no surprise that he's a negative offensively and a positive defensively.
Peja Stojakovic, Hornets
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
53 33 20 111.8 108.7
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
9 6 3 107.4 103.7
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
+4.4 +4.9 -0.5
The buzz: If you were to guess (without looking at the numbers) at how the Hornets play without Peja, you would probably say exactly what the numbers say. They're worse offensively and better defensively. Overall, the effect of his absence is minimal, and New Orleans has a solid trio of wings (Rasual Butler, James Posey and Julian Wright) to fill in.
Josh Howard, Mavericks
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
45 27 18 110.8 109.7
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
19 12 7 112.2 108.8
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
-1.4 +0.8 -2.2
The buzz: The Mavs have been better on both sides of the ball in games where Howard hasnt played. Rick Carlisle has a history of keeping his teams competitive despite injuries and/or suspensions and hes done well in inserting various guys (11 different players have started games for the Mavs this season) into the lineup.
Tracy McGrady, Rockets
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
35 20 15 108.1 106.3
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
30 22 8 111.9 104.6
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
-3.7 +1.7 -5.4
The buzz: The Rockets are a better team without Tracy McGrady ... this year. When looking at these numbers, we need to acknowledge that McGrady was never in shape this season. If he was healthy, the numbers probably wouldn't be so bad. And when he was playing early in the season, the Rockets were often missing Shane Battier and/or Ron Artest.
Kenyon Martin, Nuggets
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
55 33 22 109.8 108.3
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
10 7 3 112.0 104.6
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
-2.1 +3.8 -5.9
The buzz: Martin returned from a three-game absence in Monday's loss to the Rockets, but with his back still bothering him, he didn't play in the fourth quarter and is questionable for Wednesday's game against the Thunder. Martin is considered to be a terrific defender, but the Nuggets have actually been better defensively in the 10 games he didn't play this year.
Allen Iverson, Pistons
WITH
G W L Off. Def.
51 23 28 106.4 108.7
WITHOUT
G W L Off. Def.
9 7 2 116.5 108.7
DIFFERENCE
Off. Def. G/L
-10.1 0.0 -10.1
The buzz: First, note that the first two games of the season, when Chauncey Billups was still with the Pistons, weren't included in the calculations. The Pistons' nine games without Allen Iverson make for a small sample size. Over the course of a season, Detroit wouldn't be able to maintain that 116.5 offensive rating. All that aside, the numbers are still telling.

Clearly, the Pistons offensive balance is disrupted when Iverson is in uniform. This was a very efficient offensive team in the Flip Saunders years, with five guys who could shoot and were willing to share the ball. Those days are back now, but will probably be gone again when Iverson returns from his back issues.

Interestingly, the Pistons were a much better team defensively when Richard Hamilton was out (102.2) than when he has played (109.7). Both Hamilton's and Iverson's absences have been positive overall for Detroit. The Pistons are 17-26 when both play and 13-4 (not including the two games with Billups) when only one plays.
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