Posted Apr 14 2012 12:06PM
In determining the value of NBA players, we most often cite their standard boxscore stats, starting with points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. These numbers obviously have value, but the most important numbers in basketball are the ones on the scoreboard. And a guy doesn't need to put up big stats to be a valuable player on his team.
In the 2002-03 season, Jason Collins averaged just 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. But he had the best per-possession plus-minus on a Finals team. When he was in the game, the Nets outscored their opponents by 7.6 points per 100 possessions.
Collins benefitted from playing most of his minutes with Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson and Kerry Kittles. But he helped those teammates do what they do by playing his role well. On one end of the floor, he was a great interior defender, a great help defender, and kept his man off the glass. On the other end, he ran the offense well, set solid screens, and knew his own limitations.
So while Collins' boxscore stats painted him as one of the worst starting players in the league, the Nets were better both offensively and defensively when he was on the floor.
Nine years later, Collins still has a role in this league, especially when his Atlanta Hawks are playing the Orlando Magic. But an elbow injury has limited him to just 23 games this season. So we'll have to keep him off our list of Jason Collins All-Stars, five guys who have made a difference on the scoreboard, even though their traditional boxscore stats have been underwhelming.
All stats come with the caveat that this has been a wacky season. And plus-minus is a number that's obviously dependent on what teammates you're sharing the floor with. But the following guys have distinguished themselves from the players around them.
6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 4.0 apg, plus-184, +8.9 NetRtg
Udrih is one of 19 players averaging at least 10 assists per 48 minutes, but ranks 33rd in assists per game. He's averaging less than 20 minutes per contest, but the Bucks have been much better both offensively (106.7 points scored per 100 possessions) and defensively (97.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Udrih in the game than with him on the bench (100.8, 105.0).
A couple of guys who like playing with Udrih are Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Jennings, who have both shot 50 percent with Udrih on the floor. Dunleavy has shot just 44 percent and Jennings has shot just 40 percent with Udrih on the bench. Most amazing is that Jennings has shot 52 percent (29-for-56) on above-the-break 3-pointers while playing with Udrih and just 29 percent with Udrih on the sidelines.
• NBA.com/Stats: Brandon Jennings' numbers with Beno Udrih on and off the floor
Another Milwaukee reserve, Larry Sanders, has a pretty incredible on-off court differential, but in 400 fewer minutes than Udrih has played.
6.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, plus-73, +5.9 NetRtg
Bradley's NetRtg doesn't jump out at you like those of the other guys on this list, but it's second-best on the Celtics (behind Kevin Garnett's +8.0). He's averaging 10.2 points in 21 games as a starter, but Bradley's offensive skills are still pretty limited and his biggest impact has been on defense.
The Celtics have allowed just 91.2 points per 100 possessions with Bradley on the floor and just 87.2 (in 241 minutes) when he's shared the floor with Garnett and Rajon Rondo.
• NBA.com/Stats: Celtics efficiency with Avery Bradley on and off the floor
7.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 0.9 apg, plus-313, +12.9 NetRtg
The Spurs are a unique team and the Red Rocket is a pretty unique player. After leading the league in 3-point percentage last season, he ranks ninth this year. So he clearly has a more distinguishable offensive skill than Collins ever had.
But Bonner's 98 3-pointers (less than two per game) don't exactly account for his ridiculous plus-minus, the highest on the Spurs even though he's played 600 fewer minutes than Tony Parker (who's a plus-284). The Spurs have scored an incredible 112.6 points per 100 possessions with Bonner on the floor.
• NBA.com/Stats: Spurs efficiency with Matt Bonner on and off the floor
Of players who have logged at least 500 minutes, only Manu Ginobili (115.8 in 649 minutes) and James Harden (112.8 in 1,805) have a higher on-court offensive rating. In 305 minutes with both Ginobili and Bonner on the floor, the Spurs have scored 126.5 points per 100 possessions, which is out-of-this-word efficient.
7.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, plus-266, +15.5 NetRtg
Gibson has a little more cache than the others on this list, especially after Thursday's performance against the Heat. But on a per-game basis, he's the Bulls' eighth leading scorer and fifth leading rebounder.
Gibson's biggest impact comes on defense. The Bulls are allowing just 88.8 points per 100 possessions with Gibson on the floor, which is the lowest on-court defensive rating among anyone who's logged at least 500 minutes. And even though his skills are limited and he's shooting just 35 percent from outside the restricted area, Gibson doesn't hurt the Bulls offensively.
• NBA.com/Stats: Bulls efficiency with Taj Gibson on and off the floor
Fellow Chicago reserve John Lucas has the highest NetRtg (+16.1) among those who have played at least 500 minutes, but his playing time and scoring has fluctuated quite a bit with Derrick Rose's injuries. Gibson and back-up center Omer Asik (+9.5 NetRtg) are the more consistent contributors and form a frontline that's ridiculously good defensively.
5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.9 apg, plus-200, +9.0 NetRtg
Udoh ranks ninth with 1.76 blocks per game, but otherwise, his numbers are rather insubstantial. Yet, few players in the league have made the scoreboard impact that Udoh has this season.
Before Udoh was traded to Milwaukee, the Warriors were an incredible 17.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (+10.5 NetRtg) than they were with him on the bench (-7.1 NetRtg). That's the highest on-off-court differential of any player that has played at least 500 minutes with a particular team.
In his month in Milwaukee, the Bucks have been better defensively with Udoh on the floor, but much better offensively with him on the bench.
Tony Allen (MEM): Personality-wise, they're polar opposites, but when it comes to skill set, Allen is Jason Collins in a guard's body. He didn't make the cut because he's actually scoring this year (10.5 points per game).
Omer Asik (CHI): With defensive and offensive boards, he's part of a bench unit that maintains and builds leads when the starters rest.
Landry Fields (NYK): Doesn't get the amount of defensive credit that Iman Shumpert does, but is one of the reasons the Knicks are a top-five defensive team.
Kevin Seraphin (WAS): Keep an eye on this young big man, because the Wizards haven't been so awful when he's been on the floor.
Anthony Tolliver (MIN): His plus-minus impact was much greater last season (he was a minus-80 in 1,360 minutes with a team that got outscored by 544 points overall), but Tolliver is still a great glue guy.
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