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Plus/Minus as Another Tool in Analyzing the Bruins Performance

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At many points over the course of this basketball season, whether it be during an exhibition of Drago's matador defense, of JA not taking an open jumper, or Reeves missing yet another free throw, I have wondered what impact each of our players have had on the team's performance. One way to attempt to separate out the contributions of each individual player is through the Plus/Minus statistic, which compares the team's performance when each player is on the court to when that player is on the bench. The statistic has its origins in Hockey, but is beginning to gain traction in Basketball as a way to gleam insights not otherwise apparent from a boxscore. recently published an explanation of Plus/Minus in terms of its application to basketball.

In an attempt to provide greater insight into the performance of the basketball team, I have decided to begin calculating these Plus/Minus (+/-) figures for the Bruins, having now gone through the past few weeks of game records and compiled +/- stats for our Pac-10 conference games played to date. While the Rivals article referenced above describes several different ways to count and to analyze Plus/Minus, for now I am taking the basic +/- analysis, simply looking at how many points are scored and how many are allowed while each UCLA player is on the court, to come up with a +/- statistic for each player in each game.

The numbers, and a couple of surprises after the jump.

ASU  UA  @Cal @Sta USC UW WSU Total Minutes Played Minutes Share Share/ GP Adj +/-
Lee 0 -8 +1 -9 -24 -1 +14 -27 253 .888 - -30.42
Roll -1 -10 +1 -14 -15 +6 +12 -21 255 .895 - -23.47
Honeycutt +7 -7 +9 -2 -18 +6 +1 -4 185 .649 - -6.16
Dragovic +14 -18 +6 -13 -12 -7 +17 -13 233 .818 - -15.90
Nelson -8 -8 -1 -14 -16 +4 +10 -33 190 .667 - -49.50
Anderson 0 -17 -8 -8 -4 - - -37 125 .439 .610 -60.26
Keefe +1 -2 -4 0 -9 0 +2 -12 102 .358 - -33.53
Abdul-Hamid - - 0 - 0 -8 +4 -4 41 .144 .248
Lane -3 +6 -1 0 -5 +5 - +2 28 .098 .114
Morgan 0 -6 +2 +5 - - - +1 12 .042 .073
Moser - - - - -2 - - -2 1 .004 .025


The first thing that stands out about the team's +/- to date in conference is that Nestor's favorite player is not at the bottom of the chart. When accounting for the share of minutes that each player accounts for, Drago's -13 rates him as the rotation's second most valuable player since the start of conference play. Despite a hesitance to take many shots himself, or maybe due to his willingness to sacrifice his points scored in order to pass the ball and set himself up to grab the occasional offensive rebound, Tyler Honeycutt has been the team's most positive influence during Pac-10 play, with the team allowing (only) 4 more points that they have scored while he is on the court.

While Jerime Anderson's team-trailing -37 rating likely does not come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog (despite missing the last 2 games due to injury), I was surprised to find that Reeves Nelson comes up a close second - and before JA's injury was the team's clear leader (?) - in this category with a -33 rating. While RN's struggles at the free throw line have some effect on the magnitude of this negative figure (if he hit even 2/3 of his FT's, he would be in Lee/Roll's +/- range), it remains an aspect of his game, and until he shows an improved ability to hit from the line, something that has to be considered when analyzing his effectiveness. While his offensive skills have rarely been displayed, James Keefe's more advanced fundamental understanding and grasp of Coach Howland's system gives him value in the rotation. When broken down by shares of playing time, Keefe's -12 rating scales to be a few points better than RN to this point, and does seem to justify the 15-ish minutes per game that he is seeing, whether starting or coming off the bench.

Interestingly, the only two players that have a positive +/- rating over the course of Pac-10 play are Brendan Lane and J'mison Morgan. For both players, the quick hook often given to them - and the resulting limited time on the court - has been explaned by some by an inability of these players to contribute much in meaningful game situations. While their positive figures are derived from a very small sample size, the fact that they have not seen the team fall apart when present on the floor could cause one to think that these two should get some extended opportunities as the season continues (in Morgan's case, when he is healthy enough to rejoin the lineup).

Edited (2:20pm): I have edited the above chart to include the minutes played by each player. I have also included the share of the team's total minutes that each player has participated in. For players that have not appeared in every game, I have also included the share of minutes that those players particpated in for the games in which they appeared; probably not relevant for this post, but something that may be of general interest. I also added an adjusted +/-, reflecting the share of total minutes played by each player (appearing in at least 25% of total minutes) and scaled up as if each player participated in 100% of minutes played. Take that one with a large grain of salt; just throwing that one out there for thought.