Yes that’s a young Marc Gasol next to a Jaguar. He deserves the attention. You’ll understand at the end.
Let’s look at some on/off numbers for some of the best players in the league. On/off numbers are a little tricky and they never tell the whole story but they DO have a story to tell.
Ps: I’m using basketball-references on/off numbers which at the team level, essentially tells you how many points per 100 possessions they are scoring. If you’re curious to see a more detailed breakdown, click on each guy’s name and it’ll link you to the full stats.
OKC With Russell Westbrook on the floor
Offensive rating: 109.9
Opponent’s offensive rating: 104.2
OKC with Russell Westbrook off the floor
Offensive rating: 96.4
Opponent’s offensive rating: 109.9
So we can take both of these numbers, and create a difference (the last section of the page on basketball-reference). The difference is essentially, how many points per 100 possessions are you above or below what your opponent scores?
So crunching some really tough addition and subtraction (I went to college), Westbrook’s difference is +19.1, meaning Oklahoma City is 19.1 points better with Russ on the floor than Oklahoma City is with him on the bench.
This basically summarizes what we already know; Westbrook IS OKC, especially recently with Oladipo who has been out with a sprained wrist. It also tell us that Westbrook DRASTICALLY improves the offense (109.9 to 96.4) but despite not being considered a good defender, OKC improves on defense too, holding opponents to a not super impressive 104.2 compared to a horrendous 109.9
That’s where it gets tricky though because there’s an important point within those defensive numbers, and it’s the essential problem with on and off splits. Westbrook generally plays with the first team guys who just so happen to be OKC’s best players, and the stat covers the whole offense and defense, not just Russ.
So while OKC absolutely improves defensively with Russ on the floor, that really isn’t saying much when the team is as bad as it is without him.
But let’s compare that to some other guys around the league
We have to move next to my man crush Giannis.
Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor
Offensive rating: 109.3
Opponents offensive rating: 103.3
Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo off the floor
Offensive rating: 101.6
Opponents offensive rating: 110
Again this mostly reinforces what we already know. The Greek Freak is really, really good and he might be as talented defensively as he is offensively. The difference here comes out to be +14.4
One random odd note is that they actually a tiny bit worse rebounding team with Giannis on the floor. Their total rebound % is 50.2% with him off and 50.1% with him on. Obviously that’s not even a negligible difference but weird that it’s even that close, right?
Let’s check on James over there in Houston
Rockets with Harden on the floor
Offensive rating: a salty 117.8
Opponents offensive rating: 108
Rockets with Harden off the floor
Offensive rating: 105.7
Opponents offensive rating: 103.4
Yet again, nothing all that surprising here but it’s still interesting to see the numbers. Houston is better defensively when Harden isn’t playing but that really doesn’t matter because he adds so much to the offense. His difference comes at +7.5
Another interesting note here, Houston is still better than teams with Harden on the bench. This is the hallmark of a good team and it shows you Harden has something Giannis and Russ do not.
Who next then? Well we might as well check on LeBron
Cavs with LeBron Raymone James on the floor
Offensive rating: a saltier 118.2
Opponents offensive rating: 105.3
Cavs with LeBron Raymone James off the floor
Offensive rating: 108.4
Opponents offensive rating: 111.7
LeBron, shocker, is really really good. I would not have guessed him as out pacing Harden and the Rockets on offense but there they are at 118.2. LeBron’s difference is +16.2
Also worth noting that the team has a negative rating with him off the floor. You would expect the team to do worse, that’s just kind of the opportunity cost of being LeBron. Who could come in for him that would make the team BETTER? But its noteworthy that the team is actually being outscored with him off the floor.
While we’re here we might as well check on Kyrie
Cavs with Kyrie on the floor
Offensive rating: 115.6
Opponents offensive rating: 108.3
Cavs with Kyrie off the floor
Offensive rating: 114.8
Opponents offensive rating: 105
Kyrie’s difference: -2.5
But we’re sure Kyrie’s a superstar right?
As much as I’d love to bash Kyrie for this, this highlights one of the problems with on/off the court numbers. You have to consider that the Cavs almost always have one of Kyrie, LeBron or Kevin Love on the floor. So even when Kyrie’s sitting, the team out there is still really, really good. I DO think it says a little something, because as I mentioned, with LeBron off the floor, the team has a negative rating. It’s just not so drastic as Kyrie having a negative impact on the team overall.
I’ve spent enough time in the Eastern Conference, I feel gross inside. Let’s go about as West as we can and check in on Damian Lillard and the Blazers.
Blazers with Damian Lillard on the floor
Offensive rating: 111.8
Opponents offensive rating: 115.9
Blazers with Damian Lillard off the floor
Offensive rating: 107.1
Opponents offensive rating: 108.6
Again, maybe not entirely indicative of his actual play but by these numbers, but it is interesting and maybe something to keep a watch on.
Evan Turner? Who said they wanted to look at Evan Turner? Why would we do that?
Blazers with Evan Turner on the floor
Offensive rating: 103.9
Opponents offensive rating: 115.1
Blazers with Evan Turner off the floor
Offensive rating: 117.7 (WHOA)
Opponents offensive rating: 112.7
Holy shit! The Blazers are 13.8 points per 100 possessions WORSE with Turner on the floor. By on/off numbers, Turner has been about as BAD for the Blazers as LeBron has been GOOD for the Cavs.
My apologies for doubting you Damian Lillard, Turner is clearly a shroud that has covered this entire team and turned it to darkness, I trust that you will lead your team back into the light…….by trading Evan Turner.
Quickly let’s check out Steph and KD, I hesitate to spend too much time on these numbers because like the Cavs, the fact that there’s almost always an elite scorer on the floor in Golden State skews things a little. That will show with Durant’s numbers especially
GSW with Steph on the floor
Offensive rating: the saltiest 120.3
Opponents offensive rating: 104.7
GSW with Steph off the floor
Offensive rating: 110.6
Opponents offensive rating: 103.7
GSW with KD on the floor
Offensive rating: 118.4
Opponents offensive rating: 104.6
GSW with KD off the floor
Offensive rating: 115
Opponents offensive rating: 103.8
Really if anything, I think this illustrates a reason you can’t really consider either of these guys for MVP if you’re really trying to decide who’s MOST valuable to his team.
Let’s check out one more guy….
Memphis with Marc Gasol on the floor
Offensive rating: 106.4
Opponents offensive rating: 100.6
Memphis with Marc Gasol off the floor
Offensive rating: 94.7
Opponents offensive rating: 105.7
Marc Gasol is consistently, extremely underrated. I know he’s won a defensive player of the year and that’s nice but I just think he should be talked about more. I’m guilty of it too, it can be hard to watch Memphis games, but Marc should receive more credit and more attention. Let this blog post be the beginning of that. Your move, ESPN.