Monday, December 1, 2008

Greg getting even with +/-

The only good thing to have come out of the Sonics move from Seattle to Oklahoma City is that Kevin Pelton, formerly a Sonics employee and currently a writer for Basketball Prospetus, now has time to devote to covering the Trail Blazers. Pelton is one of those new breed stat heads who actually strikes a great balance between the numbers and on-court observations.

He's got a piece over at Basketball Prospectus today about Greg Oden's +/- numbers which, as I mentioned after last night's game, have started to improve.
I went to Friday's Blazers game at the Rose Garden against New Orleans with the goal of seeing why even Oden's strong individual efforts had not translated into good plus-minus numbers. However, during the course of that game and beyond, the plus-minus has become less of an issue. Since last Monday's one-point win over Sacramento, when Oden was a -22 (meaning Portland was outscored by 22 points with him in the game) and backup center Joel Przybilla was a +23, Oden's numbers have been solid: a +15 in a blowout win over Miami, a +6 in a 15-point win against New Orleans and yesterday a sterling +26 in a win at Detroit.

Oden has probably benefited, to some extent, from moving into the starting lineup, especially at the same time as fellow rookie Rudy Fernandez has seen his shooting cool somewhat after an insanely hot start. The other effect we may be seeing in Oden's improved plus-minus is that Portland is learning to play with the big man in the middle. As he missed all of last season and the early portion of this campaign, the Blazers developed an identity all their own. Przybilla established himself as a key figure during that period, and part of the plus-minus issue was simply reinforcing Przybilla's value as a top-notch shot-blocker and rebounder who will take what the defense gives him at the other end and is shooting 83.3 percent (!) from the field this season.

Oden's skills and his immense potential demand that he become a big part of the team's system, but that's not easy to do on the fly, even with the benefit of Oden being on the floor throughout training camp and the preseason. Actually, the Blazers may have changed too much away from what had been successful for them. Notably, Nate McMillan instructed his charges last week not to "forcefeed" Oden in the post and to make sure they continue to run the pick-and-rolls and other plays that were dominant aspects in the offense pre-Oden.
I think Kevin is dead on when it comes to the reason for Oden's +/- improvement. As good as the Trail Blazers second unit is, Oden's numbers were sure to go up moving with the move to the starting lineup. But more than that, simply letting Oden play off his teammates rather than being a focal point of the offensive strategy is going wonders for his +/-. Playing with the bench unit, it's almost like you have to try and feature Oden in the post, but that expectation is much less pronounced with the starters.


JohnVM said...

I hate the +/- ratings. For one, it doesn't take into effect who you are playing with at the time, which obviously affects the game score.

blazer25 said...

Great to see Kevin Pelton writing about the Blazers! I worked with him back in Seattle with the Sonics, and if there's anyone that knows hoops, its Pelton! The guy lives and breathes basketball! Great to see he's making appearances in the Rose Garden! Come back anytime!

MGB said...

When they had Oden come off the bench I thought they should start him, but instead of him being the focus on offense, just play him like he was Joel. Looks like that's what they ended up doing. As he progresses his offense is going to come, but in the meanwhile it won't disrupt the team.