We know how Kevin Durant feels about plus-minus statistics.
On Tuesday, Thunder coach Scott Brooks shared the same apathetic attitude regarding the stat-based analysis.
“I look at it,” Brooks said. “But very few of my decisions are based on plus-minus. I go with the players that I think are going to best help put us in a position to win games. And there are so many variables that go into plus-minuses.”
For those that don’t know, plus-minus is a stat that documents how a score swung while individual players were on the court. For example, if Durant enters the game with the score tied at 50 and checks out with the Thunder ahead 60-50, he gets a +10. If he leaves the game and the Thunder trails 60-50, he gets a -10.
Well, the ESPN.com NBA blog, TrueHoop, last Friday wrote a post titled “The Kevin Durant Conundrum,” examining Durant’s contributions to the Thunder (or lack thereof) from this statistical stand point. The piece concluded, “Any way you slice the +/- numbers, (Durant’s) one of the Thunder’s worst players.”
Durant responded Sunday afternoon with 139 characters on his Twitter page.
“I love all the REAL basketball fans who appreciate hard work, passion and love for the game …and not jus “plus and minuses”…wateva dat is!”
The blog followed up with a “Memo to a Young Baller,” a 1,700-word post attempting to analyze Durant’s performance and explain why certain deficiencies in his game have led to a negative plus-minus rating. Around the Internet, a debate has since brewed.
Brooks, however, isn’t big on nouveau statistics such as plus-minus, PER, true shooting percentage and rebounding percentage.
“I’m probably not smart enough to internalize it,” Brooks joked. “But there’s so much feel that factors into the game.
“I appreciate the work that stat people do. But I haven’t seen enough where you can tell me that you can coach the game on stats alone. The best players are going to play and are going to help you win…I just know Kevin is a pretty good player.”
Brooks said he only occasionally looks at plus-minus numbers. He called that form of analysis “an afterthought.” He remembers when teams started tracking plus-minus toward the end of his career and having an inflated figure. It generally happened when he played on bad teams and got the garbage time minutes when his team already trailed by 20 but he was on the court when a late run was made and the final margin shrunk to 10.
Naturally, Brooks, a former point guard who played 11 NBA seasons, focuses more on traditional stats like turnovers, assists, free-throw attempts, rebounding and field-goal percentages for both teams. And Brooks doesn’t read too much into assists, he said, because it’s a subjective stat given at the scorekeeper’s discretion.
“I look at the stats that players and coaches understand,” Brooks said.
“When I talk to the team, I talk to the team in numbers we all can relate to. If I say, ‘We got 13 percent of every missed shot,’ I don’t think it goes through. Because it didn’t with me as a player and it doesn’t with me as a coach. I think players want to know, ‘We gave up 14 offensive rebounds.’ Or ‘Etan Thomas had six offensive rebounds.’ I think if you put a number and a face on it, players can grasp it and it can help you.
“Obviously you want to come out plus on every game you play. But there are so many factors and variables that take place that you can’t really judge the guys just on that.”