"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Wally and the Replacements

Writers rarely define the "Replacement Player," simply explaining that "Wins over Replacement (WAR)" and "Value Add Basketball" indicate how many more wins or points, respectively, a player is worth to his team.

Wally Ellenson and 350 other players form the composite "Replacement Player" against which all other players are judged based on the fact that these are the players averaging between 7 minutes, 31 seconds and 11 minutes, 3 seconds per game and not being NBA prospects. (e.g. when we ran the replacement player composite December 16 Marcus Paige of UNC was actually within that range due to games missed to injury, but is was not included).

The average performance by a replacement player this year is to hit 1 shot out of either 2 or 3 shots taken with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 44%.  This year there are more big men in the replacement spot - so the blocked shots and offensive rebounds are close to average, but there are very few steals or assists and only about one three-pointer made every five games.

So a player's value add indicates how many points his team would be hurt if he could not play and the composite 9th man below stepped into an 8-man rotation in his place.

The first column below summarizes the stats of the composite replacement player, who has an 89.7 offensive rating playing against a defense averaging the 176th best defense in the country. The next columns show the average stats for each of the eight players per team averaging at least 11 minutes 4 seconds per game. Finally, the last column lists the average stats for each of Marquette's scholarship players.

Average StatAve. of 351 9th MenAve in 8-man rotationMarquette 10
YrSO (1.2 yrs)JR (1.7 yrs)SO (0.9)
%Min9 min, 19 sec22 min, 41 sec20 min
Def Rtg (Pts All/Poss)114.00101.3096.7
Ave. Off Faced176th176th336th
Offensive Rating89.7103.3103.8
Ave Def Rnk176th176th301st
Field Goals Per Game1 of 2.4 (40%)3.4 of 7.3 (46%)2.8 of 5.9 (48%)
Free Throw Per Game0.5 of 0.8 (61%)1.8 of 2.5 (70%)1.6 of 2.3 (69%)
2-pointers only0.7 of 1.6 (46%)2.4 of 4.9 (49%)2.1 of 3.9 (55%)
3-pointers only0.2 of 0.8 (29%)0.9 of 2.4 (39%)0.7 of 2.0 (35%)

Marquette's 107.1 points scored per 100 trips is pretty good (99th of 351 teams), but factor the adjustment for facing the 301st toughest defenses in the country and MUs offense rates barely above average - and likewise every Marquette players Offensive Value Add is held down.

The issue regarding weak opponents is tougher yet in defensive ratings. MU's outstanding steals, defensive rebounding, blocked shots, low fouls committed and 93.3 points allowed per 100 trips less in value a little because MU faces the 336th weakest opposing offenses in the country. While Henry Elleson, Cohen, Carter, Wilson and Fischer each take about two points off the board (Defensive Value Add) from if a Replacement Player took their place - but if they had the same numbers against tougher competition the defensive numbers would be outstanding.

While Presbyterian boasts one very strong Value Add player in DeSean Murray (top 10% of all players with a 3.61 Value Add) for Sunday's 1 p.m. game at the Bradley Center, the frustration for stat nerds like me is that it is a game against the 344th best offense in the country - so it kills MU's Value Add ratings just as the game itself kills MU's RPI.

Presbyterian's defense is a little better at 263rd in the country, but it still takes a very good offensive performance by any player with few turnovers or missed shots against a weak defense to keep a decent Value Add.

Luckily Big East season, with very tough opponents, offers all MU players a chance to prove they are ready for prime time and move up the Value Add Rankings.

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