An advanced stats look at the Celtics roster: who has been the most/least valuable this season?

There's an old saying out there that goes something like, "stats are like bikinis..they show you a lot..but they leave out the most important stuff". That may not be it exactly, but you catch my drift. Basically, stats can tell you some of the story, a lot even, but you need to watch the games to get the whole picture. And that is definitely true. There will always be things that a player does, both good and bad, that statistics cannot measure.

However, thanks to programs like Synergy Sports — which charts every single play of the NBA season — that gap is getting smaller and smaller.

Synergy breaks down each and every play, charting who had the ball, what type of play it was, and whether it finished in a field goal make, field goal miss, free throw attempts, or a turnover. It then comes up with a number of how many points you create (both via field goal and free throws made) per play. They do the same thing defensively, charting who was covering the player when they were shooting, and coming up with a number for how many points each player allows per play.

Offensively, league average is approximately 0.94 points-per-play (ppp) created, while defensively that number is 0.86 ppp (the difference between the two is mostly fast break points that no defender is blamed for. Examples: two or three on one breaks, defense comes up with a steal and finds one of their teammates cherry picking, ect).

With all of this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to see who on the Celtics rates well, and who not-so-well, in terms of these metrics.

To come up with a "Celtics MVP" I came up with the following (embarrassingly simple) formula:

(Offensive ppp created - (defensive ppp allowed x 1.1075)) x 100

You multiply the defensive number by 1.1075 to make up for the fact that the the average number of point created per play is 0.94, while the average number of points allowed is only 0.86. This will allow for an exactly league average player to be given a 0, with anyone in the positive being above average, and anyone in the negatives being below average. Then you multiply that number by 100 just to avoid a bunch of decimals being the players' scores.

Get it?

Ok, with that in mind, here are the best and worst of the Celtics this season (minimum 200 minutes played..sorry MarShon and Keith).

1. Courtney Lee: (1.03 ppp created) - (0.79 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = +.155 x 100 = +15.5

2. Kris Humphries: (0.97 ppp created) - (0.78 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = +.106 x 100 = +10.6

3. Jeff Green: (1 ppp created) - (0.81 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = +.103 x 100 = +10.3

4. Brandon Bass: (0.95 ppp created) - (0.77 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = +.098 x 100 = +9.8

5. Jordan Crawford: (0.97 ppp created) - (0.84 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = +.040 x 100 = +4.0

6. Jared Sullinger: (0.91 ppp created) - 0.89 ppp created x 1.1075) = -.079 x 100 = -7.9

7. Avery Bradley: (0.88 ppp created) - (0.87 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = -.083 x 100 = -8.3

8. Vitor Faverani: (0.76 ppp created) - (0.86 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = -.192 x 100 = -19.2

9. Gerald Wallace: (0.67 ppp created) - (0.87 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = -.296 x 100 = -29.6

10. Kelly Olynyk: (0.73 ppp created) - (0.95 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = -.322 x 100 = -32.2

11. Phil Pressey: = (0.53 ppp created) - (0.97 ppp allowed x 1.1075) = -.544 x 100 = -54.4

So judging by the numbers, Courtney Lee has been the Celtics most efficient player this season (You hear that opposing GMs? Trade for this man!), with the best offensive number on the team and the 3rd best defensive number. Overall, the Celts have five guys in the positive, and six in the negative, which would seem to make sense for a team currently a few games below .500.

The two biggest surprises are Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, but when you really look at their numbers, it becomes less so. Bradley has taken steps forward offensively, but he's still shooting just about league average from the field, and barely gets to the foul line. When you throw in a major step backward on the defensive end (thus far)..his number makes sense. And then you have Sullinger, who has also been just below average defensively, and has also been trying to expand his range this season. While that may end up being an awesome decision in the long-term, his 30% three-point shooting isn't helping his efficiency at the moment.

I think these numbers also shed positive light on Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, who are well into the positive side while being among the team leaders in minutes played. Green has the 3rd highest usage rate on the team, yet is still putting up 1 point per play. Impressive stuff. And then you have Bass, who's solid offensively while posting an elite defensive number for the 3rd consecutive season.

Unfortunately, there is also a dark side to these numbers. Celtics first round pick Kelly Olynyk has been pretty awful on both sides of the floor, to the point where it's not all that difficult to see why the Cs are only 4-10 when he plays this season, compared to 6-4 when he doesn't. The numbers are also ugly for Gerald Wallace, specifically on offense where that 0.67 ppp number is just horrific for someone playing as many minutes as he is. And then there's Phil Pressey. Poor, poor Phil Pressey. The worst defensive number on the team, and the worst offensive number I could find in the entire league. Not an ideal combo.

Again, I'm not saying you can derive a players entire worth from these numbers. Not by a long shot. But I do think there's a ton of value in them. Especially on defense, where no matter how closely you watch, there is no way your eyes can do as good of a job as a system that tracks every single play over the course of an 82 game season. So take the above for what it's worth. Like a girl in a bikini, they tell us a lot. But not quite everything.

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