Over the weekend I put a post together for The Two Man Game, looking at the role pace had played in Games 1 and 2 of the Dallas Mavericks/Oklahoma City Thunder series. The idea was to break down each game into blocks of time, examining the pace each block was played at, and how the score changed. Here’s part of the foundation for that post:
We usually think of pace as a marco trend, a statistic which is discussed in the context of a team’s season long numbers. However, pace is anything but static. The speed at which a team plays will fluctuate, game to game, quarter to quarter, even minute to minute. The pace number we assign to a team, is really an averaging out of all those small variations.
The logical extension of that idea is too look at which players are on the floor during those blocks of time. This took me to the idea of looking at a team’s pace and how it changes when each individual player is on the floor. Basketball Value has statistics for each player, including how many possessions their team played with them on and off the floor. Using that information, and their minutes played I was able to roughly approximate an On Court/Off Court pace for each player. That information is in the table below. For fun, I also included the change in their team’s Net Rating (ORtg.-DRtg.) when they are on the floor.
[table id=19 /]
Like all On/Off Court stats, Individual Pace is heavily influenced by the lineups a player typically plays in, as well as the counterpart who plays the same position when they are off the floor. For that reason, you’ll find clusters of players on the same team. As much as anything, these numbers reveal teams who significantly change their tempo when they go with certain bench combinations.
For example, the Celtics and Thunder were two teams that played at a much slower pace with their starters out of the game. You’ll find several Boston bench players like Jeff Green, Glen Davis, Delonte West and Jermaine O’Neal with pace change numbers in the -1.7 to -4.2 range. In fact, West slowed his team’s pace more than any other player this season. This seems strange because he’s an effective and willing transition player. But the combination of supplanting Rajon Rondo when entering the game, and playing alongside Glen Davis and Jeff Green accounts for a lot of this slowing.
Oklahoma City is a similar scenario, with Eric Maynor, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka, and Nazr Mohammed all falling in the -2.1 to -3.7 range. Again, Maynor’s number is heavily influenced by playing behind Russell Westbrook. It’s interesting that no wing players appear in this slower Oklahoma City cluster. They use a small lineup from time to time, with Kevin Durant at power forward; this lineup clearly must push the pace considerably.
San Antonio and Gregg Popovich received a lot of attention this season for upping their offensive tempo to compensate for some of their personnel deficiencies. It’s interesting that these numbers trace most of that pace change to one player. The Spurs played 4.4 possessions faster with Manu Ginobili in the game. Tony Parker was the next closest Spur, with a +1.8.
I feel like there is still some more work to be done with these numbers, new angles to be found. I’d also like to look at this next year periodically to see how they change throughout the season. If anyone finds anything interesting in playing with the table, please share in the comments.