As most fans are surely aware, most players in the league are thought of as specialists. Either they are defensive "stoppers" or they are known as "instant offense." Over time, fans, scouts, coaches, and even front offices and owners have just accepted this as a fact of the game. It is why the last two minutes often seems as long as the previous 46. It becomes a constant stream of guys in and out depending on which team has possession.
But it is a flawed system. One mistake or turnover and you have exactly the wrong personnel on the floor. There must be a better way. There has to be guys that really do play "on both sides of the ball."
Boston fans know that for years, we have placed a premium on defense and take great pride in it. In the past couple of seasons though, there has been a shortage of scoring. No matter what level you are able to hold your opponent to, you still have to score more than them. Obviously having players that can both score and defend is the ideal solution. In theory you would never get caught with either a defensive or offensive "liability" on the floor.
So how do we identify these hybrids? Everyone seems to be familiar now with Player Efficiency Rating or PER. The problem with this is it only accounts for offense. Another method which seems fairly popular is ORtg. and DRtg. or offensive/ defensive rating. While this does at least in some measure begin to account for an individual's defense as well as his offense, I find it still lacking. The definition says it all;"An estimate of points scored or points allowed per 100 possessions." An estimate is never as good as a fact. But where can we get facts? Synergy sports is the answer. They look at each individual play that happens, total the number of points scored or allowed, divide it by the total number of plays a player is involved in, and Voila! You have a single number for comparison. It is therefore a fact because it is only what has actually happened versus a guess at what should happen.
If there is a flaw with the Synergy stats, it is that they are backward looking. There is no guarantee that because a player did something in the past, even for a whole season, that they will continue to do so in the future. But one has to start somewhere. And this is being accepted as the preferred method for comparisons.
Some will note that Synergy does not account for things like rebounds or blocks. True, but not every rebound translates to a score and not every block means the other team did not score anyway. In the end, what matters is what it does measure; how many did you score and how many did you keep them from scoring.
With all of that said, what I did was take the entire ending database for the season from Basketball Reference.com, moved it to an Excel spreadsheet and then entered the Offensive points per play, the rank, and the Defensive points per play with that corresponding rank for each player. Starting with 469 players, I eliminated those who played less than 20 games or 200 minutes so that the results would not be overly skewed by ten day contracts and those D- leaguers on a yo-yo. This left 396 names.
What I found was that the average Oppp for all players was .90 with .88 on defense. Going a step further, Centers average .91 Oppp/ .85 Dppp - Power Forwards .92/ .89 - Small Forwards .91/ .88 - Shooting Guards .90 / .89 and Point Guards .86/ .88 (notice this is the only position that on average allows more points than they score). The idea here is to be able to compare apples to apples rather than apples to fruit.
The next step was to separate each position to its own sheet. Since defense is of utmost importance to Boston fans, I sorted them from least ppp allowed and then looked for those that not only defended above average, but also scored above average for their position.
What emerged from all this is that roughly one fourth of the players in the league are above average on both sides of the ball. 101 (25.5%) to be exact and the good news is that eight of them are Celtics on the current roster. (Garnett, Pierce, Green, Bass, Sullinger, Terry, Lee, and Rondo.) There are also 21 players that I will call top 100, who were ranked in the top 100 in both offense and defense (Jeff Green is our only member in this group). By position; Centers - 18 above average in each category/ 5 top 100 Power Forwards - 17/ 3 Small Forwards - 19/ 5 Shooting Guards - 26/ 6 Point Guards - 21/ 2.
In part 3, we'll look at Centers. Who made the cut and who do we have a shot of acquiring. And in theory, who would give us the best shot at winning.