FanPost

Is there a best way to play DJ?

With the season about to start, I want to advance a modest hypothesis concerning DJ's play, and I also want to ask a question about that goofy +/- stat. Both topics were inspired by a brief look at last night's box score against the Warriors.

I did not get a chance to listen to the game, but according to ESPN's stats, DJ seems to have played decently enough. He only scored 2 points in 20 minutes, but he got 6 rebounds with only 1 personal foul. What's more, in a game lost by 40 points, DJ's +/- was only -5, a team best. That was enough to inspire a closer look. 

1st Quarter: DJ played the first 7.5 minutes. He was the first starter taken out, just as Griffin was hitting two free throws to tie the game at 22-22. Technically, he came out before the second free throw, so I suppose that his +/- was -1 at this point.

2nd Quarter: DJ did not play at all. It was during this time that the Clips began to fall behind. They were down 9 by halftime.

3rd Quarter: DJ played the first 8.5 minutes, again with the starting squad. He exited with all of the rest of the starters, trailing by 16 at that point. So the squad slipped 7 points during that span... leaving DJ with a +/- of -8, no?  Alas, by the end of the quarter, the team was down by 30. In the final 3.5 minutes, the team was outscored by 14.

4th Quarter: DJ came in for the final 4 minutes of the game, rounding out his 20 minutes of playtime. His squad this time included Cook, Aminu, Dennis and Scheyer. They would slip by another 8 points before the final horn, matching DJ's -8 for the 16 minutes he played with the starting squad. 

That should mean that DJ's +/- for the game is -16, shouldn't it? Well, both Espn and NBA.com list it at -5, so maybe I've just got the algorithm wrong. Help, anyone?

Meanwhile, DJ's squad performance is consistent with a hunch I've been harboring recently. I have yet to do any numerical analysis, but I suspect that the team does disproportionally better when he plays with starting-caliber players. That is, his strengths tend to compliment stronger squads, while his weaknesses get magnified when he's playing with the backups. -When DJ plays with the starters, he doesn't need to score prolifically, and he's surrounded by better defensive support, so he's less prone to reckless ventures. His overall energy then becomes more of a positive. Conversely, on a weaker squad, he becomes an offensive nonstarter and a defensive hazard. I suspect we all know what I'm talking about. 

So for one, I submit that we ought to observe DJ's squads more closely in the games to come. When you get that gnawing feeling- "Shit, the guy's a liability!"- pay attention to who he's playing with. Likewise, when things are humming even though Kaman's on the bench, check out which 5 are on the floor. Even if there's nothing to be done about it, I'm curious to see if DJ is more competent depending on who he's playing with.

But hey, if it turns out that this hypothesis has merit, then would it be too crazy to start DJ? We might give him minutes similar to those he saw in the Warriors game, and so bring Kaman off the bench for his 32-36 minutes. Hmmm... I'm not ready yet to endorse this idea, nor do I particularly expect to persuade anyone, but it's the kind of wacky idea that might start to make sense as games go by. Think of it the next time our 2nd unit gives the game away before we can get our starters back in. 

 

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