Let’s talk statistics. Executives, coaches, and players often downplay the usefulness of statistics (especially advanced metrics) for not telling the whole story. It’s true: the box score often does not represent all of a player’s contributions to the game.
However, advanced metrics can help uncover a narrative in a way that conventional stats cannot show. Take, for example these to players’ stats, adjusted for 36 minutes of play:
Player A averages 17.3 points, 11 rebounds, 75% free throw percentage and a 51% field goal percentage. Player B averages 15 points, 8.4 rebounds, 76% free throw percentage and a 51% field goal percentage.
Hint: both players play Center. Player A is Turkish, Player B is Spanish.
Got it yet?
Player A is Enes Kanter, player B is Marc Gasol.
Per 36 and other analytic stats can be misleading, sure. Many coaches still treat analytics as a boogie man, something invented by the media to feed the ever hungry narrative machine.
Does Billy Donovan need to heed these impressive numbers by Kanter more? He has averaged a paltry 21.3 minutes per game. Although he’s coming off the bench, he’s still playing about the same amount as kiwi Steven Adams.
Head coach Billy Donovan said this about analytics when he was hired this summer: “I think it’s (analytics) a big part of what we do here in OKC. I think it really is. But I think the one thing about it is, to me the analytics part is a combination of the numbers and also a combination of coaching in your gut and those kind of things.” Donovan seems to be going with his gut on this one.
Does Kanter deserve to play 30+ minutes a night? His per 36 stats would seem to indicate so. He is still (at the very best) a relative defensive liability, and this could explain why Donovan is hesitant to play him.
Still, why not give your max contract player some more burn? He might just prove his worth.
Stats via Basketball Reference