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News » NBA Report Karl a fan of plus-minus ratings, however flawed

NBA Report Karl a fan of plus-minus ratings, however flawed

NBA Report Karl a fan of plus-minus ratings, however flawed I think it should be in the paper," George Karl said.

And so, I'm putting it in the paper. For today, anyway.

The Nuggets coach loves the "plus-minus" statistic, which calculates a team's net points while a player is on the court. But the stat doesn't show up in morning box scores, or even on the official stat sheet passed out at NBA games. Some websites list plus-minus in their expanded box scores, but the fact is, plus-minus gets Rodney Dangerfield respect.

While Karl calls it his second-favorite stat (after shooting percentage), others find it flawed (the other day, a former NBA player told me it was a "bull-something-or-other" stat).

Say that a guy plays Ron Artest-y defense, but his four teammates play Allen Iverson-y defense. That team might very well give up some points, so the first guy's personal plus-minus number wouldn't express his Artest-ness.

To be fair, Karl said, "Yeah, it's skewed. After 82 games, you should probably throw out your four to five best games and four to five worst games, and that maybe would put a median in there that would be fair, because there are games that you win by 30."

That said, Karl and other coaches use plus-minus as a different lens to look at a player. Karl and his staff monitor which players have high ratings against certain teams. He noted that reserve J.R. Smith has fluctuating plus-minus ratings, some very high against certain teams, "so I'm going to get him in the game earlier or try to get him more minutes."

It's arguable that plus-minus is best used to analyze bench players, because they are on the court for shorter stints, almost like a hockey shift (and we know how much hockey folks love their plus-minus).

So who has the highest plus-minus for the Nuggets ? It's actually Chris Andersen, the reserve post.

"He's playing quality Basketball," Karl said. "Even though people are saying, 'Oh, Chris is not playing that well,' his fundamental consistency has grown. Maybe his special, spectacular flair has not been there as much as we want it to, but I think he has, in a quiet way, learned how to play the game better and more consistent than when he started here last year."

Moving on ? down? Minnesota's Al Jefferson was poised for a possible all-star season. Fellow post Kevin Love was going to take defensive attention away from the Minnesota big man, and Jefferson was coming off a season in which he averaged 23.1 points and 11 rebounds. Well, Love is sidelined with an injury. Jefferson's scoring is down about five points a game, and his rebounding is down four. In a loss to Denver on Wednesday, Jefferson had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

One could argue that maybe he's just not as motivated because the Wolves are so bad, but aren't the Wolves always bad?

Hall material? A fascinating debate in baseball is whether pitching coaches such as Dave Duncan and Leo Mazzone could someday make the Hall of Fame. As for Basketball, Karl brought up an interesting debate when discussing Nuggets assistant Tim Grgurich, widely considered one of Basketball's best coaches.

"Grg is a lifetime assistant coach, and I think he's a Hall of Fame assistant coach," Karl said. "I don't know if they'll ever put an assistant coach in the Hall, but this guy's been incredible for our game, for me and for the teams he has been associated with."

Grgurich has been an NBA assistant since 1991, when he worked with Karl's great Sonics squads of the early-to-mid-1990s, and before that Grgurich worked on the UNLV staff of Jerry Tarkanian.

Fun to watch. Love him or hate him, Chicago's Joakim Noah plays hard every night, and that's pretty cool. And he leads the NBA in rebounding.

"I tip my hat off to the kid," Karl said. "He plays at an all-star level with rebounding and hustle. He has a belief in himself in the paint that very few young kids have. I'm very impressed by him. Reminds me of Buck Williams a little bit.

"A lot of guys can have impact in the game as a role player and energy player, but he's having an impact as an energy player as a starter. And that's rare."

Benjamin Hochman covers the NBA. Contact: 303-954-1294 or -------------- Do the math

Plus-minus denotes the "net" points above or below what the opponent scores when he is on the court. Nuggets coach George Karl loves the stat, although it is skewed to benefit players who play in spurts, such as bench players. Here are the ratings of the Nuggets this season:

Player Plus-Minus

Chris Andersen +93

Ty Lawson +86

Arron Afflalo +71

Kenyon Martin +58

Nene +54

Carmelo Anthony +53

J.R. Smith +39

Joey Graham +35

Chauncey Billups +8

Johan Petro -3

Anthony Carter -17

Malik Allen -22

Renaldo Balkman -25


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Added: December 1, 2009


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