It’s extremely hard to objectively assess an individual’s worth to the team in the NBA. The plus/minus statistic does it’s best, as it shows how the team fared when that player was on the court. Certainly it’s not the final say, but it’s a good tool to use when trying to figure it all out.
NBA Stat Central is a weekly column by HoopsHabit.com that delves deeper into the world of statistics. You can find a new version each Friday during the regular season.
Let’s take a look at some different plus/minus situations and see who’s the best and the worst. Stats are from the regular season (unless noted) and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Best Plus/Minus In A Loss Since 2000-01
Darko Milicic, +35
On February 21, 2010, the Oklahoma City Thunder traveled to Minneapolis to take on the Timberwolves. The starters shot out to a quick lead before Milicic and a young Kevin Love came off the bench to spark a comeback.
Milicic played 19 minutes, scored eight points with eight rebounds and a block, and the team posted a ludicrous +35 while he was out there. The Wolves couldn’t finish the deal, as Kevin Durant knocked down two free throws late. Of note: the teams combined for 16 points in the last 23 seconds of the game, with the Thunder going 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Worst Plus/Minus In A Win Since 2000-01
Stromile Swift, -30
Way back on March 29, 2004, the Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks played a double-overtime game at Philips Arena. This was the last generation of Grizzlies, with Mike Miller, Pau Gasol, James Posey and Jason Williams. Swift was a bench player and in this game, he was pretty bad.
Swift scored seven points in 17 minutes on 1-of-8 shooting. Not surprisingly, he was the only player with over nine minutes played to have zero assists. In fact, Swift was one of the least prolific passers I’ve ever seen. He accumulated 275 assists in his CAREER! That’s 275 assists in a total of 10,804 minutes played, which is one for every 39.3 minutes played.
Best Plus/Minus Per 100 Possessions For A Season Since 2000-01 (At Least 1,000 Minutes Played)
Ben Wallace, +18.2
Here is where we have to be careful putting too much stock into the plus/minus stat. In the 2008-09 season, Wallace played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was by no means a dominant player by this point in his career. He averaged 2.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 23.5 minutes of play.
This was more a case of those around him. On this list, Delonte West, LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were all in the top-13. This Cavs team boasted the best scoring defense in the league and was rated No. 4 on offense and No. 3 on defense.
Worst Plus/Minus Per 100 Possessions For A Season Since 2000-01 (At Least 1,000 Minutes Played)
It’s no coincidence that the worst team in NBA history would have players at the top of this list. As a matter of fact, that 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats team holds seven of the top-12 spots. Wow.
They didn’t just get crushed, they got crushed regularly. They had the rare combination of being the worst rated offense and the worst rated defense. They scored just 87 points per game and the only reason they didn’t lead the league in points allowed was because they played at a slower-than-average pace.
Best Plus/Minus In A Playoff Game Since 2000-01
Jason Terry, +43
The 2004-05 Dallas Mavericks faced a Game 7 at home against the Houston Rockets in a weird first round series in the Western Conference playoffs. The Rockets won the first two games on the road, only to lose the next two at home. The home teams won each of the next two games, which led to this final game, in Dallas.
Dallas came out swinging and never gave up. Terry ended up with 31 points in 41 minutes and the Mavericks won by 40. This Rockets team had Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, but they also started Bob Sura and Scott Padgett. Ick.
Worst Plus/Minus In A Playoff Game Since 2000-01
Peja Stojakovic, -39
Teams lay eggs some nights. On this night, the New Orleans Hornets satisfied the USDA egg needs for a year. At home against the heavily-favored Denver Nuggets, the Hornets had a strong starting lineup of Chris Paul, Stojakovic, David West, Rasual Butler and Tyson Chandler.
Then they proceeded to shoot 31.5% as a team and they turned the ball over 26 times en route to a 121-63 crushing. The Hornets were lucky that they shot 27-of-32 from the free-throw line or it could have really gotten out of hand.
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