Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

September 15, 2009

So . . . Allen Iverson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:52 am

I’ve yet to have time to comment on Allen Iverson signing with the Memphis Grizzlies (though I did manage to make “God Chose Memphis” my name in the Football Outsiders Loser League), while Bradford Doolittle’s thoughtful analysis of the situation has gone directly into the forthcoming Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10. Fortunately, djturtleface of the Straight Outta Vancouver blog crunched the numbers on how Iverson’s usage rate will fit with his new teammates in Memphis.

With Iverson in the starting lineup the usage percentage as a team comes up to 122.4%. That is much too high, which means that at least two players are going to be doing significantly less shooting.

His conclusion, an eminently reasonable one, is that Iverson needs to be the Grizzlies’ sixth man to even out the usage rates of the starters and the reserves. Certainly, Memphis should keep one of Iverson and O.J. Mayo on the floor at all times while minimizing the minutes the two shot creators play together, and using Iverson as a sixth man seems to be the easiest way to do that–provided Iverson is willing to accept the role.

Either way, the Grizzlies have dramatically increased their number of high-usage players with the additions of both Iverson and Zach Randolph. The SCHOENE projection system adjusts for usage, and nobody in the league has players with higher projected usage rates than Memphis. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is yes. When good offensive teams bring in volume scorers like Iverson, it’s a bad thing because possessions are being diverted from more efficient options to less efficient ones. However, the Grizzlies weren’t going to be confused with the Suns last year, so the fact that individual player efficiency increases as usage rates decrease should work in their favor.

In this case, I think the potential issues are ultimately less about math and more about chemistry or psychology. Can Memphis keep everybody happy, especially if the team gets off to a poor start?

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