But what do all these numbers mean, and why are we spending time reading box scores and play-by-play sheets? Well, basically, I am spending time doing it because I think it is interesting, and it helps me gain a better understanding of what I think I see on the court when I am watching a basketball game.
Basketball is a team game, and that is why the 5-man unit statistics are interesting to me. The help to illustrate how a group plays on the court together. If a five man unit is consistently getting outscored by the opponent when they are on the court, it is probably a good time to look at this unit and see what is going wrong. Is it the defense? Is it the offense? Or is it simply a combination of both of these factors?
Breaking it down further from the five-man units, I like to look at the different guard and forward combinations that can be played on the court together. These numbers help to illustrate whether playing three guards is advantageous, whether or not having two point guards in the game at the same time is beneficial (like Illinois will do when Dee Brown and Chester Frazier play together), or which shooting guard works best with which point guard. This same thing can be gleamed from the interior players, helping determine which combination suits Illinois the best. Is it better to have Augustine in with Pruitt, Arnold, Carter, or Jackson? Is Illinois as a team better (from a plus / minus perspective) when James is playing with a like player (Carter), or a bruiser (Arnold, Jackson, or Pruitt)? These are questions these numbers can help to answer.
Enough about what I look at these numbers to tell me as I am sure you are getting bored reading this. Let's look at the numbers from Illinois' first exhibition game against Illinois Wesleyan. These numbers really do not tell a story, especially because we are looking at just 40 minutes of basketball, but they do help generate some questions, that I will ask after I show the numbers.
FIVE-MAN UNIT BREAKDOWN
|Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||Player 4||Player 5||Differential||Time on Floor|
|Dee Brown||Rich McBride||Brian Randle||Warren Carter||James Augustine||5||4:01|
|Dee Brown||Rich McBride||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||-3||0:58|
|Dee Brown||Rich McBride||Jamar Smith||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||5||1:18|
|Dee Brown||Rich McBride||Jamar Smith||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||-7||5:52|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||Warren Carter||Marcus Arnold||11||3:52|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||Warren Carter||Marcus Arnold||-2||1:26|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||3||1:47|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||Warren Carter||CJ Jackson||2||0:34|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||-1||2:33|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||Warren Carter||0||3:02|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||CJ Jackson||James Augustine||2||1:24|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||-1||2:11|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||Warren Carter||Marcus Arnold||2||0:58|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||Warren Carter||CJ Jackson||-1||0:05|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||0||2:20|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||CJ Jackson||James Augustine||4||1:37|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||Warren Carter||CJ Jackson||0||1:04|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||Marcus Arnold||0||1:20|
|Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||Calvin Brock||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||3||2:14|
|Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||Jamar Smith||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||-2||0:13|
|Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||Jamar Smith||Warren Carter||Marcus Arnold||2||1:11|
Illinois' Best Lineup: Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, Brian Randle, Warren Carter, and Marcus Arnold
Illinois' Worst Lineup: Dee Brown, Rich McBride, Jamar Smith, Shaun Pruitt, and James Augustine
Question Gleamed from this: Why are Dee Brown and Jamar Smith both in the best lineup and the worst lineups plus / minus wise?
I can honestly say I don't know the answer to this, especially when you then compare it to the Guard / Forward Breakdowns. Dee Brown and Jamar Smith on the court together we easily the best guard combination for Illinois against Illinois Wesleyan.
GUARD / FORWARD BREAKDOWN
|Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||Differential||Time on Floor|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||-1||5:35|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||2||1:24|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||-1||2:11|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||11||3:52|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||3||3:47|
|Dee Brown||Rich McBride||Jamar Smith||-2||7:10|
|Dee Brown||Rich McBride||2||4:59|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||1||4:43|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||4||2:41|
|Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||0||1:24|
|Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||Calvin Brock||3||2:14|
|Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||Differential||Time on Floor|
|Brian Randle||Warren Carter||James Augustine||5||4:01|
|Brian Randle||Warren Carter||CJ Jackson||-1||0:05|
|Brian Randle||Warren Carter||Marcus Arnold||13||4:50|
|Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||-3||3:18|
|Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||CJ Jackson||-1||2:33|
|Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||Marcus Arnold||0||1:20|
|Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||0||3:02|
|Warren Carter||CJ Jackson||2||1:38|
|Warren Carter||Marcus Arnold||0||2:37|
|CJ Jackson||James Augustine||6||3:01|
|Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||-3||10:06|
|CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||4||3:29|
Illinois' Best Backcourt Combination: Dee Brown and Jamar Smith
Illinois' Worst Backcourt Combination: Dee Brown, Rich McBride, and Jamar Smith
Illinois' Best Frontcourt Combination: Brian Randle, Warren Carter, and Marcus Arnold
Illinois' Worst Frontcourt Combination: Shaun Pruitt and James Augustine
Questions Gleamed from these: Will Illinois be able to play a dual point guard system this season? Will Illinois be more successful this season playing a three guard lineup, or playing three interior players?
For the last three years, Illinois has been known as the team that is running a dual point guard offense with Deron Williams and Dee Brown in the back court. This year, Illinois is going to be a team that goes as far as Dee Brown goes. If the early indications are anything, it looks like playing Dee with other scoring guards will be more beneficial than playing him alongside another point guard (Chester Frazier).
INDIVIDUAL PLAYER +/- STATISTICS
All of the press coming out of the Wesleyan game was how well Jamar Smith played, but these +/- numbers show that maybe another Illinois player was overlooked, Warren Carter. Now, I was not able to see the game, so Warren may have been lucky to be on the court (as he was for 9 different five man groups) or he may have been a reason that Jamar was able to get open shots due to how he runs the Illinois offense. I don't know, but this is something that is pretty interesting.
The other interesting thing to gleam is that Shaun Pruitt was the only Illinois player to finish the game with a negative plus / minus in the game. As the five-man unit breakdowns show, Shaun was on the floor for four negative shifts, two neutral shifts, and only two positive shifts.
Right now, I don't think these numbers say much, but they will be something to follow as the year progresses, and I will be doing that right here on IlliniBoard.com.