SLAM had an article last week where slick writer John Krolik asked if Kevin Durant could be the anti-Battier in terms of plus/minus. Durant has one of the worst plus/minus scores in the league at -6.4 and overall plus/minus of -330 and Shane Battier is known to be valuable based almost exclusively on stats like plus/minus. There’s been some chatter recently about KD’s true value to the team on both ends and a lot of people point to the plus/minus.
But when I look at OKC this year, I really almost consider this as two different seasons. You’ve got the 2008 season and the 2009 season. And Durant’s horrid plus/minus numbers were really built up during that stinky 4-30 2008 start.
Consider: In 2009, in 25 games, Durant has an overall plus/minus of -39 (that’s including a -27 against Minnesota in which he played just 16 minutes). That’s with the team record being 9-16 in games he’s played this calendar year. So he’s averaging a -1.56 a game, which is a far cry from the overall -6.4 he has for the season.
For perspective, KD’s 2008 overall plus/minus was -291 for an average of -9.09 a game (32 games). In fact, he had only four positive games in 2008 and didn’t have his first plus game until the last day of November. That’s a difference of 7.53 between 2008 and 2009. So it’s safe to say, things have changed pretty drastically in this new year for KD.
I think with this whole plus/minus thing (I plan on getting into this more later), one really good way to judge it is to see what each guy did specifically in wins and losses. Obviously, when your team wins, your plus/minus is probably going to be plus but that’s because your teammates played well. You could have went 0-6 with five turnovers (hello Earl Watson) but you walk away with a +8 because Uncle Jeff and KD played awesome. But if you can put together a positive score in a losing effort, that means you played pretty well. And if you have a negative in a winning effort, then the opposite is probably true. Like I said, I want to get something together for the entire team soon, but since we’re on Durant, here’s his numbers:
In wins, Durant has an average plus/minus of +9.5 (+124 total) with only one game having a minus score (-2 against Minnesota in OKC’s first win).
In losses, KD has an average plus/minus of -10.34. In two losses Durant had a plus margin (+1 in both the 103-99 loss at Dallas and the 100-98 loss against NOLA). In 2008 his average plus/minus in losses was -11.4, but in 2009 with OKC much more competitive, his plus/minus average was -8.5 for a difference of 2.9.
So what have we learned? Obviously, Durant’s overall plus/minus isn’t a totally fair way to evaluate him. The team stunk in 2008 and lost almost every time out and with KD playing the most minutes, his plus/minus would naturally be through the roof. But now with the team winning some games and staying competitive in losses, it’s come down a lot. And it helps that Durant has been playing lights out in 2009 too. The team is playing better with role players contributing in lots of ways (thank YOU Thabo Sefolosha) and so when KD comes back, I’d bet that plus/minus keeps getting more positive.