My least favorite part of having a job is performance reviews. Not that I mind being evaluated or told what I could be better at, that part I’m fine with, it’s the part about setting goals in regard to subjective matters.
The questions are usually, “How can you be better?” “What are the areas you can improve upon?” And, “what goals do you have to improve your performance?” The problem is, rarely are these questions ever associated with something that can actually be measured. And when it can be, most of the time, those measurements are dependent on other employees and outside forces.
That’s one reason I love statistics when it comes to sports. Everything is measurable. And the reason I love advanced statistics is that they often account for outside forces such as playing time, pace, and teammates. So, when we say the Boston Celtics need to improve their roster, we can take a look at some statistics to see exactly how they need to improve.
For this article, I took a look at the past five NBA champions, along with the player efficiency rating for the starting lineup.
I found that over the last five years, the average combined PER for the starting lineup was 92.6. This number was produced by being more or less evenly distributed between the starters’ PER, like the ’13-’14 Spurs or the ’10-’11 Mavericks, or concentrated on two or three stars, like the ’12-’13 Heat or the ’09-’10 Lakers. The ’13-’14 Celtics had a combined PER of 72.2. The gap of improvement the Celtics need to bridge is vast.
This is why Kevin Love is so appealing. Love was third in PER last year with a 26.97. Replacing Sullinger with Love is the quickest way to improve the roster. If Rajon Rondo can produce a 19 PER, his highest PER produced, and if Avery Bradley simply manages to get to a 15, which is league average (and with what he’s going to be paid, he better be at least league average), replacing Sullinger with Love would bring the Celtics’ PER to 89. That is based on last year’s number for Green and Bass, which only requires Bass to be average and Green to be below average.
With a combined PER of 89, the Celtics would have a higher PER than both the Lakers and Mavericks when they won the title. Obviously, five years is a small sample size, and reaching that range of PER will not guarantee a title, but at least it gives the organization a measurement upon which to gauge their improvement upon. Love might not be the answer, but at least advanced statistics can help us gauge a team’s past performance and help set meaningful goals on how to improve a team.