Jared Dudley: The plus-minus monster

Jared Dudley did not score in this game, but he still made his presence felt. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Jared Dudley did not score in this game, but he still made his presence felt. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

PHOENIX — After the Suns’ bench led Phoenix back from an early double-figure deficit in Game 2 against San Antonio, an ornery Gregg Popovich proclaimed that “Jared Dudley changed the whole game.”

Later in the evening Steve Nash continued to pile on the praise: “He was my player of the game.”

On a night when five Suns scored at least 15 points — none of whom are named Jared — it’s interesting that the veterans Popovich and Nash were both so enamored with a player who put up a measly 11 points and six boards to go with a pair of assists and three missed foul shots in five attempts.

That’s a solid night for a role player, sure, but it’s not usually worthy of game MVP praise on a night when your starters (if you count Channing Frye as a de facto starter) go for 94.

But that’s the beauty of Jared Dudley. You can’t open up a box score and understand the full value of Dudley. You have to actually watch the games.

And anybody who watched the Suns’ Game 2 victory can plainly see that Dudley played a huge role in the win, despite his modest 11 points and six boards.

Dudley corralled two of those offensive boards on one possession, scoring a subsequent basket and getting fouled both times, plays that seemed to shift the momentum of a game previously controlled by San Antonio.

It’s been like that all playoffs for Dudley, who has averaged a paltry 7.4 points, 3.5 boards and 1.9 assists on 44.6 percent shooting from the field and 37.8 percent marksmanship from deep. Those numbers define mediocre, and Dudley has scored more than four points just four times in 10 postseason contests.

Yet Jared Dudley has been one of the best players in all of basketball during the playoffs from a plus-minus standpoint.

According to Indiana professor and former Mavs stat guru Wayne Winston, the Suns are +95 in Dudley’s 234 minutes but just +4 in the 246 minutes he has sat. That is INSANE.

According to Winston’s adjusted ratings, the Suns are 46 points better than an average team in the 81 minutes played by Nash, Dudley and Channing Frye and 44 points better than an average team in the 31 minutes played by Nash and Dudley with Frye out.

Overall, according to BasketballValue.com, only the Magic with Rashard Lewis on the floor are better than the Suns with Dudley this postseason, and the difference for the Suns between when Dudley is on and off the floor is similar to LeBron James’ mark with the Cavs. Small sample size, I know, but still.

On BasketballValue, the Suns’ rating with Dudley on the floor compared to when he’s off is +21.67. Second is Steve Nash (I hear he’s pretty good) with a +7.94 and third is Channing Frye (+5.47). The Suns have also been better when Leandro Barbosa is on the floor than when he sits, and that’s it, although the Suns are about even when Amare Stoudemire sits and when he plays.

Not surprisingly last on this list is Jarron Collins, as the Suns are 29.15 worse when he’s on the floor.

What’s crazy is that the Suns were only barely better when Dudley played than when he sat during the regular season (+1.72, but still fourth on the team), and Channing Frye was tops (+5.95), Steve Nash was second (+4.18) and Jason Richardson was third (+2.76). LB again was in the positives, and the Suns were better when Amare sat.

Back to Dudley, it really says something that he’s been able to improve the Suns so much in the playoffs. Although he’s a solid shooter and a quality defender, I would say the biggest plus he brings to a basketball team has to do with how his intangibles just make teams better.

I was reading Stumbling on Wins today, the new book by David Berri and Martin Schmidt that analyzes decision making in sports through the prism of economics.

The particular chapter that I read discussed how NBA executives value scoring more than other traits that actually lead to wins. That’s why Isiah Thomas put together a team of gifted scorers with the New York Knicks that Berri and Schmidt could have predicted would fail because what those guys do on a basketball court doesn’t lead to wins.

Players like Jared Dudley lead to wins. Sure, you need to have your Amare Stoudemires and Jason Richardsons getting you buckets, but if you don’t have a guy like Jared Dudley doing the little things that are often undervalued in the NBA marketplace, you’re not going to go very far.

So while Nash, Amare, J-Rich and Grant Hill predictably get all the pub, maybe the biggest reason why the Suns will be kicking off the Western Conference Finals tonight is because of Jared Dudley.

  • Beyondtheboxscore

    Berri understands that winning is about more than scoring but refuses to accept +/- in any form and by doing so implicitly is rejecting the validity of being an indirectly (not revealed in the boxscore) "helpful" teammate. He is wrong.

  • Mohamed

    Jared Dudley is probably my favorite player on the squad next to Steve Nash. I mean, what an acquisition! He’s such a passionate, commited, energetic player. Fantastic shooter, great defender, and quite the spark off the bench.

    Great post!

  • Ken

    When that trade happened I was honestly just as excited about Dudley as Richardson. No one believed me about him being a great fit for the Suns. I had seen him play enough at that point to tell he would bring lots of hustle, energy and is an unselfish player who just wants to win. I took a lot of guff at first about it too, Porter barely ever even put him in…but once Gentry took over he has been giving double digit quality minutes every game pretty much.

  • Drake

    I used to curse Kerr when he traded Diaw (a personal favorite) and Bell (our best defender) for J-Rich and J-Dud. I now praise him, Diaw was a great player, but was lazy. Dudley is an okay player, but plays his ass off every second on the floor, you can tell he loves the game of basketball.

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  • Beyondtheboxscore

    Adjusted +/- may not have year-to-year consistency across the entire league, though I haven't seen a study of it yet from someone who is not a strong opponent of it in their writing- yet and it does have consistency for a lot of the individual players I check.

    Some outside the boxscore contributions may be more consistent the sum of all them and some player interactive effects are different and may be more variable than individual actions outside the boxscore.

    There is plenty of room for improvement and Adjusted Factors is one of the ways to get more information and perhaps better information.

    Adjusted +/- is doing more to try to get beyond the boxscore than anything else. So you either use it with caution and try to improve it, or you sit around and say it is too inconsistent and not worth using.

    And who decides that inconsistent results are wrong??? They could be right and because of things that players, lineup and coaches do and don't do that they are not fully in control of and logical about.

    And some randomness is probably inherent in a game with so many moving parts and refs. Inconsistency is not a sufficient excuse for stopping inquiry or deciding there is nothing to be learned.

  • Beyondtheboxscore

    1 year Adjusted +/- may not have year-to-year consistency but multi-year Regularized APM is more consistent, something that Joe Sill got Dave Berri to acknowledge, though they still vary about how much of an improvement was accomplished. There are plenty of new ideas at APBRmetrics about how to improve it even further using other data.

  • Beyondtheboxscore

    I guess it was a full year to full year RAPM that Sill got Berri to acknowledge was better than his first comparison to a partial year.

    It was Sill that showed that multi-year RAPM is even better.

    It is far from a final answer but I think it should be reviewed and considered. Triangulation between metrics could help, in part by provoking more questions and more research and more effort to reconcile or more willingness to acknowledge complexity and ambiguity when they don't fully agree.

  • Beyondtheboxscore

    1 year Adjusted is not the best way to go but still 1 year Adjusted at basketballvalue has been pretty consistent that Dudley is a near neutral player over the last three regular seasons.

    Near neutral is pretty good for a role player.

    I'd use the magnitude of Winston's playoff rating in short minutes for him with a lot of caution, though suggesting he has played "well" from an overview team impact perspective seems to be a take that can be supported.

  • Beyondtheboxscore

    "wild variations in +/-"?

    Even though multi-year is better and the way to go, let's check on some Suns over the last 3 seasons.

    Nash- consistently rated for all 3 seasons as very positive.

    Stoudemire- consistently rated as negative for all 3 seasons on overall impact, more so this season.

    Hill- went from small positive estimate in 07-08 to a bigger one in 08-09 to a big negative in 09-10. Those are inconsistent results but what to make of them? You could decide to think that he was mildly positive for 2 years but slipped fairly substantially this season. Exactly how far hard to say immediately but you could do more research and probably get a better grip on it. And Adjusted +/- helps to initiate the research.

    Barbosa- consistently rated as mildly negative for all 3 seasons on overall impact.

    Bell- consistently rated as mildly negative for 07-08 and 08-09.

    Admundson- pretty consistent over the last 2 seasons.

    Dragic- Improved. Believable.

    Richardson- Improved. Believable.

    Doesn't seem too wild or unhelpful to me with respect to the Suns.

    And multi-year is even better and probably steadier.

  • BeyondtheboxscoreTOO

    Berri rejects +/- because it has almost no year-to-year consistency, and thus isn’t very helpful for predicting a team’s number of wins during a season YET.

    We don’t have enough data to adjust for the wild variations in +/-, and so it just doesn’t hold much predictive power.

  • Beyondtheboxscore


    I guess that is true in a way for Wins Produced. A regression will assign value of non-boxscore actions to the available boxscore variables. It has too. But it does so based on the non-boxscore action of the league as a whoile and not the individual player. Some will get too much credit for non boxscore actions this way, some too little. Adjusted +/- tries to do the assignment of credit for non boxscore actions for the individual player.

    One way to go could be to blend Adjusted +/- with a league based statistical regression. It might be closer to true than either alone.

  • Kyle

    If Wins Produced goes beyond the boxscore, it is unstated and a rough way to do it.

  • Beyondtheboxscore

    Berri rejects Adjusted +/-
    per se, but it is good to now remember that WP is trying to go beyond the boxscore too.

    Although Adjusted +/- and WP do it at different levels and that might affect consistency, this realization blunts a lot of the basic critique that Adjusted +/- is doing something strange or unreasonable as Wins Produced also gives credit beyond the boxscore based on regression results which are based on the +/- of the changing scoreboard.

  • Bill

    It gives too much credit to defensive rebounds and not enough to good defenders.

  • The Z. Man

    I believe what we are all interested in is how to achieve the most Suns wins.

    We did MUCH better without STAT in the season turning Mavs game. Does this, plus the +/- analysis mean that we will have a better team with him gone? Perhaps we will. Keep in mind that Mike Dumb Antoni only took the Suns to the Western Conference Finals once. Just a coincidence that it was the year that STAT was not playing for the team? Perhaps it will not be the worst calamity if STAT goes away.

    For one thing, it will make it easier for Sarver to justify keeping the rest of the team. Once under the luxury tax, Sarver may be content to not try and force other budget cuts. Frye, Barbosa, Louis, Dud & Gogi. THIS gang of five beat the best in the West. MUST KEEP Frye, Louis, and our Brazilian Blur. LOTS of wins when Barbosa starts and finishes the game, particularly when he plays along side Nash.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

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