• Adam Bushman

Supplemental Player Production Update: 1/11/19

Joe Ingles Carries the Utah Jazz, Davis Can't Get it Going in New Orleans, How Are the Lakers Doing It, and Why Denver Is So Good No Matter What

Photo Source: Salt City Hoops

The NBA is ruled by the best players in the league. At team level, it’s easy to identify two to three players that fit the description of high impact players. These we call a team’s “Big 3”.

The remaining 10-12 players on each team’s roster are what we call “Supplemental Players”. Their duty is to support, complement, and supplement the production of the team’s “Big 3”.

We’ve designed a system to monitor the production of these “Supplemental Players”. We call it the “Supplemental Player Production”.

To see a detailed explanation of this metric, the statistics, and details for each team, visit our Google Sheet HERE.

* A minor adjustment has been made to the criteria for a teams “Big 3”. From now on, the top 3 players for a team in total minutes played will determine a team’s “Big 3” *

Today’s article details some important notes relating to the Utah Jazz and other noteworthy teams from this study:

Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz currently rank 11th in “Supplemental Player” NRTG with a 1.7. This rating is up significantly from having been -4.0 just a few short weeks ago. The offense from their “Supplemental Players” ranks 12th and their defense slots in at 6th.

They remain an average team in bench reliance, ranking 18th and utilizing “Supplemental Player” lineups just 30.4% of all possessions.

The Utah Jazz have benefited greatly from a strong close to December and encouraging start to January. Blowout wins over POR x2, NYK, and CLE have aided their “Supplemental Player” lineups to trend positively.

The biggest negative area of SPP in Utah’s lineups continue to be minutes played with Donovan Mitchell alongside “Supplemental Players”. They continue to rely heavily on this lineup, seeing 335 possessions and resulting in a -20 NRTG.

Utah has seen incredible impact from one Joe Ingles. His 526 possessions without Gobert and Mitchell are extraordinary, resulting in a +14.5 NRTG. Gobert continues to perform well with the “Supplemental Player” units, albeit in significantly fewer time than Ingles.

Utah’s exclusive “Supplemental Player” lineups (featuring none of the “Big 3”) continues to struggle, primarily on the defensive end. Without Gobert or Ingles, Utah has a tremendously difficult time defending.

Overall, Utah has seen tremendous improvement since our last update. So long as Gobert and Ingles remain healthy and active, they’re a safe bet to continue to climb the standings both in the West and in SPP.

New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans has drastically underperformed through the first half of the season. Anthony Davis has been great, but isn’t a saving grace.

The Pelicans currently rank 27th in the league in “Supplemental Player” NRTG with an -11.6. They’re offense turns out as average while their defense comes in dead last when one member or fewer of their “Big 3” are on the floor.

To New Orleans’ credit, they’ve recognized their ineptitude and rank last in bench reliance. They only utilize “Supplemental Player” lineups on 21.3% of their possessions. Apparently, their win-loss record could be much worse.

New Orleans defense is awful overall, however, Davis’ presence on the floor in 263 possessions has yielded a 135 DRTG, the lowest rating of any “Big 3” member of any team in “Supplemental Player’ lineups except that of Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets.

Their only bright spot are the possessions used by Julius Randle without Davis or Holiday. He’s tallied 299 possessions of positive play (1.6 NRTG). Granted, this news won’t bring much consolation to Pelicans fans as every other combination results in a negative NRTG.

The Pelicans supporting cast must improve if they are to ever hope for a playoff berth. Until further notice, however impossible it may be, Randle should be the only member of New Orleans’ “Big 3” that should be on the floor with their “Supplemental Players”.

Los Angeles Lakers

How are the Lakers treading water without LeBron? How did they outperform expectations through the first half of the season? It’s simple: their “Supplemental Players” are very good.

The Los Angeles Lakers currently boast the 2nd best “Supplemental Players” NRTG at +6.7. With both a top 10 nice offense and defensive SPP rating, it’s clear why there success has been sustained as long as it has.

In part due to necessity and other to design, the Lakers rank 8th in bench reliance, trotting their SPP lineups onto the floor nearly 33% of all possessions.

There isn’t a single aspect of their “Supplemental Players” lineups that are cause for concern. Their worst combination (lineups without any members of their “Big 3”) is even, a feat only a few other teams can match.

This is an incredible luxury for teams with lineups featuring a “Big 3” member who turns out to be negative, but for the Lakers, it allows them to be dominant when having one of their “Big 3” on the floor.

Kuzma, James, and Ball all have a positive NRTG when playing in “Supplemental Player” lineups. To further the impression, each has a decent sample size in such minutes as well.

The Los Angeles Lakers will continue to surprise the NBA community, not because of the greatness of LeBron James, but because of their consistently superb “Supplemental Players”.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are no stranger to the injury bug. No team has missed key rotational players in more games than Denver, yet they continue to achieve success, landing them in first place in the Western Conference.

The “Supplemental Players” have a lot to do with that. Denver is tied with Charlotte for the 5th highest SPP NRTG at +2.7. Their defense sits right at the league average DRTG but their offense has picked up the slack.

Denver is relying on these “Supplemental Player” lineups with the 11th highest frequency. 32.2% of all possessions have been played with one or fewer of their “Big 3”.

Like the LAL, Denver is making the most of time without any members of their “Big 3”. In 203 possessions, lineups of pure “Supplemental Players” are a remarkable +13.1. The defense is non-existent in such possessions, but with an offense that potent, who cares?

The only negative SPP possessions are those with Nikola Jokic on the floor with “Supplemental Players”. In 183 possessions, Denver is a -14.8. These subpar lineups have seen the floor on very rare occasion, thus limiting their detrimental effect.

Denver has been successful with a very unconventional formula. With improved health, normal shot making, and a hopeful continuation of their stellar “Supplemental Players”, the Nuggets are to be feared and admired from every vantage point.

***Stats were taken from NBA.com/stats as well as CleaningTheGlass.com***

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