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A Look At Dalembert's Career Arc

The oft-maligned Samuel Dalembert has been a point of contention on this blog for a long time. He's showed signs of development, and to be honest, defensive dominance, over the past couple of years, but his horrible hands and bone-headed plays cancel out the positives. Far too often, he just doesn't seem to get it.

I decided to pull his game logs from the past two-plus seasons, throw them into a spreadsheet and try to prove out or dispel a couple of theories and preconceptions concerning the Haitian Sensation. Check out the stats and graphs after the jump.

Before we dive in, you can check out the spreadsheet here. It's kind of a mess, when I get to other players I'll refine it, but it did the job. Also, I grabbed the game logs from basketball-reference.com, a site I visit daily, and you should too.

For our first graph, I thought we'd tackle some of Sammy's grumbling. Throughout his career we've heard several bone-headed quotes from him, usually they have to do with playing time. The question I've often asked myself is how much Sammy has to do with his playing time. Meaning, how often does he ride the pine because of foul trouble and/or poor play.

Game logs don't include goaltending nor basket interference penalties, so I decided to use the two most-basic negative factors, personal fouls and turnovers. Here's the graphic, with a little bit of analysis below.

What we're looking at here is a visual representation of every game since the beginning of the 2006-2007 season, 193 in total. The thin blue line tracks minutes played in each game, the thing red line tracks personal fouls + turnovers per 36 minutes. The idea was to see if there was a direct correlation to poor play and limited minutes.

The thicker lines track the general trends and make it easier to look at the long view of the data. Let's start with those. The picture the data paints is pretty clear. Dalembert saw his minutes grow throughout the '06-'07 season, peak in '07-'08, and they've fallen in '08-'09. At the same time, his turnovers and fouls, per 36 minutes, have continually fallen. In fact, they're at career-low levels in '08-'09. Obviously this doesn't prove that he's played well. Our eyes tell us differently on a lot of nights, but what it does mean is that he isn't forcing the coach's hand in these decisions. He isn't getting into early foul trouble, he didn't force Cheeks to sit him with early foul trouble and he isn't forcing DiLeo.

Now, looking at the chart under a microscope, a few things jump out at me right away. First, coming into this season, I only see maybe one game since opening night of '06-'07 where Dalembert played less than 20 minutes and didn't contribute to his minutes being cut, it looks like it was about game 115. So far this season, it's happened seven times. The second is the complete trainwreck game 91 was for Sammy. It was actually a win against Portland last season, he had 2 turnovers and 5 fouls in only 10 minutes of play. Good for a rate of 90.72 PF+TO/36. His worst game this season has been 18, he's cracked double digits 3 times.

Next, I wanted to test a theory Mo Cheeks seemed to have. Think back to last season and the frequency with which Mo would call Sammy's number early in the first quarter. The idea was that if you get Sammy involved on the offensive end, it'll pay dividends on defense and especially on the boards. An engaded Sammy is a good Sammy. The chart below tracks field goal attempts per 36 minutes and total rebounds per 36 minutes, using the same range of games as the previous chart.

The thin blue is rebounds per 36, thin red field goal attempts per 36, orange FGA/36 trend and green REB/36 trend. A quick glance tells us that Mo was mistaken and Sam does a pretty good job of motivating himself to clean the boards no matter what's happening in the offense.

The green line tells us that he's shown consistent improvement on the glass, even throughout this season. His FGA/36 has taken a nosedive after peaking early in '07-'08. The lack of shots has done nothing to slow him down on the glass, however, which says something about his character. He may make an ass of himself in the papers, but when he's on the floor, he's working hard.

Finally, I thought we'd see how Sammy does in the hustle, or possession-gaining stats, relative to minutes played. I used the same timeframe, but divided the minutes played by 3 so we could zoom in on the relevant data and make it easier to digest.

Pretty simple here, in the possession-changing stats which this team really thrives on, Dalembert has consistently performed, with a slight upward trend, over the entire timeframe, regardless of minutes.

At this point, it's 3:30 a.m. and I'm just following wild tangents, so I decided to make up my own formula to take a look at Dalembert's measurable affect on each game in terms of gaining/losing possessions. I say measurable because there's no way to track goaltending calls nor fumbled passes. These stats are not per 36, but raw figures.

OK, first let me explain my methodology. Added possessions is straight forward. Here's the formula I used:
  • Offensive rebounds + steals + blocks
The higher the number, the better.

Possessions lost is a bit more complicated, and very good shooting can actually trend toward positive results. Here's the formula:
  • ((field goals missed) - (field goals attempted/2)) + (free throws missed/1.5) + turnovers
The logic here is that Sammy should shoot 50% from the floor. Every shot missed below 50% is a lost possession, every shot made above 50% is a gained possession. From the line, every 1.5 misses equals a lost possession. Then you add raw turnover numbers. The higher the number, the worse. Here's an example, Sammy goes 2/8 from the field, 2/5 from the line with 3 turnovers.
  • (6-4) + 2 + 3 = 7 possessions lost
Net is possessions gained minus possessions lost. I didn't count personal fouls in this equation because there's no way to tell how many defensive fouls are actually bad plays and offensive fouls are counted as turnovers. I suppose you could come up with a formula to include a certain percentage of personal fouls based on overall data for percentage of offensive fouls to percentage of total fouls. If anyone knows of a place where I can find the ration, please let me know.

As you can see from this chart, Sammy has lived on the positive side of the spectrum, in fact, his average over the past 193 games is +3.6. If we could somehow count goaltending and mishandled passes in this equation, I think the average would probably fall to maybe +2.0 at the lowest.

And finally, the most basic graph I could come up with. Sammy's minutes played in wins vs. minutes played in losses.

The extremes jump out at me from this graph. When Sammy has played more than 40 minutes, the Sixers are 11-6. When he's played less than 20, they're 7-11. Over the past 193 games, the team has a record of 106 and 87.

So, what do these numbers tell me? For one thing, they tell me that if winning now is the main goal, Sammy should be seeing more minutes. This finding is backed up by 82games.com, and Holinger's PER. Sammy has warts, there's no denying that. But the sum total of his game is a positive. Right now, his rebounding is desperately needed. As frustrating as those dropped passes, goaltends and slow defensive rotations may be, they're getting eaten alive on the glass when he's on the bench.

Now, if we're talking about the future, then I think Ed Stefanski should put together a nice powerpoint presentation with a bunch of these stats highlighted and start sending them out to every GM in the league. He's been an above-average center for the past two seasons, I believe that means he'd be a statistical upgrade for several teams currently in the playoff hunt and his contract isn't as bad as a lot of the guys' on the market.

Sunday will be devoted entirely to football, but I'll be checking in here from time to time. Leave your thoughts in the comments, any suggestions for what else to do with this data would be greatly appreciated.
by Brian on Dec 28 2008
Tags: Basketball | Career Arc | Graphs | Samuel Dalembert | Sixers |