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Mere Addition Paradox

I was looking at ESPN.com’s “Hollinger stats” page and was surprised to see that in terms of Hollinger’s PER stat, Durant is the 26th best small forward in the league. Not great, by any means, but good enough to be a starter somewhere. And, indeed, by the formula Durant is just ever so slightly below average.

I’d been under the impression that Durant was actually playing terribly. So I looked up the breakdown. It seems that in terms of scoring efficiency, Durant is pretty bad — 50th among small forwards in true shooting percentage. As a rebounder he’s worse — 55th best rate among small forwards in rebound rate. 52nd in turnover ratio, and 53rd in assist ratio. Basically, he seems to be a bit worse than the fiftieth-best small forward in the league. That’s probably good enough to get some minutes as a backup, especially since in light of his age he may well improve if he gets a chance, but it’s a far cry from 26th best as Hollinger’s aggregate statistic makes him out to be. What accounts for the difference?

Well, it turns out that Durant does excel at one thing — getting plays called for him. He’s got the third-highest usage rate among small forwards. But does he really deserve to get the level of credit for this that Hollinger’s giving him? I mean, if you’re not a very good player, your usage rate ought to be low. Using tons of possessions isn’t helpful if you’re at Durant-like levels of effectiveness.

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