The Wild Statistical Divergence of the Wolves Backup Guards

The Wolves have an interesting statistical situation in their backup backcourt.

Whenever at full strength — or, at least, when Jeff Teague is healthy — Thibs subs Jamal Crawford into the game in the late part of the first quarter.  A few possessions after that, he subs Tyus Jones in to join him in the second-unit backcourt.  Thibs famously does not play his bench much, but each backup guard is averaging over 18 minutes per game.  In Tyus’s case, that would be lower if not for the stretch when Teague was injured and he was put into the starting lineup.

Overall this season, Crawford has played 862 minutes and Jones has played 855.  Together as a pairing, they’ve played 526 minutes.  That means each has played about 61 percent of their total minutes next to the other and about 39 percent of their total minutes with a different backcourt teammate.

In light of the heavy minutes Jones and Crawford play together, the team’s on/off splits show a striking contrast:

Tyus leads the “on court” column for the entire team, with a season net rating of (+10.5).  The Wolves outscore opponents by 10.5 points per 100 possessions when Jones plays.  One would expect, then, that Crawford’s “on” rating would also be somewhat high, considering how much he plays with Tyus.

Not the case.

Crawford comes in last place of the team’s regular 9-man rotation, with a season net rating of (-5.8).

This dichotomy hardly seems possible.

The “off” column is more damning to Crawford, as he “leads” the entire team with an off rating of (+10.4).  In other words, when Crawford is on the bench, the Wolves outscore opponents by 10.4 points per 100 possessions.

In regular person terms:

When Tyus Jones is on the floor, regardless of his teammates, the Wolves perform like a top-tier NBA team.  When Jamal Crawford is on the floor, regardless of teammates, the Wolves perform like a bottom-tier NBA team.  And almost two thirds of each player’s playing time is spend together!

Let’s dig just a tiny bit deeper on this point.

When Jamal and Tyus play together — again, this is about 61 percent of each guy’s total burn — the lineups get outscored by 2.1 points per 100 possessions.  Not good, but nothing catastrophic.

When Jamal plays without Tyus, the Wolves are outscored by 11.5 points per 100 possessions.  This is really bad, and regular Wolves watchers know that Thibs has tried staggering Jamal in with the team’s starting (read: good) players, many times this year.  All in all, that’s been a big failure.

What about when Tyus plays without Jamal?  How have those minutes — 39 percent of his season total — gone for the Wolves?

When Tyus Jones plays without Jamal Crawford next to him, the Wolves have outscored opponents by 30.9 points per 100 possessions.  That incredible sample of ass-kicking spans 329 minutes of action.  In that time the Wolves outscored opponents by 150 points.

While I have become increasingly frustrated with Thibs’s ignorance (through his actions, anyway) of Tyus’s added value to the team, as much attention should be paid to the harm that Crawford has caused on the floor.  It comes through all of the team numbers, and the eye test draws pretty clear conclusions on why: he’s a poor defender and a ball-stopping offensive player who attempts a lot of difficult shots.  J-Crossover has had a great career and a few really nice games for the Wolves this year, but he soon turns 38 years old and might be about cooked as a playable rotation player.  Any remaining contributions to this team might be best made in the locker room and on the road in the plane, acting as a mentor figure.

Whether this gets addressed via trade or rotation change remains to be seen, but the Wolves have a strange dichotomy within their backup backcourt.

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6 thoughts on “The Wild Statistical Divergence of the Wolves Backup Guards

  1. I know I was particularly negative about the off season moves this year, but by far my least favorite signing was Crawford.

    I watched the Jazz attack him over and over in the playoffs, and now he looks like this before playoff time when teams game plan heavier. This will only get worse.

  2. These numbers confirm what we already know. But the degree, the extreme to which they do is shocking. It’s interesting to look at it this way–there has been some attention to the Teague vs. Jones thing, but not to comparing the effectiveness of both backup guards.

    People keep calling Crawford ‘done’ and ‘cooked.’ It’s clear Thibs relies on him and trusts him. This indicated by how much and when he sees the floor, as well how consistent him minutes are. But it also is shown in how Thibs really didn’t get an alternative on the bench other than Shabazz, who Thibs has basically always thought more or less unplayable (why you would sign an unplayable player even if you had very little money escapes me). This is extremely foolish. However you feel about Crawford as a player, he’s soon to be 38. That’s too old to not have a viable person behind him. Guys that old get injured a lot and tired more easily. Thibs plays him liberal minutes for his age (not to mention his effectiveness). It’s common sense that Thibs places too much trust in Crawford on age alone.

    But then we can get into why he has such undying trust for Crawford even though he’s a career ‘D? Nah, not me’ kinda guy. He also takes a lot of bad shots. He doesn’t get excited about a game unless he’s taking bad shots. We need scoring on the bench and have few options to provide it, so it is easy to see Crawford doing that at times and be happy. But he’s not good for a unit. He basically always has been what he is now–not concerned with D, a wild gunner, wily but not really wise, taker of difficult shots, a scorer, a guy who doesn’t really help a unit click (ball stopping). In the past, his many sins were covered by the potency of his scoring and his ability to be a little more consistent. Obviously, at his age, he’s lost a little edge and his ability to cover for his own sins is often blown out of the water.

    Then we have Tyus. Pretty much the opposite. Young. Not really a natural scorer, though able. Not really concerned with scoring or taking shots and wants easy shots when he does take them. Very concerned with D. Not quite wily yet (though great instincts) but wise somehow. Very good for a unit. He gets the ball moving right away in the offense. Now, to a degree, these are position flavors–PG vs SG. But these are very different players and one is an elite team player and one is a team killer, statistically. Really this analysis can bleed over into Teague vs. Jones. Simply put, Teague resembles Crawford too much. I’m not saying he’s really anything like Crawford, but in approach he’s much closer to him than Tyus is. This is funny too, because Teague is such a mediocre scorer. It’s funny to see him have any hint of a Crawford approach. And folks wonder why he’s not a fan favorite?

  3. An accountant friend once reminded me – figures don’t lie, but liars figure. I’m not sure that Crawford is as bad as these numbers show – he however, does like the ball in his hands (much like Wiggins a couple years ago), and it is obvious that he struggles on defense. More concerning to me is Crawfords bad passes. While he has made some great assists – and is beginning to find Dieng more often – he all to often makes a lazy pass which is telegraphed and ends up going the other way. Teague/Jones – still finds that the experience shows, and Teague is much more willing to take a shot – Jones will pass up the shot early in the shot clock – perhaps while Teague and Jones resemble each other more physically – size/speed/quickness – Jones shows Rubio savvy when he plays. Interesting to watch Brown/Jefferson and Patton in their G-league play. Both Brown and Jefferson typically play F, but are listed as guards. Brown the better 3 pt. shooter, but both have been productive. Patton still on minutes restriction but his numbers show good production – especially interesting the assists and blocks, and both fouls and turnovers seem reasonable. All these players look worthy of a closer look – adding GMH to the mix – Vegas/Training camp in the off season should present great competition for any draft picks – and might give us better D, more energy, quickness and size that Crawford – perhaps even Bjelica provide. Aldrich/Brooks/Bazz will open up positions (not much likely to be gained in trade – Teague/Jones if healthy more than enough at point – Crawford playing some point if injury demands (with another 2-way pg stashed in Iowa) and we don’t really need any other major moves.

    1. Crawford likely isn’t as bad as the numbers show, but numbers that extreme show there IS a problem. Don’t look for any adjustments to deal with this problem, though. For that matter, the good numbers of Tyus (which also may be inflated) clearly indicate he’s underused. This also won’t change. It’s closed eyes in the face of reality, a nearly complete unwillingness to adjust which may be our undoing.

  4. Amen to pyrrol and… Thibs is obviously insane. He may still be a good coach in some ways, perhaps in just the right circumstances a great one, but he’s stubborn and regressive and refuses to look at and adapt to EVIDENCE.

    Is Tyus definitely vastly better for this team than Teague? Maybe, maybe not. But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that he is, and, as well as things went with Tyus as the starter, as well as things have always gone whenever Tyus is on the floor, even going back to last year and beyond, there’s clearly very little danger in experimenting with it more.

    I understand if Thibs in his infinite basketball wisdom has reasons for thinking Teague is the better option. But to see the metrics as I’m sure he does and not dig deeper is madness.

    It wouldn’t kill the team to play them both 24, or Teague 28 Tyus 20.

    I would say this in Teague’s defense: the playoffs are a whole different animal. For one thing, everyone’s more motivated and jazzed up. Probably part of what makes Tyus so mysteriously valuable is the added joy and energy that results from his unselfishness and hustle. That won’t be as much of an advantage in the playoffs, especially to the extent that Teague himself kicks it up a notch. For another, the playoffs are generally slower-paced, also to Teague’s advantage. Above all, players who can’t score tend to be exposed. Can Tyus shoot the 3? I sure hope so, but lately you have to wonder. He’s certainly not much of a finisher. And he has ZERO playoff experience, though I’m willing to bet he plays pretty well in his first showing, given his pedigree. But especially with Towns and Wiggins at zero playoff experience themselves, Teague’s value relative to Tyus figures to be much different in the playoffs than it is now.

    Still, I’ll repeat: it wouldn’t kill the team to play them both 24, or Teague 28 Tyus 20. If nothing else, Tyus is going to have play his 10-15 minutes in the playoffs no matter what, and he needs the seasoning way more than Teague does. Why wouldn’t you play them both 24 for now and adjust later?

    There’s still one possible justification left, which is to try to keep Teague’s trade value high, in case teams come calling. Even 24/24 makes Teague seem less valuable, and destroys Thibs’ bluffing leverage. I highly doubt that’s what it is, but we can always dream.

    By the by I heard David Griffin on NBA radio a couple days ago single out Teague as a guy he’d try to pursue if he was a GM. Please, somebody, hire David Griffin as a GM!!!

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