Bad News Brandon


A depressing post by John Hollinger just went up on Truehoop. The gist of the post is that Brandon Rush is on pace to have the lowest PER of any player in the history of the NBA, to lead his team in minutes. Here is a little more salt in the wound:

Brandon Rush has had a forgettable career thus far, but as we head into the home stretch he may be on his way to a milestone of sorts. Rush has a PER of just 9.96 in his second pro season, but somehow leads the Pacers in minutes played with 2,159 –157 more than the next closest player, Troy Murphy.

If he manages to maintain his lead, he’ll claim the dubious distinction of being the worst player ever to lead his team in minutes. My search through the record books unearthed only two other players in the post-merger era to lead their team in minutes with a single-digit PER: Bruce Bowen with San Antonio in 2003-04, and Jason Collins with the Nets a season later.

As a Pacers fan this is incredibly disheartening, and represents a fact we may have been afraid to admit to ourselves. There is an ever increasing chance that Brandon Rush is not an NBA player. I know that PER has some flaws as a statistic; I know Brandon started the year horribly and has been playing better lately; but maybe it is time to move him before any other teams read this article by Hollinger (I know we have to wait for the off-season).

As depressing as this news was, I was still a little suspicious. When I have seen him play this year he has appeared hesitant, scared and passive, but not even the worst player on the Pacers! I decided to check some other statistics to see if they would tell the same story. The first place I looked was Queen City Hoops. If you haven’t checked out their Player Swap Tool, you owe yourself a look. Similar to ESPN’s Trade Machine, it allows you to swap players (one for one) and see what the predicted impact would be on each team. I spent a few minutes plugging in some less than stellar shooting guards from around the league to see what the predicted impact on wins would be. Below, are the horrifying results:

Name Project Win Change for the Pacers
Daniel Gibson +11.9
Anthony Morrow +5.9
Chase Budinger +2.2
Shannon Brown +2.4
Quentin Richardson +5.3
Charlie Bell +3.6
Morris Peterson +3.4
Willie Green +2.2
Marco Bellini +4.8
Kyle Korver +3.7
Nick Young +2.1
Jerryd Bayless +13.0

I included Bayless because the Pacers had to give him up in their dogged pursuit of Rush. Other than him, would you have been willing to trade Rush for any of those players at the beginning of the year? These players have played fewer minutes than Rush, but according to this statistical system (based on comparing Net Efficiencies) all of these players would have produced more wins this season.

The second place I looked was Queen City’s opponent statistics page for Brandon Rush. This is another unique, as far as I know, statistical tool. It allows you to compare the expected statistics of opposing players to their actual statistics when Rush is guarding them. The information is divided by position. For lack of a large enough or relevant sample, I have left off Rush’s minutes at PF.

Pts/40min WinScore/Min PER
SG 16.0 0.171 14.03
Expected 16.9 0.166 14.66
Net +0.9 -0.005 +0.63
SF 17.5 0.180 14.33
Expected 17.3 0.179 14.30
Net -0.2 -0.001 -0.03

Although I am new to this statistical comparison tool, it seems to indicate that his impact at the defensive end of the floor is negligible at best. This would defeat the argument that his contributions are mostly on the defensive end, and are therefore not captured by the PER statistic.

Brandon seems like a nice enough guy. I definitely wish him well as a Pacer or as a player for any other team. He is certainly not the worst player in the league, but it looks likely he may be among the worst to play so many minutes. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he has big finish to the season, but I am not counting on it.