Hoop Math: Five-Man Unit Stats, Or The Rise Of Mitch McGary

Hoop Math: Five-Man Unit Stats, Or The Rise Of Mitch McGary

Submitted by Ace on January 29th, 2013 at 12:24 PM


Michigan dodged a bullet today when X-rays revealed no broken bones in Jordan Morgan's ankle, but the Wolverines likely will have to make do without their starting center for the next couple games, at least. How much will his absence hurt Michigan?

If the numbers from conference play are any indication, not nearly as much as you'd think.

I spent yesterday compiling the statistics for each five-man unit John Beilein has deployed in Big Ten play (garbage time excluded) to see if I could spot any trends. The entire spreadsheet of all 40(!) different lineup combinations is available for your perusal as a Google Doc. Here are the five most common lineups the Wolverines have used, divided up by offensive statistics...

Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-McGary 78 45 32 15 27 22 16 22
Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-Morgan 58 33 37 14 35 21 18 18
Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-Horford 13 11 8 4 9 5 3 1
Burke-LeVert-Hardaway-GRIII-McGary 13 6 8 4 2 1 9 7
Burke-LeVert-Stauskas-GRIII-McGary 11 6 8 6 4 3 3 3

...and defensive:

Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-McGary 70 32 34 11 17 11 23 18
Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-Morgan 73 30 40 15 18 13 17 24
Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-Horford 14 7 11 2 6 5 5 5
Burke-LeVert-Hardaway-GRIII-McGary 12 7 11 4 4 2 5 3
Burke-LeVert-Stauskas-GRIII-McGary 12 3 6 1 2 2 5 3

The raw numbers are tough to compare, so this is where tempo-based stats come in handy. I've calculated each unit's number of possessions using KenPom's standard formula (2PA+3PA+(0.475*FTA)+TO-OR). From there, it's easy to calculate points per possession, which I've multiplied by 100 to give the standard offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. Also included is plus/minus, for those curious.

  Off Poss Off Eff Def Poss Def Eff +/-
Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-McGary 116.8 134.4 117.1 92.2 49
Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-Morgan 111.6 115.6 114.6 103.0 11
Burke-Hardaway-Stauskas-GRIII-Horford 27.3 143.0 27.9 89.8 14
Burke-LeVert-Hardaway-GRIII-McGary 24.0 104.3 26.9 104.1 -3
Burke-LeVert-Stauskas-GRIII-McGary 20.9 157.9 21.0 52.5 22

Well, then. Only the top two lineups have enough data to really rely upon (Michigan averages around 65 possessions per game, so even those have less than two full games of data)—the Horford lineup's numbers come almost entirely from the Illinois game.

Caveats aside, there's little doubt that Michigan's starters play are playing far, far better—on both ends of the court—with Mitch McGary at center than Jordan Morgan. The offensive efficiency with that lineup is off the charts*, and that defensive efficiency number would put Michigan just behind Ohio State, one of the best defensive teams in the country, at third in the Big Ten.

To see if this trend bore itself out regardless of the surrounding lineup, I calculated the offensive and defensive efficiency numbers for any lineup featuring Morgan/McGary/Horford...

  Off Poss Off Eff Def Poss Def Eff
ALL Morgan Lineups 180.6 109.1 179.2 102.1
ALL McGary Lineups 199.1 126.1 202.6 90.3
ALL Horford Lineups 43.3 124.7 43.8 89.0

...and the team's four factors statistics when each of the three centers is on the court:

  Offense Defense
Morgan 52.6 34.1 15.5 36.4 48.2 32.3 15.6 19.0
McGary 58.5 44.6 16.6 20.1 44.6 28.7 19.2 20.9
Horford 64.5 37.5 16.1 23.7 40.0 34.6 20.5 20.0

Here is where you can really see the difference between Morgan and McGary. When McGary is on the floor, Michigan rebounds over 10% more of the available misses on offense, and while they get to the line far less frequently, they shoot better from the floor. This could be chalked up as an anomaly, since the two-point shooting numbers are virtually equal for Morgan lineups and McGary lineups, while Michigan shoots 46.6% from three with McGary compared to 34.0% with Morgan.

There's a possible explanation for that, however, in the defensive numbers. The Wolverines force more turnovers with McGary on the court (19.2% to 15.6%), and of late many of Michigan's best looks from three have come off their transition game. That probably doesn't account for a 12-percent difference, but even if that's normalized there's still a gap in offensive production between the two; I consider McGary the better passer, a factor that may also contribute.

The difference between the two defensively is easier to figure out. McGary's activity defensively helps the team force more turnovers, while his excellence on the glass leads to a better rebounding rage. While McGary fouls more often than Morgan, the team fouls so rarely as a whole that the foul rate isn't affected greatly.

As for Horford, the sample size issues make it tough to take away anything concrete, but thus far the team hasn't missed a beat when he's on the floor—in fact, they're doing unsustainably well on both ends, with an eFG% of 64.5 on offense and 40.0 on defense. He's an interesting case defensively; like McGary, he's disruptive on defense, leading to more turnovers, but opponents are rebounding better with him on the floor than either Morgan or McGary.

I've said this before, but I'll make it clear in this post: John Beilein has stated repeatedly that he's very happy with the rotation as it is, and it could take some fantastic play from McGary paired with sub-par performances from Morgan for him to consider making any changes. When Morgan returns, I fully expect him to slide back into the starting lineup, and that's fine—given the physical demand of the position, regardless of who's starting McGary and Morgan are going to split minutes relatively down the middle anyway.

What this shows, however, is that Michigan has something special in Mitch McGary. Not only that, but Horford's solid work in limited time means the Wolverines shouldn't be in trouble if Morgan misses more than a couple games.

I'll have more notes from this five-man lineup data tomorrow, including insight on Caris LeVert's impact and how Michigan fares when they go to the bench.

*Michigan's overall conference-only offensive efficiency is 118.9, which is over ten points clear of Indiana for the Big Ten lead.