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Ron-Ron Likes the Wrong Big Man, But That's OK

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In a Bee story today, Ron Artest offers effusive praise for Mikki Moore.

Artest had this to say about forward Mikki Moore: "You take away Mikki, and we're not winning. Not at all." ...

"We need Mikki in the game to win," Artest said. "We're not beating nobody without him, and he knows that."

This is good; one of the best parts about Ron-Ron this season has been the unending praise he's had for his teammates -- John Salmons and Francisco Garcia earlier this season, Kevin Martin throughout, and Mikki now. All of Artest's cringe-worthy quotes have been directed at the coaching staff -- problematic, yes, but preferable to Shaq-like remarks at the expense of teammates.

But Ron's wrong.

Brad Miller is the frontcourt talisman here. He's a whopping +12 per 48 minutes in on-off figures this season, and +1.02 in plus-minus. (For comparison: Artest is a +9 per 48 in on-off and +1.42 in plus-minus; Kevin Martin is +2 in on-off and -1.6 in plus-minus.)

Moore? He's a +1.6 in on-off and -1.9 in plus-minus. Miller has shown to be vastly more valuable.

The way I use plus-minus and on-off is as an augmentation for production numbers. (For newbies around here: Plus-minus is team points scored minus team points against while a player is on the floor; on-off is a player's plus-minus when he's on the court minus the team's plus-minus when he's off the court.) Some players are valuable, but don't produce box-score numbers. Bruce Bowen is the historic example. Plus-minus and on-off help define these players' value.

It's not without pitfalls, and that's why you won't see it used (in raw form) as any sort of Holy Grail. To me, it indicates something requiring further attention. Why is the team so much better with Miller on the court? Why doesn't Martin make much of a dent in these figures? But at the end of the day, player production -- efficiency included -- tells us more things definitively.

So we know the team performs better with Miller on the floor than with Moore on the floor (including all the myriad minutes when both are out there). For our purposes in this particular discussion, let's consider Artest's production with each. (These numbers appear to be current through early March.)

              Min    +/-   Pts/48     TS%
    Total    1652   +1.9     20.6    .528
w/  Moore     938   +1.4     19.1    .526
w/ Miller    1311   +3.9     20.8    .545

Ron-Ron clearly performs better on offense with Miller than with Moore, and the team is much, much better with Brad over Mikki. Miller is the straw here; in fact, the only player making near the teamwide impact is Artest himself.

(Martin and Beno Udrih also make their teammates "better", so to speak. Beno's impact could be greatly impacted by the Orien Greene era, as well Mike Bibby's sub-stellar stretch.)

But again: It's alright that Artest thinks Moore is so important. It's good he sees the value of Mikki. (And Mikki has tremendous value in terms of a guy who shoots infrequently -- freeing up possessions for Miller, Artest and Martin -- but efficiently. His rebounding, defense, and ball-handling leaves me wanting, but he's outperforming his expectations.)