PER/48 and what it says about Andrea Bargnani’s “natural position”

In a question to find the answer to what position Andrea Bargnani should play, the RR research team dug deep into the archives to solve a mystery that has haunted us for years. Naaah…there was nothing on TV so I went to

In a question to find the answer to what position Andrea Bargnani should play, the RR research team dug deep into the archives to solve a mystery that has haunted us for years. Naaah…there was nothing on TV so I went to Before I get into that, I want to give some props to Matt Devlin.

Him and Kevin McHale are calling the Spurs/Grizzlies series and Devlin has been great to listen to. I can’t wrap my head around why he’s such a bore when calling the Raptors game, and no, it has nothing to do with the basketball being played. Devlin’s getting all his stats right, he’s not screwing up the score, or making mistakes like crediting the wrong people with the rebound etc. I’m sure it helps that the TNT production crew is a million times better than the Raptors’, seeing how they have replays cued up as soon as the play ends, and probably are a lot quicker in conveying the relevant stats/updates to Devlin. This isn’t the first year I’ve noticed Devlin perform significantly better in the post-season on Turner than with the Raptors. Must be something in the air, or it just might be Leo Rautins.

Individual opponent PER/48 is the subject of today’s post, you can find them on They measure the player’s PER by position along with the opposing player playing the same position at the time. The data can be skewed because, for example, the opposing small forward might not be guarding the Raptors small forward because of cross-switching, so keep that in mind when looking at these numbers. Here are three findings, and as with any statistic viewed in a vacuum, please take these with a sack of salt.

Leandro Barbosa is a good asset at the point

The best net PER/48 belongs to Leandro Barbosa when he plays the point: +7.2. It’s surprising to see this figure being high because coming into this season the knock on him was his individual defense. Turns out it was rather exaggerated and in his stints off the bench, he’s been producing and containing his matchups with good effect. The story changes slightly when he’s at the off-guard, which is where he’s -1.8, still not bad for an under-sized two-guard. Looking at this role in Phoenix, it’s not hard to see that he excels in a backup point guard role since that’s a lot of what he did there. According to 82games, Barbosa didn’t spend nearly enough time playing the backup point, and looking back at the season, maybe he should have?

Andrea Bargnani’s natural position isn’t necessarily a four in the NBA

The worst net PER/48 belongs to Andrea Bargnani who came in at -4.9 at the center position. No surprises here. The issue of Bargnani’s “natural position” has come into view since the exit interviews, and the numbers here don’t do much in proving his case that he’s better suited at the four. Bargnani was -1.3 at the four spot but played very little of the position, so let’s look back at years past:

Year Net PER/48 (Time at PF) Net PER/48 (Time at C)
2006-07 0 (27%) -8.1 (4%)
2007-08 -7.1 (37%) -1 (9%)
2008-09 -1.4 (47%) -0.7 (8%)
2009-10 -3.4 (47%) -1.8 (22%)
2010-11 -1.3 (1%) -4.9 (58%)

Hmm…so before last season when he was officially moved over to the center and played only “1%” of his time there, he fared better at the center position for three straight years. I was hoping for a dramatic difference in positional play but wasn’t quite expecting one, mostly because of a long-held belief: positional lines at the bigs are very blurred, and can be simplified by saying that in most cases you need two bigs who play like bigs, regardless of position classification.

Memory recalls his most effective year to be his rookie season where he was a great boost off the bench backing up Chris Bosh, as Rasho Nesterovic occupied a starting center role in a mostly defensive capacity. The stats bear this out and I would be perfectly satisfied with Bargnani reverting to the same role – scoring punch off the bench.

Jose Calderon fares better as a reserve

Jose Calderon has a positive net PER/48, 1.3 to be exact which is greater than the -2.3 of Bayless at the point (BTW, Bayless has an awful -10.5 at the off-guard). In 2009-10 he was -4.0 and the year before that in 2008-09 he was +4.6, prior to that in 2007-08 he was +6.2! This gets better, in 2006-07 he was +5.1! Is it really that much of a shock that Jose Calderon had his best years (in the context of this stat) in the two years he was the designated backup point guard? No, it is not, and it is consistent with the belief that the Raptors have promoted bench players to starting positions in the hopes that they would translate their reserve advantage into the starting lineup. It hasn’t happened.

Some more:

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