An Early Look At The Impact Of Shaq & Kidd

While it is still very early to measure the impact of Jason Kidd on the Mavericks and Shaquille O'Neil on the Suns, it is certainly not too soon to see if there are any early trends to pick up on. Two of the most important to use in gauging progress are offensive and defensive efficiency. Let's take a look at how the teams have changed using these broad but important measures.

By the way, I'm not a statistician, so I couldn't find any splits for efficiency pre- and post-trade, so let's just look at a less accurate but still relevant comparison: The efficiency stats to date (including Shaq's and Kidd's games) versus a general average of their efficiency since the new players joined each team. Stats are courtesy knickerblogger.com.

Offense

Phoenix already had a dominant offense before Shaq arrived, so it is not at all a problem if their offense hasn't improved with him in the line-up. In fact, their offense is so dominant that the Suns would probably have welcomed a slight decrease in their offensive production for a big improvement in their defense. So what happened?

Their offensive efficiency this year is 114.9, which ranks them No. 1 in the NBA by a wide margin. In the games since Shaq joined the team, the Suns efficiency looks like this: 122.8, 89.5, 90.5, 128.3, 104.0. So we have two very good games, a poor game, and two very poor games. This averages out to 107, which is a significant drop off in offensive performance.

Again, it is early, but the Suns offense certainly is looking like it took a hit with the departure of Shawn Marion and the arrival of Shaq.

The Mavericks offense for the year has been good, but not at all in Phoenix's class. In terms of efficiency, the Mavericks have a 112.5 efficiency, good for eighth in the league. But how have they been since Kidd arrived? Here are the numbers: 102.2, 106.5, 110.0, 102.0. The average over these games is 105.2.

So in what is probably a surprise to most people, the Mavs offense has gotten worse with Kidd in the line-up to a degree almost as much as the Suns offense has gotten worse with Shaq in the line-up. There are a lot of reasons for this, from the absolutely wretched performance of Josh Howard to the turnovers, but the bottom line may be tough to accept at this point, but it is true: Up to this point, the Mavericks with Kidd in the line-up are simply not as good on offense as they were when Harris was in the line-up. By the way, this certainly lends credence to Wes' point in an earlier post that Dirk's not getting easier shots, he's simply more focused.

Defense

Of course offense is only half the game. I am certain that coach Avery Johnson would gladly sacrifice some offense for a significant improvement in his team's defense, which has been mediocre at best this year. Has Kidd (and Shaq) sparked an improvement on the defensive side of the ball?

For Phoenix this is a critical question. Their athletic team has been able to overcome systemic defensive shortcomings in the past, but they just traded away their single best (and athletic) defender. Will Shaq's presence in the paint more than make up for this? Well, Suns fans, I'm afraid not.

Currently, the Suns defensive efficiency stands at 108.2, which is No. 15 in the NBA. The defense since Shaq has started playing has been absolutely dismal. Here are the numbers (lower is better): 128.7, 81.1, 122.1, 114.1, 121.2. Outside of the Celtics game, the Suns defense has been dramatically worse.

To put this in perspective, the average over those games is 113.4. The worst defense in the NBA belongs to the Knicks with a defensive efficiency of 113.1, and the Suns are worse than that.

It is a spectacularly different story in Dallas. In what I consider a surprise of monumental proportions, Kidd's impact on the team has been overwhelmingly on the defensive side. For the year, the Mavericks defensive efficiency stands at 107.0, around tenth in the league, and about as good as they've done for the season. How has the defense looked with Kidd on the team? Here are the numbers: 114.3, 90.2, 92.2, 94.0.

Outside of Kidd's debut against New Orleans, the Mavericks defense has been spectacular. Their efficiency with Kidd, even including New Orleans, is roughly 97.7. To put this in perspective, the best defense in the league currently belongs to Boston with an efficiency of 100.1. The defense with Kidd is a magnitude better than that.

The Bottom Line

So the real story with Kidd is that his presence has created a more fluid but significantly less efficient offense but has also led to a completely dominant defense. Somehow, I think Avery Johnson feels this is a welcome trade-off. For the Suns, they face the rather depressing situation where Shaq has significantly hurt their offense and absolutely cratered their defense.

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