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How's Ammo Doing?

Brett (Charlotte, NC): How has Adam Morrison looked to you? He seems to be flourishing (relatively speaking) as a scorer off the bench, where he can guard the opponent's backups. Did people write him off too soon?
John Hollinger: (3:51 PM ET ) He's played like a reasonable NBA backup so far, and his shooting has been a helpful skill on this roster. I doubt he'll ever justify being the third pick, but if he keeps this up he's at least useful.

That exchange seems as good a place to start as any: 9 games into his comeback from a major knee surgery (as well as a (hyperbole) catastrophic rookie campaign), how is Adam Morrison doing? Considering that by Hollinger's metric, PER, Morrison was the worst player in the league receiving extended minutes his rookie year, these first 9 games have to be considered a raging success. Before we can get too excited about this reversal of fortune, it may be prudent to dig a bit deeper.

Let us start by considering PER once again: In Adam's rookie year, he had a mark of 7.91…and league average is 15. According to Hollinger, an increase of 1 in per roughly equates to a win more for your team, over 2000 minutes. Put that together with 2326 minutes played by Ammo that season, and he was worth about 8.5 losses for the Bobcats, relative to an “average” player. The good news: So far this season, Morrison has a PER of 14.31 - nearly average, but a world of improvement from his rookie year, presumably leading Hollinger to call him “a reasonable NBA backup”.

How about by another all-encompassing measure, WP48 (Wins Produced per 48 minutes)? I do not have the actual formula, but Dave Berri of the Wages of Wins Journal was good enough to offer an approximation of the formula:

WP48 = 0.104 + 1.621*PAWSmin (approximation)
Win Score = PTS + REB + STL + .5*BLK + .5*AST - FGA - .5*FTA - TO - .5*PF
PAWSmin = Win Score/time - (position average)

With Morrison playing most of his minutes as a small forward, the position average used is 0.152 (Rebounding is a significant component of WS, and as such, the bigger the guy, the higher the average WS). Once you plug in all the numbers, Adam comes out to a 0.009. Average is 0.1. Adam is decidedly below average, though he is again well ahead of his rookie number (-0.134). We again see Adam having made large strides, but still coming up a bit short of being even average.

Now I want to look at the components of those scores: In Adam's rookie year, he did one thing, shoot. He did not do it effectively though, with a TS% of only 45.0%. He had a rebound rate of 5.8% and an assist rate of 12.4%. While his assists have only gone up slightly, 12.8 assist rate this year, he has made marked improvements in the other two fields. Morrison's true shooting % is up to 56%, a very solid mark. Even better, to me, is that his rebound rate is up to 6.5, a greater than 10% improvement. To me, that shows hustle and a commitment to playing a more complete game. Is it my imagination though?

That is what Ziggy and I discussed earlier today: Were we seeing improvements in Adam's defense because he was making an effort - or because we were making an effort to see an improvement that was not there? The answer - well, it is tough to say, but I am going to give it a tentative yes. For the season, the Bobcat' defensive efficiency is at 107.0 with Adam on the court, 108.0 with him off it. But it is not so simple - who is he shutting down, the starters, the bench, the scrubs? So, I calculated the degree of difficulty faced by every player. Charlotte as a team has faced a cumulative opponent with efficiencies of 106.6 offensive, 105.0 defensive - solid, somewhere between Indiana and Chicago in difficulty. Adam, however, has faced a 101.6/108.6 opponent - like going against Sacramento every night. Summing it up:
The Bobcats's defensive numbers are better with Ammo on the court.
But Adam has played against weaker offenses.
Conclusion - still an improvement from his rookie year, when the team was a 109.7 defensively with him, a 107.6 without.

Unfortunately, I was not able to reach a definite conclusion about Adam's defense from these numbers. But, I can say that he has improved to the point that he is no longer a hindrance to the team. I will not go so far as to say that he has been a revelation, but he has shown improvement and looks to be a contributor now.

Final point: While the Bobcats have faced an opponent with a net efficiency of 1.6, they are at -5.2 as a team. Between the 2 numbers, call it a partially adjusted net efficiency of -3.6 With Adam, it is +3.3 net efficiency, degree of difficulty -7 = partially adjusted net efficiency of -3.7. It is a start for Adam and the Bobcats - so, between that and the haircut, I have no complaints about Ammo right now. Continued improvement and an awkward yet effective offensive game are all I ask.

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