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Tidbits and Trivia: January 12th, 2021

Why Benchwarmers Heat Up, and a Peek at our Peers

Milwaukee Bucks Victory Parade & Rally Photo by Brian Choi/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the re-inaugurated Tidbits and Trivia! Goodbye to the stress of counting games, hello to the elevation of my pre-trivia takes to the status of tidbits. This entails no functional changes to the segment. It seems that there is distaste for all things numbers, so we will continue not to keep score and PEMDAS will not rear its ugly head.

Today I am exploring the likelihood that random scrubs go off against the Bucks.

The example that sparked this column is Caleb Martin. Martin signed a two-way contract with the Heat in September and opened the season with five points in eight minutes against the Bucks. In the next matchup (back in December), he dropped 28 in 33 minutes. His season average? 8.9.

It did not come out of nowhere - he had scored double digits in four of the five games prior, as well as six of seven games after he emerged from protocols after Christmas. It is also not a fair comparison due to discrepancies in minutes played; this year adds the further complication that, with playing time radically shifting at moment’s notice due to Covid-19, bench players are likely to have more outlier games compared to their season averages.

But, throwing caution to the wind, I thought I would analyze the recent data (read: look at box scores and season averages) to see if they support this trend. I inspected the last four games (on Sunday, January 9th) and found the greatest outliers, calculated as the difference between the points they scored in that game and their season average.

This provides mixed support for my expectations. The Brooklyn game is a good example. KD got his, Harden was kept in check, and guys like Cam Thomas were left open on the perimeter. The Detroit game features the highest outliers, likely owing to their ocean of injuries. But although Cunningham and Bey are their leading healthy scorers, Josh Jackson is most certainly not. Against Charlotte, there were very few outliers. Among their cadre of five leading scorers (Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball), three were held close to their averages, with Rozier going high and Hayward going low. Finally, the Raptors game does not accord with our prediction, as Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. are second and fourth, respectively, in scoring. But the Bucks were probably right to focus on Fred VanVleet, who was held below his season average (!).

This exercise would need to be improved in a number of ways to reach firmer conclusions, but I think they point to the Bucks being successful in focusing their defensive resources to limit the opposing teams’ best players. As this is likely a goal of most teams, it would be interesting to see how the Bucks compare in this regard. It would also be intriguing (and way beyond my pay grade) to evaluate defensive schemes on similar criteria (e.g., does switching allow more outliers than zone?). Last, I also wonder whether this is necessarily the best strategy. Outlier games signify that stars receive more attention and are able to funnel the ball to their less regarded counterparts for open looks. At least in the Bucks’ case, I would rather Giannis be held to under his season average and rack up assists for threes to our own random scrubs.

Two alternative explanations should also be noted. When the Bucks play like they did against the Nets last Friday, there is plenty of garbage time for benchwarmers to rack up points, complicating this analysis. It could also be that what defines a good player is not just about the number of points they score - it’s the relatively small standard deviation. A bench player may be on the bench because they oscillate from 0 to 20 on a given night, but a starter may remain in the lineup by consistently scoring 15.

Overall, despite the exasperation in the Brew Hoop group chat at these sort of outlier games, I would rather give open looks to Cam Thomas than, say, Kevin Durant.

As we move into the new year and inch closer to that playoffs thing, I thought a round of trivia on our peers / rivals in the Eastern Conference was in order. To those of you holding Bulls, Nets, Heat, Sixers, or Cavs knowledge - this is your moment to shine.

Good luck! The answers are in the comments below.

Question #1


Which Bulls’ player was the first in franchise history to hit back-to-back game-winners?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    A: DeMar DeRozan
    (40 votes)
  • 11%
    B: Derrick Rose
    (8 votes)
  • 15%
    C: Michael Jordan
    (11 votes)
  • 14%
    D: Jerry Sloan
    (10 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now

Question #2


Which Wisconsin Herd player was signed to a ten-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets in mid-December?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    A: Wenyen Gabriel
    (25 votes)
  • 12%
    B: Jemerrio Jones
    (8 votes)
  • 31%
    C: Rayjon Tucker
    (20 votes)
  • 17%
    D: Tremont Waters
    (11 votes)
64 votes total Vote Now

Question #3


Who is leading the Heat in 3P%?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    A: Tyler Herro
    (19 votes)
  • 4%
    B: Kyle Lowry
    (3 votes)
  • 11%
    C: Duncan Robinson
    (8 votes)
  • 55%
    D: P.J. Tucker
    (37 votes)
67 votes total Vote Now

Question #4


Sixers’ star Joel Embiid was born in which African capital city, where he was mentored by an Old Friend?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    A: Cairo
    (3 votes)
  • 48%
    B: Lagos
    (28 votes)
  • 10%
    C: Luanda
    (6 votes)
  • 36%
    D: Yaounde
    (21 votes)
58 votes total Vote Now

Question #5


In last week’s column on Jrue’s all-star chances, Van predicted that which Cavs player would make the all-star game?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    A: Jarrett Allen
    (29 votes)
  • 34%
    B: Darius Garland
    (21 votes)
  • 3%
    C: Kevin Love
    (2 votes)
  • 14%
    D: Evan Mobley
    (9 votes)
61 votes total Vote Now