Oklahoma City Thunder guard Andre Roberson has been a starter each game this year. But his backup, Alex Abrines, has been more valuable.
A simple glance at his basic counting statistics wouldn’t suggest this, as he averages just 3.8 points per game with 1.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game.
We looked at NBA Math’s FATS Calculator to determine Oklahoma City’s win expectancy based on Dean Oliver’s Four Factors. When he is on the court, the Thunder play like a team on pace to have a 72.6 win percentage.
But when he’s off the court, that rate drops significantly to just a 41.8 win percentage. And no matter how you flip the coin, advanced metrics that look his impact on the team are in favor of Abrines right now.
His total plus-minus (79) is No. 11 overall in the league so far this season, via NBA.com. Additionally, his plus-minus per minute (0.47) is the best among all players who have significant time on the court this season while the second-best mark belongs to Stephen Curry (0.45).
The Thunder currently outscore opponents by 17.0 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court, which helps show that Abrines is the secret sauce that unlocks the best out of his surrounding players in Oklahoma City.
All stats below are adjusted to his on-off numbers per 36 minutes for his teammates, which is perhaps the best way to exemplify the way his presence has helped his team.
Paul George averages 11.6 more points with 2.8 more assists while Carmelo Anthony averages 9.9 more points with 2.1 more assists. Russell Westbrook averages 10.9 more points while Steven Adams averages 2.7 more rebounds.
According to Cleaning The Glass, the team has an effective field goal percentage that’s 9.9 percent better when he’s on the court. They are most notably better on all midrange attempts (+12.5 percent) and corner three-pointers (+29.7 percent) with Abrines playing.
Roberson is a strong defender but more of a liability on offense. But when Abrines is on the court, the opposing team needs to account for him rather than sag off like they do with Roberson.
This allows fewer double team opportunities on Westbrook, George and Anthony. Even though it hasn’t yet led to much offensive production from Abrines, it has made Oklahoma City an even more threatening juggernaut on offense.