The question was posed on this morning’s IU sports chat as to why people were having such a negative reaction to Cody Zeller’s season. That prompted me to take a look using both traditional statistics and efficiency statistics to determine how Zeller’s current season stacks up against his freshman campaign.
Here’s a look at how Zeller’s per game numbers stack up courtesy of www.sports-reference.com.
As you can see, his field goals made and attempted are unchanged, with a slight increase at the free-throw line responsible for the 0.8 increase in points per game. He’s rebounding a little better and fouling a little less, while steals, blocks, assists and turnovers are virtually the same.
Now, more interesting (I think) are looking at Cody Zeller’s numbers in terms of efficiency. According to these numbers, Zeller’s player efficiency rating (PER) is up from 31.3 to 33.7. At the same time, his total rebound percentage (TRB) is up from 14.2 to 16.7.
One of the more interesting lines to me is the usage percentage (USG), which is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by the player when he was on the floor. Last year, the number was 24.3 percent. This year, even though it’s 12 games against mostly inferior competition, the percentage is slightly down to 24.1.
The usage percentage is followed by ratings for offense (ORtg) and defense (DRtg), an estimate of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions. Zeller is providing seven points more on offense and 15 points less on defense. And then there are win shares (WS), roughly the equivalent of wins above replacement (WAR) in baseball sabermetrics. Zeller was responsible for 7.7 wins in 36 games last season. He is responsible for 3.3 wins through 12 games this season. Triple that number for a full season, and you’ve got 9.9 wins for a full 36 games.
So, in the end, is Zeller better than last year? If better is more efficient, then yes. And at the same time, if anything, the Hoosiers have been less reliant (which corresponds to the team depth) on the sophomore. Whether those trends carry over to Big Ten play, we’ll find out starting Monday.