At 2:00 am on Wednesday morning, after the Charlotte Bobcats fell to the Los Angeles Lakers 101-100, I’d had enough of Byron Mullens.
I ranted about him on Twitter the entire game, I ranted about him in the recap I wrote after the game, and I ranted about him to everyone of my friends who was still up after the game, and when they went to sleep I ranted about him to my dog.
When she got tired of it and left me to sulk in the desperate emptiness that is Bobcats basketball, I started thinking.
Damn my thoughts. Nothing good happens after 2 am. NOTHING.
I thought I caught Mullens dead-to-rights. I swore I had enough evidence to pack into a tidy manilla folder, present to Michael Jordan, and send Seven-feet-of-smooth to the end of the bench.
The stats were clear as polished glass before I looked them up. The facts as sound as the logic that says “two plus two equals four“.
In games that Mullens went chucking, the Bobcats lost. In games that Mullens was near the top of the leader board in minutes played, the Bobcats lost.
I was sure of it.
Then I did the math.
In Charlotte’s seven wins, Mullens averaged 11 shots, and was third in minutes played. In the team’s 17 losses, he averaged 12 shots, and was 3.6th in minutes played.
To the honest man, those statistics make no sense. To a level headed thinker, those stats scream, “OPERATOR ERROR”. To human beings who know anything about logic, those numbers could not be right.
So I did the math again.
In wins… Mullens… 11 shots, third in minutes. In losses… 12 shots, 3.6th in minutes.
My spirit was broken.
This couldn’t be right.
Mullens had to average more than just one shot per game more in losses than in wins. There’s no way he could be further down the minutes ladder when the Bobcats lost and further up it when they won.
I was devastated.
I needed a stat that proved Mullens was the reason for Charlotte’s woes this year. I had to prove the ‘Cats would be better off if he shot and played less. My thirst for redemption was unquenchable.
I came up with a new stat.
When Charlotte won, Mullens had to, at the very least, be in the middle of the pack in shots taken and minutes played. When they lost, he had to be near the top in both.
Even after quadruple checking the arithmetic, I was wrong.
In the Bobcats’ seven wins, Mullens played an average of 34 minutes and was, on average, third in shots attempted. In the team’s 17 losses, he played, astonishingly, an average of just 29 minutes. In those losses, he was, on average (rounded up from 2.7), third in shots attempted.
How could the Bobcats have won more games when Mullens played more minutes? How could his shot attempts be virtually equal in Charlotte’s wins and losses?
My self esteem was dropping through the floor. Through the bedrock. My integrity dissolved. My mind turned to mush.
It was 3:15 am.
I needed answers.
I needed the numbers to agree with my eyes.
I came up with a last ditch effort to justify the amount of sleep I’d already lost looking at the box scores of every game Mullens played in this year.
Mullens’ three-point shooting had to be at least one of the reasons for Charlotte’s 17 losses.
He had to miss a ton more threes in losses than wins. He had to make way less threes in wins than losses. He had to take more threes in losses than wins.
I hope these numbers don’t adversely affect you like they did me.
In Charlotte’s seven wins, Mullens averaged 4.85 three-point attempts, 1.14 made three-pointers and 3.7 missed three-pointers. In losses, he averaged 4.58 three-point attempts, 1.47 made three pointers and 3.11 missed three-pointers.
Mullens is averaging more three point attempts, less makes and more misses in Bobcats wins than in losses.
Is the sample size of Charlotte’s wins too small to focus all this effort on Mullens’ numbers?
Have statistics morphed into nothing more than a useless set of mismatched symbols?
Is the pool of pink liquid that once was my brain incapable of comprehending this information?
Or am I looking in the wrong direction… at the wrong numbers.
At 4:07 am, those thoughts clouded my mind as I tried to figure out how the guy who’s second in minutes played on the Charlotte Bobcats affects the team both negatively and positively.
It wasn’t a minutes issue. The stats said it had nothing to do with his three point shot selection.
I decided to stop looking for my own statistical analysis and examine some readily available numbers.
What I found was every bit enlightening as it was infuriatingly simple.
In Charlotte’s seven wins, Mullens shot 41 percent from the floor, had a free-throw percentage of .737, grabbed 9.6 rebounds per game, dished out 1.9 assists per game, blocked 1.4 shots per game, and swiped one steal per game. In losses those numbers dropped to 35 percent, .733, 6.9 boards, 1.2 assists, 0.6 blocks, and 0.8 steals.
It took literally 10 minutes for me to figure out how Mullens helped the team in wins and hurt it in losses. Because of my insistence that his horrible three-point shooting was the reason for Charlotte’s struggles, it took me more than two hours to reach the following conclusion, though.
When Charlotte wins, Mullens is active in every aspect of the word and on both ends of the floor. He creates more possessions for the Bobcats by getting rebounds and steals. He makes those possessions count more by hitting a higher percentage of his shots. He makes sure not every opponent possession counts by blocking shots.
When the Bobcats lose he does the exact opposite; Mullens is lazy on the glass, bad on defense and terrible with his overall shot selection.
It’s become clear that head coach Mike Dunlap will ride with Mullens the rest of the season.
Despite what I set out to prove, and despite the almost two-and-a-half hours of work I put into this now rambling and probably incoherent post, if the Bobcats are going to have any chance of finishing with a respectable record, Mullens’ hard-to-watch, but statistically irrelevant three-point shooting won’t have anything to do with it.
Seven-feet-of-smooth is just going to have to become more consistent, in a positive way, on both ends of the floor.