I've already bitched about this, here and elsewhere. And I get that our top two centers are hurt, and that there may be good reasons for being conservative with Randolph, and that starting Chris Hunter would probably be a little hasty. I get that Mikki doesn't play as much as the phrase "starting center" suggests, and that every team has to give a bad player 15-20 minutes now and again. I even get that he's a nice guy who's playing hurt, and that he's trying to help us, and that he's taken Hunter under his wing. I get all that, I really do.
But holy hell, Mikki Moore is killing us. Let's sift through the wreckage here.
We'll start with the obvious: Mikki can't score. He averages 11.8 points per 48 minutes, a tiny number -- he's tied for 35th out of 43 NBA centers who've played significant minutes, and if you correct for our fast pace, he's more like 38th. Still, he shoots well when he shoots (.569 from the field), and he passes pretty decently for a center (third among centers in assists per 48 and A/TO, though nobody's setting the world on fire in either category)... at least Mikki plays within his limits on offense. Besides, a number of good players -- Jason Kidd, Anderson Varejao, Chuck Hayes, Thabo Sefalosha -- score as rarely as he does. You can still be a useful player if you do other things really well. Does Mikki do anything really well?
Well, he sure doesn't rebound. Eighty players who ESPN lists as centers have taken the court for NBA teams this year. By rebounds per minute, Mikki is the 73rd-best rebounder of those eighty, and of the seven who are worse, only three have played for more than half an hour total. He would rank 71st out of 90 amongst power forwards; he would rank 24th out of 66, only slightly above average, amongst small forwards. Again, these rankings don't correct for pace... if anything, they overstate his contributions. So he doesn't score, doesn't rebound. What else do we got? Defense, mebbe?
Mikki rates a little better in shot-blocking, but only a little... 61st among centers, by ESPN's reckoning. Steals? 58th among centers, again significantly below average. Blocks and steals don't necessarily equate with good defense, of course... a tight man defender can shut down an opponent in ways that don't show up on the traditional stat sheet. But looking deeper, this explanation doesn't seem to apply to Mikki. Per 82games.com (whose numbers are a couple days out of date), through our first 18 games, our opponents shot significantly better (55.8% to 53.3%) and scored more efficiently overall when Mikki was on the floor. All the evidence, statistical, anecdotal and otherwise, suggests that Mikki makes our defense a good bit worse.
"Okay, so Mikki doesn't score, rebound or defend. He at least doesn't foul much, right? After all, if you never do anything, you're not going to trigger many whistles." If you're Mikki Moore, you are! Mikki ranks 10th in the league in fouls per minute amongst guys who've played a significant amount.
"Well, maybe Mikki returns the favor. Maybe he gets to the line a lot himself. That could balance out all the opponents he sends to the line." No. Dear God, no. Mikki has played 321 minutes... in that time, he has earned a tolal of nine free throws, of which he has made five. Let's be clear on this point: in almost seven full games of basketball, he has netted us five points from the line. Fifteen NBA players give their teams more points from the line per game than Mikki has given us all season. He doesn't score, or defend, or rebound, or draw fouls, or avoid fouls... he may very possibly be the worst player in all of basketball.
The upshot of all of this, most insane and chilling stat of all? Here ya go. We have played Mikki-free lineups in 66.5% of our minutes, just under two-thirds of the time. In that time -- the majority of our minutes so far, encompassing Jack drama and smallness and shorthandedness and all of it -- we get outscored by 0.6 points per 48 minutes. That's not ideal, but it's not terrible, either... a team with that point differential would be expected to go something like 39-43. When Mikki's in? We get outscored by 13.6 points per 48 minutes. That is terrible. No NBA team has ever been outscored by that much over the course of a season... a team with that point differential would be expected to go something like -- no joke -- 4-78. Sans Mikki, we're close to being a .500 team. With Mikki, we're the worst team in the history of basketball by a country mile.
This franchise needs a lot of things. A coaching change would help. A new defensive philosophy would help. Shooting more threes, as I rambled about yesterday, would help. But the easiest change of all is obvious -- it lies in a single conversation that starts like this: "Mikki, we couldn't help but notice that you've been playing in pain. Go ahead and have that surgery you were considering." If we get Mikki off the court, we will have a dramatically better chance of winning every night. There's just no good reason to deny ourselves that chance.