Coming into the season, Ronnie Brewer at one year of the veteran’s minimum salary looked like a good pickup, but we didn’t really know how good until now. Four games in, and Brewer has already played a crucial role in the Knicks’ success this season. Not only is his on-ball defense superb, but watching him run around the floor chasing his man off the ball is marvelous. On offense he’s been one of the biggest surprises of the year, connecting on more than 50% of his three-point attempts, so far. It’s likely his shooting will regress closer to his career average of 25.7%, but until then… wow.
Ronnie Brewer currently has a defensive RAPM of 3.40, slightly higher than Tyson Chandler’s 3.35, which leads the team. For those of you that are unaware, RAPM essentially measures how many points per 100 possessions an individual is accountable for, in relation to the league average. RAPM basically measures how the entire team does with the player on the floor, and is similar to +/- statistics, but is in terms of 100 possessions.
The league average for defensive efficieny, which is measured by points given up per 100 possessions, is 103.2. Brewer’s 3.4 defensive RAPM means that if you were to add Brewer to that average team, their defensive efficiency would transform from 103.2 to 99.8. Considering current rankings, that would move an 18th ranked defensive team to 10th, a substantial move accountable from just one player.
In the Knicks’ case, without Brewer on the team they’d be allowing 99.1 points per 100 possession, rather than their current 95.7 points per 100 possessions, and while that might not sound like a lot, it is.
Doing a little math, we can see that the team’s defensive efficiency is made up of their points given up per game, currently at 87.5, divided by their pace, which is currently 91.4. Multiplying that by 100, in order to get numbers in terms of 100 possessions, we find that the team’s defensive efficiency is 95.7.
Since we know that if Brewer was to leave the team, to be replaced with an average defensive RAPM player (RAPM of 0) the Knicks’ defensive efficiency would increase to 99.1, and since we know they play at a pace of 91.4, we can solve for the variable of points given up per game, without Brewer’s defensive production. It turns out, without Brewer, the Knicks would be giving up 90.5774 points per game, still a fantastic number, but definitely not as good as their 87.5 with Brewer on the team.
So far this season, Ronnie Brewer has single-handily removed 3.08 points per night from the Knicks’ opponent’s scoring production. Not bad, especially for a guy playing for the minimum salary.
Not only has his defense been impressive, but he’s hitting his jumper, rather consistently, something even Nate Silver couldn’t have predicted.
Coming into this year, Brewer had been a career 25% three-point shooter, but we didn’t hold that against him, as offense isn’t his specialty… defense is. To much of our surprise, though, Brewer is actually connecting on 53.8% of his threes, so far this year, and 58.3% of threes when spotting up. Brewer was always been seen as a terrific defender, but a limited weapon on the offensive side of the floor; however, if he can continue to knock down the open shot, he’ll help spread the floor on offense, and become not only a defensive asset, but an offense weapon, as well.
In summary, Ronnie Brewer has been one of the best pickups in the NBA, not only because of the under-valued contract, but also because of the actual value he’s brining to the team. He’s taking 3.08 points off the board for the Knicks’ opponents each night, and he’s also canning jumpers, which no one could have predicted entering the season. Ronnie Brewer is proving to be one of the invaluable glue guys every title-contending team needs.