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A Look at Personnel Usage Pre- and Post- Covid Pause

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  • A Look at Personnel Usage Pre- and Post- Covid Pause

    As you may remember, our games in the calendar year 2021 ended with the trip to Phoenix to play Georgia Tech; then covid caused a pause in activities, and the Oklahoma State game in Tulsa was canceled. At that point, USC was 12-0. USC resumed games in 2022 with the trip to the Bay Area.

    Below are the numbers -- through the end of the regular season (pre Pac-12 Tourney), segregated by 2021/pre-covid pause and 2022/post-covid pause. The numbers include minutes played per game, True Shooting Percentage, and Plus-Minus (per HoopLens).

    A general hypothesis I've had is that the staff got locked into a certain personnel usage/rotation early on, and failed to make adjustments as the season unfolded, particularly as it became clear that performances were changes over the course of the season. At the end, I will make some observations based on these data:
    2021 Games (Pre-Covid Pause) 2022 Games (Post-Covid Pause)
    Player Min/Gm +/- TS% Min/Gm +/- TS%
    Agbonkpolo, Max 21.7 +107 52.5% 21.3 +3 53.6%
    Anderson, Ethan 22.3 +90 49.7% 20.4 -71 39.4%
    Dixon-Waters, Reese 10.2 +39 56.4% 14.9 ++78 56.5%
    Ellis, Boogie 30.4 +173 53.4% 29.9 +59 53.7%
    Goodwin, Chevez 23.8 +116 60.8% 24.9 +1 51.8%
    Johnson, Kobe 5.3 -6 57.9% 8.7 +6 32.6%
    Mobley, Isaiah 32.3 +166 54.7% 34.8 +49 52.6%
    Morgan, Joshua 14.8 +59 59.5% 10.9 +12 46.2%
    Peterson, Drew 30.9 +140 53.9% 34.0 +44 56.4%
    White, Isaiah 12.4 +49 29.7% 10.9 +33 46.5%
    The first thing that is clear here is that Ethan and Vez gave us less productivity as the season wore on -- and we are playing more conference rivals -- their playing time was largely flat. Vez has gone from being a huge net positive at the beginning of the season, to basically a flat impact on the game, while his true shooting percentage was 9.0 percentage points lower after the covid pause. As has been well-documented, Ethan's fall has been far more stark: from +90 over the first 12 games to -71 over the latter 19 -- while losing more than 10 percentage points on his true shooting. One telling stat, when Ethan and Vez were both in the game before the covid pause, our teams was not at maximum efficiency, but we were still +51 with those two on the court together; after the covid pause, we were -31 with both of them on the court together.

    Joshua Morgan and Max also saw their effectiveness wane somewhat: in the case of Joshua, we did see reduced minutes. For both Joshua and Max, their plus-minus issues are almost entirely tied to playing with Ethan: post-covid pause, when Max was on the court with Ethan, we were -52; but when Max was on the court with Ethan on the bench, we were +60!! For Joshua, we were +53 post-covid pause when he was on the court without Ethan!! But when Ethan was on the court with Joshua, we were -42!!

    So that, on its own, was somewhat a failure to identify a personnel issue: Ethan was much worse or much less bad depending on who he was paired with: for example, our offense was still pretty decent if Ethan was in the game with Drew; but our performance was particularly bad if Ethan was on the court at the same time as Max or Joshua Morgan.

    The other guy worth mentioning here is Kobe Johnson. Post-covid pause, Kobe Johnson played about 17% of all the team's possessions. In about a third of those, Kobe was paired with Ethan: in those possessions, we were -40!! That is a truly extraordinary number considering we basically talking about one full game's worth of possessions! In Kobe's other playing time, when Ethan was on the bench, we were +45!!

    On the other side of things, Reese did see his minutes expand, but clearly not nearly enough. Reese led USC in both plus-minus and true shooting percentage post-covid pause, and yet his minutes per game stayed under 15. That was a gigantic failing by the staff.

    The other player to mention is Isaiah White, who saw his playing time cut even though he was making a positive impact on the court.


    #2 If you have to play Ethan, DO NOT PLAY HIM AT THE SAME TIME WITH MAX, JOSHUA or KOBE!

    #3 Play Isaiah White more minutes ... and if you are going to play Ethan, put Isaiah Mobley at the 5 and Isaiah White at the 4

    #4 Put Kobe Johnson in the normal guard rotation, so long as he is not paired with Ethan. Interestingly, the lineup of Kobe Johnson on the court with Joshua Morgan (so long as Ethan is on the bench) produced some of our best defensive numbers. The lineup of Reese and Kobe together, with Ethan on the bench, also produced some very strong numbers.

    #5 Vez is best matched with Joshua Morgan or Isaiah White, but also performs well when he is the lone BIG in the game and Mobley and Morgan are both on the bench.

  • #2
    Here are the splits (post-covid pause) for guys playing with Ethan vs. when Ethan is on the bench, based on 74 possessions -- which is the average for one game:
    Plus-Plus per 74 Possessions
    Matched Player w/ EA w/o EA Delta
    Kobe -31.8 +20.0 -51.8
    Morgan -15.5 +17.0 -32.6
    Max -16.3 +8.9 -25.2
    I-Mobley -6.7 +13.3 -20.0
    I-White 0.0 +12.6 -12.6
    Vez -5.9 +5.2 -11.1
    Reese +5.2 +14.8 -9.6
    Drew -1.5 +7.4 -8.9
    Boogie -0.7 +8.1 -8.9
    As you can see, matching Ethan with Kobe, Joshua Morgan, Max and Isaiah Mobley just doesn't really work.