There has been a lot of discussion in other threads about Simpson (is he a “lock down defender” or a guy who plays passing lanes well) and Winston (his offensive efficiency numbers and how to assess them, and how he is as a defender), and their relative merits. Part of the problem is that defensive stats are more difficult to measure than are offensive stats. It’s difficult to analyze the impact of team defense, switches, closeouts, etc. vis-a-vis individual defense when looking at an opponent’s stats. In addition, an opponent’s efficiency is impacted by play occurring when he is on the floor and the defender in question is sitting on the bench.
Nonetheless, if you look at efficiency numbers for a player’s primary guard over a significant number of games against quality opponents, and compare them with how the same primary guard does against other opponents, it seems like you can get a good idea–not perfect, but better than simply the “eye test”–of a player’s defensive prowess, especially if you’re comparing teams of comparable defensive levels, so that you don’t have one guy benefitting from an elite team defense while the other suffers from a bad one. Last year, in Bart Torvik’s stats, this was the case for Michigan and MSU (Michigan was the 3rd rayed defense nationally, and MSU was 9th).
Simpson regained his starting spot at the beginning of January and thereafter, played 26 games against Big Ten or NCAA Tournament opponents. The quality of competition he played was excellent–the NPOY (Brunson), 2 conference POYs (Gray and Custer), an NBA draftee (Carr), and no less than other 11 games against guys who made the UMHoops/Inside the Glass top 25 for this coming year (3 games against Edwards, 3 against Bohannon, 2 against Winston, 2 against Cowan and 1 against Frazier). The year-long average efficiency rating for the guys playing against Simpson was 111.0 (100 is average). Taken only for games against top 50 opponents, the average for the guys playing against Simpson was 102.0. Against Simpson, the number was 95.7 (i.e., his numbers were considerably better than average overall, and noticeably better even those of defenders on elite teams).
Ironically, Simpson’s offensive efficiency numbers were better against top 50 opponents than they were against overall competition. For the year, he was 104.6 against all opponents, and 105.5 against top 50 teams. These numbers pretty much mirror his post-December numbers.
Winston’s numbers show some opposite trends. He played 20 games starting in January against either Big Ten or NCAA Tournament teams. On defense, the average overall efficiency of his primary guard was 107.1. The average efficiency against top 50 opponents of those players was 101.9. Against Winston, the number was 105.5 (i.e., his numbers were slightly better than average overall, but below defenders on elite teams). Offensively, his year-long efficiency numbers overall were, as Dylan put it, ridiculous (129.2), but against top 50 teams, those numbers dropped off a cliff to 105.2 (lower than Simpson’s against top 50 opponents).
This is not meant to form definitive conclusions as to the relative worth of Winston and Simpson–as noted, the stats are not perfect by any means, and even the offensive stats need context in terms of who else surrounded the players. It is, however, designed to provide some thoughts as to why those of us who are Simpson fans are not simply wearing maize and blue goggles.
Have at me.