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DeMarre Carroll or Josh Howard: Who should start?

After DNews writer Jody Genessy posted this on Twitter, I'll be honest: I got angry. After all of this success with Carroll in the starting lineup, Corbin is considering replaying the Josh Howard show?

That being said, If we're honest, the reason we've been playing so well is not DeMarre, but the others in the lineup. If we hold that one of them has to start (and while the Millsap/Favors/Jefferson lineup has been our best this season, I don't think Corbin is likely to start all of them), who should get the minutes? The brilliant thing about statistics is that we can use them to remove our biases, and find out what's really going on. Which player has been better?

Shooting:

These are both players' statistics from different parts of the floor, from hoopdata.com:

S5oyz_medium

Josh Howard, inside 15 feet, isn't a terrible shooter. Those are relatively efficient plays. It's a little bit interesting that he's only assisted on 27.8% of his shots between 10-15 feet, that would seem to be the result of his isolation plays (and/or awkward pull up jumpers in transition).

On the other hand, DeMarre Carroll is a much better outside shooter. Where Howard really hurts the team is from outside of 16 feet, taking 4.2 shots per game from outside and only making 1.3. That's simply not going to get it done. Carroll takes fewer shots, but better ones. As a result, Carroll's eFG% is much better: 46.9% to 40.7%.

Edge: Carroll

Rebounding:

In short, Carroll is a much better offensive rebounder than Howard (9.4% of OREBs to 4.5%), but Howard is a much better defensive rebounder (13.7% to 7.8% DREBs). In general, I'd rather have the extra possessions that the offensive rebounds provide, but that's kind of wishy washy. What other evidence can we look at?

Interestingly, the defensive rebounds Howard is gathering turn out to be ones that the Jazz would already normally get. We can tell this by looking at what percentage of rebounds the Jazz get when Carroll is on the floor, and compare that to the same percentage for Carroll. When Howard is in the game, the Jazz gather 36.6% of offensive rebounds and 66.8% of defensive rebounds. When Carroll is in, on the other hand, the Jazz gather 43.5% of offensive rebounds and 69.3% of defensive rebounds. In short, when Carroll is in, his hustle gives the Jazz more rebounds than they would normally get otherwise on both ends.

Edge: Carroll

Passing, Blocks, and Steals:

The truth is, these players are fairly equivalent in these three categories:

  • Carroll's assist percentage is slightly better than Howard's, 8.7% to 8.0.
  • Carroll's steal percentage is slightly better, 1.9% to 1.7.
  • Howard's block percentage is slightly better, 0.7% to 0.2%.
  • The only differential is perhaps in their turnover percentages: Howard turns the ball over on 11.7% of his possessions, Carroll only 8.8%.

That's probably statistically significant, and means that Howard turns the ball over .8 times more per game. Let's be honest: these categories aren't either of these players' calling cards.

Edge: Even

Defense:

Defense is always hard to measure statistically. What I've taken to doing is simply evaluating each player across all of the defensive statistics I can find. If they all tell the same story, there's likely a conclusion to be drawn.

Here's the screenshot from mySynergySports (click to expand if you can't see it). The top player is Howard, the bottom is Carroll.

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As you can see, Synergy thinks Carroll is a terrible defender. His opponents average more than a point per possession when defended by Carroll, good for 438th in the league. He's especially getting toasted on isolations and defending spot-up shooters.

Howard isn't a great defender, but he's average, good for 0.87 PPP against. He defends isolation plays and spot-up shooters really well, his length makes a difference on those plays. He does less well when players post him up, for relatively easy scores.

These statistics are backed up by those gathered from other sources. Basketballvalue.com's stats show the Jazz' DRTG going up (which is bad) 6.24 points when Carroll is in the game, while it improves 0.78 points when Howard is in the game. In 20 or so minutes per game, that's a difference of 3 points.

Edge: Howard

Conclusion:

The question, then, is does Carroll give you those 3 points per game back on offense and on the rebounding glass?

The DeMarre Carroll rebounding difference (remember, almost 10% with both offensive and defensive rebounds) means that the Jazz would likely get about 2 more rebounds per game with Carroll on the floor, probably worth about two points.

Where Carroll helps on offense is by knowing his role. In short, where Howard takes terrible, low percentage outside shots, Carroll usually tends to avoid them. By basketballreference's Win Shares metric, Howard has actually been below replacement level as an offensive player this year, contributing -0.2 wins on offense (Carroll has contributed 0.5 OWS in his limited minutes). When Carroll is in the game, those opportunities go to the better players on our team.

Whether Corbin should play Howard or Carroll completely depends on if Howard can cut back on the inefficient offensive opportunities. If he can, Howard's significant defensive advantages would likely win out over the hustle of Carroll on the glass. On the other hand, if Howard cannot prevent himself from consistently doing dumb... stuff, Carroll's the only choice.

That is, besides starting Millsap/Favors/Jefferson.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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