Shane Battier isn't the Memphis Grizzlies' starting small forward, but right now he's certainly the team's most important player at that position. With Rudy Gay on the shelf and Sam Young starting but playing fewer than 20 minutes a game, Battier, a midseason acqusition from the Houston Rockets, has drawn a lot of the responsibility for slowing Kevin Durant. And according to the numbers, he's done a good job.
According to StatsCube, in 105 minutes with Battier on the court this series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis has an efficiency differential of +5.5. In 107 minutes with Battier on the bench, Memphis has an efficiency differential of -6.5. That's a massive 12 points per 100 possessions swing.
How much of the impact has been Battier's defense of Durant versus Battier just receiving minutes when Durant is off the floor? For starters, Battier has rarely played when Durant is on the bench -- Memphis coach Lionel Hollins has only had Battier on the court for 19 minutes with Durant out, and 86 minutes with Durant on.
When both are on, Durant actually shoots quite a bit better than usual -- he's at 56 percent when Battier is on, and 38 percent when Battier is off. But he's shooting less: Battier is limiting Durant to 15 field goal attempts per 36 minutes, while KD is getting 17.4 when Battier is on the bench. The end result, though, is better scoring for Durant against Battier than Young or Tony Allen.
So it's not cut-and-dry. Battier's having a great positive impact, but it's not because he's stopping Durant.
For more on the Grizzlies, visit Straight Outta Vancouver.