Honestly, it's difficult to quantify “plus/minus” in a basketball box score, and what it means in the bigger scope of a full season.
As an individual statistic from a single game, it's simply the number of points scored either for or against a team while said player was on the floor.
It doesn't take into consideration who was on the floor with who, whether the talent is “balanced,” nor does it factor in things like luck, injuries and other things basketball gods like to fiddle around with in regards to the sports supernatural.
But on Thursday night in the hoops mecca of New York City – Madison Square Garden – former Murray State Racer and 2019 No. 2 draft selection Ja Morant unleashed for a plus-42 in 28 minutes, notching 18 points, 10 assists, three rebounds and no turnovers in a 127-106 annihilation of the lowly New York Knicks.
Plus. Forty. Two.
In December 2017, Boston Celtics general manager and former Celtics great Danny Ainge had this to say about single-game plus/minus:
“The individual game plus-minus stat is worthless,” Ainge said. “I wish they wouldn’t even put that on the individual game. We have adjusted plus-minuses that are much more complex, that we put a lot more stock into than just the raw plus-minus.”
“For an individual game, it doesn't usually mean much,” noted The Athletic's Peter Edmiston on Thursday night. “Unless, as in this case, it's so overwhelming that it dwarfs everyone else. He played 28 minutes and the Grizzlies outscored the Knicks by 42 points when he was out there. So, the Grizzlies lost his bench minutes by 21 points (when Morant sat). Big impact tonight.”
And big impact, in general.
For the Memphis Grizzlies, it was the 11th win of January (11-3 since Jan. 2), and a victory that brought the franchise back to .500 (24-24) for the first time in nearly 400 days (Jan. 2, 2019). The team sits 2.5 games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs for the final slot in the 2020 NBA Western Conference playoffs.
For Morant, it's history once again, as he became the youngest player since former Los Angeles Lakers star and the late Kobe Bryant did it against the Denver Nuggets in 1998. It was his eighth double-double of the season, and ninth time notching 10 or more assists in a game. Memphis is also 17-8 since his return from mild back spasms, and has navigated into one of the better offensive teams in the league.
Morant's MSG performance comes two days after the Grizzlies staved off the Denver Nuggets 104-96 at FedEx Forum in Memphis, where he finished with 14 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals. And tonight, the NBA will reveal its All-Star Reserves squads – with Morant in the mix for a potential call. In January alone, Morant is averaging 17.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 1.2 steals with 53.9% shooting from the floor, 37.5% shooting from the arc and 76.7% shooting from the stripe, with a net plus-88 in these last 14 games.
The Grizzlies close up January on Friday night with a chance to peak above .500 in a road matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans, which are now getting the production from its 2019 No. 1 pick and former AAU teammate of Morant in Zion Williamson.