My numbers say the Dwight Howard Lakers won’t be dominant

August 10, 2012

Using a win prediction system I used with some success to accurately forecast last season’s Laker record and Clipper record and Bucks record, I took a stab at an early forecast of the new Dwight Howard/Steve Nash Lakers.  My numbers don’t forecast Laker domination next season, which surprised me.  My early prediction is that the Lakers will post 52.7 wins and 29.3 losses, making them a homecourt playoff team, but not necessarily a shoe-in for the NBA Finals.

Click Here to see the LA Lakers Breakdown

After the Big 4, the Lakers are junk

I have to throw in the caveat that the only roster I had to work with was the “under contract” roster listed in the salary section of Hoopshype.  I can’t possibly believe this will be the Lakers Opening Night roster.   There are too many glaring holes.  For example, right now the Lakers have Devan Ebanks as their only backup shooting guard.  That’s untenable. He stinks.

Putting that aside, though, the major question mark for the Lakers next season will be the role and productive capacity of PF Antawn Jamison.  When he was in Cleveland without LeBron, and in his last season in Washington, his production was horrible.  On the other hand, during his short stint with LeBron in Cleveland, his production was okay.  So which is it?  Is he no longer suited to a lead role, and instead more comfortable and productive as a support player?  Or was that short stint an aberration temporarily disguising the sharp decline of an aging, undersized power forward who no longer has the athleticism he once relied upon to be a productive player?  I’m not sure, but I have to go with the evidence, and the evidence suggests Jamison is shot.  Therefore, if the Lakers lean heavily on Jamison, which it looks as though they have to do given their roster and salary structure, then that reliance will cost them dearly.

Another reason the team is not that much better is the substitution effect.  While the Lakers have gained two extremely productive players in Nash and Howard, their impact is blunted a bit because the Lakers have lost two other productive players — SF Matt Barnes and C Andrew Bynum.  The pair combined to produce 14.8 wins and no losses for the Lakers last season.  Nash and Howard will do better, but not dramatically better.

But again, the main reason for the surprisingly weak victory prediction is the team’s complete lack of depth.  My numbers predict that the team’s Big 4 — Howard, Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash, will combine to produce 42.8 wins and 2.2 losses.  My numbers predict the rest of the roster will produce only 9.9 wins and 27.1 losses.  After the Big 4, the Lakers don’t have much.

Remember though, I assume the Lakers will upgrade their bench talent before the start of the season.  If and when they do I will revise my numbers.

Coach K could blow the Olympics

August 4, 2012

Team USA received a huge scare this morning from Team Lithuania.  Team USA was outshot and outrebounded, and one of the guys doing the outshooting and outrebounding was the horrible Darius Songalia.  Never should happen.  The Americans were lucky to escape with a 99-94 win.

This might be Coach K’s fault.  Lithuania shot a ridiculous 58% from the floor against Team USA.  This might be due to the fact that Coach K (I’m not spelling his last name) insists on playing a small lineup.  Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love, the only two legitimate big men on the team combined for only 20 minutes of action.  Love may have rescued Team USA in his few minutes because he roped in 4 offensive rebounds in that little bit of time.  Without the offensive boards, Team USA goes down to a shocking defeat (its not that Team USA is unbeatable, its that Team Lithuania is vastly inferior).

Coach K is proving to be one of those coaches who doesn’t understand the importance of size and possessionary basketball, and overvalues scoring and the mythical “shot creation”.  If he continues his small lineups, he could blow a heretofore un-blowable Gold Medal for Team USA.

EDIT: Team Lithuania posted a Team Win Score of 40.5, whereas Team USA posted a 46.0, so Team USA deserved to win… but that’s WAY too close.   And did I point out that Lithuania shot 63% on two pointers?? That means the lane had an “open for business” sign in it.  That’s ridiculous.  The thing that saved USA’s bacon was the steal gap — 17 to 3.  That’s apt, since that’s what Coach K is relying on —  superior athleticism.  That may not work.  I’d rather rely on basketball skill along with size and muscle.

Zack Grienke trade: Brewers get 2 mediocre pitchers and a decent shortstop

July 27, 2012

Tonight the Milwaukee Brewers traded star pitcher Zack Grienke to the LA Angels in exchange for two pitching prospects (Ariel Pena and John Hellweg) and a shortstop (Jean Segura).  The shortstop could be okay, depending on his defense, but the pitchers look mediocre or worse.

MY SIMPLE METHOD

When evaluating pitchers, my theory — and its not a novel one — is that the only “bases allowed” to the opponent that they truly have control over are bases allowed on walks, hit-by-pitch, and home runs, and that the only outs they can be credited with producing are strikeouts.  Everything else is dependent, to a large extent, on the fielding behind them and dumb luck.  So I judge pitchers according to the bases THEY allow and the outs THEY produce.

PITCHER BASES / PITCHER OUTS

The NL average Pitcher Bases/Pitcher Outs this season is 0.884 (I’m not counting HBP, because the Baseball Cube does not provide minor league HBP).  This season Zack Grienke’s PB/PO for the Brewers was an outstanding 0.442.  As a minor leaguer, Grienke posted a 0.621, and for his whole Major League career he has posted an above average 0.721.  He’s a very good pitcher.  I’m not as keen on either Hellweg or Pena.

Both pitchers performed at the AA level this season, and neither has advanced past that level.  For his minor league career, Hellweg has so far posted a PB/PO of 0.830.  That portends trouble because it is not far enough below the NL average to project Hellweg as an above average or even average ML pitcher.  More troubling still is Hellweg’s PB/PO at his highest level (AA): 1.045.  That’s awful.  Hellweg’s problem is that he lacks control and walks far too many batters.

Pena is a little more promising.  His minor league PB/PO so far is 0.794.  However, his AA level PB/PO is too high at 0.882.  Again, that would project him below average as a major leaguer.

Why are these numbers important?  Because pitchers are going to allow base hits that are not their fault.  The occasional dribbler, the seeing eye single, the double in the corner that the power hitting left fielder isn’t good enough to catch.  He can’t do anything about that.  But, the fewer bases he allows on his own accord, the less painful are those bases he cannot control.  And the same applies for strikeouts.  The more strikeouts, the fewer balls that are put in play, the lesser chance that said balls become bases which then could become runs.   In other words, pitchers like Grienke who give up fewer pitcher bases for every strikeout make the defense’s job easier and make the occasional basehit less painful.

THE SHORTSTOP SEGURA

As for Jean Segura, the shortstop prospect, I cannot speak very much on him because the most important task for a shortstop is to make outs in the field.  I don’t know how well he does that.  But, I do know that his bat has been okay.  The NL average Hitter Bases/Hitter Outs this season is 0.681.  Segura’s minor league average was 0.858, well above the major league average.  Now, we can expect that to decline when he gets to the majors, but its hard to predict how far.  I do note that Segura’s average at his highest substantive level of competition (AA) was only 0.747, which is troubling.  But, if he can provide a strong glove, the Brewers can live with him being merely a decent bat.

OVERALL

Overall, the Brewers didn’t get much for Zack Grienke.  But, that’s to be expected.  Nobody wants to give up much for a short term rental player like Grienke.  The days of the Doyle Alexander trades are long over.  The Brewers probably did as well as could be expected.

 

Early estimate: 2012-12 Milwaukee Bucks will go 42-40

July 25, 2012

Using a technique I used with some success (in a limited sample size) last season, I did an early estimate of the number of wins I think the presently constituted Milwaukee Bucks roster will produce in the 2012-13 NBA season.

Bucks 2012-13 Estimated Win Chart

Methodology

First, I went to Hoopshype and determined which players were under contract to the Bucks for next season.

Second, I took a guess at the number of minutes each contract player would play based upon how many minutes they have played in the past, how Scott Skiles has used them in the past, and their age.  I had to take a big guess when it came to John Henson and Tobias Harris, but I’m thinking each will be used a lot for a rookie and second year player.

Third, I estimated the “winning percentage” each player would produce based on a weighted average of their last three, two, or one seasons, depending on the number of NBA seasons each has played.

Example using Ilyasova 

So, for example, Ersan Ilyasova has played more than three seasons.  In the past 3 seasons he has posted winning percentages of 0.787%, 0.467%, and 0.538%, respectively.  To estimate what I think he might produce next season, I gave triple weight to his most recent percentage, double weight to his second most recent percentage, and single weight to his most distant percentage and then divided the sum of all of those numbers by 6 to get an estimated 2012-13 winning percentage for Ersan Ilyasova of 0.639%.  Since I estimate he will be alloted about 2152 minutes of playing time, I believe he will account for 8.9 “Player Games” (minutes/241.2) and will produce 5.7 wins and 3.2 losses for the Bucks.

Dalembert will add wins above 0.500%, Monta Ellis will subtract wins above 0.500%

I am projecting that the addition of Samuel Dalembert will provide a large positive for the Bucks.  I am tempted to give him more minutes, because the Bucks don’t have much behind him at the center position, but throughout his career his minutes have hardly ever wavered from the 25-26 minute per game number.  He simply hasn’t shown that he is a 34 minute a game player, so I cannot project him as such.

On the other hand, unfortunately, Monta Ellis has always been a high minute player, but for the last three seasons he has not produced win numbers that would even place him in the upper half of the NBA.  Will Skiles realize Ellis’ likely destructive impact? I’m guessing he will not, unless Ellis really falters.  Thus, I cannot minimize the negative impact Ellis will have on the Bucks bottom line.

In fact, I am projecting that the former Golden State combo of Ellis and Udoh will have a large negative impact on the team and will cost them 5 full games above 0.500%, meaning, if the Bucks give the Ellis and Udoh minutes to a 0.500% player they will be a 47 win team, but I’m projecting they will not.

Harris and Henson

My early estimate of Henson was that he would be a below 0.500% win producer as a rookie.  However, I saw enough in the Summer League numbers to cautiously make him an above o.5oo% win producer.  I am leery of that projection, but for now I will stick with it.

I am much more sanguine about Tobias Harris.  He was only slightly below 0.500% last season, and therefore I am fairly comfortable projecting him at slightly above 0.500% next season.

Areas for Growth

Where could the Bucks pick up extra wins?  For starters, they could trade Monta Ellis for a decent win producer.  That would help a lot.  They could also get a decent backup center and get rid of their awful backup trio of Udoh, Sanders, and Gooden.  They could give more minutes to the underappreciated win producer Beno Udrih.  Or, Ersan Ilyasova could post the same lights out shooting numbers next season that he did last season and therefore post a higher winning percentage than I project.

But what tends to happen is the changes (or flat out errors) cancel each other out and the estimate ends up being in the right neighborhood. So absent some major addition, the 2012-12 Bucks will be slightly above 0.500%… I think.

Milwaukee Bucks lacking a top part

July 25, 2012

The Milwaukee Bucks seem to have assembled a good collection of slightly above average to middling players, but they if you check out their Win Chart, they have no players that contributed anything near superstar value.

Click Here for 2011-12 Bucks Win Chart

Ilyasova, Jennings, and Dunleavy (when healthy)

The team can take solace in the improvement shown by Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings.  Each player posted his best numbers of his career so far.

I thought Ilyasova’s improved numbers were perhaps driven by additional defensive rebounds he grabbed in the absence of former Bucks C Andrew Bogut, but that was not true.  Ilyasova actually had about the same defensive rebounding rate.  His improvement came from offensive rebounding and much improved shooting from every spot on the court.  Can he maintain his improved FG%?  I kind of doubt it, but then again, its possible.  But his rebounding alone makes him valuable.  If he could just improve his defense…

Why was Brandon Jennings better?  Because he finally learned how to finish at the rim.  For his entire career I’ve been saying that if he could find a way to complete plays at the rim his numbers would go up and they did.  He was also much more careful with the basketball.  His turnover rate plummeted.

Harris looked promising

Rookie Tobias Harris was far more productive than I thought he would be.   He was an outstanding field goal shooter and free throw shooter, and he got to the line often.  He also proved willing to roll up his sleeves and get to the rebounds.  What he didn’t do was play defense, but that should come.  The early signs look promising.

Bucks last two first rounders excel in Summer League

July 25, 2012

The Milwaukee Bucks, a team in desperate need of any kind of hope, may have gotten some out of the Orlando Summer League.

The Bucks last two first round picks, SF Tobias Harris and PF John Henson, played excellent basketball.  Henson was particularly outstanding, posting a Win Score average of 13.11, whereas Harris posted a very respectable 9.48 WS.

I still think Henson, who is rail thin, needs to put on some muscle.  But if he posts offensive rebound numbers next winter like he posted this summer, I really don’t care.

As for Harris, he actually continued the impressive production he showed as a rookie.  Last season he posted an unexpectedly high WS of 8.76, but he struggled on the other end, posting a too high DWS of 9.26 for a negative MWS of -0.24 (I’ll post the Bucks entire Win Chart in my next post).  But that’s to be expected from a rookie, especially one so young.

Now, if the Bucks can get superior production out of the two forward positions, and Jennings continues his ascent…

The 2004 US Olympic bronze medal basketball team was really mediocre

July 14, 2012

The 2004 US Olympic basketball team humiliated their nation and the National Basketball Association when they finished third in the Olympic tournament.  A couple of days ago I examined the NBA win numbers for this year’s Olympic team and the Dream Team.  Today, I put the Nightmare Team through the same examination, and found some surprisingly mediocre numbers.

Click Here to see an NBA Win Chart for the 2004 Olympic Team

Click Here for an explanation of each column in the Win Chart

2004 TEAM HAD MEDIOCRE PLAYERS AT KEY POSITIONS

The average NBA winning percentage for the 1992 Dream Team was 1.115%, and that included the rookie average posted by Christian Laettner, a player who did not belong on the team but was added to soften the Olympic Team’s transition from an amateur team to professional team.

The average NBA winning percentage for this year’s US Olympic basketball team is 0.923%, which I initially found a little scary.  I no longer find it scary, because the combined winning percentage for Team Fail from 2004 was an incredibly low 0.641%.

Now granted, the 2004 team was still an above average NBA team, and they still should have mopped the floor up with any team that featured any non-NBA players, but still… that was a pretty weak team.  The team featured the perennially overrated backcourt combination of Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson, along with a host of very young, not-ready-for-prime-time players like Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Emeka Okafor, and Carmelo Anthony.

The 2004 team only had two truly elite players, and both were frontcourt players (Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer).  The overrated players in the backcourt controlled the basketball.  That was a problem.  Both Marbury and Iverson played awful basketball and basically shot the team to some shocking losses, one of which was an unfathomable blowout loss to a Puerto Rican team that starred former Milwaukee Bucks reserve big man Daniel Santiago (whom I once saw walking with his girlfriend on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago — I yelled to him “Daniel, what’s up… Go Bucks!” — and he looked back at me like I was drunk.  He was wearing a black ski cap as I recall.).

Still, as mediocre as that 2004 team was, it still won the bronze medal.  So, this year’s US Olympic team should have no problem winning the Gold Medal, though I do expect them to have at least two close games.

Kobe Bryant is dreaming if he thinks the 2012 team is better than the Dream Team

July 12, 2012

Kobe, Kobe, Kobe…

Yesterday Kobe Bean Bryant told the media that the current United States Olympic Team would probably beat the legendary 1992 Dream Team if the two teams squared off.  Bryant reasoned that most of the current US Olympic team players are at or are close to their prime ages whereas in 1992 the better Dream Team members were a bit long in the tooth.

I was skeptical, so I tested Bryant’s thesis.  Using MWS, I compared the production of the Dream Team during the NBA season that preceded its Olympic campaign (1991-92) and compared those numbers to the numbers produced by the 2012 Olympic team during the last NBA season.  Based on my calculations, I think Bryant is very wrong.

DREAM TEAM FEATURED MORE PRODUCTIVE PLAYERS

By the summer of 1992, Magic and Bird had gotten up in years, but other key players on the Dream Team, like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, and Karl Malone, were still relatively young.  And almost all of them were uberproductive basketball players in 1991-1992.  9 of the 12 Dreamers produced negative losses (compared to 6 on the 2012 team) and none of the Dreamers produced the mediocre numbers produced by Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams (I don’t count Laettner, because he had not played in the NBA yet, and he was more or less a politically driven choice).  Taken together, the Dream Team featured much more production than this year’s Olympic team.

I make the above statements based on two separate Win Charts I produced, one featuring the NBA production of the 2012 Olympic team in the current season, and one featuring the Dream Team’s production in the 1991-92 NBA season.  As the Charts will show, even if one includes the political selection of Christian Laettner, the Dream Team still produced a far superior overall NBA winning percentage of 1.115% in 1991-92 compared to the 2012 team’s overall winning percentage last season of 0.923%. (When reading the Charts, remember that last season was not a full season.  Thus, the cumulative numbers, like (a) wins and losses (W__L); (b) wins above 0.500% (W>0.5%)'; and Value Rating (VL) cannot be directly compared between the 2012 team and the Dream Team.  To compare those numbers, divide them by 0.8).

(Both Charts, plus explanations of the information contained in each, can be accessed by banging on the links listed below.)

Click Here to see the two Olympic Win Charts

Click Here for a brief explanation of each of the statistics contained in the Charts

Click Here to read the logic behind the basketball metric Marginal Win Score

ANALYSIS: Dream Team was loaded

In his rebuttal to Bryant, Charles Barkley said the Dream Team would crush the 2012 team, and he surmised that the only 2012 players good enough to make the Dream Team roster are LeBron, Durant, and Kobe.  I think he’s right in part, and wrong in part.

If I were to select an Olympic team from the combined rosters, and if I were to do so according to win potential, then I would probably select every Dream Team player except Laettner, Mullin, Ewing, and Bird (due to injury).  I would replace the aforementioned 4 players with the 2012 players LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and probably Tyson Chandler (or Kevin Love).  I certainly wouldn’t include Kobe Bryant on any combined team.  He has not been an elite player for several seasons.

SIDEBAR:  Why do smart people like Charles Barkley continually give Kobe Bryant so much respect???  He was never on Michael Jordan’s level, and he is certainly no longer an elite player.  Yes, he can make difficult shots at a better rate than most humans, and he’s a good free throw shooter, but he really doesn’t do a whole lot of the other things that you need to do to win basketball games (I will admit he is an outstanding defensive player, but he is inefficient and he doesn’t rebound or pass and he takes poor shots).  The real danger is Kobe’s best quality — his ability to convert circus shots.  That ability can be a mixed blessing, as Charles Barkley pointed out during the playoffs. It encourages players to take terrible shots, and even the best shooters will have conversion rates on difficult shots that are much lower than the conversion rates you can get on easier shots.

UNDER-APPRECIATED GREATNESS

The Dream Team was loaded with great players.  Everyone recognizes Michael Jordan’s greatness, but fans and the media tend to underappreciate (or have forgotten) the true greatness of Magic Johnson.  I believe Magic was the best non-center in basketball history.

And Charles Barkley is massively underrated, simply because he did not win a championship.  Barkley, a man who stands about 6’3.5”, produced some of the greatest win statistics of any player in NBA history.  Yet he never seems to enter the conversation when people talk about the truly elite players in NBA history.

Another Dream Teamer who doesn’t get his due is David Robinson.  People seem to believe he was not good enough to win on his own, and that he simply rode the coattails of Tim Duncan to two NBA championships.  No way.  Robinson was an outstanding NBA player and a great win producer.

But I’m getting away from the point of this post.  The point is, Kobe Bryant is wrong to claim that the 2012 Olympic team has better personnel than the Dream Team.  It doesn’t.  The Dream Team still stands as the greatest collection of basketball talent in the history of man.

LeBron James’ Incredible Season (2011-12 Miami Heat Win Chart)

July 10, 2012

I guess LeBron James was on something of a mission last season.  He not only helped the Miami Heat to their second World Championship, he also turned in one of the great regular seasons of all time.

Click Here to view the Miami Heat Win Chart

Click Here for a full explanation of every column in each Win Chart

ANALYSIS

1. All the Way with LBJ

I have not concluded all of my Marginal Win Score calculations for the truncated season, but LBJ will certainly be the MVP in this corner of the world, just as he is in every other sane corner of the world.  I don’t think anyone else will come within 5 games of his VALUE rating.  He was magnificent.  At one point in the season, he was outproducing 1967-68 Wilt Chamberlain, which was stunning, but he could not keep it up.  Nevertheless, he had a season for the ages.

2. Wade righted himself

Halfway through the season, Dwyane Wade was underproducing.  He certainly righted himself by the end and had a highly productive year.  The only reason his VALUE rating isn’t higher is because he did was injured and unavailable for a lot of the season.  Otherwise, his Marginal Win Score was right about where it always has been.

3. Bosh has a mediocre season

Lucky LeBron carried so much weight this season, because the third member of the supposed Big 3, Chris Bosh, had a very mediocre season.  His Personal Winning Percentage was well down from last season.  The team needs him though, and appears to be better with him, because it is so thin in talent.  But, he just wasn’t that valuable in an abstract sense.

4. Junior Members need some love

Two guys who were actually more valuable than Bosh were fellow big man Udonis Haslem, and the much maligned PG Mario Chalmers.  Each of those two had pretty productive seasons.  They don’t seem to get much credit, however.  In fact, Chalmers seems like the guy the Big 3 love to abuse.  Nevertheless, the Heat don’t win a championship without his work, and without the stellar work produced by Mr. Haslem.

5. Two decent small forwards

The Heat also got decent play from the two veteran SFs Mike Miller and Shane Battier.  Each guy has produced better numbers in the past, but when you combine the two, they made a pretty nice contribution to the Heat.

6. Garbage Depth

Its great to have such magnificence at the top of your roster, because the Heat had absolute garbage for depth.  Joel Anthony has never been any good.  I have no idea how Juwan Howard managed to be the last surviving member of the Fab 5, because he hasn’t been productive this century, and newcomer PG Norris Cole, who actually had promising numbers coming out of college, was dreadful — he actually produced negative wins.  But, as I said, when you have two NBA All-Time All-Timers at the top of your roster, you’re always going to have a look at an NBA championship, and that has certainly been the case for the Heat.

 

Six Things about the LA Lakers (based on the 2011-12 Lakers Win Chart)

July 9, 2012

Sometime ago, I did a 2011-12 NBA Win Chart for the Los Angeles Lakers using Marginal Win Score (you can view it here).

SIX THINGS ABOUT THE LAKERS

I would point out several things about the Lakers that are borne out by the  Win Chart.

One, my preseason prediction for the Lakers was dead-on, in a holistic sense (the particulars weren’t, but they almost never are).  Because the Lakers have been one of the more stable teams for the last decade, they have also been one of the more predictable teams.

Two, the one position where the Lakers continued to create losses in 2011-12 was the point guard position.  Steve Nash, therefore, could really augment the Laker attack.

Three, Pau Gasol continues to be much more valuable to the Laker franchise than many NBA fans who don’t believe in Win Score will admit.  The team would be foolish to simply give him away as it seems they have been trying to do for the past couple years.

Four, Andrew Bynum is on the cusp of superstardom (though he has seemingly been there for a while).  If he can remain healthy, he could very well supplant Dwight Howard as the signal bigman in the NBA for the next decade.  That’s “if”.

Five, Kobe Bryant is in decline.  Age, the thing that eventually conquers us all, is getting to him.  His peak is well behind him.

Six, the PurGolders need to replace Metta World Peace with SF Matt Barnes.

Now that I’ve figured out how to display them properly, I’ll continue to roll out more MWS Win Charts in the days and weeks to come.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers