Why was I so wrong about the Bucks?

Its time to call myself to task.  Remember back in the days preceding the current Milwaukee Bucks season when I made my final Bucks win projection?

Remember the hubris?  Based on preseason performance, and other variables, I claimed the Milwaukee Bucks would win 40 games, and I provided an estimated win chart to back up my prediction.  At this moment, nearly half way into the season, the team projects closer to 33 wins.  How, or rather “why”, did I get it so wrong?

An Examination of My Errors

Lets examine.  Because MVN.com went down, the post itself is no longer accessible, but I still have the google document with the original win chart.  Here it is.  I have added two columns to the chart to show how far off I was on my original prediction based upon each player’s win contribution (because that takes into consideration not only the player’s performance but also his availability).

Initially, it looks as though I was way off.  Oddly enough, the one guy I got right was Ersan Ilyasova, and that was based upon a guesstimate more than anything.  But more often I got players production numbers pretty wrong.

The players I got really wrong were Ridnour, Bogut, Redd, Moute, and Thomas.  Four of them I was too optimistic about, and Ridnour I was too pessimistic about. (Remember I wrote Meeks off altogether based on his poor preseason, but for the purposes of the chart Ukic’s numbers serve as the generic “3rd string SG” numbers).  You could also say I got Jennings wrong, but everyday he is working very hard to make my numbers right.

Reexamining based on average Bucks seasons

But actually, upon further examination, I didn’t do too badly at all.  The one area that is supposed to be the most reliable, each player’s offensive Win Score statistics, turned out to be the area that mucked me up.  There’s no way to account for that.  And the area that should be most difficult to predict — each player’s “defensive” Win Score statistics — I actually got almost exactly right.

A second chart

I did a follow up chart that compares each player’s numbers to date versus the numbers they would be producing if they merely met their average career offensive Win Score numbers.  Meaning, I held their current defensive (or “Opponent”) Win Score per 48 averages constant, and then plugged in their career offensive (or “Individual”) Win Score numbers and then I calculated what their new MWS48 averages and win production would be.  Here is that new chart.

As you can see, if every Milwaukee Bucks player who had NBA experience coming into this season played the exact same defense and merely produced their personal average offensive numbers (save for Ilyasova who clearly had improved in Europe over the NBA numbers he put up as an 18 year old, so I didn’t include him), the Bucks would actually be exactly where projected them to be.  Remember, that isn’t asking for their best performance, just their run-of-the-mill performance.

Is this good news going forward?  Maybe, but probably not.  As you can see, the one player who was most underperforming himself was, of course, Michael Redd.  He was a whopping 1.1 wins under average.  And now he’s gone.  The next biggest underperformer has been Luc Moute.  Since he was a rookie last season its hard to tell if this season is the aberration or if last season was, or if the numbers he’s producing this season are actually his norm.

Players who might provide for some improvement are Charlie Bell, Hakim Warrick, and Carlos Delfino.  If each of them can continue with their respective defensive numbers, and then can merely add their average offensive numbers to that, the Bucks could improve.

But actually, the one player Bucks fans may legitimately place some hope in is a surprise.  It’s Jodie Meeks (the player I was so low on I didn’t even include him in my preseason win chart!).  He’s actually having a pretty good offensive season, much better than Michael Redd was having.  What he needs to do is clean up his defense.  If he can improve there, he could — surprisingly — be an upgrade from Redd.

Bogut’s having “Above Average” Season?

One other point.  Andrew Bogut is actually performing above his career numbers at the moment.  As you recall coming into this season I did a career win resume for Andrew that showed that for most of his career he’s been just an average center.

The disappointment for me is that Bogut is performing well below the numbers he produced last season.  I was hoping (probably against logic) that Bogut had established a new norm for himself last season.  It looks instead like last season was a bit of an outlier, as they say.

Also, it seems as though he is a really situational center.  Meaning, it seems as though he can produce well against poor centers, but if you put someone decent in front of him he really doesn’t do much.   I have an idea how I can check that theory and I will report back with my findings.

FOOTNOTE TO THE POST

I just reexamined my original win chart once again.  Actually, if I had to do it all over, I probably wouldn’t change anything.  None of the numbers are ridiculous.  Most of them were actually fairly conservative — except for the playing minutes, I guess, and I relied on BasketballProspectus for those.

Otherwise, nothing was really out-of-whack.  Bogut was coming off a +2.40 MWS48 season and I projected him at +1.80.  I projected Redd under his career average, and the same goes for Moute.  In fact, every one of the projections was made under each of the player’s demonstrated best season.

The problem is, everyone except Ridnour is well below his best season, never mind his “average” season.  And Kurt Thomas, a player I really relied on despite the fact that he showed some wear on his tires in the preseason, has simply dropped off the cliff.  In retrospect the team would have been much better served had they kept Amir Johnson and given the backup center minutes to him.  He’s having a productive season in Toronto.

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