The NBA’s 20 Most Harmful Players in 2009-10

I completed every calculation for every NBA Win Chart today.  This is the third season I have used my derivation of the Win Score metric, which I call Marginal Win Score to credit every single NBA win and loss to a specific player based upon each player’s minutes played and his statistical production during those minutes compared to the statistical production of opponent players stationed at the same position at the same time.

This is by far the earliest I have completed my work.  I haven’t transcribed all of my results onto digital charts yet, so the results aren’t yet available, but that shouldn’t take more than a few days and I will have Win Charts posted for every team, along with my “MWS48” All-NBA team, which will feature a couple of surprises.

For now I want to use my results to compile one of my favorite annual features on this blog, “The NBA’s 20 Most Harmful Players” according to each NBA player’s Win Contribution Index.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE NBA’S 20 MOST HARMFUL PLAYERS

To understand the list, you have to understand that the term “harmful” is not synonymous with “bad”.  Thus the players on the list are not necessarily the 20 worst players in the NBA.  The players on the list are the 20 players whose marginal production, combined with their playing time, did the most to push their teams under the .500% mark.  In other words, these are the 20 players who did the most to make their teams losers (some of the players were from winning teams.  In those cases, the others around them made up for their production deficit.)

To make the list a player cannot merely be unproductive.  He must be both unproductive and yet considered valuable by his team’s coaching staff and upper management.  In other words, he has to be bad yet he has to continue to be awarded playing time.

Positional Breakdown

This season I have borrowed Professor Berri’s numerical method of describing the positions each player played at during the 2009-10 season.  Its much easier.  The description uses the conventional basketball method of description, 1-5, adjusted up or down for players who played more than one position according to the percentage of time the player spent at that position.  Thus, a point guard who played 20% of his minutes at shooting guard would be described as a “1.2” and so on.

Numerical Basketball Positions
Point Guard: 1.0 to 1.5
Shooting Guard: 1.5 to 2.5
Small Forward: 2.5 to 3.5
Power Forward: 3.5 to 4.5
Center: 4.5 to 5.0

Those are the designations.  I think they represent a simple, accurate, and easy to understand method of  describing each player’s positional deployment.

Based upon those designations, the “Most Harmful” list breaks down like this:

Point Guards: 3
Shooting Guards: 3
Small Forwards: 3
Power Forwards: 5
Centers: 6

That is not a surprising breakdown, given the often cited “Short Supply of  Tall People” statistics provided elsewhere.  But it underscores the marginal value a productive big man can deliver to his team.

Andrea Bargnani:  Consistently Harmful

As I mentioned, I’ve done this list for three years running. Several players have made more than one of my lists.  Only one player has made all three, Toronto power forward Andrea Bargnani.  Not only that, Bargnani has made the top 10 most harmful in each of the three seasons, finishing 3rd in ’08, and finishing 8th the last two seasons.  His main problem is he is basically a way overrated version of former Buck Mark Pope.  He is a big man who does not rebound and does not do anything else well enough to make up for that deficiency.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE 2008-09 “MOST HARMFUL” LIST

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE 2007-08 “MOST HARMFUL” LIST

Timberwolves seem to own the Most Harmful List

For the second straight season the Minnesota Timberwolves have grossly misjudged their starting point guard.  For some reason, the team constantly sticks with point guards who don’t produce at all and it kills them.  The Twolves thought they had solved their point guard problems when they drafted two of them in the first 10 picks.  They may have, but the early returns are not encouraging for one of them, Jonny Flynn.  Flynn played so poorly he managed to succeed the player he replaced, Sebastian Telfair, as the NBA’s Most Harmful Player for 2009-10.

To compound matters, the team also featured the second and fifth most harmful players, Corey Brewer and Ryan Hollins respectively (the Nets, by comparison, featured only one player on the entire list).  Those three provide the answer to the puzzling question:  How can a team feature one of the NBA’s most productive players (Kevin Love) and win only 15 games?

Brewer and Hollins were just awful in 2009-10.  Brewer is a poor ballhandler, a poor shooter, a poor passer, a poor rebounder, and a player who is somehow reputed to be a solid defender, despite the fact that he provides no evidence to back that reputation up.  Hollins, on the other hand, is a small forward masquerading as a big man.  The problem is, he lacks the perimeter skills to be an effective 3, and he completely lacks the productive talent or mindset needed to be either a 4 or a 5.

Flynn, on the other hand, isn’t particularly awful in any one category, he’s just bad in almost everyone of them.  He scores more than his opponents, but he has to use up more possessions to get those points.  He also fouls less than his opponents, but he turns the ball over more, blocks fewer shots, dishes out fewer assists, and grabs fewer rebounds.  You couple all of that with starter’s minutes, and you have the NBA’s most harmful player.

Returning from hiatus

A couple of players who disappeared off last season’s 20MH list returned this season.

Two seasons ago Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Jeff Green was the NBA’s most harmful player.  He was just productive enough last season to escape the list.  This season he returns.  Imagine how awesome the Thunder would be if they got a real power forward?

The other returnee is Detroit Piston SG Ben Gordon.  Gordon is just a bizarre player.  Two seasons ago with the Bulls he was just awful.  Then last season, his contract season, he was decent.  This season he went right back to being awful.  Maybe that means Piston fans have something to look forward to.

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9 Responses to “The NBA’s 20 Most Harmful Players in 2009-10”

  1. Blake Says:

    Great stuff Ty! I’m definitely showing this to some friends, i find it interesting how Jeff Green is so harmful, because I know that some people really like him but I guess he just isn’t good enough at that 4 spot.

    Can’t wait for the win charts of every NBA team! Keep up the good work.

  2. brgulker Says:

    Great post, Ty. Sad but not surprised to see Gordon on the list. Interesting stuff.

    • tywill33 Says:

      I just did an “Expected Wins” analysis of the Pistons from last season. Their expected wins, not considering the rookies, should have been 29.9. If you add the rookies, that’s about 35.7 wins. So the team underperformed by 30%, and Gordon was only one of the underperformers. All of the mainstays from the Pistons championship season, plus Maxiell, declined.

      Strangely, if you told me Charlie Villanueva’s exact minutes, I could have told you his exact win production (by my method, that is). For a guy that everyone thinks is inconsistent, he’s strangely consistent.

  3. palamida Says:

    Two players on this list puzzled me: Kaman and Conley.

    When I took a closer look at Kaman I found out i’m just… wrong about him!
    I had him in my head as a productive player but he has been consistently outplayed by his opponents (most of the damage comes from the high fg% he allows), for several seasons now.
    Conley is a weird guy. He had a very impressive one and done season in college.
    As a prospect he graded out much better than some of the over-hyped “mega PG prospects” of late (Rose, Wall). He was selected 4th in a very deep draft and has sufficient physical tools (and “intangibles”, lol) to boot.
    Yet his career simply isn’t going anywhere. Different teammates, different coaches – still nada. This season, I thought he was really going to finally bring it – instead he regressed to the point he got his name in this list :p
    How is that possible?
    For the record, I think he played better the second half of the season (at least in terms of his own stats), but still – it’s puzzling. anyone got a theory as to why? Playing alongside a real elite future NBA big men (Oden) usually limits your production – Perhaps in Conley’s case – it was the other way around?

    • tywill33 Says:

      If the statistics weren’t otherwise very consistent, guys like those two would scare me. I don’t know how you account for Conley’s up-and-down career. He’s sort of like Ben Gordon. One year he shows promise, the next he doesn’t. But unlike Gordon, he has never switched teams.

      Kaman, I’ll bet, has had some of his numbers depressed by playing next to Camby, whose possession numbers are Nintendo-like. Nevertheless, Kaman is a pretty flakey, inconsistent player in his own right.

  4. Blake Says:

    TY, I have a question about the win score formula used, why is it that it values assists and blocks as .5 in the formula? Why not use something like .25? I know that rebounds and steals are possession creating acts, so they are valued higher, but i was just curious as to why it’s half of what a steal or rebound is?

    • tywill33 Says:

      Its all based upon Professor Berri’s “Linear Weights” formula. I’ve tried to justify/explain to myself how assists are valued, or blocks for that matter. Neither act adds either points or possessions. That said, if you pull either statistics, the formula is not as a accurate. So somehow it is correct to conclude that they correlate with wins, but not with the same strength. (you can throw personal fouls into that mix as well).

      I have a theory. I think those acts add value indirectly, not directly. I think the tendency to block shots and/or to hand out assists creates an atmosphere wherein field goal percentage goes up or down, correspondingly.

  5. NBA’s 20 most valuable players in 2009-10 « Courtside Analyst Says:

    […] couple  of days ago I listed the NBA’s 20 “Most Harmful” players.  The 20 on today’s list are obviously the polar opposite.  Interestingly, though, they […]

  6. Vacation… all I ever wanted! Had to get away! « Courtside Analyst Says:

    […] from the “Courtside Popular” list that someone dug into the archives and ran the “20 Most Harmful” back to the top of the greasy pole.  In that sense its kind of like when Letterman goes on […]

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