Milw Bucks Box Set Vol One: The Jabbar Years

The Complete Win Charts

In the past when I’ve done Win Charts for years prior to 1977-78, I’ve basically relied on a series of historical trends, best guesses, and then inductive reasoning.  For my ultimate project, a complete box set of Milwaukee Bucks Win Charts, I wanted to see what would happen if I kicked things up a notch.

This month I’ve been working on a complete, comprehensive set of Win Charts for the Milwaukee Bucks “Kareem Years”, both regular season and playoffs.  These are challenging seasons because you have to get them right during an era where numerical tools are incomplete.

I’ve done this before though, but not this  intensely.  For these charts, I’ve made a more concerted effort to get the estimates as correct as the evidence allowed.  I’ve taken a Warren Commission approach, utilizing any piece of historical evidence and any reliable trend or tendency I could get my hands on.  Once I boiled things down I tested and retested, even going so far as to charted a couple of partial Kareem Era Bucks games on Youtube to test my estimates (which is difficult because the footage is chopped into multiple “Parts”).

The Basketball Warren Commission

What I came up with are the very best “statistical gap” estimates I could produce.  Thankfully for my earlier work, the win production results based on these theoretically higher level estimates (or at least more “labor-intensive” estimates) were not hugely different from the results I had previously gotten using the more suppositional gap-filling method.  This either supports Dean Oliver’s pontification that the missing pre-1977 statistics largely cancel each other out, or it illustrates the strange historic tendency for similar players to produce similarly, after adjusting for pace and the like.

Quick illustration.  For the 1973-74 season the NBA provided its first complete set of team statistics, but it did not individualize turnovers.  What I decided to do was parse them out per possession plus assist totals.  First I estimated Kareem’s turnover total based on the wealth of numbers we have on him.  For the other players I simply positioned the players, applied the positional turnover rates from last season, adjusted them a little to account for 3 point attempts, and then calculated.  The total number of turnovers I came up with was precisely to the number the total turnovers for the Bucks that season, which amazed me.

Enough with methodology.  Here are the results season-by-season.

1969-75: From Big Lew to the Goggles

1969-70 Milwaukee Bucks (56-26)

1970 Playoffs (5-5 Eastern Conference Finals)

1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (66-16)

1971 Playoffs (12-2; NBA Champs)

1971-72 Milwaukee Bucks (63-19)

1972 Playoffs (6-5; Western Conference Finals)

1972-73 Milwaukee Bucks (60-22)

1973 Playoffs (2-4; Western Conference Semis)

1973-74 Milwaukee Bucks (59-23)

1974 Playoffs (11-6; NBA Finals)

1974-75 Milwaukee Bucks (38-44)

Aye Kareemba: What more might have been?

If you look at the Playoff charts for the Era, the thing that will jump out is the thing any casual fan could have guessed — as went Kareem, so went the Bucks.  In the seasons where he was tremendous, the team got to the NBA Finals.  In the seasons where he was merely very, very good, the team got to the Conference Finals.  In the one season where he actually calculated below average for the postseason, 1973, the +60 win Bucks were — as my friend would say — “a first round see-ya!”

Here are Kareem’s Milwaukee Bucks Win Numbers:

Regular Season (MWS48: +4.17)

W-L Record…99.4__(-17.8)

wins above 500%…+58.6

Win Contribution…+0.691

Winning Pctg… 1.218%

Post Season (MWS48: +3.31)

W-L Record…11.3__(-0.7)

Win Contribution…+0.605

Winning Pctg… 1.066%

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One Response to “Milw Bucks Box Set Vol One: The Jabbar Years”

  1. A Quick Sunday Tour Around The Wages of Wins Network | The Wages of Wins Journal Says:

    […] – of Courtside Analyst – has been providing posts examining NBA history. His latest looks at the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar years in Milwaukee.  Those who understand the history of the NBA box score know that all the elements we see in […]

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