The Curious Awesomeness of Kevin Love’s Season

Kevin Love is having himself a gigantic season on a tiny team.  In terms of win contribution, he might be the most valuable player in the NBA.  He is certainly one of the top 5.  Yet his team has only 5 wins.  Its one of the most bizarre dichotomies I have ever seen in NBA basketball.  What is going on? Here is the Minnesota Wolves latest Win Chart:

2010-11
Minnesota Wolves
(5-16)
Position
Marginal
Win Score
Win__Loss
Credits
Win Contribution
Rating
Player Winning
Percentage 
K Love 4.2 +6.04 4.5__(-1.5) +0.860 1.528%
A Tolliver 3.6 +2.36 1.3__0.2 +0.166 .904%
L Ridnour 1.0 +0.05 0.9__0.9 +0.004 .512%
W Johnson 2.5 -1.08 0.8__1.7 -0.127 .315%
C Brewer 2.2 -1.84 0.4__1.7 -0.184 .190%
S Gaines 1.0 -2.85 0.0__0.2 -0.032 .017%
S Telfair 1.0 -2.97 0.0__2.0 -0.285 (-.001)%
L Hayward 3.0 -4.53 (-0.1)__0.5 -0.093 (-.266)%
K Koufus 5.0 -5.18 (-0.2)__0.6 -0.133 (-.377)%
N Pekovic 4.8 -4.86 (-0.2)__0.8 -0.362 (-.323)%
W Ellington 1.8 -4.77 (-0.4)__1.6 -0.141 (-.307)%
D Milicic 5.0 -4.83 (-0.7)__3.0 -0.528 (-.317)%
M Beasley 3.4 -4.47 (-0.7)__3.3 -0.562 (-.256)%


MWS Record: 5.6__15.4



Pythagorean
Record:
5.9__15.1

As you can see, Kevin Love is producing like a young Lew Alcindor, but his team is not succeeding because SF Michael Beasley and C Darko Milicic and others are costing the team wins.  How are they doing this?  Or rather, why am I contending that Beasley, Milicic and the others are having such a negative effect on the team’s fortunes while Love is having such a positive effect?

When I attribute wins and losses to individual players, I do so using a simple system I call “Marginal Win Score“.  Marginal Win Score could be described as “Comparative Linear Weights” for the sport of basketball.  (here’s how it is calculated)

That’s because Marginal Win Score is a comparative examination of each player’s box score stats with the stats produced by his court opponents.  Basketball is unique.  Unlike football and baseball, each basketball player can and does directly impact his counterpart’s productivity.  Thus in my world, if a player produces a surplus of the kind of stats that tend to produce wins, then I attribute him with having a higher winning percentage.  If he is outproduced, I attribute him with having a lower winning percentage.  (the “stats that tend to produce wins” are taken directly from David Berri’s Win Score metric which is a weighting of traditional box score stats according to the correlation each statistic has with wins produced).

Thus, under my system a player can produce what look like gaudy statistics while still producing losses for his team.  That is what is occurring with Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic.  That is why their numbers are so horrible.

To show what I mean, lets focus only on scoring.  People are heaping praise on Michael Beasley because of his scording.  But, if you look at Beasley’s comparative statistics on 82games.com you will see that he is actually being outscored by his opponent small forwards by 0.6 points per 48 minutes. Plus, he is using 5.8 more scoring attempts.  Since each possession is currently worth one point to the Wolves, that means Beasley is effectively costing Minnesota around 6 points per 48 minutes.  Obviously, if every player did that, the team would lose by 30 per game.  (that’s overly simplistic, but you get the point).

The strange thing is, Beasley and Milicic have never put up numbers this bad in their entire careers.  Thus I would tend to blame Kurt Rambis and his lack of emphasis on defense.  At the same time, however, Luke Ridnour’s numbers are close to his career norms, so I don’t know.

What I do know is that Kevin Love is having an historic season.  He is not a good shooter in close, but he is still an efficient scorer because he gets to the line and converts, and because he has a nice 3pt%.  In that sense, he is emulating his coach Bill Laimbeer.  Laimbeer could not score inside, but he used his excellent jump shooting to compensate. 

But shooting aside, Love would not be Love without the phenomenal rebounding.  His numbers are unbelievable.  Love is currently outrebounding his opponent power forwards by +11.6 per 48.  

I’ve noticed how he does it, too.  Whereas most players look up at the rim when a shot goes up, his first glance is around him.  He is looking initially for someone to screen.  He does so to carve out space that he can claim ownership over, and to make opponents work if they want the rebound.  When it comes to rebounding, he is a master tactician.  I’m sure his father, Stan Love, had more than a little to do with that.

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5 Responses to “The Curious Awesomeness of Kevin Love’s Season”

  1. jbrett Says:

    Ty,

    I can’t remember the specifics, but when Rambis was on staff in LA a few years ago, he was given credit for revamping the Lakers’ defensive scheme (should we say blame?). I don’t have any idea whether LA improved defensively, but it does support the idea that the NBA is not terribly efficient at recognizing who is good at their jobs, whether on the court or on the bench.

  2. Seif-Eldeine Says:

    Great article, Kevin Love is undoubtably having a great season. I actually wrote an article about the affects NBA Expansion would have on Team Quality and used franchise players from this season and from 2003 to compare how the quality of basketball has improved. I considered Kevin Love on the cusp of being a franchise player because at the time he was only shooting 425 from the floor and 366 from the 3 point line, so I considered him a liability on the offensive end because his game is supposed to be spacing the floor. Two weeks later and I look stupid! Oops. That he has improved both numbers to .441 and .403 show that he was probably just warming up his shooting touch in the beginning of the season. (Have you every seen him make horse shots? Crazy!) I only expect these numbers to go up (albeit the 3 point percentage only slightly.) Another month or month and a half of this and I will have to consider him a franchise player. His play should have the Timberwolves improving alongside with him as teams start to double him to take away his effecttiveness, leaving other players open, as Rambis learns to use him better and as his teammates improve from the skills he certainly will be teaching him.

  3. brgulker Says:

    The craziest thing is, if you put love on almost any other nba team, it’s a playoff team.

  4. Seif-Eldeine Says:

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  5. EvanZ Says:

    Note that both Beasley’s and Milicic’ DREB% have decreased by 4% since they’ve come to Minnesota. A clear case of diminishing returns in my opinion.

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