Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

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.

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


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.


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.


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.

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).


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.

Q: Who the hell is Cleveland Buckner? A: He’s the “JD Tippit” of the Chamberlain 100 Point Game

March 3, 2012

Following up on yesterday’s post, a couple more thoughts on the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point scoring night.

At least the Knicks made Wilt earn his 100

I ran ten simulated games on Whatifsports between the 1962 Knicks and the 1962 Warriors and the average effective scoring for the Knicks was (-7.9) points and for the Warriors it was (+3.5).  The highest effective scoring totals I could achieve for each team was (+6.5) for the Knicks and (+27.0) for the Warriors. On Wilt’s Big Night, the Warriors were (+28) and the Knicks were (+9).  So its theoretically possible that each team simply had an unusually hot night on that particular night. However, it would have been unlikely without some defensive laxity.  In the 10 game simulation run, I produced only one positive scoring night for the Knicks and five for the Warriors.  I produced no games where both teams had positive scoring nights.

Something else weighing somewhat in Chamberlain’s favor is the breakdown of his scoring.  First of all, the Knicks were making Chamberlain earn his hundred from the foul line.  On a normal night in the 1962 season, Chamberlain would have shot 26 free throws on 63 field goal attempts.  On this night the Knicks made him shoot 32, of which he made 28.  Moreover, Chamberlain must have fouled out the Knicks best defensive center, Darrell Imhoff, so he presumably was going against their second stringer, Cleveland Buckner, for most of the game.  And while Chamberlain’s teammates were clearly force feeding him in the second half (I have no problem with that), the Knicks were just as clearly playing some semblance of defense on Chamberlain, as Chamberlain went 22 for 37 from the field in the second half.  Yeah, that’s not great defense, but its not dunk after dunk.

Curiously Huge Scoring Night for a Knick named Cleveland Buckner

Here’s where I have a problem.  It appears the Warriors were giving up points on the offensive end to get more opportunities for Wilt on the offensive end.  In my mind, that’s “queering the pitch” as the British would say.

Here’s my evidence that everything wasn’t on the up-and-up. The three backups for the Knicks (Buckner, Dave Budd, and Donnie Butcher) combined to make 25 of 40 shots from the field (62.5%).  That’s 48% better than the 1961-62 NBA average.  If the 29-51 Knicks had that kind of scoring talent on their bench, they shouldn’t have been 29-51!!  Indeed, on a normal night in 1962, with the same shot mix from the same players, the three should have hit only 40.0%.  That’s a large increase in average, suggesting lack of contested shots by the Warriors (or possibly by Chamberlain himself) in the second half of the game, possibly for the purpose of getting the ball back faster to get shot attempts for Wilt (I’m assuming the second half is when most of the reserve minutes happened).  It’s sort of like deliberately letting the computer score in Tecmo Bowl in order to see how many rushing yards you could get for Randall Cunningham.

The box score contains even more evidence of potentially soft defense by Philadelphia.  Far fewer than average free throw attempts by the Knick reserves. Why is that evidence of soft defense?  On one occasion one of my basketball coaches came in to the locker room at halftime and he simply stared at the score book.  When he finally raised his head, he looked directly at me and screamed, “Ty!! Do you know how many fouls you have?!”  I was completely dumbfounded at the question and I replied timidly, “I don’t know… I think zero”.  I really didn’t understand what he was getting at.  He pounced on that answer, “Yeah, that’s right… you aint playin no defense!!”

If my ex-coach’s somewhat suspect logic is accepted as presumptive evidence of soft defensive effort (I still to this day won’t accept it as conclusive proof of lack of effort, but I will accept it as presumptive proof.  In other words, once established, then the burden would have shifted to me to rebut — in which case I would have cited my counterpart’s lack of inside shooting as explanation for my lack of fouling), then the Warriors “weren’t playin no defense” on two of the aforementioned 3 reserve Knicks: C Cleveland Buckner, and F Dave Budd (both inside players — pointing again to Chamberlain as the culprit).

Buckner, a reserve forward-center who didn’t even last one more full season in the NBA, and who shot just 43.7% from the field for his career, somehow went 16-for-26 against Wilt Chamberlain, and, since he was a big man with a low field goal percentage, one can assume that most of his shots on Wilt’s 100 point night were close-in shots.  If that is the case, and if you wanted to argue against the point that the Warriors were “laying down” on defense in the second half, then how would you explain the fact that in 26 field goal attempts, Buckner shot only 1 free throw!! If he were going to the line at his normal rate, he would have shot 10 free throws.

And then there’s the case of reserve Dave Budd.  Budd was a also a 43% field goal shooter who took about 0.4 free throws for every field goal attempt. Yet on Wilt’s night he shot 75% from the field (6-8) and took only one free throw attempt for his 8 field goal attempts.  So, combined, you have 34 field goal attempts, 2 free throw attempts, and 22 made field goals from a piss poor team’s two reserve front court players, where on a normal night you would have expected 34 field goal attempts to produce 14 makes and 14 trips to the free throw line.  So, either these guys both got peculiarly hot at the same time on the same night, or we someone or “ones” was letting them get to the basket in order to get Wilt more shot attempts.

So, all in all, here’s is what I’m going to conclude about Wilt’s 100 point night:

1. The Warriors force fed Wilt the ball in the second half to get him to 100 (which is fine);

2. The Knicks made him earn the 100 by putting him on the line; but,

3. The Warriors, and possibly Wilt himself, laid down on defense to get more scoring opps for Wilt in the second half, which in my mind taints the result.

Footnote:  While I could not find Cleveland Buckner’s college statistics, its interesting to find that he is 74 and he has a Facebook page.  Which is more proof that Donnie Deutsch was right to predict that some hipper social media site will soon displace Facebook.

Conditions made Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point night a bit of a sham

March 2, 2012

To commemorate Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point night that took place 50 years ago tonight, the radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning asked its audience to rank Chamberlain’s performance alongside other great individual efforts in a single sporting event.  Two of the events that the audience was asked to compare against Chamberlain’s point output were baseball’s two most immortal “perfectos”, Don Larsen’s perfect game pitched against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series, and Harvey Haddix’s incredible, tragic 12 innings of “perfect game that wasn’t” against the 1959 Milwaukee Braves.

Numbers say Chamberlain’s “Honey Spot” came under “All Star Game-Like” defensive conditions

Now, anyone who knows this blog knows I am anything but a Chamberlain basher.  I believe that, by the comparative statistical numbers, Wilt was either the most valuable NBA player of all time (in terms of wins plus wins above 0.500%), or he was the second most valuable player of all-time behind Russell (my tentative belief is that he was second behind Russell).  That said, a cursory look at the incomplete box score data from the 100 point game in the Chocolate City of Hershey, Pennsylvania (it was a home neutral game for Chamberlain’s Philadelphia Warriors) shows that neither the Warriors nor the lowly Knicks (the Knicks finished the season 29-51) put out any defensive effort on that mythical March night in the year of American Graffiti.

How do I know?  I don’t… there’s no existing footage of the game.  But I can surmise with some degree of certainty what happened by examining the box score and comparing it to the story the existing data from the 1961-62 NBA season tells us about the scoring trends in that season.

In the ’61-’62 season, the NBA average “Effective Points” per game (meaning Points – FGAs – 0.5FTAs) was (-7.5), meaning there was not a lot of efficient scoring that season.  And neither the Warriors (-6.2) nor the Knicks (-10.7) bucked the trend (I don’t think any team produced more points than scoring attempts per game).  And when one considers that Wilt himself WAS an efficient scorer (+2.5) points per game, that means everyone NOT named Wilt would not have been expected to score the ball effectively. All in all, if the two teams were putting out an average defensive effort, one would have expected a total of (-16.9) effective points from the two teams and (-19.4) effective points from everyone not wearing #13.  That’s not what happened.

Instead, the two teams combined to score (+37) effective points — a whopping 53.9 effective points above what should have occurred under normal defensive circumstances.  Even more tellingly, when one removes Wilt’s (+21) effective points, one is still left with (+16) effective points from a bunch of players who should have produced (-19.4), another whopping total of 35.4 too many “effective points”.

So there was absolutely no defense being played on that night, and there is evidence of a farce.  The Knicks effective scoring total (+9) suggests the Warriors may have been actively “giving up” hoops to get the ball back so that the team could feed the ball to Wilt to get him to 100.

This blog is sub-titled “Evidentiary Sports Analysis”.  While its a clumsy phrase, I try to live by the proposition. In sports, the numbers usually provide the most objective description of what really happened. And in the case of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point night, the evidence suggests to me that his accomplishment might have been slightly undercooked.

By contrast, the numbers tell a different story for the Perfect Games. In fact the numbers suggest that those performances may have been even better than I imagined.

Haddix a bit better than Larsen… maybe

To pitch any perfect game, one needs a lot of luck.  No matter how great you throw, balls will be put in play, and one has to have a situation where the balls that would normally fall do not.  That’s a given.

So to compare the perfect games by Larsen and Haddix, I removed the element of defense.  Instead I examined the exact lineups each pitcher faced on the particular night and compared those two lineups according to the number of “pitcher bases” (meaning bases that can be exclusively charged to the pitcher — 4 bases on homers, 1 base on walks, and 1 base per hit bats men) each would be expected to produce for every “pitcher out” (meaning strikeout) the lineup would yield.  What I wanted to know was which lineup was filled with the “tougher” outs.

Before I answer that, let me say that both lineups, the ’56 Dodgers and the ’59 Braves, can be called “historically great”.  On those grounds alone, each pitchers accomplishment on his particular perfect or near perfect day was remarkable. The 1956 Dodger lineup featured the immensely underrated Duke Snider, the much appreciated Jackie Robinson, and Gil Hodges and others.  There was only one “easy” out in the Brooklyn lineup, and that was the pitcher Sal Maglie.

By contrast, the power in the Milwaukee Braves formidable lineup was concentrated in Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews (along with Joe Adcock and Del Crandall).  Remember, it was a regular season game late in May.  It wasn’t the World Series.  And so the Braves lineup that night had several holes or “banjo” hitters: SS Johnny O’Brien, RF Andy Pafko, and the pitcher Lew Burdette.

Even so, when you judge each lineup by its overall strength, you end up with a pretty even distribution of hitting weight.  In absolute terms, the Dodger hitters were a bit tougher, but not by much.  The Dodgers lineup in Game 5 produced 1.737 Pitcher Bases per Strikeout in 1956, while the Braves lineup that took the field at old County Stadium produced 1.615 Pitcher Bases per Strikeout in 1959. In short, both lineups were awesome.

Braves Lineup a bit stronger (in relative terms)

However, those numbers were produced in separate seasons.  They may, therefore, have been “pitcher quality” or park effect induced.  So, the true comparison ought to be against the average in the National League in the particular season.

If one does this, one finds that the ’59 Braves were quite a bit stronger and tougher to get outs against.  The 1959 Braves lineup, as presented to Harvey Haddix at County Stadium on that Tuesday May 26th evening, was +0.250 points above the 1959 National League average, whereas the Dodger lineup presented to Don Larsen at Yankee Stadium on that Monday afternoon, October 8, 1956 (YES… Game 5 of the ’56 Series was played on a weekday afternoon!) was “only” +0.025 points above the 1956 National League average.

So the relative edge would go to Haddix.  Then you consider that he retired 9 more batters without giving up a base than Larsen was required to retire, and I have to give the edge in “greatest” accomplishment to Haddix.

Of course, Haddix’s performance occurred during an ordinary weeknight game early in the baseball season, whereas Larsen’s happened on the largest stage in American sports at that time (with the possible exception of a Heavyweight Championship Fight).  That does lean toward Larsen, but I still give the slight edge to Haddix.  Indeed, Haddix performance came against a Brave team playing at home (where half of the above Braves statistics were produced), whereas Larsen was pitching at cavernous Yankee Stadium against a team that produced half of its 1956 numbers at their bandbox home park called Ebbets Field.

Slight Edge to Harvey

So, all in all, edge to Haddix.  But no one can doubt the accomplishments of himself and Don Larsen.  Both have earned and rightfully deserve their glorious status.

The main point of this post is that Chamberlain’s 100 point performance has not.  It was a lot less than the glittery three figure point total would suggest.  There was a bit of a sham going on that night in Hershey, Pennsylvania… the numbers sometimes lie, or rather the numbers sometimes get misinterpreted.

Jeremy Lin benefiting from a massive “substitution effect”

February 16, 2012

If you’re eating chicken shit, and someone offers you chicken salad instead, it doesn’t matter if you don’t particularly like chicken salad… it will taste much better to you than the chicken shit tasted.

That’s part of the power behind Linsanity and the resurgence of the New York Knickerbockers.  Sure, Jeremy Lin is a nice ballplayer, and right now he has a well above average MWS and Winning Percentage, but what has really made him look awesome is the comparison between what he is providing the Knicks at the point guard position and the dreadful play they have gotten from the position this season when Lin was not on the floor (or indeed, on the Knicks roster).

Here is the latest Knicks Win Chart for 2011-12 (What do the different columns in the Win Chart mean?  Click here for simple explanation):

NEW YORK KNICKS (through February 15, 2012)

T Chandler 17.45 11.68 2.89 0.993 4.2__0.0 2.1 6.3
L Fields 8.14 6.33 0.91 0.656 2.6__1.4 0.6 3.2
C Anthony 6.83 6.22 0.31 0.554 1.7__1.4 0.2 1.9
A Stoumire 8.25 8.35 -0.05 0.494 1.7__1.7 -0.1 1.7
I Shumpert 3.15 5.36 -1.09 0.315 1.0__2.3 -0.7 0.4
J Lin 8.75 6.24 1.26 0.716 0.9__0.4 0.3 1.2
S Novak 9.09 6.18 1.45 0.749 0.8__0.3 0.3 1.1
B Walker 4.39 6.43 -1.02 0.329 0.8__1.6 -0.4 0.4
J Harrlson 11.11 9.56 0.77 0.634 0.7__0.5 0.1 0.8
J Jeffries 6.89 9.69 -1.39 0.266 0.5__1.3 -0.4 0.1
R Balkman 9.39 6.83 1.28 0.719 0.4__0.2 0.1 0.5
J Jordan 10.57 0.63 4.97 1.346 0.3__(-0.1) 0.2 0.5
T Douglass -1.95 7.11 -4.53 -0.266 (-0.6)__2.8 -1.7 -2.3
M Bibby 2.55 9.21 -3.33 -0.062 (-0.1)__1.3 -0.7 -0.8
Exptd 14.9__15.1
Act 15.0__15.0

Chandler and Fields still more valuable

As you can see from the Win Chart, the real MVPs of the Knicks are Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields.  But Lin has made a large relative impact because the Knicks former starting PGs, Mike Bibby and Toney Douglass, were not only bad, they were SO bad they were taking wins off the board.  Thus, replacing them with an above average player of Lin’s production had a massive impact on the team.

To illustrate, when Jeremy Lin is in the game, as the chart shows, the New York Knicks are getting a player with a Marginal Win Score of +1.26.  If all 5 positions were manned by 0.500% players, and you substituted Lin into the game, then Lin’s contribution alone turns the Knicks into a 0.545% team.  Not that large an impact.  However, in actuality, Lin did not replace “0.500%” caliber PGs.  In fact, the other Knick point guards combined produce a MWS of -2.84, which equates into a combined non-Lin winning percentage from the position of 0.020%.  To put number in perspective, if you add the other Knick PGs to the hypothetical 0.500% team described above, they would turn that team into a 0.406% team.  In practical numbers, the non-Lin Point Guards would turn a 41 win team (in a normal season) in to a 33 win team, whereas when Lin stepped in and replaced them, his production turned that hypothetical 41 win team into a 45 win team.  That’s a huge difference.

The story gets better when you consider that the “other Knicks” are somewhat better than a 0.500% team.  Indeed, as the Win Chart above shows, the Knicks are getting better than 0.500% play from several key players.  Tyson Chandler has been phenomenal at the center position.  I credit him with producing 4.2 wins and no losses.  And after a slow start, last year’s rookie phenom Landry Fields is back to playing above 0.500% basketball from the shooting guard position.  Then you consider that Carmelo Anthony plays nearly 0.700% basketball when he’s in there and healthy, and you have a pretty good team.  The thing that was holding the Knicks back, and I illustrated it earlier in the season, was their incredibly poor play from the point guard position.  Enter Linsanity.

That’s why, by comparison, Jeremy Lin has made such a major difference.  He turned a tremendous weakness into a strength, which magnified the impact that contribution made.  In basketball, I call that the substitution effect. (I think the real economic  “substitution effect” is when you switch from Coke to Jolly Good during a recession, but its been a long time since Econ 101).

EDITOR’s COMMENT:  Do they still sell Jolly Good soda? It was an off-brand that came in a variety of flavors and at one time had jokes written on the inside bottom of the can, as I recall.  I remember you’d finish the thing, then you’d have to close one eye and try to direct the inside of the can toward the sun so you could strain to read the dumb joke/riddle to your friends. ” Let’s see… What has four legs buttttt cannnn nnnnnot… shit, I can’t read the last word… oh…  ‘run‘? What has four legs but cannot run? ”  The things we used to find entertaining.  Good times.

CORRECTION:  The original post had Carmelo Anthony as a slightly more productive player than he has been.  The original post therefore calculated Carmelo’s wins at 2.1 and the Knicks estimated wins at 15.3, which were both in error.  It was pointed out by a reader, and has been corrected.

How long will the LINsanity last??

February 11, 2012

In the last 3 games, Jeremy Lin-sanity has hit the New York Metropolitan area.  But how long will this condition last?  One way to predict is to use the past as precedent.

Based upon Marginal Win Score, Lin is off to a superb start to his NBA career.  The majority of his time has still been his time with the Golden State Warriors (where he was pretty good) but he will soon eclipse that as his Knickerbocker time is likely to continue to grow.

Here is Lin’s NBA Win Chart so far, with his Harvard college numbers below that.  (I could not provide any estimate of his Harvard Defensive Win Score, because the StatFox server has been down all Saturday morning… college bball betting action must be hot)

NBA 9.98 5.65 2.18 0.869 1.8__0.2 0.8 2.6

When Harvard was his home

As you can see, while Lin has been way above average during his short NBA career (as the chart shows, based on his production I credit him with producing 1.8 NBA wins and only 0.2 NBA losses so far), he is also playing above his own personal college resume.  This is a big red flag for me.  You generally see a 33% decline in Win Score production when the player steps to the pros.  It makes sense… if you couldn’t produce better numbers against inferior college defenders, why should we expect you to do so in the NBA?

Therefore, Lin’s numbers over four seasons at Harvard suggest he is playing above himself at this time, and that his winning percentage will soon decline.  In the long run, his Harvard numbers would project him as a slightly below average NBA point guard, at best.

However, if there is one spot where players can outperform their college numbers, it is the point guard spot.  I have a theory as to why.  The largest pool of talent is at the shorter guard positions.  Therefore, the talent levels at those positions should not be as markedly different between college and the pros as one would expect at the taller positions like center and power forward.

In Lin’s case, though, playing against the Beauregards and the Van Houtens of the Ivy League was not exactly like playing against the Manigaults and the Knowings of Rucker Park.  He should have done better, one would suspect.

But Lin obviously has some game, so maybe he continues the fine start he has made and establishes himself as a permanent member of the NBA’s upper middle class.  We shall see how his story plays out over the balance of this season.  He has at least injected some life into an otherwise forgettable NBA campaign.

Ranking the 2012 NBA All-Stars according to Value Added

February 10, 2012

The NBA released its selections for the 2012 All-Star team.  Needless to say there are a lot of snubs, and some real headscratchers.  How the hell did Deron Williams get nominated ahead of Rajon Rondo?  Williams is having an AWFUL season; Rondo is having his normal brilliant season.

In an effort to assess the overall strength of both the fan and coaches selections, I have ranked each of the All-Stars by VALUE.  The rankings are presented below (to understand each column, consult the Courtside Glossary for a simple explanation of each).  Based on my calculations, LeBron James is the best All Star, but some of the players voted in by the fans (Carmelo, for instance) and nominated by the coaches (Chris Bosh and Deron Williams) do not belong anywhere near an All Star game roster.

Value Ranking of the 2012 NBA All-Stars

L James 17.75 4.49 6.63 1.627 6.0__(-2.3) 4.2 10.2
K Love 17.78 6.48 5.65 1.461 5.7__(-1.8) 3.7 9.4
K Durant 14.14 4.93 4.59 1.284 5.0__(-1.1) 3.1 8.1
D Howard 19.39 10.35 4.52 1.269 4.9__(-1.0) 2.9 7.9
A Iguodala 12.67 4.33 4.17 1.211 4.3__(-0.7) 2.5 6.8
B Griffin 14.57 8.32 3.12 1.033 3.6__(-0.1) 1.8 5.4
S Nash 11.86 4.84 3.51 1.098 3.3__(-0.3) 1.8 5.1
D Rose 9.05 3.89 2.58 0.941 3.3__0.2 1.6 4.9
P Pierce 10.29 4.29 2.99 1.011 3.2__(-0.1) 1.6 4.8
L Deng 9.74 4.21 2.76 0.971 3.2__0.1 1.6 4.8
A Bynum 18.08 12.07 3.01 1.012 3.0__0.0 1.5 4.5
C Paul 13.09 6.32 3.38 1.077 2.9__(-0.2) 1.6 4.5
M Gasol 14.39 11.34 1.52 0.761 3.1__0.9 1.1 4.2
K Bryant 8.22 5.15 1.53 0.763 3.0__1.0 1.1 4.1
L Alridge 12.64 9.97 1.33 0.729 2.9__1.1 0.9 3.8
J Johnson 6.91 4.03 1.44 0.747 2.8__1.0 0.9 3.7
D Wade 9.22 3.79 2.71 0.963 2.3__0.1 1.1 3.4
R Westbrook 7.46 5.67 0.89 0.655 2.5__1.3 0.6 3.1
R Hibbert 14.26 11.72 1.27 0.718 2.2__0.9 0.7 2.9
T Parker 7.09 5.81 0.64 0.611 2.3__1.5 0.4 2.7
C Bosh 11.51 10.54 0.49 0.585 2.2__1.6 0.3 2.5
D Nowitzki 10.12 9.36 0.38 0.567 1.6__1.3 0.2 1.8
C Anthony 6.86 6.88 -0.01 0.501 1.6__1.5 0.1 1.6
D Williams 5.82 8.82 -1.49 0.248 1.0__3.0 -1.1 -0.1
AVERAGES 11.79 6.98 2.39 0.911 1.4 4.6

LeBron, Love and Durant are the top All-Stars

As I mentioned above, the very sensitive LeBron James is having a magnificent season.   Behind him, Kevin Love (the man everyone assured me would be the next “Big Country Reeves”) is having another spectacular season, despite his recent suspension for his Suh Stomp on the Houston Rocket PF Luis Scola.  And, in the top 3 we also have SF Kevin Durant.   With the most recent setback to Portland C Greg Oden, it appears Durant was the better choice in that draft.

Behind those three stands Dwight Howard, the three time winner of the Marginal Win Score MVP.  Howard is having a down season by his standards, and it is mainly because his defensive effort has declined.

After that you have the grossly underappreciated Andre Iguodala, the highly productive 76er SF.  He is having a great season.

The only other player I will mention is PG Derrick Rose.  Last season he was named the MVP, although most analytical NBA writers argued that he was not close to being the Association’s Most Valuable Player.  But, give him his due.  He has really blossomed under Chicago’s new regime, and his value keeps going up.

The Biggest Snubs left off this year’s All Star Rosters

The biggest snubs in the All Star nomination process were

C Tyson Chandler (Value 5.9)

SG James Harden (Value 4.2)

PF/C Pau Gasol (Value 5.4)

PG Rajon Rondo (Value 4.1)

SF Gerald Wallace (Value 4.9)

PF/C Carlos Boozer (Value 4.9)

Bucks are losing every positional battle except Point Guard

February 8, 2012

If you think the Milwaukee Bucks don’t miss injured C Andrew Bogut, take a look at the Positional Win Chart below.  I created the chart by calculating the Marginal Win Score average and corresponding winning percentage at each position on the court for the Bucks and their collective opponents, using the Positional Statistics available on

Milwaukee Bucks Positional Win Chart


Jennings winning the Point

Brandon Jennings is winning his battle at Point Guard, as I outlined in an earlier post.  He’s having a fine season.   But generally speaking, the Milwaukee Bucks are not.  As a team, the Bucks are losing every position other than Point Guard, and without Bogut’s presence they are getting absolutely MASSACRED at the Center position.

As the chart shows, 4.1 of the team’s losses can be attributed to the disparity in statistical production between the Bucks Centers and their Opponents Centers.  The Bucks are absolutely bleeding out at that position.  Gooden is a volume scorer who plays no defense and doesn’t keep his opponents off the boards.  Sanders is a joke.  And Brockman has been hurt.  The Bucks really need to shore up the frontline.

And, they need to start winning at some position other than the Point Guard.  I’m hoping that will be small forward, but Carlos Delfino has been slumping, and Mike Dunleavy can’t seem to stay healthy.

That’s life as a mediocre NBA team, I guess.