Before the All-Star break I’d like to calculate the Marginal Win Score and the consequent wins and losses produced by each player on every NBA team. When I am finished with every team I will produce a page that will provide access to continuously updated NBA Win Charts.
This morning’s post is the first in that series, and it features an analysis of the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit Pistons (11-25)
In deference to BGulker, a friend of this blog, the rest of the Badboys, and all the others from PistonNation who have been kind enough to follow this blog, I begin the project with the Detroit Pistons Win Chart, which I just finished.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW DETROIT PISTONS WIN CHART(36 games)
Who’s dragging down the Pistons?
I don’t know what the expectations were in Detroit, but I certainly thought the Pistons would get off to a better start than they have. What is going on?
If we compare the above listed Win Chart to the Pistons Win Chart from last season (click here), we can identify those that are not producing up to last season’s standards, and those who are no longer around and whose absence is felt the most.
At this point the two key columns on the Win Charts that will be most helpful in our analysis are “Win Contribution”, that means the respective player’s relative “win impact” he is providing the team over a given period of time, and “Player Win Average”, which is the percentage of wins the player is producing for every 240 minutes of action. Those two columns are fully comparable. (Win Credits are not because they are a function of absolute minutes played). The former is a measure of player value, the latter a measure of player performance.
The Returning Pistons
If we concentrate on those categories we see that almost every significant contributor to last season’s Piston team is well off last season’s pace. Its actually a little bizarre. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where a whole group of players productivity took roughly the same simultaneous decline.
Its almost as though someone deemed that every returning Piston take a 200 point haircut on his Player Win Average. Really strange. Jason Maxiell (.483% to .209%), Rodney Stuckey (.452% to .279%), Kwame Brown (.428% to .197%), Tayshaun Prince (.519% to .275%) all have declined by roughly the same amount.
And if you notice, the group’s common decline just about mirrors the overall team decline (from an overall winning percentage last season of .475% to an overall winning percentage this season of .305%). But the aforementioned players don’t deserve all of the blame.
Richard Hamilton = Michael Redd
A big disappointment for Detroit has been stalwart swingman Richard Hamilton, who is basically the Michael Redd of the Pistons. Like Redd, Hamilton was and has been an significant win contributor to his team, but also like Redd the “Marginal Win Score” system has never believed he was quite as significant a win contributor as popularly assumed. Both players are volume scorers and not much else. When they are hitting a high percentage of shots, or converting a high percentage of possessions into points, they are valuable players. When they aren’t they are usually costly players.
This season both have been exceptionally costly. Of course Redd’s season is over now, but in a lot of ways it never began. He was basically a loss producer for the Bucks, and may have been the team’s worst player. At the moment, Richard Hamilton is demonstrably the Pistons worst player (if you consider MWS48 a legitimate measurement).
Hamilton’s Player Win Average is currently -.114%, way down from last season’s .442%. A negative Player Win Average is horrible. It means the player is not only producing losses, he is also producing “negative wins”. Negative wins means the player’s marginal production has been so bad it has forced the others who are on the court with him to outproduce their counterparts by a larger amount than they normally would have to do just to produce the same amount of wins.
To conceptualize “negative wins”, think of the fat guy on that Real World/Road Rules Challenge a few seasons back who cost his team the grand prize because in the final race he not only ran slow, he repeatedly collapsed and thereby prevented his teammates from running and forced them to exert extra energy dragging him along the course… like Joker had to drag Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. That’s basically a negative win.
So that’s a quick overview of the returning Pistons. By and large they have been a disappointment.
Now lets examine the players the team added in the offseason and compare them to the players the team lost.
The one departing player whose absence is most costly is PF/C Antonio McDyess. He had a tremendous season last year, a very underappreciated tremendous season. Its very hard to replace a player who makes a > +0.200 Win Contribution to his team, and none of the newcomers have. But this is not really an indictment on Pistons management because, like Kurt Thomas of the Bucks, McDyess appears out of gas. He has not contributed much to his new team the Spurs. Nevertheless the missing wins are a fact.
The other player who made a decent contribution last season but is no longer in Detroit this season is PF Amir Johnson. Unlike McDyess, Johnson has most certainly not run out of gas. In fact he is producing nearly identical numbers in Toronto. The Pistons and after them the Bucks were fools to kick Johnson down the road. Yes his offensive game is rudimentary and yes he fouls too much, but when he’s on the court he produces wins. Plain and simple. Its funny how fans sometimes view player value. It seems that if a player can score basketball fans will overlook almost any glaring fault, but if he cannot score, fans consider any fault at all to be fatal.
Now lets look at the new Pistons. Here I have to eat a little crow. Charlie Villanueva is actually producing decent numbers. But, I caution Pistons fans. He’s played this shell game before. No other player in living memory has ever been such a cocktease in a Bucks uniform as Villanueva was. This guy burned me with his up-and-down play at least five times. And I note that his play has declined over the last month, so I am not yet a believer in Charlie fever. But at just below average production, I must admit he is so far doing better than I imagined he would.
The other frustration for Pistons fans is the similarly inconsistent Ben Gordon. His numbers are down from last season with the Bulls. They may bounce right back. But then I my experience with him has been that they go back down again (two seasons ago he was awful). Others disagree. (See footnote).
Honestly, I have never liked Gordon. Why? Because in my mind he’s the basketball version of fool’s gold. He goes on incredible scoring runs and your mind tends to overvalue those. Thus you think he’s adding great value when a lot of the time he is not. Coaches will remember his incredible scoring binges and decide to leave him on the court when he’s doing nothing but taking awful shots.
That’s what killed the Bulls in Game Seven last season against the Celtics. Remember that hideous airball he had when the game was basically in the balance? Gordon just wouldn’t stop wasting possessions with bad shots, and Bulls Coach Del Negro wouldn’t sit him down. And there went the series. Binge scorers like Gordon will do that to you.
I don’t know if that’s what’s happening in Detroit this season, but by my calculation Gordon has not been up to par. At the moment he is producing the same value for Detroit that Allen Iverson produced for them last season. And I think that got Iverson run out of town.
The other veteran newcomer is C Ben Wallace. For a guy who was supposedly washed up, he’s done alright. Just don’t ask him to be last season’s Antonio McDyess. Or last decade’s Ben Wallace.
Let me close on an optimistic note for Pistons fans. Their two rookies, Jerebko and Austin Daye have promise. I’m somewhat impressed with Austin Daye. Others such as BasketballValue rate him poorly, but I don’t. He’s relatively efficient and productive, and that’s what you want a basketball player to be. It tends to result in wins.
I don’t put much stock in BasketballValue anway, though I certainly find it interesting and I know others believe in it a lot, and that’s fine. I just think the “+/-” system relies too much on circumstance. Yes, perhaps my reliance on tangible box score production does omit the value of a pick set, or a “pass before an assist” but I can live with that because I really don’t think those intangibles are worth a whole lot. They may be, but I’m just not convinced.
I prefer instead to rely on direct evidence. Its more consistent. I don’t want to end up proclaiming Sebastian Telfair an “underrated gem” only to find the very next season that gem looks a little like cubic Z. (Boy how does a guy go from positive one year to -16.00 the next?).
FOOTNOTE: There are others who disagree with my positive analysis of Daye, so I shouldn’t take after BasketballValue so harshly. I could be wrong. Basketball-Reference.com’s Win Share system allocates wins in a very similar manner to my “Win_Loss Credits’ except they give 0.2 less to Daye and 0.7 more to Ben Gordon. My system downgrades Gordon’s win production because his scoring surplus is outweighed by his deficits in every other statistical category.