Bucks Diary

Monday, December 31, 2007

Worst loss in Milwaukee Bucks history?

I remember at the bell to end the 7th round of the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight, when it was clear something historically significant was unfolding, HBO announcer Jim Lampley said "You begin to search your memory for the greatest upsets in heavyweight championship history." Listening to the Bucks-Pistons game today, around the middle of the fourth quarter, when it became clear that something historically bad was clearly happening, I began to search my memory for the worst loss in Milwaukee Bucks history.

Today's game has to be the worst. The hapless Bucks scored 69 points and lost by 45. It will almost certainly go down in Bucks infamy as the New Year's Eve Massacre. I wouldn't be surprised if it costs someone, upstairs or on the court, his job.

But who was to blame?

The beauty of this "Win Contribution" calculation I'm in love with comes through in games like this. When you're mad as hell at the Bucks and don't know who exactly to blame, it can tell you with a high degree of mathematical certainty who to target. To me, that provides a certain cathartic release.

Let me first tell you who you shouldn't blame. Yi Jianlian, Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, and Jake Voskuhl all had above average games. That's actually the scary part. 4 Bucks had above average games and they lost by 45 points. The rest of the numbers reveal how that happened.

The Bucks cumulative "Win Contribution" for the game was -7.324. Let me put that into perspective. Before today's game, I didn't know you could have a Win Contribution of -2.000 or less. Let me put it into further perspective. Last year's Bucks team had a cumulative "Win Contribution" at season's end of -0.959, which calculated into a 29 win season. They actually won 28 games, so the calculation was, and is, very accurate. (Here's how the calculation is done.)

If you put that into whole numbers, it means a team with a Win Contribution of -959 is a very, very bad team. Today the Bucks had a Win Contribution of -7,324. That is seven and a half times worse.

If you look closer, it gets uglier. If you ignore the positive Win Contributions from Yi, Redd, Bogut, and Voskuhl, then the cumulative WC for the rest of the 7 players who were paid large money to represent the Milwaukee Bucks in Detroit today was, in whole numbers, -8,425.

How bad is that? I consider any Win Contribution of -500 or lower to be a very bad game. Furthermore, I find that if you have one guy with a Win Contribution of -1,000 or lower, its extremely hard to win. Today the Bucks had 4 guys who contributed -1,300 or worse. They had one guy, Royal Ivey, who contributed -2,183. That's impossibly bad. Coach K may need to be put on suicide watch.

The Mathematical Carnage

Here's the story told with numbers. The first number you'll see below is the player's "Position Adjusted Win Score per 48 minutes", which means the Win Score amount that player contributed above or below the Win Score an average player at that player's position would provide his team prorated over 48 minutes. 0.00 is perfectly average. Anything positive indicates an above average performance, and anything negative indicates a below average performance. "Very good" and "Very bad" games start at around +/- 3.00.

The number next to that in parenthesis is the player's Win Contribution. Win Contribution is the product of the player's "Position Adjusted Win Score per 48" multiplied by the amount of overall playing time (which is 240 player minutes per regulation game, or 48 minutes x 5 players) that player is allotted by the coach. Thus an above average performance is magnified by extended playing time, and vice versa.

The opposite is also true -- a very good or very bad performance can do a lot of damage even if the player is alloted a seemingly small amount of courttime. In fact, Win Contribution shows how very valuable every court minute is. If a player goes out and fucks the dog badly enough (see Storey, Awvee) he can do a lot more damage to a team's chances for victory than you would imagine, even if he only gets a cup of coffee. Or he can do his team alot of good (see Voskuhl, Jake) if he is way above average. That fact surprised me, for sure. (This game is a bad example of that, though, because Storey's bad performance only made the game historically bad rather than just "run-of-the-mill" bad... but the point still stands.)

How to lose a game by 45 points

1. Jake Voskuhl....................+15.38 (+0.704)
2. Yi Jianlian.........................+1.41 (+0.182)
3. Michael Redd...................+0.86 (+0.111)
4. Andrew Bogut..................+0.81 (+0.104)
5. Michael Ruffin..................-4.30 (-0.143)
6. Charlie Bell.......................-6.30 (-0.734)
7. Dan Gadzuric...................-12.00 (-0.999)
8. Bobby Simmons..............-15.29 (-1.338)
9. Awvee Storey..................-27.99 (-1.399)
10. Charlie Villanueva........-23.00 (-1.629)
11. Royal Ivey.....................-20.14 (-2.183)

Yi vs. Durant vs. Horford

Yi's productivity had been going up in the past few weeks, but in the last couple of games its slipped back a bit. Still, his glamour numbers are at a point where he's beginning to receive serious consideration for ROY, alongside everybody's favorite, Kevin Durant of Seattle.

Dave Berri of the WoW Journal does not believe either Yi or Durant are worthy of the award. He thinks the obvious choice is Atlanta's Al Horford. He lays his case out here.

I agree with him that Horford is the hands down choice for ROY at this point. But, I think his analysis of Yi and Durant ignores the fact that both are small forwards playing out of position.

If you consider both players as SFs, then Durant might look a bit worse while Yi might look a bit better (the only caveat would be what effect the position switch would have on turnovers -- Durant might have fewer, while Yi might have more). Otherwise I think its a well thought out post.

That said, I'm sure Durant is going to win the ROY. It won't even be close I bet. Here's why I say that. Recently, a reporter from the Boston Globe (I forgot his name, and had never heard of him prior to that), appearing on ESPN, called Durant the prohibitive favorite for ROY because of his scoring totals. The reporter pointed out that Durant needed a lot of shots to amass those totals, but he said Durant "had that freedom" playing for Seattle. HUH????

This is the kind of rank stupidity that permeates basketball journalism.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

NBA Offensive/Defensive Performance Rankings

Here is the ranking of offensive and defensive performances for each NBA team, as determined by "point value over average" calculation.

Offensive "point value over average" is the average number of points the team scores above or below the number of points allowed per possession by their opponents defense, and the defensive "point value over average" is the average number of points the team allows below or above the number of points scored per possession by their opponents. Therefore, on offense a "+" number is good, and on defense a "-" number is good.

NBA Offensive Rankings

1. Detroit Pistons..........+3.86
2. Los Angeles Lakers..........+3.71
3. Dallas Mavericks..........+3.48
4. Phoenix Suns..........+3.45
5. Boston Celtics...........+3.15
6. Golden State Warriors..........+2.40
7. San Antonio Spurs..........+2.12
8. Toronto Raptors..........+2.06
9. Utah Jazz..........+1.35
10. Orlando Magic..........+0.86
11. Washington Bullets..........+0.29
12. Portland Trailblazers.........+0.00
13. Memphis Grizzlies..........-0.33
14. Indiana Pacers..........-0.93
15. New Orleans Hornets..........-1.13
16. Sacramento Kings..........-2.17
17. Denver Nuggets..........-2.27
18. Atlanta Hawks..........-2.29
19. Houston Rockets..........-2.92
20. Charlotte Bobcats..........-2.98
21. Milwaukee Bucks..........-3.24
22. Miami Heat..........-3.29
23. Cleveland Cavaliers..........-4.83
24. New Jersey Nets..........-5.23
25. New York Knicks...........-5.52
26. Seattle Supersonics..........-5.66
27. Philadelphia Sixers..........-5.84
28. Chicago Bulls..........-6.94
29. Minnesota Timberwolves..........-8.05
30. Los Angeles Clippers..........-8.63

NBA Defensive Rankings

1. Boston Celtics..........-10.05
2. Houston Rockets..........-6.31
3. New Orleans Hornets..........-4.82
4. Detroit Pistons..........-4.61
5. Chicago Bulls..........-4.16
6. Orlando Magic..........-3.97
7. San Antonio Spurs..........-3.96
8. Denver Nuggets..........-3.73
9. Philadelphia Sixers..........-3.50
10. Los Angeles Lakers..........-3.30
11. Atlanta Hawks..........-3.20
12. Los Angeles Clippers..........-2.63
13. Cleveland Cavaliers..........-1.26
14. Sacramento Kings..........-1.20
15. Indiana Pacers..........-0.84
16. Portland Trailblazers..........-0.81
17. Dallas Mavericks..........-0.71
18. Toronto Raptors..........-0.63
19. Golden State Warriors..........-0.57
20. Phoenix Suns..........-0.48
21. Seattle Supersonics..........-0.18
22. Utah Jazz..........-0.09
23. New Jersey Nets..........-0.01
24. Miami Heat..........+0.18
25. Washington Bullets..........+0.33
26. Charlotte Bobcats..........+1.04
27. Memphis Grizzlies..........+2.37
28. Minnesota Timberwolves..........+2.62
29. Milwaukee Bucks..........+3.67
30. New York Knicks..........+4.48

NBA Relative Power Ranking

After a week off for Christmas, the Bucks Diary Relative Power Ranking, based exclusively on our proprietary "point value over average" calculations, returns.

Thus far this season, the rankings have proven robust. Because they are based upon performance against the average rather than wins and losses, they revealed the Lakers surprising strength weeks before any other Power Ranking even had them in the top ten. They uncovered Utah's weaknesses when others thought they were a top 5 team. The rankings exposed the Bucks, New Jersey Nets, and the Los Angeles Clippers as much worse than their early records, while showing that Washington and Golden State were much better than theirs. And, the rankings legitimized the strength of the Celtics when others were still questioning them because of their schedule.

As far as I can tell, the current rankings differ from the mainstream in the following manner: (a) We're not nearly as impressed with the Trailblazers as others are (what does the guy on NBA.com base his rankings on, anyway? His mood ring?) -- Portland is a mediocre team that's just getting by against a weak lineup of opponents; (b) We've got Cleveland lower than others -- their offense simply blows chow and their defense is inconsistent; (c) We've got the Lakers ranked as the best team in the West, ahead of San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix; and, (d) While others inexplicably remain skeptical about the Celtics, we've got them as a decisive number one -- we don't even think its close. They are outperforming the average by nearly 5 points a game better than the number two Pistons.

NBA Relative Power Ranking

1. Boston Celtics..........+13.20 (--)
2. Detroit Pistons..........+8.47 (up 2)
3. Los Angeles Lakers..........+7.01 (--)
4. San Antonio Spurs..........+6.08 (down 2)
5. Dallas Mavericks..........+4.19 (up 4)
6. Phoenix Suns..........+3.93 (up 1)
7. New Orleans Hornets..........+3.69 (up 5)
8. Houston Rockets..........+3.39 (up 3)
9. Orlando Magic..........+3.11 (down 4)
10. Golden State Warriors..........+2.97 (down 2)
11. Toronto Raptors..........+2.69 (down 5)
12. Denver Nuggets..........+1.46 (up 2)
13. Utah Jazz..........+1.44 (down 3)
14. Atlanta Hawks..........+0.91 (up 2)
15. Portland Trailblazers..........+0.81 (--)
16. Washington Bullets..........-0.04 (down 3)
17. Indiana Pacers..........-0.09 (up 1)
18. Sacramento Kings..........-0.97 (down 1)
19. Philadelphia Sixers..........-2.34 (up 1)
20. Memphis Grizzlies..........-2.70 (down 1)
21. Chicago Bulls..........-2.78 (up 1)
22. Miami Heat..........-3.47 (down 1)
23. Cleveland Cavaliers..........-3.57 (--)
24. Charlotte Bobcats..........-4.02 (--)
25. New Jersey Nets..........-5.22 (up 2)
26. Seattle Supersonics..........-5.48 (up 2)
27. Los Angeles Clippers..........-6.00 (down 1)
28. Milwaukee Bucks..........-6.91 (down 3)
29. New York Knicks..........-10.00 (up 1)
30. Minnesota Timberwolves..........-10.67 (down 1)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Redd sagging in December

If you analyze the performance of each Milwaukee Buck in December according to their Win Score and Win Contribution, and then compare it to the same data from November, an interesting picture emerges. For one thing, Michael Redd is no longer playing at a superstar level, and its hurting the Bucks. For another thing, Bobby Simmons should not be allowed on the basketball court. He's killing the Bucks.

Here are the Buck numbers with Win Score and Win Contribution from November are first, and the numbers from December are second, with my comments below. (Win Score is performance over average at your position. 0.00 is the Win Score for the average player at each position. Win Contribution is the same analysis, only it spreads your Win Score out over you percentage of playing time to analyze the contributions to victory you made as compared to the contribution the average NBA player at you position would have made over that same amount of playing time. If you combine all the Win Contributions on the team, a score of 0.000 would be an average team that would be expected to have a .500 record. So any plus Win Contribution means the player is contributing in a winning manner, and vice versa).

Yi Jianlian.....-2.25 (-0.240)..........-0.05 (-0.006)
Michael Redd.....+5.45 (+0.848)..........+0.90 (+0.146)
Mo Williams.....+1.46 (+0.221)..........+0.78 (+0.120)
Andrew Bogut.....+1.55 (+0.202)...........-0.72 (-0.103)
Charlie Villanueva.....-1.43 (-0.119)...........-1.86 (-0.130)
Desmond Mason.....-0.36 (-0.039)..........-0.31 (-0.028)
Bobby Simmons.....-1.67 (-0.130)..........-7.86 (-0.539)
Royal Ivey.....-5.11 (-0.199)..........-1.96 (-0.097)
Charlie Bell.....-3.85 (-0.291)..........-3.92 (-0.340)
Jake Voskuhl.....+0.94 (+0.014)..........-0.71 (-0.035)
Dan Gadzuric.....-1.01 (-0.042)..........-0.98 (-0.013)

November Win Contributions: +0.169
Expected Wins: 6.39
Actual Wins: 7

December Win Contributions: -0.980
Expected Wins: 4.32
Actual Wins: 4


As bad as Bobby Simmons has played, its actually Michael Redd's decline of 702 Win Contribution points that goes farthest toward explaining the Bucks descent from a playoff team to a bad team... I wondered if he could keep up his November max player level... Redd's gone back down to his normal, slightly above average level, but maybe he'll get it back... Its all about rebounding, shot selection, and getting to the rim... Oh, by the way... My bad: the commenters were right -- Bogut was playing okay last month... Unfortunately, he's struggling this month, down 324 Win Contribution points and playing a below average center... But check out Yi, he's on the rise... And, not to beat a dead horse, but if you project Yi as a small forward, that slightly negative number becomes a large positive... That means wins, but Coach K won't do it!!.... He insists on sticking Simmons out there... Is he a masochist? Does he hate my Milwaukee Bucks?... Simmons is just killing the Bucks, he's awful...Charlie Villanueva isn't getting it done either... Did you notice when the Knicks finally got smart and stuck my boy PF David Lee in there fulltime they started beating good teams?... We have no chance of getting him now... But there are other opportunities out there for the Bucks to improve this summer... I scored some sweet, sweet Bucks gear for Xmas... More on that in a different post.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Magnificent Yi throws a perfect game

Last night Milwaukee Bucks F Yi Jianlian played about as good a game as a player can play, the basketball equivalent of a perfect game. And coming on the heels of about a week and a half of excellent play from Mr. Yi, its about as good a christmas gift as a Bucks fan could hope to receive. Perhaps we have found our second big time win producer. I still think he should be playing SF, and I outline why below.

Here's one for all you commenters to stew on

Last night Bucks F Charlie Bell had his first good game in a long time, and was a main reason the Bucks won. Meanwhile, Bucks G Michael Redd had one of his worst games of the season and nearly singlehandedly gave the game to the Bobcats.

I can see your minds churning already readers. You're thinking: How can I write that Charlie Bell, who played 32 minutes and didn't take a shot and didn't score a point, had a good game, while Michael Redd, who had 27 points and 3 rebounds, was awful? Before you start pounding the comment section with statements like ...

"I used to like this blog until you wrote something I didn't agree with, and now I think you're an idiot because we disagree, blah, blah, blah" ...please let me explain.

Here's how no shots and no points can be good while a ton of shots and some points can be bad.

First, let's assume every Buck is willing to attempt a field goal whenever he has a high percentage (+50%) scoring opportunity (after all, if everyone refused to shoot the Bucks would never score and could not win). As such, we can assume that Charlie Bell was not presented with any high percentage scoring opportunities last night and therefore choose to use his offensive touches to set up his teammates. By doing so, Bell did not waste a single Milwaukee Bucks possession all night, and helped seven possessions produce positive outcomes via his seven assists.

Redd, on the other hand, attempted far too many low percentage jump shots. By doing so, he not only bypassed potential high percentage shots his teammates might have had, he pissed away a ton of possessions.

Specifically, Michael Redd successfully completed only 10 Bucks possessions with his own scores and, on his 17 misses, he gave the opponents the ball back without positive gain for the Bucks. Basically, he committed the equivalent of 17 turnovers (sort of, I'm not counting 3s). If you consider it that way, you begin to see the damage Redd did. He might as well have dropkicked the ball into the stands for all 17 possessions. When you consider he also had 3 more actual turnovers, and that the Bucks average 90 possessions a game, Michael Redd was Charlotte's best defender, personally stopping the Bucks offense on around 20% of their possessions.

You normally cannot win when one player is that bad. The only reason the Bucks did win was because a certain Chinese player was out of his mind good.

Searching for Bobby Simmons?

How far has the $9 million man fallen? Desmond Mason is injured and instead of starting backup Bobby Simmons, Coach K starts PG Charlie Bell there instead. Ouch, and double ouch for Simmons and the man who signed him.

Go Big or Go Home

Coach K likes to create matchup problems for the opposition by playing a smaller player at certain positions. He likes to "substitute upward" -- a big 2 becomes a small 3, a tweener 3 becomes a quick 4, etc. I think this is a stupid strategy.

The proper thing to do, in my mind, provided you have big men who are competent enough ballhandlers (which the Bucks have in Bogut and Jianlian), is to "substitute downward", in other words convert your quick power forward into a "tall" small forward, move your small forward into a big shooting guard, move your versatile center to power forward, etc. Here's my reasoning:

1. You move your advantages closer to the basket

When you go with a smaller lineup, what you are effectively doing is creating advantages out on the perimeter, away from the basket, while simultaneously creating disadvantages closer to the hoop. Since the higher percentage shots are in closer to the hoop, you have foolishly given the opposition a decided scoring efficiency advantage. We've already seen this at work in the last two games as Ron Artest and Gerald Wallace have eaten the smaller Buck defenders alive while the Bucks didn't get much scoring from the perimeter.

I would much rather have Yi and Bogut struggle to stay with outside jumpshooters (which almost every Buck does anyway) and in turn be able to take those jumpshooters down into the block on the other end, than to watch the opposite thing happen to Charlie Bell and Michael Redd.

2. You create a rebounding advantage for the Bucks

A downward subsititution, with Bogut moving to power forward, Yi moving to small forward, and Gadzuric or possibly Voskuhl becoming the power center, and suddenly the Bucks have a decided edge in the all important area of rebounding. Every extra rebound is another contribution toward a win, and currently the Bucks are getting outrebounded at the SF. Why not end that by putting Yi there?

3. You keep the big defender off of Michael Redd

Have you noticed what happens when the Bucks go to a small lineup? That frees the "bigger quick" to guard Redd. What does that mean? Return of Bad Mr. Redd. The guy who likes to sit out on the perimeter and throw up bricks. The guy who doesn't like to drive the lane. The guy who doesn't rebound. The guy who doesn't help the Bucks. With Yi at the 3, the "bigger quick" is occupied, and Good Mr. Redd can muscle with the defender who is left.


Here are the "Position Adjusted Win Scores" or PAWS and overall "Win Contributions" or WC from last night's game. Remember, Win Scores basically tell you how the player's Win Score in his time on the court compares to the average player at that position, while the Win Contribution (minutes played as overall % of court minutes for team * player's PAWS) tells you in absolute terms how much value the player added above/below the value that would have been added by a replacement player of average production. As a sort of mental scale, any Win Contribution above +0.500 is outstanding, and any Win Contribution below -0.500 equates in to "You're killing me Whitey, you're killing me."

Milwaukee Bucks

Yi Jianlian...PAWS:+15.98...WC:(+2.790)
Charlie Bell...+2.70...(+0.356)
Maurice Williams...+0.48...(+0.091)
Andrew Bogut...+0.22...(+0.033)
Dan Gadzuric...-10.8...(-0.089)
Jake Voskuhl...-2.07...(-0.094)
Royal Ivey...-6.30...(-0.183)
Micheal Redd...-7.21...(-1.290)

Charlotte Bobcats

Jason Richardson...+4.80...(+0.879)
Gerald Wallace...+3.60...(+0.659)
Raymond Felton...+0.95...(+0.171)
Matt Carroll...+1.47...(+0.061)
Emeka Okafor...+0.36...(+0.054)
Jared Dudley...-2.50...(-0.052)
Nazr Mohammed...-1.05...(-0.139)
Jeff McInnis...-6.30...(-0.262)
Derek Anderson...-30.1...(-0.501)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bucks Trimester Grades

At the end of the first "trimester" of this NBA season, the Bucks look like an improving team. This is mostly due to the improved play over the last week and a half of Yi Jianlian and Desmond Mason. Now, if the Bucks could only get better play out of some of their more prominent reserves, they could make a serious playoff push.

Below are my trimester grades for each Buck. The statistics listed under each player's name are the player's "Position Adjusted Win Score", or the extent to which the player's performance has been above or below the average performance at the player's position. In parenthesis next to that is the player's "Win Contribution", which is simply a calculation of the percentage of floor time the player has used up (thus far there have been 6000 minutes of floor time available) multiplied by the player's Position Adjusted Win Score. Win Contribution indicates the extent to which the player has made either a positive or negative impact on the Bucks quest to accumulate victories. The aggregate Win Contribution for a good team should be on the positive side. Thus far, the Bucks aggregate Win Contribution is -.527, which is better than last season's -948, but still needs improvement. It projects to about 35 wins.

Anyway, here are my grades (what do the numbers mean?):

Michael Redd: A-
2007-08.....+3.60 (+.574)
2006-07.....+0.85 (+.087)
2005-06.....+1.18 (+.187)

If you look at Redd's numbers from the previous two seasons, you can see that he has really improved. He is doing all of the things necessary for producing wins. The only reason I give him an A- instead of an even higher grade is because I recently calculated Ray Allen's Win Contributions from his best seasons with the team, and Redd is not quite there yet. But he's on the right track, and is finally contributing like a max dollar player ought to contribute.

Mo Williams: C+
2007-08.....+0.36 (+.054)
2006-07.....+0.41 (+.051)
2005-06.....-1.62 (-.126)

Mo's play has dipped slightly from last season, although he is making a greater Win Contribution because he's stayed healthier and thus played more minutes. The fact is, though, he's basically just an average point guard... which is good for someone coming off the bench, but Mo is supposedly one of our "core" players. Unfortunately you can't win championships when your core players are just slightly above average win producers. To illustrate that point, look one post below and you will see the 2000-01 Bucks. Check out the level of Win Contributions that 52 win team got from their core players. That's what you need.

Andrew Bogut: C
2007-08.....+0.36 (+.049)
2006-07.....+1.21 (+.138)
2005-06.....+1.06 (+.126)

Again, like Mo Williams, Bogut's not a bad player... its just that he's decidedly average, and that's not good enough for your "core" players. Even more ominous, however, is this season he seems to be slightly regressing. He should be going the other way! Yet he'll have a string of super games and then just disappear for a while. That won't cut it. He just has to get it done on a consistent basis. As a means of comparison, here are the Win Score and Win Contributions thus far this season produced by two of Bogut's temporal peers: Dwight Howard...+10.56 (+1.700). Andrew Bynum...+9.60 (+.912). Both of those guys are around Bogut's age, yet they both blow Bogut's numbers away. Obviously, Howard is one of the better players in the game, but Bynum was picked 9 spots below Bogut. Its not that Bogut is incapable... Bogut's numbers from his last game against Sacramento were equal to Howard's season numbers. So he can do it -- but you are what you consistently do, not what you do every once in a while.

Yi Jianlian: B
2007-08.....-1.76 (-.200)
If he played small forward....+1.24 (+.173)

I'm giving Yi a better grade than Bogut or Mo simply because of expectations, and trajectory. I thought for sure Yi would stink this year, and he hasn't. And he's getting better by the game. Yi was around -3.50 just a couple of weeks ago, and now look at him. He's still making one of the largest negative contributions, but I contend that's not all his fault. I think he's a small forward forced to play out of place at the power forward. If he were a small forward, his numbers would actually be well above average. How would he do on defense at the 3 position? Who knows? But I think he would be a sort of Keith Van Horn type, and Van Horn survived in this league, and was much more productive than many people think.

Desmond Mason: B-
2007-08.....-0.68 (-.074)
2006-07.....-4.32 (-.574)

He and Bobby Simmons (especially Simmons) have been a bigtime dropoff from Ruben Patterson... but Mason has improved his personal numbers to such an extent that I had to give him a good grade. Last season he made as great a negative impact on the Hornets as the positive impact Michael Redd has had on this season's Bucks. That's laughably bad. That's why I spent the whole summer questioning why they signed him. But he's been serviceable and I can't believe it. His turnaround at his age is astounding. But can he keep it up?

Charlie Villanueva: D+
2007-08.....-2.24 (-.175)
2006-07.....-1.56 (-.078)
2005-06.....-0.62 (-.074)

Do you notice a trend in Mr. Villanueva's career numbers? He's backing up rapidly. He needs to turn those numbers around. This season he may simply be uncomfortable with his reserve role, but he better get used to it, because it seems like Yi is entrenched at the power forward position. And oh by the way... until his injury, TJ Ford's numbers were heading in the exact opposite direction.

Bobby Simmons: D-
2007-08.....-3.08 (-.224)
2005-06.....-1.06 (-.136)
2004-05.....+1.10 (+.156)

This guy is a total Tim Thomas. He's had all below average seasons except one -- his contract year with the Clippers! What a fraud. This season, though, has been his worst. That -.224 Win Contribution is just killing the Bucks. Given the money they are paying him, he has to b one of the worst free agent signings in team history.

Charlie Bell: F-
2007-08.....-4.31 (-.339)
2006-07.....-2.39 (-.345)
2005-06.....+0.44 (+.028)

What has happened to this guy? For the last two seasons he has absolutely sabotaged the Bucks, and it looks like he is getting worse by the game. Minus 300+?!! Two seasons in a row?!! You can't let a guy on the floor when he's doing that much damage to his own team. What a horrible signing he was. This is his second straight season as the MCB or "Most Costly Buck"... pardon the poor English. And at one time he was actually an above average player. Not any more. Coach K has to think about putting this guy in the dog pound.

Jake Voshkuhl: B-
2007-08.....-0.70 (-.021)
2006-07.....-2.88 (-.151)
2005-06.....-4.68 (-.195)

The Jakester is playing out of his mind... His career numbers suggest he is a severely below average big man, but this season he's almost been average! Can he keep it up? If you believe the phrase "regression toward the mean" is just some communist phooey, then sure he can!

Dan Gadzuric: D-
2007-08.....-2.11 (-.061)
2006-07.....-1.71 (-.072)
2005-06.....+0.03 (+.001)
2004-05.....+6.36 (+.615)
2003-04.....+2.16 (+.138)

I added the statistics from further back years to make a point: at one point in his career, Dan Gadzuric was a very valuable player. Look at his 2004-05 numbers! Nobody else on the team has ever touched those kind of numbers... including Redd. Indeed, Gadzuric was once a great rebounder... in 2004-05 he recorded one of the highest rebounding rates in NBA history. If he could just recapture that he could be a huge win contributor to this team. But Bucks management insists on making him into something that he is not... namely, a scoring center. He will never be that. And by trying to make him that they've merely turned him into a confused nonproducer who wears a perpetual look of shell shock and rarely contributes anything. If they would just let him do what he does best, and tell him not to worry about the rest, he can be a valuable contributor again. Will they?

Royal Ivey: C+
2007-08.....-2.61 (-.110)
2006-07.....-3.18 (-.085)

Royal kind of is what he is... isn't he? If you want to limit the damage he can do to your chances for victory, you want to limit the time he spends on the floor. But what option does Coach K have other than to play him as his backup?

Exonerating Anthony Mason

One of the enduring myths in recent Milwaukee Bucks history is that Anthony Mason scuttled what was an emerging Milwaukee Bucks championship team.

When Mason joined the Bucks in 2001-02, the team went from Eastern Conference runners-up the previous season back to mediocre also-rans, and I blamed him. In fact, most every Bucks fan I know blamed him. Problem is, I don't think he was ever to blame.

In doing my "Quarter Pole" analysis of this season's Bucks (which I will post later today), I calculated the Win Contributions for each member of this season's roster, and then for comparisons sake I did the same for each roster member of the last really good Bucks team, the aforementioned Eastern Conference runners-up.

When I was done... just for fun... I decided to jump ahead one season and calculate Anthony Mason's 01-02 Win Contribution to assess the damage he did. I was expecting to see some seriously negative numbers. That wasn't the case.

Instead I found a slew of alternative reasons for the Bucks 11 game decline in '01-'02, none of which involved Mason. In doing so, I also uncovered the real villian we should have been blaming all along: Tim Thomas.

Before I explain what I mean, take a look at the calculations for each season. (The first number is the particular player's "position adjusted Win Score". That represents the player's contribution to victory compared with the average player at his position. The second number is my own invention: the player's Win Contribution. It is meant to represent the player's impact -- positive or negative -- on the team. Its simply a multiplication of the player's position adjusted Win Score by his percentage of courttime. If you add up all of the player's Win Contributions, you can calculate the expected win total within 1 game, so it works pretty well.)

2000-01 Milwaukee Bucks

1. Ray Allen.....+5.38 (+0.855)
2. Ervin Johnson.....+3.04 (+0.306)
3. Glenn Robinson.....+1.48 (+0.211)
4. Sam Cassell.....+1.36 (+0.187)
5. Scott Williams.....+1.86 (+0.120)
6. Jerome Kersey.....+0.89 (+0.011)
7. Rafer Alston.....-0.93 (-0.013)
8. Michael Redd.....-13.64 (-0.024)
9. Jerome Caffey.....-0.81 (-0.060)
10. Joel Pryzbilla.....-4.48 (-0.061)
11. Darvin Ham.....-2.30 (-0.063)
12. Lindsey Hunter.....-0.63 (-0.064)
13. Tim Thomas.....-0.96 (-0.101)
14. Mark Pope.....-5.22 (-0.249)

Aggregate Win Contributions: +1.055
Expected Win Translation: 53 wins
Actual Win Total: 52 wins

2001-02 Milwaukee Bucks

1. Ray Allen.....+3.96 (+0.508)
2. Sam Cassell.....+2.44 (+0.322)
3. Michael Redd.....+3.21 (+0.231)
4. Glenn Robinson.....+1.38 (+0.164)
5. Anthony Mason.....+0.93 (+0.095)
6. Rafer Alston.....+0.66 (+0.020)
7. Ervin Johnson.....+0.13 (+0.011)
8. Joel Pryzbilla.....-0.87 (-0.049)
9. Jerome Caffey.....-5.29 (-0.076)
10. Mark Pope.....-3.96 (-0.086)
11. Greg Anthony.....-3.82 (-0.107)
12. Darvin Ham.....-4.65 (-0.285)
13. Tim Thomas.....-3.17 (-0.320)

Aggregate Win Contributions: +0.428
Expected Win Translation: 43 games
Actual Win Total: 41 games

The Real Reasons for the Collapse in '01-'02

So as you can see, while there was a slight dropoff from Scott Williams to Anthony Mason, it was only slight. The fact of the matter was that Mason was an above average power forward. Here are the real reasons for the collapse:

1. Tim Thomas' poor play
Because of injuries, the Bucks were forced to turn increasingly to the overpaid, underachieving F Tim Thomas. He did not deliver. His play went from slightly below average in 00-01 to way below average in 01-02. It killed the Bucks. Can you believe this was a maximum dollar guy? Perhaps the biggest ripoff in NBA free agent history.

2. George Karl's rotation fetishes
George Karl had no business playing Darvin Ham or Mark Pope, yet for some reason he did... and way too much. He also should have recognized how poorly Tim Thomas played and given those minutes to the emerging Michael Redd. Plus, he should not have played ESPN's Greg Anthony as often as he did.

3. Ray Allen's regression to the mean
Its hard to blame your best win contributor for a decline in wins, but the fact is that Ray Allen's regression from All-World in 2000-01 to merely All-Star in 2001-02 cost the Bucks some games. In fact, if you want to get technical, his .347 point decline in Win Contribution was the single greatest reason for the Bucks descent.

4. EJ's age related decline
The old warhorse, Ervin Johnson, was 34 when the 01-02 season began. The fact is, he was a huge and very underappreciated Win Contributor in the preceding seasons, but he could no longer sustain his productivity. He was still an above average center in 01-02, but he was no longer the bigtime win producer he was in 00-01.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Explanation for my switch

Did anyone find it odd that for about a year and a half I was vigorously advocating the use of the NBA's Eff48 statistic and then all of a sudden one day I dumped it and started using this Win Score statistic instead? It was a bit of a seachange, and I really never explained why. If you care, here it is.

First, while I still find the Eff48 stat superior to traditional performance measurements like scoring and rebounding averages, it has some annoying flaws. For one, it doesn't correlate well with winning. Doing my Eff48 Boxscore, I found numerous examples where the Bucks had the superior efficiency average in a particular game and still lost. That bothered me.

Second, I always knew intuitively that counting every positive statistic on a basketball score sheet as exactly equal was a bit of dirty math. I didn't know which statistics were more important or deserved greater weight, but I knew they probably weren't all equally important to victory.

Finally, I always noticed that Eff48 overvalued "gunning". And that was the very reason I stopped sighting traditional scoring averages, so that also bothered me.

The solution to all those Festivus grievences came in a book that I've been mentioning in my last several posts, The Wages of Wins. Their research corrected all of the errors of Eff48. And though it took a while to rid myself of some of my long held but mistaken beliefs (such as my propensity to overvalue assists), I eventually accepted their work and adopted the "Win Score" calculation as my chief method of evaluation.

Here's how Malcolm Gladwell explains the same thing:

What they (The Wages of Wins authors) tell us is that the people charged with evaluating and rewarding ability and performance in the NBA do a lousy job. In particular, they argue, traditional talent evaluation over-rates the importance of points scored, and under-rates the importance of turnovers, rebounds and scoring percentage. Wages of Wins also obliterates the so-called NBA Efficiency rating, which is the official algorithm used by the league and many basketball experts to rank the statistical performance of players. The Efficiency rating, they argue, makes the same error. It dramatically over-rewards players who take lots and lots of shots.”

And here's how he explains the advantage of their Win Score and Wins Produced statistics:

“Okay: part two. Is the Wages of Wins algorithm (Win Score) an improvement over the things like the NBA Efficiency system? To make the case for their system, the authors “fit” their algorithm to the real world. For the 2003-04 season, they add up the number of wins predicted by their algorithm for every player on every team, and compare that number to the team’s actual win total. Their average error? 1.67 wins. In other words, if you give them the statistics for every player on a given team, they can tell you how many wins that team got that season, with a margin of error under two wins. That’s pretty good.”

So, if the goal of this blog is to foster a conversation among Bucks fans about how to raise another banner up to the Bradley Center rafters, then I think that its important that we have the best information available to tell us how to get that done. For right now, I'm convinced that these "new" statistics... created by economists no less (but genuine bball fans, I'll give them that)... meet that criteria.

Monday, December 17, 2007

NBA offensive/defensive performance rankings

Here are this week's offensive and defensive performance rankings.

The offensive rankings are based on the average number of points each team scores above/below their opponents' points allowed/possession averages. Conversely, the defensive rankings are based on the average number of points each team allows above/below their opponents' points scored/possession averages.

Offensive Performance Ranking
1. San Antonio Spurs...+5.01
2. Dallas Mavericks...+4.70
3. Detroit Pistons...+4.43
4. Los Angeles Lakers...+4.25
5. Phoenix Suns...+4.23
6. Boston Celtics...+4.03
7. Toronto Raptors...+3.42
8. Golden State Warriors...+3.03
9. Washington Bullets...+2.23
10. Memphis Grizzlies...+2.05
11. Utah Jazz...+1.34
12. Orlando Magic...+0.83
13. Indiana Pacers...-0.80
14. Portland Trailblazers...-0.28
15. New Orleans Hornets...-1.45
16. Sacramento Kings...-1.74
17. Milwaukee Bucks...-1.98
18. Denver Nuggets...-2.36
19. Charlotte Bobcats...-2.55
20. Houston Rockets...-2.58
21. Miami Heat...-2.89
22. Cleveland Cavaliers...-2.97
23. Atlanta Hawks...-3.79
24. Philadelphia Sixers...-4.35
25. New Jersey Nets...-5.68
26. Chicago Bulls...-6.09
27. New York Knickerbockers...-6.25
28. Minnesota Timberwolves...-7.41
29. Los Angeles Clippers...-7.55
30. Seattle Supersonics...-8.24

Defensive Performance Rankings
1. Boston Celtics...-9.72
2. Houston Rockets...-4.95
3. Orlando Magic...-4.89
4. New Orleans Hornets...-3.63
5. Atlanta Hawks...-3.31
6. Los Angeles Lakers...-3.25
7. Denver Nuggets...-3.21
8. Chicago Bulls...-3.01
9. San Antonio Spurs...-2.90
10. Detroit Pistons...-2.59
11. Philadelphia Sixers...-2.54
12. Toronto Raptors...-1.98
13. Los Angeles Clippers...-1.52
14. Sacramento Kings...-0.78
15. Golden State Warriors...-0.60
16. Miami Heat...-0.55
17. Portland Trailblazers...-0.51
18. Seattle Supersonics...-0.10
19. Phoenix Suns...+0.05
20. Washington Bullets...+0.13
21. Indiana Pacers...+0.29
22. New Jersey Nets...+0.36
23. Cleveland Cavaliers...+0.39
24. Washington Bullets...+0.13
25. Dallas Mavericks...+1.27
26. Minnesota Timberwolves...+2.28
27. Charlotte Bobcats...+3.00
28. Memphis Grizzlies...+3.63
29. Milwaukee Bucks...+3.67
30. New York Knickerbockers...+5.88

Bucks Diary NBA Relative Power Ranking

Here is this week's NBA Relative Power Ranking, a statistical evaluation of each team's relative strength based on the average number of points they score and allow above (or below) their opponents' points/possession averages.

Below that ranking is a new feature: the Weighted Power Ranking. That ranking is a combination of the above mentioned average with each team's "Efficiency differential". Efficiency differential is the team's average pts scored/possession minus their average pts allowed/possession. So the weighted ranking is basically a combination of the team's relative performance with their actual performance.

NBA Relative Power Ranking

1. Boston Celtics...+13.75 (--)
2. San Antonio Spurs...+7.91 (--)
3. Los Angeles Lakers...+7.50 (up 1)
4. Detroit Pistons...+7.02 (up 3)
5. Orlando Magic...+5.72 (down 2)
6. Toronto Raptors...+5.40 (--)
7. Phoenix Suns...+4.18 (down 2)
8. Golden State Warriors...+3.63 (up 1)
9. Dallas Mavericks...+3.43 (up 3)
10. Utah Jazz...+2.61 (down 2)
11. Houston Rockets...+2.37 (down 1)
12. New Orleans Hornets...+2.18 (down 1)
13. Washington Bullets...+2.10 (up 1)
14. Denver Nuggets...+0.85 (down 1)
15. Portland Trailblazers...+0.23 (up 5)
16. Atlanta Hawks...-0.48 (up 2)
17. Sacramento Kings...-0.96 (down 1)
18. Indiana Pacers...-1.09 (down 3)
19. Memphis Grizzlies...-1.58 (down 2)
20. Philadelphia Sixers...-1.81 (down 1)
21. Miami Heat...-2.34 (--)
22. Chicago Bulls...-3.08 (--)
23. Cleveland Cavaliers...-3.36 (--)
24. Charlotte Bobcats...-5.55 (--)
25. Milwaukee Bucks...-5.65 (up 2)
26. Los Angeles Clippers...-6.03 (--)
27. New Jersey Nets...-6.04 (down 2)
28. Seattle Supersonics...-8.14 (--)
29. Minnesota Timberwolves...-9.69 (--)
30. New York Knickerbockers...-12.13 (--)

NBA Weighted Power Ranking

1. Boston Celtics...+29.75
2. San Antonio Spurs...+16.91
3. Detroit Pistons...+16.02
4. Los Angeles Lakers...+12.50
5. Orlando Magic...+11.72
6. Phoenix Suns...+11.18
7. Toronto Raptors...+10.40
8. Utah Jazz...+7.61
9. Dallas Mavericks...+7.43
10. Denver Nuggets...+5.85
11. Golden State Warriors...+4.63
12. Houston Rockets...+4.37
13. New Orleans Hornets...+4.18
14. Washington Bullets...+4.10
15. Atlanta Hawks...-2.48
16. Philadelphia Sixers...-2.81
17. Indiana Pacers...-3.09
18. Portland Trailblazers...-3.23
19. Memphis Grizzlies...-3.58
20. Sacramento Kings...-3.96
21. Chicago Bulls...-7.08
22. Cleveland Cavaliers...-7.36
23. Miami Heat...-8.34
24. Los Angeles Clippers...-10.03
25. Charlotte Bobcats...-11.55
26. Milwaukee Bucks...-11.65
27. New Jersey Nets...-12.04
28. Seattle Supersonics...-14.04
29. Minnesota Timberwolves...-19.69
30. New York Knickerbockers...-23.13

Friday, December 14, 2007

An interesting evaluation of the NBA Central

The economics professor who writes "The Wages of Wins Journal" (who happens to be a Detroit Piston fan) has written an interesting post wherein he projects the win totals for the 2007-08 NBA Central Division based on each team's play thus far this season. He does so using the "Wins Produced" econometric formula he and his fellow authors came up with researching their book "The Wages of Wins", a formula I've referred to several times on this blog.

By his calculations, the Bucks are on pace to win 30 games. (The other day I tried the same calculations and pegged the Bucks as a 28 win team. His numbers, obviously, are far more reliable than mine).

That's kind of depressing, but seemingly accurate. Several interesting observations about the Bucks and the rest of the Central Division come from his analysis of the contributions to victory being made by individual players.

1. Yi Jianlian is doing worse than I realized.
I know I had Yi as a very below average power forward at this point in his career, but I didn't project him as costing the Bucks games. Professor Berri does. He ranks Yi near the bottom of all Central Division players. I think the professor uses a more precise prediction of playing time, whereas my playing time numbers were just dirty projections. When it comes to production, though, we arrive basically at the same numbers. If you express his numbers in the "+ or -" terms I like to use (I hate integers), he pegs Yi as a -3.55 power forward, whereas I believe I had him at -3.48, so the difference must be playing minutes.

2. Bogut is not doing as well as he did last season.
When it comes to producing the statistics that produce wins, the professor's numbers say Bogut is slightly above average among centers, but that he's producing below what he produced last season. That's a bad sign. He may be regressing slightly, or at least he isn't progressing as we would hope. If you go back to the link, the important number to look at in the professor's calculations is the 4th column. Anything above 0.100 is considered above average production for a player at that player's particular position. If you notice, Bogut is currently 0.112, which is slightly above average. However, this guy kept all the "Win Score" calculations last season, and according to his numbers Bogut was a 0.152 last season, a significant difference (that number is found in his last column). The way I express it on my blog, that translates into a +0.23 for this season compared to a +1.42 last season. Not huge, but you'd like to see it going the other way.

3. Villanueva is regressing as well.
I think Charlie V may be lost under the Crisco regime. His minutes are uneven, and I think its affecting his play. In his first two seasons, he was consistently a just slightly below average power forward (his numbers in Toronto were basically the same 0.091 that they were in his limited action last season). This season he has regressed into a way below average power forward. He is currently -0.001. That's terrible.

4. Redd and Williams are both up
I already established this, but its worth noting again. Michael Redd's Win Production is way up this season. Last season he was at .142 -- which actually put him behind Bogut for Most Productive Buck. He's at .222 this season. He deserves a shot at the All-Star game. Mo Williams is also up a few notches, from .122 to .127. However, when you compare him to the otherworldly Chauncey Billups (.310), you wonder if we shouldn't have made at run at the old Piston last summer. Billups is a big time winner.

5. Big drop-off at the 3 position as well
Notice the above average production we received last season from SF Ruben Patterson (0.157) compared to the below average performances we are getting from Desmond Mason (.028) and Bobby Simmons (.012). Interestingly, Patterson was waived by the Clippers yesterday despite the fact that he was outproducing (.089) both Mason and Simmons despite getting only sporadic playing time this season (although he was well below last year's career high production). He must have pissed someone off. Anyway, I still think the Bucks should go with either Villanueva and/or Yi at small forward, but that will never happen.

6. The Bulls should be playing Noah more
I HATE Joakim Noah, but the sad fact is he's been an above average NBA power forward this season... much better than Yi. He rates a .158 while Yi, as mentioned, is a lowly -0.016. Will that be the case down the road? Who knows? But it does highlight the way teams overvalue scorers and undervalue guys who can't score but who rebound well and convert garbage points. I'm still happy he isn't a Buck. He's not that far above average.

7. Check out the Pacers
The most stunning information in the professor's calculations is found in the Indiana Pacers column. Check out how well Mike Dunleavy is doing and how poorly Jermaine O'Neal is doing! O'Neal is actually creating losses while Dunleavy is so far above average for his position he is creating more wins than Michael Redd! Unbelievable. (Actually, I just checked it out, and those numbers are merely an exaggeration of what happened last season. O'Neal was just slightly above average whereas Dunleavy was pretty above average -- though not as above average as he has been this season).

8. Blueprint for the Bucks?
If you believe in the professor's regression analysis, and I have tested it and am a believer to a large extent, then the Dunleavy/O'Neal situation shows how the Bucks can rebuild themselves into a championship team. To rebuild, the Bucks have to identify undervalued "Win Producers"... in other words guys who's reputation rates far lower than their production, or who are undervalued because they "only rebound"... and then pick them up on the cheap. I think this is the far better route to take than waiting and hoping for the lottery to deliver, or accumulating middle class free agents who end up being overpaid.

9. Hypothetically Speaking
Let me illustrate what I mean with a "for example". Let's say Dunleavy is for real... a big assumption, but just work with me for a second. The Bucks could probably have gotten him this summer for a song... and maybe they could still get him next summer for a lower price than his production dictates. Then lets say the Bucks trade their almost certain lottery pick to the Knicks for PF David Lee and SF Renaldo Balkman -- two players I think the Knicks would gladly give up... clearly they don't value them as highly as their production would warrant. Ok, so now we've got Dunleavy (or someone like Dunleavy), Lee, and Balkman. Ok, let's further assume pairing Bogut with an aggressive power forward like Lee would bring out his very best play (which I believe would happen). Then let's say the Bucks pick up a "rebound only" backup center for Bogut, someone whose team might not mind getting rid of him... let's say Etan Thomas of the Bullets. Then you fill out the rest of the team with athleticly inclined minimum wage players.

Okay, now let's give reserve playing time to Balkman and Thomas (1500 minutes) and full playing time for the rest (2500 minutes) and a full season for all of the five I just mentioned. Now you've got this kind of potential win production:

1. Michael Redd...+3.49....11.5 wins
2. Mike Dunleavy...+4.38....14.7 wins
3. David Lee...+4.77....13.8 wins
4. Renaldo Balkman...+3.51....6.94 wins
5. Andrew Bogut...+1.90....8.75 wins
6. Mo Williams...+0.55....6.3 wins
7. Etan Thomas...+2.51....5.9 wins

Projected Win total for this team: 67

67 wins? Is that a reasonable projection? Almost certainly not. Its based on a ton of non-injury and other assumptions, and some of the player's production levels would surely suffer simply because they would be playing next to more productive players (eg Lee would probably take rebounds away from Redd). Besides, it completely ignores the Bucks existing salary structure.

But if you could put it together I'd be willing to bet that it would be at least a 50 win team. And, for a clever GM, it wouldn't be that hard to construct such a team... or something like it... overnight. All you have to find to do is identify and then acquire undervalued assets.

That's basically what the Pistons did a few years ago and it launched them to a World Championship.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Antlerheads, step up for Redd

Ever since he signed his maximum dollar contract, I have been criticizing Bucks G Michael Redd. I felt he needed to earn his contract by expanding his game and doing more of the tangible things that would help the Bucks.

This season he has. He's having his best season by far. He's doing the little things a leader must do to make his team successful. And, frankly, he isn't getting too much help from he rest of the roster. In fact, without his vastly improved play, we would probably be down with the Twolves.

So I say we need to step up and show him his effort is recognized and appreciated. At the moment he is way behind in the voting for Eastern Conference starting guards. He is in seventh place, and three of the men he trails are having seasons inferior to his (Vince Carter, Ray Allen, and the injured Gilbert Arenas). Technically, so is D Wade, but he's untouchable. But the rest can be caught and passed.

Here's the voting link. Do what you can... vote early and often for the Redd Man.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Will the real Bango please stand up?

By my Power Rank reckoning, the Bucks have now defeated as many teams in my NBA Top 6 (Orlando, LA Lakers, Toronto) as they have lost to in my NBA Bottom 6 (Charlotte, New York, Seattle). What gives?

Who is the real Bango Buck? The buff deer we saw strutting around the Bradley Center last night, bitch slapping one of the better teams in the Association? Or the deer with the chronic wasting disease that we saw lose 4 of 5 to less than stellar competition out west?

I hope its the one we saw last night. That deer could definitely "D". Using my PVOA ratings, Orlando's offense should have scored just over 110 points given the number of possessions it had. Thus, the Bucks defense had an astounding PVOA of -24.40.

Before we go too crazy, Orlando's once formidable offense has been trending downward in the last couple of weeks (I think they've had one above average game in their last 10), and last night their offense had a PVOA of -29.19. But hey, I'm not going to take anything away from the Bucks.

Mr IncREDDible

Michael Redd's monster season continues. Last night may have been his finest performance of the year. Using the PAWS (position adjusted Win Score), Redd's performance rated an incredible +10.80 ( to illustrate how good that is, if he played at that level for an entire 82 game schedule, given his 37 minutes a game, that would translate into 28 wins produced for the Bucks just by Redd alone). And when he gets a little help from his friends, as he did last night (Mo Williams...+7.76) (Yi Jianlian...+4.54) (Andrew Bogut...+0.81), the Bucks are an extremely competitive team.

Halftime Post: Bucks vs. Magic

Wanna know why the Bucks are kicking ass at the half against one of the high powered teams in the Association? They've got four guys playing above their positional averages, and three guys playing way above their averages. Check out these halftime Win Score numbers (the parenthesis are their season average):

1. Yi...+9.00..(-3.50)
2. Redd...+8.08..(+3.99)
3. Williams...+7.69..(+0.12)
4. Bogut...+1.99..(+0.50)
5. Mason...-4.45..(-1.30)
6. Bell...-6.42..(-3.94)

You notice Bell still isn't playing well. But, if the "Big 4" put up numbers like that every night, the Bucks would be where the Celtics are. But, that's kind of unrealistic. But... they're proving its possible.

Final note: I'm beginning to believe that as Redd goes, so go the Bucks. If he has an out of sight game, and he can get one other Buck to join him, the Bucks are pretty tough to deal with. Let's keep it up and get a "W" tonight, Green and Red!

A sad sight at the BC

I'm watching the Bucks play the Orlando Magic early in the first quarter at the Bradley Center. Looking into the crowd, it looks like the Bucks' struggles are beginning to have an effect on the team's gate, which is unfortunate but understandable.

My eyeball assessment: the crowd looks barely half capacity in the lower bowl, and next to nothing in the upper deck. And they are making no noise whatsoever.

I'll be interested to see what the "official" attendance number will be for the game.

On a positive note, the team is thus far playing well. But they are shooting 67% and they only lead by 6, which is sometimes a negative sign.

The 1980-81 Bucks vs. the 2007-08 Bucks

If you read my last post, you will know that 9 of the 15 players on the Bucks current roster are adding little or nothing to their win total. It doesn't have to be that way.

Below I compare the Win Distribution of the last 60 win team in Bucks history, the 1980-81 Milwaukee Bucks to the Projected Win Distribution of this year's Bucks.

Notice the lack of dead weight on the 80-81 Bucks. Those Bucks had two would-be All-Stars (Marques and Sidney) on the team, but other than that it was made up mostly of productive role players. Yet, those role players were so well chosen that 7 of the 11 Bucks from the 1980-81 campaign were above average win producers for their position.

Of course, to get to 60 wins it helped to have two All-Stars (Marques and Sir Sidney) who were so far above average for their positions that they produced as many wins by themselves (+32) as the entire '07-08 Bucks roster currently projects for the entire season, but my general point still stands. That roster was well constructed. This year's roster is not.

Win Distribution for the 1980-81 Bucks

1. Marques Johnson...+6.59.....17.30 wins
2. Sidney Moncrief...+5.95.....15.36 wins
3. Bob Lanier...+2.67.....7.09 wins
4. Quinn Buckner...+0.77.....6.45 wins
5. Junior Bridgeman...+0.52.....5.60 wins
6. Mickey Johnson...+0.34.....5.09 wins
7. Harvey Catchings...+0.64.....4.29 wins
8. Pat Cummings...-0.64.....1.86 wins
9. Larry Evans...-2.37.....0.45 wins
10. Brian Winters...-2.49.....0.72 wins
11. Len Elmore...-4.10.....-2.66 wins

Total Projected Wins for the 80-81 Bucks: 61.55 wins
Actual Wins for the 80-81 Bucks: 60 wins

Projected Win Distribution for 2007-08 Bucks

1. Michael Redd...+3.88.....15.11 wins
2. Andrew Bogut...+0.50.....6.73 wins
3. Mo Williams...+0.13.....6.56 wins
4. Desmond Mason...-1.49.....2.34 wins
5. Charlie Villanueva...-1.89.....1.34 wins
6. Bobby Simmons...-1.54.....1.65 wins
7. Jake Voskuhl...-0.01.....0.010 wins
8. Royal Ivey...-2.81.....0.008 wins
9. Yi Jianlian...-3.09.....0.000 wins
10. Charlie Bell...-3.70.....-0.59 wins
11. Dan Gadzuric...-2.05.....0.005 wins
12. Michael Ruffin
13. A. Storey
14. David Noel
15. Ramon Sessions

Projected Win Total: 32.5 wins

Bucks whacked out salary structure

For the last couple of summers, the Bucks have targeted middle class free agents. Presumably, the Bucks felt the middle class players would give them more bang for their buck.

How's that working out? This season... not so good.

I figured out the Win Expectancy -- projected out over 82 games -- for each player on the Bucks roster and then compared it against their salary for this season.

At the moment the Bucks project as a 31 win team. By my calculations, among the players who are actually adding wins, the best value for money players on the team are C Andrew Bogut and SG Michael Redd. The worst value for money is SF Bobby Simmons.

But at least he's delivering wins. A full 9 of the 15 players on the roster are delivering less than one victory... or in the case of Charlie Bell, they are costing the team victories.

All in all, those "dead weight" salaries amount to $18.33 million of the total $62.00 million payroll, or nearly 30% of the Bucks roster expense. One caveat... free agent signee C Jake Voskuhl would be adding at least two victories, thereby making his 3 million dollar salary palpable, if only he would receive a decent amount of playing time.

Most Expensive Bucks per win (green players are delivering no wins)

1. Dan Gadzuric...$5.75 mil
2. Bobby Simmons...$5.45 mil/win
3. Charlie Bell...$3.1 mil
4. Jake Voskuhl...$3.0 mil
5. Yi Jianlian...$2.77 mil
6. Desmond Mason...$2.13 mil/win
7. Charlie Villanueva...$2.02 mil/win
8. Mo Williams...$1.18 mil/win
9. Michael Ruffin...$1.033 mil
10. Michael Redd...$0.960 mil/win
11. Royal Ivey...$0.798 mil
12. Averee Storey...$0.770 mil
13. Andrew Bogut...$0.728 mil/win
14. David Noel...$0.687 mil
15. Ramon Sessions...$0.427 mil

Update: In my original post, I somehow forgot all about Dan Gadzuric. Therefore I had to amend most of the post to include his information.

Monday, December 10, 2007

NBA Offensive/Defensive Performance Rankings

Below are my offensive and defensive performance rankings based on each team's point value over average on each side of the ball. Here's what each ranking evaluates:

Offensive Rankings: the + or - number next to each team represents the average number of points that team scores above or below the amount predicted by its opponent's established defensive efficiency average (i.e. its opponent's average pts allowed per possession).

Defensive Rankings: the + or - number next to each team represents the average number of points that team allows above or below the amount predicted by its opponent's established offensive efficiency average (i.e. its opponent's average pts scored per possession).

The theory behind the rankings is that they give a clear picture of how a team is truly performing without regard to its wins or losses or the strength of its schedule by comparing that team's performance against the average performance of the rest of the Association against the same set of opponents and given the same number of possessions.

All data is updated through games played on Sunday, December 9th.


1. San Antonio Spurs...+6.60
2. Dallas Mavericks...+5.35
3. Detroit Pistons...+5.32
4. Los Angeles Lakers...+4.79
5. Boston Celtics...+4.41
6. Phoenix Suns...+4.36
7. Golden State Warriors...+4.33
8. Toronto Raptors...+4.20
9. Utah Jazz...+3.68
10. Orlando Magic...+2.73
11. Washington Bullets...+2.51
12. Memphis Grizzlies...+2.10
13. Indiana Pacers...-0.77
14. New Orleans Hornets...-0.91
15. Portland Trailblazers...-1.20
16. Sacramento Kings...--1.41
17. Houston Rockets...-1.64
18. Milwaukee Bucks...-1.91
19. Charlotte Bobcats...-2.47
20. Denver Nuggets...-2.68
21. Cleveland Cavaliers...-3.51
22. Miami Heat...-3.60
23. Atlanta Hawks...-3.72
24. Philadelphia Sixers...-4.30
25. New Jersey Nets...--5.13
26. Minnesota Timberwolves...-6.42
27. New York Knickerbockers...-7.22
28. Los Angeles Clippers...-7.23
29. Chicago Bulls...-7.38
30. Seattle Supersonics...-7.95


1. Boston Celtics...-8.73
2. Orlando Magic...-5.29
3. Houston Rockets...-4.88
4. Chicago Bulls...-4.23
5. Denver Nuggets...-4.07
6. New Orleans Hornets...-3.37
7. Los Angeles Lakers...-2.30
8. San Antonio Spurs...-2.25
9. Philadelphia Sixers...-2.19
10. Atlanta Hawks...-1.97
11. Detroit Pistons...-1.18
12. Los Angeles Clippers...-1.03
13. Miami Heat...-0.75
14. Indiana Pacers...-0.74
15. Toronto Raptors...-0.57
16. Sacramento Kings...-0.48
17. Utah Jazz...-0.35
18. Seattle Supersonics...-0.20
19. Phoenix Suns...-0.17
20. Cleveland Cavaliers...-0.01
21. New Jersey Nets...+0.58
22. Golden State Warriors...+0.31
23. Washington Bullets...+0.88
24. Portland Trailblazers...+1.30
25. Minnesota Timberwolves...+2.05
26. Dallas Mavericks...+2.63
27. Charlotte Bobcats...+2.93
28. Memphis Grizzlies...+3.50
29. New York Knicks...+4.95
30. Milwaukee Bucks...+5.39

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Redd reverts and game gets away in Portland

Bucks G Michael Redd is having a terrific season. Tonight he did not have a terrific game. He had a very bad game.

Most troubling to me was his shot selection in overtime. With the game on the line Redd repeatedly reverted to his old, ineffective habit of dribbling in place and then settling for those awful, stepback catapult shots. You just cannot take such low percentage shots in such crucial possessions. I thought the New Redd understood that.

You must advance toward the basket. If you cannot find a shot, then you trust your teammates and pass the ball. Simple as that. Rarely does anything good happen when you yo-yo dribble in place and then launch from deep.

Return of some prodigal Bucks

The Bucks nearly won the game because they received very nice performances from two Bucks who have been Missing in Action lately.

PG Mo Williams, by position adjusted Win Score, had a nice night. He scored 33 points using up only 25.5 possessions. Very efficient and productive scoring night. He also piled up steals, added assists, and mixed in some rebounds for good measure. Nice game, Mo.

Likewise, Charlie V had one of those frustratingly infrequent great games he loves to tease us with. By PAWS he was a +7.73. Very, very good night at the 4 position for the Green and Red... and I haven't said that much in '07-'08. Now if we can only see a little more of that.

Why can't Bango D?

You know how Badger fans often refer collectively to Badger squads as "Bucky"? Well somebody asked me recently why no one ever refers to the Bucks players collectively as "Bango". So I will now.

Bucks fans, I ask you..."Why can't Bango D?"

We are now on our third different Milwaukee head coach and it seems as though nothing's changed. The Bucks are the still the worst defensive team in the Association.

The questions is 'Why?' Do they lack the talent? I don't think so. Do they lack the will? I hope not. Do they lack the schemes? What kind of schemes do you really need to play aggressive defense?

Yet, Antlerheads, at one point early in the second half the Blazers were shooting a Villanova '85-like 64% from the field. I doubt with their personnel they shoot that well during their casual morning shootarounds.

I'm being both sarcastic and serious. Something has to change quickly or I'm afraid its going to cost Mr. Harris his job. Although, at this point, that result is beginning to look like a fait accompli.

What the hell, Charlie Bell?

I didn't think the Bucks should have matched Miami's offer to G Charlie Bell this summer. Nothing against the guy, I just didn't think he produced enough to warrant the money. Plus, he overtly indicated he would rather play anywhere but here. I was more than willing to oblige him, but GM Harris felt he was worth it. Fair enough.

He actually started the season pretty well, but that didn't last. Since about the third game he's delivered exactly bubkus.

But here's the kicker. I just read in a three day old article on JSonline that part of the reason he's playing poorly is he's not in shape!

"Right now, I've been working out like crazy the last week or week and a half on a treadmill, running before games. I'm trying to work myself into top physical condition and help this team win."

The last week to week and a half?? What the f#*k?!

Well, hold up, I'm missing the bigger outrage here. How can he be out of shape? How can that be true? Is this the 1950s? Does he smoke like Vlade Divac? Was he selling insurance or automobiles to supplement his income during the offseason? How could he come to camp out-of-shape?

And more to the point, how the F can he still be out-of-shape? We're a month into the season!

Bucks fans, I can't even tell you how pissed I am at Charlie Bell right now. Apparently I'm not alone. Coach K is so mad at him he can barely speak his name.

What do you guys (and gals) think, Antlerheads? Have you had enough of this guy's antics or what?

Don't let the Bucks record fool you

Last night the GF went to a bachlorette party. She came home at about 2:00 AM just shit faced. I mean, she could not walk... her friend was literally propping her up. The GF likes the occasional sauce, I'll admit that, but last night she must have gone on a rare bender even by her standards. She wasn't even pretending she wasn't drunk!

That's why I'm writing at 5:00 AM on a Sunday. I'm basically on the no-sleep, don't-let-her-roll-onto-her-back, keep-awake-all-night Jimi Hendrix puke watch. Real fun. I've already watched the same stupid ESPN highlights at least six times over.

Thus I need something else to occupy my brain so I can stay awake without going crazy. Guess what I thought of? Did you guess the Milwaukee Bucks! Pig in a poke!

Here's the question that came to mind. The Bucks are currently around a .500 team. Are they lucky to have that many wins, or are they a superpower waiting to explode?

To test this I went to the website run by the California economists I've been writing about, the guys who wrote the book that is my current obsession, The Wages of Wins. They researched the NBA record book from 1991 to the present and came up with a mathematical equation that allowed me to determine with a high degree of accuracy the Milwaukee Bucks expected win total based upon their current offensive and defensive efficiencies.

I punched in the numbers. Yeech. Not good. Based on the Bucks current offensive and defensive efficiencies, the econometric model predicts they will win 28 games.

I guess that's about what I predicted at the beginning of the season, but its still depressing.

Bucks Diary NBA Power Rankings

Here are my NBA Power Rankings for all games played through December 8, 2007. As always, these rankings are based exclusively on the cumulative offensive and defensive averages each team posts under the comparative statistical analysis known as "Point Value Over Average" (what is PVOA?)

1. Boston Celtics...+13.14 (--)
2. San Antonio Spurs...+8.85 (--)
3. Orlando Magic...+8.02 (--)
4. Los Angeles Lakers...+7.09 (--)
5. Phoenix Suns...+4.53 (up 2)
6. Toronto Raptors...+4.44 (up 4)
7. Detroit Pistons...+4.23 (down 2)
8. Utah Jazz...+4.03 (down 2)
9. Golden State Warriors...+4.01 (up 3)
10. Houston Rockets...+3.68 (up 1)
11. New Orleans Hornets...+2.96 (down 3)
12. Dallas Mavericks...+2.72 (down 3)
13. Denver Nuggets...+1.39 (up 4)
14. Washington Bullets...+0.94 (down 1)
15. Indiana Pacers...-0.03 (down 1)
16. Sacramento Kings...-0.93 (up 2)
17. Memphis Grizzlies...-1.40 (down 2)
18. Atlanta Hawks...-1.74 (up 1)
19. Philadelphia Sixers...-2.10 (up 2)
20. Portland Trailblazers...-3.05 (up 2)
21. Miami Heat...-3.14 (down 1)
22. Chicago Bulls...-3.15 (up 2)
23. Cleveland Cavaliers...-3.49 (down 7)
24. Charlotte Bobcats...-5.13 (down 1)
25. New Jersey Nets...-5.40 (up 2)
26. Los Angeles Clippers...-5.78 (--)
27. Milwaukee Bucks...-6.68 (down 2)
28. Seattle Supersonics...-8.35 (--)
29. Minnesota Timberwolves...-8.47 (--)
30. New York Knickerbockers...-12.17 (--)


I guess the acid test for whether you think this formula has evaluative usefulness is the Los Angeles Lakers... The Lakers are the one team whose PVOA power ranking is way out of whack with their record and with the netwide Power Ranking consensus... I guess I have the Mavericks and Nets a lot lower than their Consensus Power Rankings as well... The Mavs look somewhat soft this season, and the Nets haven't gotten it together... The Cavaliers are going to screw me up a little because their non-LeBron offensive performances are so woeful they will skew their overall average performances to a significant extent and thus skew my evaluations of each of their opponents' performances for a while... But, what are you gonna do?... The Bucks are sinking fast... I've got the Green and Red alot lower than their Consenus Ranking, but with their latest loss to the Sonics, coupled with their previous losses to the Sixers and Knicks, I think their Consensus Ranking is about to fall as well.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

duRanting about the Bucks

Before I start my rants about last night's debacle in Seattle, did anyone notice how close I came to accurately predicting the score? I had it flipped, and I was 2 off. I had the Bucks winning 103-99, based purely on PVOA calculations. The difficulty was, you have to assume one or the other of the teams will control, and I assumed the more veteran Bucks would... and I was wrong. But my underlying numbers were dead on.


1. Okay... Seattle F Kevin Durant may end up being the greatest basketball player of all time, but by any objective standard he is currently a substandard NBA player. That's just a fact. Yet last night the Bucks transformed him into an extremely above average NBA player. What was the Bucks secret? Simple, no defense.

Coming into the game, by position adjusted Win Score, a very accurate measure of productive success, Kevin Durant was amongst the worst rookies in the NBA at nearly -5.00. By comparison, Big Dog Robinson (a similar player with similar good and bad tendencies) was only -0.56 as a rookie, and even the hideous Todd Day (a player of generically similar game and physical stature) was only a -1.12 rookie.

Durant's just been bad, plain and simple. Or rather, its more accurate to say that he's been severely counterproductive for the Sonics, if their goal is accumulating victories.

Yet last night he posted a Win Score of +8.90 -- those are superstar numbers that more closely reflect his collegiate productivity. I'll bet he wishes he could play against the Bucks every night. Their defense represents the NBA's path of least resistance.

2. God Bless Desmond Mason, he's a great guy and he's got sort of a "cool" way about him, but he's giving the Bucks nothing on either end of the court. No defense and consistently below average productivity. Its time for a change.

I'm begging Coach K to at least try a Villanueva-Yi-Bogut lineup. How could the defense get any worse than the Ghandhi like defense Mason plays?

In fact, last night K should have put Yi on Durant, and just had him try to choke off Durant's jump shot with his length. Yi could have gotten Durant driving... out of his comfort zone. Then the defense could have collapsed on his penetration. Durant wouldn't have passed off, he'd have taken wild shots. Instead, Coach K stuck with Mason on him and Durant basically did what he wanted.

3. Another reason to try Yi at the 3 is because he just can't handle a physical 4. Wilcox ate him alive early. Bogut had to switch onto Wilcox, and that basically derailed the terrific game Bogut was having on the offensive end of the floor as he now had to expend on defense.

4. Where has Mo Williams gone? He has been AWFUL on this road trip. And so have his backups. Why not call Sessions up and just let him learn on the job? He's got to be better than "Royale without Cheese" Ivey or the Charlie "milk carton" Bell.

5. Antlerheads, I hope you appreciate the high level of play the Bucks are getting from SG Michael Redd. If this were hockey, we would say he is "standing on his head". Last night he had a +11.20 performance, which is incredible. He basically kept the Bucks in the game by himself in the second half. How long before he loses patience with the rest of the team, though?