Is Senator Kohl delusional or correct?
Did you see yesterday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports page? Talk about negative publicity for the Green and Red. The entire front page featured articles designed to show the Bucks as an organization that's lost its way. (The picture above the fold not so subtley conveys the point: it is a half page shot of Coach K looking like a stark raving lunatic.)
Most of the articles were full of empty analysis and trite assessments any observant fool could make. The only really interesting piece in the entire expose was the one that contained an interview with Senator Kohl. I was particularly interested in the Senator's overall assessment of the 2007-08 Milwaukee Bucks, to wit: "To a man, everybody in the basketball organization feels we are a better team than we've shown so far."
I wondered: is the Senator's assessment of his team correct? Are they actually better than they have played? To answer this question, I produced three separate "Estimated Wins" scenarios using the Win Score metric, and my own derivation of it, "Win Contributions".
The first scenario was based on each Bucks player's best "Win Score" season. To me, that represents the team's absolute, idyllic potential. The second calculation I did was based on each player's average "Win Score" season. That is meant to represent a realistic estimate of the team's potential. Finally, I did a calculation based on each player's actual Win Score performance this season. That represents the brutal truth.
Here are my results. You will notice the numbers in each column are arranged something like this: 12.73 (+3.21) (+.433). The first number 12.73 is the player's Raw Win Score. The second number (+3.21) is the player's Position Adjusted Win Score, using position minutes as reported by 82games.com. The third number (+.433) is that player's Win Contribution, which is simply a multiplication of his overall percentage of player minutes by his Position Adjusted Win Score.
As my chart shows, Senator Kohl is arguably correct in his assessment, but totally unrealistic in his expectations. Sure, if every player on the team simultaneously repeated the most productive season of his career, the Bucks would be a pretty good team.
But, as you can see by comparing the first and second columns of my chart, most of the player's best seasons were either flukes (Ruffin's), or they are well in the player's past (Gadzuric and Mason). Besides, you should never assemble a team based on their best performances. That's wishful thinking. The more reliable predictor of likely success is each player's average production. And that turns out to be the case here.
Sidenote: Before I make a concluding point about my chart, let me make a quick side point. If you notice the first column, the player who can lay claim to having the best single season of anyone on the roster is not Michael Redd... its Dan Gadzuric! The year before he signed his much maligned contract, he had a monster season. Unfortunately, he made his contributions that season on the backboards, not on the scoreboard. So no one gave him the credit he deserved. Moreover, the Bucks subsequently ruined him by trying to transform him from what he was (an awesome role player) to what he could never be (a scoring center). That's why I never criticize the Bucks for signing Gadzuric to his contract. His past play showed he deserved it. I fault them for the way they misused him and basically ruined him afterward.
But back to my chart. Essentially what my calculations show is that the Bucks are basically having the season they would be expected to have given each player's career average. Expecting this squad to be a playoff team was always an exercise in wishful thinking.
The New "Most Costly Buck" is...
If you notice from the third column, Yi Jianlian has supplanted Charlie Bell (and before him Bobby Simmons) as the player with the highest negative Win Contribution... in other words the "Most Costly Buck".
While Yi's production has been bad compared to the normal production from a power forward, his positional production is not the worst on the team. But he's the Most Costly Buck because his rather substantial amount of playing time has magnified his negative impact on the team's record. That's on Coach K and/or whoever told him he had to give a struggling rookie so much PT.