Bucks Diary

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Beware of the Cadillac

Here's how smart I am.

Last year around this time I was singing the praises of Charlotte Bobcat free agent forward Gerald Wallace, waxing on about how great it would be if he were a Buck. I think I went so far as to compare him to the great Marques Johnson.

One year on, the WoW Journal outlined the disappointing win performance this season by the Charlotte Bobcats. Even though the Bobcats added the productive Jason Richardson, and "lost" the totally unproductive Adam Morrison, their win totals did not increase. Gerald Wallace's drop in productivity was the single biggest reason why. What happened?

Immediately I suspected a post-contract Cadillacing. And whenever I suspect that, I always look for 3 confirming "motivational" clues (all based on how I play when I don't really feel like playing) in the player's game. I look for a lack of rebounding (because rebounding takes effort), I look for an abnormal fondness for hoisting outside jump shots (because that's a lot easier than driving to the basket), and I look for a distinct lack of defense (self evident).

Well, if you look at the statistics outlined by WoW, you can indeed see a substantial decline in rebounding. You also see a large decline in offensive efficiency. But, you also see that his FTA/FGA did not change, and since I consider "basket attack percentage" a sub-indicator of aggressiveness, at first I thought my intitial diagnosis was wrong.

However, I then went to 82games.com and looked up Wallace's mix of shots, and found my smoking gun. According to 82games' statistical breakdown, Wallace's shooting percentages are all virtually the same as they were in 2006-07... Wallace just rearranged his overall mix of shots to such a degree that it resulted in his much lower offensive efficiency numbers.

Here's what I mean. In his contract year, 2006-07, 36% of Wallace's shots were defined as "jumpers", which Wallace made at a 42.1% clip, while 64% were defined as "inside" shots, which he made at a 58.3% clip. Then, after signing his offseason megabucks contract, Wallace presumably decided the more physically tolling inside game was no longer for him.

This season his shooting percentages were virtually the same, but 52% of the shots he took were jumpers, while only 48% were "inside" shots. If you sample other players "shot mix" statistics from season to season, this kind of radical change is rare indeed. And had Wallace maintained his 06-07 mix of shots, he would have maintained his above average offensive efficiency numbers. It seems he didn't have the heart anymore.

There's more evidence. His defense declined as well. Last season, when he played power forward, his average opponent's Win Score was 8.85, well below average (meaning his defense was above average). This year it was 11.05, a substantial decline, and well above average (meaning the opposite). Meanwhile, at small forward he was bad both year's, but worse this year. In 2006-07, his opponent's average Win Score was 9.50; this season it was 9.75.

The moral of the story is, when we are looking at potential free agents this summer for the Bucks, we need to factor in the contentment a long term contract might produce. In Wallace's case, that contentment seems clear. Something else could be at work, but looking at the numbers, my mind keeps playing the refrain from that Springsteen song ("Cadillac, Cadillac!").


At April 12, 2008 at 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God we're not looking at $45 more million of this, I don't hate Wallace and I was more worried at the time about his injury history, I just can't handle another one of these big 5-year things that fails to back up the advertisement.


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