Bucks Diary

Friday, July 25, 2008

Brewers Diary Supplemental: Introducing Baseball "Run Score"

I figure if Professor Berri delves once in a while into a little football on Wages of Wins Journal, there should be no harm or confusion with me delving into some baseball here on Bucks Diary (sorry Glenn, I just can't resist Brewer Fever any longer). I promise, baseball haters, that my baseball postings will be sporadic and clearly signalled. On the bright side, I think they will bring some fun and variety to this blog for me and for the readers during this long, torturous summer (and I'm just not into that whole Olympic basketball deal -- what is it now, Dream Team 33 1/3?).

Let me explain my history with baseball. Originally I wrote a Milwaukee Brewers baseball blog, Four Blocks to Miller Park. I was inspired by the writings and approach taken by Michael Lewis in his seminal baseball book, Moneyball.

Later I started writing this Bucks blog just for some more fun, but I always intended to concentrate on the Brewers blog. Well, as it so happened this Bucks blog really took off and the Brewers blog basically never gained any traction outside of a few blocks along the Capitol Square in Madison (inside joke). There was a simple and obvious reason for that, as I explained to one of that blog's original fans, The legendary "Diesel", several months ago.

The kind of analytical writing and approach I wanted to use on "Four Blocks" was, frankly, somewhat passe in the baseball blogosphere. Everyone was using that style and was using better, more original metrics before I even got into the game. Thus, I had virtually nothing original to add to the conversation.

But in basketball the "analytical niche" had hardly been filled at all. Most bloggers when I started were writing in the familiar "Hoop Magazine" style of "Scoop" Jackson from ESPN.com. ("Man, that was a fly betty move by my man Kobe..."). Or they wrote in the satirical voice of Deadspin and National Lampoon, a style of writing which takes a special wit and talent and a lot of effort to pull off successfully (sometimes I try it, but its very difficult... Detroitbadboys does it extremely well).

Instead of following that path, I and others (Bratwurst.com is one, right here in BucksNation) instead took the approach that so many baseball bloggers successfully brought to their sport -- the Moneyball approach, for lack of a better name. The source for myself and others was the work done in The Wages of Wins (basketball's source version of Moneyball) as well as other great basketball analytical writings (Dean Oliver).

What makes the basketball analytical writing sphere so great, too, is that it is a conversation, not a competition. This isn't the race to split the atom. We are all having fun trying to develop better ways to analyze and understand this great game of basketball -- the people's sport.

And to the extent that I developed some ideas and statistics of my own (actually I "derived" all of my statistics... none of them are original in themselves), I felt like I became part of this whle thing, and that was what has made blogging fun, so I began to concentrate on my NBA writing and ideas, and, unfortunately, Four Blocks went in the dustbin. I've regretted it (and some people have even left me some hostile emails DEMANDING that I relaunch it -- it wasn't that good, people!!) and so now I am going to add from time to time some baseball postings on my Bucks Diary site (which could be moving BTW, stay tuned for further details).

Milwaukee Brewers "Run Score" Chart

Here is my Milwaukee Brewers "Run Score" production chart. The position players are first, followed by the pitchers. Run Score basically tells you who is most and least responsible for the Brewers great play this season. Its simply a calculation of the number of runs produced on offense, and prevented on defense by the player, above or below the number an average player at his position would be expected to produce/prevent.

Thus, JJ Hardy's 34.2 Run Score means he has produced/prevented 34.2 more runs than the average shortstop would have done over the same number of outs. He has been tremendous, and he is quietly proving to be the most valuable player on the Brewers.

(I will explain how I get the two statistics in detail at a later time. For now, "Offensive Run Score" is simply a derivative of BaseballProspectus's "Runs Above Average" at position. And "Defensive Run Score" is simply a function of the number of balls hit into the player's defensive zone that the player successfully turned into outs, and how those extra/fewer outs translate into expected runs.)

Milwaukee Brewers Analysis

1. JJ Hardy is having a superb season and no one seems to realize it. He leads all Brewers in Run Score. That doesn't mean that he is producing more runs than others on the team, it means he is producing more wins because he is producing a greater surplus of runs from his position than any other Brewer is producing from his position.

2. If you read "Four Blocks" last year, you will remember how I proved that Ryan Braun, despite his tremendous offense, was actually costing the Brewers runs because of his terrible glove. All winter I told anyone who would listen how much better the Brewers would be, and their pitching staff would be, simply because they moved Braun off third base and they moved Billy Hall out of centerfield. Its come to fruition. Not only is Braun producing monster runs for the Brewers as a result of his move, he has actually become one of their BETTER DEFENDERS. An absolutely astonishing transformation for anyone who remembers and understands how much damage Braun's glove did to the Crew last year.

3. In fact, the defensive theme is a general one. The Brewers have gone from a piss poor defensive unit to a unit that WINS WITH DEFENSE. Its unbelievable. Its the same transformation I'm hoping the Bucks will make, and it shows with certainty how valuable defense is to victory and how it cannot be overlooked.

4. If Rickie Weeks does not get it going, Durham MUST replace him. Weeks, and Billie Hall, are the teams biggest weak links. Neither is producing above average runs on either side of the diamond, despite sort of vague beliefs about how impactful each can be (Weeks supposedly scores runs -- which was true last year but not this -- and Hall can blast home runs, but he must do it more consistently, and he must find his consistent glove at 3rd or I'd go full time to the Muscle, Russ Branyan.

5. Sheets is easily the Brewers best pitcher... until you consider Sabathia. Look at how quickly he has vaulted near the top of Pitching Run Score! He's almost caught Sheets. Solomon Torres has been outstanding all season in Pitching Run Score.

6. On the negative side, Jeff Suppan is having a miserable season. He and Eric Gagne were TERRIBLE free agent signings, as they look now. Both are near the bottom of the team in Pitching Run Score. Villanueva is not as good as is commonly believed either, as his Pitching Run Score is and has been near the bottom.

The Basketball Earth is flattening, too

I always wondered when this day might come. It actually came much sooner than I expected. The basketball talent market has suddenly globalized. And it may be bad news for lower echelon teams like my Milwaukee Bucks.

Europe, with all of its little peasant basketball leagues, has suddenly become, essentially, a poor man's version of what the ABA was to the NBA in the 1970s -- a rival basketball league that is positioned to drive up the NBA's cost of labor. Its impact could be greatest amongst the "young and talented" players who are restricted free agents but who are not quite superstars. Players like Josh Childress. Under the NBA's salary cap structure, such players have little bargaining power. But with Europe in play, that has changed dramatically.

I always worried about the eventual possibility of Europe undermining the NBA salary cap structure. After all, its happened in nearly every formerly unionized domestic industry, why would basketball be any exception?

But because of the unique qualities of sports I did not think the international bidding war would manifest itself for years on, mostly because I thought Europe would not become a truly enticing possibility for talented young Americans (its always been enticing for marginal Europeans to return) until the reputation of the European Leagues greatly increased. Frankly, until that day came, I believed pure professional pride and just plain old Americana (cue "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") would override the allure of the Euro for young American players. I underestimated some of them... or at least their love for "The Benjamins". (And I can't really begrudge them that... after all their "value window" is quite small).

And so the plummeting dollar, along with what I think is a rising level of just plain "cosmopolitanism" amongst the internet generation, has provided a real opportunity for deep pocketed and completely unfettered European teams to go after and get USDA prime cut NBA talent, for the first time ever.

And if this trend continues, it could be a real problem for teams like the Bucks. The Bucks, ultimately, have to rebuild themselves using the same method the Brewers have used. They have to stockpile young talent and nurture it together.

That will be harder to do if they have to compete for that talent with outside entities like Europe.

However, let me reign the "Flat Earth" boogie man in a bit. First off, Childress strikes me as a bit of a lone wolf -- certainly more intellectually adventuresome than your average NBAer. I find it hard to believe most young American ballers would be willing to sacrifice any of their professional prime at all to go play in Europe... no matter what the premium payment on offer. The NBA's allure is still very, very strong... and foreign cultures can still be quite daunting and lonely. Second, the federal reserve will not continue its cheap money policy forever. The dollar will eventually find its footing again, and that will hopefully take away some of Europe's monetary strength.

Finally, Europe is a bit of a dying continent. The collective birthrate among all of the major countries save for Great Britain is shockingly low. In fact, the New York Times magazine did a piece recently on how Europe, over the next century, may be "going out of business." It stands to reason that a substantial decline in the overall birth pool would also lead to a substantial decline in the basketball talent pool, which would further erode Europe's ability to pose a long term threat to the NBA. But time will tell. Its something to keep an eye on, that's for sure.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lue and Allen may not add much to Bucks

The Bucks recent free agent signings, Malik Allen and Tyronne Lue, both fit new coach Scott Skiles love of defense. But both of them, based on last season's performance, leave a lot to be desired on offense.

By my statistic, "Defensive Win Production", which basically takes the established metric "Win Score" and applies it to the player's "opponent counterparts", both Allen and Lue were above average performers last season. So they each should fit nicely into Coach Skiles scheme.

Lue's "Defensive Win Score" was +0.3 above average (meaning his opponent counterparts were, collectively, that far below average) which translated into approximately 1.5 "defensive half wins" (inverting Professor Berri's Win Production formula and crediting each end of the floor with "half" a win). That's, obviously, slightly above average... as you would expect from his slightly above average Defensive Win Score. Allen, meanwhile, playing the power forward, did even better with his "D", recording a "Defensive Win Score" of +1.1, which translated into about 2.3 defensive half wins. Again, above average defensive win production. Very nice for defensively starved Green-and-Red fans to see.

However... and there always seems to be a "however" when it comes to the Bucks... where each struggles mightily is on offense. Last season Lue's "Offensive Win Score" was -2.7, which translated into about 0.1 offensive half wins in his 736 minutes of action. If you combine that with his defensive half wins, Lue produced about 0.9 wins for the Atlanta Hawks. The problem is, the average performer would have been expected to produce about 1.5 wins in that amount of time, meaning that playing Lue effectively cost the Hawks 0.6 wins.

Now, if you use my "If He Were The Whole Team" statistic, which is calculated as "Wins Produced Above Average" divided by "% of Overall Playing time" plus 41, then Lue figures to be a 25-57 player... a worse player than the Bucks team as a whole last season. (Note: "If He Were The Whole Team" essentially asks the following query "If the whole team performed at this guy's level, what would our record be?". So, you should come up with, generally, a number that resembles an NBA team's 82 game won-loss record. But it doesn't always work that cleanly. For the superstars, the "IHWTWT" record will often include more wins than games played... for instance, if all the Cavaliers were all as productive as LeBron, then the Cavs would have won 19 more games than they actually played. And, inversely, some players are so bad that if the whole team were as crappy as them, the team would actually LOSE more games than they played. So, "IHWTWT" essentially tells you what level, by record, each player performs at... with some fiction involved for the really good and the really bad).

For Malik Allen, the offensive story is even worse. His "Offensive Win Score", as a power forward, was -4.5. That translated into Offensive Half Wins totaling, unfortunately, in the red... -1.2. Put that together with his Defensive Half Wins of 2.3, and Allen produced 0.6 wins last season.

An average NBA player consuming 1096 minutes, however, would have been expected to produce 2.2 wins. Thus, granting Allen playing time cost his team approximately 1.6 games. Given that Allen ate up about 5.5% of his team's overall playing time, if a whole team bled wins at Allen's rate, that team could expect to finish with a dismal record of 11-71.

So, while I like the emphasis on defense, both Lue and Allen must upgrade their offensive production over last season if they are to make significant contributions to the success of the 2008-09 Milwaukee Bucks. And I do expect them to be successful.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I wish some of Agent Zero's postings would self-destruct

I like Gilbert Arenas, and I definitely like the Bullets bloggers I've gotten to know (they've always been good to this little blog). But I'm just getting sick of all the gratuitous Milwaukee bashing, and Gilbert recently lowered himself far enough to take part.

What I'm referring to is the posting on his otherwise interesting blog, oh around the time RJ was traded to the Bucks, where Agent Zero wrote (I'm not gonna link to the actual post if you don't mind) that basically "Milwaukee was the worst city in the NBA" and that he felt "sorry" for RJ for having been traded from New York (essentially) to a dive town like Milwaukee.

Ok, Gil buddy. Enough. This Milwaukee bashing is getting a little annoying, and its certainly overblown. First of all, I've lived in both Washington, DC and in Milwaukee. DC was better, that's true, but not by much (and mostly it was the historic value that put it over the top for me). And even so, I'll tell you this much... I never walked home from work fearing for my life in Milwaukee, whereas I did several times in DC (I lived and worked on Capitol Hill, if anyone is familiar with the area... just north of Union Station... and I could hear LIVE gun fire from my flat... FREQUENTLY!!).

But, in fairness to Arenas, here's what I think is going on. First, the Bucks don't win, and haven't won for quite some time, so that fact exacerbates everything bad about the city. If they did win, my guess is no one would care much about playing in Beer City because it really isn't that bad a city (witness the distinct lack of complaining about relocating from CC Sabathia or Ray Durham when they were traded to the Brewers from Cleveland and San Francisco recently).

Second, in every geographic or group breakdown, it has been my experience that there always has to be one area that everyone looks down upon -- mostly just because everyone wants to have an area to look down upon -- and in the NBA that area (at the moment) happens to be Milwaukee. (Note: The scorned areas are almost invariably areas that are popularly perceived as lower middle class white or blue collar white areas; infrequently they can be agricultural or urban poor areas as well. The phenomenon kind of goes along with the essay Bill James once wrote about how much Americans miss the so-called " country rubes" who once were a staple of our "agricultural to industrial" population change, and how the abscence of the Rube in everyday life explained the wild popularity of some 1960s shows like "The Beverly Hillbillies", "Petticoat Junction", "The Andy Griffith Show", and shows like that. I think the essay is in his last "Bill James Abstract" edition, but I could be wrong. Very good and very perceptive, as always.).

For instance, when I grew up in Green Bay, everyone looked down on Pulaski (yah, der, hey... that's what they would say). When I moved to Minneapolis, everyone looked down on the northern suburbs, Blaine and whatnot else (the area where the Vikings are thinking about moving to, actually), when I lived in Washington, it was the Southeast area of the city, Anacostia, or anywhere the "Orange Line" ran (for good reason... riding the Orange Line reminded me of "Warriors, come out to playyyeayyy"), in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, it was Omro, Wisconsin. In Milwaukee, its anything that can be labeled "Southside" -- same exact deal in Chicago (I need to study that phenomenon closer -- I think its rooted in ethnic prejudice, but I'm not sure). The point is, every group dynamic has to have within itself some subdynamic that all can look down up as "trashy". Its sad... but pretty much true. And in the NBA, the subdynamic of scorn at the moment is Milwaukee.

Again, that should change soon... but not fast enough for this writer's liking.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You gotta Let Love Rule: Rundown of the Vegas Summer League

I did a Win Contribution Chart for the prominent rookies and a few second year men who participated in this year's Vegas Summer League.

My comments about each player's performance are included in the chart. Let me just briefly state that no one, amongst the players I chose to chart, did more poorly than Milwaukee's rookie "Power Forward" Joe Alexander. This guy, unfortunately, does not look NBA ready. Unless he's a hell of a defender, and I hold out hope that he is, he does not appear positioned to contribute at all. So far he does nothing particularly well.

What makes that realization worse for any Bucks fan is that many of the "true" power forwards who were available to the Bucks in this draft, and some of whom the Bucks passed on more than once, had very nice Summer Leagues, albeit brief ones for many of them (some were hurt, others, I think, are just underrated by their own teams -- see, "The Tyranny of Scoring Statistics" for an explanation why).

As for the prominent names from this year's draft who showed up in Vegas, there were not a lot of surprise results. Kevin Love looked simply awesome, as was expected. And OJ Mayo looked "not-ready-for-prime-time", as was also expected. I must note, however, that Jerryd Bayless looked better than I anticipated, and he certainly looks like a scoring machine for the Blazers, but he shows no point guard instincts (he had 5 assists in 5 games, I believe), and I find it hard to believe he can compete at the NBA 2 guard spot being as diminutive as he is (he's neither long nor strong).

Final note. The Bucks second round pick (the Prince) looked somewhat surprisingly productive, especially next to the impotent Alexander -- but again, there were so many others (Joey Dorsey, Richard Hendrix) who look like they will be much more productive fulfilling virtually the same anticipated role, that I am still left somewhat depressed by the Bucks take in this year's draft.

Bucks Diary is not dead yet!!

Sorry about the inconsistent posting. We had a couple of hiccups and dislocations as some of you know, but that's all over now. Bucks Diary is back online, baby. No more service interruptions... at least not for the next 70 days or so... which will take us up to training camp at St. Francis. Then we'll work it out from there and get on into the start of the Bucks Championship Season of 2008-'09.

As for the immediate, I'll have something up regarding the young Bucks performances in the Vegas Summer League (Vegas, baby!!), along with the other performances of other prominent NBA rookies, in just a couple of hours (I actually haven't seen the stats for a week, so it'll be fresh to me). I hope Alexander looked a bit more like a 4, but I'm not holding my breadth.

So look for something shortly, and then consistent posting from here on. Thanks for sticking it out with us. Until next post, go Green, go Red, and hi-ho Silver... Bucks Diary is back!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What is Brian Butch's philosophy anyway?

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to play in the NBA and all the buzzkills in your world would recite some statistic pointing out just how unrealistic such a dream was? The implication I always got was that the odds were so long because the competition was so fierce. I don't think thats true.

The fact of the matter is there aren't very many good basketball players in this world. Or, rather, there aren't that many good basketball players who also meet the rare physical qualifications of the NBA. That's why so many draft picks suck... not because the competition is so strong, but rather because so few meet the minimum levels of competency.

Which is why I get so infuriated with someone like Brian Butch. Butch has the physical qualifications to play in the NBA, but instead of exploiting his asset, he negates it by choosing to play a style that can be played by players who do not have NBA physical attributes. Butch, at 6'11'', thinks he's doing something great by sitting outside and bombing 3s.

Why big men think there is any value at all to that practice is beyond me. Think about it. If Butch is in the game he has to play the 4, because he can't guard anything else. But team's count on 4's to rebound and score with efficiency. When your 4 man instead insists on lingering out on the perimeter, he is handicapping the team's productivity.

Its so sad. If you had to go through life as a freak, and let's face it, that's what anyone over 6'7'' is, wouldn't you want to make the most of your freakish attributes? I would. If I were Brian Butch, I would abandon anything outside the paint, I would work exclusively on my inside game, I would have a voracious appetite for rebounds, I would hit the weight room day and night, and I would skip rope like a mo fo.

In other words, I'd work on things that leverage my one exceptional attribute. What I wouldn't do is concentrate on things I could have done if I were a foot smaller.

Sessions making a statement

While some of the Bucks rooks aren't looking so hot, there's a returning second year man who's pulling a "Michael Redd" (a bench guy who uses the summer league platform to showcase what he can do).

Sessions has been outstanding. His WS over the first two games is 10.3. His Win Contribution is a sterling +1.223.

What really catches my eye is Sessions phenomenal urge to attack the basket. I love that quality in a point guard. Sessions FTA/FGA or "Basket Attack" % is actually upside down... he has quite a few more free throws than he has field goal attempts (which indicates a rare relentlessness).

Compare that to the Bucks regular PG Mo Williams. If I remember correctly, we were all marveling at Williams inability to get to the foul line at all early last year. Didn't it take him several games just to get his first free throw attempt?

If I could nitpick on Sessions just a tiny bit... I want him to control his turnovers at bit better. 9 in 57 minutes is about triple the NBA average, so he needs to focus on that.

With that said, he's been awesome and looks like he could be an asset to the Bucks in the winter.

Nervous about Alexander

We just went through a season in which I pissed and moaned that the Bucks starting power forward was really a small forward. We traded him (Yi), but then we drafted a guy to replace him at power forward who seems to be a PURE small forward. Terrific.

For the second straight game, Bucks rookie Joe Alexander didn't rebound at all. He shows none of the instinctual qualities of a power forward. Yet there just going to jam him in there, call him one, and hope that it is so. It won't be so.

What do the Bucks have against rugged, traditional power forwards? Why won't they employ guys who live to rebound and love the smell of paint? Those type guys have great value, and that value is especially pronounced when your team is built around a finesse center like Andrew Bogut. I and others have long argued that Bogut's maximum potential won't be reached until he is paired with an enforcer at the 4. But the Bucks just won't get him one.

Right now, Alexander is looking like a bust. I know its WAY early, but he appears to be a man without a country. He isn't properly skilled to play a standout 3, and he doesn't rebound or get inside enough to play a manly 4.

Lets hope I'm wrong, but my horse sense tells me Hammond flamed out on his first draft pick. But I'll keep an open mind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Believe it or not, Bogut will probably be underpaid

How much of a daze have I been in with my whole GF situation (see last post)?? I just thought -- I never commented on the Bogut extension! The whole world's been commenting on it (including the dude at the gas station I frequent), and Bucks Diary has not. Let's correct that situation.

First off, as far as I can tell, most of BucksNation thinks the Bucks are dupes. They think Bogut is wildly overpaid. I disagree. In fact, by my fair market calculations, he will probably end up being underpaid over the life of the agreement. Let me explain.

A couple of posts ago I figured out that next season's market price per win produced will be $1.8 million (this represents total NBA salary outlay divided by total wins available next season). If you look at Bogut's Win Production last season, its around 5.8 wins. If you figure he will do at least that well next season, and his upward sloping production throughout his career suggest he will, then next season he will already be underpaid.

Bogut is scheduled to make $10 million next season. If he produces 5.8 wins, and I project he should produce 6.5 to 7 wins, then a fair market price for his services would be $10.44 million. And, given the expected rise of around 8% per annum in the NBA Salary Outlay, if Bogut merely continues to produce at last season's numbers into the foreseeable future, the Bucks will continue to get a bargain until the last two years of his agreement.

And indeed, over the life of the agreement, assuming Bogut's development stunts right at 5.8 wins (and, again, he's much more likely to improve on those numbers) and assuming the NBA Salary Outlay increase per annum continues to be 8%, then, at the end of Bogut's contract, the Bucks will have "underpaid" him by approximately $510,000. Good deal for the Green and Red.

Inauspicious debuts for Bucks rookies

Sorry I've kind of been slacking on my Summer League coverage. Me and the GF (whom I've mentioned from time to time in these posts) are breaking up, and we were together for a long time, so I'm a Bucks fan with a very broken heart. But I'll try to soldier on. For the Green and Red.

Anyway, the Las Vegas League seems to have a tad bit more competition than that five-and-dime Orlando League had. And, as a result, the big name rookies have not fared well.

But no one fared worse, among the big name rookies, than the Bucks own Joe Alexander. He was bad to the bone. Its not quite time to set the warning lights flashing, but I don't know how he could have had a less inspiring debut. As I feared, he looked nothing like an NBA power forward. In 33 minutes of action, he grabbed a mere 3 rebounds. You'd think he could run in to more than 3 rebounds.

Power forward, Joe. Not Point Guard. Power forward.

(Oh, and he missed a TON of shots, too. So I'm doubting he displayed much of an inside game, either.)

I read on Yahoo Sports how OJ Mayo had an impressive debut. Ah, no he didn't. By Win Score and Win Contribution he was awful.

The one guy who did "impress" was Donte Green. He tossed in a very efficient 40 points, and led all big name rookies in both WS and WC. I wasn't that high on him going into the draft, But Erich Doerr pointed out in the runup to the draft that Green tends to run very hot or very cold.

A "kind of" surprise debut was Anthony Randolph's of the GS Warriors. He played above average whereas his college numbers project him as a bust. But, on draft night, I did say that Nellie's system could make a producer out of this misfit guy, and for one game, apparently, it sort of did.

Kevin Love also looked good, although not quite as good as his raw stats (18 points and 13 rebounds) would lead you to believe. He played a little loose with the turnovers.

Anyway, here's the list of Win Scores and Win Contributions for the Vegas Summer League so far. (I didn't have the ambition to create a Google Doc. Forgive me.)


1. Donte Greene.....+15.0.....+2.250
2. DeAndre Jordan.....+2.4.....+0.233
3. Kevin Love.............+2.1.....+0.271
4. Anthony Randolph...+0.2...+0.023
5. Jerryd Bayless..........-0.8.....-0.110
6. Eric Gordon..............-1.4.....-0.169
7. Mareese Speights......-2.5.....-0.302
8. Mbah a Moute............-3.4.....-0.411
9. Danilo Gallinari...........-4.6.....-0.575
10. Mike Conley..............-5.3......-0.567
11. OJ Mayo....................-5.9.......-0.756
12. Robin Lopez..............-6.9........-0.766
13. Darrell Arthur..........-9.8........-1.151
14. Javalle McGee..........-12.3.......-1.332
15. Corey Brewer..........-14.2.......-1.538
16. Joe Alexander..........-21.2........-2.915

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Summer League Report: Is Kevin Durant back?

Orlando Summer League
Day 2
OKC 100, Orlando 77

Kevin Durant, OKC (WS: +16.6; WC: +1.902): Last season, no player baffled Win Score analysis more than Kevin Durant. Looking at his college numbers, he should have been much more productive. He actually had a subpar rookie season. I think part of the reason was the "soft" mentality the radical switch to SG imparted within him. He no longer wanted to rebound, it was all "bombs away" volume scoring. The kind that doesn't add many wins to many teams, and it didn't for Seattle. Well yesterday Durant surprised everyone by showing up at Summer League, and playing like Kevin Durant... at TEXAS! Durant rang up a magnificent game in every way, coming up with an adjusted Win Score closer to his fantastic college numbers, +16.6. Of course, his Win Contribution was stratospheric as well, +1.902. Keep it up, Kevin. That's the guy we all thought we were getting out of college.

DJ White, OKC (WS: -1.8; WC: -0.172): White's WC numbers are slightly distorted because he played out of position at center. Still, he's not producing like I expected him to produce. Specifically he's not grabbing rebounds at the rate I expected, although he was certainly better today at 0.213 per minute, but that's still subpar for a power player. They ought to grab about one every four minutes at a minimum.

Russell Westbrook, OKC (WS: +16.1; WC: +1.610): This bud, by contrast, continues to stun me. He's dominating, whereas in college he couldn't get much done at all. Thus far in this summer league he has been nothing short of spectacular. Can't explain it yet, maybe it was UCLA's scheme. We'll see, its Day 2.

Courtney Lee, Orlando (WS: +4.8; WC: +0.660): I'm starting to think this may just be a really crappy summer league. It appears that defense is totally optional. When does the Vegas League begin?

Summer League Report: Derrick Rose does well

Orlando Summer League
Day 2
Chicago 89, Indiana 84

Player Rundown

Derrick Rose, Bulls : (WS: +3.8; WC: +0.459) Rose came back nicely from a rough first game. His play and Beasley's abysmal play should teach me to hold back on judgments, though I don't think I drew any sweeping conclusions yesterday. Anyway, Rose did all the little things that teams need today and didn't turn it over as much, and that led to a Win Score of +3.8, and a Win Contribution projected at +0.459. His shooting was still poor at 2 for 9, but he ripped down 6 rebounds, had 7 "dimes" (sorry), and took 3 steals. That shows how you contribute to a win when your offense is clanking.

I guess Rose was the only prominent rookie on either team, so this is a short post.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Summer League Report: Beasley misses the mark

Orlando Summer League, Day 2
Miami Heat vs New Jersey Nets

Miami Heat

Michael Beasley forgot his range finder today. 1 for 13 he went! Don't you stop shooting at some point? A good sign, though, he stayed on the boards. But he turned the ball over five times. Unforgivable. As a result, his Win Score was a forgettable -21.7, and his Win Contribution was a painful -2.441. Ouch. Worst so far this summer.

Meanwhile PG Mario Chalmers had another brilliant day, finishing with a Win Score of +4.0 and a Win Contribution of +0.550. He looks like a comer.

New Jersey Nets

Another great day for Ryan Anderson of California. While its difficult to say what positional mix he played, I estimate his Win Score at +8.5, and his Win Contribution at around +0.743. He just looks like a good player. He goes to the boards well for a guy who isn't all that buff.

Terrific bounceback game for Mario Lopez. He rebounded very well and thoroughly outplayed his highly regarded counterpart Michael Beasley. He was 8-for-10 with 7 rebounds in only 19 minutes. His Win Score was around +11.7, and his Win Contribution projects toward the high numbers: +0.975. Good rebuttal, Mario.

I'm not understanding Chris Douglas Roberts. Yesterday he had an active but fairly counterproductive day. Today he must have just drifted around and thought about life back in Memphis. In nearly 34 minutes of action, he grabbed one measly rebound, took three shots, and turned the ball over 4 times. Is he out of shape? What's going on? He's better than that. His Win Score for the game was -9.9, and his Win Contribution projects to a ghastly -1.382. If he doesn't show a pulse, he's going to spend his rookie year on the pine, passed by for players like Ryan Anderson.

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Summer League Report: Brook Lopez grabs ZERO rebounds

Note: This summer I am going to be evaluating the Summer League performances turned in by the prospects I analyzed in the runup to this year's NBA Draft. This post involves an Orlando League game between the New Jersey Nets and the Orlando Magic.

This game was chock full of guys I analyzed prior to the NBA Draft. Lets start with Brook Lopez... I need a good laugh.

Lopez, whom I worried about because he didn't rebound and wasn't tough, grabbed ZERO REBOUNDS! By standing reach, he was probably the tallest guy on the court and he couldn't pull down any rebounds. And, true to his assinine "I can't wait to show my outside skills" comment prior to the draft, Lopez shot the ball 10 times and got to the foul line just once. That will never, ever do. Somebody better straighten him out before its too late. His Win Score for the game was -14.4, and his Win Contribution was -1.200.

Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson, a player I loved (even more so if he played small forward, which he did not in this game), had a very nice debut, recording a Win Score of +3.2, and a solid Win Contribution of +0.286.

Another player I liked going into the draft, Chris Douglas-Roberts, had a superficially nice game, but by Win Score standards it was a subpar -3.0. Its not that he really did anything wrong, he just didn't do enough right. He scored 15 points, but he used up 14.5 possessions to get those points. Then, he grabbed 5 boards and had 2 steals, but he offset that a little with 3 turnovers and 3 personal fouls. Thus, his Win Contribution projected to a below par -0.375.

On the Orlando side, the only guy I really looked at prior to the draft was Courtney Lee, and I believe I called him a "mixed bag". He put up nice numbers, but I just felt that should have been "nicer" given his utter lack of competition.

His debut Win Score was a pretty rough looking -7.1. He didn't show much inclination to rebound, he turned the ball over too much, and didn't pass much either. His Win Contribution projected to a miserable -0.946.

So, in the Orlando-New Jersey game, 3 subpar debuts and one nice one for my boy Ryan Anderson.

Summer League Report: Westbrook surprises, White disappoints

Note: This summer I am going to be evaluating the Summer League performances turned in by the prospects I analyzed in the runup to this year's NBA Draft. This post involves an Orlando League game between OKC and the Indiana Pacers.

Ouch. I looked so good in the previous game. Here I got it backwards.

Going into the draft, I hated everything about Russell Westbrook except for his outstanding standing reach (at 8'4'' his reach is almost that of an average shooting guard). But he was spectacular in his debut, albeit against a Pacer team consisting of nobody (he was matched against someone named Eric Calloway). But he can't control who's in front of him. All he can do is produce, and he did. Westbrook recorded a terrific Win Score of +5.5 for a projected Win Contribution of +0.710, the best so far for the summer.

Westbrook put up those nice numbers primarily by: shooting efficiently from the field, not turning the ball over, piling up some assists, and using his length to get a few rebounds. Nice Work.

Meanwhile, my boy, DJ White, whom I was very high on going into the draft... stunk. He had a Win Score of -12.0, for a worst-so-far-this-summer Win Contribution of -1.300. How'd he do it?

First, he grabbed rebounds at a rate (0.153 per minute) befitting a small forward, not a power forward (0.259 per). Second, he shot inefficiently. Finally, he committed five fouls and turned the ball over twice.

Gotta see some more from DJ, or he may not even make the team.

Summer League Report: Beasley, Chalmers look great; Rose doesn't

This Summer League season I'm going to be following with particular interest on this blog the various prospects I analyzed and commented upon in the runup to the NBA Draft, just to see how my analysis holds.

I know, its just Summer League. But having followed last year's Summer League rather closely (because of Yi), a lot of the tendencies that rookies displayed there carried over to their NBA seasons (when you link, surf down to "Summer League Specials").

If that is the case, the Heat look like they just may have the upper hand in this year's draft. Michael Beasley and fellow rookie PG Mario Chalmers both had impressive debuts for Miami. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls top draft pick PG Derrick Rose did not.

By Win Score per 48 adjusted for positional average (hereafter simply "Win Score"), Michael Beasley recorded a +5.4, and if we project that onto an NBA 48 minute game his Win Contribution would have been an impressive +0.533. Not bad for starters. And, if he was checking Joakim Noah most of the game, as it appears, his defensive Win Contribution would be pretty nice as well. Noah (normally a very productive player) was held in check, finishing with a Win Score of -5.9 and a Win Contribution of -0.639.

However, knowing what a flake Noah is, I am not going to read too much into Beasley's defensive prowess just yet.

Meanwhile, the Battle of the Point Guards went decisively to the underdog, second round choice Mario Chalmers of Kansas. As you will recall, I was a huge fan of Chalmers going into the draft. I felt he was the number two point guard after Rose, and he kind of showed good signs in his debut.

Chalmers recorded a Win Score of +1.5, and had a projected Win Contribution of an admirable +0.159. Defense was where he shown, however. He held Rose to an atrocius Win Score of -11.1, which projects into a Win Contribution of -1.318. All in all, nice start for Chalmers.

Rose, on the other hand, will square things away I'm sure. He just has to find a way to cut down on those turnovers, though... 5 in 28 minutes of action is way too many. That's more than double the average for NBA point guards. Bulls fans don't want to see that become a trend.

Monday, July 07, 2008

My Domino Theory about Seattle and the Bucks

Well, well, well. The Seattle Supersonics are not three days expired and already the first signs of a domino effect relocating the Bucks to Seattle have emerged.

Like most initial signs, this one came nonchalantly enough. It took the form of a little article tucked near the bottom of the sports section of yesterday's New York Times entitled "Seattle Hopes Team Is in its Future".

The article described Seattle's efforts to renovate Key Arena, and how, once that task is completed, the city intended to use the "new" arena as a "come hither" to some wayward NBA franchise. The three most likely targets mentioned in the article were Memphis, Sacramento, and your Milwaukee Bucks. Just as I feared.

If you recall, I dreaded the possibility of Seattle losing the Sonics to Oklahoma City because I feared the Bucks precarious financial status operating out of Milwaukee would make them an ideal candidate to replace the Sonics in Seattle. After all, Seattle is something like the 10th largest market in the United States, and I believe Milwaukee is down in the 50s, somewhere below Cincinnati.

I also secretly believe(d) the "Seattle Threat" was at least passively engineered by Commissioner Stern. After all, why would he have stood idly by and watched the Sonics relocate to a far lesser market unless he wanted the Seattle market as leverage for use in future stadium financing debates? Think about it. 15 years or so earlier he stood four square in the way of the Timberwolves move to New Orleans. It was a done deal until he stepped in. Yet this time he seemed to be head cheerleader for the Sonics move to Oklahoma. Curious.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The 0.3 rule vindicated... sort of

I meant to post this little nugget the other day but forgot. Let me make amends.

On the interesting FoxSportsChannel program "The Science of Sports", Jason Kapono "caught and shot" an inbounds pass in only 0.22 seconds. His trick was to, essentially, catch the ball and shoot it all in one fluid motion.

When he did it, I got excited. At first I yelled, as Homer Simpson yelled at Darryl Strawberry upon believing that he made the nuclear power plant softball team, "In your face, Stern! You were wrong all along!" But just as Homer had to eat his "facial" taunt of Strawberry a moment later when he learned that Wade Boggs had actually misinformed him that he made the team (Boggs thought Homer was Ken Griffey Jr.), I had to eat my taunting of the Mahatma (The Great One) when I remembered that NBA clocks don't record to the hundredth of a second.

So, in fact, Stern's 0.3 rule technically stands because the fastest recordable time for a plausible "catch and shoot" is still 0.3 seconds.

Call it "Michael Redd" Rigidity

I wish when I was an undergrad at UW-Madison I would have known that sports could be meshed so easily with economics. I certainly would not have done my senior thesis on the inverted demand curve for certain luxury items, I'll tell you that much (a thesis which my professor said at the time "stretched credulity", but which turned out to be -- in fact -- a notion slightly ahead of its time. I actually got the original idea observing the market that emerged around each new edition of Nike Air Jordans... the pricier Nike made them, the more people wanted them).

A couple of weeks ago I hemmed and hawed as I tried to explain why I thought trading Michael Redd would be a net minus for the Bucks. Today I learned reading the WoW Journal that someone had already neatly synthesized my thoughts many years ago. Economics to the rescue!

"Bobby Layne Rigidity"... that's what I was trying to get at without knowing what I was getting at. Kind of a cool name for a theory, anyway.

I'll just let Professor Berri of the WoW Journal take it from here.

"The general rule of thumb in the NBA is that the team that gets the All-Star in a trade is the team that comes out ahead. This rule is consistent with the idea of “Bobby Layne Rigidity”, offered by Walter Neale in a 1964 article (appearing in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and titled: “The Peculiar Economics of Professional Sports”). According to Neale - as the name Bobby Layne Rigidity implies — a team cannot replace one good quarterback with two poor signal callers.

Likewise, it’s difficult in the NBA to substitute a collection of non-stars for one star player. As noted previously in this forum, the Pareto Principle appears to hold in the NBA. In other words, roughly 80% of wins are produced by 20% of the talent. Consequently, when a team loses a major wins producer, it tends to suffer."
(excerpted directly from The Wages of Wins Journal, June 29, 2008 post entitled "Did the Pacers lose a star?")

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Point is, take good shots

I keep hearing local radiocasters proclaim Mo Williams an unfit point guard because "he shoots too much." That's wrong. He is an unfit point guard because he shoots without the proper discrimination.

Reduced to absurdity (reductio ad absurdum), the radiocasters' argument stands for the proposition that even in the highly unlikely case that the opposition decides to leave Mo Williams completely uncovered on every single possession (for whatever inconceivable purpose), it is nevertheless Mo's duty as a responsible point guard to limit himself to only a certain percentage of the Milwaukee Bucks' field goal attempts.

That's ludicrous. If Mo is consistently presented with the most makeable shots afforded to any member of the Bucks, (as my hypothetical assumes), then it is not only his right, it is his duty to continue shooting.

What I hope the radiocasters mean to argue is that, as the team' point guard, Mo Williams has a special duty to exercise shot discretion. After all, in his role as primary ballhandler, he touches the basketball on a disproportionate number of possessions (after all, he brings the ball up the court most every time). Therefore, if he wanted to, he could really screw the Bucks by firing at will. That would be irresponsible. Especially given the fact that on the commencement of most possessions, when the point guard is most likely to handle the ball, the point guard is normally afforded the worst shot opportunity of any member of his team because the point guard will normally be (a) the furthest from the basket, (b) with a man directly covering him, and, (c) four other defenders behind the primary defender and between himself and the basket. Thus, it is most important for a point guard to be particularly savvy when it comes to what is and is not a good basketball shot.

But that should not be confused with the idea that he has an automatic shot maximum. That's absurd. Nor does he have any special obligation to make "create" easy shots for his mates as many who make the preceding argument add as a corollary argument.

Sure, If the point guard sees a clear opportunity to deliver a pass to a cutting teammate that leads to a layup, take it. But that doesn't mean the point guard is under any special obligation to force the issue. In fact, that's the worst mistake a point guard can make. After all, a possession that results in a turnover without a shot attempt is the worst possible outcome a point guard can create. And trying too hard to "get your teammates involved" or "create shots for them" will lead to a disproporitionate number of such "worst possible outcomes". I've seen it happen. In fact, I've played with point guards who have made it happen.

Instead, a good point guard will keep his head up, see the court, anticipate his teammates moves, and wait for them to free themselves up for a high percentage opportunity. Then he will deliver the safe pass, and count on them to do their duty by converting the shot. That's what the good point guard does.

Who will play power forward in Milwaukee?

The Bucks just dealt former starting power forward Yi Jianlian to the New Jersey Nets. Now they are pushing as hard as they can to get backup Charlie Villanueva out of town as fast as they can. Both moves make sense; neither player really fits new coach Scott Skiles' demanding style of play (especially not the sleepy Villanueva).

The problem is, who is going to play the position now? The first person that comes to mind is new Buck Joe Alexander. But I've heard mixed opinions on whether he will mainly be used at small forward or at power forward. Most say small forward because of his size, but its also been pointed out that Skiles has played small forwards like Andres Nocioni extensively at the 4. That's true, but I really don't think that's the answer. First of all, I don't know if Alexander has the same psychotic toughness and guile that Nocioni brought to the task, and besides, I am generally opposed to playing small lineups anyway. They tend to underproduce their larger opposition, especially on the boards.

Indeed, Nocioni had mixed success manning the power forward position. In 2005-06, he was given his first dose of extensive minutes at the 4 (he played 57.4% of his minutes there). By Win Score measure, he was successful. According to 82games.com, he outproduced his counterpart opponents in Win Score per 48 minutes by a count of 11.0 to 10.0. That's pretty good success.

However, that came undone the next season. In 2006-07, Nocioni was asked to play power forward 79.4% of the time he was on the court. According to 82games.com, he was outplayed badly by his counterpart opponents on a Win Score per 48 minute basis, 10.2 to 12.4. That's a butt whipping. And in both seasons, Nocioni was outrebounded by his fellow power forwards. That means lost possessions.

That said, I'm sure Joe Alexander will spend some time at both positions no matter what. Doing my statistical breakdowns of NBA teams, I've learned that almost every NBA player who is not a center or a pure point guard plays multiple positions. A bigger small forward like Alexander would likely split time between the 3 and the 4.

But can Alexander... a rookie, after all... produce power forward numbers over any lengthy stretch of time? I doubt it. He's shown no inclination that he can do so.

So who are we left with? That's what I can't figure out.

The Bucks must have a couple of deals and/or free agent targets in the works. Stay tuned.

What's a fair market price for Agent Zero?

Having read about the Washington Bullets imminent offer to pay +$100 million over six seasons to free agent point guard Gilbert Arenas, I decided to try to determine what his actual fair market value is by using offensive and defensive win score calculations to try to estimate how many wins he's likely to produce and how much each team was willing to pay each player per win. Now remember, this is purely an academic exercise... completely detached from the reality of the wildly distorted NBA labor market.

To establish Gilbert's fair market value, first I established the likely market rate teams will be willing to pay per win next season. I came up with the number $1.8 million. This number comes from the actual market value teams paid per win last season, $1.67 million (total NBA salary divided by total number of wins), and then I raised that by the likely increase next season in total NBA salaries, which should be about 8 percent (based on what the increase has been the last couple of years).

Next, I tried to estimate how many wins the Bullets could expect from Gilbert next season. This is a dicey proposition because of Gilbert's recent injury problems, but I took a stab at it. Here's how.

To determine Gilbert's likely offensive contribution, I averaged Gilbert's Win Score per 48 over the past 4 seasons, and that came out to 7.6. To determine his likely defensive contribution, I averaged his counterpart opponent's Win Score per 48 over the same time period, and that came out to 6.9.

Now, I needed to estimate the number of minutes he could be expected to play. I took the average of the Bullets total player minutes over the last 4 seasons and the average percentage of those minutes consumed by Gilbert. Putting those two averages together, I estimated that Gilbert would play about 2499 minutes next season.

Applying his offensive and defensive Win Score averages to that amount of playing time, and assuming the average Win Score per 48 for NBA point guards would remain at this season's 6.9, I calculated that Gilbert Arenas was likely to add 6.4 offensive half wins to the Bullets next season and 5.2 defensive half wins, for a grand total of 5.8 wins overall. At the anticipated market rate per win of $1.8 million, that means a fair contract offer to Gilbert Arenas for next season would be about $10.4 million. Projecting into the future, I guess you'd have to anticipate some deterioration in Gilbert's Win Contributions, but, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I would offer him a 6 year, $62.4 million contract. In other words, more than $40 million less than the Bullets are prepared to offer.

And given that Arenas made more than that per annum on his last deal, I estimate it would take him less than 2.2 seconds to turn my offer down. As I said, this was a purely academic exercise.