Bucks Diary

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dwight Howard reigned supreme in 2007-08

One of the statistics I like to feature on this blog is what I call "Win Contribution". I like to think its somewhat the equivalent of Baseball Prospectus' "Value over Replacement Player".

What is "Win Contribution"? I use Professor Berri's "Win Score" (a metric which weights each player's statistical production according to how each statistic correlates with NBA wins produced) and the player's percentage of overall playing time to produce a decimal number that expresses the relative impact the player made on his team's success as compared to the impact one would expect the average NBA player to make in the same number of minutes. The decimal number used to express the average NBA player's Win Contribution is +0.000 (because his Combined Offensive and Defensive Win Scores would be right at his positional average per 48 minutes. A team of average players would produce a 41-41 record).

Therefore, every percentage point above +0.000 is evidence of a player's "Win Contribution," or the extent to which he has made his team a "winning team" (a +0.500 team) and every percentage point below is the exact opposite.

Keep in mind this statistic weighs both "productivity against the average" and "overall playing time". Thus, Kevin Garnett, whose combined statistical numbers are superior, is nevertheless ranked slightly down the list because his comparatively lesser minutes consumed diminished slightly his overall contribution to the regular season success of the Celtics.

Keep in mind also what the statistic DOES NOT MEASURE:

1. Relative basketball ability (so please don't post comments saying Lebron James could "school" Dwight Howard in one-on-one... I'm not suggesting he couldn't. Actually I take no position on that issue).

2. Artistic flair (please don't post comments about Dwight Howard's limited offensive game. All "Win Contribution" cares about is positive results. He could drop kick the ball and it would not matter.)

Notes on the list

1. Those who say Dwight Howard is not an elite player are crazy. I would argue he was the clear cut MVP. Again, I'm not saying he is a better basketball player than LeBron, Kobe, or Chris Paul. I'm saying last season he produced more of the statistics that helped his team win games. I know Howard has a limited offensive repetoire. But there is no credit given in basketball for beauty. Wilt Chamberlain basically dominated the NBA for a decade using only a finger roll. It doesn't matter how you get it done. Note: I'm not suggesting Howard is anywhere near Chamberlain's class, I'm just making a point about ends being more important than means.

2. What Chris Paul did as a diminutive point guard last season was incredible. Just incredible.

3. The Celtics put two guys in the top 10, and absent injury, Kevin Garnett would have edged out Dwight Howard for top Win Contributor.

4. The Spurs also had 2 in the top 10, Ginobli and Duncan, which kind of shows you how bad the rest of their team was last season. And when Ginobli slumped against LA, it was "Goodnight everybody!" for San Antonio.

5. I was surprised that Lamar Odom was in the Top 20. Geez. Kobe's a solid number 4. But for injury, C Andrew Bynum would have been high on the list, and but for limited time with the roster, I believe PF Pau Gasol would have been on the list as well. The Lakers are going to be SCARY GOOD this season. No doubt. SCARY GOOD.

6. Its easy to find Michael Redd's name on Hoopshype top 20 list of highest PAID players in the National Basketball Association, but on my top 20 list of WIN CONTRIBUTORS in the National Basketball Association... let's see... no...no...wait... no, that's not him...no...geez, I can't find him anywhere! In fact, I'd have to have a North Pole sized list to get Redd's name on it. Hopefully this is the year Redd earns those pieces of silver. Value for money, buddy boy!

Note: To see my entire data base of Win Contribution and similar "Win Score" inspired NBA statistics for every player on every NBA team (which took me all summer to calculate) please click here

The game we left behind at the Milwaukee Arena

This weekend I was talking to this guy who is an architect. He was describing the kind of structures he works on. Bored with his ramblings, all of a sudden I blurted out, "You ever think about how to improve the design of professional basketball arenas?"

He looked at me like I was some homeless guy who was asking him if he knew when the mother ship was due to arrive.

"Seriously," I said, "I'm not an architect but I've been obsessed with this issue for years. There has to be some way to design an arena so you can accommodate those goddamn sky boxes but still get the affordable seats a hell of a lot closer to the floor than they are at the Bradley Center."

This guy wondered why the topic ever even entered my mind. Well, as I told him, the reason is three fold.

First, I truly believe the NBA has lost a generation of fans by forcing the most affordable seats up near where Neil Armstrong walked. Its a disgrace, and its going to hurt the game in the long run.

Second, and almost more importantly, the advent of these pretty Centers the Association plays in now has wiped out a game I grew up loving: "Arena (and/or "Garden") Basketball".

Any Bucks fan who had the pleasure of seeing a game at the old Milwaukee Arena, or any Sixer fan who saw a game at the Spectrum, or any Laker fan who saw a game at the Forum, or certainly any Celtic fan who ever saw a game at the Garden knows what I mean. "Center basketball" -- as I call it-- is entirely different from the game they used to play at the old arenas. And I have to say its a lesser game too. No question about it.

I feel bad for any Bucks fan who never saw a Bucks game at the Milwaukee Arena. It was grimy and small and tacky and magnificent. I still remember my last game. Game Four of the 1987 NBA Eastern Conference Championship Series. The Bucks versus the Larry Bird Boston Celtics. The Bucks lost the game at the buzzer in double overtime when John Lucas missed one of his patented driving left handed acrobatic scoop shots (I just rewatched it on Youtube. My memory fails me. It wasn't a drive at all. It was Lucas -- but he missed a jump shot from right of the lane!! For twenty years I swore it was a driving layup! Its funny how you remember the emotions of an event but the details can become blurred). Despite the loss, it was an absolute Green and Red Arena classic and an NBA basketball game I will never forget (relive the thrilling ending for yourselves Antlerheads -- "You are there" with your friendly neighborhood Bucks Diary blogger in the crowd for the heartstopping action back in 1987).

Watching that game there that day... damn... it was like being part of a mob, not a crowd. Literally. It was sweaty, it was raw, it was visceral, it was loud -- holy shit, was it loud -- and it was so goddamn exciting. I'm not even kidding. I've never had any other sports experience that even comes close. And most of it was due to the building. Or rather, the seating structure. The great old "Middle Parquet" -- where the middle class could afford to go and watch a game. And see it.

I'm not trying to be one of those annoying idiots you see droning on about how great Ebbets Field was (when you know it probably sucked). The Milwaukee Arena was NOT the Taj Mahal. But it didn't want to be. It wanted to be what it was supposed to be... a gym. A place where guys played basketball... a place with huge theater lights in the seating area that turned off with a loud "POP" at the tip-off (God I miss that... it focused the crowd's attention on the court); A place where you could literally hear the percussion of basketballs all the way up to the top row. It was a place where basketball was meant to be played, I guess that's what I'm trying to say. Bucks fans all crowded on top of each other and on top of the players (at least that's what it felt like), and we scared the hell out of the opposition. And we won a hell of a lot of games. And had a hell of a lot of fun.

Now you've got the Bradley Center. Its like the Bucks moved from a honky tonk to a museum. Real fancy and nice looking, but what happened to the fun?

I remember my first game at the BC. I went with a busload of students. We were on an upper deck group plan. I still remember getting to my seat. I was horrified. I mean it. I was in the front row of the upper deck and it seemed as though I was watching the game from Waukesha. I thought something was wrong. I'm not kidding. I actually thought someone had made a mistake in the design that no one had caught. I didn't understand the economics of the game at that time. But I did know how to vote with my pocketbook. I didn't go to another Bucks game until I could afford to sit in the lower bowl.

But even sitting in the lower bowl, the experience isn't close to the old Arena. Like I said, it is different and it is much less fun... period. I miss the old Arena and I want it back. And I'm dreaming if I think I will ever get my wish.

But, if the Bucks ever do get a new facility, they would ought to at least consider the competitive advantages of design. No one ever mentions this, but you can almost trace the decline of the Bucks to their abandonment of the Arena. I'm not saying the crappy teams would suddenly have become great had they stayed they stayed in the Arena. That's stupid.

But there is no doubt the team enjoyed a home court advantage at the Arena that they no longer enjoy at the BC. Go back and look at the historical record. If you compare the teams home/road splits with the Association's splits generally, the Bucks teams that played at the Arena were, on average, approximately 10% better than expectation. By contrast, they have barely played to expectation at the BC (strangely, early in the life of the BC they were above expectation, then way below, then they leveled off. Its as though they were finding their collective comfort zone).

The explanation is plain. Architecture. Its been proven that the most significant home court advantages are enjoyed in the indoor sports of hockey and basketball, and its been shown that most of that can be credited to fan support (I went into detail about this issue last spring... I'll link to it tomorrow). It stands to reason that the more dramatic the "enclosed" effect, the more amplified the advantage.

If NBA owners would check their greed for just one second, they would realize this and commission a new, more arena like design for the next generation of basketball gyms. The first one to do so, I believe, will enjoy both a "Camden Yards" revenue advantage, and a significant home court advantage.

Herb Superb... why not you?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wild Card merchandise? Are you serious?

I open the paper this morning and something disjointed on the sports page caught my eye. Yeah, the Crew celebrating with champagne was weird enough, but it was actually something else.

The Brewer players were all wearing "2008 National League Wild Card" merchandise. Ok, I know the Crew hasn't won dukey squat in a generation and more, but the last time I checked, the "Wild Card" wasn't actually a title... it was merely a qualification... on a technicality.

Back in the day it meant you slipped into the playoffs... it didn't mean you won something. In fact, it meant that even though you fell up short, you did just good enough to get in. Yeah... it set you up to win something, but it wasn't a championship in itself. It wasn't something to sell merchandise over. It was something to thankfully accept and then go forth and take advantage of. But here was the Crew wearing 2008 National League "Wild Card" shirts. As though "Wild Card" was a seperate division or something.

Hey Antlerheads, how sweet would it be if the Bucks sort of slid into the NBA playoffs with the 8th seed and they started selling "Milwaukee Bucks 2008-09 NBA Eastern Conference 8th Seed" merchandise. Come to think of it... they sort of did (remember those lame-o "Bucks Play-offs" t-shirts they couldn't give away faster than the team was dismissed by the Pistons in '06?)

Bucks Diary: For the faithful... ONLY!

I've made no secret for whom I write this blog. The Green and Red Faithful. The sickos who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite all the beatdowns, despite all the dashed hopes, despite everything... hold onto their memories of Moncrief and Bridgeman and... yes, Fred Roberts... and hold out hope of that glorious Green and Red revival. Basically, the guys who debate endlessly on the Bucks boards on RealGM. Those are the hardcores who are welcome here anytime. Those are the guys who can call me "ahole" or tell me I don't know what the hell I'm talking about whenever they want. Because those are the guys for whom I blog.

I'll tell you for whom I do not blog. The ditzy chicks who cut hair at the salon, who six years ago... no two years ago would have asked you (note: read this next line with a tinge of Valley Girl contempt) "Whyyyyy are you wearrrring a Brewwwwers shirt????!!!" Those same chicks who are now polluting every establishment in Milwaukee and who are themselves supposedly nutso crazzzzzy for Ryan Braun or for JJ Hardy or who can't get enough of the fact that Prince Fielder untucks his jersey and who dress from head to toe in new school Brewer Gear that's so brand new you can see the fucking tags on it and who if you ask them will tell you their dads supposedly always took them to Opening Day every year and... I mean who the fuck are they kidding? You're a bandwagon jumper sweetheart! Nothing more!

The town of Milwaukee is now polluted with these insufferable bastards, just as the entire state of Wisconsin was polluted with them (except they were supposedly Packer fans) ten odd years ago. Ohhhh, they jumped off the Packer band wagon as soon as they stopped winning ("You mean, the Packers aren't in the Super Bowl this year? How come??"), and soon they will stop wearing their Brewers gear as well, and one day Miller Park will go back to having September games that are played in complete anonymity, while those girls go about simply cutting hair, completely unaware that the Brewers are even playing that day.

But for now, oh yeah, they're all TRUE BLUE BREW CREW from head to toe. That's why I've turned my attention completely to the Bucks. So have the crickets. And the real fans. Thanks for staying aboard guys.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

How is Paul Pierce not on the NBA's All-Defensive team?

When they decide who will be on the NBA All-Defensive team, they shouldn't do it by reputation (Bruce Bowen) or fancy shot blocking (Marcus Camby). They ought to award those players whose defense did the most to contribute to their team's success, or rather, whose defense did the most to limit the players they were assigned to cover from contributing to their team's success.

I try to determine that very thing with my "Defensive Win Contribution" metric. I look at each player's "Counterpart Opponent" statistics from 82games.com and calculate the "Win Score" above average per 48 minutes each player's collective opponents produced. Then I multiple the negative of that number by the overall percentage of playing time the player used to produce the player's "Defensive Win Contribution". The average DWC is +0.000, and anything above that represents the players defensive contribution to a winning team, and vice versa.


1. It is a dirty shame that Paul Pierce was not on the NBA All-Defensive Team this season. He had one of the greatest defensive seasons in the Association's history.

2. My All-NBA Defensive first team would be:
PG: Deron Williams, Utah
SG: Kobe Bryant, LA
C: Dwight Howard, Orl
SF: Paul Pierce, Boston
PF: Chris Bosh, Toronto (KG if he played more minutes)

3. The only reason Kevin Garnett isn't higher is because he missed a lot of time.

4. As you can see, Boston's bench defense was one of the well kept secrets of last season. Eddie House, Tony Allen, and Baby Davis were all magnificent. Doc Rivers made a near fatal mistake when he started giving away too many of their minutes to the inept veterans Sam Cassell and PJ Brown. You remember how instrumental Allen and House were in Boston's huge comeback win over the Lakers? Just another example of how valuable -- and how overlooked -- defensive win contribution can be.

5. Raja Bell gets all the accolades, but my numbers say the Suns best defender is Boris Diaw.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How I came up with the Defensive Win Score metric

I keep using this "Defensive Win Score" statistic, I'm not sure if I ever laid out my justification for it. Nobody else uses it, so I guess the burden is on me to lay some foundation for it as a legitimate evaluation tool. I'll try to here. I will also highlight some of its weaknesses, and just let you take it or leave it after that. (I'm not, however, making a case for the Win Score or Wins Produced metric here. I think that's already been made. If you need it, turn to Professor Berri's website).

The Story in Slightly Rambling Form

Here's the story of how I stumbled on the concept of "Defensive Win Score". I owe it all to last season's Boston Celtics, and their unusual emphasis on defensive basketball.

For some reason, I was calculating Team Win Score averages (for the Bucks blog... I'm not a nerd!), in other words the cumulative Win Scores per 48 minutes for each NBA team, and something curious arose. I got to the Boston Celtics and punched up their average. I expected a mindblowing number. Didn't get it. Even though the Celtics had far and away the most wins in the NBA at the time, their team Win Score average was, comparatively, somewhere near the middle of the pack... very mediocre.

How could that be? That wasn't logical. Win Score above average correlated with wins, right? The "NBA Team Average" ought to simply be the sum total of the average Win Score at each of the five positions. And indeed it is. So why can't you determine the team's "Wins Produced" by taking the team's Win Score above average, just as you would a player? Its not logical.

If my brother's allowance is usually $5 a week, and he receives $10, and mine is usually $10 but I receive only $5, then my brother's account is five dollars over average, but our joint account is absolutely unchanged. The same should hold for a basketball team and its Win Score. You should be able to add up all of the player's results against average and that should tell you the number of wins the team produced. But it doesn't.

Here's an example. Take the aforementioned Celtics. Their collective Win Score average per 48 last season was 46.4. If you go to the "Season Summary" page on basketball-reference and calculate the NBA team Win Score average per 48 (using, obviously, the "league averages" line), you come up with the number 43.6. If you translate that into one collective player (dividing the difference by 5), then the average Celtic was only +0.5 Win Score points above average per 48 minutes. Pretty mediocre. In fact, that only translates into 46 wins. WTF!! The Celtics won 66 games.

Then I turned to the Phoenix Suns, the team with the top Win Score average (54.9). If you do the math, the Suns averaged +2.26 Win Score points per 48 per player, which translates into 69 wins produced by the team. Yet the Suns only won 55 games. So their total wasn't close to their Win Score production either. Something was amiss.

It got me thinking. Most of the teams whose wins produced missed badly were heavily weighted on one side of the court (the Celts) or the other (Phoenix's mediocre defense was bringing their offense down -- btw, the same phenomenon that caused the collapse of the George Karl Bucks earlier this decade). Somehow I got the idea: I needed to take into account Opponents Win Score. I did. And when I gave half credit to the team and half credit to its opposition, the formula works. I then made the rough conclusion that the former represented the team's "Offensive" efficiency and the latter represented the team's "Defensive" efficiency.

As you can see, if you give one half value to each team's Win Score above average per player, and one half value to -(Opponents Win Score average per player), and then plug that into Professor Berri's formula, you get a 92.6% accurate account of each team's Wins Produced (it would be even more accurate except for some reason the Heat were way, way off. According to Win Score, they should have won about 21 games... they won what 15? I suspect a tank job).

Thus, the Celtics sort of mediocre Win Score per player is augmented by the fact that their opponents, as a whole, averaged an incredible -2.76 Win Score below average per player, making the Celtics' "effective" Win Score per 48 per player average (-2.76 + 0.56/2) = +1.66. That's a big difference from +0.56.

+1.66 translates into 65.4 wins, much closer to their actual win total: 66. Defense mattered. It made it possible for the Celtics to win more games with a less efficient offense. As for Phoenix, if you factor in their oppositions Win Score, which is only slightly below average (41.0), and give that half weight, then the Suns win total comes 54, much closer to their actual total of 55 wins.

And on and on. Anyway, you can look at the chart. I have to wrap this discussion up, so let me cut to the chase.

Having established the legitimacy of defensive win score on a team level, as soon as I discovered 82games.com's "Opponent Counterpart" 48 minute production statistics, I used the same logic and method to apply defensive win score to individual players.

I think its a fairly legitimate measurement of defensive performance with several caveats:

1. I necessarily have to debit each player for things they may or may not have had control over (they don't guard the same player every second).

2. Certain statistics are double counted (a steal on offense is also a turnover created on defense).

3. Which brings up another weakness: the two categories are misnomers. What I call "Offensive Win Score" actually includes several traditional defensive statistics. But I'm keeping the misnomers because the preponderance of statistics on each side are accurately named.

4. Finally, defense in basketball is a really weird thing. Its value is not well understood, and thus it is not well compensated. Consequently, the motivation to play defense is a lot like the motivation instilled in a Marine -- you do it because you don't want to be the one to let your buddies down. But, that also means defense is dependent upon the faith. As soon as that breaks down, effort breaks down, and a disastrous domino effect takes place. What is the purpose of playing hard defense for a 31-51 team? What will you get in return for the effort? Thus, often times a player's defensive performance is situational and does not necessarily reflect his abilities.


With all that said, I am going to continue to track this statistic. Even with all of its weaknesses, I think it still captures the essence of defense: preventing your counterpart from playing efficient basketball. And the Boston Celtics proved last season that if enough players from the top of the roster to the bottom buy into the concept... look out!

Is Al Jefferson the NBA's biggest defensive liability?

Using Professor David Berri's brilliant NBA "Win Score" efficiency metric, I developed a statistic that I believe is similar to baseball's "Value over Replacement Player". I call it "Win Contribution".

Basically, Win Contribution takes each player's Win Score above average and multiplies it by his percentage of overall playing time. Since any Win Score above the average would produce wins above the average (wins above the .500 mark), it follows that the average NBA player's "Win Contribution," for any given amount of playing time, would be +0.000, because his Win Score would be right at the average. And since a team of players with an average Win Score would produce an average record (please read Professor Berri's work for an explanation as to why), it follows that anything above +0.000 represents a player's contribution to a winning team (a team with a +0.500 winning percentage), and anything below represents a player's contribution to a losing team (a team with a -0.500 winning percentage).

Using the "Counterpart Opponents per 48 minute production" statistics on 82games.com, I took Professor Berri's work a step further. In my "Win Profiles" of each player on each team, I calculated not only the player's Win Score above average (and translated that into his "Wins Produced" using the professor's formula), I also calculated the Win Score above average of all the players that player guarded over the course of the season (and translated that into "Wins Produced" using the same formula). I then labeled the player's Win Score as his "Offensive Contribution" and his collective opponents Win Score as his "Defensive Contribution".

Okay. So, its important to remember that my definition of defense is very nontraditional. It has nothing to do with banging the floor or knocking the ball into row 76. All I care about is one thing: did the player allow the opponents he was assigned to guard to accumulate statistics that correlate with wins ? Thus, my definition of defense is "win prevention" rather than "scoring prevention". (That's why I think some scorers, who may not be viewed as technically sound defenders, like LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki -- both of whom appear on my 20 Best Defensive Win Contributor list -- have a hidden defensive advantage. They force their "covers" to exhaust so much defensive energy, those opponents then become less than efficient all-around offensive players. That's an overlooked form of defense.).

One final point. Remember that "Win Contribution" is all about relative impact. Thus it is dependent on percentage of playing time. So, one player may make a more negative impact than another even though his Opponents' may not have a Win Score as far above average as another player's Opponents, simply because the first player is on the court a great deal longer.

Interesting Points about the List

1. Most people consider Marcus Camby an excellent defender. He routinely makes the all defensive team. But he's third on my "Worst Defensive Contribution" list. That's because when he's on the floor opposing centers grab more rebounds per 48 (+3.0), score more points (+1.6), commit fewer fouls (-1.4), and shoot a much higher percentage from the field (+4.1%). I think his lack of heft for a center, combined with his desire to roam and block shots sets his opponent centers free. And there's not much evidence that his shot blocking has any positive impact overall. The opponent shooting percentage is actually higher with him on the court. That said, he makes up for his defensive shortcomings with his production on the other end.

2. If I were to have extended this list and my "Best" list just a bit, the "Worst" would have included Sebastian Telfair's name, and the "Best" would have included Ray Allen's name. With that, every player the Celtics traded the previous summer, including draft pick Jeff Green, would have been on the "Worst" defenders list, while every player the Celtics picked up last summer, including draft pick Baby Davis, would have made the "Best" list. That's how you win a championship.

3. I doubt Bulls fans are shocked to see Ben Gordon's name at number 3. He's a horrible Win Producer overall. You just can't get very far with him as one of your main contributors.

4. Its somewhat understandable for player's who consume a great deal of playing time and who contribute a lot on the offensive end (ie Biedrens, Camby, Jefferson) to be on this list, but for bit players who suck on offense (ie Boone, Ivey, Rush, etc) to be on this list... that marks them out as serious liabilities.

5. I'll have my "Best" list out in a bit. Look for Paul Pierce's name front and center, and for some surprises down the list.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mental Notes from the Skiles Interview

Very late last night I caught a replay of the recent interview Dennis Krause did with Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles on Time Warner Cable sports channel 32. As usual, Krause did an outstanding job with his line of questioning. I didn't have my dictaphone handy, but here are a few mental notes I can recall one day later...

1. Skiles has the "it" factor.
I need to be careful. I cannot lose my objectivity when it comes to the Bucks head man, but in the case of Coach Skiles, I feel it slipping away. At the same time, I cannot remember a particular coach whose style is more perfectly designed to cure what has plauged a particular team than Scott Alan Skiles to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, don't misunderstand. Im not contending that Scott Skiles is a GREAT coach. He's far from it.

But I am contending that he is the PERFECT coach for this team at this time. As a Bucks fan, I've watched the slow, painful castration of three different Milwaukee Bucks coaches by five different Milwaukee Bucks teams. I can't see the same happening to Skiles. He has this "take charge" attitude about him that's so readily apparent.

2. An Echo of Early Holmgren.
At one point in the interview, Skiles specifically told Dennis Krause that he was not "a yeller and a screamer", which, if you will recall, is exactly what Mike Holmgren told the Green Bay media upon being introduced as Packers head coach in 1992. Of course we came to find out he most certainly was a yeller and a screamer. In fact, its my experience that coaches who proclaim themselves non-yeller/screamers always are. So that was reassuring. Also, he said he doesn't seek confrontations, but "in this business, sometimes you can't avoid them". Translation: he loves them. More Bucks Diary bonus points for the coach.

3. Redd will be asked to defend, select better shots
Asked about how Michael Redd fit into his system, Skiles did not avoid the question. He said Redd would be an important part of the system, but that "he will be asked to defend his position, obviously". Music to my ears, though, if you read my Win Profile of the Bucks, you will notice that Redd's defensive woes were tied mainly to his time at the small forward position. He's a pretty good defender at the 2. Also, Skiles said... and this almost brought me to tears of joy... that Redd would be asked "to be a little more judicious with his shot selection". Skiles said he wanted Redd to be "a more efficient scorer". He said Redd "was not a below 45% shooter in this league." All music to my ears. Skiles gets it.

4. There will be no crying in Scotty Ball
When asked about Andrew Bogut's frequent complaints about not getting the ball enough, Skiles wasn't directly critical of Bogut, but he sort of made it clear that he didn't want to hear that kind of griping this season. He said there was too much of that last season. He then insinuated that there were times when Bogut may have dogged it getting to the offensive end. He said if Andrew was willing to transition better, and thereby earn more touches, they would work to get him those touches. Again, accountability.... LOVE IT.

5. Why Mo got the door and Luke may get the point
When Skiles described the Bucks newly acquired point guard Luke Ridnour as a "pass-first" point guard, he went a long way toward answering two lingering questions from the off-season. Namely: Why did the Bucks dispatch Mo Williams, and who does the coach plan to have man the point this season? Obviously, the answer to the first question centers around Williams inclination to shoot first and pass... well... later on. We kind of knew that, but no one in the organization really expressed it directly. Actually, I would have thought it was his defense that put him on a taxi cab out to Billy Mitchell. I mean, look at my Defensive Win Score numbers. Williams defense made a matador look like a steer wrestler. Williams case aside, though, I must say I'm generally not entirely comfortable with the "point guards must be passers" philosophy. In fact, I think the philosophy for point guards ought to be no different than the one the coach wants to instill in Michael Redd: Namely, if you have offensive opportunities, take them, but if your teammates have better opportunities get them the ball. In short, be judicious. That ought to be the rule whether you man the point guard or the power forward... pass on tough shots, get the ball to teammates who have easy shots. My worry with the whole "point guards must pass" philosophy is that it will have the unintended consequence of stifling one of the team's few potentially positive offensive Win Contributors, namely the young point guard Ramon Sessions.

6. What, Scotty worry?
Krause repeatedly asked Skiles if he was worried about the team getting off to a slow start, which had happened to past Skiles-led teams in Chicago. Skiles sort of poo-poohed the notion, but I got the impression, from comments Skiles made about the "tough early schedule" that it may indeed be somewhere in the back of his mind.

Have you seen the Bucks new alternate road digs?

Remember two seasons ago when I was obsessed with the Bucks uniform change and I speculated they might go with an all red look? It turned out I was not wrong... just premature. Two years on and the Bucks will indeed be sporting an all red uniform -- occasionally -- on enemy hardwoods across the Association this winter.

A few days ago the Milwaukee Bucks unveiled their new "designed-to-boost-replica-jersey-sales" all-red alternate road jerseys with "Milwaukee" on the front. The new jerseys are the first predominantly red uniforms in team history, and the first to feature the city in over 30 years.

I love the "Milwaukee" touch. City lettering like that hearkens back to the Green and Red glory years, including my favorite Bucks road jerseys -- the hunter green and red scripted "Milwaukee" traveling greens from the Bucks 1973-74 Western Conference Championship season -- and definitely hearkens back to my second favorite road jerseys, the ones from the Bucks only World Championship season in 1970-71.

But... to be brutally honest with you, Antlerheads... I'm not sure i like the red look. It just doesn't say "Bucks basketball" to me at all. In fact... and believe me I hate to say it... but it kinda says this to me. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

2007-08 Win Profiles for every NBA team

I've finally finished a project that took me over five months and I estimate over 5,000 calculations. I have finished my "Win Profiles" for every NBA team.

My profiles purport to designate credit for wins to each player according to their statistical production and the statistical production of the players they guarded, using Professor David Berri's "Win Score" efficiency metric.

For each player's statistical production (his offensive stats), I relied on the outstanding website basketball-reference.com. For each player's opponents' statistical production (his defensive stats), I relied on the absolutely indispensable website 82games.com, particularly their "Opponent Counterpart 48 minute production" statistics.

Sidenote: Most all of my work is, in one way or another, derived from the outstanding research done by the Professor of Hoopology, David Berri. His work can be found in the book "The Wages of Wins", which I encourage any NBA fan to pick up and read. Its the Moneyball of basketball. (Packer Backers will enjoy the NFL breakdowns as well). I must note, however, that the concept of "Defensive" Win Score is my own attempt to measure defensive performance, and should not be read to be a direct part of Professor Berri's work or endorsed by him, though he is aware of it. That said, the concept, I believe, is sound. And, while it does have a few necessary fictions (it double counts certains statistics and its wholly reliant on the observations made by those who compile statistics for 82games), I think it is backed up by sound logic and statistical outcomes. My Win Profiles, which obviously incorporate Defensive Win Score, proved 94.7% accurate, and I'll lay out the logical case in chief in another post... not today. (For now let me say this: imagine if one team were banned from crossing half court to the defensive end. Wouldn't that team necessarily have to play more efficiently on the offensive end -- in other words record Win Scores even further above the NBA average -- to make up for that defensive handicap? If you believe they would, then defensive Win Score exists.) Anyway, you are free to take or leave defensive Win Score as a measurement of player value. I put it out there purely for reader entertainment.

NBA Win Profiles
(click on the team to view its Win Profile)

Atlantic Division

Central Division

Southeast Division

Northwest Division

Pacific Division

Southwest Division

Monday, September 22, 2008

In Skiles I trust

I'm doing this post on the road, so it necessarily has to be a bit plain Jane.

I just heard a soundbite on the radio from Scott Skiles, the new coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. To the ears of a frustrated Bucks fan, he sounded like John the Baptist. He has promised (and I believe he can deliver) a team featuring all the qualities the Bucks have lacked of late. Defense, hustle, energy, determination, and will to win. His words and no-nonsense delivery of them were electrifying.

I haven't been wowed by the Bucks offseason player acquisitions, as you know. But I remain optimistic about the direction of the team because of Coach Skiles. His track record suggests he can deliver what the Bucks need to succeed -- aggressive defense. And I firmly believe he will.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sorry, Charlie (I'm not buyin' it)

Charlie Villanueva is telling everyone who will listen that last year was just an aberration. With Yi Jianlian gone, Villanueva is now "clear-minded" (he says). He promises things this season will be "different". I don't believe him. I think he will be the exact same defensively challenged, offensively inefficient player he has been throughout his career.

I went back and did a Win Profile of Villanueva's entire career (Click here to see it). According to my numbers, last season wasn't an aberration at all for the Bucks power forward. In fact, Villanueva's offensive and defensive numbers from last season are nearly identical to the numbers he produced in each of his first two seasons.

By my calculations, in each of the three seasons he has played in the NBA, Villanueva has produced wins for his teams at a pace of around 0.048 per 48 minutes (well below the NBA average of 0.100 wins per 48). Ironically, as the chart shows, for a player who has a reputation for being inconsistent, Villanueva has been remarkably consistent. Unfortunately for the Bucks, he's been consistently mediocre. In fact, in all three seasons, his "Personal Win-Loss Record" (which essentially measures what the team's record would be if every player produced as Villanueva produced) has been exactly 21-61. I guess "mediocre" might be stretching the truth. Crappy would be a better way to describe his production thus far.

So, based on that track record, Villanueva can go on all he wants about how "this is his year"... I'm not buying it. The evidence indicates he's peaked at a lower than optimal production level, and isn't likely to go up. Consequently, I think the team will continue to have a huge production gap at the power forward position. A gap that I believe should have been filled -- but wasn't -- last summer.

Update: Its taken me five months, but I have almost completed Win Profiles for every NBA team. I only have the Miami Heat left (but they have 22 players on their roster who played at least 100 minutes!). I plan to post the entire NBA at once... sometime next week I think. They're pretty interesting. Its unbelievable how many foreign players are amongst the worst Win Producers on my list, starting with Darko Milicic, along with a host of carbon copy foreign shooting guards. It may be time for the NBA GM's to get over their foreign fetish.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bucks best players vs. NBA's best teams

Last night I analyzed the performances of five key Milwaukee Bucks players in games played against the NBA's Eastern and Western Conference semifinalists: Boston, Detroit, Orlando, Cleveland, New Orleans, San Antonio, Utah, and the Los Angeles Lakers. I wanted to see how the players (Redd, Bogut, Villanueva, Jefferson, and Sessions) the team is depending on performed against the Association's best competition. The results were mixed.

Here is my "Bucks vs NBA's Top 8" chart. It evaluates the five Bucks' performances in said games according to: the player's Offensive Win Score average in those games, the player's Offensive Half Wins per 48 minutes generated in those games, the player's Offensive Win Contribution in those games, and the percentage of "Good Games" he had against the Top 8 (defined as a positive Win Score). I also list the player's overall season numbers for comparisons sake. Here are a few thoughts on what I found:

Michael Redd
Redd performs very well against the best teams. In fact, better than he does in games against the rest of the field, which might suggest a wandering focus. Indeed, Redd started the season out putting up incredible numbers against the best competition, but then tailed off badly after it became clear the Bucks were headed nowhere. We need him, as our maximum salary player, to bring it night in and night out. He should be the example for the rest to follow. Unfortunately, too often he is.

Andrew Bogut
Bogut's production suffers against the better competition, but he had a stretch of games in the middle of the season where he was able to perform well above average against the Top 8. He just has to develop consistency. That said, he's never going to dominate the Association's elite, but the Bucks need him to put up his regular numbers against them and he usually doesn't.

Charlie Villanueva
Of the 5 Bucks analyzed, not surprisingly Villanueva performed the worst against the best competition, and had the highest number of "bad" performances in those games. He just isn't a big time player. He's more of an occasional tease.

Richard Jefferson
Jefferson's performance against the Top 8 was in line with his performance generally last season: normally gaudy, with little positive result. He would usually get his points in those games, but he didn't do much secondarily, and he turned the ball over too much. Mix in a slew of unusually bad shooting nights, and the numbers for RJ get ugly.

Ramon Sessions
Lets not get carried away by Sessions numbers against the Top 8 teams. He produced them in a limited number of games, and exclusively in games played near the end of the season. Nevertheless, he produced them. That's the bottom line. The Bucks may have found yet another big talent in Round 2 of the NBA's draft. If he can just pick up his defense, and continue along the path he's on, he's going to be a good one.

If Carl Landry can be had, the Bucks ought to have him

I realize the Milwaukee Bucks are over the salary cap, and I also realize Carl Landry of the Houston Rockets is a restricted free agent, but if there was any way in hell the Bucks could land the hometown boy, they ought to do so.

Landry is exactly the kind of interior player the Bucks need. Physical, aggressive... and hugely productive. Though I normally despise undersized power forwards (Landry's standing reach is a meager 8'6''. That's about the NBA average -- for a shooting guard!!), Landry's rookie numbers cannot be ignored. They were nothing short of incredible. When I did my Win Profile for the Houston Rockets, I was stunned by what he accomplished.

Using up only 3.8% of the Rockets total allotment of player floor time, I calculate that Landry added 3.5 wins to the Rockets total (remember, under my variation of Wins Produced, which attempts to consider each player's defensive production as well as his offensive numbers, a half a win for every one percent of floor time can be considered stellar Win Production -- and Landry nearly doubled that). Better still, Landry showed incredible balance to his game for a rookie. The native Milwaukeean made huge Win Contributions on both the offensive (+0.187) and defensive (+0.118) ends of the court. Very unusual for a rookie.

What's more, by my reckoning Landry's win productivity was, per minute, comparable to the very elite players in the NBA (his personal win-loss record of 99-(-17), and his Wins Produced per 48 of +0.236 puts him in the top 10 best Win Producers per minute in the entire Association.)

Yet despite what he did, I'm reading that the Rockets might not have any use for Landry. They certainly made him redundant when they acquired Memphis' Joey Dorsey. Maybe the really would let him walk. If so, the Bucks ought to pounce. Championship teams are built on these kinds of personnel blunders.

Now again, I don't know if the Bucks are even capable of making Landry an offer under the bizarre terms of the NBA's Rube Goldbergesque Salary Cap. (Anyone who knows or wants to sift through the terms of the CBA to find out, please advise me on that). But if they are, they should not hesitate to do so.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bucks claim they're "Ready to Rise" in 2008-09

Yesterday I was near and around the Bradley Center, so I stopped in to grab a handful of Milwaukee Bucks 2008-09 pocket schedules. Its kind of antiquated, I know, but I like having them for reference.

Anyway, a couple things jumped out at me. First, I noticed on the front of the schedule that this year's marketing slogan is....drumroll, please... "Ready to Rise". I'm not sure the legal department vetted that one. After all, the state of Wisconsin has specific laws prohibiting "false or misleading" commercial advertisements. "Ready to Rise" is maybe skirting the line a bit. Then again, these Bucks should be better than last year's putrid Green and Red edition, so I guess its all a matter of degree. (Plus, its not their lamest slogan... that would be this one).

Second, I noticed inside the schedule the Bucks face a brutally road tilted pre-Christmas schedule. In the first two months of the season, the team plays 20 games on the road and only 13 games in the friendly confines of the Bradley Center. That will make for a tough adjustment period for "Scotty Ball".

Finally, I noticed on the back of the schedule the Bucks are having a "Buy One Get One" sale on some of their season ticket packages. Yikes. That smacks of desperation. It reminds me of that scene in The Sopranos when Tony tells Artie Bucco he can save his struggling restaurant is by offering "two for one" coupons. Which prompted Artie's sarcastic reply (and best moment in the series):

" Two-fers. Wow. You mean like you get a free spaghetti and meatballs if you bring another cheap comare douchebag in here? How ‘bout an early bird special? Salad wagon? This is a fine dining establishment. I'll give it back to the bank before I turn into a fucking IHOP!"


Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Bucks could have rebounding issues

Update: The Revised Bucks Win Profile contained in the previous post is now accessible. I hadn't realized it was not accessible prior to today. I've been having some trouble publishing my Google Documents on the first try, but I think I've worked out the problem.

With a projected starting line-up of Richard Jefferson, Michael Redd, Ramon Sessions, Charlie Villanueva, and Andrew Bogut, the 2008-09 Milwaukee Bucks should not lack for reliable scoring (Jefferson should be especially helpful in that regard). And I am counting on new head coach Scott Skiles to "properly motivate" the Bucks defensively. But when it comes to rebounding, I have some very serious concerns. As in: where will they come from?

As my chart illustrates, the new additions to this season's Milwaukee Bucks rotation, with the exception of point guard Ramon Sessions (technically he's not new) and the underrated guard/forward Adrian Griffin (a potentially excellent Win Contributor for the Green and Red who deserves -- and will get -- the spotlight in a future posting), have consistently undershot the NBA per minute rebounding average at their respective positions.

Among the holdovers from last season, center Andrew Bogut has shown improved rebounding numbers each season, and Charlie Villanueva has been a slightly more productive than average NBA power forward, but in general the team really lacks a dominant rebounder. And as I have mentioned in earlier postings, there were several extremely productive collegiate rebounders available to the Bucks in this summer's draft, and I was disappointed that Bucks GM John Hammond chose instead to emphasize perceived "athleticism" with his selections (though Luc Moute could yet prove big on the glass -- especially if he is used primarily at the small forward position).

So am I suggesting that rebounding will be a constant concern this season? Yes, but its hard to say that with certainty at this point. After all, I have always contended that rebounding is the result mostly of superior positioning and effort, so improved production is theoretically within the reach of every member of the Bucks '08-'09 roster. (And the addition of Coach Skiles should help bolster that.) Besides, several prominent Bucks have shown they have the capacity to rebound at above average rates. Its just that they haven't really utilized that capacity lately.

A case in point is Richard Jefferson. Early in his career he was definitely a "plus rebounding" small forward. But since his injury two seasons ago he has been decidedly underproductive on the glass. Can he reverse that trend? I think he can. And Michael Redd was also a productive rebounder at one point in his career (actually, he was a productive player in general). Then he convinced himself that his "Redd the Gunner" persona was what brought him to big money prominence, and he since quit doing the untidy side work (such as rebounding) that is vital to producing wins in the NBA (isn't that ironic?).

So if those two players can merely reach into their Way Back Machines and reproduce the rebounding numbers of their early days, the issue might not be such a large concern for the Green and Red faithful. But if they can't -- or won't -- then that little "Hustle Board" they display at the Bradley Center -- you know, the one that includes the team's rebounding total -- well, that might prove to be a source of constant anguish for Antlerheads all winter long -- sort of like trying to bite through and then digest a Bradley Center "soft" pretzel.

Note: During my writing hiatus, I have continued to work on my Win Profiles for all 30 NBA teams. To date, I have published, I believe, around 11 or 12 of them. I have since completed about 12 more, but have not published those as of yet. I will start rolling them out shortly, and will do a compilation posting as part of my NBA season preview. The Profiles have thus far proven 94.7% accurate, so I am very pleased. And I think readers will find some of the results very interesting (for instance, the Jason Kidd trade was actually a major upgrade for the Mavericks, and the Suns defensive woes are actually centered on one man -- Amare Stoudamire, and Chris Paul's performance last season was unbelievably dominant for a player of his size).