Bucks Diary

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"All the way with LBJ": Ranking the NBAs Small Forwards by WinRate

In the runup to the 2008-09 NBA tipoff, Bucks Diary is ranking the projected starters across the Association at each of the five traditional positions according to the "WinRate"# each posted last season. Previously, we ranked the Centers and the Power Forwards. This afternoon we rank the Association's Small Forwards.

Random Thoughts on the Small Forward Rankings

1. The headscratcher in this particular ranking, I presume, is Jamario Moon of the Toronto Raptors, whom I have ranked as the 3rd best starting small forward in pro basketball, well ahead of other highly regarded small forwards like Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets, Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies, and Richard Jefferson of the Milwaukee Bucks. Moon is where he is on my chart because he rebounds much better than the other three, he converts shots much better than the other three, and he does not turn the ball over. Then, on the defensive end, he does a much better job of limiting the rebounding of his counterpart opponents, as well as their collective field goal percentage. That is why I am very comfortable slotting Moon right where he is.

2. Once upon a time, small forward was the glamour position of the NBA. Larry Bird, the Doctor, Bernard King, Adrian Dantley, James Worthy, Marques Johnson, Alex English, Jamaal Wilkes, Mark Aguirre, Larry Nance, Clyde Drexler ... many of the games most luminous stars were listed at the 3 position. Not any more. Today, by and large, the position is devoid of big names. What has happened to the great small forwards?

3. Watch out for Trevor Ariza of the Lakers. If he shores up his defense... which was just awful, in both Orlando and Los Angeles... then he will be one of the better small forwards in basketball. And that will just add one more weapon to Los Angeles' already scary lineup.

4. Last year I threw out the idea that the Bucks ought to pursue a trade for Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels in exchange for Michael Redd. At the time I was just thinking out loud, but the more I see of Redd this season (and his palpable disinterest), and the more I analyze Butler, who appears to be a rising star in the NBA, the more I think the Bucks should have pursued the move. Everything about Redd seems to indicate he's had it with Milwaukee. I could be wrong, but he's just putting off that vibe in interviews and in comments and in his play out of the gate.

5. Speaking of the Bullets, they've got a nice one-two punch up front with Butler and Antawn Jamison. Very productive duo. And Haywood isn't bad, either. What they need is an effective backcourt, though. And, in the absence of Agent Zero, they certainly do not have it.

6. Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls took a step backward last season. Maybe it was the trade talk and whatnot else that took place at the beginning of the season. I know that's what Coach Skiles blames it on. But he's a good defensive player, and he has the capability of being a prototype "efficient" small forward. Last season his defense was well below average -- he allowed an effective FG% of nearly 50% -- and his offense wasn't up to his capabilities. Bottom line: at a position so devoid of talent, there is no way a guy with his game should rank 16th best.

7. Mike Dunleavy of the Indiana Pacers is a somewhat unappreciated player. I think after Nellie trashed him in Golden State everyone put the "BUST" stamp on him in permanent ink. But I don't think that's accurate. He's had some success in Indiana. He's an extremely efficient offensive player. My system penalizes him, however, for his poor defense. But even with that, I rank him among the upper half of small forwards in pro basketball.

8. I should have included in my rankings, but did not, Golden State's Corey Maggette. Instead I erroneously evaluated Stephen Jackson as their starter. Had I done that properly, Maggette would rank as the 13th most productive starting small forward with an overall WinRate of .124, an Offensive HalfWin Rate of .140, and a Defensive HalfWin Rate of .113. I apologize for the error.

#: WinRate is based upon the "Win Score" metric devised by Professor Berri of the Wages of Wins Journal. "Win Score" takes each player's traditional statistical output and weights it according to how each statistic correlates with Wins Produced. The resulting "Win Score per 48 minutes" is then adjusted according to the average "Win Score per 48 minutes" produced at that particular position(s). My theory is that 1/2 of wins are produced by outproducing the positional WinScore, and 1/2 of wins are produced by preventing your opponent from doing the same.


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