Bucks Diary

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Crushed up front: TWC Boxscore for the Bucks vs. Cavaliers

How much of a difference does Andrew Bogut make to the Milwaukee Bucks? That seems to have been answered last night.

A further question, though, is how long can Luc Moute hold up at the power forward? Remember, he's outweighed on average by 32 pounds a night, and he's outreached on average by about 5.5 inches. That's tough sledding. He's done a good job, no question, but he's showing signs of fatigue.


1. One good thing that happened last night, Ramon Sessions crushed Mo Williams once again. Anyone who says Cleveland is better because they added Mo Williams doesn't know what they're talking about. He's been below average, and the Bucks are better off now and in the future with a thriving Sessions at the point.

2. The thing that hurts about last night's loss is LeBron James was just pedestrian by his lofty standards. He produced Win Score at 0.168 per minute, which is 8.0 per 48, which, considering he also played part-time at power forward, is below average production. So, forget the 32 points, LeBron wasn't really LeBron and yet we couldn't get a home win.

3. The Cleveland trio that killed us was Big Z (I'm not spelling his name), Ben Wallace, and Anderson Varejeo. Ilgauskas had a huge night (0.682 WS per minute), and Wallace (0.377) and Varejeo (0.477) had large nights as well.

Ranking NBA Starting and Reserve Units by "+/-" per minute

I'm not a huge fan of the "+/-" statistic when it comes to evaluating individual players, but I think it offers some insight when evaluating entire units, and I'm using it today to rank each team's starting and reserve units.

I did the rankings by converting each team's raw "+/-" starter-reserve stats on 82games.com to a per minute "+/-" for each unit and slotting the teams accordingly.

Notes on Rankings

1. Clearly, the Bucks have depth issues that need to be resolved before they can step to the next level. Of course, injuries have to be accounted for as well, but I think by and large its a depth of talent issue.

2. I don't know what to think when I see teams like the Bulls and Jazz... teams that get far more positive results from their bench personnel than they get from their starting units. Does this mean the teams coaching is derelict? Or does it simply mean their reserve units are better than other reserve units, but that their starting talent does meet snuff? I'm inclined to think the former is closer to the truth. You want your best people on the floor for the maximum amount of minutes, and that doesn't seem to be happening for those teams.

3. Teams with positive production from both units include: the Lakers, the Cavaliers, the Celtics, the Blazers, and the Heat. These teams have to be considered amongst the strongest contenders in the NBA.

4. Here's something scary: not only do the Lakers have the best starting unit on a "+/-" per minute basis, their bench has a higher "+/-" per minute than any starting unit. That's unbelievable.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Comparing Andrew Bogut to Chris Paul using Replacement Value

Yesterday I figured out the value of the average replacement player at each given position (replacement player being defined as "a readily available substitute which the team could acquire without much cost" and being statistically defined by me as any player who spent at least 40% of his time at the given position and who took up at least 0.5% of his team's playing minutes but not more than 6.0%). Not surprisingly I found that it is more costly to replace the center position than any other position, with power forward being next costliest, point guard next, then small forward, and finally shooting guard.

With that information in tow, I decided to revisit the Andrew Bogut/Chris Paul debate to see whether, adjusting for replacement value, Bogut might look a little better pick in hindsight.

Well, slightly... but not much. Chris Paul is still the far more dominant Win Contributor in every season. So there's still a huge gap. And even as Bogut's play has arisen to new levels, so has Paul's, thus the numbers this season give no aid and comfort to Bucks fans.

But how were we to know? The guy is maybe 6'0, and how much does he weigh? How could you project him to be so dominant?

Of course, if you were to compare Bogut to the real "other" choice in that draft -- Marvin Williams -- its no contest for Bogut.

One other thing... this is the first time I've gone back in time with Total Win Contribution. There is a consistency to the numbers for both guys that suggests legititmacy for the whole concept of "Defensive" or "Counterpart Opponent" Win Score, so I was happy to see that.

Quantum of Suckiness: Milwaukee Bucks TWC Boxscore vs. Pistons

I put together a Total Win Contribution boxscore for the Bucks loss in Detroit last night after I got home from seeing the new James Bond, 007, movie. Very good movie, although others I was with seemed less than impressed. Not me. That dude is my kind of Bond... kickin ass everywhere. Lets put it this way -- he was drinking beer in this movie, not sipping martinis. So thumbs up from me.

Click here for the TWC Boxscore: Bucks at Detroit Pistons

My review for the Bucks, on the other hand, is a big thumbs down. Red numbers all over the place on the TWC Boxscore. In fact, the only players to post positive games were, strangely enough, Dan Gadzuric and Tyronn Lue. Gadzuric had a monster night, and let's hope he keeps it up. Lue was okay in 15 minutes of action. Other than that, RJ fought to a standstill, and the rest of the team just didn't have it.

I guess if you want to pin specific blame, by my calculations the 3 guiltiest parties were Charlie Bell, Luke Ridnour, and Charlie Villanueva... in descending order.

But really, the majority of Bucks had poor games, and as a team they didn't play defense as they have been playing defense. They must do better.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bucks Win Contributions compared to replacement level players

After I did yesterday's post, I was thinking about which positional deficiency on the roster is least excusable. I had a hunch, but I wasn't sure. To test my hunch out, I applied the baseball concept of "value over replacement player" to the situation.

Why? Well, when I do Total Win Contribution, that is a measurement against a hypothetical "average player", with the average set at zero. But "average players" are actually very good players and quite hard to come by. So the statistic captures the player's impact on wins, but it doesn't completely capture his overall value to the team.

"Value over Replacement Player" does. It tells you each players relative value by telling you how much he's contributing compared to the contributions a qualified scrub could provide in the same minutes. A "scrub", or in other words a "Replacement Player", is officially defined as a player that the team could acquire with little or no cost.

For my purposes, I defined the Replacement Level Player at each position as any player who played at least 0.5% of his team's overall minutes but not more than 6%, and who spent at least 40% of his time at the given position. I figured if a guy is being used for less than 15 minutes a game, he is pretty expendable and thus easily acquirable, and I established the 40% floor to insure that the player was someone most teams would utilize at the given position.

Once I established those replacement values (using last season's NBA Win Profiles), I compared the Win Contributions the Bucks were getting at each position against the Win Contribution they could get at the position using only Replacement Players, and thus I established the Bucks Total Win Contribution over Replacement Level for each position.

New Findings

1. Not surprisingly, the position easiest to replace is shooting guard (making Michael Redd's max contract even more indefensible), followed by small forward, point guard, power forward, and then center. I think I told someone recently that the center position was easy to replace, but my head must have been out to lunch. Obviously, given the physical requirements of the position, that is going to be the position MOST DIFFICULT to replace, and indeed it was.

2. Seen under this light, the Bucks deficiency at small forward is totally inexcusable. They aren't even getting scrub level play out of that spot, and when you consider that Jefferson is playing above average... well you kind of know we got problems at backup.

3. Seen under this light, the contributions we are getting from center aren't horrible, and the contributions from point guard and power forward are superlative.

4. In the next couple of days, I am going to compare each individual Bucks value over a replacement player, so look for that.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Here are the Bucks weak positions

All props to the Bucks for their start, but as Coach Skiles said in his press conference last night, "We need to be real." The Bucks are 7-10 and in last place in the Central Division, and if you break it down by Win Contribution per position, you find out why.


1. The Bucks are getting killed in 3 areas: shooting guard, backup small forward, and backup center.

2. Joe Alexander must step his play up if the Bucks are to improve, and we need Michael Redd back badly. I'm not sure what you can do at this point regarding the backup center position.

3. The irony of ironies for the season is the greatest positional Win Contribution is being provided by the one position we believed would be most deficient when the season began: power forward. That's thanks in large part to the surprising contributions of rookie Luc Moute.

4. The Bucks are also getting pretty fair play from the point guard position, another position of uncertainty when the season began. That's due to stellar play from Luke Ridnour, and the rising improvement of Ramon Sessions. Strange how things sometimes work out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I figured out the secret to Skiles success

So how the hell did Scott Skiles do it? How did he take virtually the same roster that was the NBA's worst defense for the last two years and turn it into one of the NBA's best defenses? Voodoo, bodysnatching... what the fuck? No, its so easy, I can't believe I didn't see it earlier.

Skiles is a number cruncher or, more likely, he's good at craps. Because his defense is all about playing the odds.

According to the numbers, the Bucks defense isn't that much better inside. But the effective field goal percentage is way down.

Its all because of what I'm going to call Skiles "bubble" defense. That is, he's got the Bucks challenging every single three, and every layup. If you do those two things, your defense has to improve.

Its a common misconception that basketball defense is about preventing shots. Its about regaining possession of the basketball as quickly as possible without the other team scoring points. Sometimes that means inducing the opposition to shoot... low percentage shots.

The best way to do that is to marshall your resources against the opposition's best "point value" opportunities.

In the modern NBA, the two greatest point value opportunities are open 3 point shots and uncontested layups. If you concentrate on preventing those two things, your defense is going to be good.

Why? If you look at it statistically, NBA players have become just as proficient at making jump shots from behind the 3 point arc as jump shots in what I call "No Man's Land" the area outside the paint and inside the arc. According to 82games, the median field goal percentage on 3 point shots is just a hare below the median field goal percentage on "2 point jump shots"... 37.7% vs. 38.8%.

But do the math. The return gotten by the median 3 point shooter in the NBA is 1.2 points per shot, whereas the return gottent by the median No Man's shooter is just 0.7 points per shot. The difference is enormous.

That's why the bubble defense makes so much sense... stretch out and challenge any three attempt, and foul anyone... if you have to... rather than giving up an open layup. If you do those two things you will be a good defense. And Coach Skiles knows it... or should I say "James Cagney in The Public Enemy" knows it? (did you see his boss brown pinstripe suit in Atlanta?... he looked just like Cagney in one of those gangster films!)

Villanueva is the NBA's worst inside player

There is no problem at all this season with Charlie Villanueva's effort. In fact, watching the Bucks game against the Atlanta Hawks tonight, I was chuckling at how funny it looked to see him hustle so hard.

The problem is the results... no, the results in one bizarre area.

I always complain that Charlie V's fatal flaw is he is allergic to the paint. But, now that I think about it, that's not entirely true. He's not Ralph Sampson... his reboundings totals alone prove he's not a power forward who dreams of being 6'5''.

The problem with Charlie's inside game is its so damn ineffective. In fact, among players with at least 100 attempts, Charlie Villanueva is the worst "inside" shooter in the NBA. I'm not saying the worst among big men, either. I'm talking about THE WORST IN THE ENTIRE ASSOCIATION... point guards, midgets, everyone included. And it makes zero sense. There's just no easy explanation for the incompetence of his interior game.

Sure, Villanueva isn't the greatest athlete ever. But neither is Bogut, or Mehmet Okur, or Brad Miller... they all make a far greater percentage of their inside shots than Villanueva.

And he's got excellent size. His bulk is above average for a power forward, and his standing reach of 9'00 almost qualifies him as a center.

And he's a decent "pure" shooter. His free throw percentage is quite good, and he can obviously hit the three. Which may be the problem.

Here's my theory. He's been ruined by the three. He found he could make them pretty proficiently early in his career and so he neglected to spend the hours and hours it took guys like less athletic but yet still effective inside players like Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and Tim Duncan to perfect their craft.

Think about the inside moves those guys featured. Bird often used the glass, or his perfected fadeaway, or a variety of one handed shots. McHale was the master of the inside move. He was something to behold. And Duncan has perfected the bank shot.

What does CV have? Not much. He kind of tries a jump hook, but he usually bricks those. If he can just perfect something, anything, any kind of "pet move" he can go to, he would be a far more effective inside player and a far better Win Contributor.

Apparently Bucks efforted Camby last summer

According to Yahoo Sports, Bucks General Manager John Hammond made inquiries with the Denver Nuggets last summer regarding the availiability of Marcus Camby. Unfortunately, Yahoo's report doesn't explain what the Bucks offered, or why the Nuggets rejected the Bucks overtures and dealt Camby to the Clippers instead. They really got nothing in return from Los Angeles, so their motives are puzzling.

I almost wish I didn't read that. What a HUGE addition Camby would have been. Ohh!

But I'm glad I did read it, because it tells me something good about John Hammond. He's aware of what the team needs and he apparently tried to provide it with what would have been an enormous addition. The team is under adult leadership now.

But damn it. Can you imagine the lineup?

No, I'm just going to let it go.

I would argue Bucks defense is 7th best

In absolute efficiency terms, the Bucks defense is 9th best in the National Basketball Association... that's astonishing enough considering the team ranked 30th in defense six months ago.

But, if you are one of the 25 people who have visited my new "NBA Advanced Power Ranking" blog since I started it a week ago, you will no doubt know the Bucks defense could arguably be even better than that.

If you adjust the efficiency numbers to account for strength of schedule and venue, as I do using my "Point Value over Average" system, the Bucks are the 7th best defense in the Association. They are allowing -1.8 points under their opponents adjusted offensive efficiency averages, meaning 1.8 points per game less than the rest of the NBA would be expected to allow given the same opponent and circumstance.

Only the Lakers, Celtics, Pacers, Nuggets, Rockets, and Sixers have better Defensive PVOAs.

Whether you accept the logic behind PVOA or not, you have to admit this much... the Bucks defensive accomplishments so far are legitimate -- built on brick and mortar, not smoke and mirrors.

The Miracle Worker needs to conjure an even larger miracle

Scott Skiles has, in one month, done what no previous Milwaukee Bucks coach had done in nearly 20 years. He got the Bucks defense into the upper half of the NBA rankings. I'm dumbfounded at the suddenness of Skiles influence. It boggles the mind. JE Skeets (Nehemiah?) of "Ball Don't Lie" was right when he described it as "pretty flippin' sick".

But now I think the Basketball Gods are asking too much. For the next 10 days the team will be without its top scorer (Michael Redd), its starting point guard (Luke Ridnour), and its most valuable player and ONLY viable center (Andrew Bogut).

What's that line by Bob Dylan? Its a hard rain gonna fall. I can't see the Bucks pulling out even one game with that shorthanded a lineup. They just have to do the best they can, and don't let it squealch their attitude and intensity.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Andrew Bogut has come of age

The beauty of Marginal Win Score is that its the same concept as Offensive/Defensive Win Score, only better described.

There were two problems with "Defensive" Win Score. It was a misnomer. Many of the statistics recorded by Win Score have nothing to do with defense.

Second, I didn't know if it was fair. Each player doesn't always defend his counterpart opponent all of the time.

Marginal Win Score wipes those problems away. Basically, Marginal Win Score says to each player "It is your duty to play a more efficiently productive game than the guy the other team plays at your position. We don't care how you accomplish it, we just need it done. If you do it -- you help us win, and the longer you do it, the greater that contribution."

Now my statistical system is straightforward and less confusing... yet just as accurate. Plus I can quit adding those caveats to every discussion that annoy Blake. (Though, if I compare the player's counterpart opponents Win Score against the NBA average and its lower, it will stand to reason he's doing it through suppression... which I reserve the right to refer to as "defense" from time to time).

Which brings me to the Andrew Bogut story.

Bogut for MVP?! Eat that Charley Rosen!

Andrew Bogut is having his finest NBA season bar none. His impact on the Bucks is where fans expected it to be (somewhat unrealistically) when the big man entered the Association as the number one overall pick in 2005.

His Marginal Win Score is currently +2.8 and rising. For comparison, his MWS last season was +0.0, and was negative the season before. If you combine his MWS with his 13.5% of the Bucks playing minutes, his Total Win Contribution to the Milwaukee Bucks stands at +0.385. That projects to +5 games above average, and is better than Yao Ming, Shaq, and Kevin Garnett... although Chris Paul's is currently at +0.770... damn you little fella!

How's he doing it? Easy... on the boards and against his men.

Most of Bogut's basic statistics are exactly the same as last season except his per minute rebounding is way up, and his counterpart's effective field goal percentage is way down. Basically those two facts account for his plus margin. (Note: his per minute scoring is actually down, which shows what defense can do).

And that plus margin is a big reason why the Bucks have been able to play a difficult early schedule without key players and still produce a near .500 record. Good day, mate!

Now Bucksfan, show him some love. Bang that frickin' All-Star ballot at the arena and at NBA.com. We actually have an All-Star worthy player. Let's make him one.

Time to put Ray Allen in the MVP conversation

This is going to have to be a teaser post. I'm too tired to lay out the evidence right now, so I will give you the executive summary instead and finish up tomorrow evening.

Basically, the point I want to make is this: last season Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce carried the Celtics during the regular season. Ray Allen was good, but just above average. The former two were spectacular. Therefore, of course, lazy sportswriters assume that since the Celtics are doing well again this year, the same thing must be happening.

It isn't. Instead the roles have totally reversed. The junior partner in the Three Amigos, Walter Ray Allen, is carrying water for the entire trio. He is having a hellified season in terms of Win Production and on both ends of the basketball court... an absolute renaissance year for one of the smoothest players of all time. His numbers are astonishing, and I will lay them out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Garnett's numbers have slid a bit, and Pierce's numbers are well down (in fact Andrew Bogut is currently having a more valuable impact on the Milwaukee Bucks than either of them are having on the Boston Celtics). That's not to say either player's numbers are "bad"... they just aren't what they were last season.

Yet, I look through all the "MVP Talk" and I don't see the name Ray Allen anywhere. If I were Allen, I would be getting a little pissed right now. This is not the first time he's been overlooked. He should have been the runaway MVP of the Finals last season, but somehow that award went to Paul Pierce.

And so, unbelievably, stories that should have been written about how Ray Allen is building upon his Finals MVP with a fast start to the 2008-09 season are being written about Pierce... when he should not have been the MVP, and is actually slumping out of the gate compared with his production last year!!

Anyway, more on this tomorrow. I intend to do my second piece taking apart the stupid NBA.com "Race to the MVP" listing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Revisiting the currently one-sided Iverson for Billups trade

Thus far the Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups trade is looking one-sided in favor of the Denver Nuggets.

Billups is playing MVP caliber basketball while AI has been below average. Why would Joe Dumars make such a foolish blunder? I still cannot figure that out.

And don't start talking about "salary cap space". You can stow that patter. Besides Shaquille O'Neal -- and he had Hollywood aspirations -- what other significant free agent transfer signing has occured in the salary cap era? I can't think of any. Oh, I can think of a lot of teams who have cleared "space" for players who never came... the Clippers for Kobe, the Bulls for Duncan. That's about all these exercises ever amount to. "Covering fire" for the owners real agenda -- clear the books of some hefty labor costs. In fact, I think all this "clearing space for LeBron" nonsense is going to be looked back upon as what it was all along -- costcutting in hard economic times.

And therefore I'm afraid all Detroit has done by trading Billups is officially slam its championship window shut. That's kind of stupid if you ask me. In basketball windows don't open that often unless you wear Kelly Green or Purple and Gold. Sure, lots of fans think they do. But they don't.

The fact is, in basketball, rebuilding sucks. Free agency? The lottery? Good luck. Basically, rebuilding in basketball means you wait around and hope that Lady Luck kisses you again someday. All you can do in the meantime is put the pieces in place so that if and when she does you are ready to accept her advances... like Ainge was in Boston. That's about all you can do.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What's happened to Kevin Love?! (and my other rookie mistakes)

I've been bashing John Hammond for using the Bucks lottery choice to select Joe Alexander. Let's examine my less than stellar record.

Last June I guaranteed three of the prospects in the NBA Draft would be big win contributors; Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, and Derrick Rose. Thus far, I'm wrong on the first two. Only Rose has a marginal Win Score that would qualify him as a positive win contributor (+0.017). Thus far I think he's the Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile Beasley has been horrible and Kevin Love looks like a man who is seeing ghosts.

In tonight's road victory over the Detroit Pistons, Minnesota's best game of the season thus far, Kevin Love regressed even further. He took two shots in 17 minutes of action and both came back to him stamped "Return to Sender". That basically sums up his central problem. He's getting more of his shots blocked than he is used to, and he has no clue what to do about it.

My question is this. Where is Kevin McHale? If there was one thing McHale was genius at, it was altering release points on his inside shots. How come he's not passing any of his knowledge on to Love? Or is he, and it just hasn't sunk in? Either way, I'm not totally bailing on Love, but he's looking frighteningly like Sheldon Williams.

A rundown of my draft mistakes

Here is a brief rundown of the mistakes I have thus far made on last year's draft, with each player's Marginal Win Score per minute in parenthesis. Remember, any positive number indicates above average Win Contribution, any negative number indicates below average Win Contribution:

1. Michael Beasley (-0.077)
This guy is a much bigger disappointment than Kevin Love. Love hasn't lived up to expectations, Beasley has been awful. He's not rebounding very well, he's not shooting very well, and he's turning the ball over way too much. That's the trifecta of disaster.

2. OJ Mayo (+0.004)
I said this guy would be a bust, because of his poor collegiate production. So far, he's been an average player, which is pretty good for a rookie. Basically, he's doing it with defense and by limiting his turnovers. As I said in the runup to the draft, defense is one area that is very difficult to assess... I have to think of some way to do so.

3. Brook Lopez (+0.039)
Technically, I said this guy was a "mixed bag" prospect, but he's hardly been that. He's been excellent. Mainly, again, what he's been doing is suppressing his counterpart opponent's production. His offense, and particularly his rebounding, has been underwhelming. But his defense, particularly his eFG allowed, has been superlative. He's allowing his covers to shoot a paltry 41%. That'll get it done.

4. Mareese Speights (-0.110)
Here, its defense again... this time complete lack of it. Speights offensive production has been excellent. Unfortunately, his counterpart opponents can say the same thing... only much louder. His covers are shooting a nearly astronomical 65% from the field, and are rebounding at Moses Malone rates. In my defense, however, I think had he been drafted by the Bucks Coach Skiles might have coaxed a better effort out of him than that.

5. Javalle McGee (-0.007)
McGee has looked much more competent than I would have expected. He had all the tools, I just questioned whether he could produce. So far, he's done all right.

6. Chris Douglas-Roberts (-0.162)
He's only played 35 minutes, but he hasn't been all that great in those 35 minutes.

7. Roy Hibbert (-0.159)

Here are the rookies I "sort of" hit on:

1. Ryan Anderson (+0.095)
To be honest, I was pretty luke warm on Anderson. I said he looked like he could be a contributor because of his production in college. So far he has been.

2. Anthony Randolph (-0.050)
I begged the Bucks not to pick this guy. But I guess so far he's been better than Joe Alexander, so I guess I should be careful what I wish for. Although I'm actually more comfortable with Alexander than I think I would have been with Anthony Randolph.

3. Jerryd Bayless (-0.157)
Actually, I don't think this call was anything special. I mean, he's a skinny, undersized shooting guard who doesn't shoot a real high percentage from the field. How tough was it to foresee him struggling?

Memo to Coach Skiles: The Bucks best line-ups

Bucks fans, you can criticize my reasoning, my productivity, my sense of humor, my basketball acumen... but never say I'm not working overtime to bring you the best Bucks information I can muster.

Panning through the available Bucks information, I think I came up with another nugget: Marginal Win Score per player by position. This statistic reveals, in theory: (a) the Bucks best lineups; (b) the best position for each Buck; (c) the cost of playing certain Bucks at certain positions; and, (d) the Bucks lack of depth at several key positions.

What is Marginal Win Score?

In my little world, the key to success in basketball is for the five players on the court to collectively produce more Win Score statistics than their five "counterpart opponents". That margin, divided by 2, is what I refer to as "Marginal Win Score". The greater that margin, the more games above .500 a team can expect to finish.

On my chart, each Milwaukee Bucks player's Marginal Win Score is expressed as a "per minute" phenomenon. Any value above +0.000 is an above average Marginal Win Score.

The Rule of 65%?

I just dreamed this one up, and it may not hold water, but it seems to me a good way to project a team's win potential is to add the Marginal Win Scores of its starting five, average those out, project the record the lineup would be expected to produce over a full season, and then multiply that by 65%.

How did I come up with 65%? Basically by observing that the maximum amount of playing time you can expect to muster out of 5 players is 75% of all playing minutes. But that's unrealistic. What normally happens is each of your starters consume about 13% of the playing minutes at his given position, which adds up to 65%.

If you take last season's starting five, that unit projected out to 41-41 over a full season. 65% of that is a little over 26 wins, which is right where they finished. I'll continue to test this theory and let you know if it holds spit.


1. I'm going to go back in time to check this out, but I believe Michael Redd should not be played at small forward under any circumstance. The marginal advantage Redd normally enjoys at shooting guard not only disappears, it turns decisively to the opponents advantage... causing double damage to the Green and Crimson. Same thing occurs when you move RJ away from small forward.

2. Charlie Villanueva's primary shortcoming as a power forward is his inefficient shooting. He enjoys a marginal advantage over his opponents in every key category except shot attempts. When you get to that category, CV loses decisively. Which supports my theory: a power forward with an outside game is only valuable if he can produce as many points per shot as a power forward with an inside game. If he cannot, its like bleeding wins.

3. The Bucks have no viable backup to Andrew Bogut. None. If he goes down, the team will be sunk, no question about it. And the tragedy is, you can find "Greg Kite" type backups... guys who will get you rebounds at least and therefore won't get decisively outproduced... at less than market value.

4. Gadzuric, Elson, Lue, and Allen have all been terrible. Just brutal.

5. The Bucks, in theory, have no backup at small forward either. There's more hope there, though, because I think Moute's poor numbers reflect some very difficult matchups he's had there (LeBron in particular) and I still hold out hope that Joe Alexander will square himself away.

6. Bogut's having a terrific season. That's not even debatable. He's playing with tremendous determination.

7. Notice how many lineups the Bucks can put together this season that are each theoretically much better than the starting five they employed most of last season?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Revisiting my quirky Bogut stat

Last week on the Channel 32 Sports Roundtable, I heard some guy from WTMJ Radio say "Andrew Bogut's got a better jumpshot than most people think". Ahh, that assertion would be DEAD-ON only if most people mistakenly believed Andrew Bogut is missing both his arms. On the other hand, if most people believed Andrew Bogut could make jump shots, but just doesn't do it very often, then that statement is pure bunk.

Do you remember last summer when I was bored and I decided to estimate what Andrew Bogut's win production would be if he would merely forego jump shots altogether? And remember how I speculated Bogut would be an elite level center if he were to do so? That logic still holds... and so does my recommendation.

According to 82games.com and their staff of unusually anal retentive basketball observers, Bucks center Andrew Bogut has attempted 18 jump shots this season and produced 8 points from those attempts. If you're counting, that's a net minus 10 Win Score, or the equivalent of 10 unnecessary turnovers of possession to Bucks opponents.

As a result, even though Bogut's current offensive Win Score per 48 is a robust 12.4, it could be an even better 13.2 if he would just merely kick the jump shooting habit!! And remember, his jump shot "turnovers" increase exponentially with his overall shot attempts, meaning the Win Score production deficit will continue to grow as the season wears on.

Why don't the Bucks take my suggestion -- RIGHT NOW -- and institute a series of fines against Bogut... for his own good... any time he attempts a shot without having both of his feet within one step of paint?! We don't pay the guy to shoot jump shots!! They harm the team!! Aren't the Bucks interested in disincentivizing activities that harm the team?

The problem, of course, is the modern belief that centers are just overpaid clods unless they can "step out" and hit outside shots. What a bunch of bullshit!! There's a reason the greatest players of all time normally played close to the basket... its easier to do productive things there.

You know what I actually heard ESPN commentator Jon Barry suggest last night? He suggested the Chicago Bulls "push Greg Oden" away from the basket, because he can't make shots out there.

Okay, first of all, have you ever seen a team successfully "push" anyone away from the basket by anything more than an insignificant amount? No, its a foul... its called "riding"! Second, the obvious counter move by Oden is to continue to do what he's been doing... hanging around the basket where he can be most productive.

That's the strategy, by and large, that Andrew Bogut uses. I just want him to take it to its logical extreme.

Bucks doing better than you think, Buckfan

Last season around this time BucksNation thought the Bucks were off to a hot start. In fact they weren't. Now I'm hearing commentary suggesting this season its the "same old Bucks". Its not.

Last year's seeming fast start was an aberration. When I exposed it by publishing the team's Point Value over Average numbers (which suggested that even though the Bucks had a winning record they were actually playing well below average) people wondered if I ought to adjust my methodology. Actually it was dead-on. By Christmas I had the team had a PVOA rating of -6.91, which foretold their season ending efficiency differential of -7.25 pretty accurately.

This season, the story has reversed. Even though the Bucks have lost 6 of 8, I believe, they are by and large playing near average basketball... which is a huge improvement for this franchise of late. If you're following my "NBA Advanced Power Ranking" blog, I have the team situated near the middle of the NBA.

Yeah, they've had some stinker games, like the severly below average defense in the loss to Denver this week... where the defense was brutal... but not many. And their clunkers haven't really even clunked that bad (in Denver the offense was above average).

Most of the games this season have been like last night's game against Utah. The Bucks lost, but by PVOA standards the team played slightly above average on both offense and defense compared to the rest of the NBA. They just happened to be playing one of the toughest home teams in the Association, and, unfortunately, an average performance at Utah will always equate into a loss.

But overall, if the team continues to play at the level it has been playing at, I would project them to be around a 35-36 win team. Which is not the "same old Bucks" of the last two nightmare seasons.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am launching a new NBA power rankings blog

I'll be doing limited Bucks basketball blogging for a day or two. All of my free time is being invested in the launch of my new basketball blog which I am calling "NBA Advanced Power Rankings".

The new blog is gonna be pretty sweet, and I promise that once I get it up it won't take away from my Bucks writing in any way. In fact I believe it will enhance the NBA experience for Bucks fans and NBA fans in general.

The new blog will provide an objective, continuously updated, NBA Power Ranking list based entirely upon my "Point Value over Average" relative performance grading system. The ranking list will be updated every morning... or right after I calculate the PVOA's for the last night's games and then compute the required averages.

The blog will also provide a PVOA analysis of each individual NBA game, going back to the games played on November 11, 2008. The analysis the score of the game, the estimated number of possessions in the game, each team's overall Point Value over Average total based on the possession estimates, and each team's offensive and defensive PVOAs.

Finally, the blog will include a weekly "Trend Report" which will provide fans with the percentage of below average performances (Overall, Offensive, and Defensive) by each NBA team in that particular week.

Initially "NBA Advanced Power Rankings" will simply be a crude source of the above referenced information. Eventually I want it to be a high functioning cousin to similar football blogs like FootballOutsiders.com (the inspiration for the PVOA system) and AdvancedNFLStats.com. In other words, a reliable source point for objective information about the relative strength of each team in the National Basketball Association.

My NBA Manhattan Project

I also have one other project in the works, which I'm calling my "NBA Manhattan Project". I am going to try to build a database of seasonal Win Profiles for every NBA team dating back to 1960.

I never thought I could do Win Profiles for any season prior to 2001 because of the lack of necessary statistical information. But two things happened that made me believe it could be done.

First, I realized my Offensive/Defensive Win Score system (the system I use to generate "Win Profiles") hinges entirely upon each player's Marginal Win Score. That means I can calculate any given player's Win Totals for any given year without knowing the NBA positional averages in that given year.

But I still didn't have the statistical information I needed, such as: a. each player's counterpart opponents' statistics and, b. essential Win Score statistics the NBA didn't keep before 1976-77.

I figured out how to overcome those limitations with the help of baseball essayist Bill James. In his "Historical Abstract" he makes the argument that Jackie Robinson was underrated. As part of his argument, he cites Robinson's excellent "zone rating" at second base during the 1948 season.

"Zone Rating" is an ultra-modern baseball defensive statistic that estimates each fielders defensive performance according to the number of balls hit into the fielder's "zone". Making such an estimate requires information that was not gathered until recently. So how did James know Robinson's 1948 rating?

Reading further, I figured it out. Bill James estimated Robinson's zone rating using existing information to deduce the required but unknown information. (Specifically, he found a strong relationship between the number of "assists" recorded by a team and the number of groundballs.)

That's when it hit me. I could do the same thing with Win Profiles. I can estimate each player's defensive statistics by simply adjusting modern statistical averages and then projecting them backward. Furthermore, I can estimate each team's Win Score and Opponent Win Score by establishing consistent relationships between the available statistics and all of the unknown statistics.

Obviously, that means everything before 1977 will involve two layers of estimates. That won't be a problem, though. I did mock Win Profiles for last season using only the information available in 1960. I then compared the results to my actual Win Profiles from last season. The two sets of numbers had a 90% correlation.

So I decided to do a full NBA Win Profile abstract database, which I will complete over the course of the next year. Once it is complete I intend to use the information produced to write a book that will examine historical debates (was Chamberlain actually better than Russell? Did Magic Johnson ever have a season equivalent to Oscar Robertson's famous "Triple Double" season? ) and will compare players across eras and across positions. It will be similar in nature to Bill James baseball abstract. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Despite the results, the Bucks had a very good week

The Milwaukee Bucks went 2-2 last week, but their performance level was much better than their record indicates. What Scott Skiles has done in his short tenure to completely change the culture of the team, as well as its performance and effort level has been nothing short of astonishing.

According to "Point Value over Average" which measures the Bucks offensive and defensive performance per possession against the average performance per possession (adjusted by home and road) against the given opponent, the Bucks averaged +2.0 for the week. Using my overall PVOA power rankings as a yardstick, that average... if sustained... would land the Bucks in the top third of the NBA.

Here is how the Bucks performances broke down according to Point Value over Average. The Bucks had one "plus" offensive game, and three "plus" defensive game. In total, the offense was -0.5 points below the NBA average for the week, but the defense averaged -2.5 points less than the NBA average. So the defense continues to carry the Milwaukee Bucks this season. However, for the season as a whole, the Bucks offensive average this week actually represents an improvement for the team, while the defensive average represents a slight decline.

The Bucks best game by far was their home game against the San Antonio Spurs. Their defense in that game was awesome. On the other hand the team's only bad game of the week, by PVOA standards, was last night against the Boston Celtics. The Bucks hung with the Celtics because of heart and determination... not performance.

What does the team's PVOA mean?

Point Value over Average essentially asks what a team's "efficiency differential" would be after accounting for the strength of their opposition. Theoretically, a team's PVOA at any point can be considered the equivalent of its "pure" efficiency differential... and that can then be used to project how the team would finish the season if they maintained that level of play.

So, using last season's efficiency differentials as a guide, if the Bucks were to play +2.0 basketball for an entire season, they would likely win 48 games (Golden State won that many with a +2.1 differential for the season). So you can fairly say the Bucks had an exceptional week last week.

The interesting speculation is this. The Bucks are playing exceptional defense, but mediocre offense. So what will happen when Michael Redd, the Bucks team's most efficient offensive player, returns? Can he shore up the offense... without harming the defense? If he can, the Milwaukee Bucks could be a playoff team.

Bucks go toe-to-toe with the World Champs

Sorry its taken me so long to post this Total Win Contribution Milwaukee Bucks boxscore from their game last night against the World Champion Boston Celtics. I went to the Wisconsin Badgers football game yesterday afternoon, and I was basically too tired after the Bucks game to do anything.

Before I make a few comments on last night's game, let me make one administrative note. Last night watching the Bucks game, I was flipping at timeouts to the Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Mississippi State football game. At one of the timeouts I made a revelation that has led to a permanent policy change for this blog.

You know how I always refer to the Bucks as "The Green and Red"? Looking at the Bucks uniforms, and the Bradley Center floor paint, and then comparing it to the colors on display at Alabama, I decided that designation is incorrect. The Badgers are Red... the Bucks are more like Green and Crimson. So that's how I will refer to them henceforth. Besides, its cooler when a sports team has really unusual sounding color designations (like I heard Lee Corso on a Home Depot commercial say he was going to paint his kitchen Florida State "Garnet and Gold").

So wear Green, think Crimson. Now on to the game.

Comments on the Game

1. I'm going to stop commenting on how impressive Luc Moute has played. But last night the undersized power forward outplayed one of the best power forwards of all time, Kevin Garnett. I knew Moute would make a contribution this season to the Bucks, but not this large a contribution. Right now he's their most consistently positive contributor.

2. The Bucks outpointed the World Champions last night at 3 of the 5 positions, but they were bested at shooting guard, and beaten decisively at the small forward. Paul Pierce was back to last season's level. He crushed Richard Jefferson, and that was the difference in the ballgame.

3. The offense last night was hard to come by on both sides. Nevertheless it was a great game to watch. It had an old school "every possession counts" intensity to it that Bucks games always used to have.

4. Coach Skiles says every player can choose to be either aggressive or passive. I guess Andrew Bogut has chosen to be aggressive. He went toe-to-toe with a very rough, physical Celtic frontline, and had the best game of any Milwaukee Buck.

5. Last night I was reminded of Sollozo's line from The Godfather, "The Don was slipping. In the old days I could never have gotten to him." A year ago, the Bucks could never have closed a double digit Celtic lead enough to extend the Celtics to overtime as they did last night... even at home. The gap has closed between the teams, there's no question about that. Some is due to Celtic slippage, most is due to Bucks gains. And, of course, Coach Scott Skiles.

6. Last night was another step forward for Bucks rookie Joe Alexander. He's rounding into a contributor.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ramon Sessions...TO...THE...RESCUE!

I'm not even going to go into the fact that the Bucks had this game on ice with 3 minutes left, and then nearly gave it back to a Memphis team that didn't want it all that badly by putting together about three straight horrible possessions in the last two minutes of regulation. I think there was a long stretch there where the Green and Red did not even get a shot off. But, its forgotten. Besides, I give them a pass, the unit out there at the end was dead dog tired. And they had a right to be. They played some incredible defense to get the Bucks back in the game.

But Thank God for Ramon Sessions. That was a huge 3. But how bout Memphis' defensive strategy? Ahhh, when your up 3 with a couple seconds left... I'm no genius but that seems like a great time NOT to suck your defense way in. But Memphis did. There wasn't anyone within 6 feet of Sessions on the game tying three. Sessions got an unbelievably clean release.

Stars of the Game

1. Luc Moute +1.345
2. Richard Jefferson +0.622
3. Andrew Bogut +0.452

Honorable Mention: Ramon Sessions (+0.406)

Random Notes on things I observed

1. Has Rudy Gay ever seen a shot that doesn't look good to him?! He almost sucked the air out of the ball. I mean, RJ played tireless defense, but Gay... just...kept...shooting. To which I say: Thank you, sir.

2. As soon as we got Charlie Bell off OJ Mayo, he kind of went away. Well, with the help of Rudy Gay, that is. Mayo's pretty good, though. He's not as great as Jalen Rose thinks, though. Doesn't he look a hell of a lot smaller than he did in college? It seems to me you see that often.

3. How about Luc Moute with his Moses Malone act in Memphis? 17 boards, and a lot of them were high, high degree of hustle rebounds. He's awesome.

4. Guess who showed me something tonight with some hustle, athleticism and smart play? Joe Alexander!!! I shit you not!!! He looked like he might have something to offer...

5. Luke Ridnour was awesome in the extra frame, especially with his foul shooting, but he will NOT take the open shot. Its one thing to be pass first, but he's passing up wide, wide open shots and it sometimes bogs down the offense.

6. This was my first look at Marc Gasol. What's Spanish for "slightly overweight"?

7. Hakim Warrick is the skinniest power forward I've ever seen.

8. Did you realize Bogut has a complete neck beard? I mean, there's nothing on his face, its all on his neck. I don't know why I haven't commented on that bad boy sooner.

9. Great win for the Bucks... who the hell made out the schedule, though? The Celtics in a back-to-back job? This is looking unnecessarily sadistic. Give us a chance.

10. Hey, we finally had an Austin Croshere sighting... and that was about all we wanted to see. No, he should be okay.

11. Gadzuric is now officially a member of the NBA's witness protection program. As part of his new identity, his last name has been changed back to the college pronunciation... GAD-zur-ICK. Of course, Coach Skiles would say, "You know... emphasis on Ick is what I guess I would say to that". (You ever notice how Coach Skiles always sounds so nonchalant in all his soundbites and always lead them with "Well, you know..." and then mixes in an "I guess" somewhere mid sentence?)

LakerNation, Kobe isn't even YOUR mvp

Everyone is anointing Kobe Bryant the 2008-09 NBA MVP frontrunner because of the Los Angeles Lakers incredible start this season. They figure he's the best player on the best team so he must be the Most Valuable Player. But that's intellectual laziness.

A little bit of reasoning will lead any fan to conclude Kobe probably isn't even the Los Angeles Lakers Most Valuable Player. After all, he's been with the Lakers for how many years, and he's been playing at a high level of efficiency for most of those years... and yet they've never played this well. It would seem Kobe's marginal room for improvement isn't nearly high enough to account for all or even most of the Lakers stunning improvement. And it turns out that it doesn't.

Its the Supporting Cast (starring Trevor Ariza)

To find out what exactly is behind the Lakers incredible surge out of the gates this season, I did a Win Profile to date for the entire team. Click Here to see my Los Angeles Lakers Win Profile to date.

It turns out the Lakers runaway MVP so far this season is small forward Trevor Ariza (I suspected Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, but Ariza makes sense, too.) He is playing at an incredibly high level right now.

In fact, so is nearly EVERYONE on the Lakers. Every player on the roster projects to add "Wins Above Average" (wins above the 41-41 mark) except Luke Walton and Derek Fisher. And of those two, only Fisher plays significant minutes. As scary as it is to consider, the Lakers could be an even better team if they flipped minutes between Jordan Farmar and Derek Fisher.

I have to admit, however, my model probably doesn't entirely capture the intrinsic defensive value of Andrew Bynum. After all, the Los Angeles defense has taken a quantum leap forward from last postseason, and he is the only significant difference between the two rosters.

Then again, he was healthy and playing full time for the first part of last season, and their defense was about the same as it was in the postseason. So it may just be that every Laker has bought into the idea that defense wins NBA championships.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Updated Milwaukee Bucks Win Profile Chart

82games.com updates the information necessary to compute Defensive Win Score every Tuesday. Basketball.reference.com updates the information necessary to compute Offensive Win Score daily. Therefore, if the Bucks play back-to-back on a Tuesday and Wednesday, I have only a 24 hour window (as Jonny Mac would say "Ok, there's a window here") in which I can update my Milwaukee Bucks Win Profile Chart trusting that both sets of information are synchronized. I've done it. (BTW: I've been calling the Win Profile Chart the "Player Value Rankings" but since the players are no longer in ranked order, I will henceforth refer to it as the Win Profile Chart).

So the chart is up to date through the Cavaliers game, it doesn't include the Spurs game. What the chart shows is the Bucks had a rough week. Their Win trajectory fell from a predicted 37-43 record to a predicted 32-50 record.

Luke Ridnour had by far the roughest week. His O Win Score declined by 4.4, and his D Win Score increased by 1.7. Therefore his Win projection fell by 2.8 games.

Frickin' Charlie Villanueva. The guy is uncannily consistent. His Marginal Win Score (1/2 the between his Win Score and his Counterpart Opponents) always remains in the same range. How long can we put up with his underproduction? We must look to get rid of him while he has value.

Bogut's having a pretty good season overall. Once again, however, I am going to document how much more productive he would be if he just stops shooting jumpers. I'll do a post on that.

Charlie Bell, Mr. Up and Down, had an up week and improved his win trajectory.

The Bucks are getting a lot of average production from guys. What they really lack are those one or two guys who make big contributions. Those guys are hard to come by though.

Bucks need to close the "Steal Gap"

I'm working on an update of the Bucks Player Value Ratings, and I noticed something funny. Check it out. You see anything cockeyed?

The Bucks opponents are stealing the ball from the Bucks at an incredible rate. That's unusual.

There's something else weird. Despite the "steal gap", the turnover margin is nonexistent. So the Bucks are, in general, limiting the so-called "unforced errors", but they are getting nabbed by an unusual amount of theft. What's going on?

I'll tell you exactly what's going on. The Bucks are making a point to run their offense through Andrew Bogut. In general, I'm for that. But early in the season, he was very, very careless with his passes. I noticed it when I was doing the TWC boxscore. Nearly every steal the opponents were getting was from Bogut or Villanueva, and mostly Bogut. You got tighten that up, mate.

If you read this blog, you will know that possessions in basketball are like gold. Therefore basketball turnovers are in many ways just as costly as interceptions or fumbles in football... but we rarely acknowledge their costliness because, compared to football, there are so many more possessions in basketball. But just because there are more doesn't mean any of them are less valuable. They're not.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bucks bounce back: Total Win Contribution boxscore for Bucks vs. Spurs

By popular demand, the Total Win Contribution boxscore is back. (I actually agree that its a much cleaner account of how each Buck played). How did I get it done so fast? I discovered that NBA.com has a running transcript during the game... so I was doing it during the game, and I nailed precisely the Spurs number of Win Score points.

Slight change to TWC boxscore

Driving around in my car, I made a discovery that should have been obvious to me from the beginning. Under my Offense-Defense Win Score system, there's absolutely no need to adjust for position. Why? Because the only thing that matters is the player's marginal Win Score per 48 minutes visavis the opponents he was guarding. If he records more Win Score points, he contributes to victory, if he does not he moves the team toward defeat.

Thus my TWC now has each player's RAW Win Score, his CO's RAW Win Score... then I take that and divide it by minutes played, multiply that number by 48 and then divide by 2. That is the player's Marginal Win Score per 48.

Stars of the Game

1. Andrew Bogut +0.949
2. Richard Jefferson +0.931
3. Luc Moute +0.598

Notes on the Game

1. Jefferson on fire
If you read my Bucks Player Value Rating chart, which charted each Bucks win contributions to date, you will know that RJ has been the leading Win Contributor on the Bucks, and that he is playing like the RJ of 3 years ago. I love his leadership, too. I hope he maintains top dog status when Redd gets back.

2. Bogut bounces back
After an absolutely terrible performance against the Cavaliers, Andrew Bogut bounced back with a huge night against the Spurs. Take away his TWC, or Jefferson's, and the Bucks lose.

3. What happened to Croshere?
As you know, I don't concern myself with roster status, salary cap issues, etc. That's the domain of the JSonline blog. I can't compete with them in those areas, so I don't even try. What I try to do is provide Bucks fans with insight and analysis they can't get anywhere else. As a result, however, I often lose track of players. Can someone help me on this one. Where the hell is Austin Croshere? Didn't we sign him weeks ago?

4. Moute Magnificent
After getting schooled by LeBron James (which is no badge of dishonor), Luc Moute had a magnificent defensive game playing power forward all night. Remarkable. Remember, as I've noted many times (you're probably sick of it) Luc Moute's standing reach, which I consider basketball height, is above average for a shooting guard, nowhere else. And its not like he's Mr. Buff, either. Playing him at power forward is the equivalent of playing Redd at power forward. Yet he holds up game after game. What a find. And remember who called it first... Bucksdiary.

5. Sessions steps it up
Ramon Sessions, I'm so proud of him. As I have said, I think he was close to finding a permanent spot on Coach Skiles "Pay No Mind" list... you know, where Malik Allen and Dan Gadzuric currently reside. But he got a second chance and he's seized it like all get out. And we needed him to do so.... he's our point guard of the future.

The most accurate NBA Power Ranking on the web... and it has some shocking results

I have completed my first new and improved "Point Value over Average" NBA Power Ranking. PVOA is now adjusted for home and road efficiency, which are historically significant in the sport of basketball. Having done that, I truly believe I have achieved the basketball equivalent of the "DVOA" rankings on FootballOutsiders. I don't know what other factors I can adjust for. I think it provides for every exigency in the game of basketball. Thus if you want an objective assessment of how each NBA team is performing at any given moment, you can't do better than PVOA.

Let me give you my rankings, CLICK HERE FOR BUCKSDIARY PVOA NBA POWER RANKINGS, then I want to explain briefly the logic behind PVOA, then I want to discuss some of the shocking results (the Pacers are number 4!! The Mavericks are number 29!!)


First of all, let me say this flatly: subjective opinion plays no role in the rankings. PVOA rankings only consider a team's performance against the NBA average. It takes no account of a team's future potential or what it did last season or its psychological state or any of that other bullshit. PVOA is about the numbers.

Here's how it works: Lets say the Chicago Bulls are playing the Boston Celtics in Boston. For the Bulls "PVOA" I consider how they performed in the game "per possession". I then compare that against the average "per possession" performance of all of the other opponents who have played against the Celtics in Boston.

For instance, lets say there were 92 possessions in the game. Lets further say that the Association was averaging 89 points in that many possessions and the Bulls scored 94. That would mean the Bulls outperformed the NBA average by 5, thus I would record a +5 in the Bulls offensive category. Now lets say on defense the Celtics scored 99 points, whereas they had been averaging against the rest of the Association's defenses... over 92 homecourt possessions... 90 points. That would be a defensive PVOA of +9 (plus is bad on defense), meaning the Bulls would end up with an overall PVOA total for that game of -4.
I then take all of the offensive and defensive totals from all the games, add them seperately and average them for the team's offensive and defensive averages, then add them together and rank all of the NBA teams accordingly.

Why I like it

Basketball is about possessions and points. How good is the team at converting possessions into points and preventing their opponent from doing the same. Ultimately, then, after a full season, you can compare the strength of each team by its "Efficiency Differential"... the difference between the number of points per 100 possessions versus the number of points allowed per 100 possessions.

But what if you want to assess a team DURING the season? Efficiency differential is inadequate because of the varying strength of each team's schedule.

PVOA accounts for that. Instead of considering how each team performed against their given opponent, PVOA asks how each team performed against the Association's performance against their given opponent. In other words its schedule neutral.

But PVOA isn't perfect. In the first couple of weeks, when the sample size is small, we may get some deceptive results. But, by Christmas, I think PVOA will be able to tell us which teams are likely to advance in the playoffs. Last Christmas, my PVOA had all four of the NBA semifinalists... Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Antonio... and this was at a time when LA was 27-19, and most pundits questioned whether the Celtics could get through the Eastern Conference.


1 First, as my last post suggested, the Lakers look like an absolutely dominant team. They're number one in defense!! Historically, whenever the Lakers combine defense with their "Showtime" offense, they can't be stopped.

2. The Hawks are for real. How did they build that power so quickly... especially given their loss of the high Win Producer Josh Childress? I'm going to have to do a "Total Win Contribution" chart to find an explanation... similar to the one I did for the Timberwolves.

3. I thought the Pacers would be improved but thus far they are way up. I know Mike Dunleavy provides excellent offense, but the Pacers have a nice defensive thing going and I wonder if they wouln't want him to spoil the soup.

4. What the fuck are the Magic and Mavericks doing near the bottom? Both team's have huge Win Producers on their rosters, yet they seem to be cadillacing the start of the season.

5. My rankings suggest the Detroit title window is closing fast. I would argue with anyone who claimed Allen Iverson was a better point guard than Chauncey Billups. I suspect Dumars knows that. I think he was more concerned with blowing the team up, freeing its payroll, and possibly landing some new talent using the Billups savings.

6. The Heat are rising up again, and could challenge Atlanta and Indiana in the East. Dwayne Wade's having a great comeback season, and, as I suggested, Mario Chalmers is turning into a stud point guard. He plays excellent defense. And don't forget about Shawn Marion. He is a terrific Win Producer as well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mea Culpa: I blew it on the Ford-for-Villanueva trade

When the TJ Ford for Charlie Villanueva trade went down, I thought the Bucks pulled off a huge steal. Villanueva had scored 48 against the Bucks the previous season, and Ford was injury prone and had just been abused by Chauncey Billups in the playoffs. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

In my defense, I wasn't using a Moneyball approach to Bucks basketball at the time, so I was prone to logical reasoning errors and conventional wisdom fallacies. And I made them ("Always trade big" "He's a scorer", "He's got so much upside").

Fast forward three years and TJ Ford is leading a bigtime resurgence in Indiana. He had a huge game last night, and I just calculated his Total Win Contribution to the Pacers at +0.448. That's better than Tony Parker, and it means Ford's play alone would convert a .500 team into one that would finish the season approximately 13.6 games over 0.500. That's MVP caliber basketball.

Meanwhile the Bucks still don't know if Charlie Villanueva is their answer at the power forward. I'll help them out. He isn't! As I demonstrated mathematically this summer, its a myth to say Charlie V is an inconsistent player. He is, in fact, unusually consistent. Every single season he has finished at or near 9.2 Win Score points (well below average for a power forward), while surrendering at or near 13 Win Score points to his counterpart opponents.

If you saw my Bucks Total Win Contribution chart for thus far this season, you will know he's at it again. His numbers, projected over 82 games, would turn an average team into a 38 win team. The guy we traded is above average. The guy we traded for is a Win toilet. Typical Bucks. But there may be a way out.

Rescue David Lee

I'm going to beat the drum for the normally uberproductive David Lee once again. He looks absolutely lost on the Knicks in D'Antoni's foreign "little guys rule" offense, and his numbers are beginning to reflect his alienation. He's a blue collar basketball player on a Eurotrash basketball team.

On the other hand, Villanueva would consider D'Antoni's perimeter dominated scheme's paradise. And just maybe the Knicks would go for it. I would try.

Bucks defense officially above average

I'm doing my first "Point Value over Average" statistical analysis for my inaugural NBA Power Rankings list, and I can now officially confirm that the Milwaukee Bucks are an above average defensive team. When was the last time we could say that?

The cumulative, home/road-adjusted Offensive Efficiency average (points per 100 possessions) for Milwaukee's opponents to date is 101.4 pts. Yet the Bucks have held them to only 101.3 pts. Thus, for the first time in a long time, the Bucks can rate as a "good" defensive team.

Now, if we could just get the offense squared away. The offense currently rates a -3.4, for an overall PVOA score of -3.3. I'm guessing that will combine to land the Bucks around 21st in my Power Rankings, but that's just speculation since I've only done a couple calculations.

By the way, the Lakers have a commanding overall PVOA score of +13.9. But guess who's emerging as a possible challenger out of the East? The Atlanta Hawks. They have a PVOA of +10.3, more than double that of the presumed Eastern power, the Celtics, who are off to a ho-hum start at +5.9.

I want to have the whole list done by tonight.

A Category 5: Here's why the Lakers may be the greatest team ever

Should we save everyone the time and the aggravation and just have Kobe pose kissing the O'Brien Trophy retro Jordan style right now? Because barring injury or stupid personnel maneuver (neither of which can be discounted), there is next to no way the Los Angeles Lakers will be denied the NBA World Championship this season. In fact, they may end up being the greatest team of all time. And I'm talking objectively. Let me lay out the case.

At the moment, I would argue the "Greatest Ever" distinction lies with a different Los Angeles Lakers team, the 1971-72 version. I make that assertion because that 71-72 Laker team had a "Net % Team and Opposition Win Score above the NBA average" that was higher than any team I calculated, and my calculations go back to the 1963 NBA Finals.

My calculations are presented here in 3 parts, each of which you can click on to view:

1. Two seasons ago-1976-77
2. The Rest of the 1970s NBA Finals
3. The 1960s NBA Finals through to 1962-63

Caveat: I must note that numbers 2 and 3 are based upon certain "estimates". The NBA did not keep all of the statistics necessary to calculate Win Score until 1976-77, so I had to estimate turnovers, blocks, and steals using a mathematical model. That said, I believe the results, while not perfect, are legitimate.

By my "Net % Win Score above NBA average" standard, the 71-72 Lakers just edges out the most underrated team of all time, the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (47.9%), along with other more lauded teams such as the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls (47.5%), last season's Boston Celtics (46.3%) and the 1985-86 Boston Celtics (43.7%). Note: Bucks fans, the 1966-67 Philadephia 76ers, a team often cited as the greatest team of all time, and one certainly held in higher regard than the 71 Bucks, is not even close using my standard (39.6%). I guess it pays to play in a big market (had the 71 Bucks been able to face the Knicks in the Finals, and had they added the 1974 championship, I believe they'd be much better remembered).

So, with that background, let me tell you about the growing monster known as the 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers. Last year the Lakers had an outstanding offense (+24.5%), but a mediocre defense (+2.1%). They were thus beaten (as is normally the case) by a Boston Celtic team with an outstanding defense (+31.9%), and a pretty fair offense(+14.4%). Apparently, the Lakers took note. (From the desk of The Los Angeles Lakers: "NEED TO ADD DEFENSE").

And this season they've done that. And in doing so, they've put it all together. They've got the same old offense, and a very unLaker like commitment to defense... and its downright scary. As soon as I saw that I took notice. THAT was what I was looking to see... would the Lakers commit themselves to defense? It seems they have. And in so doing, they've become the epitome of that stupid high school cheer, "Our offense is awesome..." (+47.6%), "...our defense dominates" (+40.6%). And as the refrain suggests, that's the "winning combination". Go back over my charts and you'll see that's the case. The perfect storm... a team that plays +20 offense AND +20 defense... comes along maybe once in a generation. And when it does, all you can do if you're the rest of the NBA is duck your head, fasten the roof, and hope the tornado doesn't take your whole house.

Will the Lakers end up with a +87.6% net above Win Score. No chance. But I wouldn't count on them regressing too far back to the mean either. Basketball's a pretty predictable sport. Team's don't flash domination like this and then stop altogether. Now, if you pressed me, I'd probably bet the defense begins to lax as the Lakers begin to distance themselves from the pack. But I'd also bet we'd be likely to see it again in full throttle... oh, around mid May.

Last season, I called the Celtics a lock... based on the same analysis (shown here)... in February. This year I'm not waiting that long. In my book, barring unforeseen catacylsmic events, the Lakers are this season's World Champions. The only question left to be decided is, are they the greatest team ever?

Its early, but they're on their way.

Footnote: When I say their commitment to defense is "UnLakerlike" I'm refering to the bizarre similarity in Championship makeup... across generations... that exists for the Lakers, the Celtics, and the Pistons. The Lakers almost always have teams that are superior offensively and just above average defensively. By contrast, the Celtics... going all the way back to the 60s, seem to always have teams that are just average on offense but absolutely stifiling on defense. And the Pistons lockdown defenses of the late 80s were mirrored in their counterpart championship squad of the middle 2000s.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Return of the TWC boxscore; I'm pulling a New Coke reversal

I'm getting some negative feedback about my decision to pull the plug on the Total Win Contribution boxscore. I also noticed a downward trend in Returning Visitors after I nixed it, and I assume all the missing returnees were Bucks fans disappointed by the change. Plus I think I'm confusing the shit out of people by creating new statistics that are too similar in form to other statistics I use, when they are meant to be different in meaning.

So I'm going to go back to doing the TWC boxscores after Bucks games. I don't promise them immediately after the game, but I'll try to get them done at least by the next day.

Reranking NBA.com's MVP rankings according to demonstrable value

NBA.com has come out with a very early ranking of MVP candidates. Its all messed up. Its based on guess work and probably conventional wisdom. Its not based at all on demonstrable value to the player's team.

Using the "Total Win Contribution" metric, I have reranked NBA.com's 10 candidates. Click here to see my Reranking of NBA.com's MVP Ranking. Please note that other players have made excellent contributions but are not included in my list because I limited myself to the haphazard selections made by NBA.com. Please also note the last three players on the list should be nowhere near an MVP list at this point. Their contributions have been either mediocre or downright harmful..

Comments about the list

1. Kobe isn''t even close to being number one. Chris Paul is doing things no person that small should be able to do. +8 Wins Produced over Average is considered outstanding... the little guy's' on pace to double that!! Lets face it... at the moment he is dominating the NBA at 6 foot nothing, a hundred nothing! Amazing stuff. I wish the Bucks had come in third.

2. Dwight Howard continues to be underrated by the so-called experts. What else is new? He just piles up wins and covers up Orlando's flaws, that's all. Oh, but he can't shoot from the outside (sarcasm).

3. What a comeback for Dwayne Wade. He had an awful season last year, but it seems he's all better now.

4. Not only is Chris Bosh NOT an MVP candidate this season, his defense has been so uncharacteristically horrifying, he is a prime candidate for my season ending "Bizarro" MVP, otherwise known as the "Most Harmful Player" award. Last season, you will recall, it went to Jeff Green of the then Seattle Supersonics. As you can see from the chart, Bosh's negative Win Contribution would rank him in the top 3 last season amongst the NBA's most harmful players.

5. Let me close by noting that it is solid analysis like this that has ROCKETED me to number 357 or something shitty like that on Ballhype.com's Blog Rankings. I think I'm right behind two French basketweaving blogs and I just snuck ahead of Grandma Betty's Competitive Tomato Growing blog. What a joke.