The voting for Rookie of the Year was quite easy this season. Chris Paul was clearly the most productive rookie. Who was second best? Both the coaches voting for the All-Rookie team and the media’s selection for Rookie of the Year placed Charlie Villanueva second. The number one choice in the 2005 draft, Andrew Bogut, finished third in voting points for both awards. Was Villanueva better than Bogut this past season?
Both players play in the frontcourt making comparisons by the numbers easier. In terms of scoring totals, Villanueva is the clear winner. Villanueva scored 13 points per game while Bogut only posted 9.4 points per contest. Looking at the rookies, only Paul scored more often than Villanueva, so by this measure, Villanueva is the second best rookie.
Basketball, though, is about more than scoring totals. What matters more is scoring efficiency. If we look at points per field goal attempt – which I measure as points minus free throws made, divided by field goal attempts – we see that Bogut garnered 1.066 points per field goal attempt while Villanueva scored exactly one point per shot from the field. Now Villanueva has more diversity in his shot attempts, taking more than two hundred shots from beyond the arc while Bogut missed the only three shots he took from downtown. Villanueva, though, only made 32.7% of these shots, a rate a bit below average for an NBA player. So I am not sure Villanueva should be credited for taking these shots. After all, do we trumpet the hitting ability of below average batters in baseball?
When we move beyond scoring we see clearer differences. Villanueva only captures one rebound every 4.5 minutes on the floor. An NBA power forward averages one rebound every four minutes, so Villanueva costs his team rebounds when he plays. Bogut is about right on average, taking just a bit more than four minutes – 4.1 if you wish to be exact — to capture a rebound. Bogut is also a better passer than Villanueva, although Bogut loses a bit of ground committing a few more turnovers.
We can look at all these statistics until are heads hurt. Let’s put it all together and consider each player’s Wins Produced. This past season Villanueva produced four wins for Toronto. Bogut’s Wins Produced equaled 6.9. So when we look at all the statistics together, considering how each impacts wins in the NBA, we learn Bogut was more productive this past season.
The media, though, gave Villanueva 248 voting points for Rookie of the Year while Bogut only tallied 98. Now the difference between these two players is not that great. Still, many members of the media think Villanueva is better. And the numbers, at least this year, tell a different story. Of course, maybe the media was just looking toward the future when Villanueva could be the better player. Or, maybe many members of the media suffer from “scoring illusion”, which we can define as people focusing on nominal scoring totals, rather than the real impact scoring has on wins in the NBA.