Scorers and Wins Produced, Again

There has been some confusion on my post from a few days ago entitled: Do we under-value scorers and should Al Harrington cash in?

The purpose of this post was to refute the contention that we under-value scorers.  Please go HERE for the analysis of scorers in 2005-06 which shows that most of the game’s top scorers also score high in Wins Produced. 

Now our research does show that inefficient scorers are over-valued in the NBA’s free agent market.  So player’s like Allen Iverson, who was above average in Wins Produced this past season but not ranked as high as his media hype would suggest, tend to be paid more than their actual contribution to team success.

By the way, here is what Steve Kerr said about Allen Iverson just two days ago:

“This is not Charles Barkley or Shaquille O’Neal being shopped – a physical specimen who can dominate games and change the course of a franchise. Iverson is tiny – a ferocious competitor, yes, but a slightly built, high-volume, low-percentage shooter. (He has shot 42 percent for his career.) Yes, he’s a brilliant scorer – he poured in 33 points a night for the Sixers this past season – but he needs a lot of attempts to score his points. He dominates the ball and would dramatically alter the look of any team he joins. So any team that has a plan in place and is making progress would be very wary of threatening its blueprint by adding Iverson.”

Kerr seems to indicate that there are deficiencies to Iverson’s game.  Furthermore, let me repeat the last sentence:  “…any team that has a plan in place and is making progress would be very wary of threatening its blueprint by adding Iverson.”

Okay, enough on Iverson.  Let’s get back to the point of this post (as if these posts had a point) and talk about another scorer – Reggie Miller.

Reggie Miller was an All-Pro shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers for 18 seasons.  In his career he was definitely a scorer, averaging 18 points per game and more than one point every two minutes played.  But looking at the other dimensions of performance – rebounds, steals, turnovers, assists, blocked shots – there is no other area where Miller excelled.  His only real contribution to his team was as a scorer.

So what does he look like in terms of Wins Produced?  If you go HERE you will see that from 1991-92 to his retirement in 2004-05, Miller produced 126.9 wins.  His Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48) averaged 0.164.  And this number is deflated since I left out his first four seasons (because I don’t have those years completely analyzed and I don’t want to do this analysis for a simpe post). 

Why was a pure scorer so adept at producing wins?  The key is Miller’s shooting efficiency.  About ten years ago Rob Neyer – quoting Michael Canter — argued that one good way to assess efficiency from the field is to subtract free throws made from a player’s points total and then divide by field goal attempts [(PTS-FTM)/FGA].  The average player in the NBA scores a bit less than one point per field goal attempt.  In every year of Miller’s career he averaged more than one point per shot from the field.  Not suprisingly, such efficiency translates into victories. 

In sum, I do not think the evidence shows that we undervalue scorers.  Then again, if someone produces a model with the statistics valued differently – and that model can be shown to have greater explanatory and predictive power – then I am all in favor of using the new model.  But you can’t just say you have a better mousestrap, you have to show me the dead mice (okay, that analogy got away from me a bit, I think I better stop writing today).

– DJ

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