One of the points we make in our book is that Ben Gordon is not exactly the second coming of MJ. Although Gordon is a shooting guard who can score, he is not above average in shooting efficiency and doesn’t do much else particularly well. Consequently, unlike MJ, he doesn’t produce many wins.
But he does score. And the Bulls have decided to help him out in the wins department. Since losing to the eventual champion Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs the Bulls have added Ben Wallace, Tyrus Thomas, Adrian Griffin, and P.J. Brown. At the same time, Tyson Chandler, Darius Songaila, Othella Harrington, and Eric Piatkowski have left the building.
What impact will these moves have on the Bulls ability to accumulate wins next season? Before we answer that question, let me act like an economist and make a few assumptions.
First, let’s assume that the productivity of each player per-minute will be the same next season as it was in 2005-06 (although we will have to adjust this if the player is expected to change positions).
Second, let’s assume I can predict the productivity of Tyrus Thomas, the player the Bulls drafted a few weeks ago (I do have a model that does do this, and no, I am not going to provide details of this just yet).
Third, let’s also assume that the line-up I see the Bulls having right now is the line-up they will have next season. That means, no more moves and certainly no injuries.
And fourth, let’s assume that my guesses for how many minutes each player will play and the position where each player will line-up is correct.
Oh wait, one last assumption. Let’s assume that you really would want to know how many games each team is going to win before the season starts. Think about that for a moment. If we knew with certainty the final outcome before we started, would we bother watching any of the games?
Okay, given all those assumptions, how many wins can the Bulls expect? As I see it, the roster currently breaks down as follows: At center I am placing Ben Wallace and P.J. Brown. The power forward positions will be manned by Tyrus Thomas, Mike Sweetney, and Malik Allen. The small forwards are Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni. Shooting guards include Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, and Adrian Griffin. Hinrich will also play some at the point, along with Chris Duhon. For now I am ignoring Thabo Sefolosha (I don’t have any way to predict the productivity of foreign rookies at the moment).
If this is how the positions break-down, and player’s perform as they did in the past, then as one can see HERE , the Bulls can expect to win 64 games.
As I write 64 a dialog has commenced in my head. On the one hand, I don’t believe the Bulls will win 64 games next season. In fact, given that the Bulls are rivals of the Pistons – the team I have followed since I was a child – I hope this is wrong. On the other hand, if the Bulls do win 64 games next year, boy, would I look smart. So I am a bit torn by this forecast.
Let me comment on why I think the Bulls will likely improve on the 41 games they won in 2005-06. Clearly Ben Wallace helps quite a bit. Big Ben produced 20.1 wins last year for the Pistons. Yes, Tyson Chandler is a productive player, but he only produced 10.3 wins in 2005-06, so Big Ben is a big upgrade at center.
The other big issue is a bit more subtle. If you look at the Bulls minutes last year it is clear that either Deng or Nocioni had to log minutes at power forward. In fact, more than 1,500 minutes had to be played at the four spot by one of these players. The addition of Tyrus Thomas – assuming he plays – allows the Bulls to keep both Deng and Nocioni at their more natural small forward position. So the Bulls can expect further wins at both small forward and power forward.
Now does all this mean that everyone should head to Vegas and bet on the Bulls to win 60 plus games? No. At least, if you do and lose your money I’m not responsible.
Remember the list of assumptions that were made. Although players in the NBA are fairly consistent from season to season, there is some variation in performance. Some players will get worse, others may get better. Beyond this point, I cannot predict injuries and I am guessing on how many minutes the coaches are going to play each player. In fact, I only looked at eleven players for the Bulls and we know Chicago will play more players than this next year.
In all, this was just a fun exercise that suggests the Bulls look to be a better team in 2006-07. And that would be the one point this post is making. The evidence suggests that the Bulls will be better next season.
And what does that mean for Ben Gordon? He will probably be the leading scorer on this better team. He probably still won’t produce many wins. But the NBA pays scorers quite well, especially those who play on very successful teams. So in the end, Ben Wallace may make Ben Gordon a very rich man (okay, he is a rich man, how about an even richer man?)
Oh, one last note. I did the same exercise for the Pistons, the team I have followed since my childhood in Detroit. Despite what Flip Saunders says, losing Ben Wallace doesn’t help the Pistons. Right now they look like a team that will have trouble getting to fifty wins. Again, just a prediction and hopefully that one doesn’t come true either.