The performance of the rookies is always an interesting story in the NBA. Veteran players have an established track record. Although a few will deviate from this record, for the most part the deviations we observe are relatively small. Rookies, though, are the great unknown. We know what these players did in college or foreign leagues, but we also know that performances outside the NBA do not correlate as well as we might like with what we will see in The Association (although there is some correlation, a story I hope to tell a bit later on).
This year our venture into the great unknown has been disappointing. Only one rookie – Adam Morrison – is averaging more than 30 minutes per game. Skipping over Brandon Roy, who has missed all but five games, only four other rookies have averaged more than 20 minutes per contest (Shelden Williams, LeMarcus Aldridge, Jorge Garbajosa, and Rudy Gay). Generally more than ten rookies each year log at least 20 minutes a night. So NBA teams are not giving much time to its newest players.
With Morrison the only player logging significant time, the Rookie of the Year award appears to be his to lose. Currently he is the only rookie averaging fifteen points per game. Of the other rookies, only Roy is averaging in double figures (and as noted, Roy is not currently playing). So if scoring totals matter, and our study of the NBA indicates that it’s scoring that drives player evaluation, Morrison is the early favorite to be Rookie of the Year.
If we look beyond scoring, though, the case for Morrison gets a bit murky. His Win Score for the season is 5.0. That does not mean he has produced 5 wins. That means his Win Score, the simple formula for player evaluation we introduce in The Wages of Wins, only comes to five. Given that he has played 542 minutes, his performance results in a per-minute Win Score of .009. Clearly that is below average for any position in the NBA.
Morrison’s low productivity numbers are driven by a low level of shooting efficiency. Currently he only scores 0.89 points per field goal attempt, a mark well below the NBA average mark of 0.98. Beyond shooting efficiency, as a small forward he has demonstrated an inability to rebound, create assists, or generate steals. His offensive rebounding numbers are particularly surprising. Morrison misses many shots, but he so far has only captured two offensive rebounds this year. That’s it, two. So he is adept at creating offensive rebound opportunities, but not so good at getting any of these.
If we look at all that Morrison does, it appears he does one thing well. He takes shots, which means so far he is good at propelling the ball in the direction of the basket. Getting the shot to go in very often, or doing anything else that helps his team win, is not happening yet.
If we turn to the NBA Efficiency metric, we also see that Morrison is below average. An average small forward will post a per-minute mark in NBA Efficiency of 0.424. Morrison currently has a per-minute mark of 0.247. So even the NBA’s metric says he is below average.
As noted, though, one can improve his NBA Efficiency score by simply taking more shots. Currently Morrison takes 14.6 field goals per game. How many more shots would Morrison have to take to be average in per-minute NBA Efficiency?
If Morrison did nothing else but increase his field goal attempts – shooting efficiency, rebounds, turnovers, steals, assists, blocked shots, etc… all stayed the same – he could become average in NBA Efficiency by taking 38 field goals attempts per contest. Of course, this would not help the Bobcats win many games. Morrison is already costing the team by only converting his 14.6 field goals per game into a below average quantity of points. By nearly tripling his quantity of inefficient shot attempts, Morrison will cost his team even more. But by the NBA’s metric he would be at least average.
Of course, I don’t think the Bobcats are going to let Morrison take nearly 48% of the team’s total field goal attempts each game. So this path to “averageness” (Microsoft says that’s not a word, but let’s go with it), will probably not open for Morrison. No, if he doesn’t improve his shooting efficiency he will remain below average in terms of Win Score and NBA Efficiency. But he still might win the Rookie of the Year. After all, it has to go to someone, and right now, Morrison is the only rookie actually playing.
By the way, it might be interesting to look at all players who are below average in NBA Efficiency and calculate the number of shots needed to reach “averageness.” Perhaps that would be a good future post.
Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.
Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts