MJ Makes Some Moves

Kelly Dwyer posted a comment at TrueHoop on Friday entitled “Bobcats? You Betcha.” Here is how the column starts:

C: Emeka Okafor, Primoz Brezec
PF: Walter Herrmann, Sean May
SF: Gerald Wallace, Adam Morrison
SG: Jason Richardson, Matt Carroll
PG: Raymond Felton

That’s a good team. That could be a really good team. A trade or two, and that could be a 50-win team.

That’s the Charlotte Bobcats’ nine-man rotation, as presently constructed.

At first glance, the idea that Charlotte could be “good” in 2007-08 seems hard to believe (a reaction Dwyer acknowledges).

Charlotte’s latest NBA franchise has only existed for three seasons. In their expansion years the team posted an efficiency differential – offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency – of -6.2. Given this mark it was not surprising the team only won 18 games.

In 2005-06 the differential improved to -4.1, and wins rose to 26. Last season the Bobcats won 33 games, but when we look at the team’s efficiency differential we suspect a bit of luck went into that victory total. Charlotte’s efficiency differential was only -3.9 in 2006-07.

Wins Produced simply takes what we know about the link between efficiency differential and team wins and applies this to the analysis of the individual player. When we look at the individual Bobcats over the past two seasons via Wins Produced we see an interesting pattern.

Table One: The Charlotte Bobcats in 05-06 and 06-07

The players who were on the roster each of the past two seasons posted a collected Wins Produced per 48 minutes [Wp48] that was above average each year. This past season the WP48 of the returning players was 0.121, which works out to 49.4 wins if all players on the roster could match this productivity.

Unfortunately, the players who were not on the roster each season failed to offer much production. In 2006-07, the players new to the roster posted a collective WP48 of -0.043. And when we combined the output of the returning players with those the team added, we see a collective Wins Produced that stands at 31.2 victories. In sum, this team was sabotaged by the players added to the roster last summer.

The person responsible for adding these players was the legendary Michael Jordan. As a player, MJ was perhaps the best ever (or was it Magic Johnson?). As an NBA executive, though, Jordan has not yet excelled. Clearly he failed to build a winner in Washington, even when he put himself on the floor. And last summer was not a huge success in Charlotte either.

This summer, though, he has traded for Jason Richardson and re-signed Gerald Wallace, two moves that help. Unfortunately, he also waived Brevin Knight, a player who was above average every year of his career he did not play in Memphis. At the moment, the loss of Knight leaves this team without a back-up point guard, so it’s a bit difficult to assess this team’s chances in 2007-08.

Still, let’s give it a shot.

Let’s start with the line-up Dwyer envisions. As noted, without a back-up point guard we know this rotation cannot be exactly what the Bobcats will play next season. But if we assume each player will post the same WP48 next season we observed in 2006-07, we assume these players play the same minutes per game, and we assume each player plays all 82 games, then this team can expect to win about 41 games.

Table Two: A Projection of the Bobcats in 2007-08

Of course we have to remember, if all you looked at were the top nine Bobcats last season you would assume this team was a playoff contender. Unfortunately it was the players at the bottom of the wins production list that did this franchise in.

Perhaps a different approach will be more illuminating. The examination of the Pareto Principle and the NBA focused on how 80% of wins in the NBA are produced by 20% of its players. With a 15 team roster, the top three players for each team represent 20% of the roster. On the Bobcats, the top three players are Emeka Okafor, Wallace, and Richardson (although it is possible Sean May passes Richardson if he plays and continues to produce). The combined WP48 of these three players in 2006-07 was 0.209, which would have ranked 14th in the league. If the remaining players on the roster offered a WP48 of 0.042 – or the average mark for players outside the top three on a team (see the Super-Star post for details) – the Bobcats could expect to win about 41 games.

Okay, that’s about the same forecast.

Again, this roster has not been finalized. Still it does appear that Jordan might be off to a good start. The team has two very productive players in Okafor and Wallace, and Richardson looks like a player that can help. So maybe MJ is on his way to becoming a “good” general manager.

Of course there is one issue MJ will have to resolve. Right now the Bobcats have one really unproductive player in Adam Morrison. Dwyer recommends that MJ trade Morrison, which given the analysis offered about the link between rookie and career production, appears to be a wise move. Of course, that assumes someone in the NBA would want Morrison. And despite all the assuming that went into this post, even I am not willing to make that assumption.

For those who want even more analysis of the Charlotte Bobcats there is a new blog entitled Bobcats Den. The author of this blog – who I only know from the comments at the WoW journal as William – promise to use WP48 as the baseline for all discussion of this team. So if you like The Wages of Wins and you like the Bobcats, this blog is probably for you.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

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