Reviewing the Central Division

Last week I reviewed all five teams in the Atlantic Division.  This week we turn our attention to the teams of the Central Division.

Wins and Efficiency Differential

Following the format of last week’s review, I will start by noting each team’s won-loss record and efficiency differential (offensive efficiency – defensive efficiency).

Detroit: 15-7, 8.6

Indiana: 11-11, -0.9

Chicago: 7-13, -4.1

Milwaukee: 9-12, -4.3

Cleveland: 10-12, -4.5

Entering this season I expected Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland to contend for the Eastern Division crown.  As of now, only the Pistons are contenders.  Chicago and Cleveland have clearly disappointed, although one of these teams is just as clearly about to improve.  Before I get to that story, let’s move from efficiency differential to Wins Produced.

Wins Produced and WP48 for the Central Division

So which players are responsible for the efficiency differentials we currently see?  To answer that question we turn to Table One, where the Wins Produced for each team is reported.

Table One: A Team-by-Team Review of the Central Division

Looking over this table we see there are many good stories to be told.  In fact, looking over the posts from the past month, some of these stories have already been told.

Are the Pistons this Good?

The Bulls Forget How to ScoreThe Bulls Forget How to Score

Was I Wrong About the Milwaukee Bucks?

Judging the Value of Anderson Varejao

Beyond these columns, I wanted to offer a few more thoughts on each team.

Detroit Pistons

What a difference a few days can make.  After 20 games Jarvis Hayes had a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] of 0.102, which is above average.  After two subpar games, his mark is now clearly below average.  Obviously this could change again with a couple of good games.  Still, given what Hayes has done in his career, we would expect him to be below average.

Whether or not Hayes is above average, though, is not that important for this team.  The key to the Pistons appears to be Jason Maxiell.  If he continues to produce – given what the team is already getting from Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Antonio McDyess – then the Pistons (the team I follow) will be hard to beat in this division.

Indiana Pacers

It was thought, before the season started, that the key to this team was Jermaine O’Neal.  If he played like he did in the first half of 06-07, this team might contend for a playoff spot.  If he played like he did in the second half of last season then this team was in trouble.

After 22 games O’Neal has a WP48 in the negative range.  So clearly he hasn’t helped.  Still, this team has a record of 11-11 and at this point looks like a playoff contender.  I still expect a few teams to pass the Pacers as the season goes forward.  But still, the play of Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Foster (when not hurt), and Jamaal Tinsley is encouraging.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The best player in this division is LeBron James.  Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, King James doesn’t have much of a supporting cast.  But with Anderson Varejao back, King James and the Cavs can expect to win more frequently.  It would help even more, though, if Drew Gooden could start producing and Donyell Marshall could get healthy.

Chicago Bulls

Cleveland can improve by just moving people who were out of the line-up back on to the floor. Chicago only wishes its problems were this easy.  The Bulls have a problem getting the ball to go into the hoop.  In reading media accounts of this story, it doesn’t look like anyone in Chicago knows why Kirk Hinrich and company can’t get their shots to drop.  And I don’t know either.  But if Chicago can’t fix this problem, this team is not going to contend in 2007-08. 

Milwaukee Bucks

If we look at projected Wins Produced for each player (in Table Two below) we see that the Central Division is led by LeBron James and Chauncey Billups.  And sitting at number three is Michael Redd.

Unfortunately for Milwaukee, once you get past Redd, the Bucks only have two other players who can claim to be above average (Mo Williams and Andrew Bogut).  Without more production from someone else, it’s hard seeing how this team is going to contend this season.

Ranking All Players

Before I close this post, here are all 71 players ranked in terms of Projected Wins Produced.

Table Two: The Players of the Central Division

One should note how simple a projection Table Two presents. This analysis simply takes the minutes played so far and projects to 82 games.  So LeBron’s injury results in a forecast that’s too low.  King James, if he stays healthy, will produce more than 17.6 wins.

Beyond this point I want to note that this division is dominated by non-big men.  Of the top five players, four play at the one, two, or three spots.

And with that sentence, I think is time to bring this review to an end.  Looking at the schedule, I think I will review the Southeast on Sunday.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also 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

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.

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