Who had best the one-two punch in the NBA last season? Previously I looked at the best player on each team (see Kobe Myths) and also the best trio (see the Pareto Principle). What about the best duo? For an answer, let’s turn to Table One:
If we look at Wins Produced, the top duo in 2006-07 was Shawn Marion and Steve Nash. These two players combined to produce 38.9 wins for the Suns last season. But if we focus on WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] – which is how the duos are ranked in Table One – the leaders were Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili of the Spurs. The WP48 of these two stood at 0.344 in 2006-07.
The Top Duo in the Big Easy
Table One not only provides an interesting angle on last season, it also allows us to better appreciate the wonder that is the New Orleans Hornets this season. The Hornets didn’t make the playoffs 2006-07. This season, with many of the same players, this team is suddenly among the top four squads in the West. For many, this is a surprise. When we turn to Table Two, though, the play from New Orleans is actually something we should have expected.
Table Two provides two projections for this team. The first presumes that every player will play as well as he did last season. The second projects what will happen if each player continues to play as well as he has in 2007-08. As one can see, each projection yields a very similar result. The projection based on 2006-07 values indicates this team should win 51 games. When we look at this year’s performance, we project 52 victories.
Although the totals are the same, there are some differences. Chris Paul has clearly improved upon what he did last year while Jannero Pargo is quite a bit worse. In fact, Pargo’s play is clearly holding this team back. If Pargo were replaced by an average player, or a player with a 0.100 WP48, the Hornets would be on pace to win 59games. Yes, Pargo stands in the way of this team rising to the top in the West.
Even with Pargo, though, this team is pretty good. And although Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports thinks it’s because of the play of Paul and David West, the Wins Produced answer is a bit different. Certainly Paul is a big part of this team’s success. But the other half of the leading duo is the play of Tyson Chandler.
Chandler’s WP48 stands at 0.322, a mark quite similar to what he did last year. And when you combine his play with Paul, we see a duo with a combined WP48 of 0.354. Such a mark surpasses the WP48 posted by Duncan and Ginobili last season. Although I have not looked at every team this year, it’s possible that Paul and Chandler are the best 0ne-two punch in the Association in 2007-08.
Unfortunately, unlike the Spurs last season, the Hornets don’t have much after these two. The combined WP48 of everyone else on the Hornets is 0.036. Last year, only five teams had a non-top two that were less productive.
Of course, one of these five was the Hornets. In 2006-07 every player on the Hornets not named Paul or Chandler combined to offer a 0.021 WP48. So the supporting cast on this team has improved.
And much of this improvement has been due to the play of Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson. When we look at Table Two we see that Stojakovic’s WP48 currently stands at 0.076 while Peterson’s WP48 is 0.103. Neither mark is outstanding. But these players have replaced Desmond Mason, whose WP48 was well below zero last season. And when you replace awful with average, your team tends to improve a bit.
The David West Story
Again, Wojnarowski argued that the play of David West was key to this team’s rise towards the top. This argument appears to be motivated by the scoring average of West. Currently only Paul averages more points per game.
When we look past scoring, though, we see the story I told in the following column offered last September.
This post indicated that West – despite his scoring average — was the quintessential average power forward. As Table Three indicates, last season he was near average with respect to shooting efficiency, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, and assists.
This season West has improved with respect to rebounds. But his turnovers are a bit higher while his steals a bit lower. As a result, his WP48 of 0.125 is not far from average.
Still given this mark, the minutes West plays, and a lack of many other outstanding players on the roster, he’s on pace to finish third on this team in Wins Produced.
This placing, though, is a distant third. Again, West is average at just about everything. In contrast, Paul and Chandler are absolutely amazing.
And it’s this dynamic duo that is truly leading the Hornets drive to the playoffs. How far this drive lasts, though, might depend upon the help Paul and Chandler get from the collection of average and below average performers they know as teammates.
Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.
Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:
Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.