Pargo Helps Out the Hornets

The American mission of the 20th century was to export our way of life to the world.  Specifically, we wanted the world to embrace free markets.  As the world listened to our story, though, the number of competitors American firms faced in the marketplace increased.  And although competition is wonderful for consumers, it’s not always so good for individual firms.  Competition results in winners and losers, and when you are a loser the game doesn’t seem like so much fun.

For the most part, the major North American sports leagues have been immune to this trend.  The world may want free markets, but it doesn’t look like they are as keen on baseball and American football. 

Basketball, though, is a different story.  Basketball is increasingly popular in Europe and Asia.  And as fans in other countries spend more and more money on this sport, basketball teams outside of the United States are increasingly able to offer competitive wages to NBA talents.

A few weeks ago this trend manifested itself in the departure of Josh Childress.  And then the world of the Cleveland Cavaliers was shaken by reports that LeBron James might consider a $50 million per season offer to play in Europe.  Now Jannero Pargo – a player who averaged 8.1 points per game off the bench for  a team that won 56 games – has departed New Orleans for Moscow.

The Pargo move is certainly part of a larger trend.  But unlike the Childress move, and the proposed emigration of LeBron, Pargo’s move to Russia does not appear to hurt his NBA team.  No, it looks like Pargo’s move will make New Orleans a stronger team in the Western Conference. 

How does Pargo’s departure help the Hornets?  For an answer we turn to Table One.

Table One: Jannero Pargo in 2007-08

Table One compares Pargo to an average shooting guard [where I think he played the majority of his minutes in 2007-08].  Relative to an average shooting guard, Pargo does three things well: take field goal attempts, hit his free throws, and get assists.   Yes, that’s it.  He is below average with respect to shooting efficiency from the field, taking free throws, turnovers, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, and personal fouls.  His shooting efficiency from the field is so poor that although he takes 3.2 more field goal attempts per 48 minutes than an average shooting guard, his points scored per 48 minutes is still below average. 

If we compare Pargo to an average point guard we still see a player that’s below average with respect to shooting efficiency from the field, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, and personal fouls.  He also offers fewer assists than an average point guard.

If we move from the individual stats to Wins Produced, we see that Pargo produced -1.3 wins for the Hornets last year; with a -.043 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes].  What if the Hornets had been able to replace Pargo with just an average guard?  An average NBA player will post a 0.100 WP48, and in Pargo’s 1,497 minutes, would produce 3.1 wins.  So moving from Pargo in 2007-08 to an average guard would have increased the Win Produced in New Orleans from 55.1 (the team actually won 56 games) to 59.6.  Last year only the Boston Celtics (68.3 Wins Produced), Detroit Pistons (60.4 Wins Produced), and LA Lakers (60.4 Wins Produced) were able to best the 59.6 mark the Hornets would have under the above scenario.

Is it realistic, though, that the Hornets can find an average shooting guard to replace Pargo?  It turns out, they already have. James Posey didn’t play much shooting guard for the Celtics last season. But he did log minutes at that position with the Heat in 2006-07, and he was well above average (0.195 WP48 while playing both small forward and shooting guard two years ago).  The addition of Posey this summer created some confusion, since it looked like Posey would simply take minutes from the promising Julian Wright.  The departure of Pargo, though, allows Posey to play more minutes at shooting guard, and hence give a few more minutes to Wright. 

So it looks like Pargo’s departure is clearly good news for the Hornets.  Unfortunately, this move will probably not be enough to close the gap between the Hornets and the Lakers (or the Celtics).  The Lakers are getting Bynum back, and this addition by subtraction is probably not enough for New Orleans to catch LA in 2008-09 .  For New Orleans to vault to the top of the NBA, it’s going to need to add another truly productive player to supplement the amazing talents of Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler.  With the departure of Pargo, though, the productive prowess of such a newcomer doesn’t have to be quite that high.

One last comment before I close this post.  Whenever I talk about an unproductive scorer we see comments about a player’s ability to hit “key” shots.  I think these comments are motivated by the fact that we tend to notice when shots go in.  Shots missing do not stand out in our mind, and are rarely commented upon (beyond saying that a player just missed a shot) by announcers or seen in highlight programs.  I wonder, though, how the perception of players like Pargo would change if his nearly 400 missed shots in 2007-08 got as much attention as the 254 shots he managed to get in the basket.  My sense is that changing the focus of the highlights would change the view of his play.  And if that happened, the view of Pargo’s contribution would be more consistent with his actual level of productivity.

- DJ

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Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com 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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