On Monday night the New Orleans Hornets were the last team to reach 41 games played. With every team at 41 games, I can now begin my analysis of the NBA at the mid-point of the 2008-09 season. Before I get to that, though, here are some brief comments on the Hornets (I will start the midpoint review on Thursday night).
The 2005 Draft Again
In 2004-05, the Hornets suffered their worst season – in terms of wins and losses – in their history. The reward for this season was the fourth selection in the 2005 draft. Obviously before the Hornets could make their choice, three other teams would get to pick first. Here is how those picks have worked out:
- The Milwaukee Bucks had the first pick and selected Andrew Bogut. Bogut has managed to post above average numbers, producing 19.7 wins after his first three seasons.
- The second choice was made by the Atlanta Hawks. Despite a need for a point guard, the Hawks selected Marvin Williams. Williams posted below average numbers in each of his first three seasons, producing only 8.9 wins. Although he has become slightly above average in 2008-09, his numbers still lag behind what one might expect of the second player chosen in a draft.
- Deron Williams was taken by the Utah Jazz with the third pick. D. Williams was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 2008, and his wins production confirms his status as a star. In 2007-08 he posted a 0.222 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes]. An average mark is 0.100, so D. Williams was more than twice as productive as an average NBA player last season. If we look across his first three seasons we see that D. Williams has produced 24.1 wins. In other words, he has offered more than Bogut or M.Williams.
With these players off the board the Hornets turn finally came. And with the fourth selection in the 2005 draft, New Orleans selected Chris Paul. If you look back at the numbers of the first three selections you will see that the trio of Bogut, M.Williams, and D. Williams has combined to produce 52.7 wins in their first three seasons. In Paul’s first three seasons he produced 55.0 wins. Yes, the fourth selection in 2005 has done more than the first three choices have managed as a group.
One of the All-Time Greats
And this season, Paul is even better. To see how much better we turn to Table One.
From Table One we see that Paul – after 41 games in 2008-08 – has already produced 15.9 wins. In 2007-08, only ten players produced more wins for the entire season (and one of these was Paul). If Paul continues at this pace in 2008-09 he will finish with 31.8 Wins Produced. And if he eclipses the 30 win mark he will be first player to do this since Kevin Garnett (30.7 wins) did this in 2002-03.
Here is some more perspective on the greatness that is Chris Paul.
Back in the 1980s there was a point guard named Magic Johnson (you might have heard of him). Here is what Magic did in his career:
- 1979-80: 20.6 Wins Produced, 0.353 WP48
- 1980-81: 14.6 Wins Produced, 0.512 WP48
- 1981-82: 29.6 Wins Produced, 0.475 WP48
- 1982-83: 29.3 Wins Produced, 0.484 WP48
- 1983-84: 24.5 Wins Produced, 0.459 WP48
- 1984-85: 24.3 Wins Produced, 0.420 WP48
- 1985-86: 22.8 Wins Produced, 0.425 WP48
- 1986-87: 26.9 Wins Produced, 0.444 WP48
- 1987-88: 18.9 Wins Produced, 0.345 WP48
- 1988-89: 28.4 Wins Produced, 0.472 WP48
- 1989-90: 26.1 Wins Produced, 0.426 WP48
- 1990-91: 26.7 Wins Produced, 0.436 WP48
- 1995-96: 4.6 Wins Produced, 0.231 WP48
- CAREER: 297.3 Wins Produced, 0.429 WP48
As one can see, Chris Paul in 2008-09 compares favorably to Magic Johnson. And that is a point I would emphasize. Chris Paul is developing into one of the all-time great players in NBA history. It’s not a stretch to start thinking of him in terms of players like Magic, MJ, and Bird. Yes, Paul is that good.
Struggles in New Orleans
Unfortunately, some of his teammates are struggling. Specifically, Tyson Chandler and David West have declined relative to last year. In 2007-08, Chandler produced 16.3 wins and posted a 0.281 WP48. Meanwhile, West produced 6.3 wins with a 0.105 WP48. Yes, Chandler offered more than the All-Star West.
This year Chandler is still offering more. But like West, the amount offered has declined. Chandler’s WP48 in 2008-09 is only 0.132 while West’s mark has fallen to 0.044. Had these two players maintained what we saw last year, the Hornets would be on pace to win close to 60 games. In other words, if Chandler and West were performing as they did in 2007-08, New Orleans would be close to the NBA’s elite (Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, and the Lakers). Instead — despite the fact the team employs the most productive player in the game — New Orleans is just another good team.
If we delve a little deeper into the numbers we can see where Chandler and West are failing. Both players are not rebounding as much as they did last year. Why this has happened, though, is puzzling. Last year the Hornets out-rebounded their opponents. This year, New Orleans has a rebounding deficit. This tells us that there are rebounds for Chandler and West. The two players are simply not getting these boards.
Currently each player is hurt. But if these two could a) get healthy and b) return to what we saw last year; the Hornets would become one of the top teams in the league. If this happens, it would be clear to more people that Chris Paul is really the most productive player in the game today. And as emphasized above, one of the most productive players to ever play the game.
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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.