A few days I was asked the following by Henry Abbott (of TrueHoop):
It’s possible he won’t qualify, but if he does come off the bench for more games than he starts, how crazy would I be to lobby for Joel Przybilla as sixth man of the year?
To answer this question, we first need to figure out the identity of the competition. Fortunately, Ian Thomsen of SI.com did a small survey (a very small survey) of advanced scouts and NBA Executives to determine the top candidates for each post-season award. For the 6th Man of the Year this group listed the following candidates:
1. Jason Terry
2. Travis Outlaw
3. Nate Robinson and Flip Murray
Now this award is chosen by the media, so none of the people Thomsen polled are actually going to determine this award. Marc Stein, though, is a member of the media. At ESPN.com he listed his candidates, and he generally concurs with Thomsen’s survey. The top name for Stein is Jason Terry. And Stein also agrees that Outlaw, Robinson, and Murray are candidates. But Stein also noted Lamar Odom, J.R. Smith, and Chris Andersen. Of these names, Stein ranks Odom and Smith just behind Terry.
What do we see if we look at the numbers? Again, the consensus from Thomsen and Stein seems to be that Terry is the favorite. When we look at Table One, we see that Terry – in terms of Position Adjusted Win Score per 48 minutes [PAWS48] – is above average. This mark is almost entirely driven by Terry’s scoring. With respect to the non-scoring aspects of the game we see that Terry is a below average rebounder and not truly outstanding in any other category.
Although Terry is above average [with respect to PAWS48] other candidates look even better [with respect to PAWS48]. Of the players listed in Table One the top four – again, in terms of PAWS48 – begin with Chris Andersen, who is followed by Lamar Odom, Nate Robinson, and J.R. Smith. Andersen and Odom are below average scorers, so it seems unlikely either would win this award (although to Stein’s credit, he mentioned both). Robinson and Smith, though, are scorers. And it appears both have done more than Terry, at least on a per-minute basis [and if we look at PAWS48].
The problem is that basketball players are often evaluated in terms of totals. And when we think of totals – at least scoring totals – Terry is still tops.
But what if we think of a different total? What if we focus on Wins Produced totals?
As the following list indicates, if we focus on wins Lamar Odom is now the top 6th man.
- Lamar Odom: 8.8 Wins Produced
- Chris Andersen: 7.9 Wins Produced
- Nate Robinson: 6.6 Wins Produced
- J.R. Smith: 6.3 Wins Produced
- Jason Terry: 4.7 Wins Produced
- Travis Outlaw: 1.8 Wins Produced
- Flip Murray: 1.2 Wins Produced
The Przybilla Candidacy
But what of Przybilla, the candidate Henry suggested? Before I get to Przybilla’s Wins Produced, let me mention a player who I thought of when Henry got me thinking of this award. Kevin Love, as I noted back in January, has been the top rookie this season. Although the T-Wolves are touting Love for Rookie of the Year, Love has not been mentioned as a favorite for this award (neither Thomsen nor Stein list him among the top three rookies). So how about 6th man of the Year?
Love certainly qualifies. Minnesota may believe he should be Rookie of the Year, but they have not often thought of him as a starter. For the season Love has only started 35 games. Despite not starting, Love has produced 10.3 wins (prior to Saturday night). So this places him ahead of Odom and Andersen. Plus Love – as Table Two indicates – is above average as a scorer (at least for a power forward). So maybe the media should give Love a second look (for both awards).
Or maybe they should think seriously about Henry’s candidate. Table Two also reveals that Przybilla is more productive – in terms of PAWS48 – than Love. Przybilla has also produced 12.7 wins, a mark that I think leads all 6th men (I really didn’t check out every eligible player).
At least, it would lead all 6th men if Pryzbilla qualified. Saturday night Przybilla started his 41st game, and I believe that disqualifies him for this award. Still, had he qualified, Henry would have had a good case. That is if you look past scoring and focus on Wins Produced [or PAWS48].
Two Final Observations
Let me close with two quick notes.
1. Last year’s winner – Manu Ginobili – also had a very good season in 2008-09. His WP48 of 0.310 is just short of the 0.324 mark posted by Przybilla. Due to injuries, though, Ginobili only played 44 games. Consequently – like Przybilla — he is probably not qualified for this award.
2. Henry also noted the following in our discussion: Full disclosure; I came to you in part with this because I know that your system tends to like guys like Joel.
As I told Henry, this is not uncommon. People really like Wins Produced when it says good things about their favorite players and/or team. When it says their favorite players and/or team are not quite as good as they like – or their favorite system of evaluation has issues – then Wins Produced becomes far less popular. Perhaps a post on this tendency would be a good idea in the future.
As for now, I wish I could have seen Henry launch a campaign to get Przybilla this award. Unfortunately, Greg Oden couldn’t wrest the starting spot away from Przybilla enough times this season. Next season, though, Oden should be in the starting line-up more often. So Przybilla should be a candidate for 6th Man of the Year in 2010. At least, if we focus on Wins Produced [or PAWS48].
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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.