An Interesting Path Back To Contention for the Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks finished the 2008-09 season with a 2.1 efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency).  Although such a mark surpasses anything done by the Clippers in their time in Los Angeles (or San Diego or Buffalo), it was the worst performance by the Mavericks since the 1999-00 season.  In other words, it was the worst performance by the Mavericks since Mark Cuban bought the team.

In the playoffs the Mavericks did manage to escape the first round.  But that was primarily because Manu Ginobili was not able to play for the Spurs.  Once the Mavericks moved on to the second round they were quickly eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in five games. Such a performance suggested changes would have to be made to the Mavericks roster if this team was going to return to the ranks of the NBA contenders. 

One of these moves was the signing of Quinton Ross, who produced -0.6 wins last year. Such a move probably does not help the Mavericks in 2009-10.   Fortunately for Dallas fans, the Mavericks made three other moves that should help this team return to the ranks of NBA championship contenders.  At least, that’s what you would conclude if you believe Wins Produced.

1. First the Mavericks re-signed Jason Kidd, giving him more than $25 million to stay in Dallas.  Kidd is now 36 years old, which is very ancient by NBA standards.  But he did produce 21 wins last year with a 0.349 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes].  Such production suggests Kidd will help next year.

2. With Kidd retained, the Mavericks then signed Marcin Gortat to an offer sheet (that the Orlando Magic is not expected to match).  Gortat produced 5.2 wins in only 794 minutes last year.  So his WP48 was 0.316, or more than three times what we see from an average NBA player.

3. And now the Mavericks have engineered a very complicated trade to bring Shawn Marion to Dallas.  Marion ranked among the top 10 in Wins Produced each season from 2000-01 to 2006-07, taking the very top spot in 2000-01.  Last season, though, his performance drifted well below his career averages.  In 2,470 minutes he produced 10.0 wins.  His WP48 of 0.193 was above average, but hardly comparable to what Marion did before he reached 30 years of age.  Although Marion is not what he used to be, he still had a WP48 mark beyond anything offered by the small forwards and power forwards employed by the Mavericks this past season.

Putting these moves together and we see a potential rotation consisting of the following nine players.

Jason Kidd: 21.0 Wins Produced, 0.349 WP48

Josh Howard: 2.0 Wins Produced, 0.057 WP48

Shawn Marion: 10.0 Wins Produced, 0.193 WP48

Dirk Nowitzki: 8.1 Wins Produced, 0.127 WP48

Erick Dampier: 8.9 Wins Produced, 0.232 WP48

Jose Barea: 2.2 Wins Produced, 0.065 WP48

Jason Terry: 4.8 Wins Produced, 0.092 WP48

Quinton Ross: -0.6 Wins Produced, -0.025 WP48

Marcin Gortat: 5.2 Wins Produced, 0.316 WP48

Last year these nine players produced 61.4 wins.  And next year these totals should go higher if Gortat plays more minutes.  So it looks like Dallas should contend next year.

What is interesting, though, is that this is not the story told by adjusted plus-minus.  Adjusted plus-minus is the metric brought to the world by Wayne Winston and Jeff Sagarin, via the funding of Mark Cuban.  According to BasketballValue.com, though, Gortat has a two-year measure of -2.46.  And Marion has a two-year mark of 1.58.  Neither mark is outstanding, suggesting that the Mavericks have gone to a great deal of effort to add players that are not immensely productive.

So this leads one to wonder, why did Dallas pursue these players?  It looks like they are building a Wages of Wins team.  But that just can’t be true.  Can it?

- 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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