Motivating Morrison

A few days ago the following story from Lisa Dillman appeared in the L.A. Times: “Adam Morrison rides a hot hand in Las Vegas.”

Reading the reviews might have been the first mistake for the Lakers’ Adam Morrison.

“I had a lot of criticism after my first year,” Morrison said of his rookie season with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006-07, having been the third overall pick in the NBA draft. “I remember one website saying I was the worst player in the NBA. All that stuff.”

It’s not clear from Dillman’s article if Morrison was referencing this forum, although I did note in May of 2007 that Morrison was the least productive player in 2006-07.  John Hollinger, though, also said at that time that Morrison was “quite possibly the single worst player in the league this year.” (Insider access required).  So the sentiment Morrison notes was not limited to “one website.”  In fact, Neil Paine at Basketball-Reference.com recently noted Morrison’s shortcomings.

Morrison’s comment led to a couple of thoughts.  First of all, I wondered how Morrison’s 2006-07 season ranked in NBA history, at least Wins Produced history.  Wins Produced and WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] can be calculated back to 1977-78.  If we look at all players who played at least 1,500 minutes in a season, here are the 15 worst WP48 marks:

  1. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf [Denver, 1990-91]: -0.253 WP48, 1505 minutes
  2. John Amaechi [Orlando, 2000-01]: -0.195 WP48, 1710 minutes
  3. Dennis Awtrey [Phoenix, 1977-78]: -0.161 WP48, 1623 minutes
  4. Jeff Turner [Orlando, 1991-92]: -0.159 WP48, 1591 minutes
  5. Jason Collins [New Jersey, 2006-07]: -0.159 WP48, 1844 minutes
  6. Antoine Carr [Utah, 1995-96]: -0.156 WP48, 1532 minutes
  7. Allan Houston [Detroit, 1993-94]: -0.149 WP48, 1519 minutes
  8. Jeff Turner [Orlando, 1993-94]: -0.149 WP48, 1536 minutes
  9. Clifford Robinson [Portland, 1989-90]: -0.143 WP48, 1565 minutes

10.  Tom McMillen [Washington, 1984-85]: -0.143 WP48, 1547 minutes

11. Adam Morrison [Charlotte, 2006-07]: -0.137 WP48, 2326 minutes

12.  Doug Smith [Dallas, 1992-93]: -0.134 WP48, 1524 minutes

13.  Orlando Woolridge [Philadelphia, 1993-94]: -0.132 WP48, 1955 minutes

14.  Clifford Robinson [Golden State, 2003-04]: -0.130 WP48, 2846 minutes

15. Charlie Scott [Denver, 1979-80]: -0.130 WP48, 1860 minutes

Morrison’s WP48 mark in 2006-07 ranks 11th in NBA history.  But if we change our threshold to 2,000 minutes played, then Morrison would top the list (or be at the bottom of the list).

If we shift our focus to Wins Produced, though, the bottom five would be as follows:

  1. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf [Denver, 1990-91]: -7.9 Wins Produced
  2. Clifford Robinson [Golden State, 2003-04]: -7.7 Wins Produced
  3. John Amaechi [Orlando, 2000-01]: -6.9 Wins Produced
  4. Adam Morrison [Charlotte, 2006-07]: -6.6 Wins Produced
  5. Jason Collins [New Jersey, 2006-07]: -6.1 Wins Produced

So Adam Morrison’s performance was not the absolute worse in NBA history.  But it was quite poor.  And you don’t need Wins Produced to see this point.

What’s interesting about this story – and other stories like this — is Morrison’s reaction.  According to the above story it appears Morrison has been somewhat motivated by his evaluation.  And this is where the story can get interesting.  Can all of these evaluations cause Morrison to play better?  Furthermore, as statistical analysis becomes more prevalent, will we see other players change their performance in reaction to the numbers?

My guess is that Morrison – despite these evaluations — will not develop into a very productive NBA player.  Certainly as he gains more experience he can play somewhat better. But given how bad he has played so far, I don’t think experience can dramatically alter what he offers. 

Then again, maybe Morrison can prove me – and the other people looking at NBA stats – wrong.  If so, we can add one more item to the list of factors that alter the performance of an NBA player (a list that includes age, injury, coaching (sometimes), and the productivity of teammates).  Future studies might have to note “player improved because of poor statistical evaluations.”  It will be interesting to see how this item is statistically added to the analysis.   

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

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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