Prior to this past season Troy Murphy had played at least 2,000 minutes in four seasons in his NBA career. And in these four seasons his Wins Produced and WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] were as follows:
2002-03: 9.8 Wins Produced, 0.187 WP48
2004-05: 7.9 Wins Produced, 0.159 WP48
2005-06: 9.6 Wins Produced, 0.183 WP48
2007-08: 6.6 Wins Produced, 0.151 WP48
Murphy’s average WP48 across these four seasons is 0.171, indicating that Murphy has been consistently a good, but not great, NBA player.
Unlike what we see in football and baseball, basketball players tend to be very consistent. Performance can change due to injury and age, but typically, what you have seen in the past is very similar to what you will see in the future. Consequently, given what Murphy had done in the past, we should have expected Murphy to produce about nine wins in the 2,482 minutes he played in 2008-09. Instead, Murphy produced 19.1 wins.
Again, such a leap is unusual. If we look at Basketball-Reference, we can why this leap happened. Last season Murphy – relative to what he did in the past – grabbed more rebounds and hit more of his shots. Of these two, his leap in shooting efficiency is the most dramatic. Murphy’s career adjusted field goal percentage is 0.485. Last year, though, his mark was 0.580. From beyond the arc he converted on 45% of his shots (on a career high number of attempts). Yes, Murphy in 2008-09 was a very rare big man who could both hit shots from beyond the arc and rebound at a very high rate.
Despite Murphy’s performance, though, the Pacers missed the playoffs. And when we look at Table One, we can see the problem. Beyond Murphy, the Pacers only employed one other player who played at least 1,000 minutes and posted a WP48 mark that was above average. That one player was Danny Granger, and his mark of 0.119 was only slightly above average.
Last spring, Granger was the subject of three different posts.
Of these three, the Bob Newhart post was my favorite. Any of these, though, tells the same story: Although Granger is above average, he is not really as productive as is commonly believed.
Nevertheless, Granger was the second most productive player on the Pacers last year. And when we look at the potential depth chart for 2009-10 (taken from ESPN.com and Yahoo.com), it seems possible that Granger will be the second most productive player again.
Potential First String
PG: T.J. Ford [4.3 Wins Produced, 0.092 WP48]
SG: Brandon Rush [0.8 Wins produced, 0.022 WP48]
SF: Danny Granger [6.0 Wins Produced, 0.119 WP48]
PF: Troy Murphy [19.1 Wins Produced, 0.369 WP48]
C: Jeff Foster [3.4 Wins Produced, 0.089 WP48]
Potential Second String
PG: Travis Diener [2.9 Wins Produced, 0.196 WP48]
SG: Dahntay Jones [1.7 Wins Produced, 0.057 WP48]
SF: Mike Dunleavy [10.6 Wins Produced, 0.173 WP48 in 2007-08]
PF: Tyler Hansbrough [Rookie]
C: Roy Hibbert [-1.6 Wins Produced, -0.078 WP48]
Of the ten players listed above, eight played for the Pacers last year. Across the past three seasons, Indiana has won 35, 36, and 36 games. In other words, this team has been remarkably consistent. And now they are bringing back essentially the same team. Does this mean the Pacers should expect — and be happy — to win 36 games again?
One player who might make a difference is Mike Dunleavy. Two years ago Dunleavy produced 10.6 wins and posted a 0.173 WP48. Last years, though, Dunleavy was hurt and his production dropped to 0.1 wins. If Dunleavy comes back this year – and returns to what we saw two years ago – the Pacers have a chance to make the playoffs in 2010.
Unfortunately, Dunleavy hasn’t yet come back and is currently listed as out “indefinitely.” So even if Murphy maintains the productivity we saw last year (and I think that counts as an “if”), the consistency of the Pacers will likely continue. In other words, without Dunleavy this team is probably headed for another 30-40 win season and another trip to the lottery. And if Murphy returns to form…. well, the Pacers will probably get a much better lottery pick.
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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.