Yesterday I noted that the Rockets losing their top three scorers from 2008-09 did not appear to dramatically impact the team’s fortunes this year. Yes, the Rockets are not quite as good as last year. But the loss of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, and Ron Artest is only expected to cost the Rockets about seven wins (across the entire season). The Portland Trail Blazers are now experiencing a similar problem with injuries. But for Portland, the effects might be more devastating.
The following above average players have already missed – or will miss – extensive playing time this season (average Wins Produced per 48 minutes — or WP48 — is 0.100):
Nicolas Batum: 0.123 WP48 in 2008-09
Greg Oden: 0.154 WP48 in 2008-09
Rudy Fernandez: 0.167 WP48 in 2008-09
Joel Przybilla: 0.288 WP48 in 2008-09
Last season this quartet produced 26.6 wins for a team that won 54 games. So losing these players will not help.
Of course, if other productive players can be inserted into the line-up – as the Rockets have demonstrated – the Blazers can still win games. Unfortunately – as Table One demonstrates – Portland is running out of productive players.
Across the first 30 games in 2009-10, the following players have posted WP48 marks that exceed the 0.100 mark of an average player:
Greg Oden [0.327 WP48]
Rudy Fernandez [0.196 WP48]
Joel Przybilla: [0.188 WP48]
Brandon Roy [0.159 WP48]
LaMarcus Aldridge [0.108 WP48]
As Basketball-Reference.com notes, Oden and Przybilla will probably miss the rest of the season. And Fernandez is out for 4-6 weeks. This leaves the Blazers with Roy and Aldridge.
Now if we look at last year’s performance, both Steve Blake and Andre Miller were above average. Miller, though, is old (he was old last year, but now – as you can guess – he is even older). And as I noted today, basketball is really a game for young people.
All of this suggests the Blazers experience with injuries will be different from what we have seen in Houston. This rash of injuries – coupled with a lack of productive players to take the spot of the departed players – means that Portland really has a problem. So although Table One projects 50 wins for this team, the injury problem means this projection is going to be lower and lower as the season progresses. And in the tough Western Conference, this might mean a trip to the lottery is a possibility for a team many felt (okay, maybe just me) thought could contend for in the Western Conference this season.
What is interesting about these two scenarios is that the injuries for Houston happened to scorers while the injuries for Portland are generally to players who don’t score. Conventional basketball wisdom would suggest the loss of scorers will hurt a lot while the loss of non-scorers can be overcome (by other players “stepping up”). Unfortunately for fans of Portland, though, I think the real story is the ability or inability of a team to replace productive players with other productive performers. Whether the players lost are scorers or non-scorers really doesn’t matter much.
Okay, that is my second quick note today. Now I need to go wrap presents (or something equally Christmassy). Hope everyone has a Happy Holidays.
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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.