Imagine Hasheem Thabeet using WP48 to defend his NBA career

Here is a fictional story – by Jonathan Bertag – about the early professional career of Hasheem Thabeet.  Bertag tells the tale of Thabeet coming to the Grizzlies, meeting and becoming friends with Allen Iverson, and ultimately being sent to the Dakota Wizards.  Along the way, we see the hero of the story (Thabeet) attempt to defend his production via Wins Produced.  He even defends WP48 when his coach claims it’s not a sound method.

Again, the story is fictional.  But I found it interesting to see someone note that WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] does indicate that Thabeet is not quite as bad as people might think.  As the following table indicates, Thabeet is an average NBA center (WP48 of 0.100).  In fact, he is one of only three players on the Grizzlies who have been above average this year (of those who have played more than five minutes).

Table One: The Memphis Grizzlies after 64 games in 2009-10

Unfortunately, Thabeet is stuck behind Marc Gasol on the Memphis depth chart.  And Gasol has joined with Zach Randolph to produce around 70% of this team’s Wins Produced.  These two players are also entirely responsible for this team’s improvement over what we would expect given the performance of this team’s veterans in 2008-09.  In fact, once we get past Gasol, Randolph, and Thabeet, the remaining players on this team are on pace to produce fewer than 10 wins this season. 

Since Rudy Gay is part of this list of remaining players, it suggests Memphis should think again before re-signing Gay to a new contract.  It seems unlikely that Gay will produce wins at a level that would justify the kind of money people think a scorer like Gay is worth.  Unfortunately for Memphis fans, Michael Heisley – the team’s owner – seems committed to bringing Gay back.

Heisley – in his defense — is also committed to bringing back Thabeet from the development league, and seeing that Thabeet actually plays in the NBA.  After six games in the D-League, Thabeet has posted a 16.3 Win Score per 48 minutes.  This is an above average mark for an NBA center, although it’s not clear how D-League numbers translate into the NBA.  Plus a sample of six is still too small. 

His NBA sample isn’t much better.  But this sample does suggest that Thabeet can contribute (although taking minutes from Gasol seems like a bad idea).    So the fictional Thabeet was correct in the reported conversation with his coach.  And if Thabeet does ultimately contribute, that will break the trend we see with draft picks in Memphis.

- 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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