The Record Setting Bobcats

Michael Jordan is the new owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.  For those unfamiliar with Bobcat history, this is a team that has never made the playoffs and never posted a winning record.  So this team is not exactly the jewel of the NBA.  But it does look like NBA life in North Carolina is getting better (and not just because MJ is the team’s owner).

Today the Charlotte Bobcats are on the verge of a franchise record.  With one more victory the 2009-10 team will have won more games in a regular season than any team in the history of Bobcat basketball. 

The magic number for the Bobcats is only 36.  So this team doesn’t even have to finish with a winning record to set the this mark.  It does appear, though, that a winning record – and the first playoff berth in franchise history – is possible.

Last summer I argued that this outcome was indeed possible.  But this forecast focused on the play of Tyson Chandler.  Prior to this season the Bobcats had consisted of Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor, and not much else (hence the lack of success).  Last year Okafor was sent to the Hornets (where he will miss the playoffs again) for Chandler.  In 2008-09, Okafor was clearly the more productive player.  It was a different story, though, before last season; and last summer I argued that if the Chandler from before 2008-09 appeared in Charlotte, the playoffs were possible.

Table One: The Charlotte Bobcats after 69 games in 2009-10

A glance at Table One, though, reveals that the Bobcats appear to have acquired the Chandler from 2008-09 (in fact, not even that much).  Thus far he has only produced 0.7 wins, so clearly Chandler hasn’t helped.

When we look at what the Bobcats could have expected given the performance of the team’s veterans in 2008-09, we see a team that should currently be 31-38.  In other words, last year’s performance indicates a team out of the playoffs again.

So how has this team improved?  The team’s – somewhat modest – improvement can be linked primarily to the play of Wallace and Raymond Felton.  The team is also getting more from Nazr Mohammed and Stephen Graham. 

And now the team has added Tyrus Thomas.  In just 408 minutes, Thomas has produced 1.5 wins with a 0.181 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes].  If Thomas can finally start to live up to the promise of his college numbers, the Bobcats could make someone feel uncomfortable in the playoffs.  Probably not so uncomfortable that a favorite gets an early vacation.  But uncomfortable, nevertheless.

The addition of Thomas – assuming he keeps playing well– finally gives the Bobcats more than two above average players (the team now has Wallace, Felton, and Thomas).  And if Chandler ever produces again, Charlotte might be able to contend in the East.

So it looks like Michael Jordan has bought himself a team on the rise. It isn’t anywhere close to as good as many of the Chicago teams that employed Jordan.  But it’s starting to look like the teams Jordan and the Bulls used to defeat in the playoffs (and that’s better than being a team not in the playoffs).

- 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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