A Rose does not Equal Love – Revisited

Editor’s Note: The following is from Andres (Dre) Alvarez of NerdNumbers

I decided to look at Chicago’s Win Produced numbers after I heard for the millionth time that

  • Rose was MVP (Thanks to the Stat Heads who dispute this!)
  • There was no way Kevin Love could be considered MVP

An amazing thing stood out to me – the Bulls don’t have bad players! An average player has a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] of 0.100. Giving us a little wiggle room, let’s define a “bad” player as one that is ½ the value of a good player, or a WP48 of 0.050 or less.  Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at Chicago this season.

As one can see, Chicago has had the fewest “bad” players suit up for them. Furthermore, the Bulls have had a remarkably low 1,215 minutes allocated to those “bad” players. This is a whopping 700 fewer than the next closest team (the San Antonio Spurs).

To put this in perspective the Nuggets have given Al Harrington over 1,500 minutes, and received about -2.0 wins as a result. All of the Bulls “bad” players put together aren’t even as bad as many teams’ worst player.

Now let’s also take a quick look at Minnesota. The Timberwolves have had 13 “bad” players.  These players have played over 12,000 minutes and combined to offer -10.0 Wins Produced.

What does all this mean?  Not only does Derrick Rose have some very productive teammates (think Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Ronnie Brewer, etc. . .), unlike other teams he hasn’t had to play with many “bad” players.  In contrast, when Kevin Love looks around the locker room, “bad” players are everywhere.

Just to hammer this point home, let’s put how good Chicago is playing in historical perspective.

Chicago, despite injury problems, has been able to get away with having the 9th lowest total of “bad” minutes played in the last 33 years. Of all the teams in front of them, only the Kansas City Kings failed to make the playoffs*.

And except the 1983 and 2001 Kings’ teams, every team in front of Chicago made it all the way to the Conference Finals. In short, Chicago is in historic company.

How did Chicago do this?  The front office essentially followed a very good formula: keep all of the team’s good players from 2009-10 and get most of the good players from Utah. This formula has produced a very good team. 

Unfortunately in the NBA, all of the regular season awards are individual based. This means Derrick Rose will get the credit for what was essentially a team effort. While it is worth virtually nothing, I would like to award the Chicago Bulls with the Most Valuable Team award this season and reiterate that Rose is not the MVP.

One last note…

Some might argue that Chicago’s players are essentially “not bad” because of Rose and/or Coach Thibodeau.  But if we look at the productivity of these players this season and what these veterans did in 2009-10, we see that this team’s results are not surprising.  As the following table indicates (numbers from NerdNumbers), most players on this team are offering essentially the same production seen last year. 

The primary exceptions – Derrick Rose, Ronnie Brewer, and Carlos Boozer – are easy to explain. 

  • Rose is young, and young players get better.
  • Brewer is essentially offering what he did prior to 2009-10
  • And Boozer – who has been hurt – is offering less this year

In sum, we don’t need to argue that this team is succeeding because of its dynamic point guard or amazing coach.  The Bulls story is really about choosing productive players.  And the Bulls – as the study into “bad” players indicates – have been very good at making these choices.      

-Dre

*An explanation for Kansas City. First, they did share the same record as the Nuggets and were thus the 6th Seed in the playoffs.  But unfortunately they lost the tie-breaker with Denver. Second, unlike all of the other teams on this list, Kansas City was the only one without a Star (WP48 > 0.200) or Superstar (WP48 >0.250) on their team.

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