Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Raptors top win producers from 2000-2011

New readers, please read the basics before leaving any comments.

I'm going to be traveling for the next few days, so unfortunately I won't be updating the auto WP numbers for the Raptors until next week. To make up for that, I've put together a spreadsheet that counts the total wins produced of each player (while they were wearing a Raptor uniform) from the 2000-01 season up to and including the current 2010-11 season. The regular, boring list is here, but I've also made it more interactive by turning it into some Sporcle Quizzes. Here they are:

Toronto Raptors Wins Leaders (2000's)

Toronto Raptors Fewest Wins (2000's)

Hope you enjoy them! The fewest wins one is pretty hard!

 - Devin

Monday, November 22, 2010

Arturo's 100 Worst Seasons/Players in the NBA since 1978

New readers, please check out the basics before leaving any comments.

Arturo has done a lot of number-crunching on historical productivity in the NBA, and yesterday, he posted two lists: the 100 worst seasons since 1978 and the 100 worst players since 1978.

Can you guess where this is going?

Just click the link. If you are looking for more information from the Raptors' perspective, you can take a look at my front-office audit or the ultimate Bargs post.

 - Devin

Full TOR-NOH trade analysis

New readers, please check out the basics before you leave any comments.

It turns out that yes, the Raptors and Hornets did make a trade, and the details of the deal haven't changed since I posted my initial reactions. But I promised I would come up with some fancy graphs, so here is one:

Now everything I mentioned earlier becomes that much clearer. Over the past three seasons, the players Toronto had before the trade were better on a per-minute basis (WP48 of 0.077) and in terms of total wins (14.5) than the New Orleans players (WP48 of 0.051 and 9.2 wins produced). This year, the former Raptors have also been more productive on a per-minute basis (WP48 of 0.073 vs -0.046) and in terms of wins (0.8 vs -0.2). The Raptors take on $5.5 million in extra salary this season, but manage to save about $3.6 million over all of the years after that. Additionally, the Raptors seem to have spent about $2.3 million of the Bosh trade exception (as far as I can gather). So, to recap, the Raptors:
  • traded for players who have been less productive in the past
  • traded for players who have been less productive so far this season
  • traded for players who are likely to be less productive in the future
  • take on an extra $5.5 million in salary this season
  • save $3.6 million over the years after this season
  • spent $2.3 million of the TPE
  • opened up a roster spot
No, this is not a good deal. If the trade was "made with the future in mind", whoever's responsible for approving the trade either wants the Raps to do worse as an organization or is incompetent (we know where I stand on that issue). It doesn't improve the team on the court in the short term or long term, and financially, it hurts the team more in the short term than it helps in the long term. At least Bryan Colangelo is up front about the team being worse in the short term:
"whether or not we win games is really not the true issue right now, it's how much we're growing as an organization, how much these young kids are coming along." 
Unfortunately for the Raptors, Bayless probably won't become a useful player, and everyone knows what BC has done with lots of cap space in the past (see Turkoglu, Hedo).

 - Devin

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Team Stats Update

New readers, please check out the basics before leaving any comments.

Here are the updated team stats (current as of 11/20/10) (full spreadsheet here):

Raptors have moved up quite a bit (and this doesn't even include the victory over the Celtics earlier today). Last time I took a look at this, the Raps were ranked 25th in the league in WP48 and 12th in the East; now they are ranked 20th in the league and 10th in the East. There's a bit of a log-jam from 18th-24th though, so don't read too much into it yet. The story remains largely the same; the Raptors still can't shoot, especially three-pointers. Perhaps the Raptors actually intend to use Peja to boost their production for the three-point line?

Right now, the surprises for me are the Hornets (league 5th, West 3rd), the Pacers (league 10th, East 6th), the Nets (league 23rd, East 11th), and the Kings (league 25th, West 13th). The Warriors and Trailblazers haven't really lived up to my expectations either, but they have dealt with relatively unexpected injuries (Oden was expected; Roy, not so much).

 - Devin

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Potential Raptor trade?

New readers, please check out the basics before leaving any comments.

According to ESPN, the Raptors and Hornets have agreed to a five player swap. Leaving Toronto are Jarrett Jack, David Andersen, and Marcus Banks. Arriving are Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless.

Now, this is merely a reported deal - nothing has been finalized. I'll provide my intial reactions now, and if the deal changes between now and when it becomes finalized, I'll change my analysis accordingly.

This trade would accomplish two major things for the Raptors: first of all, it clears salary. Peja has one year remaining on his contract, which is somewhere north of $14.25 million. The second thing it does is create a roster space, which the Raptors will presumably use to obtain a centre (hopefully Erick Dampier), given that there is only one "centre" on the roster at the moment (because Andersen will be traded away and Solomon Alabi has been assigned to the D-League). It also nets the Raps a young, cheap player in Jerryd Bayless.

But I'm not really impressed with this deal. If the Raptors are interested in shedding salary, Jack, Andersen, and Banks are not the best players to get rid of. Banks's deal is expiring at the end of this season, so including him doesn't really accomplish anything. Jack's deal is very reasonable - $4.86 million this season, $5.22 million next season, and $5.58 million the season after that - given that he produced 6.9 wins last year (second most on the team behind Chris Bosh). Even though he's been injured, he hasn't been playing as well this season - which isn't entirely surprising (last year was a career year for Jack). But even if Jack goes back to being as productive as he was in 2008-09, he'd still be worth the money. Andersen didn't play well at all during his rookie season last year, but through preseason and the season so far he's been far more productive than Andrea Bargnani, who the Raptors are paying $50 million over the next five years. Andersen is getting $2.5 million this year, with a team option for $2.7 million next year, which is relatively cheap. No, if the Raptors were interested in shedding salary, they would've been better to trade away Bargnani, Calderon, or Barbosa.

And what about the players they will be getting back, Jerryd Bayless and the corpse formerly known as Peja? These days, the only thing attractive about Peja as a player is the fact that his massive contract is expiring at the end of the season. The last time Peja produced at an above average level (WP48 of 0.100 or above) was the 2007-08 season, when he had a WP48 of 0.102 and 5.8 wins in 2711 minutes. In 2006-07, his WP48 was negative, and in 2005-06, his WP48 was 0.148. So really, we're not talking about someone who should be expected to make any sort of difference on the court...although, after 76 minutes this season, his WP48 is 0.184 :)

The allure of Jerryd Bayless is probably what sold this deal for the Raptors. Bayless is a young player who was taken by Indiana with the 11th pick of the 2008 draft, and then, along with Ike Diogu, traded to the Trailblazers for Josh McRoberts, Brandon Rush, and...Jarrett Jack. That's good, right? The Raptors are stockpiling cheap young players like I suggested! Well yes, except that, when you go after cheap young players, you are still supposed to go after good cheap young players. In his rookie season, Bayless had a WP48 of  -0.099. In his second season, Bayless posted a WP48 of 0.025. This year, his WP48 is only -0.149 after 133 minutes of playing time. So, in 1959 career minutes, he has produced -1.1 wins with a WP48 of -0.027.

Jerryd Bayless can't be included in a multi-player deal because he was just traded to the Hornets; the two teams will actually have to make two separate trades in order for this transaction to adhere to league rules. To top it all off, rumour has it that the Raptors might even be using part of the Chris Bosh trade exception in this deal. If so, that just makes it that much worse. I'm sure the Raptors could've done better than this trade. Even if this trade opens up a roster spot for Erick Dampier and they pair Stojakovic's expiring deal with the Bosh trade exception to land a big-name player, they could've done better than this.

For the Hornets, this deal was a no-brainer. They get a very useful player in Jack, an okay (for now) backup big man (with what amounts to an expiring deal) in Andersen, and an expiring contract in Banks. All they had to do was give up Peja's contract and Bayless?!?!?!? This trade makes them even better in the short term, and doesn't have much of an impact on the books (short term or long term). The only negative thing about it is that perhaps they could have nabbed a big-name player with Peja's contract, but that's only a hypothetical.

If this trade becomes official, I'll put up a new post with lots of fancy tables and the final analysis. Stay tuned.

 - Devin

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010-11 All-Star Ballot

New readers, please read the basics before leaving any comments.

It's mid-November, so you know what that means! That's right, the ballot for this year's all-star game is up and running. Now, I know what you're thinking: isn't it a little bit too early to tell which players will end up having a good (half)season? Of course it is. But the ballot-organizers get together and select the players who are going to be on the list before the season even starts. They are also somewhat restrained by trying to pick at least three players - one guard, one forward, and one centre - from each team, while limiting the totals to 48 guards, 48 forwards, and 24 centres (divide those numbers in half for the conference numbers).

But these are members of the press who select the ballots - not Statistical Experts (TM) like us Wages of Wins Network analysts (I get to use that title because my season predictions are currently beating John Hollinger of ESPN). How would I have selected the 2010-11 All-Star ballot, and how does it compare to the real one? Here is the real ballot:

Based on last year's total wins, here are the funny picks:
  • Mario Chalmers, Heat
  • DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
  • Boris Diaw, Bobcats
  • Rashard Lewis, Magic
  • Linas Kleiza, Raptors
  • Elton Brand, Sixers
  • Thaddeus Young, Sixers
  • Shaquille O'Neal, Celtics
  • Roy Hibbert, Pacers
  • Andrea Bargnani, Raptors
  • Eric Gordon, Clippers
  • Derek Fisher, Lakers
  • Aaron Brooks, Rockets
  • Tony Parker, Spurs
  • Corey Brewer, Timberwolves
  • Monta Ellis, Warriors
  • Jeff Green, Thunder
  • Michael Beasley, Timberwolves
  • Chris Kaman, Clippers
  • Mehmet Okur, Jazz

And here is what my ballot would look like:

Basically, all I did was take the top players (in terms of total wins produced) and slot them in - with one exception: I added Blake Griffin in with the West forwards. I also did a few tricky things with positions in order to make the All-Star ballot as stacked as possible, and fans of the Clippers, Sixers, Pacers, and Wizards will be sad to know that their favourite teams failed to reach the desired three players. If the league got mad at me for that and I had to include at least three players from each team, I'd exchange the following players:
  • Marcin Gortat of the Magic for Andray Blatche of the Wizards
  • C.J. Watson of the Bulls for Gilbert Arenas of the Wizards
  • Anthony Parker of the Cavs for Evan Turner of the Sixers
  • Terrence Williams of the Nets for Brandon Rush of the Pacers
  • Erick Dampier of the TBDs for DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers
None of these switches would be particularly devastating to anyone involved.

How do the lists compare? Here is the difference between the two lists at the team level:

Pretty interesting that, despite several changes at the player level, things remain relatively similar at the team level. This is probably because the members of the press take into consideration (both consciously and unconsciously) how successful teams are when they choose who gets on the ballot.

Just thought I'd post on this topic while it's current. Updated team stats (and maybe more about top three picks...if I can stomach it) coming in the next few days.

 - Devin

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Week 3 WP Numbers

Since it's Tuesday, it's time for another look at Andres' automated WP numbers (spreadsheet here):

Here are my thoughts:

  • Not really too much has changed; Evans and Johnson are still playing really well; Jack, Calderon, and Andersen are playing okay; and the four horsemen are still stinking up the joint (although DeRozan somewhat less so)
  • But Weems has improved and - in limited minutes - so has Dorsey. Wright has regressed in limited minutes
  • None of that is surprising, given past histories and preseason numbers
  • One thing the take into account: using the automated positions, Barbosa is listed as a PG - which makes him look worse than he really is - and has Jack playing more time at SG - which makes him look better than he is. Kleiza is also listed as a SG for part of his minutes, which (very scarily) means he's actually been worse than what we see here
  • At -0.9 wins produced Bargnani "leads" the league. Just thought I'd put that out there
  • At -0.6 wins produced, Kleiza is close behind Bargnani at "7th" (and remember, he's actually played even worse than those numbers indicate)
  • Reggie is now 30th in total wins produced, right around Kobe Bryant (27th)
  • Raps have played a little bit better than their record suggests, with 3.6 wins produced and only a 2-8 record to show for it
  • The bigs who should be getting playing time: Evans, Johnson, Dorsey, and Andersen
  • The guards/smalls who should be getting playing time: Jack, Calderon, Weems, and...uhhhh...either Wright (not really a small, but we're dealing with lemons here) or DeRozan

Coming up soon: team stats for week three.

 - Devin

Is a top 3 pick necessary to win a title?

Readers, if you haven't read the basics, make sure you do so before you leave any comments.

Commenter khandor left the following comments on part three of my AGS audit on the Raptors' front office:

If the Raptors truly wish to turn around what is a mess of a franchise on the court and a huge winner from a financial standpoint ... which to this point, unfortunately, there is no such evidence of actually being the case ... then what they NEED to do is finish with one of the 3 worst W-L records in the NBA this season, in order to obtain a Top 3 Pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and the future rights to a franchise player like Harrison Barnes.
...When you compare the number of championship NBA teams with one or more Top 3 Draft Picks on their roster, to those without any Top 3 Draft Picks at all, it quickly becomes obvious just how important it is to obtain players who fit into this category, if your team is truly serious about ever winning the League Championship one day in the not-too distant future. [... which is not to say that merely having any old Top 3 Draft Pick on the roster, at all, is good enough to get the job done right, because the history of the league clearly shows that it is not the case by any stretch of the imagination.] 

I disagreed for the following reasons:

  • You don't need to have a high lottery pick to get a productive rookie. In 2006 alone, Rondo went at 21 and Millsap at 47. If you have a way of predicting rookie productivity, then you don't even to get a lottery pick at all. See Arturo Galletti's work on the subject
  • Arturo found that the majority of the most productive players from each draft were drafted outside of the top 8 picks. While there have been some good top 3 picks, there are always good players available outside the top 3. You don't need a top 3 pick to win a championship.
  • The Raptors have a large trade exception they should use before the trade deadline (because it expires in June). If they use it to net some good players, they will not only be a better team and win more games, but the incoming players (depending on their level of stardom) may expect to make the playoffs (and the last thing the Raptors want on their hands is another disgruntled star)

But khandor is not so easily convinced. So I put together a list of the number of top three picks on every NBA champion since 1966 (the first draft year without a territorial draft pick). In order for khandor to be correct, a majority of these teams must have at least one top three pick. Here is the summary (full spreadsheet here):

It appears that 88.9% of championship winning teams have at least one top three draft pick. That settles it then; khandor is right and I'm wrong...right?

No. Simply looking at the number of players drafted in the top three on each championship team is not a good way of tackling this question, because those numbers include players who signed as free agents or were traded for. The real question is: if the Raptors secure a top three draft choice, will that put them on the path towards a title? In other words, how do teams with top three draft picks fare historically?

To answer this question, I've put together two spreadsheets. One sheet covers the lottery era (1985-present); the other covers the non-territorial pre-lottery era (1966-1984). Each of these sheets:
  1. records the peak success (best playoff result) of each team with a top three pick over the first four years of a draftee's career (because four years is the length of a rookie contract)
  2. records the number of championships each drafting team won with the drafted player on their roster
  3. records the number of championships each drafting team won after they drafted their player
We need number one to see which rookies were "impact rookies", number two to account for success achieved after the rookie contract, and number three to account for success achieved by trading away top three draft picks. Obviously, players drafted after 2006 haven't played for four seasons yet, so their records are incomplete (but we might as well include them). How do these sheets look? Here is the lottery era summary (full spreadsheet here):

Wow, that gives us a completely different answer than the first method. Of the 78 instances of a team drafting a top three pick in the lottery era, a full 28% did not make/have not made the playoffs in any of the first four seasons of their drafted player. Another 32% only managed to lose in the first round. So 60% of teams that had a top three pick did not make it past the first round over the course of their draftee's rookie contract. Shockingly, only two top three picks managed to "lead" (hint) their teams to a title during their first four seasons during the lottery era - can you name the players? That's right, all-time greats Tim Duncan and Darko Milicic. Obviously, Milicic isn't an all-time great; he played very few minutes during his time in Detroit, and when he did play, he didn't help his team at all. But he does meet our requirements for the purposes of this exercise.

An additional two teams  - the Spurs with Sean Elliott and the Spurs with David Robinson - ended up winning one or more championships with their own top three draft pick after their player's first four years, and three more teams won championships without their drafted player, sometime after their player was drafted. One of those three teams was Boston after drafting Len Bias in 1986 (who - to put it quite frankly - didn't exactly contribute to the Celtics win in 2008). The second team was Boston after drafting Chauncey Billups in 1997, and that wasn't much better, because he was traded to Toronto (who, being Toronto, also traded him away) midway through his rookie season for Kenny Anderson (who was eventually traded for...wait for it...Vin Baker). But Detroit and Grant Hill in 1994 is the last one, and the most appropriate, because the Pistons manage to get the incredibly productive Ben Wallace when Hill forced a sign and trade to the Magic. Ben Wallace (along with the aforementioned Billups) was the driving force behind the very good 2000's Pistons teams that won one title.

All in all, if we really want to evaluate things properly, we would say that only four top three draft picks taken during the lottery era - about 5% - actually helped their teams win a championship. Not a very good result. But that's just the lottery era - what about top three picks taken from 1966-1984? Here is the summary for those years (full spreadsheet here):

Very interesting! The pre-lottery era was a lot different from the lottery era. Very few teams with top three picks - only 8 out of 57 - missed the playoffs every year for the first four years following the drafting of their player, and the same number of teams only managed to reach the first round. That means that 72% of teams made it past the first round within four years of using a top three pick, which is pretty amazing. Actually, why don't we just use a graph to show the differences:

There, that's better. I removed the last category of the two tables - "Teams winning Championship (after drafting player)" - because the teams with older lottery picks have the built-in advantage of extra opportunities (ie: more years) to add to their championship titles. For example, Chicago drafted Clem Haskins with the third pick of the 1967 draft, but I don't think he should receive any credit for any of the six championships that Chicago ended up winning during the '90s. But the remaining categories have not been affected at all and are still comparable. And what we see is that prior to 1985, teams with top three draft picks ended up deeper in the playoffs than the teams from the lottery era. If you think about it, it's not all that surprising. The lottery system is a fairer way of determining draft order than a coin flip, so on average, top three picks have been playing on worse teams, which means they don't advance as far into the playoffs.

So what do all these charts, graphs, and tables tell us? If the Raptors secure a top three pick, there are a couple of things that will be likely:

  1. they will be a bad team (they secured a top three pick, after all)
  2. they will have a hard time making it past the first round, let alone win a championship
  3. therefore, a top three pick won't pave the way to a title
The data I have shown in this post adds further support to my position that the Raptors do not need to get a top three pick in this year's - or any year's - draft in order to be successful. The best teams are good at drafting productive players regardless of their draft position, signing productive free agents, and making trades for productive players and extra draft picks. If the Raptors want to be successful in the future, those are the things they need to be focused on, instead of being focused on securing a good draft position.

 - Devin

Truehoop says the 2006 draft class is "rotten"

Today, Henry Abbott of Truehoop offered the following observation:

Remember that draft? It was actually pretty fun. In the days leading up to it, nobody knew who'd go first. There was some sentiment for LaMarcus Aldridge, who had length and skill but couldn't bench press much. Tyrus Thomas -- an incredible athlete -- earned some consideration. But in the end, a relatively unknown young Andrea Bargnani was the top pick.

As that crew enters its fifth season, it's time for the 2006 draft class to stop trading on potential. These players are squarely in their primes, and some things are coming into focus:
  • Neither Aldridge, Bargnani nor Thomas should have been the top pick.
  • Based on production thus far, the seven best have been Rajon Rondo, Brandon Roy (although his production is way down), Rudy Gay, Aldridge, Bargnani, Tyrus Thomas (his 23.2 PER this season is 15th in the NBA) and Paul Millsap (who leads the class with a 24.9 PER).
  • That was a terrible draft.

Yes, the 2006 draft class was not a very productive group of players. However, I've been over this before: Bargnani was not in the top 7, the top 10, or even the top 20. Even PER (a terribly flawed metric that rewards shot attempts) rates his first four seasons as 13th best.

Of the players taken in the 2006 draft, Rondo, Balkman, Roy, Millsap, Brewer, and Powe were in the top 7 in terms of per-minute production. Over the last two season Balkman has suffered from George Karl's wrath and Powe has been injured. Brewer spent most of last season out with injury. The next  players on the list are Josh Boone (not on an NBA team this year), Kyle Lowry (who has had a terrible year so far), and Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha, despite has tiny PER, is a good player - he just doesn't shoot very much. There were a full 11 players from the 2006 draft who played at an above-average level (WP48 of 0.100 or higher) over the course of their first four seasons. The big problem was that the productive players were not selected in the top 10, and thus didn't really get the court time to prove their worth. But when they did - like Millsap, Rondo, and Powe - they excelled. Additionally, unproductive players like Bargnani and Morrison were selected in the top 3 - the top 3! - and several lottery players never even played a minute in the league. The problem with the 2006 draft class wasn't necessarily the fault of the players; it was more of a function of the drafting teams being bad at identifying promising talent.

Arturo Galletti has done a ton of work on this subject - go check out his work right now!

 - Devin

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Team Stats for 2010-11

New readers, please check out the basics before you leave any comments.

Thanks to dougstats (and of course Andres) I have been able to compile advanced stats for every team in the league this season. Along with the Raptor individual player stats, I will continue to update this on a weekly basis. Because I'm having trouble getting Google gadgets to work, here is the non-sortable spreadsheet (spreadsheet here):

Here are my thoughts about the how the Raptors compare to the rest of the league so far:
  • The team is 9th in FGA, but 27th in AdjFG%. The Raptors need to take better shots
  • More specifically, better 3pt shots, as they are 29th in 3pt% - although their 2P% (24th) isn't so hot either
  • At least they are shooting better than the T-Wolves (2nd in FGA, 30th in AdjFG%)!
  • I'm happy to report that the Raptors are 13th in rebounding with 8.3 (per player per 48 minutes, or ppp48), just behind the league average of 8.4
  • Doing a good job of getting offensive rebounds (3rd overall) in particular...actually pretty weak at defensive rebounding (27th). On the offensive side, I'd attribute this to a combination of poor FG%, Reggie Evans, and Amir Johnson; on the defensive side, I'd attribute this to poor FG% defense
  • They are also 9th in steals...but unfortunately 7th in TOs, leaving them at 20th for Net Possessions
  • Interestingly - despite their reputation as "Phoenix North" - the Raps are only 28th in 3Pa/FGa
  • They also do a good job on free throws too, good enough for 8th in the league, 8th in FT%, and 12th in FTa/FGa
  • Assists: 24th, blocks: 27th, and fouls: 9th. None of these rankings are positive
  • Put it all together, and the Raptors are 25th in WP48 - 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings

I'd like to say a few things to the commenters on my recent posts: thank you for reading, and thank you for leaving some comments! Kudos to most of you for being respectful and adding to the discussions. Unfortunately, I'm not necessarily going to be able to respond to all the comments very promptly over the next few days, but that doesn't mean that I didn't read what you wrote.

Coming up next: a post on whether or not top 3 draft picks lead to NBA championships.

 - Devin

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Week 2 WP Numbers

    New readers, please check out the basics before you leave any comments.

    Andres Alvarez has been updating the automated WP site regularly, so it's time for week two of the Auto WP numbers (spreadsheet here):

    From now on, this spreadsheet will be updated automatically, so in the future, this entry will have current data (ie: my comments in this post might not make sense if you view this post next week)

    Here are my thoughts for the season so far:
    • Reggie Evans has still been playing rather well, but (as I predicted) not quite as well as he had been playing. He still leads the Raptors with 1.4 wins
    • Jarrett Jack and Amir Johnson are next with 0.7 wins apiece. Johnson has been playing at a more productive rate, but he still hasn't been getting much playing time behind Evans
    • Calderon, Andersen, and Weems are in the next tier with 0.4, 0.3, and 0.3 wins, respectively
    • Banks, Dorsey, and Wright are all around 0.1 in limited minutes
    • And then we have the Four Horsemen - DeRozan, Barbosa, Kleiza, and Bargnani - all producing at negative levels (-0.2, -0.2, -0.4, -0.5, respectively)
    • Each of these players are in the team's top five for shot attempts. Unfortunately none has managed to score an average amount of points per shot
    • Also unfortunate is that three of the Four Horsemen are in the Raptors' top four for minutes played
    • Reggie's shooting is mind-blowingly bad - but the guy rebounds like a madman and that makes up for it (and then some)
    • Johnson has foul trouble - big surprise. But as I've said before, all he has to do is be able to play 30 minutes; Johnson could still play just over 31.5 minutes a game at his current foul rate of 9.1 per 48min
    • David Andersen is still the rich man's Bargnani. Based on his play so far, he should probably be the Raptors' starting centre
    • Calderon's been productive without shooting well - hopefully he'll regress back to his normal shooting and see a jump in productivity
    • Kleiza has really fallen off what he was doing during preseason play
    And let's check up on how Bargnavans is doing:

    Oh, not so good. Who could've predicted that? Now that Reggie has fallen back down to earth and Bargnani is starting to work his "magic", the two don't look nearly as good together. The problem lies with Bargnani, of course, but don't tell that the kool-aid drinkers (unless you are a masochist).

    Overall, there haven't really been many surprises for the Raptors so far - if they continue to play like this, they should finish the season with around 27 wins, which is what many people predicted before the start of the season.

    In the next few days I'll be posting team data for every team in the league and seeing how the Raptors compare in various categories. But before I sign off, I'd like to say one thing: the state of basketball coverage is atrocious here in Victoria. I haven't been able to catch a single game on basic cable since the start of the season, and weeks can go by between showings. I blame this on the fact that the Raptors always put their games on stupid specialty channels like TSN2 or Sportsnet One. As the only Canadian team in the entire league, the Raptors should really focus on two things: 1) putting a better product on the court and 2) building their fanbase. Putting more games on basic cable across the country would go a long way towards the latter, although unfortunately I suspect that lack of success with regards to the former is to blame.

     - Devin

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Dampier is still available!

    New readers, please check out the basics before you leave any comments.

    It seems that Erick Dampier is still available after all. According to Hoopsworld, the verbal deal between the Rockets and Dampier has collapsed. Even better: it seems that his next destination is likely to be Toronto.

    Despite what others may think, Dampier would be very good on the Raptors. He also has the added benefit of making Bargnani play some time at PF, which would make Bargnani more productive. I hope that this rumour - unlike the Matt Barnes debacle - turns out to be accurate, because the Raptors are in need of a productive centre.

     - Devin.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Another 'Bargnani is a Bust' Post

    New readers, please go check out the basics before you leave any comments on this post.

    Every time I mention that Bargnani was a terrible pick and list players from the 2006 draft that I would prefer instead of him, I still get readers would question my sanity and insult me. Of course, they never explain why I'm wrong, they just like making unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks. But I have collected even more information that should make it abundantly clear that Bargnani was a rancid pick.

    How does Bargnani compare to other #1 picks?

    In a previous post, I compared Bargnani's Wins Produced numbers to the last 12 years of first overall picks. This time, I've added all the advanced numbers, such as PPS, per 48 minute stats, and even PER and Win Shares (note: I do not condone use of Win Shares or PER - especially PER). I've also extended the comparison down to Olowokandi and included Darko Milicic (who was actually a second overall pick), because those are the two players Bargnani apologists inevitably claim were worse than picks than Bargnani. And remember: these numbers only include the first four seasons of each player's career. Here are the more complete numbers (spreadsheet here), this time in the form of a handy little gadget which (if it works correctly) should allow you to sort by whatever category you want:

    To sort the columns, go to 'define groupings and calculations', select the column you want to sort, hit the arrow, and then click 'next' and then 'OK'. To remove a grouping, highlight the category you want to remove and click the blank button (which is underneath the one with the arrow). Unfortunately, it seems like it can only order values from smallest to largest, but it's better than giving you a plain spreadsheet. RSS users, please visit the actual website to view these numbers, as the gadget doesn't seem to work in feeds.

    What do the numbers tell us? Well for one, Andrea Bargnani does not compare very favourably to the rest of these players. Ranked by WP48 he is dead last behind Olowokandi, Milicic, and Brown. If for some reason you don't "agree" with Wins Produced, ranked by PER (worth repeating: I do not condone use of PER) he is 11th (ahead of Brown, Milicic, and Olowokandi), and ranked by Win Shares (worth repeating: I do not condone use of Win Shares) he is 12th, ahead of Olowokandi and the small sample size of John Wall. If you weigh all three metrics (WP, WS, and PER) equally (which, again, I do not) and take the cumulative rank  - 'Combo Rank' - Bargnani comes out 2nd last, behind Milicic and ahead of Olowokandi. Regardless of how you slice it, Bargnani was bad for a first overall pick.

    But something interesting happens when you sort these players by points per 48 minutes; all of the sudden Bargnani moves up to 7th place, ahead of notably better players like Dwight Howard, Greg Oden, and Andrew Bogut. As David Berri has mentioned over and over, the popular way of evaluating NBA players is by points scored, so it should be no surprise that so many fans (and certain GMs) have problems recognizing that Bargnani is not very productive. Casual fans are blinded by the relatively large amounts of points that Bargnani scores, failing to notice his lack of production in other areas - such as rebounding - or his shooting efficiency (Bargnani is also 4th in FG attempts).

    For a good laugh, try sorting all of the players by rebounds. Bargnani places 11th, just ahead of SF Lebron James. It should be noted that Lebron entered the league when he was two years younger than Bargnani and that at the moment Lebron has actually rebounded at a better rate than Bargnani during his career.

    Also, note the age of each player - Bargnani is as old as Milicic and Howard, who both entered the league out of high school. Still expecting Bargnani to 'make a leap' this season? Those who do expect a you expect a leap out of Howard and/or Milicic?

    How does Bargnani compare to other members of the 2006 draft class?

    In one of those previous posts up above, I compared Bargnani's Wins Produced numbers to the rest of the 2006 draft class. This time - as with the #1 picks - I've added all the advanced numbers, such as PPS, per 48 minute stats, and even PER and Win Shares (note: I do not condone use of Win Shares or PER - especially PER). Remember: these numbers only include the first four seasons of each player's career. Here are the more complete numbers (spreadsheet here), again in the form of a handy little gadget which (if it works correctly) should allow you to sort by whatever category you want:

    Again, to sort the columns, go to 'define groupings and calculations', select the column you want to sort, hit the arrow, and then click 'next' and then 'OK'. To remove a grouping, highlight the category you want to remove and click the blank button (which is underneath the one with the arrow). RSS users, please visit the actual website to view these numbers, as the gadget doesn't seem to work in feeds.

    Bargnani ranks 27th out of 30 - or 4th last - in terms of WP48. The players he finishes ahead of are Hilton Armstrong, Ryan Hollins, and Adam Morrison (one of the worst players of all time). If for some reason you don't "agree" with Wins Produced, ranked by PER (worth repeating: I do not condone use of PER) he is 13th (because PER rewards players who take a lot of shots, he finishes ahead of good players such as Shelden Williams and Thabo Sefolosha), and ranked by Win Shares (worth repeating: I do not condone use of Win Shares) he is 23rd. If you take the Combo Rank, Bargnani is ranked 22nd. So no matter how you slice it, Bargnani was not a good choice and not even in the top 10, top 15, or top 20 players of the 2006 draft.

    But once again, something interesting happens when you sort these players by points per 48 minutes; all of the sudden Bargnani moves up to 4th place, ahead of several better players like Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap, Leon Powe, and Ronnie Brewer. Blinded by scoring, many delusional Raptor fans will say that even if Bargnani wasn't the best player that year, at least he was in the top ten. However, we shouldn't forget about other aspects of the game when we evaluate players; in rebounding, Bargnani places 14th behind F Shawne Williams, G/F Thabo Sefolosha, and just ahead of G/F Rudy Gay and PG Rajon Rondo.

    As the most comprehensive 'Bargnani is a bust' post I've written to date, hopefully it will help more people realize that Bargnani is not a very productive player. The Raptors need to trade Bargnani as soon as possible, before the rest of the league catch on to his lack of production and while his value is at its highest. Exchanging Bargnani for a more productive Centre would do wonders for the franchise and is something that should be GM Bryan Colangelo's number one priority.

     - Devin

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    AGS for Front Offices Audit: Toronto Raptors Part 3

    For you new readers out there, make sure you know about the basics before you leave a silly anonymous comment.

    Continuing with the third part of the front office audit series (please see part 1 and part 2), I'll examine the last three components and offer some suggestions on how to turn the franchise around.

    5) If you are going to the free agent market then look for low-priced underrated players.

    Colangelo has actually done a pretty good job on this one historically. The Raptors have signed Jose Calderon (Rob Babcock's work, actually), Anthony Parker, Jorge Garbojosa, and Linas Kleiza (all at cheap salaries) from Europe. David Berri, founder of the Wages of Wins Network and creator of the Wins Produced metric, called it Colangelo's "third way" (in addition to drafting and NBA free agents/trades). He also found the undrafted, cheap, and very productive Jamario Moon. He recently re-signed Amir Johnson to a reasonable contract. But at the same time, Colangelo has also signed Hedo Turkoglu to a terrible free agent deal, given Bargnani a ridiculously huge (and long) extension,  traded for the Player Formerly Known as Jermaine O'Neal, and actually gave Jason Kapono a positive amount of money in his contract (rather than asking Kapono to pay him to stay on the team, which is what he'd have done if this was a rational world). So he's done very well on the "small" deals, but very poorly on the "big" deals. In this case, the good outweighs the bad, but the bad has been so bad that I can only give him partial marks on this one.

    6) For the playoffs it is more important to have stars than average players. If given the opportunity trade for stars even if it means losing a few slightly above average players.

    Playoffs? You're talking about playoffs?!?!? [that's the first and probably the only time I will reference North American Football on this blog] Well, in terms of stars, the Raptors haven't had much luck. Damon Stoudemire and Vince Carter asked to be traded. Tracy McGrady, Shawn Marion, and Chris Bosh left as free agents. Good players like Jerome Williams and Marcus Camby were stupidly traded away. Older but good players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Oakley, and Mark Jackson faded and were either traded away or decided to retire. The Raptors have failed in this area completely.

    7) Target good big men (Power Forwards – Centers) and ball handlers (Point Guards).

    The Raptors have targeted big men in draft after draft - but other than Bosh, their decisions have been terribly poor. They have had good point guards fall into their hands, only to watch them struggle with injuries (Alvin Williams, Calderon) or suffer from age-related decline (Mark Jackson). In one instance, Colangelo actually traded a big (Charlie Villanueva) for a small (T.J. Ford), something that is a "no-no" according to traditional basketball wisdom; given that Ford was productive and Villanueva was not, it was actually a good move. I'm going to give them an A for effort, but an F for their execution.

    Five failures and two partial marks out of seven

    Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

    Future Direction?

    Let me start by stating the obvious: hire a GM who knows what they're doing (allow me to suggest a Mr. Galletti). That means that the Raptors should not renew Colangelo's contract once it expires at the end of this season (or fire him sometime during the season), even though they are probably going to ignore that advice.

    The next step is figuring out which contracts the Raptors should keep on the books. Most of the players on the team are signed to relatively cheap contracts, but Calderon, Bargnani, and Barbosa have the biggest deals. Bargnani needs to be traded. Barbosa is overvalued and it shouldn't be hard to trade him to a contender or pseudo-contender. Calderon is the interesting case. His history suggests that he is a good player, but he has been declining, his recent play has been poor, and his contract is pretty hefty. I'd keep him for one more season and see how he fares; if he does poorly, he'd be gone before the start of next season. In each of these cases, I would only make trades that would net me at least one (hopefully more) of the following: young players on rookie contracts, players with expiring deals, stars/superstar players (determined by Wins Produced), and draft picks.

    The next issue is the Bosh trade exception: it needs to be used. If I had to include it in a package with one of the above players, I would. But preferably I'd used it to acquire a superstar player. I'd go after every star/superstar that I could get (your Wades, Lebrons, Howards, Durants, Rondos and Pauls) but most of those players aren't on the market, so I'd target up-and-coming stars like Westbrook, Noah, Batum, Love, and the like. I'd also look at non-star players if I couldn't do any better.

    Once that was done, I'd have a cheap, young, and better team. I'd make sure to continue to flip scorers for draft picks and to use WS40 to determine which players I should draft (or I could just ask Mr. Galletti). The only time I would trade away draft picks is if I could obtain a superstar calibre player in return.

    Of the cheaper players on the roster, I'd trade away DeRozan after this season if he maintains his current trajectory. I'd try to include Marcus Banks in deals, but if I couldn't find a use for him I'd be fine with letting his contract come off the books. I'd resign Reggie Evans and Joey Dorsey to really cheap contracts as long as they produce like they have in the past, but I'd avoid long-term deals. Julian Wright and Sonny Weems are quite replaceable, so I'd probably shop around for better players on the free agent market, or use the "third way" and find hidden gems in Europe.

    I guarantee that this plan would have better success than whatever Colangelo is doing right now. Such a plan would likely net a playoff berth in the next two seasons, followed by advancing to the second round in the following two years after that. And if the Raptors hired either Arturo, myself, or any of the other Wages of Wins Network analysts, I doubt that they would regret it.

     - Devin

    Arturo keeps us honest

    For you new readers out there, make sure you know about the basics before you leave a silly anonymous comment. 

    Arturo Galletti - polymath and genius extraordinaire - has been keeping track of how accurate the predictions of the Wages of Wins Network Smackdown participants are, as well as those of some other, more prominent analysts (such as a certain ESPN stats "guru").

    Go take a look! Right now, I'm in fourth place!

    Do I get a medal yet? Or maybe a job with ESPN?

     - Devin

    Week 1 WP Numbers

    For you new readers out there, make sure you know about the basics before you leave a cowardly, anonymous comment that insults my intelligence, while offering no argument in support of that position.

    Here are the automated WP numbers from the Raptors first three games (or view as a spreadsheet here):

    My thoughts for the first week of the season:
    • Wow. Reggie Evans is actually getting playing time! What we saw in preseason wasn't just experimentation
    • Evans is killing it on the boards - 25 reb/48 - and it's boosting up his WP48. He's 9th in the league in total wins right now!
    • And yet...his scoring is total garbage. Good thing he isn't shooting at all
    • Bargnani hasn't been terrible so far; bad, but not terrible
    • Sure, he's scored 33 1/3 points per 48 on 1.08 PPS...but your starting centre is grabbing only 4.3 Reb per 48 (eeeewww)
    • Overall, Calderon hasn't played well yet either
    • After being a very players during the preseason, both Kleiza and Jack haven't played as well. Blame Jack's performance on injuries, Kleiza's on...poor rebounding and bad TO numbers
    • DeRozan has played well - good rebounding numbers so far
    • Andersen continues to be the rich man's Bargnani, and continues to shoot better and rebound better than the Italian
    • Amir Johnson played three games without missing a FG!
    • But he hasn't played very much - partly fouls, partly coaching. With Evans playing so well, what's the rotation going to be like when Davis gets back?
    • Weems and Barbosa have to shoot better if they aren't going to produce in other areas
    • After the promising victory over the Varejao-less Cavs, what a bad finish to the Sacramento game

    Also, I'd like to address something: Bargnani is not a SF. He plays centre defensively most of the time, and if you squint really hard, you can pretend that he's a 3 on offense. But if you average those two aspects of the game, you get (at best) someone who is strictly a PF. The good thing is that Evans and Bargnani complement each other well; Evans can't (and doesn't) shoot, and Bargnani can't (and doesn't) rebound.  If you add the two together, you get two frontcourt players with the following per 48min averages:

    It's important to remember two things, however: Evans should get all the credit for gaining the extra possessions (rebounds), and Evans will fall back to earth in a couple of games, making this average far less appealing in the near future. I'll be keeping track of the Bargnavans factor throughout the season if this keeps up.

     - Devin