Monday, January 31, 2011

Week 14 Auto WP Numbers

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

Well I'm back - and hopefully for good. After an eight day delivery delay, an OS crash, and a one day delay in the delivery of the new OS installation disk, my new computer seems to be up and running just fine.

For now.

Meanwhile, in a disturbing parallel, the Raptors - suffering through injuries and the return of unproductive players - have crashed as well. How bad has it gotten? In terms of record, the Raps are now in 14th place in the East, only ranking ahead of...the Cavs. In fact, the Raptors are 27th in the league standings, cavorting with the likes of the aforementioned Cavs, the Kings, the T-Wolves, the Nets, and the Wizards. Not only that, but the beloved "most consecutive games with at least one 3pt FG" streak finally came to an end, and the Mavericks are about to break the record, erasing Toronto from the record books forever.

Yes, it's been ugly lately.

But what do the WP numbers look like? Are the Raptors playing better than their record? Here are the numbers - as always, Powered by Nerd Numbers (full spreadsheet here):

Here are my thoughts:

  • See all that red? Of the 21 players the Raptors have employed so far this season, ten - almost half of the roster - 47% - have produced in the negative range. "Oh well," you might say, "most of those players haven't played many minutes," and you'd be right: six of the ten haven't managed any more than 89 minutes played. Unfortunately, that also means that the remaining four have played significant minutes; Kleiza, Weems, DeRozan, and Bargnani (the current Four Horsemen) have combined for 4920 minutes of playing time, which is only 39% of the team's minutes.
  • These four players have also combined to produce -4.9 wins. Yes, by playing these four unproductive players this many minutes, the Raptors have cost themselves almost five games in the standings.
  • Barbosa gets a reprieve for now, as he is barely positive for the time being, but if you add him to the above numbers, you get five players producing -4.5 wins in 45.5% of the team's minutes. That is just an absolutely astounding level of putridity.
  • Jerryd Bayless has not played well ever since his first few glorious games in a Raptor uniform; he's now a below average player over the course of his tenure with the Raptors. This is probably because he feels bad for defying my prediction that he won't be a productive NBA player, and is simply playing worse to make me feel better. Either that, or injuries, or small sample sizes, or some combination of the three.
  • With all the injuries lately, the Raptors had to sign some fringe players to 10-day contracts and managed to acquire Alexis Ajinca (and the second round draft pick they sent to the Mavs to acquire Solomon Alabi) from the Mavs (in exchange for the rights to an old draft pick who will never play in the league). Although they have played limited minutes of the course of their careers, Dupree, Trey Johnson, and Ajinca have not looked like good players. Gaines is the more interesting case, as he was pretty decent when he played for the Jazz last year, but he hasn't shown anything so far this season.
  • I like the idea of acquiring young centres on the cheap, but if you're going to do it, do it right and go after undrafted players, productive D-League players, or productive players from other leagues. Gaines was certainly worth the gamble, but - despite having impressive scoring averages - Trey Johnson was merely an above-average D-League player (WP48 0.150), and not even the best player on his team.
  • The players who should be playing the most minutes: still Calderon, Bayless, Wright, Amir Johnson, Dorsey, and Davis.
  • Add up the Wins and you get 14.9; since the Raptors have won 13 games, that means that they have been a little bit unlucky over the course of the season. Unfortunately, if you look exclusively at more recent numbers (thanks Arturo!), the Raptors are actually playing even worse than their record.
  • Do I have to mention Bargnani's poor play? Last time I mentioned that his play was likely to get worse, and it has. He now has a comfortable lead over the other contenders for the Darius Songaila award. Is Bargnani a bust? Most definitely.

Player trends

  • Ed Davis: 11 GP, AdjP48 +0.069, Wins +1.5
  • Amir Johnson: 11 GP, AdjP48 +0.018, Wins +1.6
  • Jose Calderon: 10 GP, AdjP48 -0.008, Wins +1.4
  • Julian Wright: 10 GP, AdjP48 +0.004, Wins +0.7
  • Leandro Barbosa: 2 GP, AdjP48 0.000, Wins +0.3
  • Linas Kleiza: 4 GP, AdjP48 -0.006, Wins -0.1
  • Joey Dorsey: 6 GP, AdjP48 -0.034, Wins 0
  • Alexis Ajinca: 3GP, AdjP48 --, Wins -0.1
  • Sony Weems: 4 GP, AdjP48 -0.018, Wins -0.3
  • DeMar DeRozan: 11 GP, AdjP48 -0.025, Wins -0.8
  • Jerryd Bayless: 9 GP, AdjP48 -0.040, Wins -0.1
  • Andrea Bargnani: 11 GP, AdjP48 -0.040, Wins -1.9
  • Trey Johnson: 3 GP, AdjP48 --, Wins -0.2
  • Solomon Alabi: 4 GP, AdjP48 -0.450, Wins -0.2

More posts to come over the next few days - I promise!

 - Devin

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week 11 Auto WP Numbers

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

Okay, so I'm late again this week - at least I can blame this one on not having a computer (the name of the company that is responsible for this travesty rhymes with bell). Here are the numbers (full spreadsheet here), which are Powered by (the new-look) Nerdnumbers:

Here are my thoughts:
  • Calderon continues to play well (when he plays).
  • Amir Johnson maintained his previous rate of production over his last five games.
  • Joey Dorsey's production is still declining slightly, mostly due to his increased foul rate. And have I ever mentioned his terrible free-throw shooting? He really is the perfect replacement for Reggie Evans.
  • Bayless has remained largely unchanged, although his FT rate is down more than half an attempt per 48 minutes.
  • Ed Davis' production also declined slightly - his shooting is better, but his rebounding is down from 14.2 to 12.6 and his fouls are up (5.4 to 6.1). Luckily his blocks are up as well (1.8 to 2.5).
  • Julian Wright continues to improve and has nearly matched the production of an average player. His AdjFG% is finally above 50% and his net possessions have increased by 0.7 per 48 minutes.
  • Barbosa has once again left the red with improvements across the board (shooting, net possessions, and assists, blocks, and fouls). How long will he stay there? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • Kleiza's production declined again, but at least he isn't hurting the team - he has a WP48 of 0.000. That is, if we believe that he spends approximately half his time at SG, which he doesn't, so his real numbers are somewhat worse.
  • For all the recent talk that DeMar DeRozan has improved during his second year, his WP48 continues to remain in the negative range this season (at least last year he posted a WP48 of 0.026). But do you want to take a stab at what has increased for DeRozan this season? PPG and his scoring rate, of course. Even though his shooting percentages are down. When will people learn? DeRozan is Bargnani all over again.
  • Meanwhile, Bargnani is getting...better? His AdjFG% and FT% are up and blocks and fouls have improved. While I'm happy at the reversal, it's likely only temporary; given that shooting percentages fluctuate over the course of the season, real improvement from Bargnani will have to come from the non-shooting aspects of the game (ie: rebounding).
  • The team's most productive players right now, by position: Calderon, Bayless, Wright, Johnson, and Dorsey, with Davis as the 6th man.

 - Devin

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pre-season predictions: how have I done?

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

Well, it's the first week of the new year, and I'm reading a book I received as a Christmas gift (thanks Mom and Dad) called Future Babble, which is written by Ottawa Citizen columnist Dan Gardner, who has also written the excellent Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear. The gist of Future Babble is that people suck at making predictions. For instance, in his latest article, Gardner says:
People want to hear predictions. And for the expert, there's no way he can lose. If the prediction hits, he can boast about it and reporters will cite it as proof of his wisdom. But if it misses, no one will ever hear about it again.
Heads, I win. Tails, you forget we had a bet.
Of course the rules of the game would be a little different if, at the end of the year, instead of asking for new predictions, we looked back at what was predicted to happen in the year ending. Think of it as holding people to account for the predictions they make.
While admittedly I don't consider myself an "expert" and I've previously noted the difficulty of predicting the outcome of the NBA season before the season starts, I did make some predictions that we could examine. I'd  like to be accountable and trustworthy, and I'd like to learn from my mistakes, so let's start out with my predicted NBA standings - how have I done so far (full spreadsheet here)? All win totals are accurate as of January 5, 2011.

Included in the table are several columns - predicted wins (what I predicted before the start of the season), current record, a simple win projection (which multiplies current winning percentage across 82 games), a point differential win projection (which uses Arturo's formula to determine wins via point differential), and the average difference between my pre-season predictions and the two projection methods.

What does the table show? Generally, I was either really close or way off - not much in between. Thirteen of my predictions came within 5 wins of the current projections, 12 predictions were off by ten or more wins, and only five predictions were off in the 5-10 win range. The teams I overrated the most: Sacramento (a whopping 22.4 wins off target), Cleveland (21.3 wins off), Portland (18.3 wins off), Golden State and Philadelphia (each 17.1 wins off), and New Jersey (16.3 wins off). The teams I nailed: Orlando (0.4 wins off), Chicago (0.6 wins off), the Lakers (1.0 wins off), and (of course) Toronto (1.1 wins off). Where did I go wrong with those six teams?


Carl Landry has fallen into the toilet and can't get out, Dalembert isn't playing up to his usual standards, and I was burned by one rookie (Cousins) and one second-year player (Evans). As we saw with Kevin Durant, sometimes the rookies that we think are going to be good NBA players start out slowly, so either of these two players could turn it around in the future. Of course, some players never get it - we've been saying the same thing about Michael Beasley, who is still not playing well during his third season.

A few players - led by Udrih, Casspi, Garcia, and Head - have out-performed my expectations, but if you combine the bonus wins provided by every player in the green (6.6 wins) it is barely enough to make up for Evans or Landry by themselves.


J.J. Hickson has, to paraphrase Jason Kidd, performed a complete 360 this season. Last year Hickson was just a shade below an average player, and this year he is giving the lovable Andrea Bargnani a run for his money in the competition to win the Darius Songaila award. Hickson is only 22 years old, so his volatility is somewhat understandable...but you can't blame me for not forseeing such a huge change. Antawn Jamison is finally starting to show his age - you could argue I should have seen a decline coming there. Mo Williams is also down this year - his shooting efficiency (which is supposed to be his strong point) is way down and his turnovers are up, but thankfully he's been able to up his assists. Other than that, the other players who haven't met my expectations have only been slightly below what I had penciled them in for; however, all those small changes add up quickly.

Andersen Varejao is really the only player on the team who has stepped up his play this season. It seems that the turmoil associated with LeBron's departure has really messed with the players who stuck around - probably one part new roles and one part psychological.


The big letdown here is Brandon Roy - I expected him to account for 10.8 wins on the season, and right now he is not even on pace to win a single game. And even though I only allocated 800 minutes to Oden, his rate of production is so good that I expected him to account for 4.7 wins. Well, there's about 16 wins out the window. Joel Przybilla is also on pace to be down about 5 wins, but, as he returns from injury, his minutes will go up and so will his projected wins. The rest of the players who have let me down have combined to produce 10.4 wins fewer than I expected.

On the plus side, the two old guys (Miller and Camby) have upped their games, as has Batum and Mathews. These four players have combined to exceeded my expectations by 10.7 wins. It's a testament to the Blazers that they've been able to stick around 0.500 with injuries to some of their top players.

Golden State

The big problem with my Warriors prediction has been the play of David Lee. After receiving an early Christmas present from Wilson Chandler, Lee had a serious infection in his shooting arm and hasn't played well since. The other players that are hurting my prediction are Stephen Curry, Reggie Williams, and Louis Amundson - all players with limited playing histories.

On the plus side, human sine wave Monta Ellis is playing better than I expected...for now.


The Sixers are the only one of these teams to be off in a positive direction - I predicted they would win around 19 games, but right now they're on pace for 39 wins. The big differences are due to the return of Elton Brand (finally) and Andres Nocioni, the emergence of two young players (Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young) as average to above-average players, and a lower than expected amount of minutes being allocated to unproductive players (perhaps coach Doug Collins is actually helping the team in this case?).

While he has been slightly better than I expected, Iguodala's minutes have been low due to injuries. Rookie Evan Turner hasn't lived up to expectations so far, and Louis Williams has offered less than he has in the past. Still, things are much rosier in Philadelphia than I thought they would be.

New Jersey

Brook Lopez is another young player who seems to have taken a huge step backwards, as has old WP favourite Troy Murphy.  Additionally, Outlaw and Terence Williams aren't playing the way I thought they would.

On the bright side, ex-Raptor Kris Humphries has improved drastically, nearly making up for Murphy's poor performance on his own (he's also the star of my Wins Score Association fantasy team). New Jersey should also get a little better as Vujacic gets a larger percentage of the team's playing time.

Once the season finishes, I'll take another look back and see if anything's change significantly. Hopefully things regress back to my expectations!

 - Devin

Monday, January 3, 2011

Week 10 Auto WP Numbers

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

Okay, so I didn't get that week 9 post up. After missing my target, I figured that I'd just wait and post the week 10 numbers on time for a change! A lot of injuries have started to pile up for the Raptors, although in some cases (*cough*Bargnani*cough*) that hasn't necessarily been a bad thing. The last numbers I put up were from week 7, so that gives us a larger number of games than we usually have and thus more definite trends to analyse.

Without further ado, the stats, which are always Powered by Nerd Numbers (full spreadsheet here):

Here are my thoughts:

  • Jose Calderon - despite his injuries - has maintained his production and finally caught up to Reggie Evans in terms of total wins produced, with 0.9 wins over the last six games.
  • Amir Johnson has struggled recently. In eight games he's put up -0.3 wins. Apparently he's been a bit hurt, but since the Raptors have been low on bodies he's had to suit up.
  • Joey Dorsey produced 0.9 wins in eight games. Even though he's only 6'8, he's been playing a lot of centre with Bargnani out, so he's not as productive as he should be. That being said, his raw productivity has also declined somewhat.
  • In six injury-filled games, Jerryd Bayless produced -0.3 wins. I guess it was a bit early to proclaim him a star, but we'll see how he performs once he returns to health.
  • Rookie Ed Davis produced 0.6 wins in eight games. Like Dorsey, Davis has been spending a lot of time out of position at centre, although Davis has actually boosted both his raw productivity and his WP48.
  • Over seven games, Julian Wright's wins produced numbers have remained almost completely unchanged, although his PPS has increased substantially (from 0.897 to 0.983).
  • Ronald Dupree is back and has literally done nothing during his nanoscopic playing time.
  • Linas Kleiza increased his AdjP48 by 0.03 over eight games, which is enough to move him out of the red for the first time this season. Unfortunately, that is true only if we consider him to have split his time almost equally between shooting guard and small forward, and he's actually spent more time at power forward than at SG in reality (remember, these positions are determined by an automated formula, so there are a few positioning issues every now and then).
  • Sonny Weems managed to enter into negative wins territory in his one game; DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa used their eight games to enter into the red as well.
  • Andrea Bargnani played two games and his wins produced numbers remained almost completely unchanged (still deep in the red). As of right now, J.J. Hickson of the Cavs has finally caught up to Bargs and has produced fewer wins and has an even more negative WP48. The only other player who seems to be in the running for the Darius Songaila award this season is Brook Lopez, but he'll have his work cut out for him.
  • The foul-prone big men - Johnson, Dorsey, and Davis - have seen a decrease in their foul rates. This could be because they are trying to be less aggressive and stay on the court longer without Bargnani mopping up a large number of minutes...or they could simply be learning how to stay on the court. Or some combination of the two.
  • The Raptors really, really need to find some help at the shooting guard position - Weems, DeRozan, and Barbosa are terribly inefficient. When Bayless gets healthy, I hope they go with Calderon and Bayless together in the backcourt for long stretches, although it remains to be seen if Bayless can be a productive player for more than a couple of games at a time.

 - Devin