Let’s take a quick break from “Stumbling on Wins Promotion week” (have you seen the promotions elsewhere?) with a comment on a story I saw a few days ago.
Last week TrueHoop offered an interview with Corey Brewer, the small forward with the Timberwolves currently in his third season. The premise of the article was that Brewer had improved; and in fact, the Timberwolves have a campaign designed to promote Brewer for the Most Improved Player award. That campaign trumpets the following quote from John Hollinger: “Brewer might be the most improved shooter in the league. Or the most improved shooter ever, for that matter…”
The article consists of a question and answer with Brewer designed to determine the source of this improvement. Issues such as Brewer’s hard work, the effort of the coaches, and even the organizational approach of the Timberwolves are all touched upon. There is only one problem with the entire discussion.
Brewer hasn’t actually improved!!!
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Table One presents what Brewer has done across his first three seasons.
In looking at these numbers it’s important to remember that Brewer played 1,803 minutes as a rookie, but only 307 minutes last season. So what he did in 2008-09 was in very limited minutes. In these limited minutes, though, Brewer posted the best numbers of his career. In fact, relative to what Brewer did as a rookie, he has taken a small step back in 2009-10.
One can’t see this, though, if one only looks at scoring. Relative to his rookie performance, Brewer has improved in 2009-10 with respect to shooting efficiency from the field, shot attempts per game, and points scored.
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When we look past scoring totals, though, we see that he has declined substantially with respect to rebounds and turnovers. And although he is getting to the line more frequently, his efficiency from the charity stripe has declined as well. When we put the entire picture together – via Win Score – we see that Brewer is actually offering less than he did as a rookie.
Brewer, though, is perceived as a player who has improved. And this is because he has stepped up with respect to scoring. In essence, Brewer is benefitting from a common misperception in the NBA. Specifically – as is often noted – those who score are often believed to be the better players. Despite his improvements with respect to shooting efficiency, though, Brewer is still below average from the field. So all his shot attempts are not really helping much.
One should note that this is not the first time Brewer benefitted from a problem with player evaluation in the NBA. Brewer –as the TrueHoop article notes – was a member of the Florida Gators team that won back-to-back NCAA titles. Given the Final Four bias, it’s not surprising that Brewer managed to be chosen with the 7th pick in the 2007 draft. Brewer’s college numbers, though, were relatively poor. In fact, it appears that Florida’s success was primarily due to both Al Horford and Joakim Noah; two players who have been very productive in the NBA (as their college numbers suggested).
In sum, it appears that Brewer is benefitting from one misperception after another. As a consequence, despite his persistently poor numbers, look for Brewer to cash in on a major payday in the future.
Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.
Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:
Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.