How Much Do Bucks Miss Michael Redd?

| by David Berri

Michael Redd – the highest paid player on the Bucks (he is collecting $18 million this season) – has yet to play this year.  But he is now scheduled to re-join the team (although when he will play again is unclear).  And that leads one to ask, how much of a difference would a healthy Redd make this season?

To answer this question, let’s look at where the Bucks are without Redd.  Last season – with Redd only playing 492 minutes – the Bucks won 46 games with a 1.8 efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency). 

A Small Gap Between Boring and Interesting

This season, without Redd playing at all, the Bucks have won only 21 of their first 55 games.  Across an 82 game season, a team with a 0.382 winning percentage will only win about 31 games.  So the Bucks have dropped off about 15 games relative to last year.

When we turn to efficiency differential, though, we see this decline is a bit over-stated.  The team’s differential is currently -1.5.  This mark is consistent with a team that will win 25 out of 55 games, or 37 games across an entire NBA season (so this is less than a 10 game decline). 

When we turn to Wins Produced we can see who is producing these wins.

The team is led by Andrew Bogut, who is nearly twice as good as an average player (an average player posts a WP48 – or Wins Produced per 48 minutes – of 0.100).  Beyond Bogut, though, the team has a collection of players – including Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Mbah a Moute, Carlos Delfino, and Earl Boykins – who are just a bit above average (not one of these players posts a WP48 above 0.132).  And another collection – which includes Keyon Dooling, Corey Maggette, Brandon Jennings, Chris Douglas-Roberts, John Brockman, and Drew Gooden – who are below average (but not very far below average; not one player posts a WP48 below 0.056). 

When we look at this collection, we can see why Ty Willihnganz – of Courtside Analyst – offered the following description of the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks:

I just cannot get in to this season’s edition of the Milwaukee Bucks.  They are mediocre, unentertaining, and too old to invest much hope in for the future.  They are just kind of “there”.

So the Bucks are boring (an argument – as Ty notes — I made a few years ago).  One suspects, though, that had these Bucks maintained what we saw last year, this team might inspire a bit more excitement.  As the above table reveals, the Bucks are employing five players – Bogut, Ilyasova, Delfino, Maggette, and Brockman – who posted a WP48 mark that was better than 0.150 in 2009-10. And had all the Bucks’ veteran players maintained what we saw last year, this team would have already won 31 games (and be on pace to win 46 games). 

Unfortunately, the Bucks are not quite as good. The declines – for the most part – are quite modest with the biggest drop-offs seen in the play of Corey Maggette and John Salmons. Each of these players is 31 years of age, so this might be the issue. However, as noted above, even if every player offered the same level of production this team would only be less than ten wins (across the entire season) better than what we have seen in 2010-11.  So apparently there isn’t a big gap between “interesting playoff team” and “boring”.

Would Michael Redd have helped close this gap?

At first glance one might think that given Redd’s injury history (hasn’t played in over a year) and age (he is also 31 years old) that Redd couldn’t make a difference.  But let’s assume that Redd can come back healthy and reclaim what he was before he got hurt.  Wouldn’t he help then?

Just to review… back in 2007-08 Redd posted the following numbers: played in 72 games (and 2,702 minutes) with 22.7 points per game (good for 8th in the league).

What if Redd could get back to what he was in 2007-08?

Well, if that happened… okay, Redd still wouldn’t be helping much.  To see why, let’s turn to Wins Produced.  Here are Redd’s career numbers:

Like many players the Bucks employ today, Redd was quite close to average in 2007-08.  Yes he could score.  But he didn’t do much else.  To see this point, let’s look at what Redd did – with respect to the box score statistics – in 2007-08.  And for perspective, let’s compare this performance to what we saw in 2002-03.  Why 2002-03?  That season Redd was 23 years of age.  And it was that season Redd offered his career peak performance.

In looking at the above numbers, remember that Redd was a second round draft choice.  So he did not enter the league as a player that people expected to place in the top 10 in scoring (had that been the expectation he would have definitely been taken earlier). 

The 2002-03 season was Redd’s third season in the NBA.  Across his first two seasons he had played less than 1,500 minutes.  So again, he was not thought of as a star.  But this performance that season was similar to what you would expect from a star.  Not only did Redd score (25.7 points per 48 minutes), he also was a very efficient from the field and line, he rebounded, grabbed steals, and avoided turnovers.  Consequently, his WP48 number of 0.233 was quite similar to something you might see from Kobe Bryant.

After that season, though, Redd’s scoring per game increased while his overall production declined. When we look at the 2007-08 season, we see a player who could still score (29.0 points per 48 minutes).  But his shooting efficiency from the field – relative to what we saw in 2002-03 – had declined considerably.  He was also grabbing fewer rebounds, getting fewer steals, and committing more turnovers.  Yes he was getting to the free throw line more often and getting more assists.  But with respect to the non-scoring aspects of the game, Redd was offering much less.  Consequently his overall production declined.

Coaches are often over-heard telling their teams to…

  • “keep passing the ball until we get a good shot”, or
  • “ we have to hit the boards”, or
  • “we have to take care of the ball”.

In other words, coaches tell their teams to focus on shooting efficiency, rebounds, and turnovers; the very factors that we see drive wins in the NBA. 

Players, though, are rewarded for scoring.  Players who take shots – and are able to hit these with a minimum level of efficiency – will be rewarded. 

Early in Redd’s career, it looks like – as a second round pick – that he listened to his coaches.  But when he discovered he could score, his focus seemed to shift. The non-scoring aspects of the game were de-emphasized.  And scoring became the goal.

One should emphasize, Redd’s focus on scoring was well-rewarded.  Once again, he is the highest paid player on the Bucks.  In fact he is the 5th highest paid player in the NBA this season.  But because Redd stopped filling up the box score –  like stars players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Manu Ginobili (yes he is a “star”), Chris Paul, etc… — Redd stopped producing wins like a “star”.  And consequently — although the Bucks paid Redd like he was a “star” — Milwaukee didn’t get the wins a “true star” produces.

So would a healthy Redd help the Bucks?  What Redd offered in 2007-08 is quite similar to what the team is getting from Carlos Delfino and a bit better than what the team is getting from John Salmons.  So a healthy Redd would probably not change life for the Bucks in 2010-11.  The team would still be left trying to close that gap between boring and interesting.

- DJ