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2010-11 NBA Previews: L.A. Clippers and Atlanta Hawks

| by David Berri

As I noted earlier in the week, teams in the NBA have been reviewed via Wins Produced each summer since 2006.  Reviews from this past summer, though, are incomplete.  Fortunately, Andres Alvarez – at Nerd Numbers the Blog — and Arturo Galletti – at Arturo’s Silly Little Stats – have come through in the clutch (and yes, there is clutch performance in The Wages of Wins Network.

What follows are the Andres Alvarez reviews of the Atlanta Hawks and LA Clippers (and that means we only have Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, and Orlando left to discuss before the season starts).

Reviewing and Previewing the Atlanta Hawks

This article may uses the Wins Produced per 48 Minutes (WP48)  and Wins Produced (WP) metrics. These estimate how many wins a player generates for their team based on their box score stats, their team’s stats and league averages. Use this handy scale when analyzing players!

  • Average Player – 0.100 WP48, 6 Wins for a starter.
  • Star Player – 0.200 WP48 12 Wins for a starter.
  • Superstar Player – 0.250 WP48, 15 Wins for a starter (This is usually considered a requirement for a championship team)

Let’s move right along with another team review. Next up on the docket is Atlanta. Part of the reason I wanted to do this review was the following piece I saw. In particular the following part stuck out

“Horford and the Hawks have been talking for weeks, but the odds are just about 50-50, from what I’m told, that something gets done in the next two weeks. Atlanta has a delicate game to play with Horford; Jamal Crawford has made his desire for a new deal quite clear, but after giving Joe Johnson $124 million this summer there’s only so much money to go around.”

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. To start things out, the Hawks went 53-29 last season. What did the numbers have to say about this?

Player Pos Minutes WP48 Wins
Josh Smith PF 2871 0.232 13.9
Al Horford FC 2845 0.222 13.2
Joe Johnson GF 2886 0.147 8.9
Marvin Williams F 2468 0.113 5.8
Jamal Crawford G 2460 0.100 5.1
Mike Bibby PG 2195 0.085 3.9
Maurice Evans GF 1317 0.073 2.0
Zaza Pachulia C 1089 0.039 0.9
Mario West SG 142 0.175 0.5
Jeff Teague G 718 0.018 0.3
Randolph Morris C 124 0.011 0.0
Othello Hunter PF 33 -0.065 0.0
Joe Smith FC 592 -0.017 -0.2
Jason Collins C 115 -0.061 -0.1
Total   19855 0.131 54.0

Table 1: 2010 Atlanta Hawks

The numbers were pretty much spot on with the Hawks last season. They were indeed an impressive 53 game winning team last season and played about as expected in the playoffs. Looking over the why, two players really stick out with Josh Smith and Al Horford both earning over 13.0 wins and playing at a “Star” level. Joe Johnson was a good Guard-Forward and then the rest of the team was nothing special. A 50 win team with two stars is an excellent start. The Hawks felt their team was pretty solid so in the offseason they really didn’t do anything. Was this a wise strategy?

Player Pos Minutes WP48 Wins
Mike Bibby PG 2195 0.085 3.9
Joe Johnson GF 2886 0.155 9.3
Marvin Williams F 2468 0.119 6.1
Josh Smith PF 2871 0.232 13.9
Al Horford C 2845 0.216 12.8
Jamal Crawford G 2500 0.100 5.2
Maurice Evans GF 1317 0.066 1.8
Zaza Pachulia C 1055 0.039 0.9
Jeff Teague PG 455 0.011 0.1
Rest of Team   1208 0.000 0.0
Total   19800 0.128 54.0

Table 2: 2011 Atlanta Hawks, Status Quo

The Hawks stood pat in the off-season. Assuming their players perform about as well as last year then they will have a record almost the same as last year! I know that’s shocking analysis. But before Atlanta revels in its second chance at a 50 win season (and likely second chance at falling in round two to a much better team) we need to consider something. The thing to consider is called “Regression towards the mean”. To some of you savvy stats folk this will be familiar. To the rest of you, don’t’ worry I’ll explain.

The concept is pretty simple. Essentially if you do something over and over again you get an average (think handicap in golf). However, you may have an awesome day (or a really bad day). Guess what though? The next day you’re likely to revert to closer to your average. The reason this is important is Josh Smith and Joe Johnson.

  • Joe Johnson 2004-2009 Averages: 3123 Minutes, 0.103 WP48, 6.7 Wins
  • Josh Smith 2007-2009 Averages: 2647 Minutes, 0.126 WP48, 7 Wins

Leaving out both Joe Johnson and Josh Smith’s rookie and sophomore seasons and just looking at their averages we see Joe Johnson has been a very average player and Josh Smith has been an above average player. Last season Joe Johnson was good and Josh Smith was amazing. The optimistic in us can believe that they’ve both upped their game and the Hawks will be winning 50.0 games for the foreseeable future. The realist in us can believe next year both players may come down to earth. Another problem is that in the offseason the Hawks acquired Jason Collins and Etan Thomas, who were both terrible last season. They also kept Josh Powell around. In short they have three very bad tall players. This is apparently a bad idea.

  • Etan Thomas 2010: 321 Minutes, -0.141 WP48, -0.9 Wins
  • Josh Powell 2010: 581 Minutes, -0.164 WP48, -2.0 Wins
  • Jason Collins 2010: 115 Minutes -0.352WP48 -0.84

Even if these players’ minutes some how are offset by some of the rookies on the Hawks, there is a danger these three players will actually hurt the Hawks wins. How do the Hawks look with a slightly deflated Joe Johnson and Josh Smith paired with some terrible bench players?

Player Pos Minutes WP48 Wins
Mike Bibby PG 2195 0.085 3.9
Joe Johnson GF 2886 0.118 7.1
Marvin Williams F 2468 0.119 6.1
Josh Smith PF 2871 0.180 10.8
Al Horford C 2845 0.216 12.8
Jamal Crawford G 2500 0.100 5.2
Maurice Evans GF 1317 0.066 1.8
Zaza Pachulia C 1055 0.039 0.9
Jeff Teague PG 455 0.011 0.1
Rest of Team   1208 -0.048 -1.2
Total   19800 0.115 47.4

Table 3: 2011 Atlanta Hawks, forced landing

Uh-oh! This team is starting to look more human. If Miami and Chicago claw into the top four (as many are predicting) then Atlanta looks set to be best of the worst in the East. Josh Smith and Al Horford are very good players and should be built around. The issue now is that neither is a top tier player. If the Hawks want to be competitive they need to surround these players with more talent. What did they do instead? They signed an aging average guard-forward to a long expensive contract. Apparently they are also focusing on Jamal Crawford. What do we notice here? He is also an aging average guard. The Hawks should be focusing on Horford and Smith and surrounding them with talent. Instead they are focusing on guards that shoot a lot. Next season they can hope that Johnson and Smith keep their legs. This gives them a repeat of last year. Long term they can hope Horford will sign for less than he’s worth and that someone will be silly enough to trade for Joe Johnson. Otherwise the Hawks will disappear out of the East.

-Dre

Reviewing and Previewing the LA Clippers

Player Position Minutes WP48 Wins
Marcus Camby FC 1596 0.407 13.5
Baron Davis PG 2523 0.117 6.2
Drew Gooden FC 725 0.152 2.3
DeAndre Jordan FC 1137 0.092 2.2
Steve Blake G 762 0.132 2.1
Craig Smith PF 1232 0.076 2.0
Eric Gordon SG 2229 0.040 1.9
Chris Kaman C 2608 0.002 0.1
Travis Outlaw F 498 0.009 0.1
Kareem Rush SG 58 -0.060 -0.1
Ricky Davis GF 499 -0.022 -0.2
Brian Skinner FC 123 -0.149 -0.4
Sebastian Telfair PG 582 -0.041 -0.5
Bobby Brown PG 190 -0.139 -0.6
Steve Novak F 362 -0.114 -0.9
Mardy Collins GF 470 -0.098 -1.0
Al Thornton SF 1404 -0.039 -1.1
Rasual Butler GF 2702 -0.027 -1.5
Total   19700 0.059 24.1

Table 1: 2009-2010 Los Angeles Clippers

 

When I first looked at the Clippers regular season record I put them in perspective. They finished 3rd in their division. There were 8 teams worse than them (New York loses the tie breaker, because I say so). With all that said this team was bad. In fact according to the stats they were worse than they appeared. Last year the Clippers should have won around 24 games. This put them in solid lottery territory. Let’s refresh your memory about the Clippers of last year before we move onto more optimistic times.

Backcourt: Starting off their review solidly the Clippers did in fact employ two above average players in Baron Davis and Steve Blake. The bad news is Steve Blake’s minutes were limited (more on that in a second) and he left at the end of the season. Eric Gordon had a pretty unspectacular rookie sophomore (thanks Sportsfanatic!) season, but at least put up positive numbers. The rest of the guards sadly combined for over -3 wins. That’s right if a player not named Blake,Davis or Gordon was in at guard it was costing the Clippers.

Wings:It looks like this team had no chance to fly with their wings clipped (I had more puns I could have used, be thankful I settled on that one) Travis Outlaw was the only wing to not lose the team games while on the court. I am pretty sure the way to win games is not to spot your opponent a player and play four on five.

Big Men:Drew Gooden and Marcus Camby actually put up solid numbers. For Camby solid is an understatement. While in the Clippers employ he was playing better than any player in the league not named Lebron. Sadly this wasn’t enough to help this flailing team and in an act of mercy they shipped him to a contender. Sadly even these two players (that never actually played together) couldn’t stop the rest of the bigs from being below average. Kaman was also a surprising disappointment netting basically no wins for the team. Somehow he got an All-Star game for that (something Camby has never received).

The biggest part of the Clippers’ “success” last year was Camby. With him gone how do they fair? Let’ present two scenarios. In the first the players from last year play stay the same. Griffin enters the league and puts up minutes but is just average. Finally any unknowns (there are quite a few rookies on this team) combine for zero wins.

Player Pos Minutes WP48 Wins
Baron Davis PG 2523 0.117 6.1
Eric Gordon SG 2300 0.040 1.9
Ryan Gomes SF 2200 0.059 2.7
Blake Griffin PF 2500 0.100 5.2
Chris Kaman C 2600 0.002 0.1
Rasual Butler GF 2700 -0.023 -1.3
Randy Foye G 1610 0.022 0.7
Craig Smith PF 1400 0.076 2.2
DeAndre Jordan C 1300 0.072 2.0
Rest of Team   367 0 0
Total   19133 0.053 21.0

Table 2: 2010-2011 Los Angeles Clippers, bleak outlook

Well the good news is that this team would crack 20.0 wins and probably prove my brother wrong. Daniel thinks this team will have the worst record next year. Sadly, this team wouldn’t be anything special and would in fact take a step back from last year. A big problem remains the wings. As I said, I don’t think you can essentially leave out a position completely and hope to be successful. If Kaman stays as bad as he was then that is essentially playing 3 on five with two average players (Davis and Griffin) and two “half players” in Gordon and Gomes. Of course there is no depth on this team either, so the outlook for the Clippers with their one playoff series victory (guess who that happened against) does not seem good.

Now as a reader over at the Wages of Wins Journal kindly pointed out, the offseason is a time for optimism. Let’s give the Clippers another try. What if Griffin hits the ground running, plays like rookie of the year and is twice as good as an average player? What if Kaman gets some of his form back. I can’t realistically even put him at average, but heck even 75% of an average player would be a boost. Let’s also let Davis, Gordon and Jordan show a little growth. We can call it chemistry. Last but not least I’ll even entertain a crazy notion that the bench of rookies somehow plays average with their limited minutes. To make it clear, I am stretching a lot here to help the Clippers. What happens then?

Player Pos Minutes WP48 Wins
Baron Davis PG 2523 0.125 6.6
Eric Gordon SG 2300 0.075 3.6
Ryan Gomes SF 2200 0.059 2.7
Blake Griffin FC 2500 0.200 10.4
Chris Kaman C 2600 0.075 4.1
Rasual Butler G 2700 -0.023 -1.3
Randy Foye G 1510 0.021 0.6
Craig Smith PF 1300 0.076 2.1
DeAndre Jordan FC 1200 0.112 2.8
Rest of Team   667 0.100 1.4
Total 19500 0.084 34.2

Table 3: 2010-2011 Los Angeles Clippers “happy” outlook

This would be an improvement over last year. Pretty much the Clippers would just salvage some pride. The fact is that this team does not have much hope going into next year. It’s possible Blake Griffin will play like a star and win Rookie of the Year. It’s possible Kaman will get an All-Star spot again. What won’t happen is the Clippers winning more than forty games. Luckily for Clippers fans, this is nothing new.

-Dre

The Stats