This article uses Wins Produced and WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] metrics shown in the books “Wages of Wins” and “Stumbling on Wins” to evaluate player performance. Wins Produced is the total number of wins a player is responsible for in a given season. WP48 is the number of wins a player would win if they were to play a complete 48 minute game. These measures use three key components to evaluate a player:
- The player’s per minute box score statistics
- The player’s team’s per minute box score statistics
- The average performance at the player’s position(s) (PG, SG, SF, PF or C)
A full explanation can be found here. To give a general scale, an average player has a WP48 score of 0.100. The very best players in the league usually have a WP48 over 0.300. To put this in perspective; an average starter who plays a full season at 36 minutes a game would generate around six wins for their team. In contrast, a player posting a 0.300 WP48 would generate more than eighteen wins in this time on the court.
The Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have a bittersweet trait in common. These teams all were considered juggernauts and contenders at one point and yet all somehow came away empty handed. The Jazz days are long gone and the Phoenix sun has probably set. With Cuban at the helm Dallas continues to make moves to try for that ever elusive championship. Last year they were second in the conference and their playoff hopes looked bright. Unfortunately they were upset in the first round by a bitter rival. Let’s look at last season and also how this season is stacking up for our German Cowboys.
Table 1: 2009-2010 Dallas Mavericks
There are a few important facts to point out about the 2009-2010 Mavericks. The first and most important is that Jason Kidd is carrying this team. For the last thirteen years Jason Kidd has played at least 2400 minutes a season and had a WP48 of at least 0.250 (the “superstar” threshold”). Last year was no exception as he carried the Mavericks. The second fact to accept is that Dirk has gotten old. He is still a good Forward-Center, which is a valuable thing to have. I would wager his MVP days are over though, which is a fact the Mavericks clearly did not accept when they gave him a lucrative contract in the offseason. The final note is that according to the stats the Mavericks over-performed last year. Their record was six games stronger than what their raw stats put up. This is not to say this team was bad, in fact the numbers put them near 50 wins, which is the very definition of a good team. The point is that their playoff run was not as big of a surprise as it would seem.
Other than resigning Dirk the Mavs have not done too much in the offseason. To be fair the big move by the Mavericks was last year’s trade deadline acquisition of Butler and Haywood. A few years ago this roster would have been a monster. Sadly I don’t think this year that will be the case but I do want to present two tables to you to mull over when contemplating next season.
Table 2: 2010-2011 Mavericks based on 2009-2010 Numbers
The first chart is actually a cause for celebration. Simply going on last season’s numbers the Mavericks could see a record that would have battled for the top seed last season. In short the window isn’t shut. This team is still relying on Jason Kidd to pull them along. Another key thing to consider is age. Only Barea and Chandler played over 1000 minutes last season and will be under 30 at the end of next season. While Chandler has been good, Barea has not. This team can’t really hope for improvement from much of their roster. Rather they are hanging on to hope that their top players don’t run out of steam. With that I have one last table to present
Table 3: 2010-2011 Mavericks with a weaker Kidd and Nowitzki and fewer minutes for Haywood and Beaubois
Let’s just throw a few tiny wrenches at the Mavericks. Let’s say age finally catches up with Kidd and keeps toying with Dirk and each player comes back at 90% of their previous season’s strength. Also, let’s assume Beaubois doesn’t get out of his boot (he has a broken foot) and barely plays next season. Finally let’s just assume Haywood drop to lower minutes due to injury and/or poor coaching decisions. These small acts could actually drop the Mavericks to not even making the playoffs if the West is as strong next year as it was this last year. The point is that the Mavericks roster is very fragile as constructed, essentially relying on Kidd, Dirk and Haywood to carry the load. These are older players and in Haywood’s case they have injury concerns. As such the Mavericks will probably be a good team but to be great will depend largely on getting some lucky breaks. If they happen to be unlucky they can join Houston and Portland as teams with a lot of skill on paper but hampered by injuries and circumstance.
I do want to close with some positive thoughts. Butler had a bad year last year. If he even returns to average it will be a great help to the team. Beaubois was terrific in the 700 minutes he played last year. If he can recover from injury and play major minutes it could be a huge boost. This of course will be difficult as he is younger, injured and Terry may get preferential treatment for Shooting Guard minutes. Finally if Kidd can keep it up for one more year the Mavericks have a shot. Not a great shot as even if they weather the West a superior Magic or Heat will likely be waiting, but they do have a shot. I’m betting the follow the Jazz and Suns route of never getting the title, but at least they’ll go down swinging.
And here is what Andres had to say about the San Antonio Spurs.
Let’s start by talking about what the Spurs did last year. In a “surprise upset” the Spurs beat the Mavericks to give hope that the old Spurs dynasty had some life left in it. Of course the next round saw them get trounced pretty convincingly. The upset in the first round is misleading for two reasons. The first is that the West has been a very tight place the last few years. The Spurs had a 50-32 record last season and still found themselves in the bottom half of the seed chart. The other reason is that the Mavericks were worse than they appeared and the Spurs were better than their record indicated.
Table 1: 2009-2010 San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan returned to his amazing form and with fellow star Ginobli he lead the charge for the Spurs. Dujain Blair was an amazing rookie and looks poised to help form a new big three in San Antonio. Beyond these three it is hard to find much talent in the rest of the roster. Antonio McDyess played well but is now on the wrong side of 35 and has been playing limited minutes. Ian Mahinmi played well in limited minutes, but has since left for the enemy. Finally Tony Parker had injury concerns. In a healthier year this team could have vied for the top spot out west.
The Spurs have gotten old. Despite still playing like all-stars the question is how long will Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli last? Another issue with age is Richard Jefferson. Years ago he was a good player. He’s a long time removed from that. Yet, the Spurs gave him minutes as if he was the best player on the team. In the offseason they could have let him walk but decided to keep him around. If age catches up with the Spurs and Jefferson plays significant minutes at forward then this team could lose its coveted 5 Star Rating (I’ve been watching a lot of Hell’s Kitchen lately)
Using ESPN.com’s trade machine to see who is currently listed on the roster for the Spurs brings some hope. Based on last year’s minutes the Spurs will have no choice but to play some of their younger players more. I have a few hopeful assumptions. Let’s assume Parker plays healthier and more minutes. Let’s also assume the Spurs play Splitter and Blair a good number of minutes. Finally, let’s assume Splitter comes in and is a good player. I don’t want to go super optimistic with Splitter, but if he is an above average Forward-Center then the Spurs are looking good.
|Rest of Team||2700||0.050||2.8|
Table 2: Spurs 2010-2011, Optimistic Prediction
The Spurs have a lot of young players and rookies on their team; James Anderson, Marcus Cousins, Thomas Gardner, James Gist, Curtis Jerrells, Gary Neal and Kirk Penney. They also have some players that played low minutes last year; Bobby Simmons, Alonzo Gee and Garrett Temple. Rather than try and predict all these variables I will list the best case scenario as the average of all of these players being half average. With some health, proper minute allocation and luck the Spurs could easily be a 60 win team nest year. I’m also happy this is close to some of Arturo’s projections. If Jefferson plays the SF more, he can actually be close to average and a front court of Duncan, Splitter and Blair bolstered by Ginobli is very potent. In short I agree Arturo’s assessment that this team is a contender. I do think Parker is probably right that the team as currently constructed probably only has one more year to win it all.
That’s the good news. However, it is important to list consider the bad as well. With that I’ve run the numbers with some different and more pessimistic assumptions. What if Parker doesn’t regain his old form? What if Splitter comes in and is not that good? What if the Spurs get nothing from their bench? Finally, what if all the 30+ year olds on the team come back at 90% strength from the previous year?
|Rest of Team||2700||0.000||0.0|
Table 3: Spurs 2010-2011, Pessimistic Prediction
With some bad breaks the Spurs could drop below the 50 win for the first time in a decade. A lot of this team rests in two equally frightening places. The first is that the older stars will play well, and it is always frightening to trust older players. The next is that Blair and Splitter will be able to step up and help the team out. Of course, in the grand scheme of things having aging stars and young inexpensive big men are problems most teams would love to have. The Spurs should still be a playoff team next season, the question is if they will be a contender or a fading star.
- All basic NBA stats, including play time and salary are from Basketball-Reference and ESPN.
- The Wins Produced (WP and WP48) metric is the work of Berri and Schmidt. I use the Automated Wins Produced site, which is powered by data from Basketball-Reference and Yahoo Sports.