Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The myth of the Derrick Rose keystone

In architecture the keystone is the wedge-shaped piece that holds the stones together. Without the keystone the entire arch collapses and is just a pile of rubble. Why the architecture lesson? Well maybe people try to make this argument about the 2011 Chicago Bulls regarding Derrick Rose.

The argument goes "Without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls collapse and aren't near the team they are with him."

I hear this argument a ton from Bulls fans. I've lived in Chicago. Yes, I know a lot of Bulls fans. Unfortunately for those making the argument, the facts just don't bare out that particular claim. Let's look at some numbers. (taken from Queen City Hoops on 3/16/11)

Now this might be hard for some believe, but look at those numbers it's hard to see how the Bulls collapse without Derrick Rose as their PG. Sure they aren't a top seed in the East, but their net differential when he doesn't play is +1.8, which projects out to a 46-36 record. That's a .561 winning percentage, which would be good enough for the 6th seed in the East right now. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Bulls "collapsing."

Okay, well that's net differential. Let's look at a different data set. How about Wins Produced? Surely that metric will show Rose being the keystone to the Bulls. (data powered by NerdNumbers)

Okay so here we see that Rose has had a pretty good season. .182 WP48 means he's producing at a star level in the NBA (>.200 is star level; >.300 is superstar) (Yes, I realize he only has .182 and star is supposed to be .200, but that's within the margin of error.) He's also produced the most wins for the Bulls, but that's a little misleading since he's played twice as many minutes as Noah, who's the real wins producer on this team. Rose has produced 19.7% of this teams wins so far. If we project that out to an 82 game season that's 16 wins. That's pretty good. Okay, now let's project out the teams current win percentage of 72.7% to 82 games, which is 60 games. 60-16 = 44. So by the Wins Produced metric, the Bulls would be roughly 44-38. That's a winning percentage of 53.6%, which would be good enough, again, for the 6th seed in the East.

Now that's two different ways of looking at this. And wouldn't you know it both show Derrick Rose having about the same effect on the Bulls. Both say that they'd still be the 6th seed in the East this season with him. And both show that the Bulls wouldn't collapse without Derrick Rose on their team. That is all.

The Rose argument isn't as structurally sounds as this...

Wind of change makes Duke favorites in the tournament?

The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a ... fact. We must all accept it as a fact. - Harold Macmillan

Okay, so that's not the exact quote British Prime Harold Macmillan said to the Parliament of South Africa in 1960 to signal that British colonialism in Africa was coming to an end, but it wouldn't work unless I edited it a bit. Regardless, (the slightly edited version of) Macmillan's famous quote fits what should be accepted in the upcoming NCAA Men's Basketball tournament: Duke is the new favorite.

Everyone seems to be picking Ohio St to win the entire thing. Very few have anyone else taking home the trophy and with good reason. They're a very good team and have been all year. But with news coming out today that Freshman sensation Kyrie Irving is set to return to play for the tournament, the wind of change is definitely blowing.

Irving, who is set to be the number one pick in this years NBA draft, was have an amazing season until he suffered a ligament injury in his right big toe. Before the injury he was averaging 17.4 ppg on 53% FG, 90%FT, 45% 3pt those are mind bloggling percentages. So he's incredibly efficient. Plus, he was getting 5 assists and 4 rebounds on top of that. All in just 30 minutes of play. The kid can flat out play. It's no wonder why the NBA is ready for him to make the leap.

People were already penciling in Duke for another National Championship at the beginning of the season after wins @Marquette, @Kansas St, vMich St and vButler. Three of those teams are currently in the Tournament and Butler was coming off their 2010 National Championship game appearance. If Kyrie can come back by the second round and play at his previous level for meaningful minutes, Duke will have to be the team to beat. Adding Kyrie to a #1 seed that already features Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler seems borderline illegal.

Now this is all a big if, of course. Kyrie hasn't played since December, and he's not 100% healthy yet. Duke shouldn't need him to be. If they can get Kyrie to 85-90% by the time the Sweet 16 rolls around that would be a huge coup considering Coach K and the rest of Duke figured he was done for the season.

The wind of change is blowing, and Duke's sails are set for a National Championship repeat.

Pretty sure you're either smiling or throwing up at the sight of this picture...

Update: And right on cue Doug Gottlieb of ESPN backs up my initial thoughts: "If [Irving is] healthy, I think Duke becomes the favorite to win the tournament," said Gottlieb.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is Jamaal Magloire the answer for the Heat's rebounding woes? (Absolutely not!, maybe?)

So the past two weeks the Miami Heat have gone from worst best team in the NBA after losing five games to the the Knicks, Magic, Spurs, Bulls, and Blazers to now again being mentioned among the elite teams in the NBA after beating the Lakers, Grizzlies, and Spurs. I'm not sure any team in the history of the NBA has had their fortunes turn around so quickly for no apparent reason. By all accounts the Heat are a very good team with some very apparent flaws, but that's not so different from the other contenders in the league. Boston - old, health; Lakers - old, bad PG; Bulls - inexperienced, no SG, etc. All of the contenders have question marks.

The claim against the Heat is they are weak at the PG and Center positions. This claim isn't without it's merits. Mario Chalmers hasn't exactly been lighting up the league. The recently signed Mike Bibby, while being a pretty good spot up three point shooter, is a slow defender to put it kindly. These two players, however, are serviceable at the PG position. They both bring something to the table and are capable of filling a needed role depending on the Heat's opponents at the time.

The biggest issue I've seen with this team isn't at the PG position, it's at the Center position. The Heat platoon of Dampier, Big Z, and Joel Anthony have done a decent job defensively. And again each has a niche they can fill to contribute to the Heat effectively. However, there's one area where all three are falling short: Rebounding.

Now you might say, "But.. Miami is one of the top rebounding teams in the league statistically."

And I'd reply, "That's true, but let's look at some of these statistics more closely."

Below are the NBA team rebounding numbers as of March 15th.

Click for google docs version

This shows us a couple of things. 1) Miami for it's faults is a good rebounding team overall. 2) They are a horrible offensive rebounding team 3) Many of the teams the Heat could potentially play in the playoffs are very good offensive rebounding teams.

Overall according to the statistics the Heat are the best defensive rebounding team in the league. However, there's some individual games that point to the contrary.

3/8 Portland - Portland gets 12 ORebs. The Heat lose this game because they allowed too many offensive rebounds and had 4 more TOs than the Blazers. Thus allowing the Blazers to take 7 more shots.

3/6 Chicago - A similar story. Chicago gets 10 ORebs. Heat are -1 TOs and -6 Rebounding. The Bulls are able to take 5 more shots. Heat lose by 1.

3/3 Orlando - The Heat get outrebounded by Howard 9-8 in the 4th quarter aiding the Magic in their giant come back. The game numbers are similar, but rebounding in the 2nd half was all Orlando. Orlando wins by 3.

Anyway, I think you get the point by now. The Heat struggle most when they're turning over the ball and not getting defensive rebounds. Now this brings me to the point of this post. Below is a list of the Heat player's rebounding stats. All stats have been taken from Go there and click on the glossary for an explanation of how to calculate them.

Click here for google docs version

Here we can see why when up against good rebounding teams the Heat struggle keeping them off the boards. 1) They're best rebounder, Haslem, has been injured almost the entire season. 2) Their second best rebounder, who actually gets playing time, is their 6th man and a SG/SF in Mike Miller. 3) Their starting C is their 9th best rebounder according to statistics.

Now #3 would seem to be a problem. You can forgive Bosh for not being the top rebounder because he plays away from the rim so much, and honestly he's been a pretty decent rebounder on the defensive end. But Erick Dampier has been terrible on both the offensive and defensive glass, yet he's always near the rim. And herein lies my suggest for Coach Spoelstra. Jamaal Magloire has barely played at all this season.(Understatement, he's played 83 minutes this season, 35 in the last two games!) So I urge caution with his rebounding statistics, but I think he deserves a chance on the court. In the last two games against Memphis and San Antonio (where he finally got time because Big Z has been hurt) he's played pretty well. His rebounding numbers where great in both games (vSpurs 12.6TRb/36; vGriz 10.3 TRb/36). His defense hasn't seem to be any worse than Dampier's (maybe not as big of a shot blocker, but his rebounding seems to be much better). And we know his offense can't be any more non-existent than Damp's.

As I said, we're talking about extremely small samples regarding Magloire here, but it's worth a shot. The Heat already have a three man rotation at center, what's adding one more player to the mix going to do. I'd like to see more of how the team plays with Magloire at the center position. I hope Spoelstra does too.

Now that you're sure I'm a completely daft, I'll leave you with this wonderful view of beaches and sand so that you'll forget everything I've said...

Oh, Malibu...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NBA MVP Series #2: What's value, and who gives it?

So in the last installment of the NBA MVP Series, we looked at what kind of production it took to be deemed worth of the MVP. We found 5 of the best players in the NBA.

PG: Chris Paul
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Dwight Howard

Most of these names are in the current MVP discussion. Wade probably the exception because he plays with James, who sucks up all the national media attention. Also Paul isn't discussed often because his team is only on pace to win 46 games so far, but it's hard to find a guy who's having a better season for a worse team.

There's one player who's definitely missing from this list whose name is all over the place nowadays: Derrick Rose. Derrick Rose is a very good PG in the NBA, but does he deserve to be the MVP?

The most important job of an NBA GM is to find players who can get the most value (points) from their assets (possessions). There's two sides to this, of course: Offense and defense. On offense a team wants to score the most points possible per possession, and on defense a team wants to prevent the most points possible per opposing possession. So finding players who can score and defend is always the priority. So it's with this mindset that we continue our journey and find out which top players yield this value for their teams. Are you ready?!

I like the enthusiasm!!

A good way to find out if a player is adding value to a team is to look at the offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency when the player is playing and when he is not. If a team plays as well without a player, then he must not be adding much value to the team. Offensive efficiency (OE) is defined as points scored per 100 possessions, while defensive efficiency (DE) is the points allowed per 100 possessions. Efficiency differential (ED) is OE-DE. With that, let's look at some fun little charts!

Click for google docs version

Click for google docs version

So there's some interesting information coming from these numbers. Firstly, top five players on this list would make a pretty awesome team. Secondly, who knew Paul Pierce was more important to the Celtics than either Rondo or Garnett. I was definitely not surprised to see Garnett so high on the list. Thirdly, LeBron James, regardless of the perception people have of him this season, is playing out of his mind, and is by far the most important player to that Heat team. Fourthly, what in the world is going on with Russell Westbrook?! The Thunder are almost a full 9 points better with him off the court. I'm not sure what to think about that.

And finally, as the first installment of this series showed, while Derrick Rose is a very good player, he is not the MVP, regardless of whether you view the MVP as the best player in the league or as which player is the most valuable to his team. Rose adds around 7 points per 100 possessions when he's on the court. This is a very good differential, one of the best in the league. But it isn't enough make him the NBA 2011 MVP.

One of these two guys should be....

(October 25, 2010 - Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)