(Points + Rebounds + Steals + ½Assists + ½Blocked Shots – Field Goal Attempts – Turnovers - ½Free Throw Attempts - ½Personal Fouls) / Minutes = Win Score per Minute

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why Ben Wallace was Worth Every Penny

When Chicago signed Ben Wallace to a four-year, $60-million contract, quite a few people were skeptical. When Wallace had a rift with head coach Scott Skiles over a headband, people became more and more worried. When Wallace was producing below his average of the year before, people starting screaming about what a mistake the Bulls had made in signing him.

Slowly and quietly, those screams have died down to whispers. Soon they will be gone, because the Bulls are at least going to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, and probably will go to the NBA Finals. And the reason for that is Ben Wallace. OK, one of the reasons for that is Ben Wallace. The young players on the Bulls (discounting the rookies) are generally playing well: Hinrich, Duhon, Nocioni, and especially Luol Deng.

As much as I believe in statistics, however, I still believe veteran experience counts for something we can't quite quantify. For instance, I believe Derek Fisher is helping the Jazz be a better team this year. That belief is not supported by his stats, but I believe his presence is helping Deron Williams progress faster than he would have otherwise, and we can see this impact in DWill's performance. As for Ben Wallace, he is having a large effect on the Bulls in both stats and experience, and I think both of these will help the Bulls in their playoff run.

The reason I bring this up is because of the Cavaliers - Bulls game last night. The Bulls won the game, helped immensely by a tremendous performance from Wallace. His line:

44 min, 6-8 FG, 2-2 FT, 19 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 7 blk, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 14 points

All in all he had a win score of 30.5, which would put this game in 4th place this year on raw win score. A fantastic game, one of the best of the year. And what is ESPN.com's headline? "LeBron's 29 not enough". They must have some kind of contract provision where they must mention LeBron James for every game he plays. That's the only explanation.

However, the lead does explain why the Bulls will go far into the playoffs, and the Cavaliers will not. Once again this year, LeBron is carrying this team. And you can't pull a team all the way to the Finals by yourself. James' "help" in this game consisted of Larry Hughes putting up a 9 for 26 shooting night (Win Score: 1.5) and a supporting cast in which no other player took more than 8 shots. That's not gonna win you a lot of games.

Now, Ben Wallace is obviously not going to perform this way every game. And LeBron's supporting cast will step up now and again. But I have a feeling in April and May we'll be seeing more games looking like this one than not. Wallace's playoff experience, along with his top-notch play, will push the Bulls to great things. Maybe the Cavaliers should have found a way to sign Wallace last summer. Things would have looked very different in the East.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This post has nothing to do with Win Score

I've got something I just need to talk about. I'm getting really tired of hearing people complain about the All-Star Game. You'd think our very existence was at risk, with the way they talk about it. Get a load of these comments:

Pat Forde (ESPN.com) - "College basketball does not trivialize its product with lounge acts or no-try, in-season All-Star games."

Jack McCallum (SI.com) - (Comparing the Vegas All-Star game to one played in Hell) "All in all, then, I give a slight advantage to HELL."

Henry Abbott (truehoop.com) - "This was a creampuff -- 99 percent air."

Jason Whitlock (aol.com) - "The game is a sloppy, boring, half-hearted mess."

Chris Sheridan (ESPN.com) - "It's just too bad that the Sin City setting didn't produce a game that was special."

Before I go on, let me point out that these are writers who I respect and read often, and I generally enjoy their thoughts and opinions. Also I must say that the Jason Whitlock article is powerful, and he has some good points about the dangerous road the NBA is heading down concerning the thug image.

I read all this, and kept my mouth shut, but couldn't do it anymore after listening to the local sports radio talking heads go on and on about the All-Star. Obviously I don't have their direct quotes.....has someone invented a TIVO for the radio?.....but the gist of it was in the vein of "When I was growing up, we watched basketball for the competition." and "I can't enjoy a game with no defense."

This went on for a full half-hour. And there are two words for this. Sports Snobbery. I can't stand to listen to another Sports Snob discuss how they can't enjoy a game without fierce competition. It's All-Star weekend, for the sake of St. Peter. The preliminary events included a race between a fat guy and an old guy, and Carrot Top driving the lane against Bow Wow.

These All-Stars are supposed to focus, run hard, and play good defense for 82 games a year, plus the playoffs. They are put on the all-star team as a reward for playing well. And yet we somehow believe they must play lock-down defense in the All-Star game?

Sports Snobs, climb down off of your pedestal and just enjoy All-Star weekend for what it is: a huge party. And enjoy watching the best players in the world have fun. Shaq's fancy dribbling? T-Mac telling Mehmet Okur to miss a free throw so he could put back a dunk? Good stuff. Enjoy it. And save your complaining for the playoffs.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A question...

I received a comment from a user that was interested in seeing a searchable, sortable database based on Win Score or (probably better) Wins Produced. Something that would be updated daily and allow users to see team and individual stats, sort players by position, total Wins Produced, WP48, etc. It would take some time to get ready, but I'd be happy to do it. I'd like to know if there is more interest out there and I'd like to hear any further ideas you have about this. Please leave comments on what sort of things you'd like to see.

For my next post I'm planning on returning to the top ten list and do some adjustments based on positions and per-minute averages.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Rookies vs. Sophomores Challenge

I always get geeked up for All-Star weekend. There's something about the atmosphere that encourages fun, excitement, and best of all - no defense.

Look, defense is great for winning basketball games, and no one appreciates a well-timed AK-47 block like myself, but in general I'd much rather watch offense. Give me a 127-124 game over 78-69 any day. And that's why I love the All-Star game and especially the Rookies vs. Sophomores Challenge.

We already got a prediction from our friends over at the Wages of Wins, and it looks like they were right on. The closest the game ever got was 0-0, and the rookies mostly looked lost and outmatched. I mean, Chris Paul had 9 steals. Nueve! Yikes.

Just for fun I calculated out the Win Scores for each player in this game. Mostly I was looking for a chance to pimp Deron Williams and Paul Millsap. Both of these players are big reasons why the Jazz are playing so well this year, and I'm glad they got a chance to show off in this game.

Millsap was definitely the best rookie in the game, scoring 22 and pulling down 8 rebounds, while compiling a Win Score per minute of 0.52. Has the rest of the league finally figured out what a player this guy is? Surprisingly, the next two highest Win Scores belonged to Rudy Gay and Adam Morrison. Maybe they could be more productive for their respective teams if the opponents would stop with the pesky defense! Unlucky Jordan Farmar rooted the rookies with his four turnovers and managed the only negative win score in the game.

Now for our victorious sophomores. David Lee had as close as you can get to a perfect game in basketball. Fourteen of fourteen shots, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. His win score of 28 would have placed him on our top ten list for the year, if this were actually a real game.

As mentioned before, Chris Paul almost grabbed a triple double with points, assists and steals. And DWill had the third-highest Win Score per minute on the team, although he curiously only played 15 minutes. All in all, a tremendous game for the sophomores. When Monta Ellis shoots 13-16, you've done something right.

Here's hoping that the real All-Star game provides as much excitement and fun as this game did. And here's hoping for a few "Money" shots from Mehmet Okur (and we won't discuss whether the numbers agree that he should be in the game).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Big Scorers....are they really that great?

I got thinking today about scorers, and why they are such a commodity in today's NBA. Obviously a prolific scorer is fun to watch, and the NBA is an entertainment business after all. But high scorers seem to get all the attention. And especially when a player goes off for 40 or 50 points, there is a lot of media attention paid to that fact. I decided to look at the highest-scoring individual games of the year so far to see if the players deserved all the attention they were receiving.

The list I came up with can be seen here. I limited the games to those where one player scored 45 points or more, and got a result of 16 games. Interestingly, the list contains almost exclusively guards. In fact, there is not a single player on the list who isn't considered at the least a shooting guard/small forward.

This surprised me quite a bit, because it seems like it would be a bit easier for big men to get high point totals, since most of their shots are close to the basket and they tend to have higher FG% than guards. I grew up watching big men like Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson, Karl Malone, etc. But there really isn't a dominant scoring big man in the NBA today. My best prediction for finding a center or power forward that can score 50 points would probably be Amare Stoudamire.

Anyway, I took these 16 games and sorted them by Win Score per minute. Let me lay out the average Win Score per minute by position, so we have a reference point.

- Point Guard: 0.132
- Shooting Guard: 0.128
- Small Forward: 0.152
- Power Forward: 0.215
- Center: 0.225

In the case of those players that often play at two positions I averaged the two numbers to get a comparison point. So:

- PG/SG: 0.130
- SG/SF: 0.140
- SF/PF: 0.1825
- PF/C: 0.220

I use ESPN.com's fantasy listings to decide which position a player is listed at. So any complaints should be redirected there. Now that we have our reference points, let's look at the list. At the top of the list is a fantastic game by Mr. Hibachi himself, Gilbert Arenas. He managed to score 45 points on only 22 field goal attempts, adding 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals while only committing 2 fouls and a single turnover. Not a bad night's work. For this game he had a Win Score per minute of 0.641, almost 5 times the average WS/M of a point guard. And the Wizards won the game handily.

The list continues with similar stories. Efficient shooting, additional rebounds or assists, and low turnovers. In the top of the list this usually lead to a victory. The only exceptions to this rule were Tracy McGrady losing to the Dallas Mavericks (probably the best team in the league), Michael Redd losing to the Utah Jazz on a last second missed shot, and a duel between Kobe Bryant and Arenas where they ended up with identical win scores, but Arenas got a little more help from his teammates.

The bottom of the list is where it gets interesting for me. These three games prove that scoring a lot of points doesn't necessarily mean you are helping your team. First is Richard Hamilton, king of the 30-1-1 box score. He contributed 51 points but little else to Detroit's loss at the hands of the New York Knicks. Kobe Bryant scored 58 points, true, but took an astounding 45 shots, committed 4 turnovers and fouled out of the game as the Lakers lost to Charlotte.

And then we have Allen Iverson, who our friends at the Wages of Wins have commented on extensively. In a game against Miami this past November, Iverson managed to score 45 points and somehow post a WS/M worse than the average point guard. Not only did his performance not win the game for his team, but it actually contributed significantly to the loss.

We see that scoring points does not always equal a good performance in the NBA. Now, there are those who might say the lack of quality in Iverson's teammates dictate that he play the way he does. Well, we can save that debate for another post.

Monday, February 12, 2007

John Amaechi - Why Didn't Utah Give Him a Chance?

I'd like to post a few quick thoughts on John Amaechi. This topic hits close to home (literally) because he has made some accusations against the Utah Jazz, which happen to be my hometown team. If you follow this blog at all in the future, you'll probably notice a bit of bias toward the Jazz. I'll try to keep it to a minimum.

Among the many other things Mr. Amaechi has said in the past week, he has had many things to say, both positive and negative, about the Utah Jazz organization. I listened to an interview on the local sports radio station as I drove home from work this evening. He said a lot of interesting things, but the one I'd like to comment on is his position that Jerry Sloan was biased against him because of his sexual orientation.

Mr. Amaechi said that he was not given a fair chance to play in Utah. That he deserved to play more minutes and have a chance to show what he could do. Let's see what the numbers tell us. First let's look at his career numbers up to the point that he was signed by the Utah Jazz. Amaechi played three seasons before going to the Jazz; one for Cleveland and two for Orlando. We'll discount his early days in Cleveland and focus on the two seasons in Orlando: the best two seasons of his career. In those seasons he played 3,394 minutes and posted averages of 9.2 points and 3.3 rebounds a game. Underwhelming stats for a man who stood 6 feet 10 inches tall. Even more underwhelming is his Win Score per minute of .057. The average Win Score per minute of a center is .225, so we can see that Amaechi was already far below average.

For some reason the Jazz decided to sign him. Maybe they thought he had potential to become a better player. Who knows. Let's see how that turned out. In his two years with the Jazz, Amaechi managed to lower his standards, and ended up with a Win Score per minute of .0075. That's two zeros before the seven.

All in all, John Amaechi ended his illustrious career with a Win Score/min of .041. He shot 40% for his career. He averaged only 6.4 rebounds per 40 minutes. He committed almost as many turnovers as assists, blocks and steals combined. Never, in his entire career, did he record one double double.

Now I don't know Jerry Sloan, and he may or may not be biased against homosexuals. But the Jazz had options at center like Greg Ostertag, who wasn't a great player by any measure, but managed to be decent at times. He rated a Win Score/min of .193 in 2002-2003, and was obviously a better choice for minutes than Amaechi.

When it comes down to it, the evidence seems to point to another reason for Amaechi's lack of playing time. He just wasn't a very good NBA player.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Start with an easy one.....then build up.

For my first Win Score post on the stats of this NBA season, I'm going with an easy one. The following is the top 10 games of the years, as measured by Win Score. This is just the simple equation (Points + Rebounds + Steals + ½Assists + ½Blocked Shots – Field Goal Attempts – Turnovers - ½Free Throw Attempts - ½Personal Fouls), with no per minute calculations, no position adjustments, nothing. Pure and unadulterated, the games in which one player contributed the absolute most to his team winning. You might be surprised by a couple of these.

I'll be linking out to these tables, because I can't find a good way to display a table in Blogger. It keeps pushing down the table and leaving a ton of white space above it. So here is the link to this set of data.

A couple of things jump out at me on this. First of all, the list is almost exclusively big men. That is to be expected. Power Forwards and Centers easily average a much higher Win Score than non-post players. Second, although the top of the list is dominated by high-rebound games, the second half isn't. Ron Artest made the top ten with only 8 rebounds. So rebounds are important for a good Win Score, but not required. High-efficiency shooting is.

Lastly, I found it interesting that two of the top four performances came in a losing effort. At some point maybe I'll detail the Win Scores of the rest of the team in those games to see how they wasted such top-notch performances.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Where the computer nerd crosses with the sports nut, we find stats. I've found myself in a surprising minority among my acquaintances, as those I work with in the IT department have no use for sports, and the neighborhood sports junkies have no use for computers. It's a strange place to be in, as I can't find anyone that wants to talk about these things that bounce around in my head. Therefore, as everyone knows, the best way to clear your mind is to blog it!

I've been reading the tremendous "Wages of Wins" blog a lot lately, and liking it more and more as I read. The book was a great read, especially for someone like myself who almost put it back once they saw it was written by a bunch of economists. Luckily I decided to forge through it, and enjoyed the writing as much as the ideas. A few weeks ago I had an idea to use the equation for "Win Score" (a stat introduced in the book) to look at the best individual and team games in the NBA. I left a few comments and saw that Mr. Berri didn't have the time nor the inclination to do that particular research.

I thought this was a good opportunity to start up a blog on something I have a real passion for, and hopefully something that will be interesting to other people as well. That remains to be seen. The plan is to get a few posts up, and then ask Mr. Berri if he would mind adding a link from his site to mine. Failing that, maybe I'll try to find another way to see if anyone is interested.

I'll try to be responsive if there are any questions or requests. I've got the database filled up with tasty data, and I'm ready to SQL the crap out of it, so feel free to ask about anything related to this year's NBA stats. (Remember this isn't about Wins Produced, that's a much more complicated thing, just Win Score and whatever other general stat question crosses your mind.)

I think I'll start with a post on the best games (decided by Win Score) of the year so far. I usually read ESPN.com, so I'll try to always link results to the corresponding ESPN.com page. Again, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy what you see here and come back for more.