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

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.

No comments: