(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.

6 comments:

Josh said...

We all agree that BW has some huge nights and rarely has the awful night that most bigs in the league suffer through. Likely because the areas where he produces are far more consistent and predictable than scoring.

But, your headline didn't say BW was a good or even great player. It says he was worth every penny. What that ignores is that they had a pretty good center who produced similar numbers and could have been had for much less. In that case those dollars could have been used to lure KG who would lift this team to elite status.

That's my .02 as to why he wasn't worth it for this Bulls team.

JChan said...

You have some good points. With the way Tyson Chandler has been playing this year, the Bulls probably would have been pretty good this year just by keeping him.

Anything that any team could do to increase the chances of getting Garnett would be a good choice.

I guess the point of the post was not to say that the Bulls made the right choice, but to show that Wallace has held up his end of the bargain.

David Berri said...

jchan,
I went to post on the Hornets today and wandered into a discussion of the merits of Tyson Chandler. After looking at the data, I think the Bulls could have been just as good with Chandler. Wallace has declined this year. Not sure this is a permanent decline, but given Big Ben's age, it might be.

JChan said...

Seems I might not have done enough due diligence on this post. This blogging thing is not as easy as it appears to be.

I think I got very excited about the tremendous game Big Ben had that night, and my post suffered from some hyperbole as a result.

I still think Big Ben is a good addition to this Bulls team, and I think his experience will be a calming influence and help the Bulls go far in this year's playoffs. A deeper look into the data predicts that it may have not been the best long-term decision.

Thanks for all your comments. It's nice to know someone is reading.

Josh said...

JChan-
I wasn't trying to beat you up. I agree that BW is a great player and one of the best examples of why the metrics in WoW are needed. Without them it's easy to miss that a game like that (ie not a 50 point performance with several dunks and/or acrobatic shots) is one of the best performances of the year.

It was just that the "worth every penny" headline was begging for a contrast to Chandler who would have come much cheaper and performed similarly, if not as well.

It's just funny that each has been underappreciated throughout their careers because they don't score a lot. The Bulls gave up on Chandler for the same reason that the Wiz and Magic gave up on BW. Except BW was putting up great per minute numbers for those teams and they wouldn't give him enough run to become the star that he was.

The Bulls gave Chandler plenty of minutes it's just been a slower process for a guy who came straight out of HS.

Maybe another column would be to contrast the year by year improvement of each to highlight how polished a guy gets when he goes to school for 4 years and hones his craft.

Keep it up!

David Berri said...

jchan,
Time to post again.