Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

February 29, 2012

To Timeout or Not

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:19 am

Over at TrueHoop, friends of BBP Henry Abbott and Beckley Mason are in the midst of a crusade against the automatic late-game timeout, arguing that the defense often benefits more than the offense by stopping play.

Offensive coaches can’t use a timeout to make people better shooters, or to make them jump higher. But they really can use that time to decide how five players will work together to cope with the most likely scenarios. If they run a high pick-and-roll with less than five seconds left, we’ll trap the ball-handler. If they isolate, we’ll double on the dribble. That kind of stuff drastically limits open shots, and really works.

Before we saw any numbers on the issue, I put forward a theory to another TrueHooper, Ethan Sherwood Strauss: Offenses shoot a lower percentage out of timeouts in end-game situations, but also turn the ball over less frequently. My logic goes like this. The same unpredictability and chaos that can produce open shots for the offense also means extra miscues. Mason actually wrote in praise of a play that ended up like this during Sunday’s All-Star Game. When the East recovered a missed shot in the closing seconds down one and Tom Thibodeau opted not to call timeout, LeBron James threw away a crosscourt pass.

As it turns out, when Mason got the stats from the NBA stats department, they showed that offenses shoot much worse after a timeout. In the final minute, when tied or trailing by three points or fewer, teams shoot an effective 36.4 percent after a timeout and 39.1 percent on the fly. (These stats don’t include fast breaks, so as to remove easy scores from the equation).

Alas, the stats did not include turnovers, so we can’t definitively determine whether timeouts make sense on average. However, the shooting difference is so substantial that on balance, not calling timeout is probably the best option in general.

I think my theory still could explain why coaches prefer to call timeout, even if it’s a less effective strategy. Along the lines of my discussion of the conclusions in Thinking, Fast and Slow, the fumbled plays mentioned earlier tend to be more memorable for coaches than missed shots. If a player misses a contested attempt, well, that’s basketball. To not even get a shot up, however, seems like a failure for coaches.

As with most strategic decisions, there’s also a heavy situational element. As Abbott noted, one reason it often makes sense not to call timeout is because the defense cannot replace its weakest players, leaving mismatches to exploit. Sometimes, however, the matchups favor the defense.

Another key factor may be how the play in question starts. You see, one explanation for the discrepancy in the numbers besides timeouts being more valuable to the coach on defense is that offenses generally score less efficiently against a set defense. Unfortunately, specific numbers on the issue have been lost to the APBRmetrics crash, but the least efficient possessions start from an inbound pass, especially if the defense is already back (dead-ball turnovers, start of quarter). The most efficient, naturally, start with a turnover or a missed shot, when the defense is likely to be caught out of position.

So it’s possible to have a rule of thumb that favors calling timeout when the offense would be taking the ball out of bounds anyway but allows play to continue without a timeout after a missed shot.

February 24, 2012

Not all Butler late-season “surges” are created equal

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:00 am

Tonight Butler will play at Valparaiso, making those two programs the first two Tuesday Truths teams to wrap up their 2012 conference seasons. Task-oriented Bulldogs and Crusaders, I salute you!

We haven’t heard much about Brad Stevens‘ team this year. They currently sit at 18-12 overall, and tied for second in the Horizon with Cleveland State, two games in back of Valpo. The Crusaders have already locked up the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which under the Horizon’s notably No. 1-seed-friendly set-up means Bryce Drew‘s team not only gets waved through all the way to the semifinals but will also be hosting the affair in question (from the quarterfinals on) on their home floor.

But Butler has now won four straight games, and so you’ve probably heard some “here we go again” chatter surrounding this team. We all remember last year, when Stevens’ men turned it on in February and reeled off 14 straight wins on their way to a national championship game loss to Connecticut in Houston. Is something similar in the works this year in Indy?

Probably not. At the risk of being tautological, the thing I liked about last year’s late-season surge was that last year’s team was better. Last year’s team had Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. Last year’s team outscored the Horizon by a very respectable 0.09 points per trip.

This year’s team, conversely, will end the year outscoring a slightly weaker Horizon League by a significantly smaller margin. Even during this current four-game surgette, the Bulldogs are still mustering just 1.01 points per trip, and their three-point shooting’s actually been worse (23 percent) than what we’ve seen from this notably inaccurate group over the course of the Horizon season (26 percent). The thought coming into this year was that Chrishawn Hopkins or Chase Stigall or both would be able to provide the occasional three (I thought so too), but that hasn’t happened.

Then again, who knows. The Horizon isn’t exactly brimming with swaggering behemoths this season. The last time we saw Valpo they were requiring an extra five-minute session simply to put away Loyola at home. It’s not inconceivable that the Bulldogs could win a conference tournament played on Valparaiso’s home floor, just as last year they won a conference tournament played on Milwaukee‘s home floor. If so, NCAA tournament opponents would be forgiven if they freaked out at the very sight of the word “BUTLER” on the opposing team’s jerseys.

BONUS Garanimals note! Roughly 98 percent of the above verbiage can be lifted whole and placed on another weak-on-offense team with little loss of validity regarding any “surge” or “rolling” talk you may hear there.

UPDATE! First “Tuesday Truths teams to wrap up their 2012 conference seasons”? Whoever heard of such a thing? Well, whoever it was needs to be told about Pepperdine, which finished their 2012 West Coast season last night in style, winning at Santa Clara 63-57. My apologies to the Waves, who surely exhibited laudable pep and vim in finishing their league business by late on the evening of February 23.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

February 21, 2012

The Players Who “Out-Usaged” Carmelo

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Paine @ 3:39 pm

Carmelo Anthony‘s much-ballyhooed return to the Knicks’ lineup was last night, and the earliest of returns suggests that Jeremy Lin won’t have to sacrifice as much of his usage as ‘Melo will when the pair attempt to coexist.

Lin’s rate of play consumption barely flinched alongside Anthony; it was 28.4% against Dallas on Sunday, when Landry Fields was 2nd on the team with 24.4%, and it was 27.8% against New Jersey (#2 was Amare Stoudemire‘s 23.1%). Meanwhile, Anthony, accustomed to a career usage of 31.2%, checked in at a meager (by his standards) 22.7% in his first game back since all Linsanity broke loose. Only two other times in his career had ‘Melo attempted 11 or fewer field goals in a game during which he played 35+ minutes.

Needless to say, it’s rare for Carmelo not to be his team’s usage leader. Combining regular-season & playoff games, Anthony has started 663 career games, 524 of which he was his team’s leading starter according to usage rate. Here are the names of those starters who have bested Carmelo’s usage in a game over the years:

Player          Count
Allen Iverson     30
Kenyon Martin     27
Chauncey Billups  24
Andre Miller      22
Voshon Lenard     17
Amare Stoudemire  17
Marcus Camby      10
Nene Hilario       9
Tyson Chandler     3
Landry Fields      3
Iman Shumpert      3
Anthony Carter     2
DerMarr Johnson    2
Jeremy Lin         2
Ruben Patterson    2
J.R. Smith         2
Shelden Williams   2
Arron Afflalo      1
Ryan Bowen         1
Greg Buckner       1
Toney Douglas      1
Jared Jeffries     1
Dahntay Jones      1
Linas Kleiza       1
Johan Petro        1

Lin became the latest in the game that touched off his remarkable recent run, out-usaging ‘Melo 29.9 to 15.9, but Anthony was limited to under 6 minutes that night due to a groin injury. Last night was more legitimizing, as Lin topped Anthony usage-wise in a game where both played over 36 minutes. Obviously, many more games are necessary before we can truly know what to expect from the Lin-Anthony dynamic, but it is notable anytime Anthony starts and isn’t the team’s leader in usage rate.

Email Neil at Follow him on Twitter at @Neil_Paine.

February 20, 2012

Microfracture Again for Oden

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 8:49 pm

Greg Oden‘s NBA career took another sad turn Monday when what was supposed to be a routine procedure to remove debris from his left knee instead resulted in his third microfracture surgery in five years. Dr. Richard Steadman, who pioneered the microfracture process, found damage to the articular cartilage in Oden’s left knee that required microfracture to be performed.

Originally, Oden underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in September 2007, keeping him out for the entirety of what would have been his rookie season. After playing 61 games in 2008-09, he began the 2009-10 campaign in dominant fashion before fracturing his left patella in an early December game against the Houston Rockets. Since then, Oden has not taken the court for an NBA game in more than two years.

As he was working back from the patella injury, cartilage damage was discovered in November 2010 that required Oden to undergo microfracture on his left knee. Oden’s recovery seemed to be on track prior to training camp, but a physical found “ligament instability” and the Portland Trail Blazers renegotiated his qualifying offer for just more than the minimum, indicating how unlikely they considered a return to the court this season.

Most recently, Oden had debris removed from his right knee in early February. Today’s procedure was to do the same thing before Oden’s cartilage damage proved worse than expected.

At this point, we’re into unprecedented territory. I’ve done extensive research into the history of NBA players undergoing microfracture surgery and also studied microfracture in the NFL several years ago. There are a handful of players who have had microfracture on both knees (most notably Kenyon Martin) and a handful that have had it twice on the same knee (including Matt Harpring), but I am not aware of any player having three total microfracture procedures. At some point, there’s a cumulative effect. When combined with all of Oden’s other knee injuries, it suggests he may never return to the floor.

I can’t imagine a best-case scenario where Oden is able to play before the end of the 2012-13 season, which would mean aiming for training camp in the fall of 2013. By that point, Oden would be nearly four years removed from his last NBA game, and such long absences due to injury are extremely uncommon. The closest comparison might be ’80s All-Star center Jeff Ruland, who sat out five years due to knee problems before attempting a comeback at 32. Ruland managed 24 games over two seasons before retiring for good.

The cumulative toll on Oden’s psyche might be as great as his knees. From that standpoint, we may find better guides in college hoops, where players of both genders often struggle with repeated ACL tears. UConn legend Shea Ralph is reported to have injured her ACL five times; at least three or four of those were torn ligaments. Three ACL tears delayed the start of touted USC guard Jacki Gemelos‘ career by three and a half years, and just as she was establishing herself as a WNBA prospect this season, she tore her ACL again in December. Gemelos hasn’t given up and is working to return and play in the pros. Also in the Pac-12 on the men’s side, Stanford’s Andy Brown is finally seeing action after three ACL tears cost him two and a half seasons.

If Oden decides he cannot keep trying to rehab, that would be completely understandable at this point. If he does give it another shot, we can only wish him better health in the future.

You can contact Kevin at Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

February 19, 2012

A brief note on mock selection

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 9:27 am

I’m in there somewhere. (NCAA)

The NCAA was good enough to host me and a couple dozen other members of the media last week at a mock selection exercise in Indianapolis. Armed with my newfound knowledge I will, some day soon, make good on my threat to a terrified general public to post a piece that will be much too long on the Ratings Percentage Index.

This state of affairs is ironic, given that at least part of the impetus behind the NCAA putting media types through such an exercise is to demonstrate to people “outside the room” that the RPI doesn’t really play such a large role in the selection process after all. So before I respond to that impetus with a few thousand words on what the NCAA clearly thinks is already the subject of way too many words, I wish to be clear on three points.

The mock selection exercise does what it’s intended to do: it triggers epiphanies.
Having been “in the room,” even though it was a fake room (well, the room was real — our bracket’s fake), I now know that the institutional memory and knowledge that NCAA staffers hold collectively is absolutely pivotal to the challenge of working under severe if not draconian time constraints to select and seed a 68-team field for an event that has a $10.8 billion television deal. To choose one mundane but nevertheless vital example of that memory and knowledge, those staffers have a really cool piece of bracketing software that makes voting a breeze for committee members. Those staffers regard themselves, quite rightly, as experts. Show me someone else on the planet that’s done what they’ve done this many times with the stakes this high. That being said, I do worry at times about the voice of those experts prevailing over those of the committee members, particularly newbies. When I’m committee chair (I’m preparing my campaign brochure as we speak), one of my biggest challenges will be to remind NCAA full-timers, collegially yet firmly, that just because they’re in the room doesn’t mean they’re on the committee.

Seen at the macro level, the NCAA does an outstanding job with selection.
Drawing a distinction between selection on the one hand, and bracketing and seeding on the other, I have already stated my admiration for how the NCAA goes about things:

I have no problem at all with how the Committee selects the field. Selection comes down to making a decision that no person, computer, or group of people should ever have to make: pulling up the drawbridge after Team No. 68 comes in, even though Team No. 69 will always look just as good. I think the only way to meet that challenge is precisely the way the committee does it: get a group of well-respected people in a room and have them ponder the problem at length. I won’t always agree with the decision that results, of course, but for my money that’s the only way to reach the decision. The process itself confers legitimacy.

You will always be able to make an outstanding factual case for at least one team that doesn’t get in. Literally, always. If Team A that got left out is from a major conference, the chances are very good you’ll be able to find a Team B that got in and say, correctly, “Team A went 2-0 against Team B!” If Team X that got in is from a mid-major conference and is not named “Long Beach State,” chances are excellent that you’ll be able to say, correctly, “Team X’s strength of schedule was nowhere close to Team B’s!” These statements will always be available when just 19.7 percent of Division I programs are waved through to the field of 68. I guess the statements should still be voiced, but we who hear those statements should understand going in that their availability is hard-wired into a situation that’s been presented to and not created by a given year’s committee. There are just 68 slots for 345 teams.

Seen at the micro level, the NCAA is right: The RPI plays a smaller role than generally believed.
Committee members do not sit around saying, “Let’s put Team B in the bracket because their RPI is so good.” But of course part of the reason that outside observers make such a big deal about the RPI has less to do with the relative weight that generic Metric X should have in the process, and more to do with the specific evaluative failings that the RPI does have. To this the NCAA responds, in effect, hey, all rating systems have failings. This is correct. The logical course of action, as suggested by no less an authority than Nate Silver to the NCAA at the mock exercise, would therefore be to use an index comprised of multiple rating systems. That would be logical, however, I don’t expect the NCAA to adopt that course of action. I will explain why in my much too long piece on the RPI.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

February 16, 2012

How Big a Problem are Jeremy Lin’s Turnovers?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:16 pm

Jeremy Lin‘s streak continued last night. No, he didn’t score 20 points against the Sacramento Kings. Instead, Lin turned passer and handed out a career-high 13 assists. However, he also had six turnovers, the fourth consecutive time that’s happened and fifth in the last six games. If Lin continues on his current pace, he would make a lot of history, including setting an NBA record for turnovers per game. The league record is 4.5 a night, set by Artis Gilmore during 1977-78, the first year turnovers were tracked at the individual level. (Not coincidentally, player turnovers went down sharply as soon as they were tracked, making it easier for coaches to yell at them for turning the ball over too often.)

It feels like there have been two types of responses to Lin’s turnovers. One is to ignore them altogether, since what he’s doing defies rational analysis (and for a variety of reasons, the whole phenomenon does). The other is to mention them in snarky fashion, a la our old friend Sebastian Pruiti.

As usual, the numbers stake out a position somewhere in the middle. In this case, they suggest we should probably be closer to ignoring Lin’s turnovers than obsessing over them. Lin’s turnover percentage is 20.4 percent, which is high but certainly not obscene. For example, Rajon Rondo turns the ball over on 20.9 percent of his plays and Steve Nash on 24.1 percent, and there is little hand-wringing about their miscues.

In part, this is a situation where our definition of turnover percentage (turnovers per play used) is not entirely apt. Lin scores a lot more than Nash and Rondo, so his denominator is much larger. To compare Lin to other point guards, we’re better off using John Hollinger‘s definition of turnover rate, which is TO / (FGA + (.44*FTA) + TO + AST). This helps credit players like Rondo and Nash for the playmaking they’re doing that leads to assists and not shot attempts. By this definition, Nash (14.0 percent) and Rondo (13.6) move ahead of Lin (14.9) … though not by an enormous amount. This year’s other turnover-prone rookie point guard phenom, Ricky Rubio, is also in this ballpark (14.1).

So why does Lin commit so many more turnovers per game? As with most issues like this, the answer is opportunities. Since he broke on the scene, Lin is averaging 37.7 minutes per game. Before resting last night, he had averaged 40-plus over his previous five games. He’s also creating an obscene amount of the New York offense (his usage rate is 31.3 percent). So over his seven games as a regular, Lin has averaged 26.4 plays per night. Over the course of the season, that would tie him for second in the league with LeBron James, trailing only Kobe Bryant (30.9). Naturally, players that carry such heavy loads are usually better than average when it comes to turnovers. In this as most senses, Lin is an outlier.

You can contact Kevin at Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

February 15, 2012

Using’s New Feature to Study Late-Game Situations

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:27 pm

It’s the day after Valentine’s Day, but has provided a terrific gift to those of us who love the site. Today, Justin Kubatko unveiled Play Index+, which makes play-by-play data searchable and offers shot charts and location data. The list of studies that can be performed with this tool is virtually inexhaustible, and I look forward to using it repeatedly in the months and years to come.

For now, though, one particular thought came to mind. Play Index+ offers us the ability to study clutch shots in a much more robust fashion than we have in the past. Specifically, I went back to a 2009 Unfiltered post on shots to tie or take the lead at the end of the game, in which I tried to answer the question of whether role players fare better than stars in these situations but was limited somewhat by the available data. Not so anymore.

I isolated shots to tie or take the lead in the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime from last season. There were 610 such shots, on which the NBA as a whole shot 29.0 percent. That includes desperation heaves, but the number is still stunningly low. Even on two-pointers, the league shoots just 36.6 percent in clutch situations. Why that number is so low is part of the question.

One theory, espoused frequently by TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott, is that offenses suffer from being too predictable and relying on isolations for their star players rather than balanced offenses. We can’t entirely test that theory, since we don’t know what led to each shot, but we can compare how players with many attempts to tie or take the lead performed as compared to those with few attempts, presumably role players getting a feed from a star to take an open shot.

Here’s how the statistics break down by the number of attempts the player had:

Att  FGA    FG%    2P%    3P%   eFG%  
10+  36   .222   .222   .222   .250
9    45   .378   .462   .263   .433
8    56   .321   .425   .063   .330
7    63   .333   .423   .270   .413
6    48   .250   .259   .238   .302
5    75   .280   .317   .235   .333
4    56   .250   .333   .154   .286
3    81   .309   .447   .186   .358
2    86   .267   .400   .122   .297
1    64   .281   .333   .226   .336  
Tot 610   .290   .366   .199   .335  
5+  323   .300   .353   .228   .348
4-  287   .279   .384   .170   .321

Even when we aggregate by number of shot attempts, the sample sizes are still tiny and the data noisy. Still, we distinctly do not see the pattern we’d expect if teams go to their stars too frequently. In fact, because of their superior three-point shooting, players with many attempts to tie or take the lead tend to be slightly more efficient than players with few of them. Mostly, the numbers tend to show that the attempts are more or less being distributed as they should. In a world with perfect game theory, the percentages for all levels of attempts would end up the same. We’re apparently not as far from that as you might think.

Lin Before Lin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:49 am

In the wake of Jeremy Lin‘s astonishing rise from obscurity, NBA writers are struggling to find a precedent for a young player unexpectedly dominating during his first opportunity to play in the league. I watched one of the best examples unfold in person. During the first two weeks of the 2003-04 season, Ronald Murray–better known as “Flip”–was one of the NBA’s leading scorers as he filled in for an injured Ray Allen.

Murray was regarded a little more highly than Lin entering the league. A product of Division II Shaw University, a HCBU in Raleigh, Murray was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks 41st overall in the 2002 Draft. Before he ever got a real chance to play in Milwaukee, Murray was a distant afterthought in the deal that sent Gary Payton to the Bucks and brought Allen to the Seattle SuperSonics.

Murray had played all of 20 minutes for the Sonics when they were forced to turn to him as their starting two-guard in place of Allen, who underwent ankle surgery just before the team traveled to Japan for a two-game series against the Los Angeles Clippers to open the season. Rashard Lewis, who scored 50 points in Saitama, was the story of the Japan games, but Murray wasn’t far behind. He totaled 46 points in two games.

As it turned out, that just set the stage for what was to come when the Sonics returned stateside. Murray scored 24 points as they won their home opener over the Portland Trail Blazers. His biggest performance came at Minnesota on Nov. 11. Murray scored 29 points, handed out eight assists, grabbed six rebounds and–Lin parallel alert!–had the ball in his hands at the buzzer, rimming in a turnaround jumper to break an 87-all tie and give the Sonics the road win over a Timberwolves squad that would reach the Western Conference Finals.

The streak of 20-point efforts from Murray would end at seven, one better than Lin has currently. But after slumping to 16 points, Murray poured in at least 20 in each of the next four games. On Nov. 24, Murray was averaging 23.9 points, 4.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting an even 50 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from downtown.

Then, as quickly as Murray had emerged as a star, the run was over. His next two games saw him post more turnovers (10) than field goals (eight), and with the Sonics suddenly slumping (after starting 5-1, they lost five of their next seven games), Murray was benched in favor of Antonio Daniels. He actually delivered four more 20-point outings, mostly in a reserve role, before Allen returned on Festivus. However, Murray had already morphed into the inconsistent volume scorer he would be over the rest of his career.

It’s difficult to remember now exactly how caught up we were in Flip-mania. I do recall a lot of interest in his nickname (he told a variety of stories about how he came by it, depending on the day). Google News archive shows a couple of USA Today features and of course John Hollinger weighed in with the statistical perspective back when he was writing for I can tell you that Murray did not appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

I can’t even remember for certain what I thought about Murray. Naturally my official take for was wildly optimistic, but the only off-the-record thoughts I can find came after just the two Japan games, when I concluded that Murray was definitely a rotation player.

I don’t recall what Murray was doing seeming particularly fluky. In hindsight, we certainly should have been wary of his early success from downtown (Murray would finish the season at 29.3 percent on threes; his career mark was 30.4 percent). His turnovers also rose over the course of his run, from just three in his first three games to an average of 4.4 per game over his last five high-scoring outings.

What kind of example Murray provides for Lin–to the extent it makes sense to draw conclusions from a precedent of one player, which is to say not much–depends on your perspective. He played eight years in the NBA and averaged 9.9 points per game, which is impressive for a second-round pick, especially one from Division II. From the more pessimistic viewpoint, Murray ultimately proved one of the league’s most inefficient scorers. I have him rated almost exactly at replacement level for his career.

Ultimately, my lingering memory of Murray is as negative as can be. By 2005-06, when the Sonics were trying to play him as a backup to starting point guard Luke Ridnour, Murray had become painful to watch. Before the Sonics traded him at the deadline, I didn’t know whether I could take two more months of having to watch Murray play. During his rise two and a half years earlier, I never could have predicted that outcome.

You can contact Kevin at Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

February 10, 2012

Jeremy Lin and the Joy of the Unexpected

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:50 pm

Hey, remember the Brandon Jennings moment? For the first two weeks of Jennings’ NBA career, there was no one in the league more watchable. His 55-point outburst on a random Saturday night was one of the first great crossover League Pass/Twitter moments. Everybody wanted to see what Jennings might do.

I thought back to that this week, when I picked Jennings for the All-Star team. He didn’t make it, but he’s close, and today I chose him as the most likely player in the entire league to reach All-Star status in the future. At 22, Jennings is on the cusp of figuring it out … and nobody cares. When was the last time a Bucks game reached must-watch status? In part, the same things that make Jennings more valuable (low turnover rate, fewer crazy stats) also make him less entertaining. More than that, though, what Jennings is doing is no longer new.

As a sports fan, there’s nothing more enjoyable than the unexpected. When a player starts doing new things, even if they’re only reinforcing what we already knew he could do but hadn’t seen with our own eyes, we watch with rapt attention. That, to me, is the underrated part of Linsanity.

There are many elements to why Jeremy Lin has suddenly become the most discussed player in the league. Playing in New York helps. Being a pioneering fully Asian-American NBA player is a huge factor that made Lin immensely popular before he’d ever scored an NBA point. Lin’s streetball-style game is uniquely suited to capturing attention. To me, though, none of those elements would matter quite so much if Lin had developed slowly rather than going from little-used backup to the Knicks’ leading scorer overnight. Whether you’re pulling for Lin to keep it up or can’t wait for him to come crashing back to Earth, we all want to know what comes next.

We also want to debate the answer. Personally, I find myself going back through everything I’ve ever written about Lin to try to figure out where to peg expectations. Based on his stats, and watching him play at Harvard, I thought there was a place for Lin in the league, and New York is close to the ideal situation. I anticipated Lin playing point guard next to a quicker player who lacks playmaking skills, and that describes Iman Shumpert. Mike D’Antoni‘s system puts Lin in a position to create off the dribble, and that’s always been the strength of his game.

When Twitter tried to come up with precedent for Lin, we didn’t find many players truly comparable in terms of huge, unexpected success. There are a bunch of Warriors (Anthony Morrow, C.J. Watson, Reggie Williams) and a few second-round picks who thrived immediately after getting off the bench (Flip Murray, Ramon Sessions). The history of these players is still instructive. None of them became big stars–Sessions is probably the closest–but all of them have enjoyed legitimate NBA careers.

Lin’s performance is a fluke to the extent that he’s not going to continue to rank second in the NBA in PER, but not to the extent that he’s going to completely disappear. Expect more games like his last three from time to time in the future. Too bad they won’t be nearly as exciting.

You can contact Kevin at Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

Franchise “Wins Above Average” Leaders

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Paine @ 3:05 pm

For my LeBron James piece today, I had to calculate player “winning percentages” using stats from Dean Oliver’s book Basketball on Paper. Using the percentage of team minutes a player has played and his team’s # of scheduled games, I can also turn those winning percentages into player Wins Above Average, or the number of wins a player would add to a hypothetical average team.

Since the hoops cognoscenti has been debating all week who the “Greatest Laker” is, I thought I’d tally those numbers up for every player since 1974 (not including ABA data) and list each franchise’s top (and bottom) five players in cumulative WAA:

Atlanta Hawks
Dominique Wilkins        68.2
John Drew                38.6
Mookie Blaylock          24.0
Dan Roundfield           21.4
Doc Rivers               19.3
Tom Henderson            -7.9
Boris Diaw               -8.3
Randy Wittman            -8.6
Armond Hill             -15.5
Jon Koncak              -22.2
Boston Celtics
Larry Bird               99.2
Paul Pierce              79.4
Kevin McHale             59.4
Robert Parish            57.6
Cedric Maxwell           25.6
Quinn Buckner            -5.8
Brian Scalabrine         -8.1
Chris Ford               -8.8
Eric Williams            -9.2
Walter McCarty          -12.5
Charlotte Bobcats
Gerald Wallace           13.6
Emeka Okafor              3.3
Jason Richardson          2.7
D.J. Augustin             1.5
Nazr Mohammed             0.8
Matt Carroll             -5.3
Melvin Ely               -5.3
Jeff McInnis             -6.4
Raymond Felton           -8.0
Adam Morrison            -8.2
Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan          164.4
Scottie Pippen           52.1
Artis Gilmore            37.0
Horace Grant             20.3
Toni Kukoc               20.1
Norm Van Lier            -8.7
Bill Cartwright          -9.8
John Paxson             -10.1
Trenton Hassell         -11.4
Dave Corzine            -12.4
Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James             79.2
Mark Price               36.6
Brad Daugherty           30.1
Zydrunas Ilgauskas       27.7
Larry Nance              26.9
Ira Newble               -9.6
John Bagley             -10.0
Jim Brewer              -10.7
Cedric Henderson        -12.3
Eric Snow               -13.5
Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki           111.0
Mark Aguirre             26.6
Jason Terry              24.8
Steve Nash               18.6
Rolando Blackman         17.3
Hubert Davis             -9.9
James Donaldson         -11.2
Terry Davis             -11.5
Lorenzo Williams        -11.5
Herb Williams           -12.1
Denver Nuggets
Dan Issel                46.4
Alex English             43.4
Carmelo Anthony          29.9
David Thompson           24.8
Fat Lever                17.7
Joe Wolf                 -9.8
Charlie Scott           -10.5
Bill Hanzlik            -12.3
Bob Wilkerson           -14.0
T.R. Dunn               -34.1
Detroit Pistons
Chauncey Billups         48.3
Bob Lanier               43.7
Grant Hill               39.1
Isiah Thomas             29.8
Bill Laimbeer            27.8
Leon Douglas             -7.3
Ron Lee                  -7.8
Chris Ford              -11.6
Michael Curry           -15.0
Lindsey Hunter          -16.3
Golden State Warriors
Rick Barry               30.9
Chris Mullin             28.8
Tim Hardaway             14.6
Purvis Short             11.6
Baron Davis              10.9
Jerome Whitehead         -8.9
Erick Dampier            -8.9
Manute Bol              -10.0
Larry Smith             -14.2
Adonal Foyle            -20.4
Houston Rockets
Hakeem Olajuwon         104.8
Moses Malone             44.9
Yao Ming                 44.9
Calvin Murphy            22.9
Tracy McGrady            21.4
Caldwell Jones           -7.1
Major Jones              -7.6
Ed Ratleff               -7.6
Robert Reid              -9.8
Tom Henderson           -10.1
Indiana Pacers
Reggie Miller            83.8
Jermaine O'Neal          20.8
Rik Smits                19.2
Detlef Schrempf          18.4
Billy Knight             16.8
George McCloud           -8.0
Jerry Sichting           -8.5
Herb Williams           -10.5
Brandon Rush            -11.2
LaSalle Thompson        -12.1
L.A. Clippers
Elton Brand              41.6
Bob McAdoo               33.8
Corey Maggette           22.1
World B. Free            12.0
Randy Smith              10.5
Chris Kaman             -12.9
Quinton Ross            -12.9
Ernie DiGregorio        -13.0
Gary Grant              -15.1
Michael Olowokandi      -23.7
L.A. Lakers
Kobe Bryant             115.8
Magic Johnson           106.9
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar     100.5
Shaquille O'Neal         75.3
Pau Gasol                30.5
Rick Fox                 -7.4
Luke Walton              -8.3
Don Ford                 -8.9
Michael Cooper           -9.5
Derek Fisher            -15.1
Memphis Grizzlies
Pau Gasol                28.6
Zach Randolph            11.9
Shareef Abdur-Rahim      10.7
Marc Gasol                7.8
Mike Miller               5.2
Dahntay Jones            -7.1
Grant Long               -8.9
Blue Edwards            -10.0
Lee Mayberry            -10.1
Bryant Reeves           -12.8
Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade              64.3
Alonzo Mourning          39.2
Tim Hardaway             25.7
LeBron James             17.4
Eddie Jones              17.1
Daequan Cook             -8.0
Rory Sparrow             -8.7
Anthony Carter           -9.4
Keith Askins            -10.2
Kevin Edwards           -12.1
Milwaukee Bucks
Sidney Moncrief          48.7
Marques Johnson          42.2
Ray Allen                25.3
Michael Redd             25.3
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar      23.2
Kevin Restani            -8.7
Ervin Johnson            -9.9
Charlie Bell            -10.7
Lee Mayberry            -12.1
Harvey Catchings        -12.3
Minnesota T-Wolves
Kevin Garnett            87.5
Kevin Love               14.7
Terrell Brandon          11.7
Wally Szczerbiak         11.2
Sam Cassell              10.3
Sebastian Telfair        -9.4
Sam Mitchell            -10.6
Corey Brewer            -12.8
Trenton Hassell         -16.2
Doug West               -20.6
New Jersey Nets
Jason Kidd               26.7
Vince Carter             26.4
Richard Jefferson        19.6
Derrick Coleman          17.4
Buck Williams            13.9
Trenton Hassell          -7.9
Tim Bassett             -12.0
George Johnson          -12.8
Jan Van Breda Kolff     -16.2
Jason Collins           -21.4
New Orleans Hornets
Chris Paul               54.0
David West               19.0
Larry Johnson            15.4
Alonzo Mourning          12.9
Glen Rice                12.2
George Lynch             -8.0
Rasual Butler            -9.8
Rex Chapman              -9.9
Desmond Mason           -10.0
J.R. Reid               -11.4
New York Knicks
Patrick Ewing            74.5
Bill Cartwright          24.5
Bernard King             18.6
John Starks              15.2
Walt Frazier             14.6
Rory Sparrow             -8.9
Gerald Wilkins           -9.6
Quentin Richardson      -10.5
Bill Bradley            -12.6
Jared Jeffries          -14.7
Oklahoma City Thunder
Gary Payton              66.9
Shawn Kemp               40.3
Jack Sikma               34.1
Gus Williams             29.0
Detlef Schrempf          26.7
John Johnson             -8.6
Johan Petro              -8.8
Damien Wilkins           -9.2
Earl Watson             -10.3
Danny Vranes            -13.5
Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard            51.1
Tracy McGrady            36.3
Shaquille O'Neal         35.2
Anfernee Hardaway        25.3
Darrell Armstrong        13.9
Brian Shaw               -9.1
DeShawn Stevenson        -9.1
Pat Garrity             -10.1
Greg Kite               -12.7
Jeff Turner             -16.3
Philadelphia 76ers
Charles Barkley          72.6
Julius Erving            66.0
Allen Iverson            49.0
Moses Malone             30.3
Maurice Cheeks           22.0
Tim Perry                -9.3
Clint Richardson         -9.7
Manute Bol              -12.0
Willie Green            -13.4
Caldwell Jones          -13.5
Phoenix Suns
Kevin Johnson            54.8
Shawn Marion             48.0
Steve Nash               46.5
Amare Stoudemire         42.1
Walter Davis             34.0
Joe Johnson              -6.9
Raja Bell                -7.0
Don Buse                 -7.6
Alvin Scott              -8.6
Dennis Awtrey           -12.3
Portland Trail Blazers
Clyde Drexler            67.4
Terry Porter             33.7
Arvydas Sabonis          28.9
Rasheed Wallace          25.4
LaMarcus Aldridge        20.3
Larry Steele             -6.7
Joel Przybilla           -6.9
Chris Dudley             -7.3
Martell Webster          -7.5
Caldwell Jones          -12.4
Sacramento Kings
Chris Webber             27.9
Peja Stojakovic          26.6
Mitch Richmond           21.4
Otis Birdsong            14.0
Mike Bibby               13.9
Jason Williams           -7.9
Donte Greene             -8.0
Duane Causwell           -9.6
Lionel Simmons           -9.9
Bobby Hurley            -10.1
San Antonio Spurs
David Robinson          130.6
Tim Duncan              125.9
George Gervin            54.9
Manu Ginobili            54.9
Tony Parker              40.1
Greg Anderson            -7.6
Dave Greenwood           -7.7
Vernon Maxwell           -8.6
Mike Gale                -9.1
Bruce Bowen             -26.9
Toronto Raptors
Chris Bosh               33.0
Vince Carter             29.1
Donyell Marshall          7.1
Jose Calderon             6.9
Tracy McGrady             3.6
Sonny Weems              -5.7
Jason Kapono             -6.1
Alvin Williams           -6.5
Andrea Bargnani          -6.7
Charles Oakley          -10.8
Utah Jazz
Karl Malone             165.9
John Stockton           126.0
Adrian Dantley           53.3
Jeff Hornacek            26.5
Andrei Kirilenko         25.4
Bob Hansen              -10.0
E.C. Coleman            -10.6
Darrell Griffith        -15.6
Jeff Wilkins            -16.1
Mark Eaton              -37.9
Washington Wizards
Elvin Hayes              29.1
Gilbert Arenas           24.3
Jeff Ruland              16.7
Antawn Jamison           14.0
Moses Malone             11.9
Jarvis Hayes            -10.3
Jared Jeffries          -10.6
DeShawn Stevenson       -10.7
Calbert Cheaney         -14.1
Charles Jones           -25.3

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