The 2015 NBA Draft According to YODA

yoda2A few years back, I embarked on an effort to develop a statistically-based, objective method of evaluating prospects for the NBA draft. I make no claims that it’s perfect, but I’ve found the results decent enough, albeit not yet subjected to rigorous analysis. That’s coming.

When I get time.

Someday.

On the Wizards message board at RealGM, I referred to the effort a few times as “Ye Olde Draft Analyzer,” someone called it YODA, and the name stuck. YODA isn’t complex — at least not yet. It’s built on the Player Production Average metric I devised that credits players for things they do to help their teams win, and debits them for things they do that hurt the cause — each in proper proportion. YODA takes each player’s production (box score stats) then applies adjustments for position, age, team strength/level of competition, and objective measures of physical attributes (combine measurements and times).

In general, YODA likes efficient players who shoot well, rebound well, assist without committing turnovers, and generate blocks and steals without fouling too much. Being on a good team that plays a challenging schedule is also helpful, but not determinant — players like Kenneth Faried, Paul Millsap and Danny Granger had excellent ratings despite not playing for traditional powers.

YODA’s biggest limitation is international players. I haven’t had the time to research the numbers posted by prospects overseas, or to objectively assess the quality of the competition they face. Rather than guessing, I’ve chosen to leave them out of the process for now. Given the global nature of the draft, that’s a significant limitation, and it’s one I hope to fix for next year.

My belief on draft strategy is that the smart move is to pick the best player available, even if he doesn’t fit an immediate need. My approach is to first rate players in absolute terms, then group them into tiers of “about the same.” The idea is that when several players of “about the same” quality are available when your team’s pick comes, the team can pick the player they think best fits current needs. But, don’t reach into a lower tier for a perceived need. Just pick the better player and make another move down the road, if necessary.

Here’s this year’s draft in order of both absolute value according to YODA, and divided by tier.

TIER ONE

  • Karl-Anthony Towns, PF, Kentucky
  • Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke

TIER TWO

  • D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State
  • Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin

TIER THREE

  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
  • Delon Wright, PG, Utah
  • Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
  • Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas

TIER FOUR

  • Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
  • Myles Turner, C, Texas
  • Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas

TIER FIVE

  • Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
  • Robert Upshaw, C, Washington
  • Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
  • Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
  • Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky

TIER SIX

  • Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
  • Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
  • Cliff Alexander, PF/C, Kansas
  • Terry Rozier, G, Louisville
  • Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia
  • Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona

TIER SEVEN

  • Briante Weber, PG, VCU
  • Bryce Jones, SG, Iowa State
  • Aaron White, PF, Iowa
  • Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
  • Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville

TIER EIGHT

  • Richaun Holmes, PF, Bowling Green
  • Pat Connaughton, SG, Notre Dame
  • R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State

In simple terms, the first round grades end with Tier Six. If things go more or less the way the mock drafts predict, the Wizards may be able to select a PG from Tier Three (Delon Wright), or perhaps a PF with potential like Looney.

While I fully expect the Wizards to sell or give away their second round pick, I think there may be some opportunities to get potentially useful players on inexpensive contracts with additional second rounders. I’d be interested in taking a guy like Cliff Alexander, or even Robert Upshaw (assuming he’s medically cleared to play despite a heart condition).

The consensus view on this year’s draft seems to be that it’s top heavy with a steep drop-off in talent after the lottery. I don’t really see that in the numbers. Towns and Okafor are a relatively weak top two, and the drop in ratings isn’t any greater than it is in most years. In other words, it looks like a draft.

Feel free to tweet me if you have questions about specific players. I’ve analyzed most seniors, and virtually all of the early entrants (except for the international players).

NBA Playoffs: PPA Update Through Round Two

Just numbers because…no time. This update includes all playoff games through the completion of round two.

Player Production Average (PPA) is an overall rating stat I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that hurt the cause. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and replacement level is 45.

Hoping to have some thoughts up about the Wizards tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Player POS Age Tm G MPG PPA
DeMarre Carroll SF 28 ATL 12 35.2 204
Al Horford C 28 ATL 12 33.8 188
Paul Millsap PF 29 ATL 12 35.4 146
Jeff Teague PG 26 ATL 12 32.3 128
Kyle Korver SG 33 ATL 12 38.1 111
Shelvin Mack PG 24 ATL 7 4.9 97
Mike Muscala PF 23 ATL 6 10.8 94
Mike Scott PF 26 ATL 8 11.1 84
Dennis Schroder PG 21 ATL 12 19.8 51
Pero Antic PF 32 ATL 12 14.7 37
Kent Bazemore SG 25 ATL 12 16.5 34
John Jenkins SG 23 ATL 2 2.5 -85
Elton Brand PF 35 ATL 2 2.0 -212
Jae Crowder SF 24 BOS 4 25.0 126
Jared Sullinger PF 22 BOS 4 20.0 110
Tyler Zeller C 25 BOS 4 22.5 85
Isaiah Thomas PG 25 BOS 4 29.8 67
Marcus Smart PG 20 BOS 4 22.5 57
Evan Turner SG 26 BOS 4 29.5 51
Brandon Bass PF 29 BOS 4 21.5 49
Avery Bradley SG 24 BOS 4 33.3 23
Kelly Olynyk C 23 BOS 4 13.3 20
Jonas Jerebko PF 27 BOS 4 17.0 -13
Gerald Wallace SF 32 BOS 1 4.0 -67
Luigi Datome SF 27 BOS 3 4.7 -86
Phil Pressey PG 23 BOS 2 2.5 -156
Brook Lopez C 26 BRK 6 39.0 166
Alan Anderson SG 32 BRK 6 23.7 122
Joe Johnson SG 33 BRK 6 41.5 103
Jarrett Jack PG 31 BRK 6 25.5 94
Deron Williams PG 30 BRK 6 32.0 87
Markel Brown SG 23 BRK 2 5.0 68
Thaddeus Young PF 26 BRK 6 31.7 55
Bojan Bogdanovic SF 25 BRK 6 34.3 48
Mason Plumlee C 24 BRK 6 8.2 30
Earl Clark PF 27 BRK 2 6.5 -45
Darius Morris PG 24 BRK 1 5.0 -83
Mirza Teletovic PF 29 BRK 3 5.3 -113
Jerome Jordan C 28 BRK 1 5.0 -166
Jimmy Butler SG 25 CHI 12 42.2 183
Pau Gasol PF 34 CHI 10 31.7 174
E’Twaun Moore SG 25 CHI 3 3.0 146
Mike Dunleavy SF 34 CHI 12 32.4 143
Doug McDermott SF 23 CHI 3 3.3 125
Joakim Noah C 29 CHI 12 32.9 116
Derrick Rose PG 26 CHI 12 37.8 111
Taj Gibson PF 29 CHI 12 23.0 95
Nazr Mohammed C 37 CHI 3 4.7 64
Kirk Hinrich SG 34 CHI 10 12.6 53
Nikola Mirotic PF 23 CHI 11 14.9 20
Tony Snell SF 23 CHI 11 12.7 9
Aaron Brooks PG 30 CHI 12 11.0 -11
Kevin Love PF 26 CLE 4 26.8 167
Kyrie Irving PG 22 CLE 10 37.1 158
Tristan Thompson PF 23 CLE 10 32.4 150
LeBron James SF 30 CLE 10 41.7 140
Iman Shumpert SG 24 CLE 10 33.3 137
Timofey Mozgov C 28 CLE 10 25.2 111
J.R. Smith SG 29 CLE 8 27.9 111
Mike Miller SF 34 CLE 3 10.3 73
Shawn Marion SF 36 CLE 3 4.0 48
Matthew Dellavedova SG 24 CLE 10 18.2 40
James Jones SF 34 CLE 10 11.8 32
Kendrick Perkins C 30 CLE 6 4.0 -47
Joe Harris SG 23 CLE 2 2.0 -253
Al-Farouq Aminu SF 24 DAL 5 30.0 176
Tyson Chandler C 32 DAL 5 32.0 160
Charlie Villanueva PF 30 DAL 5 8.6 135
Monta Ellis SG 29 DAL 5 39.4 111
Dirk Nowitzki PF 36 DAL 5 36.2 110
Jose Barea PG 30 DAL 5 30.8 68
Raymond Felton PG 30 DAL 3 12.0 19
Rajon Rondo PG 28 DAL 2 18.5 16
Bernard James C 29 DAL 1 2.0 0
Greg Smith PF 24 DAL 1 1.0 0
Amar’e Stoudemire PF 32 DAL 5 15.0 -2
Devin Harris PG 31 DAL 4 18.5 -13
Richard Jefferson SF 34 DAL 4 12.8 -29
Chandler Parsons SF 26 DAL 1 37.0 -32
Dwight Powell PF 23 DAL 2 1.5 -79
Stephen Curry PG 26 GSW 10 38.7 208
Draymond Green SF 24 GSW 10 37.1 153
Andrew Bogut C 30 GSW 10 25.9 147
James Michael McAdoo PF 22 GSW 3 1.7 141
Klay Thompson SG 24 GSW 10 37.5 133
Harrison Barnes SF 22 GSW 10 32.9 127
Andre Iguodala SG 31 GSW 10 27.6 105
Justin Holiday SG 25 GSW 3 1.7 85
Festus Ezeli C 25 GSW 10 5.4 65
Shaun Livingston PG 29 GSW 10 15.8 61
Leandro Barbosa SG 32 GSW 10 9.7 30
David Lee PF 31 GSW 5 11.0 27
Marreese Speights PF 27 GSW 7 7.3 23
Brandon Rush SG 29 GSW 2 2.0 -145
Dwight Howard C 29 HOU 12 33.3 178
James Harden SG 25 HOU 12 36.4 175
Clint Capela C 20 HOU 12 7.6 97
Josh Smith PF 29 HOU 12 22.6 95
Trevor Ariza SF 29 HOU 12 38.1 95
Terrence Jones PF 23 HOU 12 24.0 88
Jason Terry SG 37 HOU 12 27.6 83
Corey Brewer SF 28 HOU 12 25.5 46
Pablo Prigioni PG 37 HOU 12 19.9 32
Nick Johnson SG 22 HOU 7 4.3 -6
Joey Dorsey PF 31 HOU 6 2.2 -33
Kostas Papanikolaou SF 24 HOU 7 2.4 -188
Chris Paul PG 29 LAC 12 37.1 224
DeAndre Jordan C 26 LAC 14 34.4 188
Blake Griffin PF 25 LAC 14 39.8 183
Spencer Hawes PF 26 LAC 8 7.1 101
Matt Barnes SF 34 LAC 14 29.2 65
J.J. Redick SG 30 LAC 14 38.6 61
Austin Rivers PG 22 LAC 14 17.9 53
Dahntay Jones SF 34 LAC 11 1.6 21
Jamal Crawford SG 34 LAC 14 27.1 21
Lester Hudson SG 30 LAC 7 5.4 17
Glen Davis PF 29 LAC 14 10.3 -4
Hedo Turkoglu SF 35 LAC 11 5.0 -20
Ekpe Udoh PF 27 LAC 4 3.0 -54
Jordan Adams SG 20 MEM 4 2.5 208
Russ Smith PG 23 MEM 2 1.5 184
Marc Gasol C 30 MEM 11 37.8 155
Jon Leuer PF 25 MEM 4 2.3 138
Mike Conley PG 27 MEM 8 30.4 137
Tony Allen SG 33 MEM 10 27.9 134
Courtney Lee SG 29 MEM 11 33.4 133
Kosta Koufos C 25 MEM 11 11.5 132
JaMychal Green PF 24 MEM 5 1.6 93
Vince Carter SG 38 MEM 11 17.8 79
Beno Udrih PG 32 MEM 10 17.5 68
Zach Randolph PF 33 MEM 11 34.7 66
Nick Calathes SG 25 MEM 9 14.0 23
Jeff Green SF 28 MEM 11 27.1 14
Zaza Pachulia C 30 MIL 6 21.5 141
Jared Dudley SG 29 MIL 6 18.3 122
John Henson C 24 MIL 6 25.5 117
Khris Middleton PF 23 MIL 6 38.7 88
Jerryd Bayless PG 26 MIL 6 20.0 53
Tyler Ennis PG 20 MIL 1 16.0 48
Giannis Antetokounmpo SG 20 MIL 6 33.5 48
Michael Carter-Williams PG 23 MIL 6 31.8 44
O.J. Mayo SG 27 MIL 6 26.0 41
Jorge Gutierrez PG 26 MIL 1 12.0 25
Ersan Ilyasova PF 27 MIL 6 23.7 22
Johnny O’Bryant PF 21 MIL 1 12.0 -1
Miles Plumlee C 26 MIL 1 16.0 -65
Alexis Ajinca C 26 NOP 3 3.3 242
Anthony Davis PF 21 NOP 4 43.0 197
Dante Cunningham PF 27 NOP 4 18.8 142
Quincy Pondexter SF 26 NOP 4 31.0 95
Omer Asik C 28 NOP 4 19.8 91
Eric Gordon SG 26 NOP 4 35.8 85
Ryan Anderson PF 26 NOP 4 23.8 81
Jrue Holiday PG 24 NOP 3 18.3 58
Tyreke Evans SF 25 NOP 4 31.3 50
Norris Cole PG 26 NOP 4 26.5 -38
Allen Crabbe SG 22 POR 2 19.5 149
Meyers Leonard C 22 POR 5 21.2 143
Alonzo Gee SF 27 POR 1 3.0 133
Joel Freeland C 27 POR 2 3.5 96
C.J. McCollum SG 23 POR 5 33.2 93
Robin Lopez C 26 POR 5 23.4 89
LaMarcus Aldridge PF 29 POR 5 41.6 80
Nicolas Batum SF 26 POR 5 41.8 67
Chris Kaman C 32 POR 3 12.3 56
Damian Lillard PG 24 POR 5 40.2 54
Steve Blake PG 34 POR 5 8.6 -25
Arron Afflalo SG 29 POR 3 20.0 -128
Tim Frazier PG 24 POR 2 1.5 -309
Tim Duncan PF 38 SAS 7 35.7 213
Kawhi Leonard SF 23 SAS 7 35.7 154
Patrick Mills PG 26 SAS 7 16.0 153
Marco Belinelli SG 28 SAS 7 16.6 136
Boris Diaw PF 32 SAS 7 28.3 96
Danny Green SG 27 SAS 7 29.1 86
Manu Ginobili SG 37 SAS 7 18.7 80
Cory Joseph PG 23 SAS 4 5.5 77
Jeff Ayres PF 27 SAS 3 4.0 44
Tiago Splitter C 30 SAS 7 17.6 23
Tony Parker PG 32 SAS 7 30.0 -17
Aron Baynes C 28 SAS 4 10.0 -51
Matt Bonner PF 34 SAS 7 5.1 -69
Greg Stiemsma C 29 TOR 1 2.0 526
Jonas Valanciunas C 22 TOR 4 26.5 141
Patrick Patterson PF 25 TOR 4 26.5 121
Amir Johnson PF 27 TOR 4 28.0 90
DeMar DeRozan SG 25 TOR 4 39.8 75
Terrence Ross SF 23 TOR 4 26.8 38
Lou Williams SG 28 TOR 4 25.5 26
Greivis Vasquez PG 28 TOR 4 25.3 14
Kyle Lowry PG 28 TOR 4 32.8 -5
Tyler Hansbrough PF 29 TOR 4 12.0 -12
James Johnson PF 27 TOR 2 6.0 -115
Marcin Gortat C 30 WAS 10 30.7 186
Paul Pierce SF 37 WAS 10 29.8 149
John Wall PG 24 WAS 7 39.0 142
Kris Humphries PF 29 WAS 1 5.0 141
Bradley Beal SG 21 WAS 10 41.8 132
Otto Porter SF 21 WAS 10 33.1 120
Nene Hilario PF 32 WAS 10 25.7 73
Drew Gooden PF 33 WAS 10 17.8 62
Ramon Sessions PG 28 WAS 10 21.8 46
Will Bynum SG 32 WAS 3 10.3 44
Martell Webster SF 28 WAS 1 4.0 35
Kevin Seraphin C 25 WAS 6 12.0 34
Garrett Temple SG 28 WAS 4 6.5 -57
Rasual Butler SF 35 WAS 2 3.5 -81

NBA Playoffs: PPA Update

Just numbers because…no time. This is through games played on May 10, 2015.

Player Production Average (PPA) is an overall rating stat I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that hurt the cause. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and replacement level is 45.

Player POS Tm G MPG PPA
DeMarre Carroll SF ATL 9 35.2 212
Al Horford C ATL 9 32.2 182
Paul Millsap PF ATL 9 35.7 174
Kyle Korver SG ATL 9 38.2 147
Jeff Teague PG ATL 9 32.1 108
Shelvin Mack PG ATL 7 4.9 96
Mike Scott PF ATL 8 11.1 83
Mike Muscala PF ATL 3 8.0 66
Dennis Schroder PG ATL 9 17.9 63
Pero Antic PF ATL 9 16.7 34
Kent Bazemore SG ATL 9 17.7 32
John Jenkins SG ATL 2 2.5 -85
Elton Brand PF ATL 2 2.0 -212
Jae Crowder SF BOS 4 25.0 126
Jared Sullinger PF BOS 4 20.0 110
Tyler Zeller C BOS 4 22.5 85
Isaiah Thomas PG BOS 4 29.8 67
Marcus Smart PG BOS 4 22.5 57
Evan Turner SG BOS 4 29.5 50
Brandon Bass PF BOS 4 21.5 49
Avery Bradley SG BOS 4 33.3 23
Kelly Olynyk C BOS 4 13.3 20
Jonas Jerebko PF BOS 4 17.0 -13
Gerald Wallace SF BOS 1 4.0 -68
Luigi Datome SF BOS 3 4.7 -87
Phil Pressey PG BOS 2 2.5 -158
Brook Lopez C BRK 6 39.0 166
Alan Anderson SG BRK 6 23.7 122
Joe Johnson SG BRK 6 41.5 103
Jarrett Jack PG BRK 6 25.5 94
Deron Williams PG BRK 6 32.0 87
Markel Brown SG BRK 2 5.0 68
Thaddeus Young PF BRK 6 31.7 55
Bojan Bogdanovic SF BRK 6 34.3 48
Mason Plumlee C BRK 6 8.2 30
Earl Clark PF BRK 2 6.5 -47
Darius Morris PG BRK 1 5.0 -84
Mirza Teletovic PF BRK 3 5.3 -115
Jerome Jordan C BRK 1 5.0 -168
Jimmy Butler SG CHI 10 42.2 195
Pau Gasol PF CHI 9 32.6 191
Nazr Mohammed C CHI 2 5.5 155
Mike Dunleavy SF CHI 10 32.1 137
Derrick Rose PG CHI 10 37.6 123
Joakim Noah C CHI 10 31.9 120
Doug McDermott SF CHI 2 3.5 119
Taj Gibson PF CHI 10 23.5 117
Kirk Hinrich SG CHI 8 10.4 89
Nikola Mirotic PF CHI 9 14.7 10
Tony Snell SF CHI 9 14.4 7
E’Twaun Moore SG CHI 2 3.0 -5
Aaron Brooks PG CHI 10 11.5 -14
Kevin Love PF CLE 4 26.8 165
Timofey Mozgov C CLE 8 25.5 152
Kyrie Irving PG CLE 8 40.0 143
Tristan Thompson PF CLE 8 30.6 141
LeBron James SF CLE 8 41.9 120
Iman Shumpert SG CLE 8 31.9 113
J.R. Smith SG CLE 6 26.7 107
Mike Miller SF CLE 2 14.5 84
Shawn Marion SF CLE 3 4.0 48
James Jones SF CLE 8 12.6 28
Matthew Dellavedova SG CLE 8 16.3 20
Kendrick Perkins C CLE 4 5.0 -4
Joe Harris SG CLE 1 2.0 -217
Al-Farouq Aminu SF DAL 5 30.0 177
Tyson Chandler C DAL 5 32.0 161
Charlie Villanueva PF DAL 5 8.6 135
Monta Ellis SG DAL 5 39.4 111
Dirk Nowitzki PF DAL 5 36.2 109
Jose Barea PG DAL 5 30.8 68
Raymond Felton PG DAL 3 12.0 18
Rajon Rondo PG DAL 2 18.5 15
Bernard James C DAL 1 2.0 0
Greg Smith PF DAL 1 1.0 0
Amar’e Stoudemire PF DAL 5 15.0 -3
Devin Harris PG DAL 4 18.5 -14
Richard Jefferson SF DAL 4 12.8 -30
Chandler Parsons SF DAL 1 37.0 -33
Dwight Powell PF DAL 2 1.5 -81
Stephen Curry PG GSW 7 39.6 179
Andrew Bogut C GSW 7 25.9 159
Harrison Barnes SF GSW 7 32.3 151
Draymond Green SF GSW 7 38.7 149
Klay Thompson SG GSW 7 37.1 130
Festus Ezeli C GSW 7 6.3 55
Andre Iguodala SG GSW 7 28.0 53
Shaun Livingston PG GSW 7 14.4 49
Leandro Barbosa SG GSW 7 12.6 35
Marreese Speights PF GSW 7 7.3 21
Justin Holiday SG GSW 1 1.0 0
David Lee PF GSW 2 4.5 -106
James Michael McAdoo PF GSW 1 1.0 -285
James Harden SG HOU 9 35.7 190
Dwight Howard C HOU 9 32.7 167
Jason Terry SG HOU 9 26.8 95
Clint Capela C HOU 9 7.8 82
Terrence Jones PF HOU 9 24.4 78
Trevor Ariza SF HOU 9 37.4 64
Josh Smith PF HOU 9 22.2 61
Pablo Prigioni PG HOU 9 20.7 34
Corey Brewer SF HOU 9 26.0 15
Nick Johnson SG HOU 5 5.6 -7
Joey Dorsey PF HOU 5 2.4 -36
Kostas Papanikolaou SF HOU 5 3.0 -199
Chris Paul PG LAC 9 36.0 230
DeAndre Jordan C LAC 11 34.3 193
Blake Griffin PF LAC 11 39.4 193
Spencer Hawes PF LAC 5 6.2 102
Austin Rivers PG LAC 11 18.3 90
Matt Barnes SF LAC 11 30.3 90
Dahntay Jones SF LAC 9 1.7 87
J.J. Redick SG LAC 11 38.7 81
Jamal Crawford SG LAC 11 27.5 41
Lester Hudson SG LAC 5 6.8 31
Glen Davis PF LAC 11 11.5 1
Hedo Turkoglu SF LAC 10 5.1 -23
Ekpe Udoh PF LAC 4 3.0 -57
Jordan Adams SG MEM 2 1.0 853
Russ Smith PG MEM 1 1.0 284
Mike Conley PG MEM 5 27.8 192
Marc Gasol C MEM 8 37.1 172
Courtney Lee SG MEM 8 33.5 161
Tony Allen SG MEM 8 32.1 151
Kosta Koufos C MEM 8 11.8 141
Beno Udrih PG MEM 7 19.6 92
Vince Carter SG MEM 8 15.8 73
JaMychal Green PF MEM 2 1.0 69
Zach Randolph PF MEM 8 35.5 66
Nick Calathes SG MEM 6 17.3 18
Jeff Green SF MEM 8 25.6 7
Jon Leuer PF MEM 2 2.0 -37
Zaza Pachulia C MIL 6 21.5 140
Jared Dudley SG MIL 6 18.3 122
John Henson C MIL 6 25.5 118
Khris Middleton PF MIL 6 38.7 88
Jerryd Bayless PG MIL 6 20.0 53
Tyler Ennis PG MIL 1 16.0 47
Giannis Antetokounmpo SG MIL 6 33.5 47
Michael Carter-Williams PG MIL 6 31.8 43
O.J. Mayo SG MIL 6 26.0 41
Jorge Gutierrez PG MIL 1 12.0 24
Ersan Ilyasova PF MIL 6 23.7 21
Johnny O’Bryant PF MIL 1 12.0 -3
Miles Plumlee C MIL 1 16.0 -66
Alexis Ajinca C NOP 3 3.3 244
Anthony Davis PF NOP 4 43.0 198
Dante Cunningham PF NOP 4 18.8 143
Quincy Pondexter SF NOP 4 31.0 95
Omer Asik C NOP 4 19.8 91
Eric Gordon SG NOP 4 35.8 85
Ryan Anderson PF NOP 4 23.8 81
Jrue Holiday PG NOP 3 18.3 58
Tyreke Evans SF NOP 4 31.3 49
Norris Cole PG NOP 4 26.5 -39
Allen Crabbe SG POR 2 19.5 150
Meyers Leonard C POR 5 21.2 144
Alonzo Gee SF POR 1 3.0 133
Joel Freeland C POR 2 3.5 96
C.J. McCollum SG POR 5 33.2 93
Robin Lopez C POR 5 23.4 89
LaMarcus Aldridge PF POR 5 41.6 79
Nicolas Batum SF POR 5 41.8 66
Chris Kaman C POR 3 12.3 56
Damian Lillard PG POR 5 40.2 54
Steve Blake PG POR 5 8.6 -26
Arron Afflalo SG POR 3 20.0 -130
Tim Frazier PG POR 2 1.5 -312
Tim Duncan PF SAS 7 35.7 213
Kawhi Leonard SF SAS 7 35.7 154
Patrick Mills PG SAS 7 16.0 154
Marco Belinelli SG SAS 7 16.6 136
Boris Diaw PF SAS 7 28.3 96
Danny Green SG SAS 7 29.1 86
Manu Ginobili SG SAS 7 18.7 80
Cory Joseph PG SAS 4 5.5 77
Jeff Ayres PF SAS 3 4.0 43
Tiago Splitter C SAS 7 17.6 23
Tony Parker PG SAS 7 30.0 -18
Aron Baynes C SAS 4 10.0 -52
Matt Bonner PF SAS 7 5.1 -70
Greg Stiemsma C TOR 1 2.0 530
Jonas Valanciunas C TOR 4 26.5 141
Patrick Patterson PF TOR 4 26.5 121
Amir Johnson PF TOR 4 28.0 90
DeMar DeRozan SG TOR 4 39.8 74
Terrence Ross SF TOR 4 26.8 38
Lou Williams SG TOR 4 25.5 26
Greivis Vasquez PG TOR 4 25.3 14
Kyle Lowry PG TOR 4 32.8 -6
Tyler Hansbrough PF TOR 4 12.0 -13
James Johnson PF TOR 2 6.0 -117
Marcin Gortat C WAS 7 32.6 227
John Wall PG WAS 5 38.2 175
Paul Pierce SF WAS 7 29.4 160
Otto Porter SF WAS 7 33.3 153
Kris Humphries PF WAS 1 5.0 140
Bradley Beal SG WAS 7 41.3 109
Drew Gooden PF WAS 7 18.3 101
Ramon Sessions PG WAS 7 22.6 62
Nene Hilario PF WAS 7 24.6 54
Will Bynum SG WAS 2 8.5 35
Martell Webster SF WAS 1 4.0 34
Kevin Seraphin C WAS 5 8.8 -19
Garrett Temple SG WAS 2 11.0 -46
Rasual Butler SF WAS 2 3.5 -82

The Inside Story of How the Wizards Beat the Raptors

Gortat warrior

The Washington Wizards vanquished the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA playoffs thanks to an innovative approach conceived by team president Ernie Grunfeld, funded by owner Ted Leonsis, and implemented by head coach Randy Wittman. Drawing upon unique abilities possessed by point guard John Wall, Wittman and Grunfeld developed a plan that in the days before the playoffs sent Wall and center Marcin Gortat on a (until now) top secret mission to prehistoric times.

“It was just a little time travel,” Wall said, stifling a yawn. “Just doing whatever I can to help my teammates out.”

” ‘Time travel?’ He said that?” Wittman snapped when told of Wall’s comment. “Okay, first of all, it’s not time travel. It’s just a way of using John’s ability to alter the space-time continuum to bridge the interdimensional gap between this reality and another in which conditions very much like our prehistoric era continue to exist.”

According to sources, Wall was essential to executing the project, but Gortat volunteered.

“We were going to play Raptor,” the Polish center said. “This way I could study real raptor, see how it move, see how it fight, see how it love. I fight six velociraptor at same time — hand-to-hand. After that, Toronto Raptor not so tough.”

While Gortat engaged in mortal battle with ferocious dinosaurs from the later Cretaceous Period, Wall did no fighting and did not engage with the ferocious reptiles.

“I’m competitive, but I’m not a fighter,” Wall said. “i just mostly slept.”

While Wall’s account of an extended nap — made necessary, he said, by the rigors of time travel — had its charm, it did not stand up to investigation. In reality, Wall executed the second part of the Grunfeldian Plan, and tracked down a pubescent Paul Pierce.

“Paul’s one of the oldest players in the league, and we were concerned about his physical condition,” said Wizards vice president Tommy Sheppard, speaking on condition of anonymity. “By sending John and March back seventy-one million years, we felt we could get March first-hand experience with some velociraptors and we could do something to help Paul get back to top form. This was definitely a two birds, one stone kind of thing.”

Wall’s mission was to locate the young Pierce and persuade him to provide biological samples, including blood, spinal fluid and stem cells. The samples would then be combined in Wittman’s laboratory, located deep beneath the Verizon Center, into a genetic cocktail that would rejuvenate the aging Pierce.

“Gotta say it didn’t take much convincing,” Wall said when he learned that details of his trip were known. “Once I told him about his later self being on a team in the playoffs, his competitive nature kicked in and he wanted to help. ‘Course I first had to beat him in a game of Micropachycephalosaurus before he’d do it, but basketball hadn’t even been invented back then so I had a little bit of an advantage. It was tough, but…well…you saw what happened in round one. Look man, Pierce ain’t changed a bit.”

Successful execution of the Grunfeldian Plan had several positive effects fans could see. Gortat and Pierce performed spectacularly in round one. And, freed from the rigors of researching and theorizing about interdimensional temporal travel, Wittman was able to refocus his attention on coaching the team.

“I looked at the numbers and said to the guys ‘What the hell is this?’ ” Wittman said. “Why are we taking so many two-point jumpers? What’s wrong with you people? Do I have to think of everything? Attack the hoop and shoot threes.”

The plan nearly backfired, however, when Wall, exhausted from interdimensional travel, searching for the younger version of Pierce, and the epic game of Micropachycephalosaurus, played horribly in game one. Sources with knowledge of the situation said Wall recovered thanks to some remaining bottles of Caron Butler’s “Tuff Juice.”

While details remain scarce, preparation for the team’s second round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks involved a journey to Middle Earth where Gortat taught teammates the art of riding the Great Eagles of Manwë. Sources could not corroborate the story with cell phone photos or video by publication time. I was able to obtain this image of a young Marcin Gortat riding one of the Great Eagles in Middle Earth, which Gortat claims is located not far from where he was born in Lodz, Poland.

A young Marcin Gortat riding a Great Eagle of Manwë.

A young Marcin Gortat riding a Great Eagle of Manwë.

Player Production Average: First Round

Player Production Average (PPA) is an overall rating stat I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that hurt the cause. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and replacement level is 45.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
POS GMS MPG PPA
Marcin Gortat C 4 31.3 294
Paul Pierce SF 4 28.5 209
Will Bynum SG 1 4.0 183
John Wall PG 4 38.0 165
Otto Porter SF 4 32.0 147
Kris Humphries PF 1 5.0 146
Bradley Beal SG 4 41.8 116
Drew Gooden PF 4 20.5 107
Nene Hilario PF 4 24.3 82
Ramon Sessions PG 4 16.5 67
Kevin Seraphin C 3 11.0 50
Martell Webster SF 1 4.0 36
Rasual Butler SF 2 3.5 -85
TORONTO RAPTORS POS GMS MPG PPA
Greg Stiemsma C 1 2.0 535
Jonas Valanciunas C 4 26.5 142
Patrick Patterson PF 4 26.5 122
Amir Johnson PF 4 28.0 91
DeMar DeRozan SG 4 39.8 75
Terrence Ross SF 4 26.8 38
Lou Williams SG 4 25.5 26
Greivis Vasquez PG 4 25.3 14
Kyle Lowry PG 4 32.8 -6
Tyler Hansbrough PF 4 12.0 -13
James Johnson PF 2 6.0 -118

While the playoffs are the most important part of the NBA season, fans and analysts tend to go overboard in using postseason results to reach new conclusions. The Wizards were impressive in round one, but it’s worth keeping in mind that any given round of the post-season (especially a four-game sweep) is the very definition of Small Sample Size Theater. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 167 minutes in the first round.

I’d caution against overreaching in using the win over Toronto to make a significant reassessment of the Wizards. They’ll get a tougher test against the Hawks.

That said, the good news from round one was getting good production from the team’s youthful triumvirate. Washington was led by Gortat and Pierce, both of whom were outlandishly efficient, and got outstanding play from Wall and Otto Porter, and solid production from Bradley Beal.

Unsurprisingly (considering Washington’s resounding series win), five Wizards were more productive than the most productive Toronto player. The Raptors were hampered by an extreme lack of production from its backcourt, including a net negative performance from All-Star Kyle Lowry.

Meanwhile, Gortat was the league’s most productive player in the first round, and Pierce’s production ranked eighth.

NBA Playoffs: What Are The Odds?

steph curry

Okay, I’ve tried several different ways to talk myself into predicting that the Wizards will somehow beat the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs and meet their doom in a second round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. Hasn’t worked, though.

I know Toronto struggled over the last couple months of the season. So did the Wizards. I know the Raptors have a not-so-good coach. So do the Wizards. In a way, the two teams are opposing images of the other. Washington has a good defense and a crummy offense; Toronto has a terrific offense and a bad defense. The key difference: Toronto is better.

The gap between the teams isn’t oceanic. Washington’s odds in any one particular contest in the upcoming series aren’t awful. They have basically a 41% chance of winning at Toronto and a slightly better than coin flip odds of winning at home. In terms of probability, it would be something like winning three straight coin flips, and then winning a “loaded” toss where the odds have been lowered from 50-50 to 60-40. It’s possible, but not likely.

The Wizards could be helped a bit by Kyle Lowry’s iffy back, but the numbers accumulated over a six-month season say they’ll be lucky to pull off the upset. On the bright side for fans hoping to at least be entertained, there’s only about a 9% chance the Raptors sweep.

As you can see from the table below, the Wizards are significant underdogs against the Raptors. The only teams with worse odds of winning their first round series are the eight seeds (Brooklyn and New Orleans), and the East’s seven seed (Boston). The best chances for first-round upsets come in the more balanced West. Houston vs. Dallas and the Clippers vs. the Spurs look to tight.

The best chance for a seeding upset is likely to happen in the second round where the Clippers would be favored against either Houston or Dallas.

The numbers suggest that Golden State — the league’s best team all season — has the best chance of winning the championship this season. I actually estimate them with a better than 50% chance of being champions. Despite coasting through the last few weeks of the season, Atlanta finished the regular season as the East’s best team by a significant margin. They’ll be tested in the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland and Lebron James.

EAST
1st RND HOME ROAD WINNER ODDS
1 vs 8 ATL BRK ATL 91%
2 vs 7 CLE BOS CLE 79%
3 vs 6 CHI MIL CHI 70%
4 vs 5 TOR WAS TOR 70%
2nd RND HOME ROAD WINNER ODDS
1 vs 4 ATL TOR ATL 69%
2 vs 3 CLE CHI CLE 64%
ECF HOME ROAD WINNER ODDS
1 vs 2 ATL CLE ATL 61%
WEST
1st RND HOME ROAD WINNER ODDS
1 vs 8 GSW NOP GSW 92%
2 vs 7 HOU DAL HOU 58%
3 vs 6 LAC SAS LAC 57%
4 vs 5 POR MEM POR 61%
2nd RND HOME ROAD WINNER ODDS
1 vs 4 GSW POR GSW 83%
2 vs 3 HOU LAC LAC 65%
WCF HOME ROAD WINNER ODDS
1 vs 3 GSW LAC GSW 73%
FINALS HOME ROAD WINNER ODDS
1 vs 1 GSW ATL GSW 98%

Wizards Update: A Season of Discontent

wall 02

The Wizards concluded the regular season portion of a #SoWizards season losing back-to-back overtime games. The first of those losses — a double overtime snoozer against Indiana — was perhaps the most #SoWizards moment of the season: on the eve of the playoffs, Randy Wittman played John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Drew Gooden more than 38 minutes each in a desperate effort to win a game that meant literally nothing to the Wizards.

Washington concluded the season 46-35, two wins better than last year’s record (and one game better than my pre-season projection). And yet, there’s a pervasive discontent with the team and its management. Some of the disappointment is a reaction to expectations that were pushed beyond the bonds of reality when the team was rolling through the junior varsity portion of their early-season schedule.

The dissatisfaction may run deeper than simply feeling let down that Washington didn’t get to 50-plus wins for the first time since the 1978-79 season. I think part of the reaction is the collective realization that what’s been sold to Wizards fans the past couple seasons has been kind of a fraud.

Getting above .500 and making the playoffs was supposed to be a sign of growth. It was supposed to be a progression. First, have a chance to win most nights. Second, make the playoffs and gain valuable experience. Third, build on that trip to the playoffs and ride the improvement of the team’s young core to deeper and deeper postseason runs until they can compete for a title.

But, making the playoffs has been built largely on NBA senior citizens who had something left in the tank, but not much of a future. In the span of a few short years, the Wizards paid a steep price in player acquisition resources to construct and old team. Sure, the old guys can be replaced, but the man leading the rebuild is likely to be the same one who steered the franchise into a ditch and then perpetrated the “fraud.” There is little reason to have confidence in Ernie Grunfeld reconstructing the roster in a manner that will make it anything other than a mid-level playoff team.

Meanwhile, their young core — Wall, Beal and Porter — hasn’t improved much. Wall has made the biggest improvement, yet still ranks solidly below the game’s elite. The best that can be said of Beal and Porter is that they possess potential. Whether that potential ends up getting translated into meaningful production is a question mark, especially considering how poorly the team is coached.

In general, fans overrate the impact of coaches. It’s clear, however, the Wizards operate at something of a disadvantage because of Randy Wittman’s antiquated notions of offensive basketball. Washington actually shoots the ball decently, but they’re rendered less efficient than they could be by their reliance on two-point jumpers. As has been pointed out numerous times by numerous commentators, two-point jumpers are exactly the shot the defense wants an opposing offense to take. The Wizards offense is built around that shot.

It’s almost impossible to unpack how much Wittman’s offense hinders the Wizards. I’ll give it a shot during the offseason, though.

On the bright side, there’s the team’s defense — fifth best in the league this year, and in a virtual tie with Golden State for league’s best over the last half of the season.

I’m hoping to have some playoffs analysis up tomorrow, but for now, here are the final PPA numbers for the Wizards.

Player Production Average Update

Player Production Average (PPA) is an overall rating stat I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that hurt the cause. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and replacement level is 45.

The numbers under each date represent the player’s PPA for the entire season to that date. The number in the far right column (labeled PPA) is the player’s current PPA through games played last night. For a look at how players on other teams rate, visit here.

2015-04-17 -- wiz ppa

Perhaps Wall was cruising over the last couple months of the season. He still ended up with the best PPA of his career (he posted a 139 each of the preceding two seasons), but I’m convinced he’s capable of MUCH more. The areas for biggest improvement remain what they’ve been since he entered the league: shooting from the floor and turnovers.

By my reckoning, this was the second best season of Gortat’s career (the best was a 186 PPA with Phoenix (and Steve Nash) in 2011-12). He was edged out by Wall in total production because Wall played more minutes. He’s not an elite center, but he’s more than solid.

Paul Pierce made news this week with candid comments in an interview with ESPN. While his production has declined during the season, his overall performance has been remarkable for his age. In my historical database (which goes back to 1977-78), Pierce’s 126 PPA is the best season for a 37-year old SF. The closest contenders are Scottie Pippen (120) and Dominique Wilkins (119).

After those three, it’s difficult to generate much to say that’s positive. Beal ended up a hair below average for a third straight season. Nenê continued to decline. This was his least productive season since he was 25 years old. It’s a good thing his contract expires after next season.

The bright side for Washington is that they play in the epically weak Eastern Conference. As mediocre as they are (and they are mediocre), they have a chance in the first round against the vulnerable Toronto Raptors. More on that tomorrow.

Wizards Update: The Home Stretch

sessions ramon

There’s a temptation to note the Wizards have won four in a row and five of their last six and conclude they’re headed for the playoffs in good form. I don’t share that optimism, however. This is a stretch of games where Washington was expected to win with four games against three of the league’s weakest teams — Charlotte (21st in Simple Rating System — a power ranking published by Basketball-Reference.com that combines scoring differential with strength of schedule), New York (30th) and Philadelphia (29th) twice.

Failing to win at least four of the six would have been cause for real concern. Getting an “extra” win against Memphis was encouraging, although it’s worth noting the Grizzlies were coming off a hard-fought win against Oklahoma City the previous night while the Wizards coasted to an easy (and restful — the only starter to play more than 30 minutes was Bradley Beal) over the hapless Knicks.

The Wizards aren’t “fixed,” they’re playing bad opponents. It’s good that they’re beating those teams, but that’s not the same as saying they’re in good shape. Realistically speaking, they continue to look how they’ve looked all season — a slightly better than average team that feasts on the 99-pound weaklings in the East and can sometimes summon the game to challenge (and even beat) a good team if stuff goes right for them and wrong for the other side.

The preceding is talking about the team’s big picture. The overall. They’re excellent on defense, and have been since the end of January. Unfortunately, their offense has been terrible during the same time frame. Since the playoffs are about to start, we’re about to hear a bunch of the old maxim that defense wins in the postseason. Like a lot of truisms, it’s half true. Unless the Wizards are able to operate with some level of offensive efficiency against higher-quality opponents, they’re not going deep in the playoffs.

I’ll get more into postseason matchups when the regular season concludes, but it does help that Washington is in the East. First, because they’ll be in the playoffs at all. Out West, they’d at best be scrapping for the eighth seed. In their actual conference, they’ll have a punchers chance in the first round against Toronto or Chicago.

Player Production Average Update

Player Production Average (PPA) is an overall rating stat I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that hurt the cause. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and replacement level is 45.

The numbers under each date represent the player’s PPA for the entire season to that date. The number in the far right column (labeled PPA) is the player’s current PPA through games played last night. For a look at how players on other teams rate, visit here.

2015-04-09 -- wiz ppaSearching for encouragement as the playoffs approach? Look at Gortat and Wall — both of whom have been consistently good all season. Beal has played better the past few weeks, as have Sessions, Porter and Gooden.

On the other hand, Nenê and Pierce have struggled. The hope is that they’re recharging for the playoffs. But, they’re also the team’s oldest players, and they could be wearing down from the long season.