Charles Barkley doesn’t like analytics. His argument works out to this: “I don’t know anything about analytics and I never will. Also, you stat people never played the game and couldn’t get girls in high school.”
Partial credit to the new number one on my list of people I’d like to meet at a poker table — I didn’t “get girls” in high school, perhaps because I was too busy playing basketball.
Of course, if we apply Barkley’s fatuous logic that only people who have played the game are qualified to offer opinions about the game, then only people who have done analytics would be qualified to offer opinions about analytics. Which means, by Barkley’s own Rules of Living, we should all shut the hell up — on a lot of things. Hmm, maybe he’s on to something.
Despite Barkley’s assertion that “analytics don’t work,” the facts are that in recent years, top teams have made extensive use of analytics to improve their teams. Of course, there are crappy teams that use analytics, but the same was true when teams were built by Men Who Stared At Players.
Analytics are not an end to themselves, and they’re not intended to eliminate people from decision-making. They’re tools to help inform decisions — sorta like being able to estimate odds in poker. You’re playing both the cards and the people across the table, but it’s a sucker who wagers without a good sense for their chances of winning. Which reminds me that Barkley really sucks at gambling.
Speaking of analytics, the Wizards could use some help. Despite dominating wins over sad-sack Brooklyn and Orlando, there’s a pervasive sense of gloom about the team lately. Since starting the season 22-8, they’re 11-13. The struggles weren’t a shock — it was the toughest part of the team’s schedule.
Heading into the All-Star break, areas for concern are much the same as they were when I wrote about them more than a month ago:
- Age — Production has dropped significantly over the past month for the team’s oldest players, Paul Pierce and Andre Miller. Nenê has been doing better, but remains below average for a starter. The team has been terrific with him on the floor, however. And, in the “no shock” category, Rasual Butler’s production has dropped.
- No Elite Producers — No, not even Wall, at least not on a per minute basis. His PPA (see below) is 166. That would rank fourth on the Atlanta Hawks behind Al Horford (203), Jeff Teague (190), and Paul Millsap (175). Among players with at least 500 minutes this season, Wall ranks 30th in per minute production. He’s 11th in total production, so I’ll take that as an argument in favor of “elite” status, even though he’s played the second most minutes in the league this year, and seven of the 10 ahead of him have played significantly fewer minutes. Wall IS playing well. But, I think there’s still major room for improvement.
- Kevin Seraphin — He was better in January, but seems to have flattened out in February. Overall, he continues to rate right around replacement level. I think the team can get by with him against bad teams, but will need better play off the bench when they face tougher competition.
- Lack of Progress From The Youngsters — Bradley Beal’s PPA has been hovering in the average range; Porter’s in the below-average-but-still-useful range. But, neither guy has taken a significant step forward, and now Beal is sidelined for a third time with a “stress reaction” in his leg.
- Health — Beal with the stress reaction. Webster recovering from back surgery. Wall with the migraines and the (maybe) Achilles soreness, and/or ankle soreness. Humphries with the back. Nothing major yet, but these bumps and bruises can affect productivity, and there are always injury concerns with older players.
Weekly 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.
My apologies on the format, but I was running out of space for the full week-by-week PPA table. By the end of the season, we’ll all need a magnifying glass to read it.
A lot of consistency at this point. Most of the guys seem to have found their levels. My biggest worries are with the old guys, who seem to be wearing down as the season progresses. Hopefully they’ll be rejuvenated by this year’s extra-long All-Star break.