Anthony Davis

The Surprising Problem for the Wizards

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One of The Official Narratives of the 2015-16 Washington Wizards season is that point guard John Wall is terrific, but is getting sideswiped by a substandard supporting cast. Last month, The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg lamented that, “The saddest thing here is that the Wizards might be in the process of sacrificing a year of John Wall’s prime.”

In Michael Lee’s excellent article at Yahoo!, Wall echoed Steinberg, saying: “I ain’t trying to waste a season.

Adam McGinnis and I touched on the subject during our podcast last week.

Alas, as is the case with many Official Narratives, there are problems.

  1. On a per-possession basis, Wall isn’t Washington’s most productive player. That honor goes to center Marcin Gortat. Because Wall plays five more minutes per game than Gortat, Wall leads the team in total production.
  2. Wall is not an elite player.
  3. The overall production difference between Wall (Washington’s top producer) and Gortat (second in total production) has been vastly overstated.
  4. The quality of Wall’s “supporting cast” isn’t bad.

Wall’s PPA (see below) is 148 this year. Among players with at least 500 minutes this season, he ranks 54th. Among point guards, he ranks 11th. Wall has had stretches of dominant play, but his performance continues to be plagued by the same bugaboos he’s had throughout his career: turnovers, poor shot selection and poor shooting. Gortat, by the way, ranks 29th in PPA.

Wall isn’t an elite player. For the past few seasons seasons (including this one, most of the year), he’s rated as a top 8-10 point guard and a top 40-50 player overall. That’s very good, but well short of the impact from elite point guards and elite players. He could be great — he was in December, for example. But his performance game-to-game is a mix of fantastic and horrible. Which averages out to very good, not elite.

The average PPA of top total producers for each team is 179 — 31 points better than Wall. Among those top 30 producers, Wall ranks 24th in per possession production — ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Nerlens Noel, Gordon Hayward, Tyson Chandler and Jordan Clarkson.

The average top producer has provided 22.0% of his team’s production. Wall is about average at 21.8%.

The average gap between a top producer and his team’s “number two” is about 4.5%. For Wall and Gortat, it’s 2.7%. Want a player who actually fits The Official Narrative? Try New Orleans where Anthony Davis has a PPA of 189, provides 26.3% of his team’s production, and (at 13.2%) sports the biggest drop to his team’s second most productive.

Since you’re wondering, the top five in total production shares:

  1. Stephen Curry, GSW — 29.6%
  2. Russell Westbrook, OKC — 26.7%
  3. James Harden, HOU — 26.4%
  4. Lebron James, CLE — 26.3%
  5. Anthony Davis, NOP — 26.3%

And, here’s the top five in drop-off to “number two”:

  1. Anthony Davis, NOP — 13.2%
  2. Stephen Curry, GSW — 12.7%
  3. James Harden, HOU — 8.5%
  4. Kawhi Leonard, SAS — 8.3%
  5. Kyle Lowry, TOR — 8.2%

Wall and the Wizards are 20th.

That’s all fine, you might be saying, but The Official Narrative isn’t necessarily that Wall’s “Robin” sucks, it’s that the roster lacks depth. That lack of depth means Wall has to carry a heavier load than other franchise leaders. Unfortunately, this is also wrong.

For this question, I calculated minutes-weighted PPA (mwPPA) for each team — after deducting the production of its top player. mwPPA provides a handy way of measuring the relative quality of each team’s roster.

The league average “supporting cast” posted an mwPPA of 92. The Wizards rank 14th so far this season with a 93. Since you were wondering, here’s the top five in supporting cast mwPPA:

  1. SAS — 124
  2. GSW — 121
  3. ATL — 107
  4. OKC — 105
  5. BOS — 104

So, to recap:

  • Wall isn’t elite.
  • The gap between Wall’s total production and Gortat’s is smaller than average for a number one to a number two.
  • The Wizards “supporting cast” is mediocre, not terrible.

The real problem for the Wizards is in that first bullet. Their problem: they don’t have an elite player.

Player Production Average

The ratings below are from a metric I developed called Player Production Average (PPA). In PPA, players are credited for things they do that help a team win, and debited for things that don’t, each in proportion to what causes teams to win and lose. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes an adjustment based on the level of competition faced when a player is on the floor. In PPA, average is 100, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.

League-wide PPA scores through games played 3/14/16 are here.

PLAYER GMS MPG 11/10 11/22 12/3 12/13 12/21 12/30 1/6 1/13 1/27 2/11 3/1 3/14
Marcin Gortat 60 30.2 91 112 128 133 132 138 147 145 148 151 172 169
John Wall 66 35.9 153 129 136 168 157 157 149 144 142 146 153 148
Otto Porter 59 30.1 144 158 104 116 107 115 122 127 130 130 134 126
Jared Dudley 65 27.7 36 92 90 85 98 103 100 105 99 104 106 98
J.J. Hickson 6 7.5  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – -14 96
Bradley Beal 42 30.6 128 108 96 87 87 86 85 86 98 108 94 94
Nene Hilario 42 18.8 58 90 80 74 79 78 79 88 92 84 86 90
Alan Anderson 8 14.0  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – 97 90
Ramon Sessions 66 20.3 131 119 84 90 87 89 88 91 90 89 88 85
Markieff Morris 14 26.0  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – 41 58
Garrett Temple 64 25.4 38 106 57 54 70 63 68 79 79 69 59 56
Jarell Eddie 21 4.7  –  –  –  –  – 153 119 113 110 86 68 51
Kelly Oubre 53 10.7 -103 -4 -40 -44 9 37 43 39 36 29 22 25
Drew Gooden 28 10.6 99 51 57 56 56 56 38 47 34 31 26 22
Marcus Thornton 3 15.0  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – -6
Ryan Hollins 5 9.6  –  – -40 60 59  –  –  –  –  –  –  –
Kris Humphries 28 16.6 90 121 95 80 78 76 79 79 78 76  –  –
Gary Neal 40 20.2 23 49 64 75 78 74 75 78 71 70 69  69
DeJuan Blair 29 7.5 -345 -129 -112 -45 -34 -38 -38 -28 -6 -15  –  –

2012 NBA Draft Position Rankings from YODA

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Earlier today, I posted overall rankings for the 2012 NBA Draft using my draft analysis system, which has been dubbed YODA. Here’s the same information, but this time by position. In this post, I’m adding in a standardized score to show the differences between players.

The best score in YODA history was Shaquille O’Neal’s sophomore year at LSU. In the standardized score I’m showing, Shaq’s season scored a 36. Everyone else scales below that. Zero means the player rates as an average prospect.

Here are all players with a draftable score in YODA:

Point Guards

  1. Damian Lillard — 7
  2. Kendall Marshall — 4
  3. Tony Wroten — 0
  4. Reggie Hamilton — 0
  5. Jordan Taylor — 0
  6. Casper Ware — -1
  7. Scott Machado — -1
  8. Lazeric Jones — -3
  9. Marquis Teague — -3
  10. Scoop Jardine — -3
  11. Tyshawn Taylor — -4

Shooting Guard

  1. Marcus Denmon — 12
  2. Bradley Beal — 8
  3. Will Barton — 5
  4. Dion Waiters — 5
  5. Darius Johnson-Odom — 2
  6. Jeremy Lamb — 2
  7. John Jenkins — 1
  8. Orlando Johnson — 1
  9. Devoe Joseph — 0
  10. Doron Lamb — -2
  11. J.R. Cadot — -2
  12. Kim English — -3
  13. Matt Gatens — -3
  14. Tanner Smith — -3
  15. Jared Cunningham — -4

Small Forward

  1. Jae Crowder — 16
  2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — 8
  3. Harrison Barnes — 3
  4. Jeff Taylor — 1
  5. Quincy Miller — 0
  6. John Shurna — 0
  7. Ken Horton — -1
  8. Moe Harkless — -1
  9. Chris Johnson — -2
  10. Darius Miller — -3
  11. Robbie Hummel — -3
  12. Chace Stanback — -3
  13. Wendell McKines — -4
  14. Alex Young — -4
  15. Terrence Ross — -5

Power Forward

  1. Anthony Davis — 28
  2. Draymond Green — 7
  3. Thomas Robinson — 6
  4. Jared Sullinger — 3
  5. Terrence Jones — 3
  6. Ricardo Ratliffe — 2
  7. John Henson — 0
  8. Kevin Jones — 0
  9. Drew Gordon — 0
  10. Quincy Acy — -1
  11. Trevor Mbakwe — -1
  12. Perry Jones III — -2
  13. Arnett Moultrie — -2
  14. Mike Scott — -3
  15. JaMychal Green — -3
  16. Bernard James — -3
  17. Jack Cooley — -3

Center

  1. Tyler Zeller — 15
  2. Miles Plumlee — 3
  3. Andre Drummond — 3
  4. Meyers Leonard — -1
  5. Garrett Stutz — -3
  6. Fab Melo — -3

The Draft According to YODA

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Over the past couple months, I’ve been posting regularly in the draft threads on the Wizards board at RealGM about my research into evaluating NCAA draft prospects. The project is an effort to use college stats, as well as measurements, times and scores from draft combines to project which players are most likely to become good professionals.

The system I’ve come up with involves using per minute stats, includes an accounting for level of competition, and adjusts for age — a great performance from an 18-year old freshman is more impressive than the same performance from a 23-year old senior.

After referring to “the system” several times on the boards as Ye Olde Draft Analyzer, someone dubbed it YODA and the name stuck. The results? Time will tell on this year’s draft class. In previous years, YODA’s predictions have been good, but that’s the subject for a later post at some point in the future.

Below are the players as they’re rated by YODA. I’ve divided them into “tiers” — basically groupings of players by quality. The separation between Tier One and Tier Two is significant; the differences between players in the same tier are insignificant.

Here’s how I think about the tier system. Teams generally give themselves a better chance of succeeding when they pick best player available rather than focusing on specific roster needs. This should limit “reaches.” Plus, getting the best player gives the team another asset for trade purposes. Of course, it’s not always clear who the “best player” actually is.

That’s where the tiers enter the picture. Players who are “about the same” fall into the same tier. When a team’s pick comes around, they can use this process to pick whichever player on the same tier best fits their needs. They should avoid “reaching” into a lower tier to pick for need.

Anyway — the prospects according to YODA (along with sample players through the years who rated on the same tier):

NOTE: The tiers are numbered for this year only. They’re not historical tiers — that’s a work still in progress.

Tier One

Historical: Kevin Durant, Greg Oden

  • Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky — Davis posted the most impressive freshman season I’ve analyzed. He’s the second rated prospect in YODA behind Shaquille O’Neal’s sophomore season. Similar YODA scores: Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.

Tier Two

Historical: Allen Iverson (SO), Zach Randolph (FR), Carmelo Anthony (FR)

  • Jae Crowder, SF, Marquette
  • Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

Tier Three

Historical: Jason Kidd (FR), Josh Howard (SR), Tim Duncan (JR)

  • Marcus Denmon, SG, Missouri

Tier Four

Historical: Paul Pierce (JR), Tony Allen (SO), Gilbert Arenas (FR), Ty Lawson (FR)

  • Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky

Tier Five

Historical: Caron Butler (SO), Brandon Roy (JR), Rudy Gay (FR), Mike Miller (SO)

  • Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
  • Draymond Green, PF, Michigan State
  • Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
  • Will Barton, SG, Memphis
  • Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse

Tier Six

Historical: Ryan Anderson (SO), Ben Gordon (JR), Roy Hibbert (SR), Karl Malone (FR)

  • Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
  • Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
  • Miles Plumlee, F/C, Duke
  • Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
  • Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky
  • Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut

Tier Seven

Historical: Antawn Jamison (SO), Deron Williams (SO), Jordan Crawford (SO)

  • Darius Johnson-Odom, SG, Marquette
  • Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
  • Ricardo Ratliffe, PF, Missouri

Tier Eight

Historical: Chris Singleton (JR), Jarrett Jack (SO), Harold Miner (FR), Charlie Villanueva (SO)

  • Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
  • John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
  • Orlando Johnson, SG, UCSB
  • Tony Wroten, PG, Washington
  • Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor

Tier Nine

Historical: Jared Dudley (JR), Gerald Wallace (FR), Hakim Warrick (FR), Lester Hudson (JR), Morris Almond (SR), Michael Redd (SO)

  • John Henson, PF, North Carolina
  • Reggie Hamilton, PG, Oakland
  • Kevin Jones, PF, West Virginia
  • Jordan Taylor, PG, Wisconsin
  • John Shurna, F, Northwestern
  • Devoe Joseph, SG, Oregon
  • Drew Gordon, PF, New Mexico

That’s enough to get through the first round. Tier 9 players are average prospects historically, according to YODA. In the “historical” sections, I’ve included a few representative players. It’s worth nothing that good pros have come from many “tiers,” which is demonstration of the reality that a) evaluating prospects is an inexact science; and b) that MANY young players have the capability to be quality professional players if they work hard enough and smart enough. The reality is that EVERY player arriving in the NBA needs to improve. The difference between a kid who becomes an All-Star and a kid who’s out of the league in three years is very much about the amount of purposeful, deliberate, well-considered work each player puts into developing his game and his body.