Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thoughts from Bulls-Wizards/October 16

Last night I went to the Bulls game against the Washington Wizards. Below are some thoughts I had after the game:

-I assumed that Thabo Sefolosha and Adrian Griffin would be out with injuries last night, but I was hoping we would get to see Ben Gordon for the first time this season. Gordon sat out once against with a left ankle injury.

-I was suprised Gordon was out again, considering Skiles said he would possibly play in last week's game against Dallas.

-I like how the Bulls made an effort right from the tip to post-up Luol Deng. With Roger Mason and Mike Hall on him, Deng clearly has an advantage. Considering his height and wingspan, Deng should continue to take advantage of that mismatch.

-I loved the big lineup that Skiles went with mid-way through the first quarter, which included: Kirk Hinrich at point guard, Luol Deng at shooting guard, Andres Nocioni at small forward, Tyrus Thomas at power forward, and Ben Wallace at center. That is a unique lineup that can play many different styles of basketball.

-I really like how Skiles is utilizing the preseason effectively: different lineups, Deng in the post, Thomas Gardner playing with the starters, seeing what Aaron Gray can do in the post, playing JamesOn Curry at both guard positions, and giving significant time to Viktor Khryapa.

-Antawn Jamison got tangled up in the corner opposite of the Wizards bench towards the end of the first quarter. Shortly after, Andray Blatche came up lame after finishing at the basket.

-Washington's rookie guard, Nick Young, really played well last night. He seems like he can play three positions if asked and plays aggresively. Of all the Wizards, he impressed me the most.

-I watched Gilbert Arenas throughout the evening frequently. I like the way he carries himself and leads his team. He did not play his best and only played limited minutes. I would really love to watch him live again during a big regular season game.

-Both Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson did not play last night for the Wizards.

-By my account, Oleksiy Pecherov may one day be a signifcant player in the NBA. However, last night I could tell that he is still very raw. He struggled from the perimter and turned the ball over a great deal. He works hard out there but still seems like he is not ready to significantly contribute to an NBA team today.

-At this point, I think I have seen enough to determine who my fifteen man roster that I would go into the regular season would be: Hinrich, Duhon, JamesOn Curry at point guard; Gordon, Gardner, Sefolosha at shooting guard; Deng, Nocioni, Griffin, and Khryapa at small forward; Smith, Thomas, and Noah at power forward; Wallace and Gray at center. I would assume that Khryapa and either Curry or Gardner, probably Curry, would be inactive on game nights.

-Both Jared Homan and Andre Barrett have not played poorly during the preseason, but they lack the talent the players ahead of them have.

-I really like the Joe Smith acquisition John Paxson made in the offseason. He is an experienced veteran, who really wants to win now. I do not think he is "over-the-hill" at this point, and can still be effective. If he can play twenty minutes a night and average ten points and six rebounds, then the Bulls will be in great shape.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Follow-up on "Wages of Wins" Review

In response to the New York Times' review of "Wages of Wins", the author, David Berri, posted some thoughts on his website:

Having reviewed some of the reaction to his story, though, I thought it would be useful to summarize what our research indicates about decision-making in the NBA. Here is a point-by-point summary of the story we are telling about the NBA.

Payroll does not explain much of wins in the NBA, MLB, or NFL. Specifically, payroll only explains 12% of the variation in wins in the NBA. In baseball explanatory power is 18% while in the NFL it is below 5%.

We think the low explanatory power of payroll in baseball and football can at least partially be explained by the relative inconsistency of performance in these sports. As we note in our book, across time in baseball and football we see fairly wide variations in player productivity. After all, who expected the Detroit Tigers to be so good this year?

Relative to these sports, though, performance in the NBA is more consistent. So why is payroll still unable to explain much of wins?

We think the answer lies in how players are evaluated in the NBA. For more than two decades economists have looked at the link between player salary and various performance statistics. Scoring totals are the only player statistic that consistently explains player pay. Shooting efficiency, rebounds, steals, and turnovers do not consistently offer much explanatory power. We updated these studies in our book. Our story, though, was essentially the same. Scoring totals are the one statistic that matters most in determining player pay.

How much players are paid is not the only decision economists have examined. Ha Hoang and Dan Rascher published a study in Industrial Relations in 1999. The Hoang and Rascher study looked at the factors that caused a player to be cut from an NBA roster. The only player statistic these researchers found to matter was scoring. All other player statistics did not matter.

We have looked at the coaches voting for the All-Rookie team and the factors that impact where a college player is drafted. What matters most? Again, scoring matters more than factors associated with getting possession of the ball (i.e. rebounds, turnovers, and steals).

Wins in the NBA, though, are not just about scoring. Possession factors have a large impact on the outcomes we observe in the NBA. When you look at all the statistics the NBA tracks you find that with these you can explain 95% of the variation in wins. And when you look at all these statistics you find that you can create a very accurate estimate of the wins each player produces.

From all this what do we conclude? Conventional wisdom in basketball is incorrect. Players who only score are not as valuable as people think. Players who do not score much — like Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman – have a bigger impact on team wins than people seem to think.