You might have seen my recent Truehoop posting on the Wolves’ existential crisis. As I mentioned in the story, I gathered more information than could fit into an article any normal non-Wolves fan could possibly be expected to read. But you people, you are different. So over the next few days, I’ll be giving you guys a look at some of this excess in greater depth. As I said, David Berri of Wages of Wins and Wayne Winston were extremely generous with their time and efforts in helping me out. So below you’ll find some of the info they passed along to me, in table form.
Children of Production
First is Berri. Using his Wins Produced and Wins Per 48 metrics, Berri ran an analysis of how much players might be expected to play given their age, position and levels of production. As I discussed in the story, Berri found that their were certain discrepancies between which Wolves were producing and which were playing. Those results (through the games of December 11) are shown below:
But this is what I find kind of interesting:
These results appear to reveal a missing variable in the model (so the minutes model isn’t perfect). We know from past published research that high draft picks receive more minutes than their performance suggests. Beasley, Johnson, and Brewer are all high draft picks. So I think if we considered where a player was drafted, the allocation of minutes by Rambis would line up with what a “typical” NBA coach would do. In other words, typical NBA coaches are influenced by scoring and draft status of a player.
So Berri concludes that, aside from Love’s playing time (and we all know that in the last few weeks, Love’s minutes have been inching closer to 40/game), the Rambis isn’t doing anything too out of the ordinary. This is not exactly good news:
A bigger problem, though, is that his teammates are not very good. An average player posts a WP48 of 0.100. Of Love’s teammates, only Ridnour is posting a WP48 that is above average. And ten of Love’s teammates are producing in the negative range. So the T-Wolves have one amazing player and a large collection of players that are not helping. Given this roster, there really isn’t much Rambis can do to change the outcomes we observe.
Winston’s metrics work considerably differently. Rather than developing a model of production (based on points, rebounds, shooting efficiency etc) Winston measures how well teams perform when given players and lineups are on the floor. What separates this from your run-of-the-mill efficiency metrics, though, is the fact that Winston adjusts for the quality of an opponent. In other words, a team’s starters are theoretically not punished by the fact that they routinely play against their opponents best players. Let me show you numbers from some of the Wolves’ most frequently used lineups (these are also calculated through the games of the 11th). Winston tells me that the essential number is the one on the far right, which is the given unit’s adjusted +-.
What we find is pretty much what Winston said we would find. The team does not do well when Love, Darko and Beasley play together. They are even worse than that when Wayne Ellington or Kosta Koufos plays. They are pretty good when Anthony Tolliver and Corey Brewer are injected in to the mix. (By the way, there are lots more of these but I didn’t want to hurt your eyes).
MIN 106.85 minutes
Beasley Johnson Love Milicic Ridnour -13.19
MIN 57.01 minutes
Brewer Johnson Love Milicic Ridnour 16.20
MIN 40.83 minutes
Beasley Brewer Johnson Love Ridnour 2.28
MIN 34.90 minutes
Beasley Brewer Love Milicic Ridnour -10.76
MIN 27.91 minutes
Beasley Brewer Johnson Love Telfair 30.69
MIN 18.55 minutes
Beasley Johnson Milicic Telfair Tolliver 33.01
MIN 14.08 minutes
Brewer Johnson Love Ridnour Tolliver 16.66
Look at the effect of replacing Beasley with Brewer and/or replacing Love or Darko with Tolliver. Winston reports that when Love and Darko play together the Wolves are -9.03. When Brewer and Johnson play together, on the other hand, the Wolves are +9.06. Tolliver with Beasley: +8.56. Tolliver with Johnson: +7.39. Beasley with Love: -6.5. B-Eazy with Darko: -8.7. Sobering stuff. Now you know.