Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The 2012 NBA Awards (According To A Calculator)

Due to work, school, and my job search, as well as my lack of cable or a League Pass subscription, I have not been able to watch as much basketball as I would have liked this season.  What I have been doing is learning statistical analysis, and the more I learn, the more I respect what the boys over at Wages of Wins are doing.  While I'm not entirely sure they're always watching the games, either, their statistics jive the most with what actually seems to be going on on the floor.  So I present the 2012 NBA Awards, as presented by a calculator.  Enjoy.

1st Team All-Rookie
Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver, 0.332 Wins Produced per 48 Minutes* 
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio, 0.294 WP48
Greg Stiemsma, C, Boston, 0.177 WP48
Gustavo Ayon, C, New Orleans, 0.172 WP48
Isaiah Thomas, PG, Sacramento, 0.136 WP48

*Wins Produced per 48 Minutes (WP48) is how many wins a player produces per 48 minutes of play.  In one 48 minute game, an average (.500) team produces .500 wins, so an average player on that average team produces 0.100 wins (.500 divided by 5 players).  An above-average player will produce above 0.100, a "star" over 0.200, and a "superstar" over 0.300.  You can read much more about Wins Produced here, here, and here.  Also, if you actually go to The NBA Geek and look up these numbers, you'll notice a bunch of players rated higher than some of the guys listed here in WP48.  The reason those players weren't included is because I set an (arbitrary) cut-off of 600 minutes played, since that comes out to roughly 10 minutes per game.

As you can see, Faried is a monster, with numbers that say he should be in the running for MVP.  So why isn't anyone talking about him?  It's largely because his minutes are criminally low (948), so his traditional stats are deflated (10.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg).  Leonard has fit seamlessly into Greg Popovich's system, and should be a starter in San Antonio for the next ten years.  Stiemsma has made up for below-average scoring, rebounding, and assist rates with tremendous block (5.4 per 48) and steal (2.3 per 48) rates.  Gustavo Ayon is a complete unknown to me.  Only the third Mexican-born player to make the NBA, Ayon has excelled mostly due to his above-average passing (3.2 assists per 48).  Thomas went from being the last pick in the draft to starting over The Jimmer, and his success is due in large part to his scoring (22.1 per 48) and his shooting touch (49.3% on twos, 37.4% on threes).  The shooting success is shocking considering his small stature.  This is probably the last time you'll hear Ayon and Stiemsma's names in the same breath as Faried's and Leonard's, but Thomas should stick around the league as a backup point guard, and will probably enter camp next year as the Kings' starter.

2nd Team All-Rookie
Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota, 0.133 WP48
Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland, 0.118 WP48
Jan Vessely, F, Washington, 0.106 WP48
Enes Kanter, C, Utah, 0.105 WP48
Ivan Johnson, PF, Atlanta, 0.100 WP48

Here's some more familiar names.  The actual 1st Team All-Rookie will probably be Faried, Leonard, Rubio, Irving, and then any one from a group including Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, or Kemba Walker.  Rubio's poor shooting (35.7%) hurt his numbers, while Kyrie's turnovers (4.9 per 48) did him in.  Jan Vessely is a surprising name to see on this list, since I wasn't even sure he had come to the US this season.  Kanter is doing yeoman's work on the glass (16.6 rebounds per 48), but his efforts are nothing compared Johnson's (18.6 per 48).  Johnson also plays with a diamond grill in his mouth, which, if it were accounted for in the Wins Produced equation, would shoot his WP48 to zero-point-one billionty (which is actually just 0.1, but oh well; DIAMOND GRILL!!!).  

Rookie of The Year
1. Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver
2. Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio
3. Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota
4. Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland
5. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Sacramento

This is pretty evident from the way the numbers played out above, but I moved Rubio and Irving above Thomas (while also omitting Steimsma and Ayon completely) for minutes reasons (as well as the fact that there's no way you can have a top 5 rookies list and not include Irving and Rubio).  Irving is going to win the actual award, obviously, and I'm extremely confident he will be the best player of this group in the long run.  Rubio will be the most exciting, but it doesn't seem as if he'll ever find a jump shot.  Leonard probably won't deviate much from the role he's having so much success in already, and Faried is the type of player (in his case, an undersized power forward) who seems doomed to get buried behind players with more prototypical builds despite his super production.  I wish Dan Gilbert had bought his way into the late first round last year, because I'm certain Faried would be playing heavy minutes for the D-League All-Stars injuries have made the Cavs this spring.

Most Improved Player
1. Brandan Wright, PF, Dallas, 0.293 WP48 (2010-11: 0.166 WP48)
2. Ersan Ilyasova, PF, Milwaukee, 0.244 WP48 (2010-11: 0.105 WP48)
3. Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota, 0.234 WP48 (2010-11: -0.80 WP48)
4. Kosta Koufos, C, Denver, 0.231 WP48 (2010-11: -0.41 WP48)
5. Brandon Rush, SG, Golden State, 0.208 WP48 (2010-11: 0.105 WP48)

I had to fudge this award a little bit, since a.) I couldn't find a way to sort the data by largest year-over-year improvement in WP48; and b.) I'm not really sure what "Most Improved" is supposed to mean.  By sheer arithmetic, Pekovic is clearly the most improved of the five I've listed here, but I guess I was kind of trying to include a little of every definition of this award in the pot.  Some think it should go to a guy who previously "stunk" (which usually means they just didn't get minutes before, and then they suddenly did, which makes their counting stats go up), others think it should go to borderline stars who make "the leap" (like Kevin Love last year), while others think it should go to young players simply improving as their careers progress.  All of these guys are young-ish (Pekovic and Rush are the oldest at 26), most are playing a career-high in minutes, and all have elevated their play to "star" level.  Wright went from bust status to a key reserve for the defending NBA champs, while Ilyasova has put together one of the better contract runs ever.  Pekovic has quickly established himself as one of the nastier inside presences in the league, which makes him a perfect compliment to Kevin Love's unique game.  Rush and Koufos went from discarded draft busts to useful role players.  Jeremy Lin isn't on here because his Wins Produced stats aren't that great (which I have to assume is due to his ridiculous turnover numbers), and also because I suspect he was always as good as he is now; he's just finally getting his chance to prove it.

Sixth Man of The Year
1. James Harden, SG, Oklahoma City, 0.262 WP48
2. Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio, 0.301 WP48
3. Brandan Wright, PF, Dallas
4. Ersan Ilyasova, PF, Milwaukee
5. Kosta Koufos, C, Denver

Oddly enough, three of the five Most Improved candidates are also on the Sixth Man list.  I don't think any of the repeats actually deserve to be here, and if any one in the league gets even one vote other than Harden then something has gone awry.  Ginobili has better numbers, but he's also missed more than half of the Spurs' games.  Not that he would take it, but I hope to God the Cavs offer Harden the max in two summers.  A back court of Harden and Kyrie coupled with a front court anchored by Anthony Davis (wishful thinking?) would be something to behold.

1st Team All-Defense
LeBron James, SF, Miami
Tyson Chandler, C, New York
Dwight Howard, C, Orlando
Serge Ibaka, PF, Oklahoma City
Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston

The calculator had nothing to do with this team, or any of the defensive awards, since there is still no great metric to measure a player's defensive impact.  James is the most versatile defender in the league, with the size to bang with power forwards and the athleticism to bother point guards.  Chandler has instilled a defensive mindset on a Knicks team that hadn't played defense since 1999, while Ibaka is going to win the block title by nearly 1.5 blocks per game.  Howard has had a nightmare season, but even Dwight mailing it in is still one of the five best defenders in the NBA.  Rondo is a pest at the front of the Celtics defensive front, and his well-above average (for a point guard) rebounding is a big help, too.

2nd Team All-Defense
Chris Paul, PG, LA Clippers
Mike Conley, PG, Memphis
Andre Iguodala, SF, Philadelphia
Joakim Noah, C, Chicago
DeAndre Jordan, C, LA Clippers

Paul and Conley are 1-2 in steals per game, while Jordan is 4th in blocks.  Noah is the default choice from the best defensive team in the league, although he gets a lot of help from Taj Gibson and Omer Asik (who I wouldn't mind seeing the Cavs offer a front-loaded contract offer this summer).  Iguodala continues to be LeBron-lite, defending all over the floor.

Defensive Player of The Year
1. Tyson Chandler, C, New York
2. LeBron James, SF, Miami
3. Dwight Howard, C, Orlando
4. Serge Ibaka, PF, Oklahoma City
5. Andre Iguodala, SF, Philadelphia

I suppose Iguodala should be on the 1st Team instead of Rondo, but it felt weird not to have a guard represented.  Individually, I think James is the best defender in the world, but it is hard to overlook the difference Chandler has made in New York, who currently sit at #5 in defensive efficiency.  Howard's idiocy and injury cost him an unprecedented 4th straight DPOY.

1st Team All-NBA
G Chris Paul, LA Clippers, 14.0 Wins*
G James Harden, Oklahoma City, 10.7 Wins
F LeBron James, Miami, 17.3 Wins
F Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City, 11.8 Wins
C Tyson Chandler, New York, 13.2 Wins

*For the All-NBA teams and the MVP, I've switched from the WP48 to just total wins, since in order to be one of the best players in the league, you have to be on the floor, and Wins reflect that better than WP48.  For comparison's sake, an average player (producing 0.100 WP48) would produce roughly 6.0 wins this season.

I'm sure it won't be too much of a surprise if Kevin Durant and his teammate guard make 1st Team All-NBA, but I don't think anybody thinks it will be Harden and not Russell Westbrook, but Harden really has been that good.  Let's just hope Ron-Ron's bow didn't do any lingering damage.  The rest of this team is pretty much chalk.

2nd Team All-NBA
G Steve Nash, Phoenix, 10.4 Wins
G Dwyane Wade, Miami, 8.4 Wins
F Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia, 11.5 Wins
F Kevin Love, Minnesota, 10.2 Wins
C Joakim Noah, Chicago, 10.9 Wins

Steve Nash is 38, averaging 10.8 assists, and shooting 53-40-89 (FG-3PT-FT).  That's ridiculous.  Wade is awesome, of course, and Love is awesome despite missing the last 8 games of the season.  Iguodola is above-average at almost everything except scoring, which is probably why he doesn't get much credit.  Noah is here on the strength of his defense and rebounding.

3rd Team All-NBA
G Rajon Rondo, Boston, 8.1 Wins
G Mike Conley, Memphis, 7.8 Wins
F Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City, 9.7 Wins
F Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio, 9.1 Wins
C Dwight Howard, Orlando, 10.5 Wins

This is where the calculator breaks.  Howard and Rondo are legit picks, sure, but there's no way Ibaka, Leonard, or Conley are among the top 15 players in the league.  Tony Parker probably belongs on one of these lists, and I wouldn't be surprised if the aforementioned Westbrook (4.4 Wins) makes it, too.  Kobe Bryant will definitely be 1st or 2nd team, but his WP48 is only 0.048, and he's only produced 2.3 Wins.  Other notable additions include Paul Pierce (6.4 Wins), Carmelo Anthony (4.0 Wins), and Dirk Nowitzki (2.9 Wins).

1. LeBron James, SF, Miami
2. Chris Paul, PG, LA Clippers
3. Tyson Chandler, C, New York
4. Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City
5. Andre Iguodala, SF, Philadelphia

The actual order is probably going to be James, Paul or Durant, Kobe, and perhaps Tony Parker or Steve Nash.  It really doesn't matter past James, because he is far and away the Most Valuable Player this year. His 0.357 WP48 is the 3rd highest in the 12 years of Wins data available (behind only Chris Paul and LeBron's own monster 2008-09 seasons [0.372 WP48 and 0.362 WP48, respectively]), and even his traditional stats are absurd (27.1 points per game, 6.2 assist per game, 7.9 rebounds per game).  Add in his defense, and he's the best regular season player in the game today, and one of the greatest ever.  As weird as this may sound coming from a Cavs fan, it is going to be refreshing when he finally wins a championship, and we can all enjoy just how awesome he is (on the court).  Remember when Peyton Manning was clearly the best player in the NFL, but all anyone ever talked about was how his team couldn't get over the hump in the playoffs?  Once he won his Super Bowl, all of that talk went away, and we all just enjoyed the show Manning put on every Sunday.  It will be great when the whole "LeBron is a choker" meme is eliminated from the national conversation, and we can all just appreciate one of the 5 most-gifted players of all-time.  LeBron may be a douchebag, but it doesn't mean he isn't a joy to watch play basketball.  That said, I hope this is the last MVP he gets, and that next season the reign of Kyrie begins.


  1. Shadley Tadley Bumpkins9:34 AM

    Kyrie will be without Jamison, Parker, Erdin, Samuels, and Harris next season. How will his reign begin without this D league supporting cast? Thank God this season is over tonight. Let's switch topics what you should be writing about, the Diminishing Skills of Jack Hannahan and your well over. 500 Cleveland Indians.

  2. Shadley Tadley Bumpkins9:41 AM

    I forgot to mention your 1st place Cleveland Indians! Canaan, Sara texted me last night and said your forehead was a little warm? You feeling Ok buddy?