Numbers don't lie, do they? I'm sexy and I know it.
On August 15th I posted about an article on wagesofwins.com evaluating the Hawks off-season. Not being familiar with their site I was unable to locate the stats that were the basis of their article (in my defense the links on the page take you to basketball-reference.com). Vivek, the author of the article, has kindly provided me a link to their stats, so I thought I should revisit the article and look at the Hawks summer through the prism of their stat system. Also, Vivek was obviously using stats he believes in as the basis of his opinion and is not a Marvin Williams stalker. I hope he understands that any system that declares Marvin Williams as the best Hawks player in going to be met with a truckload of skepticism from anyone what watches more than a handful of Atlanta games.
Let start the review with Marvin Williams. Key comments in the original article were "best player from last season" and "star forward". It's hard to believe such claims after seeing Marvin lose his starting job during the year and seemingly disappear even when on the floor. Their stat page clearly shows that Marvin Williams had the highest Wins Produced at 6.32 edging out Jeff Teague's 6.29. In third place is Josh Smith with 5.61 and then Joe Johnson with 5.40. You can see by the per 48 numbers that Josh Smith brings it across the board. Unfortunately he's not that efficient or at least wasn't last year, so I take it that their system shows that while he appeared to be the best Hawk on the floor to my eyes his mistakes mitigated his overall impact. Joe is the other player that an observer of guys might brand as the best Hawk. The problem with Joe's numbers are two fold. As primary offense option he is exposed to a lot of potential turnovers due to handling the ball against multiple defenders. Additionally he doesn't rebound as well as expected for the position which could be due to his focus on scoring above everything else. Back to Marvin, he's clearly very efficient. He has low turnovers and higher shooting percentages. In their system efficiency = wins, it's simple. I guess he was efficient enough to overcome lesser minutes to lead the team in Wins Produced. His role on the team doesn't expose him to many turnover opportunities or even that many truly contested shots. You'd think that if he was so efficient and productive that he'd see more court time, not less. The problem with that is that I don't think Marvin's numbers would scale as logically expected because he defers to a fault. You also would have trouble succeeding with a bunch of Marvins on your team because his play relies almost exclusively on others to create and handle the ball. As for the "star forward" comment, Vivek was being kind to consider the top Hawk in wins produced a star. The truth is that the numbers were down for the individual Hawks (spread out). Look at the year before and you see Al Horford leading the team with 10.83 WP and a year before that it was Josh with 12.48 WP. The year before that it was Marvin with 8.15 WP (his best year ever). Basically, Marvin is around #50 in WP in the league which isn't exactly the same as being a star. Also as I already mused it is hard to imagine more playing time working for Marvin because of his nature to defer.
Now to the Hawks off-season. I didn't have a problem with the C grade, but if wagesofwins.com add in the financial component to their system they'd probably grade it as an A. 25 million dollars plus to get the 11.7 WP by Joe and Marvin doesn't seem like effective use of salary. My first observation is that we should be jazzed that Al is back because he seems to be a certain double figure producer in WP. Also because of all the outside shooters in the new lineup Josh Smith has the potential to regain his form from 3 seasons ago (12.48 WP) by playing mainly inside. Teague's numbers should improve a little if for no other reason it being a full season. Conversely, Zaza should probably be lower as he loses minutes to Al. The returning core I see as approximately 11 + 10 + 8 + 3 or 32 WP. Kyle Korver's WP was 5 last year in similar minutes to Marvin. The difference seems minor. Devin Harris had a WP of 4 last year and I don't see why he can't match that. Lou Williams only produced 3.5 WP with Philadelphia. I guess he lacks the efficiency to grade out higher, but let's just count those 3 subs at 12 WP. You might notice that the negative WP of Jason Collins is off to Boston, but we can't celebrate it because Johan Petro produced negative numbers as well (so did DeShawn Stevenson). You can also count on about 2 WP from backup PF/C going by last year's numbers for Ivan Johnson and Jordan Williams, respectively. While it is just an estimate at this time, the 2012-2013 Hawks project out about the same as last year's team in wins with a greatly reduced long term payroll. I could see that grading out as a C on pure talent in the roster changes, but an A in bang for the buck from the roster.
Some final observations on WP versus what you see on the floor. Wins Produced seeks to evaluate players in a way to capture things that often get overlooked while watching the game. It's a laudable goal. Efficient shooting and rebounding help your score more than just raw stat production and turnovers drop you quickly. If you click on the individual players you on their site you can see a players weak areas exposed in red. For instance, while Joe Johnson had impressive points and assists his rebounding, steals and blocks numbers were low in comparison to the average per 48 player. Furthermore, turnovers drag down his numbers, but that is common for the focal point of the offense. Jeff Teague's red marks correspond to lack of aggressiveness of offense. Josh Smith is dinged for turnovers and offensive rebounding, which could be seen as an extension of his positioning on offense. Marvin Williams gets a boost from per 48 minute rebounding numbers and his low turnovers, but his red marks on scoring, assists, blocks and steals are what you'd expect from some who lacks the assertiveness to achieve even average usage. These individual player sections are interesting to me because they actually do correlate with what I see watching the games and I feel help me understand how they got to their WP numbers.
Have I drank the kool-aid and buy into wagesofwins.com now? Still not so much. I see what they are trying to do, but also I see enough questionable bottom lines to think their system is flawed. If I did buy in and was upset that the Hawks dealt their best player to Utah, I could at least find solace in the same stat system says Jordan Williams produced essentially the same wins as Deron Williams did last year. What an under the radar steal on a throw-in player! Also, Josh Childress is still out there in free agency and they love Josh Childress.
What about you? Does seeing the numbers make the claims about Marvin Williams more reasonable? Or is the concept of Marvin as the best Hawk according to their stat system too hard to resolve with a season of watching him play? Is Wins Produced the advanced stat for you?