2011 NBA Preview
The much anticipated 2010-11 NBA season is set to debut in just one week. All the marquee free agents have signed and several players returned from injury to participate in the preseason, but there are still many questions to be considered. In this weeks post, I will take a look at which rookies have performed well this preseason, compare 50 years worth of teams with multiple elite scorers, compile a list of the oldest NBA teams in NBA history, and, finally, display my season projections.
As I found in preparing for last week’s post, preseason player stats are tough to come by. The only site with historical player statistics that I could find was nba.com. Rather than try to apply another metric, I decided to use nba.com’s Efficiency as an estimator of value. Efficiency uses a simple formula that adds points for positive contributions such as scoring, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals and subtracts points for negative contributions such as missed shots and turnovers.
Efficiency is usually expressed per game. It may not be the most accurate indicator of player value, but it’s a decent estimator. If a player logs enough minutes, Efficiency per 48 is a more appropriate measure of performance than Efficiency per game, but with limited minutes available in the preseason, I decided to use Efficiency per game.
Rookie Preseason Statistics
The rookie leaders in regular season efficiency over the past five years have won rookie of the year three times and finished second twice. These same five players also led all NBA rookies in preseason efficiency three times, finishing 2nd and 4th the other years, respectively. (For this purpose, I excluded the missed rookie season of Blake Grffin and Greg Oden.) In the following table, I list regular season and preseason efficiency, draft pick and rookie of the year finish for the leaders in regular season rookie efficiency and the Rookie of the Year winners since 2005-06.
Top Rookie Efficiency Ranks
|Year||Player||Preseason*||Regular Season||Draft Pick*||ROY Finish|
*excludes Blake Griffin in 2009-10 and Greg Oden in 2007-08.
The following table displays the top rookie efficiencies over the past six seasons. (2010 preseason statistics have been updated through Sunday, October 17th games.)
Rookies Preseason Stats
|2009||Luc Mbah a Moute||MIL||10.4||37||8||30.4||8.1||16.37|
Overall, the current group of rookies has played pretty well, but Blake Griffin clearly is a notch above the rest. I was initially concerned that his injured knee would hamper his explosiveness, but now I think his biggest worry should be re-injuring himself from one of his reckless plays. (I only saw him play once this preseason, but he fell very dangerously a couple times when he was trying to make low probability plays.)
There were many players who arguably exceeded exceptions in the preseason and went on to exceed them in the regular season such as Blair, Rondo, Horford, Robin Lopez, Paul, Evans, Brook Lopez, Lawson and Villanueva. Of course, other such as Marcus Williams and DeMarcus Nelson exceeded expectations in the preseason, but their value in the regular season never matched up. I’ll be interested to see how Jordan Crawford pans out. (Yes, the same guy who is probably more known for dunking on Lebron.)
The Spurs two most significant rookie acquisitions have yet to impress. The Spurs’ first round pick in 2010, James Anderson, has struggled in limited minutes with an Efficiency of 5.2 in 18.8 MPG. Hopefully, he can improve throughout the season. Tiago Splitter has yet to see action in any preseason games.
Big 3 Scorers
Much has been made of Miami’s Big Three. I wouldn’t hesitate to call this the most significant off-season move(s) of all time. Wade and Lebron are both very good passers, but since those two and Bosh have all been significant scorers, many question how they will be able to share the rock without limiting effectiveness, and justifiably so. In order to look at other top heavy teams and teams who acquired big scorers, I selected the top 15 teams sorted by the percentage of team points last year for each team’s big 3. “Similar Player Mins LY” represents the percentage of player minutes that were similar last year to the measured year. Teams with low figures had significant turnover. The average team has a percentage around 60%. I included last year’s and the current year’s winning percentage.
Big 3's - Teams Sorted by Highest Percentage of Team Points Last Year
|Team||Year||LY Pts/TmPts Big 3||Similar Player Mins LY||W%||LY Tm W%|
With short term memory, it might be easy to forget the hype surrounding the 2003-04 Lakers, who acquired Karl Malone and Gary Payton. With Kobe and Shaq already accounting for a high percentage of the teams points, the addition of Malone put them above the Miami’s big 3 in the above table. A couple teams such as Wilt’s 1962-63 Warriors and the 2006-07 Wizards simply relied on existing stars to an extreme extent. Others such as the 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks and 2006-07 Nuggets brought in high usage players (Antawn Jamison, Antoine Walker and Allen Iverson).
On this list of 14, the average team wins 49 games, but only one (the 1983 76ers) has won the championship. The thing that really sets the Heat apart from the rest of this group is the efficiency of their stars. The Usage Rates of Bosh, Wade and James nearly add up to 100% over the past two years and their combined offensive ratings exceed 115. The Usage rates pretty much need to decrease by definition, but the Offensive Ratings will increase as these players will now share the heavy workload of low percentage shots. In addition, each can expect to be recipients of much easier scores now that defenses are unable to focus on them with the same intensity as before.
If we expect the Usage rates to fall to 80% and the Offensive Ratings to increase to 120 and each player to play 36 MPG, the remaining players would only need a combined Offensive Rating of 109 to break that all time team single season record. League average has been 108 over the past 2 years.
John Hollinger wonders when age will catch up to the Dallas Mavericks in his 2011 team preview. Spurs fans are well aware that their team isn’t exactly an up-and-coming, either. There were several years in which San Antonio has been among the oldest teams in the NBA, but admittedly, most of those veterans were role players. With that said, historically, older teams have done very well:
These teams won an average of 62.3% of their games, down from 64.7% the prior year. The decrease probably has something to do with the effects of age, but remember that both good and bad teams naturally tend to get closer to average.
Another factor of the high success of older teams is that older players seem to often retire with something left to contribute. In other cases, they may are more likely to be removed from a team because a younger players are considered a better investment. In theory, this effect should be lessened by teams utilizing the services of the NBA Developmental League.
Here are my projections for the 2011 NBA season.
2011 NBA Projections
|Eastern Conference||Western Conference|
|Team||Projected Wins||Team||Projected Wins|
|New Jersey||31||Golden State||32|
The Miami Heat project to challenge 70 wins. I feel that Houston and Portland could improve on these win totals if Yao Ming and Greg Oden can make significant contributions. For Denver and any potential trading destinations, a Carmelo Anthony trade could also shake things up.
Many feel that Cleveland will sink to the depths of the league. While I feel this might have been the case last year, the addition of Antawn Jamison could go a long way (If his knees hold up.) He averaged over 21 points with good efficiency over the past 3 years with Washington. Mo Williams also averaged over 17 PPG with a 57% true shooting percentage (Pts/TSA/2). Remember, the Cavs still have quality role players in Anderson Varejao, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and have just added Ramon Sessions. I have them making the playoffs with only 35 wins in a top heavy Eastern Conference.
The Spurs have many variables that could potentially go either way. Other than the ages of Duncan and Ginobili, Parker has yet to show he can return to his form from 2009. George Hill and James Anderson have potential, but have struggled thus far in the preseason. Some are hopeful that Richard Jefferson will improve on last season’s contributions, but so far, his preseason numbers haven’t confirmed this suspicion. Perhaps the most reasonable source of potential improvement is Tiago Splitter. However, Splitter himself has yet to see any action in the preseason. With all accounted for, I have the Spurs likely to finish down 2 games from last year, at 48, with a 6th seed in the Western Conference playoff spot. Hopefully all the pieces will be clicking by then.