The LA Clippers in 2005-06

Posted on October 12, 2006 by

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The Clippers last year won 47 games. Eight teams bested this mark, so although the Clippers had a good season, at first glance it does not appear to be historic. Yet historic is the only word that can describe the Clippers year.

Clipper fans have never – and I mean never – seen their team win this many games in one season. Oh sure, if you look at the Clippers over any two seasons it is almost always the case that they bested 47 wins. Okay, that was not the case for 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons (won 46 games combined) — or the team for a few years in the 1990s, or even a few seasons back in the late 1980s. Still, generally if you give the Clippers two seasons the team could get to 47 wins. But this time, the LA Clippers did it in one season.

To put this in perspective….

As noted, this was the first time the Clippers – whether they played in San Diego or LA – won that many games.

If you consider the entire history of the franchise you have to go all the way back to the 1974-75 season – when the team was called the Buffalo Braves – to find an edition of this franchise that did better than 47 wins. That Braves team set the franchise record. Led by Bob McAdoo – who at that point was a great player (later on he was not quite as great) – the Braves won 49 contests. Yes, this franchise has never won 50 games.

More perspective… the Clippers averaged 27 wins from their first season in LA (1984-85) through the start of last season. Last year they bested this average by about 20 wins. The Lakers averaged about 54 wins in this same time period. So if the Lakers bested their average by 20 wins, last year they would have won about 74 games. Obviously that would have been historic.

How were the Clippers able to achieve this success? Like the Braves of three decades ago, the Clippers in 2005-06 – which you can see HERE — were led by an under-sized big man (at least, undersized in height). Elton Brand – who produced 17.7 wins last season — ranked 10th in the NBA in Wins Produced. This was not quite his best season in L.A. In 2001-02 – his first season in L.A. – he produced 19.9 wins. Still, his performance was outstanding last season.

Brand was not a one man team. Chris Kaman produced 8.6 wins and posted a Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] of 0.160. The product of Central Michigan actually ranked in the top ten among NBA centers in Wins Produced.

If we look beyond the big men we see Sam Cassell, who produced 7.1 win at the point guard spot. Cassell will turn 37 in November and has already played 13 seasons in his career. In general these have been productive seasons. For his career he has produced close to 80 wins. Still, one might wonder when age will catch up to Cassell.

Going forward there is good news and bad news. Corey Maggette – who was hurt much of last year – should be back for an entire season. Maggette has posted a 0.132 WP48 for his career. So he is an above average player, and with him healthy, allows the Clippers to field a line-up with four good players.

Unfortunately, the addition of Maggette might be offset by the one major off-season addition – Tim Thomas. Entering last year Thomas had a 0.130 career Win Score per-minute (note that I switched to Win Score, which is not the same as Wins Produced). Average Win Score per minute for a small forward is 0.152. For a power forward average is 0.215. Thomas has spent time at both spots in his career, and for his career has been below average regardless of position played.

In 2005-06 Thomas played all but 31 minutes with the Phoenix Suns. In the regular season Thomas posted a Win Score per minute of 0.164 in 26 games with the Suns. And then in the post-season Thomas improved dramatically with a per-minute Win Score of 0.237.

So we have two pieces of information on Thomas. For much of his career, whether he played small forward or power forward, he was below average. In a few games with the Suns he is around the average mark in the regular season, and quite good in the post-season. Which data set should we believe?

The Clippers are hoping for the player who played less than 1,300 minutes in the regular and post-season for the Suns. One might suspect that the 15,175 minutes he played before last year might be the more relevant data set. And if that is true, Thomas will not help the Clippers reach the 50 win mark that has proven so elusive for this franchise.

– DJ

 

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say