Roy is ROY

Posted on January 29, 2007 by

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The All-Star game in the NBA is considered the mid-season classic, but it hardly falls in the middle of the season. Given an 82 game schedule, the mid-point is 41 games. With Denver’s game on Saturday, each NBA team has finally reached the middle of their respective season. As each team reached this benchmark, I downloaded the team and player data from NBA.com. On Sunday, this data set was completed, so I am now capable of telling a few stories about the first half of the 2006-07 NBA campaign.

The Rookie of the Year

The first story is about the rookies. Specifically, who is the best rookie this season?

Last season this was an easy question to answer. Chris Paul led his rookie class in points scored, NBA Efficiency, and Wins Produced. He was the only player the NBA coaches selected unanimously to the All-Rookie team. And he would have been a unanimous choice as Rookie of the Year except one clown in the media decided to cast a vote for Deron Williams.

When we look at the rookie class of 2006-07, we don’t see a player on par with Paul. We hardly see anyone that is equal to D. Williams. Yet, at the end of the season, someone will have to be named Rookie of the Year. And the coaches will have to choose ten rookies for the First and Second All-Rookie Teams.

Part of the problem is that many rookies are not actually playing. In 2005-06, 13 rookies played at least 1,500 minutes and 23 played at least 1,000 minutes. At the midpoint in 2006-07, only 7 rookies were on pace for 1,500 minutes played and only 17 rookies had already played 500 minutes.

Not only are rookies not playing, many are not playing very well. Of the 17 rookies who are on pace to reach 1,000 minutes played, the leader in wins production is Shelden Williams. After 41 games S. Williams had produced 2.4 wins and offered a Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] of 0.127. Average WP48 is 0.100, so S. Williams is a bit above average.

If we double the Wins Production from S. Williams we see that the most productive rookie thus far in 2006-07 is only on pace to produce 4.7 wins. To put that in perspective, last year Chris Paul produced 18.0 wins and had a WP48 of 0.308.

One should note that S. Williams is not likely to finish as the top of this rookie class. Brandon Roy has only played 21 games and has already produced 2.3 wins. With a WP48 of 0.164, it’s likely that if Roy can play in the last 41 games he will approach seven wins. Roy is no Paul, but he’s likely to finish as the best rookie in 2006-07.

So the media shouldn’t have much difficulty in choosing Rookie of the Year. Just remember the phrase: Roy is ROY, and the problem is solved.

The All-Rookie Team

The coaches, though, have to select ten rookies for the All-Rookie teams. How will the coaches choose?

In The Wages of Wins, we examined the coaches’ voting for the All-Rookie teams. As we note, this is the only post-season award (other than the All-Defensive teams) that is determined by the coaches. So this award gives a little bit of insight into how coaches evaluate player performance.

Our analysis found 73% of the voting points a rookie received from the coaches was determined by the player’s NBA Efficiency and original draft position. If we substituted Wins Produced for NBA Efficiency, explanatory power dropped to 43%. And if we substituted points scored for NBA Efficiency, our explanatory power rose to 74%. In sum, it appears that scoring – which dominates the NBA Efficiency metric – is what attracts the attention of the coaches.

Looking at the 2006-07 draft class, though, this focus creates a problem. The leading scorers – in terms of points scored per game – are Brandon Roy (14.1 PPG), Adam Morrison (13.3 PPG), and Andrea Bargnani (10.3 PPG). Roy, as detailed, is above average in overall productivity. Morrison and Bargnani, though, are so far below average that each has wandered into the negative range. Specifically, Morrison has a WP48 of -0.136 while Bargnani offers -0.063. The problem for each player is that although each can score, neither can score efficiently. Furthermore, neither player offers much in terms of any other statistical category. In sum, Morrison and Bargnani have thus far only demonstrated an ability to take shots that do not often go in. So it’s not surprising that neither player is producing wins for their respective teams.

Our All-Rookie voting model, though, suggests that both players – if the season ended at the midpoint – would be voted to the All-Rookie First Team. To see this point, let’s start with a review of the 2006 All-Rookie Teams

Table One: The 2006 All-Rookie Teams

In 2006, twenty different rookies received consideration for the first and/or second All-Rookie team. The top five in voting points received – regardless of position played – were named to the first team. The next five comprised the second team.

Each of these teams was projected using the model of voting points that relied upon NBA Efficiency and where the player was taken in the 2005 draft. As the above table indicates, the model correctly predicted four of the five first team members, and four of the five second team members. Or, to put it another way, nine of the ten rookies named to either the first or second team were correctly identified by the model.

For the 2007 teams I projected each player’s NBA Efficiency. This was done simply by assuming each rookie would play the final 41 games and boast the same per game NBA Efficiency we saw in the first half. I then just added together what the rookie did in the first half to what the simple projection suggested for the second half. With projected NBA Efficiency in hand, the All-Rookie teams in 2007 were forecasted.

Table Two: Projecting the 2007 All-Rookie Teams

The results indicate that the First Team will consist of Roy, S. Williams, Bargnani, Jorge Garbajosa, and Morrison. The Second Team will feature Rudy Gay, Randy Foye, LeMarcus Aldridge, Craig Smith, and Paul Millsap.

If we turn our attention to Wins Produced, we see that of the ten rookies projected to be named to these teams, only six are projected to finish in the top ten in Wins Produced. Aldridge is ranked 11th, so it’s possible that he will crack the top ten. Given what we have seen of Morrison, Bargnani, and Gay, though, a top ten finish in Wins Produced for these players seems unlikely.

So this will be an interesting vote to watch at the end of the season. I don’t think one needs Wins Produced to know that Morrison is not playing very well. Still, the All-Rookie model projects that he will be named to the All-Rookie team. If that does happen, once again players will be sent the message that if you score, you will be rewarded (regardless of whether or not you score efficiently or do anything else well).

By the way, a Wages of Wins Journal reader – Erich Doerr – has used Win Score to evaluate many of the players projected to be available in the 2007 NBA Draft. My next column will detail how the players Doerr examined compare to players drafted over the past decade. Here is a quick preview: the early returns suggest that next year’s draft will be amazing.

– DJ