Glad to be Wrong

Posted on March 1, 2007 by


I was born in Detroit. Although my family left the Motor City in 1981 (and I have not visited since 1990), I remain a Pistons fan. Consequently, when Ben Wallace departed for Chicago this past summer I was not happy (which I noted at the time). Given Big Ben’s productivity last year, it was clear to me that the Pistons would be worse.

After 41 games, the Pistons offensive and defensive efficiency suggested a team on pace to win about 48.5 wins. This is a substantial decline from what we saw in 2005-06, suggesting that replacing Ben Wallace with Nazr Mohammed did not help (as Wins Produced would suggest).

Just prior to reaching the mid-point in the season, though, the Pistons signed the suddenly free Chris Webber. As detailed previously, Webber was an outstanding player in his first ten seasons, producing 98.9 wins and a Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] of 0.208. After his injury in 2003, though, his productivity fell below the average WP48 mark of 0.100. From 2003-04 to 2005-06, Webber only produced 9.3 wins and had a WP48 of 0.073. After 18 games this season, Webber had produced 0.7 wins for Philadelphia and offered a 0.061 WP48.

Given this data, when the Pistons signed Webber and inserted him into their starting line-up, I was quite pessimistic. As I noted at the time, if it was the old Webber the team had acquired, this would have been quite a steal. Unfortunately, I feared that what the Pistons signed was just an old Webber. And that was not going to help this team improve.

Well, 20 games into Webber’s return to Michigan and we do not see any signs of an old Webber, but rather, the C-Webb of old has returned. Actually, that’s not quite true. But with a WP48 of 0.169, it looks like the Pistons have added another productive player to their line-up. In other words, I was happily wrong. Webber now looks like a player that can help the Pistons.

Of course one might ask: Where has this Webber been since 2003? Remember, Webber was below average last season. He was also below average the first 18 games of this season. Then he takes a few days off, changes teams, and suddenly we are back to 2003. Did Webber just recover from his injuries? Was he not trying as hard as he could have in Philadelphia? As a Pistons fan, should I care?

Regardless of how the old C-Webb emerged, his return does give the Pistons a very good starting line-up (listed below):

  • Chris Webber: 0.169 WP48
  • Rasheed Wallace: 0.108 WP48
  • Tayshaun Prince: 0.129 WP48
  • Richard Hamilton: 0.110 WP48
  • Chauncey Billups: 0.266 WP48

The average WP48 of these five is 0.156, which still lags behind the starting units of the Mavericks, Spurs, and Suns. Still, the Pistons certainly have one of the better starting units in the league.

A review of the entire Pistons roster, in the table below, reveals that Detroit also has talent off the bench.

Table One: The Detroit Pistons after 55 games

Carlos Delfino is suddenly a very good player, posting a WP48 of 0.221. Other above average players include Antonio McDyess, Dale Davis, and Nazr Mohammed – although the latter two are not playing much with the addition of Webber.

If we compare the returning Pistons to what we saw last year, we do not see much difference. Prince, Hamilton, and McDyess are each a bit better, while Billups and Wallace are about the same. The exception is Delfino, who as noted, has suddenly become an extremely productive player. Coupled with addition of C-Webb, the Pistons are coming closer to the team we saw last year.

This means that in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons – my original home town team – are now the clear favorite. Unfortunately, the NBA is going to insist that the Eastern Conference champion play the best in the West. And that means the Pistons will probably lose the last game they play this season. Still, it looks like I can look forward to weeks of playoff basketball. I think it will ultimately end in disappointment, but it will still be fun while it lasts.

– DJ