Game Two Thoughts

Posted on June 10, 2007 by


Once again I am going to pretend to be a sportswriter and post my comments the night of the game.  Let’s start with the stars of Game Two.

The Metrics

Wait, I changed my mind, let’s start with how the players are going to be evaluated.  You can skip this if you have heard this before.  But for those who are new to this forum… we are going to consider both PAWS (Position Adjusted Win Score) and PAWSmin (Position Adjusted Win Score per minute).

Win Score is the simple metric introduced in The Wages of Wins.  Think of OPS, but for basketball. The calculation is as follows:

Win Score = PTS + REB + STL + ½*BLK + ½*AST – TO – ½*PF – FGA – ½*FTA

Because performance varies across positions – big men tend to get rebounds and accumulate few turnovers while little guys do the opposite – one has to adjust for position played if you are going to compare the bigs to the littles (are they called “littles” or did I just make that up?).

The per-minute averages for each position (based on a sample of all players from 1993-94 to 2006-07) are as follows:

Centers = 0.225

Power Forwards = 0.215

Small Forwards = 0.152

Shooting Guards = 0.128

Point Guards = 0.132

To calculate PAWSmin, one simply subtracts the position average from each player’s per-minute Win Score.  If your PAWSmin is positive, you are above average.  A negative value and you are below average. And as has been noted in this forum previously, because PAWSmin and Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] have a 0.99 correlation, one can use PAWSmin to estimate WP48.  For this post I am not going to do this, but I thought I should mention that you could also measure playoff performance with Wins Produced and WP48 (two metrics that are a bit more than just OPS for basketball).

Okay, 300 words into this post and I think I am a bit off subject (which suggests I am not much of a sportswriter).

The Stars in Cleveland

Let’s get off the topic of the metrics and talk about the game.  The Spurs made it look pretty easy (except for the fourth quarter), which tells us the team from San Antonio was better than the team from Cleveland tonight.  But just because a team was “good” or “bad”, it doesn’t mean that each player on the “good” team was “good” (or each player on the “bad” team was “bad”). For example, the Cavaliers played poorly as a team. But in the backcourt, both Eric Snow and Damon Jones were above average in limited minutes.  In the frontcourt the Cavs received above average production from both Drew Gooden and Anderson Varejao.  Gooden finished with a 0.035 PAWSmin while Varejao – who captured ten rebounds in 28 minutes – had a PAWSmin of 0.186. 

In Game One the lone above average player for the Cavs was Daniel Gibson. “Boobie” – as he is known – posted a 0.351 PAWSmin in the opening game of the NBA Finals, a per-minute mark that surpassed the production of Tim Duncan. Now Duncan had a higher PAWS than “Boobie” (11.1 to 9.8) but on a per-minute basis, Gibson – for this one night – offered a higher level of productivity.

Tonight we saw a similar story.  Duncan finished with a PAWS of 5.8, which exceeded the PAWS of Varejao (5.2).  But on a per-minute basis, Varejao had a PAWSmin of 0.186, while Duncan only offered a 0.160 mark.  So for this one night, Varejao offered just a bit more than Duncan (if we focus purely on the per-minute measure).

The Stars in San Antonio

I should emphasize, Duncan played very well.  And if we were to name an MVP, and we thought PAWS was the correct criteria for choosing the award (a reasonable criteria), then the Big Fundamental has been San Antonio’s MVP.  Although Duncan continues to offer much to the Spurs, as we saw in Game One, he is not the lone star in San Antonio.  Manu Ginobili (0.336 PAWSmin), Robert Horry (0.285 PAWSmin), and Tony Parker (0.174 PAWSmin) were each well above average in Game Two.  In addition, in limited minutes, both Francisco Elson and Jacque Vaughn posted above average numbers. 

LeBron is Streaking

Unlike Duncan, the main “star” of the Cavs – LeBron James – is not getting much help.  And he is also not offering much help.  For the second consecutive game, King James was below average.  Although he scored 25 points, he also committed six turnovers and was not a particularly efficient scorer.  Consequently his Win Score was only 2.0, and his PAWS and PAWSmin were both in the negative range.

LeBron’s PAWS was also negative the second to last game of the regular season (against the 76ers).  After that game, LeBron was above average for 12 consecutive games.  This streak was the longest of his career (in 2005-06 he had an 11 game streak).  After the streak was broken by the Pistons in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron strung together four above average games in a row as Cleveland eliminated Detroit.

Now he has been in the negative range for two consecutive games.  Unfortunately for the Spurs, a three-peat for LeBron is rare (of course, I also said after Game One that a repeat was rare, so maybe what I am saying is nonsense).

Only twice since LeBron’s rookie season has he had three consecutive games in the negative range for PAWSmin (once this past season and once in 2004-05).  Again, not since his rookie season, has he strung together four consecutive below average games. His rookie season was another story. That initial campaign saw King James post one streak of seven below average games and another streak of six. 

But this is not his rookie season.  It does seem unlikely that LeBron will be below average on Tuesday night in Cleveland.  One should note that LeBron was below average in 25 contests in 2006-07.  And Cleveland did manage to win 11 of these games (and yes, one was against the Spurs). Still, one suspects that although it’s possible for Cleveland to win when LeBron is below par, it is so much easier for this team to win when he is more like King James.

– DJ