Reviewing the Atlantic Division

Posted on December 7, 2007 by


One of the complaints readers of the WoW Journal voice from time to time is that Wins Produced and WP48 is only revealed during the season one team at a time.  And the process by which these are revealed is entirely subject to my whims. If I don’t feel like telling a story about your team, well, you’re out of luck.

This year, though, I’m getting faster at estimating the Wins Produced and WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] for each individual team.  And to demonstrate my speed, today I am going to post an analysis of not one or two teams, but all five teams in the Atlantic Division (as of December 6).

Wins and Efficiency Differential

Let me start by noting each team’s won-loss record and efficiency differential (offensive efficiency – defensive efficiency).

Boston: 15-2, 14.0

Toronto: 10-9, 4.1

Philadelphia: 5-13, -3.7

New Jersey: 9-10, -6.1

New York: 6-11, -7.9

When we look at won-loss record it appears that Toronto and New Jersey are pretty close. But Toronto’s efficiency differential is consistent with a team that would win 50+ games.  Meanwhile the Nets mark of -6.1 is consistent with a team that would win about half that amount. It’s important to remember that efficiency differential explains about 94% of wins in the regular season.  Consequently, assuming these efficiency marks continue, Toronto fans can expect their team to win more often than their 10-9 record would indicate.  And New Jersey fans can expect their team to play quite a bit worse.

Wins Produced and WP48 for the Atlantic Division

Wins Produced is derived from efficiency differential.  So when we look at each team’s Wins Produced – as reported in Table One – we see the Raptors should have won nearly 12 games so far this season.  Meanwhile, the summation of Wins Produced for the Nets currently stands at about six.

Table One: A Team-by-Team Review of the Atlantic Division

When we look at Table One we see many more stories than what I just noted for the Raptors and Nets.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell all these tales in a single 1,000 word column.  So here are just a few thoughts on each team.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics clearly stand out in this division (and in the Association).  Not surprisingly, the Big Three -Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen – lead this team. These three players have combined to produce 10.7 of the team’s 15 victories.

Beyond these three, though, we see a strong supporting cast. In his rookie season, Rajon Rondo posted a 0.189 WP48.  After 17 games, with a better cast around him, Rondo’s WP48 stands at 0.184. So he’s showing that his rookie season was not a fluke.

Additionally, the Celtics are receiving above average performances from James Posey (which was expected) and Eddie House (which was not expected).

As I keep saying, it’s early. Although the Celtics currently boast an efficiency differential that surpasses the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, we might not expect the Celtics to set a record for wins in a season. In other words, the productivity for some of these players might drop off as the season progresses.   However, which players will drop-off – if any — is hard to say at the moment.

Toronto Raptors

When we look at Toronto, the play of Jose Calderon and Carlos Delfino stand out.  Calderon had a WP48 of 0.214 last year, a mark that ranked 5th among all point guards who played at least 1,000 minutes.  Delfino had a WP48 of 0.188 with Detroit in 2006-07, which ranked 9th among all shooting guards.  Thus far this season, each player has improved.  And when you toss in T.J. Ford – who has a WP48 of 0.191 – you begin to suspect the strength of this team is in the backcourt.  In other words, although Chris Bosh is still very good, maybe he’s not the best player on the Raptors.

Then again, maybe he is.  As I keep saying, it’s still early in the season. Although I keep saying this over and over again, this point was entirely lost on some of the people posting on the Bynum-Kobe story the past few days.

Philadelphia 76ers

In terms of record, Philadelphia is in last place. But the team’s efficiency differential places the 76ers third in the division. No, they are not a playoff team.  But this team is not quite as bad as their record indicates.

Like we saw last year, this team continues to have a problem playing people at power forward who don’t belong at that position.  Add up the minutes on this team. Samuel Dalembert, Calvin Booth, Jason Smith, Reggie Evans, and Louis Amundson have played 1,402 minutes this season.  But there have been 1,748 minutes of playing time at power forward and center.  This means that players like Thaddeus Young, Rodney Carney, and Kyle Korver must be spending some time at the four spot. Given the size and skills of these players, such a move reduces the chances of this team to win.

I would also add that thus far, Andre Miller and Reggie Evans have not played as well as each has played in the past.  So it’s possible this team could improve, although I doubt the 76ers will improve enough to contend for a playoff spot. 

New Jersey Nets

The story line on the Nets across the past few seasons is that it had star players in Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson.  But beyond these three, though, there’s nothing else to this team. Unfortunately for the Nets, this characterization is even truer this season.  Unlike the Celtics, who have found productive players to complement their Big Three, the Nets haven’t found anyone else to produce many wins beyond their star players. 

It’s important to note that the Celtics found much of their supporting cast in the last few months.  The Nets decision-makers – as detailed in September – are now in their fourth season trying to build a team around Kidd, Jefferson, and Carter.  And again it looks like the Nets have failed.

Just to review… the Celtics built a solid supporting cast in about four months.  Nets have four years and it looks like their supporting players are going from bad to very bad.

By the way, this pattern might be bad news for the 76ers.  Ed Stefanski, who helped build the Nets, is now in charge of re-building the 76ers.  Here is how Stefanski was described in the story announcing this move (and you should read this description with what I just said about the Nets the past few years in your mind):

The team believes hiring Stefanski was the right move. He teamed with Nets president Rod Thorn to reshape Philly’s division rival and is known as a sharp talent evaluator who helped bring the Nets Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson.

“He’s been a big part of our success here the last seven years,” Thorn said. “I’m sure he’ll do a great job there.”

New York Knicks

And then there are the Knicks.  The Knicks, as their record and efficiency differential indicate, are not a good team.  Not only does this team lack many productive players, those productive players are not as productive as they were in the past.  Specifically, David Lee, Zach Randolph, Quentin Richardson, and Renaldo Balkman are not as productive as each was last season. 

If these players return to form, the Knicks will probably win enough to save the job of Isiah Thomas.  In other words, the bar is apparently set so low for Isiah, that if this collection – which is not that good – returns to form people might mistake this for progress.

Ranking All Players

Okay, those are my quick thoughts on each team.  Before I close the post, here’s another table ranking the 68 players who have played in this division in 2007-08. 

Table Two: The Players of the Atlantic Division

Quick thoughts on this ranking:

1. The Big Three on Boston rank in the top five in the division.

2. The Big Three in New Jersey rank in the top 12.  But three of the bottom five also play for New Jersey.

3. The most productive player in New York – David Lee – is only the tenth most productive player in the division.

4. Six of the top twenty players are in Toronto. So the Raptors are a very deep team.

One last thought… it’s still very early.  As the season progresses these rankings are going to change.  In other words, what we see after less than twenty games is not set in stone.  So if your favorite player is not ranked as high as you would like, wait a few games and see what happens.  Chances are the rankings will change (or then again, maybe not).

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also 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

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.