Reviewing the Southeast Division

Posted on December 17, 2007 by


Thus far I have reviewed all five teams in both the Atlantic and Central divisions. This week we turn our attention to the Southeast.

Wins and Efficiency Differential

Following the format of the previous reviews, I will start by noting each team’s won-loss record and efficiency differential (offensive efficiency – defensive efficiency).

Orlando: 17-8, 4.8

Washington: 13-10, 2.4

Atlanta: 11-12, -1.3

Miami: 6-17, -5.0

Charlotte: 8-14, -6.6

When we look at this division we can hear Gomer Pyle saying “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.”  Almost everywhere we look we see teams performing differently than we might expect.  Orlando was expected to be above average, but dominating the division?  Washington lost Gilbert Arenas but who would have guessed their efficiency differential would be even better than last year?  And who would have expected Atlanta to be five games ahead of Miami 23 games into the season?

Wins Produced and WP48 for the Southeast Division

To answer these questions we turn to Table One, where the Wins Produced for each team is reported.

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

As I have done with each previous division review, here are a few brief notes on each team. 

Orlando Magic

Last year Dwight Howard produced 20.5 wins with a 0.325 WP48.  His Wins Produced ranked third in the league, which means that Howard in 06-07 was an elite NBA talent.  What word, though, should we use to describe him in 07-08?  Already he has produced 9.2 wins and his WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] stands at 0.454.  Such numbers translate into 30.1 wins over the course of an 82 game season.  Obviously he’s the key player on the Magic and currently the most productive player in the Eastern Conference (and maybe the league, but we have to review the other divisions first).

When we look at the rest of the Magic, though, we don’t see much else.  If Howard were suddenly average — which means his WP48 would be 0.100 – he would be on pace to produce 6.6 wins.  With such production from Howard this team would only be on track for about 30 victories. In other words, with Howard this team leads the division. Without Howard, this team is in the NBA lottery.

That’s not to say that other players are not productive.  Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Carlos Arroyo are above average.  Rashard Lewis would be above average as a small forward, but as a power forward he’s not. And Maurice Evans and Brian Cook, the two players acquired for Trevor Ariza, are in the negative range.

In sum, as long as Howard keeps dominating, this team will rank towards the top in the East.  But without more help, title contention might be a bit of a stretch.

Washington Wizards

As one can see, this team is led by Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and Antawn Jamison.  I would like to say more (and I did back on November 23rd), but I am going to hold off for a bit.  My plan is to devote an entire post to this team which seems to be surviving quite nicely without Agent Zero.

Atlanta Hawks

This team has not won more than 35 games since 1997-98 (although in 1999 the team was on pace to surpass this number if the full season had been played).  From 1999-00 to last year, the team’s efficiency differential was never better than -3.8.  In sum, across the past eight seasons the Hawks have been very bad. 

If you look over the historical record, though, we see that Atlanta has been traditionally good.  From 1977-78 to 1998-99, the lowest differential for this team was -3.0 (1980-81).   Only seven times – out of 22 seasons – was the team’s mark in the negative range.

With a differential of -1.3 this season, it looks like the Hawks are finally coming back.  And clearly the difference is Al Horford.  After 23 games Horford has posted a 0.185 WP48 and is on pace to produce 9.6.  Such a mark eclipses the wins production of Rajon Rondo and Brandon Roy, the two top rookies from 2006-07.  So the early returns suggest the Hawks finally got it right in the draft.

Horford is not playing by himself.  The two Joshs – Smith and Childress – are also well above average.  The combination of Horford, Smith, and Childress are on pace to produce 30 wins, so if this team could just find eleven more wins from the rest of the team, it could finally hit the 0.500 mark.  So far the rest of the roster is on pace for only 7.8 wins, so the team is coming up just a bit short.  But a bit of improvement here and there and this team could secure a spot in the playoffs.

Miami Heat

On December 6th I wrote the following on the Heat.   

Shaq is Still the Best

It’s only been ten days, so there isn’t much to add to this story.  I will note that as long Dwyane Wade continues to struggle, this team is not going to win much.   

Charlotte Bobcats

The loss of Adam Morrison – the least productive player last season – was supposed to help this team.  But the problems appear to go beyond Morrison. 

In the frontcourt the team is only getting production from Emeka Okafor. Yes, he is the third most productive player in the division (behind Dwight Howard and Caron Butler), but when every other big man combines to offer a level of wins that’s below zero, you are going to have problems.  The addition of Nazr Mohammed should helps some.  Nazr has at least demonstrated the ability to be average at the center position.

Beyond the bigs, though, we see that both Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson have struggled. The decline we see with respect to Wallace is especially interesting (unless you are a Bobcat fan). Maybe a post on this would be a good idea in the future.

Ranking All Players

Before I close this post, here are all 69 players ranked in terms of Projected Wins Produced.

Table Two: The Players of the Southeast Division

One should note how simple a projection Table Two presents. This analysis simply takes the minutes played so far and projects to 82 games.  So the projection for Agent Zero is incorrect.  And the same is true for anyone else who has not been in the line-up all season.  Still, for most players it gives us a sense where they are going.

When we look at the entire division, we see that 15% of all wins created in the division have been produced by Dwight Howard.  So obviously he’s the most productive player in the division (and probably the league). 

We should also note that Shaq is only the fifth most productive center in the division.  Yes, Howard, Horford, Okafor, and Haywood are all on pace to produce more than O’Neal.  Clearly Shaq ain’t what he used to be.  If it’s any comfort, he is still the best center in Miami.  In fact he is still there most productive player.  And this fact alone tells us why the Heat is off in Miami.

– 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.