Rashard Lewis and the WoW Club

Posted on March 15, 2008 by


In the March 17th issue of Sports Illustrated is an interview of Rashard Lewis (by Chris Mannix). In this interview Lewis notes the following:

“I read all the negative articles about my contract.  I know the pressure is on me to score every night.”

In sum, Lewis believes people want the player who is paid the most on the Magic (by a wide margin) to also carry more of the scoring load.  And this is because, as is often noted here, players in the NBA are primarily evaluated in terms of scoring.

With this point in mind, earlier in the month I introduced The WoW Club:

The primary story told about basketball in The Wages of Wins is that players are not primarily paid to win.  Players are primarily paid to score.  And the scoring doesn’t have to be efficient.  Basically, the more points a player scores – whether efficiently or inefficiently – the more money the player will receive.

Whenever a player, coach, pundit, etc… notes this basic story (whether they acknowledge The Wages of Wins or not) then I will declare that person as a member of the WoW Club. 

Not Quite a Member

Despite his comment, Rashard Lewis is not quite a member of the WoW Club. To see this, consider the comments he made to John Denton of FloridaToday.com.

In an article titled: Stats not big issue for Magic’s Rashard Lewis, is the following observation:

Part of his (Lewis) motivation for coming to Orlando was to broaden the awareness of how good he is as a scorer. But in Orlando, he’s had to make numerous sacrifices on both ends of the floor….

“I have to stay within the offense and not go against what our game plan is,” Lewis said after hitting four 3-pointers in Sunday’s defeat of Sacramento. “We’re third in the East, 14 games over .500, and we’ve got a chance to do some damage in the playoffs. For me to just go outside of the offense and try to get numbers would be disruptive to the team, and that’s just not something I’m going to do.”

All that being said, it would help if Lewis tried to get some numbers.  Table One reports the numbers Lewis offered the Sonics in 2006-07 and what he is giving the Magic this season.

Table One: Rashard Lewis in 2006-07 and 2007-08

Last year Lewis primarily played small forward, but his Win Score would have been above average regardless of position played.  This year he would be above average as a small forward, but unfortunately he is playing mostly at power forward. And his numbers at that position are below par.

When we look at the individual stats, we see that Lewis is an outstanding scorer.   He is very efficient both from the field and the line (although he doesn’t get to the line as often as he did last year). 

When we turn to possessions, though, we see a problem.  Despite the move to power forward, Lewis is getting fewer rebounds.  Per 48 minutes an average power forward will grab 11.4 rebounds.  Lewis is only getting 6.5 or nearly five boards off the pace. 

Certainly playing beside the top rebounder in the game – Dwight Howard – is going to have some impact on the numbers Lewis gets. In other words, diminishing returns (a story told in The Wages of Wins) may be an issue here. One should note, though, that Howard’s numbers do not seem to be impacting Hedo Turkoglu (whose rebounding is up this season).  And the Magic as a team are only out-rebounding their opponents by one a game, so there is certainly room for improvement (unless there is a rule that the Magic can only grab one more rebound than their opponent per game).

The Number to Focus Upon

What if Lewis did maintain his rebounding numbers from last year?  If he did, his Win Score would increase from 9.0 to 10.6.  Such a mark would be slightly above average, but would still not justify the contract Orlando paid Lewis last summer.

And all this returns to a point I made last summer when Lewis was signed.  At small forward, Lewis can post numbers that might justify his contract.  At small forward he is an adequate rebounder and an outstanding scorer.  At power forward, though, his inability to rebound is problem.

To summarize, the fans are correct to demand more numbers from Lewis to justify the contract. But it’s not more scoring this team needs.  Given the position Lewis is forced to play, rebounds are what the fans should demand.  Unfortunately, given what Lewis has done in his career, Lewis is not likely to provide such numbers.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com 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.