The Miles File

Posted on August 25, 2008 by

22


Earlier this summer James Posey departed Boston for the New Orleans Hornets.  And now the Celtics have responded by adding… Darius Miles? 

Miles last played NBA basketball in 2005-06.  Recently a doctor declared his career over.  And now — despite what one doctor says — he has signed with the Boston Celtics.  So what exactly is Boston getting?

The Miles Career

Miles was drafted by the LA Clippers with the third choice of the 2000 NBA draft.  As a rookie Miles produced 8.2 wins and posted a 0.185 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes].   Average WP48 is 0.100, so Miles was quite good in 2000-01.  He followed this stellar rookie campaign with 7.3 Wins Produced and a 0.158 WP48 his sophomore season.    

Posey posted a 0.136 WP48 last season, so if Boston is getting the Miles of his first two seasons the Celtics would be a bit improved. Unfortunately the Miles of his sophomore campaign hasn’t appeared much since 2002.

During the summer of 2002 the Clippers traded Miles to the Cleveland Cavaliers for point guard Andre Miller.  With Cleveland the Wins Produced offered by Miles declined to -0.3 (with a WP48 of -0.008).   Yes, that’s pretty bad. 

The next season Miles posted a 0.055 WP48 in Cleveland during the first half of the season.  In mid-season he was traded to Portland where his WP48 was 0.162, a mark similar to what we saw when Miles played in LA.

The resurgence of Miles, though, didn’t last.  In both 2004-05 and 2005-06 he was again below average, posting a 0.068 WP48 in 04-05 and a disastrous -0.087 mark in 05-06. 

What caused this decline?  Part of the story is injury.  But when we look at the individual stats- posted in Table One – another story emerges.

Table One: The Career of Darius Miles

In his first two seasons Miles was above average in terms of shooting efficiency, rebounds, and blocked shots.  As his career progressed, though, Mile increasingly focused on scoring.  Relative to his first two seasons, the Miles in Cleveland and Portland took more shots and generally scored more points.  This increased focus on scoring, though, came at a cost.  His shooting efficiency, rebounds, and blocked shots generally declined while his turnovers generally increased.  In essence, it looks like Miles – after his life as a Clipper – began to respond to the incentive all NBA players face.  Players are primarily paid to score.  Unfortunately for the team’s employing Miles, his attention to scoring led to less production elsewhere, and ultimately, far fewer wins.

The Celtics Going Forward

Obviously when you sign a player that a doctor said isn’t going to play anymore, you can’t expect much.  You certainly can’t expect such a player to replace Posey.  But even if Miles is healthy, the version we saw in Portland and Cleveland wouldn’t help much anyway. 

So what else has the Celtics done this summer to improve? Well, not much.  J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker were added in the draft.  And Patrick O’Bryant – a 2006 lottery pick who has logged 218 minutes in his NBA career – was signed as a back-up center.

Such moves hardly compare to what this team did last summer.  Last summer the Celtics traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  And then Boston added in free agency Posey and Eddie House.  These moves transformed a team that only won 24 games in 2006-07.  

Table Two: The Boston Celtics in 2007-08

As Table Two indicates, given what these players did in 2006-07, the Celtics should have expected about 52 wins last year.  In other words, the team should have expected about a 28 game improvement in the standings. 

One should note, though, that 2006-07 was a down year for Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins, KG, and R. Allen.  If we look at the 2005-06 numbers for these four players – numbers that appear more consistent with each player’s career marks -Boston would have expected about 65 wins last year.  When the season was over, the Celtics – led by KG and Pierce (and let’s not forget Rajon Rondo) – won 66 games.  The 42 additional wins was the largest regular season turnaround in NBA history.  And when the post-season ended, the Celtics had won the franchise’s first title since the days of Larry Bird.

Unfortunately for Boston, KG, Pierce, and R. Allen have each passed the dreaded age of 30.  So although each player bounced back in 2007-08, we know that inevitably each player must decline.  This is a problem because the team Boston faced in the finals – the LA Lakers – will be getting much better. 

In the first half of 2007-08 season the Lakers – as I noted last fall – Bynum led the Lakers in WP48.  But then he got hurt.  Initially the Lakers suffered, but after the acquisition of Pau Gasol, the Lakers improved enough to reach the NBA Finals. 

If Bynum can return healthy and productive, LA’s line-up will feature Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Gasol, and Bynum.  This quartet is easily the best in the NBA.  Consequently, as I have noted in the past, LA is the favorite to take the title in 2009.

And this means that Boston is going to have to get even better to defend its title. So far, though, Boston has lost a productive player in Posey and not added much.  And given the age of its players, we should expect many of the top Celtics to actually decline.  Consequently, just like we saw when Bird led Boston to titles in the 1980s, the Celtics are not likely to repeat as champions in 2009.

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

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.