The Best Failure Ever?

Posted on October 2, 2008 by


Nearly fifty years ago the Warriors were located in Philadelphia.  Had this franchise remained in the East, the Warriors would have enjoyed home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs this past season.  In the West, though, this team’s 48 victories left them out of the post-season.  Consequently, if we define success and failure in terms of post-season outcomes, the Warriors were the best failures in the NBA since the Phoenix Suns of 1971-72 (the Suns won 49 games that season and missed the eight team playoff field).

If we ignore the playoffs, though, we can see that the Warriors were a pretty good team.  The Warriors ranked 12th in the NBA in wins and the team’s efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) of 2.16 ranked 13th in the Association.  In sum, if “good” is above average, the Warriors were “good” in 2007-08.

The Top Players in Golden State

And this leads us to wonder, why were the Warriors “good” last season?  For an answer we turn to Table One. 

Table One: The Golden State Warriors in 2007-08

Table One reports the Wins Produced of each player on this team, in both 2006-07 and 2007-08. Given what these players did two seasons ago, one would have expected Golden State to win about 35 games in 2007-08.  The team’s efficiency differential this past season, though, was consistent with about 47 victories. When we look at the performance of the individual players, we see much of this improvement can be tied to the play of Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins.

The play of Ellis is especially interesting.  In 2006-07, Ellis was named the Most Improved Player in the NBA by the sports media.   As I noted at the time (see Not Monta Ellis), Wins Produced told a very different story.  Surprisingly (at least to me) Wins Produced did indicate that Ellis was the Most Improved Player in 2007-08 (see Now Monta Ellis and Monta Ellis This Time and Not LaMarcus Aldridge).  In fact, when we look at the following player rankings (posted originally last April), we see that Ellis was the third most productive shooting guard in the NBA last season (behind Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili).

The Top 15 Point Guards 

The Top 15 Shooting Guards 

The Top 15 Small Forwards 

The Top 15 Power Forwards

The Top 15 Centers

When we look over these rankings we see two other players from Golden State.  Last season Andris Biedrins ranked 5th among all centers.  And Baron Davis ranked 7th among point guards.  When we look back at Table One, we see that the trio of Ellis-Davis-Biedrins produced 37.6 of the team’s 46.8 Wins Produced.  Beyond this group the team really didn’t get much from anyone else.

Unfortunately for Golden State, the 2008-09 season will begin with only one member of this trio.  Davis signed with the Clippers this past summer.  And although Ellis did re-sign with the Warriors, he suffered an injury this past summer (apparently doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing).  As a result, only Biedrins will take the floor on opening night.

Trading Davis for Maggette

The Warriors did make some changes to their roster in an effort to at least maintain their team production of wins.  The most significant was the addition of Corey Maggette.  Last season Maggette played for the Clippers, so essentially Golden State traded Davis to LA for Maggette.

When we look at this “trade”, we see that in terms of production the Warriors came out a little bit behind.  Here are the career numbers [Wins Produced and Wins Produced per 48 minutes {Wp48}] for each player

Corey Maggette

2007-08: 6.9, 0.132 WP48

2006-07: 8.4, 0.176 WP48

2005-06: 2.6, 0.130 WP48

2004-05: 7.7, 0.152 WP48

2003-04: 9.0, 0.164 WP48

2002-03: 3.6, 0.087 WP48

2001-02: 1.6, 0.046 WP48

2000-01: 5.7, 0.200 WP48

1999-oo: 3.8, 0.134 WP48

Career: 49.2, 0.138

Baron Davis

2007-08: 11.8, 0.177 WP48

2006-07: 9.7, 0.209 WP48

2005-06: 6.5, 0.158WP48

2004-05: 6.4, 0.195 WP48

2003-04: 7.7, 0.137 WP48

2002-03: 4.0, 0.101 WP48

2001-02: 9.7, 0.141 WP48

2000-01: 11.2, 0.169 WP48

1999-oo: 1.7, 0.055 WP48

Career: 68.8, 0.153 WP48

As the above numbers show, Davis has offered more than Maggette.  This can be seen in both Wins Produced and WP48.  If we look at salaries, though, we see that Maggette is cheaper.  So in the end, this deal might be quite even.

Looking at 2008-09

Even if Maggette could come in and provide the same number of wins that Davis produces, the injury to Ellis still leaves this team looking for an additional source of victories early in the season. 

In the draft the Warriors added Anthony Randolph in the lottery and Richard Hendrix in the second round.  If we look at Win Score (see my last post), we see that one could argue that the order of these draft choices should have been reversed.  Regardless of this point, both are on the roster.  Judging by last year’s college performance, Hendrix is the most likely to make a contribution.  Of course, he is also a second round draft choice and unlikely to play.  In sum, it seems likely that the 2008 draft choices are not going to help much in 2008-09.

When we look back at Table One, we do see evidence that the 2007 lottery choice could help.  Brandon Wright posted a 0.157 WP48 last year in very limited minutes.  Such a mark is above average (average is 0.100) and so it is possible that Wright could help.  Again, though, he has to play to make a contribution and we don’t have evidence yet that Don Nelson is going to put Wright on the floor.

In the end, looking at what these players did last year – and given how Nelson doesn’t like to play young players – it seems likely the Warriors are going to slip in the West.  And that means, it seems quite likely Golden State will once again miss the playoffs.  So in that sense, it seems likely that basketball in Golden State will look about the same come next April.

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

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.