The Repetitive Spurs

Posted on January 13, 2009 by

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According to Dictionary.com, boring is defined as follows: To make weary by being dull, repetitive, or tedious.  Given this definition, I think the Spurs are somewhat boring.  Consider the following:

  • For the past five seasons this team has won between 56 and 63 regular season games.
  • The team’s Wins Produced for the past five seasons has ranged from 53.5 to 63.1.
  • In each season the team has been led in Wins Produced by the exact same trio (this is the really repetitive or boring aspect of this team). The trio consists of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, and the Wins Production of these three players has ranged from 35.5 to 44.4.
  • Prior to last season, the Wins Produced of every Spur not named Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker ranged from 18.7 to 24.3.

In sum, the Spurs are quite repetitive.  And for someone who is not particularly a fan of this team, such repetition seems kind of boring.

The Story this Season

It’s my goal to offer one comment on every NBA team before the midpoint of the season.  So despite the repetitive nature of this team, I feel compelled to say something about San Antonio. 

Let me start by noting that last season the Wins Produced of everyone not named Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker dipped to 12.3.  Consequently, the team’s performance declined a bit.

This season – as Table One indicates – the Spurs are again led by Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker.  And the productivity of everyone else is projected to by 19.3 by the time the season ends (yes, same old story).

Table One: The San Antonio Spurs after 36 games in 2008-09

Unfortunately, now the top three have dropped off a bit.  Last season Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker produced 41.2 wins.  This season this trio is only on pace to produce 31.8 victories.

Part of this decline is associated with a drop-off in minutes played.  If these three players played the same number of minutes as last season, the trio would be on pace to produce 36.0 wins (given their per-minute productivity this season).  In sum, the change in minutes explains about one-half of the decline in the total production of these players.

For the other half we have to look at WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes].  Although Parker is having one of the best seasons of his career, Duncan and Ginobili are offering substantially less.  In fact, both players haven’t played this poorly since each player’s sophomore season in the NBA.

The decline in the productivity of Duncan and Ginobili is the primary reason (the loss of Brent Barry isn’t helping either) why this team is posting its smallest efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) since 1996-97 (the year before Duncan arrived).  Currently this team’s differential is 3.94.  Prior to this season, the lowest mark for the Spurs in the Duncan era has been 4.36 (that was Duncan’s rookie season).

As the season progresses it’s possible that both Duncan and Ginobili will return to form.  If this happens, San Antonio’s differential will increase.  This might be good enough for the Spurs to solidify its ranking as the second best team in the Western Conference.  But it’s not likely this team can close the gap with the Lakers in the West.   So it seems unlikely that the Spurs will win another title in 2009. 

And this is pretty much the same thing I said last August.  The Spurs will be led in Wins Produced by Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker.  Because of these three players, the Spurs will be very good.  But because the Lakers have improved so much, the Spurs trio will probably not be good enough.  In sum, I am being repetitive (at least when I talk about the repetitive Spurs).

Last Teams

At this point these are the only teams I have not yet discussed this season: Atlanta, Dallas, Sacramento, Washington, Indiana, and New Orleans.  Look for something on each team in the next ten days.  And then we will be at the mid-point of the season and I will review the entire league.  This review will discuss both the top teams and players across the first half of the 2008-09 season.

And when that’s done, then I will start all over with posts on each team in the NBA in the second-half (yes this all seems quite repetitive). 

– 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.