The Other Better Bynum

Posted on April 9, 2009 by

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Back in December of 2007 I observed that Andrew Bynum – who was much maligned by Kobe Byrant and others during the summer of 2007 – had improved tremendously in 2007-08 (relative to what we saw from Bynum’s first two seasons).  In fact, per-minute Andrew Bynum was offering – in a sample of just 17 games — more than Kobe (an observation that led to much anger from Kobe’s fans).

After this post Bynum only appeared in 18 more games in 2007-08.  And this year an injury has again caused him to miss a significant number of games.  So although Bynum has been above average on a per-minute basis, his inability to stay on the court obviously diminishes his value.  Tonight, though, he’s supposed to return to action.  And so a post on the wonder that is Andrew Bynum seems appropriate.

But while Bynum has been sitting another Bynum – Will Bynum of the Detroit Pistons – has emerged.  And like Andrew in 2007-08, Will Bynum in 2008-09 is offering a level of production that surpasses (if only slightly) a future Hall-of-Fame player.  Consequently I want to devote this post to the Other Bynum.

Before we get to the Will Bynum story, let me briefly note the end of the Iverson era in Detroit.  Last November the Pistons sent Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson.  At the time of this trade I noted that this trade would probably make the Nuggets better and the Pistons worse.

With Iverson now injured for the remainder of the season, Iverson’s career in Detroit is now over (assuming the Pistons will not re-sign Iverson).  And now that we have reached the end I think it’s clear the outcome – as the following posts indicated – conformed to expectations.

Aging Billups and Telling Stories

The Billups Trade As It Was, As It Is Imagined, and As It Can Be

What Might Have Been in Denver

Really the Answer is Iverson

Iverson played his last game with the Pistons on April 1st.  Four days later Will Bynum offered a performance that might remind people of Iverson at his best.  Against the Charlotte Bobcats – with a playoff position on the line – Bynum came off the bench and posted the following numbers: 32 points, 60% field goal percentage, 88% free throw percentage (and 16 free throw attempts), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and only 1 turnover.

After such a performance I wondered how Bynum (who stands 6ft. tall) compares to Iverson (who also stands 6ft tall).   Let’s start with the Iverson story, as told by Wins Produced and WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes].

  • Iverson’s Career prior to 2008-09: 59.7 Wins Produced, 0.083 WP48
  • Iverson in Detroit: 2.3 Wins Produced, 0.056 WP48

And here is what Bynum has done this season: 1.3 Wins Produced, 0.085 WP48.

As one can see, Bynum – in 715 minutes – is offering more than Iverson (on a per-minute basis) this season.  And Bynum’s per-minute numbers this season are similar to what Iverson did per-minute for his career (prior to arriving in Detroit).

If we look at the individual stats – reported in Table One — we can see the similarities between Bynum and The Answer.

Table One: The Guards of the Detroit Pistons in 2008-09

Like Iverson, Bynum is below average with respect to shooting efficiency (although not as far below as Iverson), rebounds, and turnovers.  And like Iverson, he’s above average with respect to steals, as well as shot attempts and points (although not as far above as Iverson).  Differences can be seen with respect to free throw attempts (Iverson is better), personal fouls (Iverson is better), and assists (Bynum is better).  Overall, though, both players are quite similar and if there is an edge, it goes to Bynum. The edge, though, is not that great.  So essentially, all of this tells us that the Pistons with Bynum coming off the bench are probably about as good as they would be with Iverson coming off the bench.  And Bynum is very unlikely to complain.

Unfortunately, eliminating the complaining is not really the issue.   As Table One indicates, neither Bynum nor Iverson are as productive as Billups.  And the same story is told when we look at the other guards for the Pistons.  Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, and Arron Afflalo – like Bynum and Iverson – are below average.  As a consequence, the Pistons in 2008-09 – whether Iverson complains or Bynum is happy — are simply not as good as they were in 2007-08.

The good news – as I have noted before (and I think many others have observed) – is that Iverson’s contract is coming off the books.  This means the Pistons have some serious salary cap space this summer and a very productive player – at least theoretically – could be added to this roster.  Consequently – and again, this is just the plan – the Pistons could once again be contenders in 2009-10.  

When that happens, will Bynum be part of the rotation?  The Pistons have the option of bringing back Bynum next season.  And one might think — since Bynum is only in his second season — that there is substantial room for improvement.  Bynum, though, is already 26 years of age, so substantial improvement may not be possible.  Still – like Iverson – he is close to average as a guard.  And I think he has demonstrated he can score off the bench.  So if the Pistons do not keep Bynum, some other NBA team should be willing to employ his services.

In fact, if Iverson refuses to come off the bench for another NBA team, Bynum might be the perfect alternative to the Answer.  Plus, Bynum is both younger and cheaper.  Hence, it seems very likely that the Other Bynum may very well be the Answer for someone in 2009-10.

– 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.

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