Gordon and Villanueva?

Posted on July 2, 2009 by


For reasons I will touch upon in my next post, this has been a busy week.  So busy that I have actually been out of touch with this forum and hence I am quite surprised to see more than 100 comments on my last post.  At this point, many of these are unread. But I did read enough to get a sense that some people (although perhaps not many) are interested in some comment on the Detroit’s recent acquisitions.

The story of these acquisitions begins last fall. Joe Dumars decided very early in the 2008-09 season that the Pistons – as constructed in October of 2008 — were not going to win the NBA title in 2009.  Having reached that conclusion, Dumars traded Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson.  At the time Dumars argued that Iverson would help.  I disagreed, and even argued that Dumars might also think that Iverson would probably not help the Pistons win another title in 2009.  And I went on to argue that Dumars was really motivated to trade Billups by the fact Iverson’s contract expired in 2009 and thus the Pistons would have substantial cap room this summer.

Although we could debate motivations, it’s now clear the results met expectations.

  • The Pistons – with Iverson – struggled and barely made the playoffs. 
  • And the Pistons entered the off-season with substantial cap room.

Within moments of the start of the free agent signing period – as PistonPowered argues — much of this cap room vanished.  And in its place the Pistons had acquired the services of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. 

As a person who follows the Pistons, here is my initial reaction: Ugh!!! 

When we look at Wins Produced we can understand the lack of enthusiasm for these signings.  Here is what Ben Gordon has done across the first five years of his career:

Gordon’s Wins Produced = 15.3

Gordon’s WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] = 0.059

And here is what Villanueva has done across his first four seasons:

Villanueva’s Wins Produced = 11.2

Villanueva’s WP48 = 0.074

An average player posts a 0.100 WP48, so each player is posting a career mark that is below average. Now when we look at 2008-09 we see numbers that are much closer to average. That being said, each player is now being paid like an above average player (in fact, Gordon is getting more than $10 million per season).   And I don’t think all the numbers support this position.

Of course, if all we focus upon is scoring, then Gordon and Villanueva are above average players.  But once we move past scoring we see that Gordon was below average last season with respect to rebounds, steals, turnovers, blocked shots, and assists.  And Villanueva was below average with respect to steals, turnovers, and personal fouls (and not really far above average with respect to anything else).

In sum, it looks like the Pistons have traded away valuable cap space for two players who are not going to take this team to a championship.  As I noted a few posts ago, it seems clear that an NBA champion needs a player who posts a WP48 in excess of 0.200.  At this moment, though, the Pistons do not have a player on the roster that has surpassed this mark.  Now Antonio McDyess did post a mark in excess of 0.200 last year, but…

  • McDyess is currently unsigned.
  • and he will be 35 next season. 

So even if McDyess comes back, he will be very old by NBA standards and therefore he is not likely to be the key player on a future NBA title team.

Once again, it looks like these two moves are not going to produce a title in Detroit in 2010.  And given the length of the contracts, it doesn’t look like the first part of the next decade looks promising either.

By the way, had I checked earlier I might have put the Pistons aside and spent this post on the relative merits of Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest.  I guess that post will have to wait for later.

– DJ

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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.