Are the Cavaliers Better?

Posted on July 22, 2009 by


The Cleveland Cavaliers were the best team in the NBA in 2008-09.  At least, that’s what you would conclude if you looked at efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) or Wins Produced during the 2008-09 regular season.   If you look at the smaller sample from the post-season, you would reach a different conclusion.  Of course, given a choice between a larger and smaller sample, we tend to go with former.

Regardless of which sample you like, though, the 2008-09 regular season and post-season are now over.  Since it ended, the Cavaliers have made some moves to get even better.  As we saw with the Pistons, change is not always positive (yes, I can’t let it go).  Cleveland, though, might have made some progress.

To see this, let’s look at the 10 players who led the Cavaliers in minutes played last year.

  • LeBron James: 3054 minutes, 0.426 WP48, 27.1 Wins Produced
  • Maurice Williams: 2834 minutes, 0.138 WP48, 8.2 Wins Produced
  • Anderson Varejao: 2306 minutes, 0.155 WP48, 7.4 Wins Produced
  • Delonte West: 2152 minutes, 0.144 WP48, 6.4 Wins Produced
  • Daniel Gibson: 1795 minutes, 0.020 WP48, 0.8 Wins Produced
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas: 1765 minutes, 0.133 WP48, 4.9 Wins Produced
  • Wally Szczerbiak: 1527 minutes, 0.120 WP48, 3.8 Wins Produced
  • Ben Wallace: 1314 minutes, 0.198 WP48, 5.4 Wins Produced
  • Sasha Pavlovic: 1053 minutes, 0.019 WP48, 0.4 Wins Produced
  • J.J. Hickson: 705 minutes, 0.031 WP48, 0.5 Wins Produced

If we add together the Wins Produced of this group we see 64.9 wins.  The entire team’s Wins Produced was 64.6, while the team actually won 66 games. 

This summer the Cavaliers have acquired Shaquille O’Neal (for Wallace and Pavlovic), signed Anthony Parker, and signed Jamario Moon to an offer sheet.  Here is what these players did last year:

  • Shaquille O’Neal: 2252 minutes, 0.207 WP48, 9.7 Wins Produced
  • Anthony Parker: 2637 minutes, 0.097 WP48, 5.4 Wins Produced
  • Jamario Moon: 2068 minutes, 0.194 WP48, 8.4 Wins Produced

Moon (if he ultimately goes to Cleveland) and Parker take the place of Pavlovic and Szczerbiak, while Shaq takes over for Ben Wallace.  If the new players play the same number of minutes as the departing players, then the Cavaliers Top Ten improve by 4.3 wins. 

Of course, the minutes of the new players (as well as the remaining players) will likely be different (which could help).  Then again, Shaq and Parker are both quite old, so it’s likely each will decline (and that could hurt).  

Although player performance will probably be somewhat different from what we saw last year, it looks like the Cavaliers have improved.  Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, Orlando has also improved (and Boston might be better also).  So even though Cleveland looks like a dominant team, they will have to contend with other dominant teams to reach and prevail in the NBA Finals.

All of this means that Cleveland fans can look forward to many wins in the regular season and a fair amount of painful uncertainty in the playoffs.  All of that beats the alternative we will see in Detroit (i.e. fewer wins in the regular season and certainty if the team even makes the playoffs).  Yes, I can’t let it go.

– 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.