Dallas is Now Better than the 2005-06 Mavericks?

Posted on October 11, 2009 by

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Mark Cuban – owner of the Dallas Mavericks – claims that the 2009-10 Mavericks are better than the 2005-06 team that managed to reach the NBA Finals.  Are they really this good?  And are they better than the 2006-07 team that

a. lead the NBA in victories, and

b. fail to exit the first round of the playoffs.

The 2006-07 Mavericks — which was a bit better than the 2005-06 team in the regular season — scored 1.081 points per possession while surrendering 1.003.  The team’s efficiency differential – offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency – was 7.8, a mark that actually ranked second in the NBA (the Spurs – the team that won the 2007 NBA title – posted a mark of 9.1).  If the Mavericks had managed to repeat what happened in 2006-07 (i.e. post a 7.8 differential) last season, Dallas would have only ranked 4th in the NBA (behind Cleveland, Boston, and the Lakers).

Of course, the Mavericks weren’t close to the top teams in the league in 2008-09.  The team’s differential of 2.1 ranked 10th in the league, and only an injury to Manu Ginobili allowed this team to advance to the second round (hence besting the playoff performance of the 2007 Mavericks). 

When we turn to how the players on the Mavericks performed last year, we can see why this team struggled.

Table One: The Dallas Mavericks in 2008-09

The Mavericks were led in Wins Produced and WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] by Jason Kidd.  After Kidd, though, the team only produced 26.4 wins. Consequently, the Mavericks suffered through the worst season in the Mark Cuban era.

How to Rebuild Dallas

If we examine the depth chart at ESPN.com, we see that Dallas added Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden.  Dallas also tried to add Marcin Gortat (and failed).  When we consider the 1-year and 2-year adjusted plus-minus numbers (from BasketbalValue.com) – the metric that was made famous by Mark Cuban and Wayne Winston – we see the following:

Shawn Marion: -1.85 (1-year), 1.58 (2-year)

Drew Gooden: -7.28 (1-year), -2.35 (2-year)

Marcin Gortat: -8.06 (1-year), -2.46 (2-year)

With the exception of Shawn Marion’s 2-year adjusted plus-minus, these players are all in the negative range with respect to adjusted plus-minus. 

Now let’s look at the same players via Wins Produced:

Shawn Marion: 0.210 WP48 last season, 0.291 WP48 career

Drew Gooden: 0.095 WP48 last season, 0.132 WP48 career

Marcin Gortat: 0.277 WP48 last season (only played 41 minutes before 2008-09)

The career numbers of these three players – with respect to WP48 – are all above average.  Gooden is only slightly above average, but he has moved within season three times.  If we focus on the four seasons where he didn’t move (2003-04 to 2006-07) we see a player who produced 32.0 wins and posted a 0.169 WP48.  In sum, as I noted last July, when it came time to re-build the Mavericks, Dallas apparently abandoned adjusted plus-minus and turned to something that looks very similar to Wins Produced.

Are the Mavericks Better?

That being said, let’s return to the contention that this team is better than it was in 2006-07.  Here is what the team’s depth chart looks like in terms of Wins Produced.

Potential First String

PG: Jason Kidd [19.8 Wins Produced, 0.329 WP48]

SG: Josh Howard [2.0 Wins Produced, 0.057 WP48]

SF: Shawn Marion [10.8 Wins Produced, 0.210 WP48]

PF: Dirk Nowitzki [10.6 Wins Produced, 0.167 WP48]

C: Erick Dampier [7.4 Wins Produced, 0.193 WP48]

Potential Second String

PG: Jose Barea [2.0 Wins Produced, 0.059 WP48]

SG: Jason Terry [5.8 Wins Produced, 0.111 WP48]

SF: Shawne Williams [-0.5 Wins Produced, -0.013 WP48 for career]

PF: Drew Gooden [2.5 Wins Produced, 0.095 WP48]

C: Nathah Jawai [career 19 minutes played]

Last season these players produced 60.7 wins.  As Table Two reveals – a table originally posted in October of 2007 — the Mavericks of 2006-07 combined to offer 60.2 Wins Produced (again, the 2006 team was a bit worse).  So if the current Mavericks repeat what they did last year, this team will be as good as it was in 2006-07.

Table Two: The Dallas Mavericks in 2005-06 and 2006-07

There is reason to think, though, that the Mavericks could be better.  Marion, Nowitzki, Howard, and Gooden all produced at levels below their respective career averages last season.  So if these players return to form, the Mavericks could indeed be better.  At least, that’s the story told by Wins Produced.

There are two issues to consider, though, as Dallas fans dream about a long run in the playoffs.

1. Jason Kidd is really old.  Yes, he is amazing.  But Kidd will be 37 before the playoffs begin.  And for a basketball player, that’s an age where most players have already retired.  Certainly, we should not be surprised if Kidd slips this season (then again, I would have guessed he would have slipped last season).

2. Although I think the Mavericks are as good as the Lakers, Spurs, and Blazers; I still think this team – like the other teams in the West – are not quite as good as the Celtics, Magic, and Cavaliers.

Of course, in a short series – as fans of Dallas know – anything can happen.  So if Dallas does manage to get out of the West, it’s possible the Mavericks could finally win an NBA title.  Yes the word is “possible”.  Dallas winning it all would not be my first guess (at least, not according to Wins Produced).

– 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.