Will the Kings be Crowned the Worst Team in 2009-10?

Posted on October 17, 2009 by

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Who was the worst team in 2008-09?  If we think about wins and losses, the obvious answer is the Sacramento Kings.  Last season the Kings only won 17 games. Sacramento’s efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency), though, was actually better than the LA Clippers.  The Clippers posted a -9.2 differential last season (the 27th worst mark since 1973-74) while the Kings differential was -8.9 (the 30th worst mark since 1973-74).

In the draft, though, the Clippers added Blake Griffin.  So the Clippers will probably not be the worst team in 2009-10.  The Kings, though, seem destined to be crowned the NBA’s worst team this next season.

To see this point, let’s first review what the Kings did last year.  From Table One we see that the Kings employed 11 players who played at least 500 minutes last year. 

Table One: The Sacramento Kings in 2008-09

Of these 11, only two – Kevin Martin and Brad Miller – managed to exceed the mark of an average player (an average player post a 0.100 Wins Produced per 48 minutes). And neither player managed to surpass the 0.115 mark (and Miller was elsewhere before the season ended).  In sum, the Kings failed to employ anyone who was truly outstanding last year, and furthermore, managed to employ many, many below average players.  Consequently, no one should be surprised Sacramento struggled.

As noted, the Clippers were able to add Griffin with in the draft.  Meanwhile the Kings –with the 4th pick – selected Tyreke Evans.  Relative to players who are drafted out of college, Evans was a below average college performer last season. So although it’s possible Evans will be an outstanding performer in 2009-10, the data that exists suggests otherwise.

After Evans the Kings added Desmond Mason [-0.014 W48], Sean May [-0.093 WP48], and Sergio Rodriguez [0.087 WP48].  If all we consider is last year’s performance, Rodriguez – despite being a below average performer – is currently the second most productive player on the Kings.  And according to both Yahoo.com and ESPN.com, Rodriguez may not even be part Sacramento’s first and second string.

Potential First String

PG: Tyreke Evans [rookie]

SG: Kevin Martin [4.7 Wins Produced, 0.115 WP48]

SF: Andres Nocioni [-0.4 Wins Produced, -0.009 WP48]

PF: Jason Thompson [3.0 Wins Produced, 0.063 WP48]

C: Spencer Hawes [-1.0 Wins Produced, -0.021 WP48]

Potential Second String

PG: Beno Udrih [1.6 Wins Produced, 0.034 WP48]

SG: Desmond Mason [-0.3 Wins Produced, -0.014 WP48]

SF: Francisco Garcia [1.8 Wins Produced, 0.044 WP48]

PF: Sean May [-0.6 Wins Produced, -0.093 WP48]

C: John Brockman [rookie]

In addition to these ten players, the Kings also have Rodriguez [2.2 Wins Produced, 0.087 WP48] and Donte Green [-2.4 Wins Produced, -0.161 WP48]. 

If add together the Wins Produced of each veteran player, all you get is 8.9.  That’s it.  The veterans the Kings will employ in 2009-10 collectively produced fewer than nine wins last season.  So even if Tyreke Evans is as productive as Kobe Bryant (15.0 Wins Produced in 2008-09), the Kings – if these veterans hold form – are going to struggle.

Now there is some hope some of these veterans will not hold form.   Kevin Martin in 2007-08 posted a 0.192 WP48 and produced 8.8 wins.  In 2006-07, he produced 11.7 wins with a 0.199 WP48.  So Martin, if healthy, can produce more than 4.7 wins. Sean May is also capable of doing much better.  In 2007-08, May posted a 0.192 WP48.  May’s teammate in the Kings second string frontcourt, John Brockman, was also above average in college last season.  So the Kings do have two big men on the bench who might help (unfortunately, the Kings have one big man –Spencer Hawes – who has yet to produce as an NBA player). 

Because Martin will likely be more productive in 2009-10, we can safely predict that the Kings will reach double digits in wins.  But clearly this team is far from contention.

What’s interesting is how little this team did in the off-season.  The Kings were a very bad team last year.  But the Kings didn’t make much effort to rebuild in the off-season. At least, it seems unlikely that anyone believes Desmond Mason and Sergio Rodriguez are the players this team needs to return to the playoffs.

Why did the Kings do so little?  One suspects that this is related to the Kings desire to either a) improve its arena in Sacramento or b) depart Sacramento.  If it’s the latter, the Kings argument to the NBA would be strengthened if the Kings continue to have problems drawing fans (think the movie Major League).  Last year the Kings finished in last place in average attendance.  But back in 2005-06 – the last time the Kings had a winning record – the Kings finished 14th in average attendance.  So Sacramento – like fans everywhere – will show up to support a winner. 

It appears the attendance problems in Sacramento are really not about the quality of the local market.  No, it appears the problem is with the product the Kings are putting on the floor.  And that product has been predictably bad, a trend will continue in 2009-10.  One hopes that if the Kings become good again, the fans of Sacramento will still get to see this team.

– 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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