Can Toronto Build a Winner Around Bosh?

Posted on October 22, 2009 by

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The Toronto Raptors appear to be on a mission.  Somehow, someway, this team needs to convince Chris Bosh to stay in Canada.  The issue for the Raptors isn’t money.  To convince Bosh to stay, Toronto must convince Bosh that he will someday play for a winner.  So far, though, the facts presented to Bosh haven’t been too convincing.

Bosh came to Toronto in 2003.   Since his arrival the Raptors have only posted a record beyond the 0.500 mark once.  In 2006-07, the Raptors won 47 games.  The next season the Raptors only won 41 games.  And then last year – as Table One indicates – Toronto won just 33 games.

Table One: Toronto Raptors in 2008-09

After such a poor season it’s not surprising the Raptors have decided to make changes. 

Rebuilding the Raptors?

Actually “some” is an understatement.  When we look at the players who were with the Raptors twelve months ago, only three – Bosh, Jose Calderon, and Andrea Bargnani – are still playing with Toronto.

When we look back at Table One we see nine players who produced in the negative range.  Most of these players are now gone (Bargnani and Patrick O’Bryant – a midseason addition last year – remain).  Three more below average players (Joey Graham, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and Will Solomon) have also departed.  Unfortunately, the re-shaping of Toronto’s roster means that Anthony Parker [6.3 Wins Produced, 0.114 WP48], Jamario Moon [6.0 Wins Produced, 0.210 WP48], Shawn Marion [3.7 Wins Produced, 0.184 WP48], and Kris Humphries [0.7 Wins Produced, o.118 WP48] have also left town (Moon departed in the trade that brought Marion to Toronto). 

It’s interesting where these players will play in 2009-10.  Moon and Parker will be part of the rotation in Cleveland, a team that clearly has aspirations to win the NBA title in 2010.  Another team that hopes to go far in the playoffs is Dallas, and they added Marion and Humphries.  In sum, the four above average players that were allowed to depart Toronto went to teams that have been quite good in the past and plan to be quite good in the future. 

Of course, losing “good” players isn’t a problem if you add even better players.  To see if this happened, let’s consider Toronto’s potential depth chart (taken from ESPN.com and Yahoo.com):

Potential First String

PG: Jose Calderon [11.5 Wins Produced, 0.236 WP48]

SG: Marco Belinelli [0.1 Wins Produced, 0.007 WP48]

SF: Hedo Turkoglu [6.7 Wins Produced, 0.115 WP48]

PF: Andrea Bargnani [-0.3 Wins Produced, -0.006 WP48]

C: Chris Bosh [9.9 Wins Produced, 0.162 WP48]

Potential Second String

PG: Jarrett Jack [4.4 Wins Produced, 0.079 WP48]

SG: DeMar DeRozan [Rookie]

SF: Antoine Wright [-2.4 Wins Produced, -0.076 WP48]

PF: Reggie Evans [3.5 Wins Produced, 0.147 WP48]

C: Rasho Nesterovic [-1.3 Wins Produced, -0.051 WP48]

From this list it appears that Anthony Parker’s minute will be going to Marco Belinelli and/or DeMar DeRozan (and maybe Antoine Wright).  Parker was above average last year while Belinelli (in limited minutes) was well below average.  DeRozan is a rookie taken with the 8th pick in the 2009 NBA draft.  His draft position suggests he could be above-average, although his college numbers tell a very different story.  Of the 47 players taken out of college last year, DeRozan ranked 39th in PAWS40 [Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes].  Such numbers suggest that the move from Parker to Belinelli-DeRozan is not a step forward for Toronto.

And then there is the Hedo Turkoglu acquisition. Here is what I said about this move last July:

In a move that dashed some hope in Portland, Toronto “stole” Turkoglu with a contract that will pay the former Magic player more than $10 million per season (and one wonders if the NBA Finals impacted that contract).  For his career, Turkoglu has produced 41.4 wins with a 0.105 WP48.  Average WP48 is 0.100.  So Turkoglu has been essentially average across his career.  And now he is 30 years of age (not a good age for an NBA player) and will turn 31 before the next season ends (an even worse age for an NBA player). 

Again, the numbers suggest Toronto has taken a step backwards.  Both Moon and Marion have been far above average in their respective careers.  Going from above average to average should not be considered progress.  Especially given the money paid to Turkoglu.

These were not the only moves the Raptors made.  At power forward Toronto has added Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson [2.7 Wins Produced, 0.147 WP48].  Both of these players are above average (although each play behind Bargnani).  And at point guard, Jarrett Jack was added to the roster.  Jack was close to average last year.  If Jack simply takes the minutes of Roko Ukic and Will Solomon, the Raptors are clearly better.  If Jack takes some minutes from Jose Calderon – the most productive player on the Raptors last year – then Toronto is worse off.

Toronto did not stop with the acquisitions of Evans, Johnson, and Jack.  As noted, in reshaping the roster a number of players who produced in the negative range last year were jettisoned.  Unfortunately it appears that Toronto can’t live without such players. Antoine Wright, Rasho Nesterovic, Marcus Banks [-0.075 WP48 for entire season], Quincy Douby [-0.015 WP48 for entire season], and Patrick O’Bryant [-0.056 WP48 for entire season] have all been added or retained from last year’s roster.  And all of these players produced in the negative range last year.

When we put the entire picture together, it doesn’t look too good for fans of Toronto.  The Raptors will still employ the services of Calderon and Bosh, and these players produced about 21 wins last year.  And it’s possible that Turkoglu, Jack, Evans, and Johnson can contribute another 15 wins.  After these players, though, who else is going to produce significant quantity of wins?  And if no one else produces much, how will Bosh believe that the Raptors are building a contender?

More on Bosh and Bargnani

One might ask if it’s necessary for the Raptors to appease Bosh. Across Bosh’s career he has produced 51.7 wins and posted a 0.152 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes].  If we exclude his first two seasons we see in the past four seasons he has posted a 0.179 WP48; with a career high of 0.210 in 2006-07.  In sum, Bosh is a good player.  But he is not LeBron James or Dwight Howard.   In other words, Toronto is going to need quite a bit more if it’s ever going to contend for a title.

Is that something more Bargnani?  Bargnani was the first player taken in the 2006 NBA draft.  Across his first three seasons he has produced -5.4 wins and posted a -0.043 WP48.  Obviously these are very poor numbers.  Fans of Bargnani, though, have argued that he played much better in the second half of the 2008-09 season.  If we compare Bargnani in the first 41 games of 2008-09 to the second 41 games (i.e. split the season exactly in half), then it doesn’t appear Bargnani got any better.  In the first half his Wins Score per 48 minutes [WS48] was 8.1.  In the second half he posted a 7.6 WS48.  To put that in perspective, an average power forward posts a 10.4 WS48; so Bargnani was very below average in both the first and second half of the 2008-09 season (for a power forward).

Basketball-Reference.com does offer month-by-month performance data, and this view might make Bargnani fans a bit happier.  Here is Bargnani’s WS48 by month last season:

  • October: 14.4 WS48 in 50 minutes
  • November: 9.1 WS48 in 401 minutes
  • December: 2.0 WS48 in 392 minutes
  • January: 9.4 WS48 in 569 minutes
  • February: 7.2 WS48 in 441 minutes
  • March: 11.5 WS48 in 399 minutes
  • April: 5.0 WS48 in 201

If a person focuses only on March, it looks like Bargnani is an above average power forward.  To keep this belief, though, you have to ignore what happened in November, December, January, February, April, 2007-08, and 2006-07.  So you have to ignore quite a bit to keep believing in Bargnani. But if one tries really hard, a positive view can be kept.

Apparently, the Raptors were able to accomplish this feat.  In the off-season, Bargnani was signed to a new $50 million dollar contract.  If Bargnani can replicate what he did last March, he might live up to most of his new paycheck.  Unfortunately one suspects that November, December, January, February, April, 2007-08, and 2006-07 were not a fluke.  It seems likely that Bargnani is never going to live up to his new contract.

Given the money paid, though, Toronto appears to believe Bargnani can be part of a winning team.  And that will be true if Toronto acquires a few more players like Calderon and Bosh.  Until that happens, though, Toronto is not likely to contend for a title.  And keeping Bosh seems less and less likely.

– 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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