The Brilliant Mr. Jennings and the Charging Bucks

Posted on November 26, 2009 by

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Here is my latest for Huffington Post Sports:

Upon graduating high school in 2008 Brandon Jennings made an unusual move. Although he had a scholarship to the University of Arizona, Jennings decided to skip college and sign a contract to play professional basketball in Italy. Skeptics derided the move when it was announced. And after 43 games of European basketball, it looked like the skeptics were right. According to Draft Express, Jennings averaged less than seven points per game in Italy and his shooting efficiency was well below average.

Despite this performance, the Milwaukee Bucks invested the 10th pick in the 2009 NBA draft in Jennings. Again, there was skepticism. How could a player who couldn’t excel in Italy make a significant contribution to an NBA team?

Read the rest at Huffington Post Sports

The column goes on to put the start of Brandon Jennings’ career in some historical perspective.  But it completely ignores the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks, something I can briefly rectify below.

After 13 games the Bucks have posted a 3.3 efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency).  Such a mark translates into about 50 wins across an 82 game season.  As the column notes, Brandon Jennings is responsible for about 10.6 of these projected victories.  Most of the remaining victories are projected to come from the following players:

Ersan Ilyasova: 295 minutes, 0.226 WP48, 8.8 projected wins

Luke Ridnour: 311 minutes, 0.196 WP48, 8.0 projected wins

Andrew Bogut: 302 minutes, 0.164 WP48, 6.5 projected wins

Charlie Bell: 405 minutes, 0.104 WP48, 5.6 projected wins

Hakim Warrick: 309 minutes, 0.086 WP48, 3.5 projected wins

Kurt Thomas: 143 minutes, 0.170 WP48, 3.2 projected wins

These six players are projected to produce 35.6 wins.  Now this projection is not entirely accurate.  It presumes minutes played will stay the same and Bogut is expected to out for four more weeks.  Michael Redd – who also missed time (and has yet to play well) – is also back.  If Redd returns to form the Bucks should be even better.

Regardless of the injuries, it looks like this might be the best Bucks team since 2000-01.  And a bit more improvement (i.e. Redd comes back strong) and this will be the best Milwaukee team since the mid-1980s.

Much of this improvement is due to Jennings.  But as the above list notes, he’s not a one-man team.  Ilyasova, Ridnour, Bogut, Thomas, and Bell (only slightly) have been above average players this year.  And Redd should join the list. 

Although it’s early (so the usual disclaimers apply), it looks like the Bucks can certainly expect to make the playoffs.  Which is not too bad for a team many thought would be one of the worst teams in the league (not sure I thought that, but I also didn’t foresee the play of Jennings and Ilyasova either).

– 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.