Is Frank Responsible for the Nets Misery?

Posted on November 30, 2009 by

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Unemployment is a pressing concern in this nation.  And the New Jersey Nets aren’t helping.  After starting the season with 16 consecutive losses the Nets have decided to let Lawrence Frank join the ranks of the unemployed.  But is the head coach the reason this team is winless? As always, let’s look at the numbers.

The first numbers we want to consider is efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency).  After 16 games (I am ignoring the first game after Frank departed), the Nets mark was -11.1.  Such a mark is consistent with a team that will win 12 games across an 82 game season.  So after 16 games, the Nets – given their efficiency differential – should have won 2.4 games.  In sum, the team was truly awful, although not quite as awful as their winless record indicated.

To see if the problem was the coach we can consider how many wins the team would have had if its players maintained what they did last year.  Here is each veteran player’s WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] in 2008-09 and after 16 games this season:

Brook Lopez: 575 minutes, 0.104 WP48 (last season), 0.060 WP48 (this season)

Rafer Alston: 534 minutes, 0.087 WP48 (last season), -0.049 WP48 (this season)

Chris Douglas-Roberts: 469 minutes, 0.002 WP48 (last season), 0.135 WP48 (this season)

Trenton Hassell: 435 minutes, 0.053 WP48 (last season), 0.049 WP48 (this season)

Josh Boone: 291 minutes, 0.091 WP48 (last season), 0.149 WP48 (this season)

Bobby Simmons: 257 minutes, 0.041 WP48 (last season), -0.106 WP48 (this season)

Courtney Lee: 251 minutes, 0.067 WP48 (last season), 0.014 WP48 (this season)

Devin Harris: 182 minutes, 0.154 WP48 (last season), 0.011 WP48 (this season)

Sean Williams: 155 minutes, -0.044 WP48 (last season), -0.085 WP48 (this season)

Eduardo Najera: 133 minutes, -0.038 WP48 (last season), 0.069 WP48 (this season)

Yi Jianlian: 119 minutes, 0.001 WP48 (last season), 0.070 WP48 (this season)

Okay, that’s a mess of numbers.  We need to remember one more number. An average player posts a 0.100 WP48. When we look at last season’s numbers we see only two players – Brook Lopez and Devin Harris – were above average.  And Lopez was only barely above average.

This season Harris has been hurt (and less productive) and Lopez has declined slightly.  But Boone and Douglas-Roberts are now above average. 

None of these players, though, is truly outstanding.  Last season 259 players played at least 1,000 minutes.  Of these, 67 posted WP48 marks beyond what Harris did in 2008-09.   So the Nets have a collection of players who were below average last year.  And even the “good” players weren’t very good. 

Nevertheless (given the minutes each player has played this season) had these players maintained the WP48 marks seen last year the Nets would be predicted to win four of their first 16 games. 

Let’s review. 

The team’s record when Frank was fired was 0-16.

The team’s current efficiency differential predicts a record of 2-14.

And the team’s players – given what they did last year – should have posted a 4-12 record.

So will changing the coach make that much difference? Well, the Nets – even given their current levels of productivity – were not likely to go 0-82.  That means the Nets are going to win a bit more than they were under Frank. 

But I am not sure Frank is to blame for this team’s dreadful start.  The players the Nets have assembled are simply not very good (by NBA standards).  So the people who picked these players are the ones who are truly responsible for the Nets start.  And changing the coach — even to Kiki Vandeweghe (one person responsible for this roster) — is not going to change that fact.

– 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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