Mixed Messages on Chris Bosh

Posted on January 14, 2010 by

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One of the prizes in the 2010 free agent market is Chris Bosh.  His status in the market can be seen when we consider that across the past four seasons Bosh has

  • averaged at least 22 points per game.
  • been named to four All-Star teams.
  • been named second team All-NBA (in 2007).
  • consistently ranked in the top 20 in Player Efficiency Rating.

In sum, the conventional wisdom suggests Bosh is an elite NBA player. 

Bosh and Wins Produced

Prior to this season, though, the Wins Produced story was slightly different (not completely different, just slightly).  Since 2005-06, Bosh has produced 40.2 wins in 10,762 minutes.  This works out to a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] of 0.179.  With a career high WP48 of 0.210 (2006-07 was the only season he exceeded the 0.200 mark), Bosh appeared to be “good” player.  But he’s not on the level of the elite players in the game.

At least, that was the story before 2009-10. 

As Table One reveals, after 39 games this season Bosh is posting a 0.267 Wp48.  This is not at the level of Chris Paul or LeBron James.  But Bosh’s projected Wins Produced probably ranks among the top 10 or 15 in the league (I will know more on this in a couple of weeks after every team has played 41 games).

Table One: The Toronto Raptors after 39 games in 2009-10

From Table One we see that if each veteran player on the Raptors maintained what he did in 2008-09, Toronto would be on pace to win 28.1 games this season.  The players’ performances this season, though, suggests a team that’s going to win 35 games. 

Examining the numbers for the individual players reveals that the change we observe with respect to Bosh’s production explains virtually all of the team’s improvement.  In other words, if Bosh maintained what he was doing last year, the Raptors – after all the changes made this summer — should have expected to win about 13 of their first 39 games.  And that mark would rank Toronto among the Pacers, Wizards, Pistons, and Sixers.  So if Bosh doesn’t improve, the Raptors are looking at the NBA lottery.

With Bosh improving, though, the Raptors have a good chance of making the playoffs.  And if that happens, Bosh has a good chance of experiencing a first round exit for the third time in his career.

Yes, Bosh had yet to experience much team success with the Raptors. Hence one suspects he might depart Toronto this summer.  And consequently, the Raptors have an incentive to trade him now.

A Super Dynasty with Bosh?

One possible destination is the LA Lakers.  It has been suggested that the Lakers send Andrew Bynum to the Raptors for Bosh (other players would have to be added to make the trade work, but Bynum and Bosh are the key players in the trade).  Such a proposal has apparently caused Andrew from Waiting for Next Year – a blog about Cleveland sports – a great deal of consternation.   Andrew explores how the Bynum-Bosh trade could happen and then concludes: “This deal would seemingly turn the Lakers into a super dynasty and give the Cavaliers little chance of being able to overcome the Lakers’ supremacy.”

I read this sentence before I looked at what Bosh had done this season. Since I knew that Bosh and Bynum produced at similar levels prior to this season, when I first read Andrew’s take on this proposal I had a hard time believing that such a trade would shift the balance of power in the NBA significantly.

But seeing what Bosh is doing this year, I guess there’s some reason for the other contenders in the NBA to be a bit nervous about a Bynum for Bosh trade.  For example, if Bynum was playing at Bosh’s level this year, the Lakers would be on pace to win about 64 games, or about six more projected wins than we currently see (and if Gasol was healthy, this projection is even higher).  And a Lakers team on pace to win 64 games would currently be the best team in the NBA. 

There are two issues, though, to consider. First of all, Bosh has never produced at this level in the past.  And if Bosh reverts to what we saw before this year – as I just noted — than the Lakers would not really be getting much more than what they are getting from Bynum. 

Furthermore, even if Bosh does maintain what he is doing this year, a 64 win team is hardly an insurmountable dynasty. The Cavaliers are currently on pace to win 59 games this year, and the difference between 64 and 59 wins isn’t really that great.  Yes, the Cavs would have to do a bit more to close to the gap.  But the gap could be closed (and even if it isn’t closed, it’s more than possible for a slightly worse team to win an NBA playoff series).

So although I think a Bynum-Bosh trade could make the Lakers the favorite to win in 2010, I don’t think the Lakers would be over-whelming favorites or a super dynasty.

Let me close with more thought on the Lakers.  If it’s true the Lakers are considering this move, it does tell us something about how the Lakers currently evaluate their own team.  There are pundits who believe the Lakers are already “the dominant team” in the NBA.  The fact that the Lakers are pursuing Bosh (that is, if they are) suggests the Lakers may not believe they are currently dominating the NBA (or maybe — since this is about mixed messages — this doesn’t mean that).

– 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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