The Four Horsemen of Negative Productivity in Toronto

Posted on November 9, 2010 by


Andrea Bargnani is finally living up to the hype of being a number one pick.  So far this year he is scoring 19.0 points per game, a career high for the 5th year player.  In addition, he is…. well, did I mention that he is scoring.  Yes, it is a career high in points per game.  Unfortunately, he has not improved with respect to any other aspect of the game.  All he has done this year is take more shots from the field each game.

And this performance has led Devin Dignam  — of NBeh? – to offer the ultimate “Andrea Bargnani is a Bust” post.  This post notes that according to Wins Produced, Bargnani is not as productive as other players taken with the first pick in the NBA draft. A similar story is told when you look at Win Shares or the Player Efficiency Rating (two metrics that Devin doesn’t recommend).  When you look at scoring, though, Devin notes the story changes:

…something interesting happens when you sort these players by points per 48 minutes; all of a sudden Bargnani moves up to 7th place, ahead of notably better players like Dwight Howard, Greg Oden, and Andrew Bogut. As David Berri has mentioned over and over, the popular way of evaluating NBA players is by points scored, so it should be no surprise that so many fans (and certain GMs) have problems recognizing that Bargnani is not very productive. Casual fans are blinded by the relatively large amounts of points that Bargnani scores, failing to notice his lack of production in other areas – such as rebounding – or his shooting efficiency.

Let me build upon Devin’s Bargnani post with the follow observation about the 1-6 Raptors.  If we look at the automated Wins Produced numbers (provided by Andres Alvarez) we see the following players who have played at least 100 minutes and posted above average WP48 marks (average WP48 – or Wins Produced per 48 minutes – is 0.100):

Reggie Evans: 0.343 WP48

Amir Johnson: 0.250 WP48

Jarrett Jack: 0.165 WP48

Jose Calderon: 0.129 WP48

Sonny Weems: 0.107 WP48

Again, these players have all played at least 100 minutes.  If you look at every player on this team you find that only four players are not posting above average WP48 marks.  Unfortunately, these four – listed below — are all posting numbers in the negative range:

DeMar DeRozen: -0.056 WP48

Leandro Barbosa: -0.069 WP48

Linas Kleiza: -0.105 WP48

Andrea Bargnani: -0.110 WP48

What do these four players have in common?  These four lead the Raptors in field goal attempts per game.  Yes, these players are all like Bargnani.  Each player knows how to take shots. And each has been quite unproductive (and three of these players are starting for the Raptors, demonstrating once again that scoring gets you minutes in the NBA).

Currently the Raptors have an average WP48 of 0.071.  This mark is consistent with a team that wins 29 games across an 82 game season.  What if, though, the “four horsemen of negative productivity” could somehow find themselves offering nothing (i.e. WP48 marks of 0.000)? If that happens, the Raptors would find themselves on pace to win 45 games. 

So now we know what Jay Triano – head coach of the Raptors – needs to ask of these players.  “I am not asking you to be productive.  I just want you to try to give me nothing.  Please…”

One last note… yes, a 0.00 WP48 mark really isn’t nothing.  The “four horsemen….” are doing something.  They just aren’t doing enough to help the Raptors win basketball games.  And if that doesn’t change (and it is early, so it very well could change), Triano is not going to be coaching in Toronto for very long.

– DJ

P.S. And before anyone says it — and I am looking at you IS :) — if Bargnani were a small forward he would still be below average.  In fact, he has been below average for a guard this season.