The Best Player in the League hands down

“Vegeta, what does the scouter say about his power level?” -Nappa

“It’s OVERR NINE THOUSAND!!!!!!!” -Vegeta

“What ? There’s no way that can be right!!!!!” -Nappa

Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール, Doragon Bōru)

He broke my damn spreadsheet.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me give you some nice exposition first before we get to the lead.

(Standard Disclaimer: if you’re new, welcome, please be aware that we are powered by NerdNumbers and if you have questions you’ll need to go to the Basics before asking questions, if you don’t the narrator reserves the right to be snarky with you in the comments section):

I was planning a routine post where I looked at the Wins per 48 for all players in the NBA with the twist that I wanted to break it down month by month. The point of this exercise was to look  for players whose play is improving or dropping as the season was going along. My intent was to break it down along the lines of  the roster by roster breakdown of my last post:

That’s a roster by roster breakdown by minutes played of the level of play for each team. For players by month I though i’d do:

  • Elite (>.400 WP48) which I used previously here
  • Superstar (>.300 WP48 & <.400 WP48)
  • Star (>.200 WP48 & <.300 WP48)
  • Starter (>.100 WP48 & <.200 WP48)
  • Bench (>.000 WP48 & <.100 WP48)
  • D-Leaguer (<.000 WP48)

And split the season into thirty day chunks.I figured it would be a fun exercise to see some trends, get to do some cool visualizations and it would be a cool followup to my ongoing series of alternative ways of looking and breaking down the NBA MVP race.

Alternative Earths

The index for that series is here (and for some weird reason I keep coming up with a different answer :-) ) :

So what happened? Well, once I crunched the numbers I had to change my strategy. You see, one player broke the system. One player went out and put in a legen- (Wait for it)

 

-dary performance. The following table is by month and everyone get’s points according to their WP48  level (-1 for -.100 to 0, 0 for o to .100, 1 for .1oo to .2oo , 2 for .200 to .300 etc.)

His name is Kevin Love. .510 WP48 in the Last Month.  That crazy son of a gun broke my spreadsheet. He’s on pace for a top ten Wins Produced Season right now.

So the MVP Analysis Tally so far is

  1. K-Love 3 2/3  votes
  2. Lebron 2 1/3 votes
  3. CP3 1 2/3 votes
  4. KG 1 vote

And Kevin Love takes the lead (and all your rebounds).

Now If we could just get him some more love in the teammate department.

So underrated superstar on an inferior Minnesota team, where have I heard that one before? Sorry Minnesota fans but I hope history does repeat itself in this case.

There are some more interesting tales in this table. But that’s what tomorrow is for.

 

38 Comments

  1. some dude
    2/16/2011
    Reply

    hollow stats on a crappy team. and I say this as a big Kevin Love fan.

    Kevin Love doesn’t play defense, dude. Not yet, anyway. Your a Boston fan. You’d trade KG for him for this season only? Really?

    • some dude
      2/16/2011
      Reply

      you’re* dang quick typing.

    • Cal
      2/16/2011
      Reply

      Doesn’t play defence? Dude, you actually watch the T-Wolves? Yikes.

      • some dude
        2/16/2011
        Reply

        I’ve watched enough. It’s hard to watch a lot of the Wolves because they’re painful to watch in general. Not Love, of course. But Flynn, Darko, etc.

        Love wasn’t getting early minutes because of defense. That was a dumb decision because his overall contributions were far better than anyone replacing him on defense, but it was the reason he was benched (Rambis designed the Lakers top 5 D, fwiw, in ’09). When I have watched him play, he seems to be a weak defender, but a lot of it seems like effort. I watched Love all year at UCLA and he was better then. Of course, it’s hard to defend with the scrubs around him, too.

        I just find it hilarious anyone takes his WP48 number at face value. That anyone would trade KG or Dwight or whatever for Love is absurd. He’s putting up great stats on a awful team.

        • Cal
          2/16/2011
          Reply

          I only have the time and inclination to watch 2 or 3 games a week. So the Wolves aren’t a priority. My old college coach, however, said he thought his defence was fine when I asked him. So it’s worth pointing out that your assessment isn’t necessarily the consensus in this case.

          I’d consider it, those are just great stats, they’re unheard of. Those are 1960s and 1970s stats. Nobody in the last 30 years has had a combination of scoring and rebounds like that. And trading him for KG; you’d have to consider it pretty heavily. KG has dropped some pretty big hints he’ll be retiring when his contract is up at the end of next season.

          • some dude
            2/17/2011
            Reply

            Well, his own coaches disagreed about the defense and Wolves boards have been complaining about since the beginning of the year. I think he could be better, though always limited by height, but right now he has no incentive. He was much worse the first few weeks of the season, though.

            As far as the KG trade goes, I said for this year and this year only. When it comes to looking towards the future, obviously it would make sense. That’s why I made it clear it’s for one season in my hypothetical.

        • jeff
          2/17/2011
          Reply

          Love wasn’t getting minutes early because Rambis is a moron. He and Kahn share the idea that basketball players should look long and athletic (hence the pickups they’ve made the past 2 years – Hollins, Wes Johnson, Webster, Darko. Even Flynn had the athletic part down before his hip injury). The problem is that none of these guys are any good. Scratch that – these guys are all TERRIBLE. The team has no semblance of an offense or defense, and Rambis has never figured out how to use his players’ skills effectively. Kahn has no idea how to evaluate talent (Flynn over Curry, Johnson over Cousins), and has no real plan in place to get any. His plan consists of finding other teams castoffs and firesales (Darko, Beasley, Webster) as cheaply as possible.

          The “good stats on a bad team” meme is used incorrectly in this case. Usually it describes an inefficient player who puts up superficially good stats because of the number of touches he gets. If you look at most of those players, they aren’t any more efficient than other players with respect to scoring, rebounding, or anything else; they just get more opportunities because they are the “best” player on a bad team. In Love’s case, he’s putting up insanely efficient numbers both shooting and rebounding; he’s got huge volume numbers because he’s efficient, not because he’s taking 25 shots per game. He rarely even has plays run for him – he gets his points from being in the right place at the right time (offensive rebounding and getting open at the 3 point line) and from making good decisions when he has the ball. His rebounding % has gone up since his rookie season, but it’s not an abnormal increase either – he was an extremely good/efficient rebounder as a rookie and has now gone from extremely good to legendary.

          Love has been decent-to-good on defense in the post. He will never be a good help defender or a good weakside defender. The problem is the Wolves’ PG and wing defenders (other than Brewer) might be the worst defenders at their positions in the entire league.

          Unfortunately I’ve followed this team since we first got them over 20 years ago and the only real talent we’ve ever had has been because they got lucky (KG @ 5 in the draft, McHale trading Mayo for Love in order to dump Jaric’s salary)

          • some dude
            2/17/2011
            Reply

            Teams don’t bother playing hard versus Minn.

            Is Love a very good player? Yes.

            Do teams let him shoot wide open 3s and get extra rebounds because his team is always getting killed? Yes.

            I agree, he’s not the typical “good stats on a bad team” player, but it still overrated who he actually is. Berri’s work alone says this much. The DR effect from going to a horrible team to a good team is quite large.

            This is a league where the Cavs can beat Boston and LA and lose 26 games in a row. Teams do not try hard every night, especially against crappy squads. This is life in the NBA. This is a very real reason why the WoW network is struggling with predictions compared to others. Arturo thought the Wiz would struggle to win 5 games and look at where they are!

            If we are to believe the above, that Love is worth 19 wins on a team that has 13, this means that if Love was replaced by even an above average PF that Minnesota wouldn’t have won a game yet.

            Ha. Ha.

            • neo
              2/18/2011
              Reply

              another one that didn’t watch. Then why do so many teams have to win in the last 3 min against the wolves or go into OT if they don’t have to play hard.

              My problem with this line of reasoning is then the Thunder should be a terrible team since they win too many at the end and are not creaming the other side the entire game. What is it 4 now for OT for them? We over look this because of their record.

              • some dude
                2/18/2011

                Just further proves that teams don’t try hard. Why else would they be in the game? And why is their point differential -6 if they’re competitive? Good teams coast until about 6 minutes left and then clamp down on quite a few nights. I’ve seen it happen more than a few times with the Wolves. Spurs have done it multiple times to them, already.

                Are the Wolves among the top in the league in blown 4th quarter leads? Gee, I wonder why…

                As for the Thunder, I think most of us believe they’re not as good as their record, but they usually play hard because they’re young and trying to improve, so this is not unexpected.

      • neo
        2/18/2011
        Reply

        lol. I guess you didn’t really watch then. I wish people would actually watch the twolves before posting. “Love wasn’t getting early minutes because of defense” doesn’t even apply to this season. Love in his third year is out playing KG in his 5th stats wise. K-Love does play a lot of defense.

        I’m really tired of the ones that aren’t paying attention. Offense is by far the wolves worse problem. 2-16 was lost because of offense, and its been typical of late. 25% shooting 3 pointers. 35% overall shooting. There are a lot of reasons for it. Injury is probably the biggest because Beasley has been out too long. I don’t take any wolf hater seriously if they have no idea what our problem is, or cant be bothered to look at the shooting percentages.

        So haters stop talking about the twolves if you aren’t going to bother to at least look at the box score.

  2. Chicago Tim
    2/16/2011
    Reply

    Amazing how many scrubs get minutes. So many teams could improve by simply replacing scrubs with average players, which seems like it should be easy to do. And some of the best teams — including your beloved Celtics — are not immune from this problem.

    Chicago, on the other hand, feels like a team without stars, yet except for C.J. Watson everyone is at least good. I wish they would try out some D-leaguers at back-up point guard, but I think they keep hoping Watson will improve. To be fair, Watson has played better in previous years. If Noah can play at superstar level when he returns, though — wow.

    San Antonio also lacks superstar power, but plays only 2% scrubs.

  3. 2/16/2011
    Reply

    Tim,
    Actually I gotta disagree. San Antonio and Chicago are really scary because they do have stars. Actually the similarities are frightening. Both have two good bigs (Duncan and Blair vs. Noah and Boozer) both have two good guards (Parker and Ginobli vs. Rose and Brewer). In Chicago injury + limiting Brewers minutes (any idea why they’re doing that again?) makes their stars deceptive. In SAS Pop is intentionally limiting minutes to keep health. So scary as it seems both teams may actually be STRONGER come playoff time and both will have HCO for at least 1 round.

  4. MKSE
    2/16/2011
    Reply

    Look up Kevin Love’s defensive stats on Synergy. He’s a truly awful defensive player.

    To not even mention this in a post which seems to claim he’s the “best player in the league hands down” is more than a little laughable.

  5. some dude
    2/16/2011
    Reply

    Who cares? He’s on a terrible team. You think teams actually try hard? I’ve watched the Spurs beat them 3 times and in all 3 times they dilly-dally their way to the 4th before actually clamping down.

    What about Berri’s diminishing returns claim of bad teams to good teams? Wouldn’t Love’s WP48 greatle diminish on the C’s?

    In 2 to 3 years, I’d trade KG for Love too, but that’s because KG will look very old out there, and might be a bench player. That’s why I said right now. In fact, I’ll give you from training camp of this year to retroactively add him. You do the deal for this season alone?

    I say he makes you a 2nd round exit.

  6. Josh Url
    2/16/2011
    Reply

    I’m looking at his defensive stats on Synergy right now and Kevin Love is rated very good defensively and is in the 69th percentile on defense! He is not the greatest defender but he is far from a bad defender.

  7. todd2
    2/16/2011
    Reply

    Ouch, Gordon Hayward. How’s the draft panning out?

  8. 2/17/2011
    Reply

    His productively is real, there is no question. He is a superstar, no question, none. But the best player in the league? Arturo, I cannot support this. But, I’m not entirely sure why just yet.

  9. todd2
    2/17/2011
    Reply

    Gordon Hayward and Kosta Koufos? Bye bye Jerry Sloan.

  10. todd2
    2/17/2011
    Reply

    Minnesota’s taking more shots than anyone else and leading the league in offensive rebounds . Is Love benefiting from his team’s ineptitude shooting the ball and the pace of the game?

    • some dude
      2/17/2011
      Reply

      fastest pace in the league and 5th worst Efg%. His pace adjusted Oreb would be about 1.5-2 less, I believe. He’s 7th in the league in Oreb%, not 1st.

      Then, of course, Minn is an average at DReb as a team despite Love’s prowess.

      • jeff
        2/18/2011
        Reply

        “He’s 7th in the league in Oreb%”

        Or 2nd

        http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2011.html

        Offensive Rebound Pct
        1. Zach Randolph-MEM 14.9
        2. Kevin Love-MIN 13.9
        3. Kris Humphries-NJN 12.6
        4. Dwight Howard-ORL 12.6
        5. Amir Johnson-TOR 12.3

        But don’t let facts get in the way of your feel-good arguments like “opponents don’t try hard against Love” or “they let him have rebounds and open 3 pointers because his team is so bad”.

        • some dude
          2/18/2011
          Reply

          That’s using the cutoff B-R.com uses.

          Hollinger has him rated 7th for “qualified players.”

          Jeff Foster, Evans, Joey Dorsey, Zbo, Blair, Amundson are all ahead of him.

          Among all NBA players, he’s 14th.

          Nothing I said wasn’t a fact. Hollinger and B-R have different cut-offs, I assume.

  11. Rex
    2/18/2011
    Reply

    Love, Randolph, Humphries, Chandler, and Camby at 1, 5, 7, 9, and 10, respectively. Is this a rank order of best players this year, or a reductio ad absurdum of the WP48 methodology?

    Snark aside, I’d really like to know what those who endorse this method think is the best criticism of it. Or, what they think is the best alternative to it. I’ve read the quant analysis behind WP48, so I get where it’s coming from, but it keeps generating these results that (it seems to me) only the most dogmatic of disciples could accept.

    Granted, it’s worth taking a model for a long test drive, especially one that’s had so much thought and effort go into it. But I’m not seeing the ironic detachment that would imply, this despite the ironic sensibility behind the comics that are cut & paste into the posts.

    Apologies if I’ve missed earlier posts that address my points & questions. Haven’t been able to keep up with this blog as much as I’d like.

  12. Rex
    2/18/2011
    Reply

    Seeing how my post exemplifies Chicago Tim’s Reason #57 it won’t work (“Your results don’t pass my laugh test”), let me just ask this of WP48ers: What use would you make of this list? If you’re job was to go back in time to last summer and draft a real team for this year only, a la fantasy hoops, how closely would you follow it? Would you really draft Durant and D-Will at #23 and #24 (those are just two of many results one might cherry pick). To the extent you wouldn’t follow this list, why not?

    That’s a big question, I realize, and I’ve got at hand no other data to go on other than the fact that Durant dominated at the FIBA World Championships while Love was a minor role player, but it seems worth saying *something* about (or simply linking to something).

  13. 2/18/2011
    Reply

    Rex,
    Well worn territory bud. It does seem like you detractors have learned the arguments we don’t like, bring them up at the start of your comment and proceed to list the exact same argument. The WP48 doesn’t pass your laugh test, that’s fine (you didn’t list any numbers other than those in this article btw)

    Let me point out that fantasy leagues are not evaluated the same as the NBA. As a result I wouldn’t use WP48 for my fantasy league unless it was a WP fantasy league. As for a GM you do bring up some good player points. Love and Chandler had injury concerns last year. Marcus Camby is old. Humphries was getting limited minutes. These things should be taken into consideration by any GM. Our point is from the stats front the WP48 does a good job of telling you a) if your player helps you win and b) why.

    Finally the FIBA thing. You want to gauge an NBA player based on a small set of game played with a different set of rules and different level of competition? EvanZ actually had a good point that some of the players in the FIBA may have suffered by playing and not resting. Again though not what we’re asking the WP48 metric to tell us.

    • Rex
      2/20/2011
      Reply

      Thanks for the reply. I didn’t mean draft a fantasy team, I meant being a GM and picking a real team for one year only, as is (usually) done in fantasy hoops.

      More to the point, while my posts obscured this, I’m not a detractor. I think the method is impressive but needs more work. My question(s): Granting that you endorse the model, what do you think are its weak points? What caveats might you add as to how the model represents a player’s contribution to a real team (setting aside things like injury risk and other uninteresting caveats)? Who do you think has the most cogent criticisms (or alternatives) of the method, even if it’s not enough to move you at the end of the day?

      I understand questions like this can’t be endlessly hashed out. I was hoping for a link or two, that’s all. Because I believe the best judges of a theory’s weak spots are by those who, all things considered, think it’s the best available, but who retain an open, self-critical attitude. Apologies for the too-skeptical tone of my posts to get that across.

      • 2/20/2011
        Reply

        Rex,
        You’re totally right. I’m going to put something together for an answer.

        • Rex
          2/22/2011
          Reply

          Very much looking forward to it, thanks. Along the same lines, I’m having trouble answering this question: WP48 is a theoretical construct; what is it meant to represent exactly?

          It’s based on real facts from real teams, but the intention of the model seems to bleed into the counterfactual, e.g. what a player would have contributed to any team (and therefore how good a player he is taken on his own).

          Put another way, the construct seems meant to represent something factual (how good a player is) but it can only do so by way of a counterfactual premise (how he contributed is how he would have contributed in other contexts).

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