Andres Alvarez at Nerd Numbers and some other folks in the Wages of Wins network are organizing a regular season Stats Smackdown for this year. Basically you make predictions about each team’s final record, who the media will pick to win some of the regular season awards, and who would win the same awards using Wins Produced as the metric of choice. Andres was kind enough to directly tell me about the contest, so I figured I should come up with something. It’ll be a tough task; have you seen what some of these guys have done? Arturo has predictions for every player in the league, for crying out loud. All I’ve done as far as NBA models is do a team-level (if you can call it that; it only really cares about scoring difference and ignores who the team ‘is’ per se) prediction of playoff series winners. I thought to start I’d make a pick for the WP Sixth Man award.
I decided to start here because it doesn’t take a lot of knowledge. All I need to know is who the starters are on each team (because the sixth man can’t start more than 60% of the games), generally how they’ve done in terms of WP recently, and how many minutes they might play this year.
I started by going through the depth charts on ESPN, ignoring the starters (sometimes a bad idea; they still think Jerebko is starting for the Pistons even though he’s out for 80% of the season). I picked three guys from each team that I thought would play a fair amount; it was completely subjective and likely to be wrong in some cases where I’m less familiar with the team. Then I got minutes played and wins produced from the last three years from the automated WP site. As a simple prediction, I averaged the three years together. Here’s what I’m thinking:
The Top Three: Mike Miller, Antawn Jamison, and Sam Dalembert are ahead of the group in terms of average wins produced in the past three years, with 10.9, 10.3, and 9.1. Miller and Dalembert are on new teams this year, and Jamison was traded in that period and saw his WP48 drop. Out of this group, I would probably go with Miller; he should be able to be very efficient with Miami’s big three sucking up all the attention.
Dark Horses: Josh Childress was out of the league, playing in Europe, the past two years. But the year before that, he put up 11.3 wins for Atlanta, giving him the highest average in my sample. He’s on Phoenix now, so it’s hard to say what he’ll be like given that it’s both a new team and he was out of the league for two years, but he could be very productive. The other intriguing name on my list is DeJuan Blair, who put up 7.3 wins in his rookie year. Rookies typically improve, and he may get more minutes due to his performance and other Spurs getting older, so Blair could surprise. If I were going to reach a bit, I would take Blair.
Rookies: I don’t have numbers for rookies, obviously, since it’s their first season. I picked out Caracter on the Lakers, Favors on the Nets, Hayward on Utah, Monroe on Detroit, and Splitter on the Spurs. Arturo’s rookie projections are highest on Favors out of this group, but say he’ll only produce about 4 wins. That isn’t going to get it done. So I’ll pass on the rookies.
Last Year: I can cheat a bit and look at Dave Berri’s sixth man list from last year. NBA players are fairly consistent, so maybe the winner will be someone on that list. The top four are Lamar Odom, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Love, and Chris Andersen. ESPN’s depth chart lists Odom as a starter, so he wasn’t on my list. This is probably due to Bynum’s injury problems (again), which would put Odom next to Gasol in the front court. Gasol also missed some time last year, so I’m going to hope that Odom has to start too often to qualify. Ginobili is also listed as a starter, and doesn’t have Roger Mason or Keith Bogans around to steal starts. I’m going to hope that Ginobili also starts too many games. Love would have been a starter last year if he didn’t get hurt, and Andersen is on my list but doesn’t get enough minutes.
Conclusion: I think my final choice is between Blair and Miller. I really don’t want to take a Heat player, but I think Miller’s prospects are just too high, so I’m going with Mike Miller for WP Sixth Man of the Year. I’ll be happy enough if I end up being wrong though.