cavsraps

I don't know where my projection is, either.

John Hollinger has started to release his annual Player Cards over at ESPN (Insider Only). These cards are something I look forward to every year, for multiple reasons. For one, he watches a tonne of game tape and, hate him or love him, has appreciable insight into every single NBA player. Additionally, though, there are his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) projections.

While his methodology for projecting PER along a development curve and based on historical data is not as transparent as, say, baseball’s PECOTA projection system, it’s always interesting to look at how his system thinks players will stack up. Keep in mind that his projections are offensive only, and I believe they are not system-dependent (e.g. it would not account for Landry Fields’ shooting mix changing in Toronto), so they are certainly not a Bible for 2012-13 analysis. But they’re interesting nonetheless…and they’re not pretty.

When it comes to the Raptors, the player scouting reports will not be released until Monday, at which point one of us will follow up on those. For now, however, we at least have his PER projections for each player on the roster, as well as his projections for some other so-called “Hollinger Player Stats,” such as True Shooting Percentage (TS%), Rebound Rate (Reb%), and more.

What follows is a look at each Raptor and how Hollinger’s projection system sees them stacking up. If you don’t care for the details as much, scroll to the bottom of this article where I’ve summarized the key notes in a handy chart.

Kyle Lowry
Hollinger pegs Lowry for a slight decline in PER, from 18.89 to 17.79, still good enough for best on the squad. Curiously, the projections see Lowry’s Usage Rate declining, something I can’t see happening as he moves to a team where he’s a greater focus. Elsewhere, the system sees slight declines in TS%, Ast% and Reb%, though none except the TS% change are significant. The system oddly projects Lowry for a 39.8 FG% which has to be about shot selection more than talent, considering he’s a career 78% free-throw shooter and has shot 37% or better from long range the past two years.

Andrea Bargnani
Bargs is tapped for the highest usage rate on the team, though it’s down a tick from his mark the past two seasons. Somehow the system sees him getting a slightly lower percentage of rebounds (as if that’s possible), while seeing negligible decreases in TS% and Ast% as well. I would assume that with Bargs healthy and a (hopefully) more competent offense around him, his efficiency should actually tick back up towards 2008-10 levels, when his TS% was north of 55%.

John Lucas
Yup, our third best player on offense is allegedly our third string point guard. Lucas is projected to dominate the offense when he’s on the floor, using 24% of possessions and pouring in over 20 points per 40 minutes. The rebound and assist rates are low, but he actually doesn’t turn the ball over much, so there’s hope for continued success if his role is similar to the one he had in Chicago.

Ed Davis
If it seems like this system doesn’t project a tonne of change, you’ve got the same feeling I have. The system has basically split Ed’s rookie and sophomore seasons for his 2012-13 projection, anticipating an uptick in rebounds and assists but a further decline in TS%.

Jose Calderon
The system thinks Jose is on the decline, pegging him to fall below the 15.0 approximate league average mark in PER for the first time since his rookie season. The system basically throws its hands up at Jose’s Ast% and assumes it’s not sustainable, while his TS% is also expected to fall as close to 50% as it’s been since his rookie campaign.

DeMar DeRozan
After improvement from Year 1 to 2, DeMar regressed almost all the way to his rookie season last year in terms of PER, so the system lacks confidence in his ability to bounce back too far. They see a slight decline in TS%, Ast%, and Usage, but a slight uptick in Reb%. Somehow the net of those is an uptick in PER, but not even to league average levels. It would be interesting to see how the projections would change if it looked at half-seasons instead of full seasons, given DeMar’s improvement after the All-Star break last season.

Landry Fields
Everyone’s big question about Landry goes unanswered for now, since Hollinger’s method doesn’t project three-point percentage. Instead, it splits Fields’ two seasons and projects the midway point, seeing just a small uptick in TS% (disappointing) met with an uptick in Reb% (encouraging). I’d be interested to see if a change from shooting guard to small forward, in terms of the formulae involved, did much to his projection.

Dominic McGuire
McGuire is known as a defensive specialist, but he’s not a complete zero on offense anymore. He provides an obscene Ast% for a small forward while also chipping in a strong Reb%, showing that, while you don’t want him shooting the ball, he isn’t without value on that end.

Linas Kleiza
Without even looking, you could guess that Linas’ high-volume approach wouldn’t fit well with this kind of projection system. A 41% field-goal percentage is projected, a decreasing TS% accompanies drops in Ast%, Usage, and Reb%, while even more turnovers are anticipated. All of that adds up to give him a PER on par with McGuire, though he takes the complete opposite route to get there.

Aaron Gray
And finally, we find out that Reb% isn’t everything, since Gray ranked fifth in the NBA in rebound rate but still has the lowest projected PER of any Raptor with a projection. A poor TS%, a sky-high turnover rate, and a tiny usage rate all add up to negate the rebounding advantage.

Amir Johnson
I’m not sure why Amir doesn’t have a projection right now. Generally these type of systems like his style of play, though last year was a poor one for him in terms of PER. I’ll update this post once Amir’s mysterious projection is revealed.

Alan Anderson, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, Quincy Acy, Jamaal Magloire, Chris Wright, Jerel McNeal
Due to the players being rookies, presumed retired, or pegged for the D-League, there are no projections available.

If you’re not a fan of Hollinger’s projections, Basketball Prospectus also releases their SCHOENE projections sometime in September, though these are also behind a pay wall.

Once Hollinger releases his player cards on Monday, I’ll be back with more analysis. Until then, follow me on Twitter.