2nd worst in the NBA? C'mon Son!
2nd worst in the NBA? C’mon Son!

We’re one game into the preseason and that means it’s time for a lot of forward-looking predictive pieces in the next few weeks, as talking heads and the “stats guys” battle for prediction supremacy.

We’ve already discussed Hollinger’s player profiles and PER projections, and Basketball Prospectus’ SCHOENE projections are still a few days from publication (if you’re a rich yuppy type who can afford paywalled content).

Today, though, we were treated to some statistical analysis from Wages of Win. WoW is an analytical site that I enjoy reading, however, I’m unsure if there has ever been any research done into the efficacy of different projection systems. This has been done in baseball for individual player projection systems, but I’m ignorant to whether it has been done for basketball at the league-projection level and, if so, how WoW stacked up. With that said, they’re currently available (and shocking), so let’s take a look.

Their Methods
Their methods are a lot to explain, so if you’re interested, head over there and have a look. If not, I’ll summarize by saying that they’ve found that empirically, only the top-6 players on a team matter for playoff performance, but quality depth can lead you to the playoffs.

Based on eight different categories (Wins Produced, Point Margin, Offensive Wins Produced, Defensive Wins Produced, and each of those four also on a per-minute basis), they rank every player in the NBA similar to the ESPN NBA Rank program we looked at earlier in the offseason. They then take the individual player rankings to create team rankings (more on that in a bit).

Raptors Players
The Raptors’ roster is distributed similarly to what we saw with NBA Rank, with a few key differences…no wait, some seriously major differences. A starting lineup of Calderon-Lowry-Fields-Davis-Johnson with Wright, McGuire, and Gray as the first guys off the bench? What-what-what?

The first major difference is that Kyle Lowry ranked as the #21 player in the NBA with an average rank across the eight categories of 44.5. Basically, because Lowry is in the second tier in just about every area, he ranks as a top-tier player overall.

Ed Davis also makes a massive leap, finding himself at #42 overall thanks to some solid defensive and per-minute contributions. This one was a bit of a shocker since, while I’m a fan, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone other than Arturo from WoW who believes Ed Davis could be a top-2 player on an NBA team, now or in the future (although to be fair, I doubt he thinks this as well). In a similar vein, Amir Johnson ranks at #60, showing that the Raptors big-man rotation, while overrated here, is potentially underrated on the whole.

Jose Calderon clocks in at #51, posting upper-crust numbers in all non-defensive categories, including a #6 ranking in overall offense. Landry Fields is at #53, and then suspected bench-dwellers Chris Wright, Dominic McGuire, and Aaron Gray check in at 101, 136, and 152. They don’t rank beyond #180, since the purpose of their piece is to look at the “top-6” tier of players.

I dug deeper using the Google Docs link he posted, and the players rank as follows:

“WoW” is right.

I swear to Shuttlesworth that I didn’t post this just to troll DeRozan and Bargnani comments. But have at it…Jamaal Magloire is better than Andrea Bargnani. Boom.

Now…I know what you’re thinking. This does not appear to be an intuitive analysis, and you’re probably right given that I find averaging a player’s categorical ranks to create a full ranking isn’t necessarily the best way to rank value. Also, there should be checks in place that say “when a borderline training camp invitee narrowly misses the top-100, we should re-evaluate our formulas.” However, let’s push forward.

Raptors as a Team
The analysis then begins to evaluate teams based on the number of players they have in the “top-6” range (#1-180), the “bench” range (#181-330), and the “dregs” range (worse than #330). With 8 players in the top-6 category, the Raptors are among the best teams in terms of having playoff-caliber players.

Using an arbitrary weighting system based on player rank, the article ranks the Raptors 4th based on high-end roster composition. This, once again, should have stuck out as an issue with the system, since not even the most optimistic among us would argue that the Raptors are the 4th best in the NBA at…well, anything, probably.

More Method
They then use an algorithm to project minutes, and then apply those minute distributions to their simulation engine to create win projections. Note: These do not include rookies…I strongly disagree with not even trying to project them or using some sort of baseline in the interim, but I digress.

The Key Result
The Raptors will win 44.5 games and finish 4th in the Eastern Conference. No, seriously. Depending on how they alter their model, it could be as low as 43.5 or as high as 45.4, but they’re expected to get the 4th seed in an average scenario.

The author indicates that he plans to add rookies and Euro League players into his analysis before the season starts, and I’m interested to see how that changes things in the win projections.

As it is, you’d almost have to argue the current methodology is flawed – in general, you shouldn’t make conclusions about a model’s efficacy based on results you didn’t expect, but between the high win total and the bizarre rankings of some players (seriously, Andrea is the 2nd-worst player in the NBA? Come on) you have to question it a bit.

With that said…he admits it’s incomplete, and I don’t believe his main point is to accurately predict win totals. If you take the analysis as more of a touching-base with roster composition, you can use it as a means to identify teams that could be undervalued in the public eye due to their strength coming from depth or all-around adequacy rather than top-heavy offensive dynamite. The fact that the Pacers, Timberwolves, and Nuggets all also do well, and are likewise teams built with depth, speaks to that notion.

So no, I don’t think Chris Wright is a top-100 player in the NBA, and I don’t think the Raptors will win 45 games and have home court advantage in the playoffs. I do, however, think that our own “inflated” expectations of this being an adequate team and a borderline-playoff team, are not as ridiculous as some make them out to be, however flawed this particular analysis may be.


  • ad

    Stupid publication. They are totally overvaluing the impact players like johnson, fields, and davis will have.

  • Blasterfi9

    … made my day had a great laugh, rly enjoyable thanx for this one, i might juss follow these numbers and troll some friends who think DD and Bargs are stars (bargs maybe, dd is dead in the water in my oppinion) 

  • 76sun

    HAHAHAHAHAHA this was such a good laugh to read
    The raptors have no chance to even make the playoffs in the east yet alone the 4th seed. They overpaid Landry Fields baaaaadly, chalderon doesn’t know what d is, same with andrai whats his name and I can’t even name any other raptors players. HAHAHAHA 4th seed, keep dreaming

    • Tinman

      And you got all that figured out after 1 preseason game. Fourth in the East is the highest I’ve heard and might be a stretch but I expect the Raptors to make the playoffs

  • mobchester

    Valancuians will make his debut today agaist andre dummonds haha can’t wait , this should be interesting

    • 2damkule

      agree it will be interesting, but i’m not sure what’s funny, other than the prospect of watching drummond attempt to hit anything (net, rim, backboard, floor) on a free throw.

    • What the

      is this true?

      • Nilanka15

        Why?  You’d rather see your boy, Alexis Ajinca start, the guy you predicted to be a future hall of famer?

        • What the

          no, i would rather have Gary back, you know how the offence FLOW with your boy Gary Forbes.

      • c_bcm


  • Malefax

    Wages of wins is based on a fundamentally flawed methodology, and the only people who use it are people who do not accept or understand what the flaws are. That said, the mistake is pretty easy to overlook, and at least they’re trying to be scientific. Still, the whole thing is kind of depressing because these guys just keep on churning out more and more analysis based on a metric which is hugely problematic and misleading for many players.

    • 2damkule

      agree completely.  the exercise undertaken by WoW has no predictive value whatsoever, since their results (for expected team wins) are based upon scenarios that are completely outside the realm of possibility.

      • unknown guest

        Agreed. No way the 2 centre piece stars are given a limited role.

    • Axl t

      Agree, it’s a gimmick, but interesting nonetheless

  • Bendit

    Even the most vile of critics and part-time bb scouts on this board….and there are many, would not rank DD & AB as the worst of dregs in the NBA.

    • Tinman

      Oh – a few will

  • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

    Raptors won’t even be 4th in the Atlantic- NJ, BOS, NY, PHI……….TO much less 4th in the East.

    Come next June the Raptors will most likely be watching Houston use their Lottery pick traded away in the Lowry deal to select…….while BC pr spins some other dimensional media hyped Raptors reality for his kool aid drinkers and non thinkers….

    • RapthoseLeafs

      If this happens, Houston’s pick will be 12th – 14th pick.

      Which in essence, would mean we traded Forbes & 12th pick for Lowry. I take that any day of the week.

      • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

        Time will tell but I’d bet it’s a top ten pick traded away by BC for Lowry if the Rockets excercise their rights to the pick in the next draft.

        What if the Rap’s manage the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th pick in the 2013 draft post Lottery draw as the pick is only top 3 protected- still take that as well?lol

  • unknown guest

    We will never know because this “starting lineup of Calderon-Lowry-Fields-Davis-Johnson” will never happen with major minutes over 82 games.

  • Newguybri

    Remember that WP is Wins Produced, as in a stat to measure the production of a player with major emphasis on the stats that correlate highest with winning games. It doesn’t make sense to think of it as a stat to measure which player is “better” since no one plays equal minutes. Looking at per game stats penalizes players who play limited minutes (Ed Davis!) since you obviously can’t do much from the bench. WP will tell you that while ED is on the floor, his rebounding and his minimal shot attempts (minimal missed shots) help produce wins, while Andrea’s poor shooting and non existent rebounding/DD’s horrific shooting do not help a team win. That is pretty basic common sense.

    • cesco

       ‘ Andrea poor shooting….do not help a team win ‘ . Could you explain why with Andrea playing the team won 41.9 % ( 13/31 ) of their games and without him the team won 28.5% of their games ( 10/35 ) , considering also the fact that for about 10 games after coming back from his second injury he was playing at less than  100%. If his ” poor shooting ” was an handicap to the team then for sure when he was not playing other players with presumably ” better shooting ” were taking his shoots and therefore there should have been more wins without him .

      • unknown guest

        Don’t worry, as long as BC is here, AB will start and play heavy minutes no matter what.

      • Newguybri

        Sure, I can easily explain the with-Andrea and without-Andrea record. There is this element of the schedule where sometimes you play good teams, and sometimes you don’t. That’s known as strength of schedule. 

        With AB, they had wins vs the Cav’s 3 times, the Knicks twice (pre Woodson), Minn, Washington, Charlotte (bad teams) Phx, Utah, Denver, Memphis, Philly (good teams). Without AB they lost to Ind, Chi, ATL twice, Bos twice, Clips, Denver, Miami, Lakers, Knicks, San An, Orlando, Memp, Hosuton, Det and Char (They beat the Nets, Wash, C’s, Det, Hornets, GS and Houston).Andrea wasn’t around for the hardest part of the schedule, which isn’t his fault. But I think its a bit of a leap to project 42% wins vs the without-AB schedule, don’t you?

        Other players were taking the shots while he was injured. They were also taking those shots against a lot of teams that are substantially better than last season’s Raptors. When Andrea gets hurt, his shots don’t get taken by Kevin Durant and Tyson Chandler – they go to other Raptors. Other Raptors that are also not overly great (Demar?). Does that make sense?

        • cesco

          With AB they played 16 games out of 31 with teams that made the playoffs . Without AB they played 20 games out of 35 with teams that made the playoffs . Not enough difference in the strength of schedule with and without Andrea to validate your  ” poor shooting ” comment.

          • Newguybri

            Based on that logic you would expect the Raptors to win about 42% of their games if Andrea was healthy for 66 games? 
            I wish Andrea was a good shooter, but he’s not. He’s below average, (below LEAGUE average, as in worse than what you would expect by pulling a random player from anywhere in the league) almost across the board in FG%, 2pt FG%, 3Pt FG% and eFG%, (and of course rebounds). He also takes 7 more shots than an average player at his position (3 extra 3’s) per game. At best he is defensively neutral, which is probably a stretch most nights, but I’ll give him some credit for contributing to a good overall team defence. 

            If you heard a rumour that the Raptors were going to sign someone who shoots below average (not below average compared to “star” players, but below average across the league), but takes a way above average amount of shots, rebounds poorly, and at best won’t hurt your defence, can you honestly say that you can envision a way in which this will help the Raptors win more games?

  • Andrew Scanlan

    One has to keep in mind that WoW consistently makes very counter-intuitive suggestions. I’m reminded of a piece about the Atlanta Hawks which blithely mentioned that Marvin Williams was their best player. Now, I’m not certain that, that dubious proclamation or this dubious Raptors 4th place one mean that the site is totaly bogus, but it should at least be on the table that these guys are trolling us. In any case they have a very “fresh” perspective. 

    Btw, if anyone has a counter-example (counter-intuitive predcition from WoW which panned out) I’d be interested in it. 

    • http://dmdignam.blogspot.com/ Devin Dignam

      Any time Allen Iverson was traded. The “development” of Kevin Love, Kawhi Leonard, Kenneth Faried, and others. Celtics big turnaround (http://wagesofwins.com/2007/10/30/forecasting-the-nba-champion-and-mvp/). Many more such things; have a look through the archives.

      Some flops? Michael Beasley. David Lee (who seemingly never recovered from almost losing his triceps). Predicting George Karl’s minute distributions.

  • Level Ground

    WofW is the Moneyball of basketball.  Its first rule is this: you can’t believe your eyes. Believe the stats.  For example, one can argue that Bargnani is a better player than Amir, but this is why WoW thinks Amir is better.  Bargnani doesn’t rebound and takes fairly low percentage shots (often from just inside the 3).  He is a much better shooter than Amir, but because Amir gets offensive rebounds and works a pick and roll game, Amir is usually shooting from 8 – 12 feet.   Amir is a more effective shooter from 8 – 12 than Bargnani is from 18 – 20.  In a game of H-O-R-S-E, Bargnani will win every time, but the game of basketball is not HORSE.  We know where Bargnani gets his shots and we know where Amir gets his.  And Amir is by far more effective.  Now, people can talk about “spacing the floor” and “clutch shots” and there might be something in that.  But overall Amir is the more effective player statistically.  And yes WoW has done posts on who is an effective coach: they are the ones who play their best players rather than players who are less effective. 

    The bigest strength of WoW is in college scouting and equating college stats to the pros.  THey have found some real gems, like Kawli Leonard and Kenneth Faried.  How would we like one of those chaps on our team?  A late pick up.  (WoW is reasonably high on Acy, by the way.) 

    Of course WoW is not perfect.  No system judging humans can be.  But many people in basketball are moving to a system like WoW to assess performance and to act as a counterweight to those old-schoolers who just use their eyes and their gut.  Not convinced.  Watch the movie Moneyball. 

  • NyAlesund

    I like stats but this one is useless. Nonsense at all. ED 42 and DD and AB over 440!! My questions is simply: are we really thinking that ED is more productive in anyway than the two guys? C’mon. Is there anybody who really wants to see ED down the stretch? A player unable to finish at the rim and worst he doesn’t have a reliable jump shot? And on D? Nothing special. I prefer Amir. More productive, more ability to score in traffic, and on D is one of the best of the team.

    • Newguybri

      It funny that you mentioned that Ed Davis can’t finish at the rim. I looked it up – in the league, of all PF’s that played 10+ mpg, there were 3 that had a better ATR% than ED’s 75% (Brandan Wright, Jason Smith, James Singleton). So not only is he not bad at the rim, he’s actually about as good as you can get. It’s funny what your eyes will tell you when you guess instead of checking the stats.

      You couldn’t be any more correct when you say that he has a poor jump shot. It’s really bad. But he offsets that by taking less than 1 jump shot per game. 

      That’s where ED has value over DD and AB. He doesn’t attempt shots, bc he isn’t a good shooter, where as DD/AB shoot a lot, but are both poor shooters. That’s why ED helps you win, and has a high number of WP. ED does things well that produce wins, AB/DD do things well that produce ummm? Shot attempts?

      • NyAlesund

        I don’t really care about the stats because do not say whole the truth. This team, needs AB and DD  until this two mother****** staying with us. ED, is a role player worst than Amir. If I have to choose between those two guys I would keep Amir. And honestly, despite the shining numbers how many times we saw him struggling to score at the rim?

        Do you really would spend money for him?

        • Newguybri

          The team never “needs” less productive players, other than to fill out a roster. That’s why you pick up players like Lucas who are young and cheap.

          I’m not sure how many times you saw ED struggle to score at the rim, but his stats say that for every time he missed, he scored 3 times. You probably watch a lot (maybe all?) the games, like a lot of people, so try watching then looking at the box score at half, and after the game. It’s amazing what you don’t notice. You might remember the three dunks someone had, but it’s likely you wouldn’t quickly recall the turnovers, missed shots, fouls etc that the same player accumulates. 

          BTW, yes I would for sure spend money on ED, since I like players that contribute to winning.

          • NyAlesund

             I watch the games and evaluate the players not considering the stats. As far as I am concerned, ED is above the average as rebounder, below as shooter and average defender. Amir, for me, is a better ED’s version, whilst AB is a great offensive player, not always supported by teammates, but an awful rebounder and he showed lack of effort to move his ass and battling on the court.

            Haven’t seen ED struggling to score at the rim, have you?

            We have a different opinions.

            • Newguybri

              When you say that you watch games and evaluate players without looking at the stats, I can’t get on board with that logic. I’m sure its a great way to prioritize big plays and memorable finishes, but there is no way that the eye test could be superior to watching plus reviewing stats. 

              • NyAlesund

                 There are different ways to consider the stats, on plus minus, rebs, points, assists, tournover, steal………..clutch stats………and despitre the accuracy I don’t remember one time in which we agree on something. Why? Because are numbers that can be evaluate in different ways.
                For instance the rebs: you can grab 12 per game and to be less important than a single one grab in a partular situation, by a player. But statistically who grabs 12 is “better” than who grabs 1. In this case I evaluate the team rebs compare the oppositions.

                I don’t really matter if ED has a good percentage in a particular situation but for me is important to see him score when is necessary, when the team has need some buckets. I don’t remember alot situation, but alot bench.

                Exactly for AB and DD. I don’t give a shit the numbers. What I want to see from them is consistency down the stretch, on both side of the court.

                • Newguybri

                  It’s always necessary to score really, if you want to win. It actually does matter quite a bit who scores with high percentages, or who rebounds best since the rebounding early in the game isn’t worth any less then later on. Baskets aren’t worth more later in the game. You might remember who made or missed in a particular situation, but that last second attempt is part of the whole game bigger picture in determining the outcome.

      • p00ka

        Any stat that shows Brandon Wright, Jason Smith, and James Singleton as being at the top of the pack is useless except evaluating end of the bench, on bad teams, bit players who can’t shoot.

        • Newguybri

          The stat is shot attempts at the rim. It just simply states who scores at the highest rate when attempting shots at the rim. It is actually very useful when determining if someone is good at scoring from the area known as “at the rim.”

          • p00ka

            And the people who are at the top of the list tell you how relevant it is.

            • Newguybri

              I don’t follow. What is relevant then? Just the stats that have big names at the top? Or just the stats that are measured per game? or…?

              • p00ka

                First, I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of evaluating players on any kind stats alone. They ignore so many factors in evaluating a player.

                But to repeat clarify why I think it’s irrelevant, this stat places “end of the bench, on bad teams, bit players who can’t shoot” at the top of the pack. Big fn deal if they can make put-backs and alley-oops, but nothing else, in garbage time against other scrubs.

                • Newguybri

                  I don’t think its wise to pick which stats you want to value, rather I would attempt to understand what any given stat means if relevance to winning games. Besides, I only threw that stat out bc someone said that ED is a poor finisher at the rim, when in fact he is one of the best in the league. I didn’t say that Davis, Smith, Singleton, Wright were some list of elite big men. Like you said, evaluating players based on one stat alone misses a bigger picture. It would be like saying that Andrea Bargnani is a great player bc his ppg number is really good. 

  • Level Ground

    Newguybri makes the critical point.  We are building around Bargnani and DD, but neither is very good.  In fact, they are below average players — though they look great in practice.  Don’t expect a lot of wins when we are relying on those two.  WoW puts the Raptors in 4th only if we don’t play our worst players.  Since Bargs and DD will likely get heavy minutes, we won’t make the playoffs.  On the other hand, we do have some efficient players, although many of them play the same position and are not on the court at the same time.  So their impact is negated.