More Evil Stats! BP’s SCHOENE Projections for the Raptors

Basketball Prospectus has released their 2012-13 SCHOENE player projections, and they’ve kindly allowed me to share the odd nugget with the Republic.

The namesake, Russ Schoene.
The namesake, Russ Schoene.

I know there are some in the Republic that will groan at yet another statistically based article, and for that I apologize. I understand that statistical analysis is not for everyone, and there are a good number of people who feel that, because basketball is such a complex game with so many moving parts, that observation is the only reliable way to analyze.

At the same time, I’m of the opinion that any information you can add to your analysis can provide value. No single statistic or system is going to give you an accurate portrait of a player, offense, or team; basketball is too complex for that, and it is difficult even for a sport like baseball that is a series of one on one batter-pitcher events. But it’s the preseason, which is the time for analysis and predictions. Since I’ve only been able to see one of the three preseason games so far, I don’t have much actual game content to go off of yet, so I’ve leaned on the statistical analysis of others like Hollinger, Wages of Wins, and Basketball Prospectus of late.

If you’ll recall from the past two years, once games get going I tend not to do a tonne of statistical analysis in-season (both because of the small samples apparent in-season and because there is so much actual basketball to analyze). So, for those of you who don’t enjoy this type of analysis, I apologize, but I do ask that you accept it as a legitimate means of adding information to our analysis of basketball as a whole, especially when we don’t have games to analyze yet (and please lay off the homophobic remarks in the comments…this hurts the site, the writers, and other commenters by making us all look like Neanderthals).

SCHOENE 2012-13
With that self-serving diatribe over, let me move on to today’s topic – Basketball Prospectus has released their 2012-13 SCHOENE projections.

SCHOENE is a system that uses 13 different factors to create a similarity score for players (how similar they are to others), and it uses these similarities to help project future performance. They also adjust for projected playing time and additions/subtractions to the team (e.g. changing Usage Rates so that they equal 100% for a team). These are very similar in nature to baseball’s PECOTA forecast system, which has historically been pretty successful. For basketball, obviously, it’s not as simple and there are a lot of assumptions that drive this type of analysis that some may not agree with. But it’s interesting nonetheless. If you want to read more about what goes into SCHOENE, check this explanatory article out.

Because the projections are behind a pay wall ($8 and super useful for fantasy basketball purposes, so check it out), I can’t provide too much info, but BP has given me the okay to provide a comparable player and one or two key stats for the Raptors. For reference, a similarity score of 100 would be perfect, 95 is considered strong, and it starts to weaken around 90.

2012-13 Raptors Projections and Comparables
Kyle Lowry
Top Comparable: David Wesley (98.7/100)
Key Stat: 13.5 PPG
Reaction: I was shocked to see Lowry’s numbers decline across the board in the projection system. At the same age, David Wesley was still a couple of years from his peak, so at least that’s encouraging. Still, a switch to being the primary point guard and what I would suspect to be an uptick in Usage Rate leads me to anticipate increasing counting statistics, especially scoring numbers, not decreasing ones.

Andrea Bargnani
Top Comparable: LaPhonso Ellis (97.2/100)
Key Stat: 35% 3FG%
Reaction: Did anyone realize that Bargs shot just 29.6% from long range last year? This seems to be something that slid through the cracks in my other preseason analysis, but SCHOENE at least anticipates it ticking back up to a league average rate (though not matching the sharpshooter reputation he has in some pockets of the internet). Ellis, by the way, was a poor rebounding 6’8” forward in the late 90’s who peaked at 26 and fell off the face of the earth shortly after.

DeMar DeRozan
Top Comparable: Ron Mercer (98.7/100)
Key Stat: 5.1 FTA/game
Reaction: While 63% of players DeRozan’s age improved, SCHOENE doesn’t see an uptick in the key area we normally evaluate DeRozan in, free throw attempts. They don’t see his three point shooting improving either, by the way, even though they expect him to fire up a few more than last year. Mercer, you may remember, had a relatively successful but short career as a scoring-only type of wingman who also played little defense. (For the record, he didn’t come up as a comparable when I did my DeRozan analysis because he didn’t meet my arbitrary 3PA/FTA criteria often.)

Amir Johnson
Top Comparable: Tony Battie (97.4/100)
Key Stat: 6% Breakout Potential (only 6% of player’s similar to him “broke out” at this age)
Reaction: SCHOENE basically sees Amir as having peaked, and most of his rate and counting stats stay steady. The comparables all line him up as an offensively challenged pseudo-center with decent efficiency. Pretty disappointing to see that based on historical comparisons, Amir doesn’t seem to have much chance to take a “leap,” though we have probably all accepted this by now.

Jonas Valanciunas aka The Lethaluanian
Top Comparable: Dwight Howard (94.3/100)
Key Stat: 7.5PPG + 6.7RPG
Reaction: That’s a pretty favourable projection for a young rookie European, although I’m sure the model doesn’t have much to base it off of, considering his top comparable isn’t exactly a strong one. The projections like Jonas to be an efficient scorer, capable rebounder, and impressive shot blocker, with the points and rebounds falling fairly in line with the predictions I’ve been seeing among the Republic comments.

Landry Fields
Top Comparable: Josh Childress (97.5/100)
Key Stat: 33.5% 3FG%
Reaction: SCHOENE splits the difference between his two seasons from long range, though they don’t expect his role to increase at all. It answers one question about Fields, although we all seem to be on the same page that a lot of his value will come from non-boxscore items (although my recent piece may have overemphasized the importance of his stroke).

Ed Davis
Top Comparable: Tony Battie (98.2/100)
Key Stat: 54% FG%
Reaction: SCHOENE likes Ed’s scoring and shooting to tick back up closer to his rookie levels, though they don’t really see his rebounding or shot blocking moving the needle. It’s interesting though not entirely surprising to note that Davis has very similar comparables to Amir Johnson, although surprisingly at 24 he has even less of a chance (5%) than Johnson to “break out.”

Terrence Ross
Top Comparable: Antoine Wright (97.8/100)
Key Stat: 31.2% 3FG%, 1.1 FTA/game
Reaction: SCHOENE doesn’t like Ross to be a sharpshooter from long range right away, and they don’t think he’ll be getting to the line much at all. It’s a pretty discouraging projection, especially with Wright, the bane of most Raptors’ fans’ existence at one point, as the top comparable player. Like Jonas, though, the model probably doesn’t have a whole lot to go off of for this projection, so try not to bury your head in your hands when you see that Andre Drummond is projected for 20+20 with 10 blocks (note: that’s a joke).

Jose Calderon
Top Comparable: Mark Jackson (97.2/100)
Key Stat: 22 MPG
Reaction:Possibly because the model doesn’t have the intuition to play with two-guard lineups, it assumes Calderon will play strictly a backup’s minutes. Luckily for Jose, Mark Jackson managed to play until he was 38, with success until about 36. The Ast:TO story is probably the reason for the high comparability rating, and it’s nice to see that as Jackson’s scoring and athleticism wound down, his basketball acumen kept up enough for him to keep the assist numbers high. Jose’s injury history and lack of defensive ability may mean his shelf life is shorter, but with bigger minutes it’s reasonable to expect him to remain an efficient creator on offense.

Linas Kleiza
Top Comparable: Ryan Gomes (98.2/100)
Key Stat: 7.1 FGA/game in 18 MPG
Reaction: The shorter the minutes, the more he chucks, as the model sees him firing up a shot every two and a half minutes. They see his 3FG% from last season as an aberration and don’t anticipate him staying strong from out there, limiting his versatility and ability to play a secondary role on offense. As Arse says, just keep on translating for Jonas.

Others – the projections have small minutes for Quincy Acy and John Lucas, while any other Raptors not listed here do not have projections.

Overall, I’d say that the SCHOENE system doesn’t look too favourably on individual Raptors, although the Basketball Prospectus annual is not yet released for us to see how the Raptors stack up as a team. For the model in general, I certainly appreciate the substantial effort that Kevin Pelton et al put in to it, as it is without a doubt a difficult, complex and arduous task.

With that said, I do find that these projections don’t particularly take any risks, and most of the “interesting” nuggets I’ve outlined here refer to one or two key areas we had already been curious about, not anything  unexpected.

As with all of the different models and projections I’ve looked at in the past few weeks, you have to take this stuff with a grain of salt and use it as just an additional tool for your analysis. It’s impossible for models to accurately simulate how players will mesh together, what rotations the coach may employ, or what roster changes could come about.


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