Wins per million and a Kleiza/Bargnani switch

Apologies all around for yesterday's mess, but let's move on and talk about which Raptor most deserved the millions he got paid last year.

Andrea Bargnani

First up, we apologize for the cluster*&^% that this site was yesterday. My guess is that one of our writers (most likely A-Dub) set a weak password, something predictable like ihatebargnani which was guessed by some dude who was desperately trying to sell Viagra and got into our site. Long story short, Google marked us as a hostile site for a day but came to their senses later on. Once again, we apologize and have taken the necessary course of action, which in this case was to indefinitely suspend A-Dub without pay.

As the off-season winds down and we inch closer to training camp, the ideas for posts are running thin. We’ve covered practically every angle, mundane or otherwise, of this team on a more or less daily basis and have come to the point where we’re reaching. The reach this morning is wins per million, i.e., how many wins does a Raptor produce per million dollars paid. Process that last sentence before you read the following table, and venture a guess as to who you think was the best and worst bargain last year. Done? Read on.

It makes sense that Sonny Weems and his 800K salary gave us the most bang for our buck, but did anyone predict that Bargnani would be a the bottom of the list? And that too before his new contract kicked in? Before you accuse me of twisting stats into a negative portrayal of Bargnani, let me say two things:

  1. It hardly matters what Bargnani does on the basketball court because he’s doing this off of it.
  2. This is the site where I got these numbers and he’s bottom in total wins produced, and second-last ahead of Patrick O’Bryant in wins per 48, so it’s not just bad when compared to his salary. It’s just bad.

If you’re curious as to how the wins produced stat is calculated, read this but know that it’ll take you the better part of lunchtime to understand it. The linked article might suggest why Bargnani fares so poorly in this stat:

The average value for Adj. P48 is 0.304. But this value is not the same across all positions. As noted in The Wages of Wins, centers and power forwards get rebounds and tend not to commit turnovers. Guards are the opposite. The nature of basketball is that teams need guards, small forward, and big men. Given nature of the game, players have to be compared to their position averages.

Positional averages, eh? Let me carry this thought a little forward. If you subscribe to the Wins Produced stat and want to see Bargnani increase his rather pathetic total, would it be in the best interest of the Raptors to cater to him so that he can produce more? A big reason why his score is so low is because he’s being compared to big men who are generally less turnover-prone and rebound better, both of which Bargnani isn’t. Amongst starting centers, only Krstic and Frye have a worse TO/48 rate than Bargnani; he’s also 30th in the league amongst centers in rebounds/48. This isn’t helping his case a bit.

What if the Raptors were to move Bargnani over to the small forward, a proposition that failed miserably in the playoffs against the Magic, would that affect his wins produced total for the better? I don’t know, the equations to calculate that bloody thing are too complex, but I don’t think we’ll have much to lose. If the Raptors switch Linas Kleiza to four and move Amir Johnson to the five, it would leave Bargnani at the three where he can conceivably use his size to dominate smaller players, something he started to do late in the season last year from the elbow/low-block area.

For a second, let’s not worry about his defense because whatever he’ll give up in quickness to the other three, he’ll make up by not being in a help position underneath the basket every time, something he’s not very good at. After all, given his defensive record, moving a player like him away from the painted area can’t really make much of a difference. The question then becomes how would Kleiza fare, well, he’s got a career 10.3 TRB%, which is better than Bargnani’s 9.8, so rebounding isn’t going to be affected. Kleiza’s 245lb frame is 5lbs lighter than Bargnani and can bang in the post quite well, however, he doesn’t have the length in man-to-man defense that Bargnani possesses which could be a detriment for the Raptors. But this negative can be more than made up for if Bargnani is able to use his advantage on offense at the three and become a smaller part of the equation on help defense.

Tell me I’m crazy for even entertaining this.