Yesterday, I came up with the Championship Equation:
- Win 52 or more games (Houston is an aberration that can be explained in one word: Hakeem)
- Have two star points (either >2 Stars, > Star + Superstar or > 2 Superstars)
Do this and win the title. It was good.It wasn’t perfect . Therefore,today, I want to do some tweaks and refinements to the equation, talk about some of the special cases (and how that impacts some of the contenders) and spend some time talking about Young Stars (>.200 WP48) at 21 Years old or Younger.
Basics (skip if familiar)
This article uses Wins Produced and WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] to evaluate player’s performance.* This measure uses three key components to evaluate a player:
- The player’s per minute box score statistics
- The player’s team’s per minute box score statistics
- The average performance at the player’s position (PG, SG, SF, PF or C)
A full explanation can be found here. To give a general scale, an average player has a WP48 score of 0.100. The very best players in the league usually have a WP48 over 0.300. To put this in perspective; an average player who plays a full season at 40 minutes a game would generate around 6.83 wins for their team. In contrast, a player posting a 0.300 WP48 would generate about 20.5 wins at 40 minutes a game over an 82 game season.
Refining the Numbers
For the initial version of the exercise I looked at the following for each championship team:
- Wins in the regular season
- Qty of Players in the Playoff Top 6 in Minutes who were Stars (.200-.300 Wp48) in the Previous Regular Season, that Regular Season and the Playoffs
- Qty of Players in the Playoff Top 6 in Minutes who were Superstars (>.300 Wp48) in the Previous Regular Season, that Regular Season and the Playoffs
- Star Points (1 for a Star, 2 for a Superstar)
This made for some interesting close calls (Miami in 2006, Houston in 95). I decided therefore to round the WP48 for each player to the nearest .01 (so .295 becomes .300) and double check the position adjustment. With that done the data looks as follows:
Exceptions, Corrollaries and Addendums:
Let’s go case by case on these. Remember that I’m focused on actions that lead to immediate turnarounds.
- The first is the Lakers in 1980 (and the Celtics in 1981). They drafted some guys named Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and went from an also ran (47 wins, 1 Star (Norm Nixon), 1 Superstar (Kareem) for the Lakers, 29 wins, 1 Borderline Superstar (Cedric Maxwell)) to a Dinasty (60 wins,2 Superstars for the lakers, 61 Wins , 2 superstars for the Celtics). The lesson that while typically a draft pick won’t yield immediate results is that if you have a team with 1 superstar on your roster finding a superstar in the draft can yield immediate results. Just don’t hold your breath for this happening. Well call this the The Magical Legendary Exception.
- Bad players (<-.01WP48) in the playoff rotation of championship teams (top 6 in minutes played). The list for these is as follows:
11 Guys on 9 teams. The rule of thumb here is that you need two star points for every playoff sink hole. We’ll call this the Mr. Eva Longoria Rule.
- Houston in 1994. They did not quite have a superstar (Hakeem clocked in at .280). However they had 4 other players in their playoff rotation come in between .128 and .159 (Thorpe,Horry,Kenny Smith and Sam Cassell). So it’s possible to win if your superstar is a little off if you have 4 other guys who can step up and you get some ridiculous three point shots and the best player in the league decides to retire in his prime. We’ll The Impossible Dream Scenario.
- Houston in 1995. They only won 47 games in the regular season but they went off and got another star (Drexler) to complement Hakeem at mid-season. So you can trade yourself into contention (but it’s not very likely unless Chris Wallace or Kevin McHale is prominently involved). We’ll call this The Trade exemption.
- Players can step it up in the playoffs and they can also step it down. Star/Superstar depth is really important. The last 4 champions have featured at least 4 guys at greater than >.150 WP48 in the regular season and it not always the same people who come thru (Posey for the Celts in 2008 is a good example). The one superstar approach is a much riskier proposition it’s always better to have the depth than to not have it and regret it (see Posey and the Celts in 2009). We’ll call this Posey-Horry’s Law.
Now that we’ve refined the math and laid out some additional ground rules, let’s look at the stars and the contenders for 2011.
Stars and Superstars in 2010 Take 2:
Compiling the List of stars and superstars in 2010 is still a simple process. We find every player who played more than 400 minutes last year (sorry Yao) and posted a WP48 of greater than .200. The difference now is that I’m going to use Prof. Berri’s numbers (which have slightly better position adjustments) and I’m also going to round to the nearest .01 WP48 (. Using these numbers there were 39 players who met that criteria in 2010 and 12 were superstars (and worth 2 star points) and 27 were stars (and worth one star point).
The list rings truer now to me. The biggest question mark here is Oden but that’s actually extremely appropriate. The two under-21s on this list (Batum and Blair) project out as future stars (and maybe even supertars). Why do I say this? Let’s look at a list of star Players (>.200 WP48) at 21 Yold or younger with at least min 800 minutes played.
2011 Favorites/Contenders/Pretenders rev 1.1:
If we look at every team’s current roster again with our new numbers and tally their projected wins and the number of star points we can divide the league into those teams that have a shot at the title and those who don’t. For this version, I will remind you that I’m using the Build 0.1 projections and not the updated final projection (see the Bulls example). For this version, I am dividing teams in 4 groups:
- The Clear Favorites those teams with more than two Star points and projected to win 52 or more
- The Contenders those teams with two Star points and projected to win 52 or more. These teams will need some luck to go their way.
- The Pretenders with Talent. Teams with the stars but not the wins (Sorry CP3)
- The Pretenders. Teams without the star points or the wins
So now we see four clear favorites, four contenders, six teams with the stars but not the wins and 16 pretenders. The Heat, Blazers, Lakers, Spurs project as the first elite group (and that really makes a lot of sense given their rosters). Of this group, the Heat seem poised in the East.
The Lakers look to have a tough road ahead out west but not from the expected challenger (OKC) but from the Spurs and the Blazers.
The Mavs, Celts, Bulls and Magic form the second group of contenders with the Eastern teams having more realistic shots given the distribution of the elite teams (sorry Mr. Cuban).
The pretenders with stars all could have a chance but they need to find some surprise wins (via the draft, free agency or trades), given their track records however, most of these teams are more likely to get fleeced than strike it rich. Golden State will move up in wins when I do the final build, so I’m making a judgement call and calling them a contender.
Of the pretenders, the Nuggets, Thunder and Suns are the most interesting. They don’t currently have the stars on their rosters but a couple of factors come into play:
- Trading non-star Melo for one or two stars based on his reputation could make Denver the Fifth member of the Favorites group (granted it would be in the crowded west).
- Josh Childress is a strange case. I can’t find a comparable example of a star going of and playing in Europe in the middle of his prime. Phoenix with Childress sneaks into the contender group.
- The Thunder are the most fascinating. Durant barely missed the superstar cut. Their five best guys look like this : This is strangely reminiscent of the 94 Rockets. I like this team and think they’re a Year away but I’m willing to entertain them as a contender.
So the final tally is as follows:
4 Favorites, 7 Contenders and one possible contender pending the Melo deal. Again adjust your wagers accordingly but I would say the best values are the Blazers, Spurs and Warriors.