1 in 10 Million

Posted on 03/14/2011 by


“The Black Swan Theory or Theory of Black Swan Events is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept that The event is a surprise (to the observer) and has a major impact. After the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight.“- Wikipedia definition

Yesterday was all about perspective.

Today it’s all about context.

Really it all begins with the following questions: How good are every players teammates? What would happen if I removed each player from their team?

It would look something like this for the current season:

See I wasn’t looking for what I found. I was looking for the quality of every teams roster and the way I was doing it was by removing their best player.

Teams Win Projection Team without best player
CHI 51.1
SAS 50.9
BOS 47.2
LAL 47.2
DEN 44.0
MIA 41.7
DAL 41.3
OKC 39.5
HOU 39.3
ORL 36.4
PHI 36.0
POR 33.6
MEM 32.5
NYK 32.0
IND 30.8
MIL 30.7
UTA 30.4
NOH 28.2
PHO 28.0
ATL 27.8
GSW 27.0
CHA 26.9
DET 24.5
SAC 19.7
LAC 18.7
TOR 16.5
WAS 14.6
NJN 11.6
CLE 7.0
MIN -4.9

The answer was that Chicago and San Antonio have the best rosters followed by Boston and LA. But what caught my eye was the number on the bottom. Minnesota had a negative Win total for their supporting cast? Kevin Love’s team without him produces negative wins? That’s really strange.

How strange? One of my favorite posts dealt with the worst teams of all time (see here). Negative win production is exceedingly rare.

In fact it’s only happened seven times since 1978:

Name Team ID WINS Rest of Team Wins WP48
Michael Cage 1987LAC 14.9 -5.5 0.245
Michael Cage 1988LAC 16.1 -2.8 0.290
Mike Iuzzolino 1993DAL 2.9 -2.3 0.078
Randy White 1993DAL 2.7 -2.1 0.091
Sean Rooks 1993DAL 2.1 -1.5 0.049
Terry Davis 1993DAL 1.4 -0.7 0.027
Derek Harper 1993DAL 0.9 -0.2 0.021

Michael Cage twice on the Clipps and our old friends the 1993 Mavs. Kevin Love is number 8 out of 14600 but really he would rank as the player with the 2nd worst teammates (or about 2/14600).

Teams Win Projection Team without best player
1987LAC -5.5
2011MIN -4.9
1988LAC -2.8
1993DAL -2.3
2000LAC 1.3
1989MIA 2.6
2000ATL 2.7
1996PHI 3.1
2010MIN 3.5
1991DEN 4.4

Yesterday we also said that he was in very select company in terms of Wins Produced.

In fact if we project him at 30 Wins Produced for the season, he’d be in the top 9. That’s 9 in 14600.

The likelyhood of  a player having one of the top nine seasons while playing with the 2nd worst teammates?  That works out to about  1 in ten million or once in every 20,000 NBA seasons.

Kevin Love’s 2010 season is a Basketball Black Swan Event.

What does it all mean?

Actually what it means is that it’s extremely unlikely that we will see something like this again. Kevin Love’s situation is thus very hard to read. I’ve done some work on Diminishing Returns (see here):

And this is good. By these numbers Kevin Love’s .480 WP48 would still be over .400 on any team. That would be enough under normal circumstances but we are dealing with a double outlier here so let’s break out a final table:

Note: I totally screwed up this table when I first put it up. In my defense it was really late when I made it. Fixed now.

Michael Cage is the best comparison we can make and we can see that as  a good player on the Clippers he of course got traded to a contender and his numbers went down from his peak but stayed in the ballpark.

So Kevin Love is really good, regardless of the weird circumstance.

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