2013-2014 Pistons win production through 26 games

Preface:

Hello! How’s it going? Better than the Pistons’ season so far, I hope.

This blog has been about as efficient as a Josh Smith three point attempt over the past year (I’m full of them today). There are two main reasons for this. First, Wins Produced numbers are easily accessible via Box Score Geeks, and one of my primary reasons for starting this blog was to get WP numbers out there for interested Pistons fans. There’s less need for that now that Wins Produced has been automated and new data is available daily. Second, I’m doing a lot of game-by-game stuff over at Detroit Bad Boys, which usually includes a good bit of Wages of Wins inspired statistical analysis if not wins produced numbers directly.

That said, my plan is to write a handful of posts here each season that are specifically related to Wins Produced and its derivative metrics, in addition to to writing for DBB on a weekly basis. My goal is to identify trends and to speculate on some of the how? and why? questions that Wins Produced doesn’t claim to or try to answer.

End Preface.

After 26 games, the Pistons are not where they thought they’d be, not where the numbers suggested they might be, and certainly not where fans hoped they’d be. In spite of this, given how terrible the Eastern Conference has been thus far (only Indiana and Miami have winning records), the Pistons find themselves tied for fourth place with the Boston Celtics in the Playoff hunt, meaning that yes, if the Playoffs started today, Boston and Detroit would battle it out in the first round of the Playoffs.

However, that’s little solace for fans who enjoy good basketball, and a losing record hasn’t been enough to dramatically improve attendance, and thus substantially increase revenue for new owner Tom Gores. Presumably, no one is all that happy so far.

So, what gives? First of all, the numbers (as always, provided by Box Score Geeks):

Player Position Minutes Wins Produced per 48 Wins Produced
Andre Drummond C 855 0.329 5.85
Greg Monroe C 884 0.101 1.87
Kyle Singler SF 582 0.131 1.59
Brandon Jennings PG 890 0.060 1.11
Josh Smith SF 935 0.039 0.76
Rodney Stuckey SG 637 0.049 0.65
Josh Harrellson FC 156 0.148 0.48
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope SG 568 0.025 0.29
Tony Mitchell F 34 0.409 0.29
Charlie Villanueva PF 61 0.134 0.17
Chauncey Billups G 203 0.038 0.16
Jonas Jerebko PF 149 0.012 0.04
Will Bynum PG 199 -0.011 -0.04
Peyton Siva PG 76 -0.232 -0.37
Luigi Datome GF 86 -0.264 -0.47

The Good:

Andre Drummond is incredible. If you have thirty free minutes, go search YouTube for Andre Drummond highlights, and prepare to be amazed. Not a game goes by without opportunity to to be amazed. Fortunately, his highlights aren’t just empty hype. Andre Drummond is fourth in the NBA in total Wins Produced, trailing Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant.

As to the why of those numbers, it’s relatively simple: Andre takes and makes a lot of very high percentage shots – which include a developing back to the basket hook shot, as well as more alley oops than I can count – and is a black hole when it comes to rebounds. He’s also one of the best big men I’ve ever seen in terms of playing the passing lane and forcing turnovers. Andre Drummond converts nearly 62% of his shots, snags almost 28% of all available defensive rebounds when on the floor, and just over 16% of all available offensive rebounds.

As to the how, it’s also relatively simple: Andre Drummond is one of the most athletically gifted human beings on the planet. His game is raw and unpolished. He’s shooting under 40% from the free throw line. He frequently misses rotations on defense. But none of that matters, because his natural talents and instincts more than make up for all of that. Simply, he’s an incredible talent.

The next most productive Piston is surprisingly Kyle Singler. Arguably, Kyle should be starting over Josh Smith at small forward. Kyle’s productivity is being driven by an incredible true shooting percentage; at just over 60%, Kyle actually leads the Pistons, which is all the more remarkable given Dre’s 62% shooting from the field. Other than making his shots, Kyle isn’t doing anything remarkably well, but that shooting is enough for the moment.

Greg Monroe’s numbers in the table above may seems surprisingly low, and frankly, I’m a little surprised by them. Note, however, that Box Score Geeks classifies him as a Center, but in reality, he’s playing much more Power Forward, where his numbers compare more favorably (and more accurately): .141 WP48, 2.5 Wins Produced.

Last season, Greg Monroe struggled early in the year adjusting to his new role as the Pistons’ go-to scorer. This year, his role has changed again. Most nights, he’s the fourth option, behind Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, and Rodney Stuckey. It’s hard to believe, but Greg Monroe is averaging fewer shots per game than any other season as a pro, except his rookie year.

For reasons I cannot understand or explain, the Pistons seem committed to making Greg Monroe a complementary player volume scorers who are significantly less effective than he is. Joe Dumars at his finest.

Josh Harrellson is also playing well in limited minutes, but his role is increasing as the season progresses.

Charlie Villanueva has only played 61 minutes, and that is fantastic.

The Bad:

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is not putting up good numbers, and it has everything to do with shooting and shot selection. It’s clear that he hasn’t yet developed NBA range or consistency, and it’s clear that he hasn’t figured out what’s a good shot and a bad shot commensurate to his role. He’s improving as the season progresses, and there’s a lot of reasons to be excited about his long-term future – including his fantastic on-the-ball defense – but he’s not there yet.

Rodney Stuckey is getting a lot of praise in his role off the bench. Early, it was warranted. However, as has always been the case with Stuckey, his production is quickly regressing to the mean. Stuckey has been consistently inconsistent throughout his career, and that hasn’t changed this season.

Brandon Jennings is torture to watch if you enjoy teamwork, good shot selection, and ball handling. He’s a definite upgrade over Brandon Knight, but an apt comparison is that he’s simply an improved version of Brandon Knight. He calls his own number far too often, he dribbles out the shot clock and forces his offense into bad shots as a result, and is one of the worst on-the-ball defenders I’ve seen at PG. Jose Calderon, we hardly knew you.

The Ugly:

Josh Smith has been an offensive disaster for the Pistons. It only takes watching on broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit to see how hard the franchise is trying to sell its fanbase on Josh Smith. Commercial after highlight reel after interview dominates the airwaves during game breaks. He is the highest paid player in franchise history, so it makes sense in that regard.

In terms of production, however, Josh Smith is almost exactly the same player for the Pistons as he was in Atlanta last season. If you have a weak stomach and an appreciation for basketball, I would not encourage you to click through to his shot chart. It is a disgrace to basketball.

The table above presents Josh Smith as a Small Forwards, which he is, some of the time. Compared to other Small Forwards, he’s below average. Compared to Power Forwards, however, where Smith does spend a large chunk of his playing time, he’s producing negative wins.

Yes, the richest Piston on franchise history is actively taking wins off the board.

When it comes to things not related to shooting and scoring, Josh Smith is pretty good. He’s a good rebounder. He’s a good passer. He blocks shots and gets steals. He’s not great at any of those things, but he’s good at all of them, and in that sense, he’s a very well rounded player.

Unfortunately, all of that is rendered irrelevant by Josh Smith’s terrible shot selection, atrocious shooting, and propensity to shoot the ball constantly in spite of being terrible at it.

Here, the analysis doesn’t need to go deeper. Josh Smith is a terrible offensive player who chooses to be terrible at offense as often as the opportunity presents itself.

Jonas Jerebko is mostly out of the rotation thanks to the Josh Smith acquisition. Naturally, Jonas Jerebko has been more productive over the course of his career, so it makes sense the Pistons would bury him on the bench to make room for a toxic player like Josh Smith.

As someone who enjoys good basketball and as a fan of Jonas Jerebko’s style of play, I sincerely feel badly for Jonas. He’s not and never will be a great player, but he’s a useful player in the right role, and ironically, the Pistons could really use a player like him to play the role he’s best at.

Luigi Datome was a great player in Italy. He’s been a terrible NBA player so far. Limited minutes likely have a lot to do with this, but it’s hard to see him getting an increased role given the way Maurice Cheeks has handled the rotation thus far.

Will Bynum continues to be terrible. He’s a bad shooter, turnover prone and ball hoggy. He really has no business in the rotation.

Summing Up:

The Pistons are 12-14, and they’ve earned it. At the franchise level, they have committed significant money and roles to players – Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith – who can’t carry a team to anything better without overhauling their entire approach to the game.

As a fanalyst, this is made all the more infuriating by the fact that these decisions have been made at the expense of players who could make the team better, and at a significantly better price. Players like Jonas Jerebko, Josh Harrellson, and Kyle Singler aren’t glamorous, but they’re all the type of hard-working, blue-collar players that would be expected to thrive in Detroit – a city whose basketball franchise prides itself in its underdog reputation.

From the long-term perspective, this season has the potential to be much more damaging. Greg Monroe is the best offensive player in the Pistons’ employ. During his first two seasons, it was obvious to everyone but the Pistons’ coaching staff that he deserved to be the first option on merit. Last season, he settled into that role nicely in the second half of the season, and particularly well with Andre Drummond and a pass-first facilitator like Jose Calderon.

Unfortunately, the franchise appears to have given up on what appeared to be that sure bet, and has done so to its detriment. Instead of betting big on big-time players like Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, Joe Dumars opted for more of the same in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings – who fit the mold of Allen Iverson, Ben Gordon, and Charlie Villanueva all to snugly.

At 12 wins and 14 losses, the Pistons are better than last season, yes, but they are worse than they could be and are in danger of betting the franchise’s future – which is tied directly to Greg Monroe’s willingness to remain a Piston in free agency – on today’s mediocrity.

Fortunately, there is still a lot of NBA season left to turn this around, and the fixes aren’t that difficult, at least in theory. Here’s hoping against hope they happen.

What if Andre Drummond played more?

When the Pistons drafted Andre Drummond, I was skeptical and with good reason. In spite of being one of the most athletic big men in the entire NCAA, he had avery mediocre freshman season, which raised questions for statheads and traditional scouts alike.

At the conclusion of the preseason, I was optimistic about Andre Drummond and again, with good reason. Dre had a brilliant season, at times looking and producing like the most dominant player on the floor.

And after 30 games, Andre Drummond looks like the real deal, putting up per minute numbers that in some key areas that outshine Dwight Howard’s rookie season. Yep, so far, he’s been that good.

However, Detroit remains committed to its preseason plan for Drummond: bring the kid along slowly. At one point, that plan made a lot of sense. Drummond wasn’t great as a freshman. He’s young. He’s still growing into his body. For the first time in his life, he’ll be playing against men his own size. Those are all good reasons to take the long view and develop Drummond slowly.

But at every opportunity, Drummond has demonstrated that none of these concerns are justified. His performance up to this point indicates that he’s more than ready. In fact, in spite of being a little rough around certain edges, he has been Detroit’s most impactful player, and it’s not all that close.

Drummond’s play demands that the Pistons reevaluate their plans. Continue reading

2012-2013 Detroit Pistons Season Preview

Can the Pistons make the playoffs? And even if they can, will they? At least a few players will consider the season a failure if they do not. Playoffs or bust, then… or is it?

Last year at this time, Charlie Villanueva tweeted some things about insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is crazy. Turns out, he was right. Given the players on the roster, a below-freezing win forecast in the mid-twenties seemed likely. And in spite of finishing the season a whole lot better than they started, the Pistons completed the season at 25-41. By efficiency differential, from which Wins Produced is derived, the Pistons were actually a little bit worse and would have been expected to win only 22 games.

This year, the Pistons will return several of the same players, and many of those players are expected to play significant roles. However, this year there finally be some room for optimism  – in the numbers of all places! And while the NBA Playoffs are probably still out of reach, that won’t necessarily make this season a bust. There is an intriguing young core of players emerging here that should give the Pistons some hope.

Continue reading

The Dallas Mavericks’ Championship Deserves an Asterisk, or John Hollinger Says Stupid Things

John Hollinger receives as much criticism from the WoW Network as just about anyone else. Deservedly so, as has been shown time and again, PER fails to do anything useful.

This post, however, has nothing at all to do with PER. It has everything to do with one of John’s recent tweets:

Okay, I guess it does have something to do with PER, but only in passing. PER struggles to explain why the Pistons of the Going to Work era were so effective. By PER, the Pistons were a pretty unremarkable group while they were dominating the Eastern Conference and very nearly winning back-to-back championships. Perhaps that’s why Hollinger is looking for all the excuses he can find to explain why a team like the 2003-2004 Pistons won an NBA championship instead of a team like the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers.

If your metric doesn’t work, mislead.

But I digress.

The point of this post is to apply the logic of Bill Simmons and John Hollinger to the reigning NBA Champions, the Dallas Mavericks, and their trip to the Finals through the Portland Trailblazers.

In Round One of the 2010-2011 NBA Playoffs, the Mavs defeated the Portland Trailblazers 4 games to 2, en route to the NBA Championship, as we all know.

But wouldn’t you know it, that Portland team was heavily depleted by injuries.

Brandon Roy, one-time NBA superstar, contributed almost nothing in Portland’s losses, due to devastating knee injuries that eventually ended his career. (As an aside, the games where he did manage to contribute were awe-inspiring and incredibly courageous. I’ll never forget those games as an NBA fan.)

But Roy wasn’t the only important Blazer to miss time. Former number one pick of the NBA Draft, Greg Oden, has been a very productive player when he was healthy, and he didn’t play a single minute in this series due to his own career-threatening knee injuries.

Therefore, Dallas’ NBA championship should be taken with a large grain of salt and probably deserves an asterisk.

Wait, what?

Of course it doesn’t. That’s absurd, and frankly, willfully ignorant stupidity.

It isn’t Dallas’ fault that Brandon Roy and Greg Oden got injured, is it? What would you have had them do, John and Bill, bench Nowitzki and Kidd to even the playing field?

Of course note. That’s a patently ludicrous idea that would get rightfully laughed out of every locker room in the NBA, and heck, every place where basketball fans gather to cheer on their teams.

Even Portland fans would read this and laugh mockingly.

Toning down the sarcasm, the obvious point here is obvious:

Teams can only compete against their opposition.

It’s not Dallas’ fault that Oden and Roy were injured, there’s nothing Dallas should have done differently as a result, and Dallas’ amazing accomplishment should not be jaded or tarnished because of Roy’s and Oden’s bad knees.

Dallas beat the teams they faced, and as a result, Dallas won the NBA Championship.

Full stop. Period. End of conversation.

This is no less true for the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons – whose opponents’ injuries were arguably less significant than the injuries to Roy and Oden.

And lest we forget, Detroit didn’t just beat the Lakers; they pummeled the Lakers, a team that contrary to Hollinger’s revisionist history was mostly at full strength; they pummeled the Lakers so badly that the NBA changed its rules about how defense could be played legally.

Everything I have written here is publicly available fact that seems so obvious to me that I can hardly believe I’m taking the time to write it.

But thanks to the incompetence of professional sports writers like Hollinger and Simmons, guys like me have content long after our favorite teams season ends.

Kudos, gentlemen.

Charlie Villanueva played, but let’s not pretend he played well

I support Lawrence Frank’s decision to play Charlie Villanueva yesterday against the Chicago Bulls. Villanueva is one of the most obvious amnesty candidates in the league, and as frustrating a player as he’s been, the Pistons exercising the amnesty clause on him would be a humiliating acknowledgement of failure to perform up to expectations – and for all his faults as a player, I don’t wish that on anyone.

Plus, if he plays like he’s played as a Piston to date, more minutes for Villanueva means better odds at winning the lottery, as well as the potential to move up a position if we don’t. So there’s nothing lost at all by playing him.

But did he play well yesterday in his return to the Pistons’ rotation? That seems to be the consensus from Mlive.com and the Detroit News.

In a shocking turn of events, I don’t agree with the consensus.

Let’s dig into the numbers for the positives and negatives of Villanueva’s return to the Pistons’ rotation.

On the upside, Charlie scored 13 points, committed only 2 fouls, and only turned it over once. His shot selection was also not horrible (although he was a little shot happy). He converted 4 of his 5 shots at the rim, didn’t take any long two’s, and took the rest of his shots from deep.

And even though he’s not a defensive powerhouse, my eyeballs said he played competent defense by Charlie standards, and he had one steal. Patrick Hayes at PistonPowered agrees. I trust Patrick’s read on this sort of thing, so let’s say that Charlie V played decent defense.

Beyond that, though, things start to get ugly. (Hat Tip to www.hoopdata.com for their excellent advanced box scores and http://www.nerdnumbers.com for the WP splits that follow)

The most productive scorers in the NBA tend to score a lot at the rim, at the free throw line (because they’re attacking the rim), and from behind the arc. Charlie did only one of those things yesterday, and failed completely at the other two.

 Charlie was very good at the rim, converting 4 of 5; however, all of his makes at the rim (and in total, actually) were assisted, indicating that Charlie wasn’t attacking the basket himself. As a result, Charlie didn’t get fouled while shooting and didn’t get to the free throw line.

Charlie took 6 shots from three, meaning 11 of his shot 15 shot attempts came from the best places on the floor for him to shoot. Unfortunately, he only converted 1 three-point shot. So in spite of taking 11 shots right where you’d want him to shoot, he only managed 13 points on 15 total shots. That’s bad for every position, but especially power forward.

To make matters worse, Charlie just kept shooting. He was a black hole on offense, using 36.3% of the Pistons’ possessions while he was on the floor. That number beats everyone else on the team by a wide margin, with the exception of Stuckey (35%), who carried the Pistons’ offense on his back; no one else on the team besides Knight surpassed using 20% of the team’s possessions while on the floor.

The net result of all this shooting and missing is 0.64 points scored per possession used. Only Maxiell and Prince posted worse.

Then, there’s the lack of rebounding in a game where the Pistons were handled on the glass. I can understand the lack of offensive rebounding to a point, given how much Charlie plays on the perimeter. Not that I like or prefer it, just understand it. (Actually, if Frank decides to continue playing Charlie at the 4, Jonas Jerebko makes a much better pairing at the 3 than Prince or Wilkins because of his superior offensive rebounding ability).

But the failure to contribute more to the team’s defensive rebounding is inexcusable. Only Damien Wilkins (18 minutes, SF) and Ben Wallace (11 minutes, C) grabbed fewer defensive boards than Villanueva.

Furthermore, it’s difficult to perceive any improvement to team offense, which is Frank’s explicit reasoning for playing Villanueva – to improve the team’s offense by stretching the floor. The Pistons managed only 94 points through four quarters and over time, and their offensive efficiency was a paltry 89.5

And while we’re at it, let’s talk defense. Thanks to NerdNumbers, we have Wins Produced game splits, and while this isn’t a direct measure of Charlie’s defense, the Pistons allowed solid production from the Bulls’ power forwards, who produced at a rate of 0.253 wins per 48 minutes.

From the perspective of my favorite all-in-one box score derived metric, Charlie Villanueva produced -0.274 wins per 48 minutes, or -0.11 wins.

Yikes.

To reiterate, I support Coach Frank’s decision to give Villanueva an extended look. It’s the best thing for everyone, and frankly, Lawrence is absolutely right – the Pistons need to be evaluating what they have, and it’s hard to evaluate a player when he’s glued to the bench. 

But let’s not pretend that the performance from Charlie Villanueva was anything different than what we’ve seen time and again in his tenure as a Piston. It wasn’t. 

Wins Produced Splits Visualized

UPDATE: Post is up on Detroit Bad Boys. Link here.

A full post with comments will be posted to www.detroitbadboys.com. Please feel free to join the conversation there when it’s live. I will link the post here as soon as it’s live.

The splits presented here are from the beginning of the season to the end of March. I will create updated charts at the end of the season.

ADWP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

ADWP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

BG WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

BG WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

BK WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

BK WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

BW WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

BW WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

CV WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

CV WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

DW WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

DW WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

GM WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

GM WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

JJ WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

JJ WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

JM WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

JM WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

RS WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

RS WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

TP WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

TP WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

VM WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

WM WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

WB WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

WB WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

WR WP48 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

WR WP Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

Season totals below.

Season Totals through April 4 Microsoft Excel - Wins Produced Splits TEST

Props to The NBA Geek and Nerd Numbers for the data. Note that I’ve adjusted Austin Daye’s numbers in the season totals to reflect him playing at SF, while the NBA Geek has him slated at PF.

Lawrence Frank is not the Answer

Back in June, I argued that John Kuester was not problem with the Detroit Pistons. Despite the fact that he handled plenty of things poorly, the roster that he inherited simply wasn’t strong enough to compete.

Nevertheless, Kuester was fired, a new coaching staff was hired, but little else changed. 

Unfortunately, Lawrence Frank has not been the answer Pistons fans have hoped for.

After losing to Boston tonight, the Pistons have lost three consecutive games by a combined total of 39 (!!) points. And frankly, that understates how poorly the team has performed. 

From here, things don’t get any easier. Of the Pistons next 19 games (through January, 2012), the Pistons are likely to be significant underdogs in all but 4 – Charlotte, Minnesota, and Milwaukee (twice) – and they will likely be slight underdogs in those games as well. 

It is very possible that the 2011-2012 could threaten Lawrence Frank’s own New Jersey Nets for the worst start in NBA history. 

There is little Lawrence Frank can do to avoid that. 

No discredit to Frank intended, however. He seems like a fine head coach who manages his players and himself very well. The problem with the Pistons is not that Frank and/or the rest of the coaching staff is insufficient.

The problem is that this collection of players simply doesn’t have what it takes to be a winning basketball team.

And nothing short of a wholesale roster overhaul is going to fix that. 

No hard feelings, Larry. I don’t think this is your fault at all.

 

Did Charlie Villanueva get it right? An early look at the Detroit Pistons.

Player

Position

Minutes

WP48

Wins Produced

WS48

Win Shares

PER

Value Added

Estimated Wins Added

Greg Monroe

5

2112

.200

8.8

.143

6.3

18.07

235.5

7.8

Jonas Jerebko

3.5

1848

.150

5.8

.095

3.7

13.99

82.5

2.7

Rodney Stuckey

1.5

1914

.100

4.0

.111

4.4

18.46

221.7

7.4

Tayshaun Prince

3

1680

.060

2.1

.062

2.2

15.13

116.1

3.9

Ben Wallace

5

784

.120

2.0

.072

1.2

12.29

19.8

0.7

Austin Daye

2.5

1200

.075

1.9

.070

1.8

13.02

45.1

1.5

Ben Gordon

2

1716

.050

1.8

.070

2.5

14.00

89.6

3.0

Jason Maxiell

4.5

1070

.050

1.1

.050

1.1

13.00

24.0

.08

Charlie Villanueva

4

1408

.050

1.5

.090

2.6

16.00

94.6

3.2

Brandon Knight

1

1254

.000

0.0

.000

0.0

14.00

56.1

1.9

Damien Wilkins

3

218.25

.100

0.5

.075

0.3

11.45

3.1

0.1

Will Bynum

1

555.75

.020

0.2

.050

0.6

15.28

35.5

1.2

Vernon Macklin

5

80

.000

0

.000

0

9

-3.0

-0.1

Totals

WP

29.6

WS

26.6

EWA

34.0

In January, Charlie Villanueva said (via retweeting a fan) that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to change.”

After three consecutive losing seasons, the Detroit Pistons will return essentially the same group of players, a new coaching staff, and presumably, expect better results.

Is this insanity – extreme foolishness, folly, senselessness?**

As the table above reports, expecting anything but more of the same in Motown would seem to qualify.

The Detroit Pistons have not been a good basketball team. I have argued this is due to employing players who don’t do enough of what it takes to win basketball games. A quick look at the returning players, new additions, and departing players unfortunately will reveal that little is likely to change in the upcoming season.

Returning Players

There really isn’t much to say here. Of the players who were under contract coming into this season, most are known quantities.

Greg Monroe had a fantastic rookie season (primarily during the 2011 calendar year), and Piston fans should expect good production and hopefully, significant improvement. I don’t think Monroe is a legitimate star yet, but he possesses that potential.

Ben Wallace is a year older, likely to decline, and play fewer minutes.

Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva have played their worst basketball in Detroit. I am hopeful to see some improvement from both (as reflected in the projection above), but I don’t expect them to be anything other than the players they are. Here’s hoping one of them convinces Detroit management that they are deserving of the amnesty provision this season.

Will Bynum is a player I love to root for. And who wouldn’t? Anytime a sub six foot player can make plays like this– to say nothing of his persevering optimism – it’s hard not to. But Bynumite is the player he is, and I don’t expect much more than serviceable backup play that’s likely to be pushed out of the rotation by Knight and Stuckey.

Jason Maxiell will probably play more minutes than he should, due to our short supply of tall people and a hectic NBA schedule that will limit Ben Wallace’s minutes. Perhaps he will discover his inner Chris Wilcox and surprise everyone during a contract year.

Austin Daye may be the only exception to this rule. Daye had a promising rookie season, but followed that up with a disappointing sophomore campaign. Hopefully, Coach Frank’s commitment to play Austin Daye more on the perimeter will foster Daye’s development.

Three Pistons are returning this season after being inked to new contracts.

Rodney Stuckey is returning for three more years. Joe Dumars seems to be banking on Stuckey making more than the incremental progress he’s made thus far. I’m not holding my breath. Stuckey’s a fine player and would make a serviceable backup on a Playoff team. But he hasn’t demonstrated that he’s worth the money he’ll be making in his new contract, and it would take significant improvement in order to do so.

Tayshaun Prince is returning for four more years, and Dumars seems to be banking on Prince discovering the fountain of youth. Prince will be grandfather age in NBA years in the final year of his contract. A slow but consistent decline seems inevitable.

Jonas Jerebko’s new four-year contract is the only off-season acquisition I’m excited about. He’s a useful rotation player at both forward positions, he’s locked up for most of his prime years, he plays like a Piston, and he will be paid fairly for what he produces.

Departing Players

The Pistons lost two useful players in Chris Wilcox and Tracy McGrady. I do not anticipate any Piston guard replacing what was lost in McGrady’s departure, but Jerebko’s return from injury should mitigate the loss of Wilcox.

The key addition by subtraction is Richard Hamilton being bought out of his contract. Rip was one of my favorite players during the last decade of Pistons basketball, but his production and attitude fell of a cliff during the past two seasons. The Pistons are better off with Rip in a Bulls’ uniform (the Bulls might not be, interestingly enough).

New Additions

I would love for Brandon Knight to mimic Greg Monroe as a rookie by producing more as a pro than he did as a collegiate. But while Monroe was an “average” college player, Knight was not a productive player in college, posting numbers below average for his position in several key categories.

Undoubtedly, Knight is talented, he certainly passes the eyeball test, and he could  be a productive point guard eventually. It is likely that PER and EWA will like him a lot more than WP48/WS48 and WP/WS will, though, because he will score his fair share of points (by taking plenty of shots). Knight has a long way to go, and I don’t expect a significant contribution to wins this season.

I don’t expect much, if anything, from Vernon Macklin.

Damien Wilkins was a puzzling addition, given the plethora of perimeter players already employed, but he has posted respectable numbers over the past two seasons. Still, it’s hard to imagine him playing significant minutes, and even if he did, his contribution would be minimal.

Projecting the 2011-2012 Season

By necessity, I’ve done a little bit of educated guessing here with regards to minutes. With a new coach and a 66 game schedule, this obviously won’t be perfect. This year, I decided to branch out and include Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added in my projection.

With regards to production, I’ve allowed for improvement from young players (Monroe, Daye, Stuckey, Jerebko), declines for aging vets (Prince and Wallace), and returns to form for the younger veterans, Gordon and Villanueva across all three metrics.

Brandon Knight is a little harder to get right because he is so young, but based on his college performance, it would take drastic improvement for him to make a significant impact this season.

Unsurprisingly, the metrics disagree about which players will be responsible for the Pistons’ wins. Estimated Wins Added likes points, Wins Produced likes efficient scoring and possession creation, and Win Shares lands somewhere in between.

But they agree that the Pistons won’t be winning a whole lot. We are likely to be cheering this team on to a win total in the mid twenties.

And ultimately, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. A team doesn’t emerge from the lottery to playoff contention by doing the same thing over and over again, year after year.

That’s just crazy.

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**Hopefully, the hyperbole is obvious. I don’t think that anyone in Pistons management is literally insane!

A Wins Produced perspective on Lawrence Frank

It appears as though Joe Dumars and Tom Gores have found the next coach of the Detroit Pistons – Lawrence Frank.

Most recently, Frank is known for leading the New Jersey Nets to the worst start in NBA history. But before falling to such record-breaking lows, Lawrence Frank found significant success in New Jersey.

In what follows, I will briefly examine Frank’s five full seasons with the New Jersey Nets (leaving out the partial seasons of 03-04 and 09-10) through the lens of Wins Produced in hopes of revealing what he might accomplish in Detroit.

For those new to Wins Produced, feel free to check out the Required Reading page for an introduction. As always, we’re powered by Nerd Numbers.

First, some spreadsheets (also available via Google Docs here), then some commentary.

Frank 04-05

Frank 05-06

Frank 06-07

Frank 07-08

Frank 08-09

First, it’s pretty obvious that like all winning coaches, Frank’s success in New Jersey was driven by quality players. When Jefferson, Vinsanity, and Kidd were young, healthy, and productive, Frank looked like a pretty good coach. But when injuries and age started catching up with that core trio, New Jersey struggled to win basketball games.

The clearest example of quality players driving wins in New Jersey is the mid-season trade of Devin Harris for Jason Kidd. Subtract a productive veteran and replace with a middling upstart, and what do you get? Unfortunately for Lawrence Frank, you eventually get to start looking for a new job.

Frank’s story in New Jersey once again demonstrates that first and foremost, winning coaches are a product of winning players, not the other way around.

The obvious implication for Pistons fans is that we don’t have any true star power like Kidd or Carter (yet), so we shouldn’t expect Frank’s coaching prowess to propel us from cellar dweller status.

I make this second comment hesitantly, because work done by Dr. David Berri suggests that very few coach coaches are able to impact the statistical performance of their players significantly. With that necessary qualifier out of the way, Brook Lopez had his most productive season as a rookie under the tutelage of Lawrence Frank. He was a much better rebounder and much more efficient offensive player while being coached by Frank than he has been since.

I’ll be watching Greg Monroe’s stats closely from start to finish next season for this reason.

Finally, and most importantly, Frank has done a pretty good job of playing his most  productive players. Yes, there are some exceptions – Boone and Diop probably deserved more minutes from Frank, and Jianlian’s minutes scare me a bit given that Charlie Villanueva is on the roster – but overall, Frank let his best players carry the bulk of the weight.

Finding a way to accomplish the same thing in Detroit while juggling personalities (and bloated contracts) would be a significant accomplishment in year one of his tenure.

This quick look at Frank’s tenure in Jersey doesn’t reveal anything new or groundbreaking. Coaches that have and play good players tend to win, and as a result, they tend to look like good coaches. Unfortunately, the Pistons aren’t stacked with talent right now, so we shouldn’t expect an immediate run at the playoffs.

However, Frank seems to have an eye for productive talent, and establishing a consistent rotation made up of its best players is something the fans and the franchise sorely need.

Here’s hoping our new coach can make that happen.

Pistons Prospects via Win Score

Preface: I take absolutely no credit for the statistical analysis that follows; only the commentary is original to me. Ty originally posted these numbers here, and it was re-posted at the Wages of Wins Journal here. I’m re-posting these numbers for any Pistons fans who might follow this blog, but not those two others (and if you don’t, start already!).

Bismack Biyombo

We’ll start with Bismack Biyombo, who has become the fan favorite, or at least as far as I can tell by following the blogosphere and social media.

Bismack

On the one hand, Biyombo appears to represent two things the Pistons desperately need: rebounding and interior defense. On the other hand, the stats support the perception that he has very little to offer on the offensive side of the ball. I may get some flack for this, but he just looks more like Junkyard Dog than Ben Wallace to me, and he’s high risk due to uncertainty about his age. A raw eighteen year old who is full of potential posting slightly sub-par numbers looks quite different than a twenty-one year old doing the same.

I’m not opposed to drafting him. I simply worry that he’s not as good as his hype, and the question marks about his age should raise some red flags.

Kemba Walker

In spite of posting better-than-average numbers, the last thing a roster populated by Stuckey, Gordon, and Bynum needs is another under-sized guard whose position is a question mark. I think Kemba will carve out a role somewhere, just not here. I hope.

Kemba

Jonas Valanciunus

As Ty rightly notes, this is a crapshoot. He’s posted some very nice numbers with a small sample size from a league whose numbers don’t always project well to the NBA. At only nineteen, though, he’s certainly worth thinking about if he falls to #8.

Jonas V

Kawhi Leonard

For reasons I can’t quite understand, Leonard is reportedly rising up the Pistons draft board. Even if Prince and McGrady both depart, it seems Daye and Jerebko could man the small forward position for a year. Like Walker, Leonard posted some decent numbers, but he doesn’t seem to fit an obvious need, and his talent isn’t so great that it should demand selecting him.

Leonard

Tristan Thompson

Another projected combo forward in the NBA, but this time with below-average numbers. Pass.

Tristan

The Morris twins (numbers taken from here)

I’m not sure what to make of the Morris twins. Both posted respectable numbers on a powerhouse; however, to the surprise of many, Markieff’s Win Score numbers surpass his brother’s (Markieff, 13.5; Marcus, 11.6). Suddenly, Robin and Brooke come to mind.

Kenneth Faried

While not featured in Ty’s analysis, Faried has been a popular topic among the WoW network. He’s exactly the type of player that critics of Wins Produced like to highlight, because his productivity is directly (although not exclusively) linked to rebounding.

In spite of being older than many of the other big men in the draft, he boasts the highest Win Score (17.2) of any prospect. Because rebounding consistently translates to the NBA, he seems to be a lock as a rotation big man, but he will almost certainly fall out of the lottery. While he won’t fall nearly as far, he seems to be this year’s DeJuan Blair; he is like to drop far enough that an already good team will be able to add another productive and cheap asset.

What to do with the lottery pick?

Obviously, I am not a supporter of drafting any of the below-average big men whose stock is rising due to impressive workouts. I am also opposed to drafting Walker and Leonard at #8 (although to a lesser extent with Leonard, and if trading down is an option, I could be convinced).

Since the draft lottery, I have been an advocate of trading down, and I still prefer that under specific circumstances. If the Pistons can trade down and draft Faried (or maybe Leonard or Markieff) and/or land another asset such as an additional draft pick and/or unload a bad contract, I prefer this scenario. Faried appears to be a low risk, medium reward player. He’s not likely to be the next Marcus Camby or Ben Wallace, but he’s very likely to become a rotation player, and the Pistons can use a cheap, productive big man who can crack the rotation. Considering that our current rotation consists of Monroe, Jerebko, Villanueva, Maxiell, and Wallace, we desperately need help up front.

If trading down for Faried isn’t an option, I can support trading down for one of the other productive players mentioned above, as long as there’s an additional asset involved.

If we stand pat at eight, Biyombo or Jonas V. Both appear to be high risk, high reward players that could develop to fit a need, but the skeptic in me can’t shake the need to temper expectations.