Thought Experiment: Could a starting five of former Pistons make the Playoffs in the East?

Patrick Hayes of PistonPowered offered an interesting thought today. In short, he wonders if several former Piston players could be assembled into a starting five that could make the Playoffs out East.

His five players:

  • Chauncey Billups
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Carlos Delfino
  • Amir Johnson
  • Darko Milicic

His conclusion, based on Win Shares:

That lineup has produced 4.2 total Win Shares. League average for most common starting fives used by each NBA team is 5.9 Win Shares, so this hypothetical group of starters currently would be 23rd in the league in that department. Not good, although they are better than the Pistons most common starting five, which has 3.1 combined Win Shares.

Not surprisingly, I thought it would be interesting to put this starting five to the test via WP48 and Wins Produced. The following tables illustrate what each player produced in 2009-2010 and what each has produced thus far in 2010-2011:

Microsoft Excel - Thought Experiment 2

Microsoft Excel - Thought Experiment 1

So to sum up, in 09-10, this collection of players combined to produce 28 wins. In case you forgot, the Pistons won 27 games collectively last season.

However, it’s still very early in the 10-11 season, and it wouldn’t be wise to project an entire season on these numbers (Although Arturo Galletti might have something to say about that).

So, I attempted to project what these players might be expected to produce over 82 games based on age and recent performance. In short, I examined the past several years of WP48 and Wins Produced data and attempted to project what these five players might produce over 82 games. In short, I used their current minutes per game as a baseline for minutes played, assumed health for 82 games, and projected a slight decline for older players and a slight improvement for Afflalo.

The following table reflects that projection, along with each player’s salary, to throw fuel on the fire:

Microsoft Excel - Thought Experiment 3

Interesting. For just shy of $28 million, the Pistons could employ a starting five that projects to win more games than the entire team produced last season.

But, that quintuplet includes the notoriously unproductive Darko Milicic. Fortunately, we need not include him, because the San Antonio Spurs employ another former Piston who remains productive even in old age – I like to refer to him as San Antonio, or Saint Antonio.

He just looks better in Piston red, white, and blue, doesn’t he?

If we swap Dyess for Darko, what might we get?

Microsoft Excel - Thought Experiment 5

Wow. These five former Pistons who will make shy of $28.5 million as a group project to win roughly the same amount of games that I (somewhat optimistically) predicted the 2010-2011 Pistons would win as a whole. For context, Rip and Ben Gordon will make somewhere around $22 million combined, depending on which numbers one uses. Wow, just … wow. And it’s not as if these players departures were beyond Joe’s control – all of these players could have been retained relatively easily (perhaps not Delfino, I suppose).

This didn’t start off as a “Fire Dumars!!1111” post, and I don’t intend it to be that… then again, maybe I do. I’m not entirely sure. Regardless, it does sort of raise the question, doesn’t it?

Or, perhaps this is merely hindsight bias from a disgruntled fan. Either way, I found it extremely interesting – hopefully, it is for other Pistons fans as well.

8 thoughts on “Thought Experiment: Could a starting five of former Pistons make the Playoffs in the East?

  1. I think you have to use Mike Goodmans eWins or something like it if you want to transform winshares to team wins in a proper way.

    Nice post anyway.

  2. I was thrilled to see you comment on Patrick’s post and was excited to see your analysis. Half-way through your post, I thought to myself, “it’d be interesting to see this post-Pistons team’s salaries tied to this production”. Then you did so in the next paragraph 🙂

    Nicely done, Benjamin, this and Patrick’s articles are easily amongst the best of the month in Piston-dom.

  3. Can you do the same thing with former Jazz or former Bulls or former Team X? I’m not sure the work involved but it looks like you’ve hit upon a good metric for measuring GM performance. I’m not sure it’s an apples to apples comparison with salary and win shares because if the players that got dealt produced at that level in Detroit they would have cost more but it’s still a great tool to evaluate GMs roster skills outside the draft.

    Maybe you could post your process and methodology on DBB and we could make it a group project to do the entire league.

    • It’s possible to do this using the Automated Wins Produced numbers as far back as those numbers go. It certainly is an interesting tool to use as one piece of GM evaluation.

      The hardest part of the process is trying to make educated guesses about players like Billups and AA. The former is aging, and age is affecting his play. The latter is young and improving, but it’s hard to say how much.

  4. Pingback: The Outside World – 12/3/10 | Pickin' Splinters

  5. Pingback: Around the WOW ( as of 12/05/2010) « Arturo's Silly Little Stats

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