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.

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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.

 

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.

In Defense of Starting Tracy McGrady… sort of

After five consecutive DNP-CD’s, Tracy McGrady was re-inserted into the starting lineup last night against the Spurs. Admittedly, this was surprising given the recent “mutiny,” as well as the strong play of Rodney Stuckey of late.

Less surprisingly, McGrady stepped up as he has done all season and performed wonderfully, filling up the stat sheet and posting a .390 WP48. Stuckey, on the other hand, struggled mightily to get anything going and was a non-factor at best.

More than one Pistons blog questions this coaching decision, and there are some very fair points in those critiques. Kuester is certainly grasping at straws, and it all feels a bit desperate. Further, it seems increasingly unlikely that McGrady will remain with the Pistons beyond this season, and it seems increasingly likely that Stuckey will.

I don’t disagree that Kuester’s almost constant juggling of the rotation is confusing for both players and fans.

However, the Wins Produced numbers suggest that Tracy McGrady has been the most productive Piston this season (followed closely by the ever-improving rookie, Greg Monroe), and my sense is that for many fans, this isn’t at all surprising. This time at least, Wins Produced might just pass the smell test of even the most skeptical fan.

If it’s the coach’s job to play the players that give the team the best chance of winning, then playing Tracy McGrady big minutes is Kuester’s best bet. For that reason, I am in full support of Tracy McGrady as the starting point guard for the rest of the season.

2011-03-10

The flip side of the coin as it relates to the demoted Stuckey, though, is that Stuckey has clearly been the best Piston guard not named Tracy McGrady – especially lately. And while I still think we may be better off parting ways with Stuckey this summer, it doesn’t make any sense to relegate him to fourth guard in the rotation. None at all. (Yes, even if Rip finally had a good game.)

So kudos (I guess?), Coach Kuester, for making the obvious decision to get McGrady minutes. Next time, though, maybe it’s better to find those minutes somewhere else.

Win Score Through Three Games

The Detroit Pistons are off to a rough start. They’ve managed to lose their first three games, which seems to be a continuation of last season. To play devil’s advocate, however, each of the first three games seemed well in hand late in each ball game. So have the Pistons improved, and thus are the three losses a fluke? Or, are we destined to repeat last season all over again and find ourselves out of the Playoffs with a high lottery pick?

Obviously, our sample size is incredibly small, so our judgments at this point are tentative and preliminary. Furthermore, I’ve opted to use Win Score for this post – the simplest metric in the Wins Produced family. (As an aside, I’ve opted for this metric mainly befacuse I haven’t yet determined a quick and accurate way to generate Wins Produced and WP48 until the Automated Wins Produced site is current.)

Still, the numbers still may tell a story.

Win Score 2010-2011 - Google Chrome_2010-10-31_11-55-58

To put these numbers in context, here are average Win Scores by position from 1993-2005.

Win Score by Position - Google Docs - Google Chrome_2010-10-31_13-21-50

A few obvious things jump out.

First, Rodney Stuckey is playing good basketball, perhaps the best overall stretch of his career. Looking at his box score statistics, we can see that his turnovers are down, his assists are up, and his shooting percentage is up – which are all reflected in an increased Win Score overall. Again, the sample is small, but in conjunction with good preseason numbers, I’m hopeful that Stuckey is turning a corner in his career.

Ben Gordon is playing below-average basketball for his position? Unfortunately, that is what the numbers suggest. In spite of shooting a blistering percentage from the field, Gordon isn’t doing much else other than shoot, and as a result, he’s not helping the team win as much as his scoring and shooting percentage suggests.

Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace are off to slow starts. Both of these players played solid basketball last season. Ben Wallace in particular was producing at a borderline star level. But both have stumbled out of the gate, posting poor shooting percentages, and for Prince at least, poor rebounding numbers.

Is Rip washed up? According to the Automated Wins Produced numbers, Rip actually produced in the negative range last season, and unfortunately for Pistons fans, he appears to be carrying that trend forward into this season. He is shooting the ball very poorly, and he’s not doing much other than taking shots.

Thus far, Austin Daye’s stellar preseason hasn’t continued in the regular season, and Charlie V has yet to offer anything other than shot attempts. And Greg Monroe – touted by the organization as a big man ready to contribute – has barely gotten off the bench.

In sum, the numbers seem to suggest that thus far, the Pistons have earned all three losses, and poor shooting and poor rebounding seem to be the main culprits – both of which are obvious carry-overs from last season which were not addressed at the roster level this offseason. If they remain problematic – and barring personnel changes, it would appear that they will – our 0-3 start might be a bad omen for the next 79 games.