Tag Archives: Ed Davis

Tweaking the Sixth Man of the Year Award

It’s award season in the NBA, helping pass time from now until the playoffs. Personally, I look forward to the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams more than the Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, etc. The five-man teams offer a good look at who the best players were from season to season long after they’re over and its minor details have left our memory. The rest of the awards are fine, but they can mean multiple things to multiple voters. That shows itself each year in the voting results and sometimes, well, things happen.

The Most Valuable Player is an easy example, but I actually wish the Sixth Man of the Year was like that, too. It’s an award given out to the best player who starts under half the games they’ve played in. That’s the only benchmark that needs to be met in order to be eligible for the award, but the trend for who wins has been just as simple. Sixth Man of the Year winners tend to be high-minute, high-scoring, and high-usage players. This might be fine for most fans and voters, but when I think of the Sixth Man of the Year I think of some sort of sacrifice being made, a player thriving in a limited role that could very well be the best situation for him, but also one performed well enough to deserve some sort of promotion. Looking at the voting results, this often applies to players who score a lot of points, but not for the better “gluey” or “energy” guys who find other ways to make positive contributions to their team.

That’s bugged me for a while, and especially during a season where the Jamal Crawfords of the league aren’t doing too hot yet still might get heavy consideration for the Sixth Man of the Year. I’ll admit that not starting can be a big deal on its own despite getting similar levels of minutes, shots, and crunch time appearances. There’s a human element to a player sitting on the bench during the beginning of a game and not having their name announced before it. It’s something I obviously will never grasp from the couch but also because of my comfort level with anything like that kind of attention. A few retweets on Twitter is fun, but anything more is kind of scary. The same goes for a blog post like this getting some views and some feedback, but if it reaches Reddit I become terrified.

But the Crawfords of the league will still put up a ton of shots, typically play starter-level minutes which boost their point totals, and for better or for worse they might play in crunch time. Not every professional basketball player can play a role like Crawford, but not everyone can contribute across the board either, and this year the latter deserves to finally get more recognition, but I doubt it’ll happen. Year after year, points per game seems to overpower any other statistic when it’s an unfair way to measure most reserves.

So I hope a few suggestions for the Sixth Man of the Year help. Also, it has to be said that I have an irrational love for multi-positional players who don’t shoot a ton, and some of these players expend too much energy to log 30-plus minutes. Anyway, I’m hoping the first suggestion becomes more of a benchmark for the Sixth Man of the Year…

24 Minutes Per Game or Less

Using per game stats feels gross, but minutes per game still carries value and is especially useful during award season. For this award, though, it wouldn’t hurt to go the other way around. Instead of the requirement being starting less than half of the games, what if it was changed to playing less than half of the game? It’s a very simple cutoff, one that evens the playing field for starters who don’t log a ton of playing time.

For example, below is a look at Amar’e Stoudemire and Hassan Whiteside from February 3 to April 4. Try to ignore who’s started during the last couple months and decide who really is the reserve, or sixth man:

amare and hassan

This season is something of an outlier for situations like Stoudemire and Whiteside. 34 players have started over half their games while averaging under 24 minutes per, minimum 10 games played. That’s the highest amount in a season since 2006-07, around 10 more than any of those seasons except the lockout-shorted 2011-12. Meanwhile, 32 players who have started in less than half their games are averaging more than 24 minutes per.

If the 24 minutes per game ceiling made starters eligible for this award, they could pretty much replace the bench players who become disqualified.

So how would the Sixth Man of the Year race look if there was a 24 minutes per game ceiling? Below is a look at who the top candidates would be if this change was made, sorted by VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), via Basketball-Reference:

24 mpg

Not a bad group of players. When looking at VORP, the winner here is Nikola Jokic. When filtering out starters, the top player is Ed Davis. Both tables feature players who are solid but for health, age, or depth reasons have not cleared the 24-minute mark. Of course, this is only one statistic to measure by, but I’ve enjoyed fiddling around with it lately and it sounds cool, the latter reason about as good of a reason to judge a player by as points per game. Maybe. (This often seems so true for whenever Win Shares makes an appearance. It’s a darn good name for a stat.)

Going back in time, this minute benchmark would alter several Sixth Man Awards. Since 1983, only three averaged under 24 minutes per game: Bobby Jones, Bill Walton, and Corliss Williamson in 1983, 1986, and 2002. Here are links to the top players in VORP regardless of their frequency of starting games and a link filtering out players who started over half of their games.

Take Crunch Time Minutes Into Account

Just something to consider, but this could go either way in helping or hurting a player. Andre Iguodala, for example, may be penalized missing a decent chunk of games. Should he also be penalized for being a part of the Warriors’ death lineup or should that give him a boost? Is not starting as big of a deal as not being on the floor for the final minutes of a close game? Should players who neither start nor play in crunch time be given a boost or downgraded? What is life?

From the couch, it’s silly enough to decide what is sacrificing and what isn’t and it’s just as bad to decide which is more important for an NBA player between starting and finishing a game. My flaming hot take is that they both carry weight, but it seems like fans remember games and players by what happened during high-leverage moments at the end of games compared to how they started. There’s sacrifice when it comes to being fine with not starting, but it’s probably less of an issue if it means participating in crunch time. Especially in a contract year.

Dividing a player’s crunch time minutes (up or down by five or less points with five or less minutes remaining in a game) by a team’s total crunch time minutes is easy to find with players who have played in every game, but it’s kind of a hassle, at least for me, to calculate how many minutes a player like Manu Ginobili who get banged up or have frequent DNP-NAPs. So for this, I only took six eligible players who are at least something of a contender for the Sixth Man of the Year, whether it feels right or not. I also let the 24-minute filter slide because there are only so many players who have played close to 100 percent of the season so far, and only so many who happen to play less than half of the game and/or start less than half of their games. Crunch minutes are from NBA.com:

clutch

So maybe this graphic helps Enes Kanter, who does what he can without starting games or finishing them, but it hurts him because there are legitimate reasons for why he shouldn’t be on the floor against opposing closing lineups. It could go either way for him. Who knows? Just something to consider going forward.

Below-Average Usage

My last thing to consider is usage rate, but it’s probably a bit much. I only threw this out there, though, because points per game seems to be the biggest component of who wins the Sixth Man of the Year. Below is a look at players eligible for Sixth Man of the Year with below-average usage rates, and then another top 10 when applying just a 24-minute-per-game filter. Again, sorted by VORP:

usage

This all might be a collection of hot takes, and everyone is more than welcome to jump through their laptops and tell me to stahp and especially after writing the word “sacrifice” multiple times, but really I just hope for a better mix of players who make their way to the top of the Sixth Man each year. The key suggestion of 24 minutes per game or less would do just that. It might even be over the top, tilting things in favor of some players who can only be effective in so many minutes before they’re gassed, but we can fiddle with a minute ceiling. The bottom line is that it’s not just players who take a ton of shots who excel off the bench.

A player who fits well with all I’ve mentioned is Ed Davis. He doesn’t boost his stats by playing a starter’s amount of minutes, doesn’t log a whole lot of his minutes in crunch time (for better or for worse), and is a low-usage player who has found other ways to contribute while on the floor. It’s a weird year for the Sixth Man of the Year as Jamal Crawford hasn’t been his complete self, so hopefully that opens the door for Davis to get some votes that, in the past, haven’t really been there for reserves like him.

All stats are as of April 4, 2016.

Advertisements

Dream Team #3 within the salary cap, Part 2–Bench

zzzzzzzz

This is part 2 of my dream team series and now my most pointless off-season post. That is, until the next post is published, and then the one after that, and…(for part 1, click here)

It’s a two-part series dedicated to the bi-annual construction of a team that doesn’t even exist (you can view past ridiculous squads here and here). I try to mix talent with cap-friendliness since I can’t go over the salary cap for any reason. This year, that limit is $63.065 million. All contracts are fair game, save for rookie deals. From there, I try to make the best roster to my limited abilities. This post covers the reserves. Below is a quick look at the starters I selected. You can find more regarding them in part 1:

The starters combined for $49,397,823 which left $13,667,177 for the last seven players. That’s an average cap hit of $1,952,453 for each slot. Not great, not terrible. We can still splurge on a player who’s on a good, $5-9 million contract, and fill the rest of the bench with minimum deals.

So let’s get started. As a reminder, all cap hits are according to Spotrac.com. Shot charts are from Nylon Calculus.

#6: Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

  • Cap hit: $7,500,000

dragic 2014

I was lost on who to select. It felt mandatory to take Greg Monroe because of his qualifying offer, but I’m not sure a small ball center was best. Kyle Korver was another tempting player and I love his game, but he felt redundant with Dirk and Curry, Channing Frye would’ve made for some fun combos as a stretch-5, Wesley Matthews would’ve started but the extra few million impacted the options for this slot, and a few others were intriguing. For the sixth man I felt like I mashed buttons, clicked and prayed.

I settled with Goran Dragic. Mike Conley was another guard considered but, well, I don’t know.

Two words to describe Dragic, though, are electrifying and fearless, challenging behemoths at the rim even LeBron would shy from. Check out a couple of these moves against the Pacers:

Imagine the pick-and-roll with either Nowitzki or LeBron after being so good with Channing Frye. Dragic is also one of the best shooters in both pull-up and catch-and-shoot situations. Just look at his shot chart overall. It’s so nice and balanced. He finished 2014 with a true shooting percentage over 60%, a rarity for a 20+ points per game guard with above-average usage.

Is that all coming back in 2015? The threes concern me the most. In 2012 and 2013, Dragic shot a combined 32.6% off 478 three-point attempts, and the spike in 2014 was aided by a higher dose of attempts from the corners. Only 18 guards, 6’4″ or smaller, have finished two seasons shooting 40% from 3 with a usage rate over 20%, so that doesn’t help, but plenty of great point guards have cleared those arbitrary benchmarks only once. It’s not terrible to decline to, like, 37%.

As you can see, though, I’m still talking myself out of this selection, and it’s weird that Dragic is coming off the freakin’ bench. It’s possible he’d in crunch time lineups. In part 1, I projected how many points the starters would score per 100 possessions, but let’s see what could happen if we plug in Dragic.

dragic lineups1dragic lineups2

As explained in part 1, a study by Eli Witus years ago showed that a lineups’ offensive rating increases by .25 points/100 possessions when it has to decrease it’s usage 1%, and vice versa. Depending on the 5-man unit featuring Dragic, it made for projected ratings of 126.5 and 124.6. Both ratings are higher than the 122.9 points/100 possessions for the starting lineup.

Using Neil Paine’s model that combines not just Witus’ but Dean Oliver‘s work, let’s see how these lineups perform when adjusting for all the high-usage players (again, for further explanation, check out part 1). Here’s what they look like when shifting usage proportionally:

projected1 projected2

And now optimizing for the best projected points per 100 possessions:

optimized1 optimized2

Not quite the results expected from Witus’ study alone, but still 120+ points per 100, so, that’s okay. Danny Green’s offensive rating means he disappears when fiddling with usage, and hurts the bottom line of these units. I didn’t project numbers for any other 5-man combos.

Player #7: Shawn Marion, Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Cap hit: $915,243

marion 2014

I may or may not be depressed Marion is 36 years old. It makes this something of a gamble even on a minimum contract. I’m using a roster spot on him, after all.

Al-Farouq Aminu was available and offers rebounding, but on my imaginary team I’d rather take the guy proven to also make a corner 3 and fit in right away. Maybe that’s why Cleveland went with Marion too. Should his defense slide, that’s an issue, but this roster doesn’t need him to turn back the clock.

Player #8: Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets

  • Cap hit: $915,243

bevs 2014

A bit weird to select both Dragic and Beverley, but I’m not too confident Beverley can hound point guards for 31 minutes like last season, so he’s going to be turbo-charged for like 20, or something. He’ll be a pest off the bench during the season, playoffs, and even the pre-season. Remember this?

Like Green and LeBron, he’s a one-man wrecking crew versus fast breaks.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Houston Rockets, but Beverley alone makes them watchable. Below are two places, either games or eras, where I wish we’d see him play:

  • The ‘90s. Beverley may not be the tallest, strongest, or greatest point guard, but can you imagine him playing defense with the freedom defenders once had?
  • All-star games. If voted in, I could see Beverley sucking the the fun out of next year’s festivities.

Offensively, Beverley is all right. Low-usage, high-efficiency, league-average 3PT%, and below-average finishing but the mid-50% around the rim isn’t terrible. His defense certainly propels him into a rotation.

Player #9: Troy Daniels, Houston Rockets

  • Cap hit: $816,482

daniels 2014

Like Beverley, Daniels is a role player who should make the Rockets entertaining. I look forward to seeing what kind of looks Harden gives him with two seconds left on the shot clock.

Undrafted with only five NBA games (shot chart is from the D-League), Daniels is still a solid candidate to become one of the best shooters. In the D-League, he attempted 12.5 threes PER GAME and made 40% of them. Even the ‘meh’ areas in his chart look good. When he and Curry are on the floor, either on my fake team or against each other in real life, threes will be hoisted and fire will be made.

My backcourt is crowded. Finding minutes for Daniels will be tricky. Now to forwards and rim protectors:

Player #10: Cole Aldrich, New York Knicks

  • Cap hit: $915,243

Cole  Aldrich 2014

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’ll admit Aldrich wasn’t so terrible as a backup for the Knicks.

When looking at per-36 numbers, Aldrich cracks the top 20 in Seth Partnow’s rim protection stats. He also grabs defensive rebounds like crazy, snatching 33.8% of all missed field goals while on the floor, and he blocked 4.8 shots per 100 possessions all while not looking like the hack he was in previous seasons with Oklahoma City, Houston, and Sacramento. He finished 2014 with a PER of 19.1.

The problem is that he’s rarely played, only logging 1,033 minutes over four seasons. In 2014, a good load of it was in garbage time versus fringe-rotation players. 60% of his 330 total minutes came in the fourth quarter and 70% while up or behind by double-digits, per NBA.com. Hopefully the Knicks take a closer look at what they might have in Aldrich, but if he wants to converse with Jose Calderon about human ham, that’s fine too. I selected another potential rim protector in case that happens.

Player #11: Ed Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

  • Cap hit: $981,084

ed davis 2014

The Lakers and their pull when it comes to minimum deals continues, as Davis is a nice third big deserving of a larger check. Hopefully he doesn’t get buried behind Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, and Julius Randle. The Lakers’ frontline is quite crowded.

Like Aldrich, Davis was a lottery pick in the 2010 Draft and probably expected to be a larger contributor by now, but let’s not confuse the two. He has a career sample size 5x as large and just barely missed 1,000 minutes with an OREB% and DREB% of 10 and 20, respectively. He’s long and rangy, an active defender, though with more important minutes under his belt he doesn’t hold up well in the same rim protection stats as Aldrich. His build also means he gets pushed around, but it also helps him move well for someone in that 6’10”-6’11″ish range.

Playing Davis with LeBron, Beverley, and either Lopez or Marion would be interesting defensively.

Player #12: Jon Leuer-Durant-Chamberlain-Jordan***, Memphis Grizzlies

Cap hit: $967,500

Leuer 2014

Saving the best for last, Leuer is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. He’s Memphis’ Kevin Durant, only better. Unfortunately, Leuer took only 49 threes last season, and defensively he doesn’t look too hot in a few all-in-one metrics. Hopefully he’ll be more consistent next year. Up to this point he’s played just 123 games and 1,384 minutes. Leuer needs to stop screwing around and take over the league already.

***This was a lame attempt to get Jon Leuer a nickname on Basketball-Reference.

So there’s my 12-man squad. Below is a similar stat summary as in part 1, but with all the players. Click to enlarge because holy hell that looks blurry.

team overlay

Among other things, this is an efficient scoring bunch. Those that take more than a few mid-range shots (Curry, Nowitzki, LeBron) are either good to great at them. Also, look at Daniels’ secondary percentage. It’s from the D-League, sure, but that would flirt with the best marks in NBA history.

As for defensive metrics, they don’t look too bad for this team. It’s kind of embarrassing where Leuer ranks among the league, though, and all of my backup bigs are hacky. Walking fouls, literally.

Below is a breakdown of player salaries and how close I came to the cap:

team salary

The total salary of my roster left me with over $650,000. I spent $100,000 on a lifetime supply of waffles and used the rest to sign a 13th man. Like Leuer, the player I chose is a legend in the making:

Player #13: Sim Bhullar, Sacramento Kings

  • Cap hit: $507,336
embiid chart

Projected shot chart

This team would rule planet earth.

Honorable mentions:

Center: Pau Gasol, Omer Asik, and Channing Frye.

Power Forward: Nick Collison, Amir Johnson, Ryan Anderson, Greg Monroe, and Jeff Adrien.

Small Forward: Richard Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kyle Korver, and Vince Carter. 

Shooting Guard: Arron Afflalo, Leandro Barbosa, Francisco Garcia, Alan Anderson, Wes Matthews, and Jamal Crawford.

Point Guard: Jose Calderon, C.J. Watson, Pablo Prigioni, Mike Conley, Jameer Nelson, and Qualifying Offer Eric Bledsoe

And any others who flew over my head.

%d bloggers like this: