Statistical Test: Correlating VORP and NBA Team Wins

Back in May, I examined the contributions of “replacement-level” NBA players, those guys with 0.1 either side of zero VORP, and in the process tried to figure out what an entire team of those guys or their presumed G-League “replacement player” equivalents would do over the course of a season. And in that effort, I took a six-team sample size from a cross-section of NBA competence to determine a formula: Wins (per 82 games) = (2.15*aggregate VORP)+19. But it occurs to me that I can do better than just taking a sample, shoehorning a little back-of-the-envelope math into it, and …

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The LeBron-Davis Lakers’ Death Lineup Scares Nobody

Sometimes, in the wonderful world of NBA Twitter, you see something so brain-explodingly silly that all you can do is laugh your little head off at it. Like this tweet from Magic Johnson, for example: Laker Nation, I’m dreaming about the 4th quarter Lakers team with LeBron, AD, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, and Kyle Kuzma. That’s almost unbeatable! — Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) July 8, 2019 Magic asserts that a fourth-quarter lineup of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, and Kyle Kuzma is “unbeatable”. I mean, the joke writes itself, doesn’t it? But OK, Magic, I’m a man …

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Jason Collins and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Season

Jason Collins was one of the greatest defensive players ever to take the floor in an NBA game, a perpetual stay-away shutdown guy who wasn’t a great rebounder, wasn’t a great shotblocker, and put up cover-your-eyes box score stats but who continually altered opposing game plans by going full “you shall not pass” Gandalf on walling off the restricted area. In that sense, he was like a great NFL defensive back who doesn’t get a lot of pass deflections or interceptions for the sole reason that quarterbacks are terrified to throw the ball to his side of the field; guys …

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Terrible Contracts: The Worst NBA Team Money Can Buy

When the discussion comes up about who in the NBA has the worst contract, the discussion often turns to guys like Chris Paul and John Wall, aging superstars with supermax contracts who can’t stay on the floor and who cost their teams millions on top of millions to effectively pay a guy to spend more time on the bench during the game than an assistant coach. But when Paul and Wall are out on the floor, they’re actually good. When they’re effective, Rockets and Wizards fans start dreaming of big things until they get hurt again and those dreams are …

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How Much Value Do G-League Replacement Players Have?

One of the most useful catch-all stats in the advanced statistician’s playbook is VORP, Value Over Replacement Player. Like WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in baseball, VORP distills the value of a player’s entire offensive and defensive contribution on the floor to one number, defined by Basketball Reference as “A box score estimate of the points per 100 TEAM possessions that a player contributed above a replacement-level (-2.0) player, translated to an average team and prorated to an 82-game season.” Very long story very short, this means that a team full of replacement players would post a -5.4 net rating, and …

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How Much Do High-Volume, Low-Efficiency Shooters Hurt NBA Teams?

In the NBA, there’s a certain class of scorer who puts up monumental counting stats but isn’t actually any good. You know the type. The guy who scores 30 points on 30 shots while his team loses by 20. The guy who’s as likely to shoot you out of a game as into it—as Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard once said of Lance Stephenson, “some nights he was the best player on our team and other nights he was the best player on the other team.” Guys like Josh Smith, Allen Iverson, and Jerry Stackhouse in the old days and guys …

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Do Triple-Doubles Lead to NBA Wins?

Earlier in the season, we looked at the strange tendency for 50-point games to come in losses and put forth some thoughts related to whether individual stat-chasing might ultimately hurt team basketball. But nobody’s arguing that players should put the ball in the basket less. If scoring 50 points is what it takes to get the win, just ask the Golden State Warriors how Game 6 went against the Clippers when Kevin Durant did it. But the triple-double, that’s thornier territory. After all, if triple-doubles were the biggest contributing factor to wins, Russell Westbrook would have so many NBA Finals …

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What if 2-Pointers Were Worth 3 and 3-Pointers Worth 4 in Basketball?

Longtime readers of this site back when we were on the old server (I will forever grit my teeth in anger at our previous host losing all our content from 2015-16 and making the stuff from 2016-17 all but impossible to search; that’s why this site migrated to a WordPress server in 2017, but that’s a story for another day…) Anyway, I wrote a piece suggesting that we turn 2-pointers into threes and 3-pointers into fours in an effort to mitigate the spread in eFG% that comes with one shot from farther away from the basket being worth fully 50 …

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Which Advanced Stats, by Themselves, Create the Best NBA GOAT Lists?

Welcome to part 2 of Project Goliath. In our last edition, we took a look at classic NBA counting stats and determined that any set of stats that criminally underrates Michael Jordan and doesn’t do much better with LeBron James cannot be a true metric of “one stat to rule them all.” So it’s time to go back to our old friend the Basketball Reference Play Index, and this time, we’re going to take every NBA player who ever played 820 games (10 full seasons’ worth; to give you an idea, Larry Bird played 897, Magic Johnson played 906, and …

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How Well Do Old-School Counting Stats Create NBA GOAT Lists?

Welcome to Project Goliath, the ultimate statistical test to take just about every stat you can dream up, traditional and advanced, and use them to see which stat (or combination of stats) produces the most reliable lists of the greatest NBA players of all time. Because let’s face it. We know all-time greats when we see them. A stat that leaves Michael Jordan off the list is obviously going to be either a garbage stat or else slanted too far away from shooting guards to be worth comparisons across positions. Likewise, a stat that leaves out Hakeem Olajuwon or Tim …

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