Saturday, October 30, 2010

No Prestige: Miami Heat Expose Dwight Howard and Orlando Magic As Illusions In 26-Point Blowout

This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's boxscore statistics contributed to their team's performance.  An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (EWP48), a star player produces 0.200+ EWP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ EWP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

Game Recap
Whenever you heard a radio/TV analyst talk about the Miami Heat, they always said that a team like Orlando could beat them because Miami doesn't have enough size in the middle to stop Dwight Howard.  The Howard argument is a cute magic trick haters liked to use before the Heat destroyed the Orlando Magic 96-70 in their home-opener at American Airlines Arena.

The problem with the Howard argument is that it wasn't a complete magic trick. It only had two of the three parts every great magic trick needs.  It had the first part, 'The Pledge', where the magician shows you something ordinary.  In this case, haters presented Howard, whose post-game was completely ordinary last season and his play against the Heat was no more than average.

The Howard argument also had the second part of every great magic trick, 'The Turn', where the ordinary does something extraordinary. With this trick, there were several turns - 1) the marketing video of Howard working on post moves with Hakeem Olajuwon on youtube; 2) the blowout of the Washington Wizards in the Magic home-opener; and 3) the 19 points Howard scored in the first half against Miami. Despite trailing by six points at the half, 'The Turn' probably had Magic fans and Heat haters feeling pretty good about themselves.

And that's when the Howard magic trick stopped working - after 'The Turn.'  The third part of every great magic trick is 'The Prestige', which is the hardest part.  As I mentioned in the recap of the win over the Sixers, the Heat have been killing teams in the third quarter. After two games against the Celtics and Sixers, the Heat had outscored opponents by 27 points in the third quarter. The Heat opened the third quarter with a 14-0 run and outscored the Magic by 18 points entering the fourth quarter.

Howard scored no points in the third quarter (or the fourth quarter). In the first half (during 'The Turn'), he was dominant and produced an estimated 0.612 wins per 48 minutes.  In five minutes of playing time in the third quarter he was feeble with one missed shot, one turnover, three fouls and an estimated -1.252 WP48.  No Prestige for Howard.

The Heat, on the other hand, had plenty for the third part of the game. Miami has produced 59% of their wins  (1.2) in third quarters so far.  Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, LeBron James and Eddie House brought 'The Prestige' against the Magic in the third quarter of last night's game. The list below shows how those players performed in the third quarter.

Dwyane Wade - 10.9 minutes, 0.933 EWP48, 0.212 EWP
Udonis Haslem - 6.7 minutes, 0.996 EWP48, 0.139 EWP
LeBron James - 7.4 minutes, 0.855 EWP48, 0.132 EWP
Eddie House - 4.6 minutes, 0.567 EWP48, 0.054 EWP

In the third quarter alone, those four players provided 49% of the Heat's wins produced for the game.  The figure below contains the Wins Produced analysis of the game's boxscore (the top two players and worst player for each team are highlighted). You can also view an easier-to-read version at Google Docs by clicking on the spreadsheet labeled MAGIC-102910.

The Big Picture
Chris Bosh had his third consecutive great first quarter (0.703 EWP48) only to get worse in every quarter afterwards - 0.050 EWP48 in second quarter, -0.176 EWP48 in third quarter and -0.114 EWP48 in the fourth quarter.  Wade had his third straight, bad first quarter.  I don't know why he starts every game off poorly and Bosh doesn't.

The most productive player for the Heat was Carlos Arroyo with 0.445 EWP48 and 0.232 EWP in the game.  By themselves, his original boxscore numbers don't look that impressive but when you compare them to Orlando's guards, then they stand out.  Jameer Nelson and Chris Duhon produced an estimated -0.111 wins at point guard for the Magic during the game.

The most productive players for the Magic were reserves Ryan Anderson (0.447 EWP48) and Marcin Gortat (0.802 EWP48), who only played 11.8% of the minutes available for Orlando.  Rashard Lewis played the worst game of any Heat opponent so far with a truly mind-boggling -0.875 EWP48 and -0.452 EWP.  He missed every shot he took and committed three turnovers before fouling out.  He almost single-handedly lost the game for Orlando.

The Bigger Picture
After three games, Dwyane Wade leads Miami in "Heat Produced" with an estimated 0.417 wins produced and 0.189 EWP48.  Wade has been above average in scoring volume, rebounding, steals, blocked shots and assists and below average in shooting efficiency, turnovers and personal fouls.

Udonis Haslem leads the team in productivity on a per-minute basis with 0.254 EWP48, the highest among all players in Coach Erik Spoelstra's nine-man rotation.  Haslem is averaging 19.6 rebounds per 48 minutes.

The spreadsheet below lists the Wins Produced by each member of the Heat at this point in the season. You can also view a an easier-to-read version at Google Docs by clicking on the spreadsheet labeled 2011-REG-SEASON-SUMMARY.

The least productive players in the rotation so far have been Joel Anthony (0.017 EWP48, 0.02 EWP) and reigning, back-to-back MVP LeBron James (0.020 EWP48, 0.046 EWP).  With LeBron's uncharacteristically low production so far, the Heat are only on pace to win 54 games.  If everyone else's production this season so far stayed the same, and LeBron played at the level he was at last year (0.429 WP48), then the Heat would be undefeated and on pace to go 81-1.

The future for the Heat looks bright indeed.

Unless referenced otherwise, original game data used for this post was taken from and

Heat Streak: How Many Games Can The Miami Heat Win In A Row?

After beating the snot out of the Orlando Magic 96-70, the Miami Heat have their first winning streak of the season.  This summer, Jeff Van Gundy made the following prediction about the Miami Heat:

"They will break the single-season win record [of 72]," Jeff Van Gundy said. "And I think they have a legit shot at the Lakers' 33-game [winning] streak [in 1971-72], as well."

Read more:

I've already covered whether or not the Heat can win 72 games, so the next question is - how many games can they win in a row?  I really didn't care about the 33-game winning streak, but a post at Hot Hot Hoops on various gambling options for the Miami Heat available from Bodog got me interested.  One of the prop bets you can make is, "What will be the Miami Heat’s Longest Win Streak of the Regular Season?"  The over/under for that bet is 12.5.  I'm not a gambler, but that number appeared to be too low and I decided to investigate.

Thanks to Arturo Galletti, the James Brown of WoW Journalists, I have a handy tool to help me with this investigation.  Arturo came up with a formula for calculating the probability of a team winning a single game.  This formula can use a team's Wins Produced per 48 minutes statistic (WP48) or winning percentage.  For simplicity's sake, I used winning percentage based on the Bodog over/under for each team's regular season record.

Here's Arturo's formula:  

Probability of Winning at Home = [Heat winning percentage] - [opponent winning percentage] + 0.606

Probability of Winning on Road = [Heat winning percentage] - [opponent winning percentage] + 0.394

The Bodog over/under for the Miami Heat's record this season is 64.5 wins, which would give them a 0.793 winning percentage.  With a winning percentage that high, the Heat would only have a 50% chance or more of losing at home if they were facing a team with an over/under of 72.5.  That team doesn't exist.  The Heat have the highest over/under on Bodog's website, so they'll have a better than 50% chance of winning every home game.

The Heat will only have a 50% chance or less of winning on the road when they face a team with an over/under of 55.5.  That only leaves two teams - the Lakers and Magic. I added the Celtics (their Bodog over/under is 54.5) since the Heat already lost to them on the road and they have a puncher's shot with a 48% chance of beating Miami in Boston.

Now that I know where the potholes are in the schedule (games in Orlando, Boston and Los Angeles against the Lakers) I can figure out how many games they'll be favored to win in a row.

First Look
Taking a look at the schedule, they should be the favorites 13 games in a row heading to Orlando on November 24th, 15 in a row heading to LA on Christmas Day, 16 in a row heading to ORL on February 3rd and 28 games in a row after they visit Boston on February 13th.  

Four shots to win 13 in a row? I like those odds!  However, I don't like the odds of winning more than 33 games in a row.  There are four potholes in the schedule that would make me too nervous to take a bet on the Heat winning 34 games in a row.  Unless they beat the Magic on February 3rd and the Celtics on February 13th.  If they manage to do that, then I think 34 wins in a row is a possibility.

Second Look: Less Risk, Less Opportunity
Someone more risk-averse might want to see what the Heat's chances are when they only have a 60% chance or higher of winning each game, so let's do it that way, too.  The Heat would have a 60% chance or less of winning any game on the road against a team with an over/under of 47.5.  That expands the number of potholes from three teams to nine teams - Celtics, Mavericks, Rockets, Lakers, Thunder, Magic, Blazers, Spurs and Jazz.

How do the Heat chances look with those potholes on the schedule?  They would still be the favorite for 13 games in a row heading to Orlando on November 24th and 20 games in a row after visiting San Antonio on March 4th.  With a risk threshold of 60%, the Heat only give you two chances to win the bet and no chance of breaking the record of 33 wins in a row.

Last Look: Supreme Confidence?
Of course, if I use my own predictions for the Heat and the rest of the league this season, then there's only one pothole on the Heat schedule - the December 25th game against the Lakers.  I don't know if my prediction will be proven right, but two down, 73 to go...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Down, 74 To Go: Miami Heat Beat Philadelphia 76ers For Their First Win

After getting a beatdown in Beantown from the Boston Celtics, it was another day and Dwyane Wade dominated just like his new commercial said he would.  The artist formerly known as Flash painted a 30-point, 7-rebound, 4-assist, 3-steal, 2-block masterpiece in the Illadelph to get the Heat their first win this season.

This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's boxscore statistics contributed to their team's performance.  An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (EWP48), a star player produces 0.200+ EWP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ EWP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

Game Recap
Wade exceeded the superstar threshold and reached that Magic Johnson/Michael Jordan level of greatness against the Sixers by producing 0.505 EWP48.  Dominate Another Day? Indeed.  After a terrible first quarter (-0.164 EWP48), Wade did most of his damage in the second and third quarters when the Heat outscored the Sixers by 18 with him on the floor.  Wade produced nearly 50% of Miami's Estimated Wins Produced (EWP) in 17.6 minutes across those two quarters, essentially closing the coffin lid on the Sixers.

If Wade closed the coffin in the second and third quarters, James Jones nailed it shut.  He hit six of seven three-pointers in those two quarters. Together, Wade and Jones provided 90% of Miami's Estimated Wins Produced in those two quarters.  The figure below contains the Wins Produced analysis of the game's boxscore (the top two players and worst player for each team are highlighted) or you can view it at Google Docs by clicking on the spreadsheet labeled @PHI-102710.

Once again, Chris Bosh got off to a good start in the first quarter.  In fact, he was the only one of the Three Kings that made a positive contribution in the first quarter for the second consecutive game.  He was twice as productive as he was against Boston in the game's first 12 minutes with 1.212 EWP48 against the Sixers frontline compared to 0.627 EWP48 against the Celtics frontline.  He scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in the first quarter but didn't make any positive contributions after that with -0.119 EWP48 in each of the next three quarters. Overall, he ended the game with numbers worthy of a star (0.211 EWP48), but the way Elton Brand attacked him was a little concerning.

Brand attacked Bosh as if he thought he had an advantage, but last season he only produced -0.007 EWP48.  I haven't seen Bosh play a lot of games and it made me wonder if Shaq isn't the only big man that views Bosh as RuPaul in the paint.  The strategy worked for Brand and the Sixers, as he outplayed Bosh after the first quarter and produced 0.394 EWP48 for the game.  It's possible Bosh was fatigued on the second night of a back-to-back, but this could be something to keep an eye on moving forward.

More concerning than the Bosh-Brand matchup is LeBron James.  The reigning back-to-back MVP has played consecutive games with negative production. His numbers are down across the board - turnovers (2.5 times more than last season's average), scoring rate (down 25%), assists (down 40%) and rebounds (down 33%).  Miami needs Public Enemy No. 6 to get back to being the King for the Heat to beat the Orlando Magic in Friday's home opener.

The rest of the team's production was up-and-down.  Jerry Stackhouse, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Carlos Arroyo were productive with their minutes, but Joel Anthony, Eddie House and Udonis Haslem were unproductive after providing the bulk of the production against Boston.

Haslem's struggles in this game were interesting.  Many pundits have expressed concern about the Heat's lack of size, but Haslem struggled guarding Thaddeus Young at center in the Sixers small lineup.  Young's speed was simply too much for Haslem.  He couldn't stay in front of Young and stayed in foul trouble, finishing the game with five fouls in 12.7 minutes (four of those five fouls were committed against Young).  Young finished the game with 0.394 EWP48 (last season his WP48 was -0.030).

The Big Picture
The Sixers are an athletic team.  The number of dunks they got against the Heat was impressive.  Their small, athletic lineup with Young and Andres Nocioni in the frontcourt and Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner on the perimeter was +7 to start the fourth quarter.  Turner played like a superstar in his first NBA game producing 0.302 EWP48 and a highlight crossover of Wade as they went head-to-head for a brief stretch in the fourth quarter.  Turner looked like a legit darkhorse for the Rookie of the Year award.

I predicted the Sixers to only win 12 games this season and I felt a little justified after this game.  The production from their lineups was feast or famine against the Heat.  All of the productive players (Brand, Young, Turner and Nocioni) played at a superstar-level (0.300+ EWP48), but the rest of the roster provided negative production.  They're going to need a lot of brotherly love for the Sixers this season.

The Bigger Picture
The Heat continued their trend of third quarter dominance in Philadelphia.  Why is that important?  Here's the explanation from Couper Morehead of

"Two years ago, the best third quarter teams were the Lakers and Celtics, outscoring opponents by 3.1 and 2.4 points, respectively, each team routinely blowing opponents out after halftime. Last year, at +1.7, the best were Orlando and Oklahoma City, with the Lakers again just behind."

After two games, the Heat are +27 in the third quarter.  They've played their best basketball in the third quarter of both games.  I've always thought it was a sign of good coaching when a team goes on runs after timeouts and halftime, so I'll give Spoelstra some credit since I took issue with him after the Celtics game.

Next up for the Heat are the Orlando Magic on Friday. Am I worried? Not at all.

Unless referenced otherwise, original game data used for this post was taken from and

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Agent D3 Makes The Green Gang Look Like Mission Impossible

Dwyane Wade's new commercial for the Jordan Brand features him as a superspy on a mission to bring championship rings back to Miami. In the season opener at Boston, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh made that mission look damn near impossible.

This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's boxscore statistics contributed to their team's performance.  An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (EWP48). More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

Game Recap
If you look at the game as a whole, the Heat were less productive with the Three Kings on the court. Wade, James and Bosh all posted productivity numbers in the negative range - that means they were reducing the Heat's likelihood of winning while on the floor. The figure below contains the Wins Produced analysis of the game's boxscore (the top two players and worst player for each team is highlighted) or you can view it HERE by clicking on the spreadsheet labeled @BOS-102610.

Bosh played as well as someone can probably expected to play in the first quarter for a team that only scored nine points.

LeBron and Wade made a good run in the third quarter when they finally started playing like superstars (0.538 WP48 for LeBron and 0.396 for Wade) and cut the Boston lead to six points. That run, which was single-handedly driven by LeBron, resulted in him ending the game with a plus/minus score of +1.

The top plus/minus scores for the Heat belonged to the five players on the floor for the last 3:43 of the third quarter. In addition to LeBron, that lineup included Zydrunas Ilgauskas (+17), Eddie House (0), James Jones (-2) and Udonis Haslem (-4). I don't know if it's a recipe for the future, but against Boston the best Heat lineup included LeBron, three shooters and a rugged rebounder.

As for the role players that pundits say aren't good enough, well, the game wouldn't have been as close as it was if it weren't for them. Carlos Arroyo was the only role player that failed to make a positive contribution (he was annihilated by Rondo the way LeBron and Wade were annihilated by Paul Pierce and Ray Allen). The rest of them managed to outplay the counterparts at their position.

Joel Anthony (0.431 EWP48) outplayed Shaquille O'Neal (0.068 EWP48) - who is DONE as a player. Any Celtics fans that were hoping the Big Shamrock would make a positive contribution to this season shouldn't forget the four shots he missed at the front of the rim when they view replays of his two highlight dunks. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (0.136 EWP48) outplayed Jermaine O'Neal (-0.350 EWP48) who STILL can't make a shot in Boston.

Udonis Haslem (0.340 EWP48) outplayed Big Baby (0.277 EWP48) as the primary big man off the bench. In fact, the Heat captain was the most productive player for Miami - continuing a trend that started in the pre-season.

I thought power forward would be the key matchup for Miami against Boston and that if Bosh could outplay Garnett then the Heat would win. Turns out that wasn't the case. In a race to the bottom, Bosh produced -0.056 EWP48 compared to Garnett's -0.069 EWP48. In my season preview, I asked which member of Boston's Fantastic Four would fade like the Invisible Woman and it turns out the answer was KG against Miami.

The Big Picture
Now, I want to talk about the Celtics. I think many fans like myself were too blinded by Kobe-hatred last year to realize what the Celtics have been doing to the game of basketball.  They are ruining it. Their junk defenses and fear of playing any ballhandler straight up for even a nanosecond produces butt-ugly basketball.

It was fun when they were beating the Lakers' brains in by 40 in game 6 of the 2008 Finals, but I didn't realize what the repercussions would be for that moment of pure indulgence.

The Lakers started doing the same thing. Jim Cleamons replicated what Tom Thibodeau implemented and by the time they played the rematch two years later, we had to witness one of the ugliest game sevens in NBA history. Yes, it was highly competitive. It was also basketball at one of its lowest forms - throw up a brick and crash the boards.

When Larry Brown built the 76ers to play that way with Allen Iverson, it was roundly criticized as ugly basketball (yet somehow Larry Brown teams "play the right way") but when the mystical Lakers & Celtics do the same thing it's supposed to be another chapter in the book of legends? Gimme a break.

Instead of trying to beautify the game with more stringent policies for technical fouls, the league should address the root problem. These junk defenses that slow the game down to a crawl and make every possession count. These junk defenses have been a problem for at least 15 years and it's time someone did something about it beyond the elimination of hand-checking. Make players play one-on-one defense. I think the league's talent-level and three-point shooting have improved enough that team's wouldn't be able to stop them by resorting to beating up opponents like the Bad Boys, Knicks and Pacers did. The 3-pt shooting is good enough today to make them pay. David Stern and Stu "Those Who Can't Coach, Administrate" Jackson might be surprised at how little time players have to complain in a much faster-paced game.

Don "I'm Too Bad To Even Coach In The League Anymore" Casey could concoct) making the game look like it's being played on quicksand instead of hardwood. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are trying to save the NBA from the horrendous play we saw in last year's Finals. You'd think the Commissioner would help them.

The Bigger Picture
Now that I'm done sounding like a bitter fan ranting about the Celtics, let's address the Miami Heat issues potentially exposed by this game. I think the big issues exposed by the loss are Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat point guards.

The Heat reserves played 39% of the minutes in this game while the Celtics reserves only played 27%. That suggests to me that there's some imbalance in the lineups. The TNT analysts reported during the game that Spoelstra's rotation is still a work in progress. I don't understand why that's the case. Granted, Wade didn't play in the pre-season but everyone else was available, so why doesn't he have a better grasp of who to play? But that's just a small issue.

The bigger issue I have is that the team was not ready to play that game and that doesn't make any sense to me. The Heat played the Celtics in the playoffs and they haven't changed since then - in fact, they're probably worse with Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal in the lineup instead of Kendrick Perkins. Why wasn't the team prepared to handle the Celtics defense? Thirty points in the first-half? I don't care if the team was just using scaled-down play calls, there's no reason for a team with two of last season's top four scorers to be held to just 30 points.

The other issue is the point guard position. Rondo singlehandedly out-produced the Heat point guards by a score of 0.227 EWP to -0.026 EWP and that includes minutes allocated to LeBron and Wade at point guard. Rondo can do that to a lot of teams, but it will definitely be something to keep an eye on as an Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Boston looms on the horizon.

Unless referenced otherwise, original game data for this post was taken from and

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Award Tour: 2011 NBA Predictions For Individual Awards

It's time to join the Wages of Wins NBA Stats Smackdown and give my predictions for the individual awards that will be passed out at the end of the 2011 NBA season.  Predictions will come in two flavors -1) who I predict the sportswriters and broadcasters will select for the award and 2) who I predict should win the award if it was based on Wins Produced.

Wins Produced is a statistical model created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal to measure how much a player's boxscore statistics contribute to their team's wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (WP48). More information can be found at the following links:

Predictions for Sportswriters and Broadcasters

Most Valuable Player
1. Kevin Durant - The sportswriters have made it clear since "The Decision," it's open season on LeBron James and as long as it's profitable, they're going to continue spewing hatred because that's what drives America - greed and hatred (just look at the mid-term elections). The sportswriters hate LeBron too much to give him the MVP award this year even though he will make it abundantly clear that he's the most dominant player.  Durant winning this award will be similar to when Michael Jordan won in 1988.  Jordan's individual stats were phenomenal (35 pts, 6 rebs, 6 asts) but his team only won 50 games.  Durant averaged 30 pts, 8 rebs, 3 asts last year and if the summer he had is any indication, then those numbers should only improve.  With my prediction that the Thunder will hover around 50 wins, I see history repeating itself.

2. Kobe Bryant - That's how much they hate LeBron.  There won't be enough decent reporters and analysts voting for LeBron for him to get enough points to finish second in the voting.

3. LeBron James - Ladies and gentleman, first there was Kevin Garnett and then there was Chris Paul. I now present to you the Tragedy of LeBron James.

Rookie of the Year
1. John Wall - Blake Griffin will blow his knee out by the all-star break and Wall will lead all rookies in scoring. ESPN fantasy basketball projects him to average 14.2 points per game, which could be twice the number of wins his team has at the end of the season.

2. Blake Griffin - Sympathy vote.

3. Evan Turner - I picked Turner over DeMarcus Cousins because I think he has a stronger love for the game.  Cousins didn't start playing basketball until 8th grade when he grew too big to play football.  I don't trust players like that. It's not quite like Jerome James, but it's close. And close to Jerome James isn't a place any top rookie should be.

Most Improved Player
1. D.J. Augustin - As the starting PG in Charlotte, Augustin will get plenty of minutes to shoot, shoot and shoot some more.  All that shooting will result in a dramatic increase in his scoring average from 6.3 PPG last season to 16+ PPG this season. A big scoring jump for the starting PG on a fringe playoff team is the same recipe Aaron Brooks used to win it last year. No reason why it won't work again.  Bonus indicator: Augustin is the most added player for the first week of the ESPN fantasy basketball season with a 15% increase in ownership.

2. Michael Beasley - Beasley will get plenty of touches on a bad Timberwolves team that doesn't have any scorers. His scoring average was limited last season because the Heat were trying to win games and Beasley's a bad player. The Timberwolves aren't trying to win games and they embrace bad players (sometimes they even give them $20 million contracts).

3. Linas Kleiza - The Raptors will only do one thing well this season - score. Kleiza learned how to chuck it with the best of them while in Denver.  Those lessons will serve him well in Toronto.

Sixth Man of the Year
1. Manu Ginobili - In hindsight, I don't like this pick so much. I don't think Ginobili is going to lead all reserves in scoring and whoever does that will win this award. It will probably be Crawford that ends up winning again.

2. Jamal Crawford - See above.

3. Jason Terry - Ugh... another bad choice in hindsight. Terry's getting older and is two years removed from when he won the award by averaging 19.6 PPG off the bench.

Predictions for Wins Produced

Most Valuable Player
1. LeBron James - The King is on a mission. I was afraid that his minutes would decrease and thus impact the amount of wins he could produce but the Mike Miller injury took care of that. LeBron will get plenty of time to produce 27+ wins.

2. Chris Paul - CP3 returns to remind the world he's the best PG in the league. Two years ago he led the league with 28 Wins Produced, but I think the injury will slow him down just enough to keep his production below LeBron's.

3. Dwight Howard - I don't see any reason why Howard won't produce his typical 22+ wins.

Rookie of the Year
1. Blake Griffin - Even though I think Griffin will blow his knee out by the all-star break, he'll be so much more productive than the other rookies that they won't catch him even after playing a full season.

2. Evan Turner

3. DeMarcus Cousins - If I thought he cared about the game enough, then I would consider picking him over Griffin. But I can't stop thinking about Jerome James.

Most Improved Player
1. Andris Biedrins - Ugh. Looks like I didn't read the rules of the WoW NBA Smackdown for these picks - the player only qualifies if they play within 750 minutes of the previous season. Biedrins only played 763 minutes last season, but averaged over 1900 minutes the two seasons before that.  Looks like I'm rooting for an injury.  That's fine with me because he's not on my fantasy team anyway.

2. Serge Ibaka - Damn. Another bad pick. ESPN only projects Ibaka to play an extra 400 minutes this season. That would only improve his Wins Produced by 1.5 games. Looks like I'm rooting for injuries to Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic if I want to get this one right.

3. Dejuan Blair - Another weak pick. If Blair gets his minutes up to 2000 for the season, then he could produce an extra three wins. To get more than that, I'd have to root for an injury to Tim Duncan and I like him too much to do that.

Sixth Man of the Year
1. Manu Ginobili - Charles Barkley's favorite player produced 13 wins last season. That sounds like enough to lead the league.

2. Lamar Odom - He actually produced 14 wins off the bench last season but I'm assuming a summer of playing international basketball and a year of marriage to a Kardashian should be enough to slow him down.

3. Udonis Haslem - He was a beast in the pre-season but only produced 7 wins last season.  He'll benefit from playing with Chris Bosh and LeBron James but he just doesn't have enough talent to be more productive than Ginobili or Odom.

Unless referenced otherwise, all stats used in this post were taken from the Wins Produced ViewerWages of Wins website and

Secret Wars: Previewing Heroes & Villains for the 2011 NBA Season with ESPN and Marvel Comics, Part 2

It's time for NBA season previews and ESPN the Magazine has put forth the most interesting effort by using Marvel superheroes and illustrators to come up with variant comic book covers for each team (Insider access required). Honestly, the idea was genius and the outcome was pretty tremendous but there were a few covers that could have been better. I'm going to preview the NBA season with a rundown of the good (heroes), bad (villains) and the ugly (anti-heroes) from Marvel's variant NBA covers.  All images used for this post appear courtesy of

This post uses Win Score and Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal to measure how much a player's boxscore statistics contributes to their team's wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (WP48). More information  can be found at the following links:

Simple Models of Player Performance
Wins Produced vs. Win Score
What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say
Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

This is Part 2, a preview of the Eastern Conference. For Part 1, a preview of the Western Conference, click HERE.

Eastern Conference

LeBron James is proving that his skin is tough enough
to survive in a league that fears and hates him.
#1. Heat (75-7)
Cover Rating - Villains: The Miami Heat's Three Kings holding Captain America's shields over their heads to protect them from the spotlight shining on them this season gave me the impression that cover artist Mike Deodato just mailed it in. Why not the X-Men? Think about it - LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are fighting to save a league that fears and hates them. Ticket sales were in the tank last year but this year teams are selling tickets at a rapid pace because they want to see the Miami Heat. David Stern wants to cut player salaries? James, Wade and Bosh all left money on the table to possibly provide the league the best entertainment it's seen in nearly 15 years. I think the X-Men would've been the perfect choice for the Heat. A #1 seed in the East feels like a perfect choice, too.

Dwight Howard's been a juggernaut in the paint for years,
but don't get caught up in Olajuwon's marketing hype.
Howard doesn't have what it takes to march through the Heat.
#2. Magic (56-26)
Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: Dwight Howard as Wolverine for the Orlando Magic? Marvel, I don't believe you, you need more people! I haven't seen a killer instinct from Howard (unless you count the playoff games when he tried to knock the entire Celtics frontcourt unconscious with his elbows). Despite the fact that he spent a few hours practicing with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer to help market the Dream's new company, I think Juggernaut would have been a better character for Howard and the Magic. They bulldoze through competition in the regular season, but once a worthy opponent finds the chink in their armor - they're exposed as a mentally inferior adversary.  I dismiss the notion that Howard can single-handedly dominate the Miami Heat because the Heat split the season series last season with the Magic, 2-2.  Howard only produced an estimated 0.28 wins in 126.5 minutes played over those four games with an estimated 0.106 WP48.  Basically, Erik Spoelstra's defense reduced Howard from a superstar (0.377 WP48) to an average center (0.100 WP48 is average). Expect more of the same when the Magic come up small against the Heat in the playoffs.

If the Boston Celtics are the Fantastic Four on the court,
then who's going to fade like the Invisible Woman?
#3. Celtics (53-29)
Cover Rating - Heroes: The Fantastic Four was a great choice for the Boston Celtics so I'm not sure why Marvel and ESPN decided to make it the Fantastic Five and include Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq's production declined from eight wins in 2009 with Phoenix to just two wins in 2010 with Cleveland. Injury could have played a role in Shaq's decline and he's supposed to be in great shape this season, so time will tell if he can improve upon last season's mediocre output. Two members of the Celtics' Fantastic Four weren't so fantastic in the Finals against the Lakers. Kevin Garnett's production declined from 0.232 WP48 in the regular season to an estimated 0.074 WP48 in the Finals.  KG was obviously playing hurt, but who knows whether his knee can withstand the rigors of 100+ games in the regular season and playoffs without impacting his production?  Ray Allen also faded against the Lakers.  His production dropped from 0.128 WP48 in the regular season to an estimated -0.042 WP48 and he was routinely killed by top shooting guards like Wade and Kobe (0.259 Est. WP48 in the Finals).  I don't know which of those two will disappear faster than the Invisible Woman this season, but the decline is inevitable.

The Chicago Bulls hope Carlos Boozer makes a similar impact
when he arrives in the lineup. 
#4. Bulls (52-30)
Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: I can buy Carlos Boozer as the Red Hulk but I need the illustration to be a little better. It would also help the Chicago Bulls if Boozer was as indestructible as the Hulk. Regardless, the Bulls should win more than enough games to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  The front office upgraded the roster by exchanging three players that produced 10 wins last season for seven players that produced 26.8 wins. Adding a potential 17 wins to last season's 41-41 record means the Bulls will be smashing a lot of teams this season.

Can Joe Johnson stand and deliver a trip to the Eastern
Conference Finals for the Hawks, or will they end up
getting the high, hard shaft for the biggest free agent
contract signed this summer?
#5. Hawks (49-33)
Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: Hawkeye and the Atlanta Hawks? It's corny but the Larry O'Brien trophy surrounded by arrows that missed the target is pretty clever. The Hawks were in a similar position as the Suns this offseason - they only had two choices: overpay their star player to remain a playoff team or try to replace them with children of a lesser god. The Hawks chose to fork over the dough to Joe Johnson and it was a questionable decision. If they chose to let Johnson walk and gave his starting spot to Jamal Crawford (and Crawford's minutes to Maurice Evans), then it would have cost them about 5 wins. That still would have left them with enough production to finish with a higher seed than the Bucks, but behind the Heat, Magic, Celtics and Bulls.

Brandon Jennings is like the Black Panther on the court
with his speed and agility.
#6. Bucks (43-39)
Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: I loved the Luke Cage and Iron Fist comics growing up but I can't buy into any image that has the Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings with bulging muscles. That's pushing the limits beyond science fiction, so I'm rating the Marvel/ESPN cover as ugly. Speaking of pushing the limits, I will be disappointed if someone on the Bucks doesn't lay Amare Stoudemire out in their first game against the Knicks (where's Kurt Thomas when you need him). I find it hard to believe that Bogut would've taken such a horrific spill if Stoudemire didn't push him in the back. However, if the best revenge is living well, then the Bucks should be able to take solace in living well into the first round of the playoffs as the #6 seed while Stoudemire sits home and watches them on TV.

Prokhorov is off to a good start taking over the NBA
universe. The Nets will be much improved this season.
#7. Nets (41-41)
Cover Rating - Heroes: Mikhail Prokhorov as the planet-consuming Galactus was an interesting choice. Prokhorov entered the league proclaiming to make the playoffs this season and win the title in five seasons. So far, it looks like he's off to a good start. I've seen two different bloggers project the Nets to win 41 games this season using the Wins Produced model - Ty Willinghanz and Arturo Galletti. A good portion of the Nets projected improvement relies upon Troy Murphy being healthy and so far that hasn't been the case. Murphy produced 13 wins last season, so if he's not healthy the Nets could go from a 41-win team in the playoffs to a 30-win team back in the lottery. Of course, the bigger question is whether Prokhorov can pull Carmelo Anthony into his orbit. The forecast shouldn't really change if the Nets get Melo in exchange for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and draft picks because the increase in production from starting Melo over Travis Outlaw would be cancelled out by the decrease in production from starting Jordan Farmar in place of Harris.

The Cavs may not be swinging to the top of the
standings this season, but they should still be able to
swing into the playoffs.
#8. Cavaliers (40-42)
Cover Rating - Heroes: The remake of a panel from the "Spider-Man No More" issue with LeBron James walking away from his Cavs uniform in a Miami Heat jersey was classic. A face-off with the Heat in the first round of the playoffs would also be classic. The Cleveland Cavaliers lost 32 wins in the off-season when LeBron, Big Z, Shaq and Delonte West joined other teams but can be expected to gain 12 wins from the additions of Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins and starter's minutes for Jamario Moon. That puts them around 41 wins. They can go above or below that number depending on who takes the minutes left by Big Z. If Leon Powe can return from a devastating knee injury to be the player he was in 2008 for the Celtics, then the Cavs can be expected to fight their way to the #7 seed. If not, then they should get a date with the Three Kings in South Beach and the chance to keep that promise Dan Gilbert made.

As owner of the Bobcats, Michael Jordan will need
Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson to continue being
Iron Men this season and finish in the NBA's top five in
minutes played for a second consecutive season.
#9. Bobcats (36-46)
Cover Rating - Heroes: Michael Jordan looks so much like Samuel Jackson's portrayal of Nick Fury it's comical. What isn't comical is the Charlotte Bobcats trying to replace the eight wins produced by Raymond Felton last season with D.J. Augustin, Shaun Livingston and Sherron Collins. Livingston has only played 48 games in the last two seasons and Collins was ranked as the 64th best college player available in June's draft (based on Win Score). Replacing Felton with Augustin could cost the Bobcats 8 wins this season (they won 44 last season). 36 wins may not be enough for them to hold onto the #8 seed or a playoff spot.

Amare Stoudemire, Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh
will disappoint a lot of New Yorkers when this new era
of Knicks fails to bring playoff basketball back to
Madison Square Garden.
#10. Knicks (35-47)
Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: The picture of the Avengers welcoming Amare Stoudemire to the New York Knicks was just okay, but in my mind the whole was never greater than the sum of its parts when it came to the Avengers. While the Justice League could stand on its own (thus the successful run of its cartoon series) the Avengers was never more popular than individual heroes like Spider-Man or Iron Man. I don't think the Knicks or their individual players will be that popular this season because the expectations have been set too high. ESPN the Magazine predicted them to finish as the #7 seed but I don't see how that's going to happen. The Knicks won 29 games last season but their two biggest free agent acquisitions didn't net them any additional wins. The combination of David Lee and Chris Duhon produced the same amount of wins as the combination of Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. So where will the other 12 wins required for a playoff berth come from? Anthony Randolph has only averaged a little over 900 minutes in two seasons. Even with the assumption that Randolph will be able to play all of the minutes used by Al Harrington last season, that only gets the Knicks an additional seven wins. Where will the last five wins come from? Timofey Mozgov has been below average in the pre-season. Ronny Turiaf and Roger Mason combined to produce 3 wins in 2,400 minutes last season. After that, the best the Knicks can hope for is improvement by Toney Douglas, Bill Walker and Wilson Chandler. I think they're coming up short and the Walsh/D'Antoni era is coming to an end soon.

Even Sasquatch knows Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo
has been clueless making personnel decisions in
#11. Raptors (25-57)
Cover Rating - Heroes: It seems right that the NBA's only Canadian team is illustrated in the likeness of Alpha Flight, Marvel's premier Canadian super hero team. The Toronto Raptors will be so bad next season that perhaps their loyal fanbase will riot and finally drive Bryan Colangelo and Andrea Bargnani out of town. Bargnani has been the least productive number one pick in the lottery era but Colangelo signed him to a $50 million contract extension that kicks in this season. If the fans don't want to get their hands dirty, maybe Alpha Flight can use its powers to drive them south of the border.

Larry Bird has been out to lunch in Indiana ever since
the bad mojo from the Malice in the Palace.
#12. Pacers (20-62)
Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: Like the Indiana Pacers, Dr. Strange always bored me to death. The metaphor for the cover was clever but I think there should have been a few more white players in Dr. Strange's hour glass. Indiana fans probably think there should be a few more productive players on the roster. The Pacers only had three above average players on the roster last season and they traded the best one (Troy Murphy) to New Jersey for Darren Collison (who is just average). Larry Bird's best strategy to prevent the Pacers from finishing last in their division would be to ask Dr. Strange to magically restore him to his prime so he can suit up and play.

The roster Joe Dumars has assembled in Detroit spells
D-O-O-M for the Pistons.
#13. Pistons (19-63)
Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: Dr. Doom and Joe Dumars are a match made in heaven but after all the money he spent signing Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, I don't believe that he would pay Victor Von Doom to build robotic replicas of the Bad Boys. There were only four above average players on the Detroit Pistons roster last season and one of them is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.  The only significant move Dumars made this offseason was drafting Greg Monroe from Georgetown. Unfortunately, he only projects to produce 1-2 wins this season. The Pistons will definitely be missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Rank and foul is the best way to describe the roster
Ed Stefanski assembled in Philadelphia.
#14. 76ers (12-70)
Cover Rating - Heroes: Andre Iguodala as Deadpool is a stretch, but the best part of the Philadelphia 76ers' cover is the mascot, Hip Hop, holding up the "We Want #3" sign. The clueless look on Elton Brand's face probably belongs on the general manager Ed Stefanski's mug instead. Why he chose to spend $80 million on a player that had just ripped their Achilles tendon to shreds is beyond me, but what's even harder to understand is why he hasn't lost his job yet. He's had a different coach working for him each season since he's been in Philly and the team is so bad they're giving his latest coaching hire severe headaches from banging his head against the wall. In the last two seasons, Stefanski has gotten rid of two of the three most productive starters on the team in what must be an attempt to win some sort of sick bet with Ernie Grunfeld to see who can destroy a playoff team the fastest (Grunfeld wins).  To make matters worse, the Sixers tried to improve their personnel decisions by hiring the architect of a 12-win team.  Anyone who thinks the Sixers will make the playoffs must be as crazy as Deadpool.

John Wall won't be able to blaze a new path in DC until
the plague of Arenas, Grunfeld and Saunders is lifted.
#15. Wizards (6-76)
Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: John Wall as the Human Torch is interesting but the pencils were a little weak - I've seen better from Tom Raney. Speaking of fire, remember when I said that it appears Ed Stefanski and Ernie Grunfeld are in a race to see who can burn a playoff team down the fastest? Well, the 2011 Washington Wizards is what the finish line looks like - nothing but ashes. The five most productive players for the Wizards last season are no longer on the roster. Those five players produced 25 of the team's 26 wins. The Wizards are basically starting from scratch this season. Actually, scratch is where they aspire to be starting from. All of the veterans on the Wizards roster were below average last season. Basically, John Wall could be the second coming of Magic Johnson and the Wizards STILL wouldn't be expected to win more than 30 games. Trust me - John Wall ain't even Allen Iverson, let alone Magic Johnson. The Wizards WILL be the worst team in the Eastern Conference this season and the worst team of all-time.

Unless referenced otherwise, all stats used in this post were taken from the Wins Produced Viewer, Wages of Wins website and

Monday, October 25, 2010

Secret Wars: Previewing Heroes & Villains for the 2011 NBA Season with ESPN and Marvel Comics, Part 1

It's time for NBA season previews and ESPN the Magazine has put forth the most interesting effort by using Marvel superheroes and illustrators to come up with variant comic book covers for each team (Insider access required). Honestly, the idea was genius and the outcome was pretty tremendous but there were a few covers that could have been better. I'm going to preview the NBA season with a rundown of the good (heroes), bad (villains) and the ugly (anti-heroes) from Marvel's variant NBA covers.  All images used for this post appear courtesy of  This is Part 1, a review of the Western Conference. Part 2 reviews the Eastern Conference.

Western Conference

After shooting 28% in the preseason while recovering
from knee surgery, Kobe Bryant could use an onboard
computer for his shot and armor to get through
the season intact for the playoffs.
#1. Lakers (58-24)
Cover Rating - Villains: I liked the idea of an Iron Man cover for the LA Lakers until I realized that it was Iron Man's nemesis, the Mandarin, that had the rings of power.  That being the case, it doesn't really make sense to show Kobe Bryant getting strapped into Tony Starks' armor wearing five rings.  You know what else doesn't make sense?  How the rest of the Western Conference isn't really trying to surpass the Lakers.  While the Celtics, Heat, Bulls and Magic are stacking chips and pushing them to the middle of the table in the Eastern Conference, the teams in the Western Conference are just folding like "Japan's futons and fans."  Word to Black Thought from The Roots, "If you know like I know, then you know the motto - that's all this fraud $#!t got to go..." The Lakers will be the #1 seed in the West until Kobe's derailed by injuries or Sam Presti makes a big trade to bring a legitimate third star to Oklahoma City.

With Tony Parker's contract expiring, should the Spurs
"Big Three" be disassembled after the season if they
don't seriously challenge for the title?
#2. Spurs (56-26)
Cover Rating - Villains: Marvel illustrated Thor, Iron Man and Captain America paying homage to Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker is about as boring as the Spurs are every season.  It's the same-old story by the Riverwalk - Duncan's a hall-of-famer, Ginobili is probably the most underrated guard in the league and Tony Parker's always a threat to lead the league in points scored in the paint when he's coming off the pick-and-roll with Duncan.  The interesting aspect of the Spurs is what Dejuan Blair and Tiago Splitter will bring to the frontcourt.  Blair was a monster on the boards last year and Splitter outplayed all of Team USA's centers in their FIBA World Championships matchup.  I think they'll be enough to push the Spurs to a #2 seed if Parker, Ginobili and Duncan can stay healthy.

If Greg Oden and Brandon Roy had cybernetic parts like
Deathlok, then the Blazers could come out with guns
blazing in the Western Conference.
    #3. TrailBlazers (54-28)
    Cover Rating - Heroes: A Deathlok cover with Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and Joel Pryzbilla getting fitted for cyborg parts was perfect. The Portland TrailBlazers could have been the #2 seed in the Western Conference if they were healthy last season, but of course, they weren't and the season ended with another first round playoff exit. At least the owner, Paul Allen, realized the team's general manager was an idiot for drafting Oden over Kevin Durant and summarily fired him. If he could just get Microsoft to come up with those bionic parts for the Blazers' injury-prone players, then they could be the best in the West. Until then, I don't see the Blazers finishing higher than the 3rd seed.

      Despite all the hype about his resources, innovation
      and dedication to winning, the Mavs have mostly been
      ants led to sledgehammers in the playoffs during
      Mark Cuban's ownership.
      #4. Mavericks (52-30)
      Cover Rating - Villains: It says a lot about a franchise when the owner is on the variant cover and what it means is that the Dallas Mavericks are not a title contender. Mark Cuban as Ant-Man? He was always a wack hero to me and that's probably appropriate for the Mavs. They've been a wack franchise since they were run out of the first round with 67 wins by the 8th-seed Golden State Warriors. I would like to ask the cover artist, Kyle Baker, why is Dirk Nowitzki the only recognizable player on the cover? Oh, that's right - because he's probably the only player on the roster that any other team in the league would want. As one of the most durable players at his position, Dirk will probably log his seventh season with 3000+ minutes and lead the Mavs to home-court advantage in another first round playoff beatdown, which is the way they've exited the playoffs in three of the last four years.

      Despite the hype, the Gods of Thunder will have a hard
      time getting out from under the heel of the established
      powers in the Western Conference.
      #5. Thunder (51-31)
      Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: The cover with Kevin Durant and Thor was so well illustrated that I really wanted to like it but I couldn't. I don't care about the similarities with a comic about the mythical god of thunder being based in Oklahoma. The best nickname given to Durant is "Durantula" and the best character for the cover would've been Spider-Man. Durant and Peter Parker are both mild-mannered young men with funny, trash-talking sides that are only revealed when they don their respective uniforms. Thanks to Phoenix and Utah (probably Denver, too) losing key starters to teams in the East, I think the NBA's friendly neighborhood scoring champion will be able to swing into the #5 seed this season, but won't be able to get any higher until Sam Presti gets them some more help. Daequan Cook (-0.040 WP48), Morris Peterson (0.033 WP48) and Cole Aldrich (projected WP48 between 0.038 and 0.051 as a rookie) don't impress me.

      Hornets fans may hope that new GM Dell Demps is an Angel that
      can convince Chris Paul to stay, but the Archangel of CAA will
      prevail and get their client whatever he wants.
      #6. Hornets (50-32)
      Cover Rating - Villains: I loved Marvel's Archangel character and thought it was clever having Angel and Archangel sitting on Chris Paul's shoulders giving him advice about whether to stay with the New Orleans Hornets or force a trade to another team with a superstar. With that said, the cover was boring and I don't like my comic books or my NBA superstars boring. CP3 is one of the most exciting players in the league and deserved a more exciting illustration. If he stays in N'awlins, then they're guaranteed a playoff berth. Despite only playing 45 games, CP3 was still the fifth-most productive point guard in the league last year with nearly 12 Wins Produced. With a full season, he can lead Marcus Thornton, Trevor Ariza, David West and Emeka Okafor to 50 wins.  Whether or not he wants to do that is a different issue entirely.

      Like Bullseye, Marvel Comics' greatest marksman, the
      Warriors are a can't-miss pick for the playoffs.
      #7. Warriors (48-34)
      Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: The artwork for the Golden State Warriors cover was fine, but the character selection was a little underwhelming. Bullseye? Who cares? The Warriors may have been an afterthought in the past, but this season the additions of David Lee, Dorell Wright and Louis Amundson along with the return of Andris Biedrins could bring more than 20 extra wins if they stay healthy. That will be enough to get the Warriors at least 45-50 wins and their second playoff berth in 17 years.

      Not even the most powerful force in the universe will be
      able to get Steve Nash back to the Western Conference
      #8. Suns (46-36)
      Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: I thought the use of the Phoenix Force for the Phoenix Suns was an obvious pick and a little cheesy. I also thought it was cheesy for the Suns to tell Amare Stoudemire (9.1 Wins Produced) to kick rocks so they could sign Hedo Turkoglu (4.2 Wins Produced) and Hakim Warrick (1.8 Wins Produced). Josh Childress was very productive when he was in the league three years ago and produced 0.239 WP48, but I don't see where the minutes are going to come from to get him on the floor without sacrificing too much size. Steve Nash is not as powerful as Marvel's Phoenix Force, but he should have enough left to get the Suns into the playoffs.

      Carmelo Anthony's inevitable exit from Denver will be
      blamed when the team misses the playoffs for the first
      time in seven years - even if it's not the real reason.
      #9. Nuggets (44-38)
      Cover Rating - Heroes: The remake of the classic X-Men cover with Cyclops leaving everybody's favorite band of mutants behind perfectly sums up the Denver Nuggets and their season. Carmelo Anthony obviously wants to leave Denver and Chris Andersen is clearly a mutant. If the Nuggets can get an average small forward back for Anthony, then they may survive losing him. What they can't survive is replacing Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen with Al Harrington and Shelden Williams for an extended period of time. K-Mart and Birdman produced 14 wins for the Nuggets last season. Harrington and Williams would produce about 10 wins less than that if given the same amount of minutes. So Melo may grab all the headlines but the rehab of K-Mart and Birdman's knees may be more important. One last thing on Melo - it will not be easy to just replace him with "an average player." While Melo ranked 15th in Wins Produced amongst NBA small forwards last year, there were only five players at the position that played more than 2,500 minutes and produced more wins than him last season - LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Gerald Wallace, Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng. If Denver gets anyone else back in a trade, then it means more minutes for a benchwarmer like Renaldo Balkman or an unproductive player like Al Harrington and that won't help them make the playoffs.

      Deron Williams is not the best PG in the NBA.
      #10. Jazz (42-40)
      Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: Sorry, I just didn't buy Deron Williams as Daredevil, the "Man Without Peer." First of all, his court vision isn't on the level of Steve Nash or Jason Kidd. Secondly, he's not a better point guard than Chris Paul and legitimate cases can be made for Rajon Rondo and Nash, as well, so he has plenty of peers. What he won't have this season is a top five power forward (Carlos Boozer) or the league's best three-point shooter (Kyle Korver). Spending a few seasons flirting with the luxury tax finally caught up with the Jazz in 2010. Twenty-six wins left the roster and I only expect around 15 wins to come back from players acquired in trades, free agent signings and the draft. After four consecutive playoff appearances, it looks like the Jazz will be singing a different tune when the regular season ends this year.

      Yao Ming needs an adamantium skeleton (claws optional)
      to get the Rockets into the playoffs.
      #11. Rockets (40-42)
      Cover Rating - Heroes: Yao Ming as Weapon Y is science fiction at its best. If Ming's skeleton was bonded with adamantium, there's no telling how dominant he would be in the NBA. In the real world, his brittle bones will cost the Houston Rockets about eight wins this year as he plays limited minutes and Houston will be limited to just playing in the regular season. How long before the owner, Les Alexander, has the same epiphany Paul Allen had and fires the media-darling GM that hasn't been able to turn his team back into a title contender?

      After an undefeated preseason, can the Grizzlies give
      playoff contenders nightmares in the Western Conference?
      #12. Grizzlies (40-42)
      Cover Rating - Villains: The Memphis Grizzlies had the lamest cover in the entire issue. ESPN and Marvel chose Captain America because the Grizzlies' need leadership in the locker room? Whatever. How about some leadership on the court? Twenty-four NBA teams had point guards that produced more wins than Mike Conley last season. After last season's 16-win improvement and an undefeated preseason this year, I think the New Mutants would've been a more appropriate cover for the Grizzlies but I don't think that success will translate to a playoff berth until they add better players than Tony Allen, Acie Law and Damien Wilkins to the roster.

      Will the young Kings follow Tyreke Evans if he
      sets his sights on the playoffs?
      #13. Kings (38-44)
      Cover Rating - Heroes: The X-Babies make a good metaphor for the Sacramento Kings. Only two players on the roster that were in the team's top six for minutes played last season are over the age of 25 (when the average NBA player stops improving their productivity). They've added DeMarcus Cousins (age 20) who will see significant minutes while Samuel Dalembert is out with a groin injury. The Kings' youth movement could result in six extra wins as the young players improve and DeMarcus Cousins makes an impact. The big boost, however, could come from replacing Spencer Hawes with Dalembert. If he returns from his groin injury to play 1500+ minutes, then he could provide eight more wins than Hawes did last year. A 14-win improvement would boost the Kings to the 40-win territory, similar to the Memphis Grizzlies last season. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies didn't make the playoffs last season and I don't see the baby Kings making it this season.

      Brain freeze in the front office will keep the T-Wolves
      frozen in mediocrity this season.
      #14. Timberwolves (25-57)
      Cover Rating - Anti-Heroes: I liked the concept of the Minnesota Timberwolves being frozen in place by the Iceman but I don't think the Iceman is Ricky Rubio. I think it's David Kahn with brain freeze. Whether he's wasting a pick on Rubio, money on new practice facilities or both on a half-dozen point guards, a half-dozen small forwards and garbage European centers, it doesn't matter. Kahn has lost a projected 19.3 Wins Produced in his transactions listed at (that count includes projected performances for rookies). Fifteen of those wins were lost in one of Kahn's first moves as GM - trading Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards for the #5 pick in the 2009 draft which was used on Ricky Rubio.  In 67.5 minutes played in three games against Team USA in the last three years, Rubio has produced an estimated 0.4 wins and 0.290 Est. WP48 (for 2008 games, see the spreadsheets HERE; for the 2010 game, see the GCC-ESP spreadsheet HERE). At that rate of productivity, it would only take Rubio 2,483 minutes to produce 15 wins. That means if he ever played for Minnesota, Kahn would get the return on his investment in Rubio's rookie year. Of course, I don't think he'll ever play for Minnesota, which leaves Timberwolves fans out in the cold with Kahn's brain freeze.

      Blake Griffin will smash and Blake Griffin will eventually
      break down as a result.
      #15. Clippers (24-58)
      Cover Rating - Heroes: Marvel's cover with Blake Griffin as the Incredible Hulk carrying the LA Clippers on his back was on point in more ways than one. Griffin could be worth 10 wins to the Clippers. That would have made him the most productive player on the team last season if he could have stayed healthy. Unfortunately, he recklessly leaps around the court like the Hulk recklessly leaps around the Midwest. Without the Hulk's incredible healing factor, I don't think he can stay healthy enough to carry the Clippers and there's no one else around to pick up the slack.  There is only one player on the roster whose productivity was above average last season - Baron Davis (0.117 WP48). With a team this bad, I think he gave up on the season before it started.  There's no way for the Clippers to avoid being the worst team in the West if they don't have Griffin.

      Unless referenced otherwise, all stats used in this post were taken from the Wins Produced Viewer, Wages of Wins website and