Saturday, April 23, 2011

Heat Check: Sixth Man of the Year & Ranking the Reserves

Lamar Odom, the candy lover from the Los Angeles Lakers, won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award on Wednesday for being the league's top reserve. At the request of reader Giovanni Valladares, the production of the NBA reserves is something that's been reported on this blog a few times during the season. Now seems like a good time for a final report since the top reserve has been named.

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 box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential and wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (Est.WP48), a star player produces 0.200+ Est.WP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ Est.WP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

All stats in this article are powered by NerdNumbers.

The last time the bench rankings were reported on this blog (January 8), the Miami Heat had the fifth-most productive bench in the NBA, based on Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48). A month earlier, they had the second-best bench in the NBA by that measure. What kind of production did the Heat get from their reserves by the end of the season?

The Heat reserves finished the season ranked 14th with 0.059 WP48, which was a 21 percent decline from the 0.075 WP48 they were producing in January. Before explaining the decline, here's the final ranking of NBA reserves.

Five Most Productive Benches in the NBA (Team, Bench WP48, Reserves)
  1. Phoenix Suns 0.119
    Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Gani Lawal, Aaron Brooks, Garret Siler, Mickael Pietrus, Zabian Dowdell
  2. Los Angeles Lakers 0.107
    Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Devin Ebanks, Trey Johnson, Joe Smith, Theo Ratliff, Derrick Caracter, Luke Walton 
  3. Denver Nuggets 0.093
    J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos, Gary Forbes, Timofey Mozgov, Melvin Ely, Al Harrington
  4. Chicago Bulls 0.090
    Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Keith Bogans, Omer Asik, Kurt Thomas, C.J. Watson, Rasual Butler, John Lucas, Brian Scalabrine
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder 0.085
    James Harden, Eric Maynor, Daequan Cook, Nazr Mohammed, Nick Collison, Royal Ivey, Cole Aldrich, Nate Robinson, Byron Mullens
In January, Odom led the most productive bench in the NBA to producing 0.133 WP48. By the end of the season, however, the Lakers' reserves finished second behind the Phoenix Suns bench led by Marcin Gortat. The production of the Lakers reserves declined by 20 percent in the second half of the season just like the Heat. For the Lakers, the reason their bench production declined can be tied to losing Matt Barnes (0.209 WP48), their second-most productive reserve, to injury.

Is it the same story for the Heat? No, it isn't.

The injury to Udonis Haslem (0.124 Est. WP48) obviously hurt the Heat's bench production, but Mike Miller (0.135 Est. WP48 in second half of season) filled the void left by UD. As reported in January's ranking of the NBA benches, James Jones had the biggest decline of Heat reserves in the second half of the season, as illustrated in this spreadsheet.

Jones declined in every category of the box score in the second half of the season except getting to the line, as this spreadsheet illustrates. If Jones had maintained the same level of production in the second half of the season that he provided in the first half, then the Heat bench would have produced an estimated 0.076 WP48. That would have essentially been the same production the Heat got from the bench in January and would have ranked seventh in the NBA at the end of the season.

Fortunately for the Heat, Jones has gotten his production back on track so far in the playoffs with an estimated 0.163 WP48 vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. Without an improved Jones, the Heat have a better bench than the Celtics (ranked 28th) and the Hawks (ranked 24th). The Bulls and the Magic, however, do have more productive benches and Jones' production will be important if the Heat face one of those teams in the Eastern Conference Finals. Jones averaged an estimated -0.086 WP48 in seven games against those two teams this season.

Jones was the sixth man* for the Heat in 14 games this season, which was second on the team to Joel Anthony, who was the sixth man in 16 games. Unlike Jones, Anthony has not been as productive in the playoffs. Anthony has produced an estimated -0.042 WP48 in the first three games against the Sixers. 

* For the purposes of this article, "sixth man" was defined as the first player subbed into the game. When players came off the bench simultaneously, the player with the most minutes played was credited as being the sixth man.

Of course, the Heat have been successful despite Joel's low production all season, although many of his defensive contributions are not captured by the box score, he only averaged -0.023 WP48 (according to, which ranked 27th of all sixth men. The good thing for the Heat is that he was still more productive than the Celtics' sixth man, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, as this spreadsheet illustrates.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to see this all, Mosi. Nice stuff.

    All season long, it seemed like Phoenix was starting and playing the wrong players too much. Looks like this data agrees.