Dave Berri has a new post up at The Wages of Wins Journals prognosticating the Clippers as a vastly improved team in 2009-10.
Berri’s optimism is based on a number of factors:
- Blake Griffin’s monster collegiate numbers translate well to the pro game. Assume — and it’s quite an assumption — Griffin puts up numbers commensurate to Tim Duncan’s rookie season (19.5 wins produced), when you subtract that from Zach Randolph’s 3.5 wins produced in 2008-09, that would still leave the Clippers short of .500.
- Baron Davis (for various reasons discussed ad nauseam) and Chris Kaman (due to injury) had historically bad seasons — essentially outlier years. If Davis and Kaman can restore their games to anywhere close to their 2007-08 campaigns, the Clippers stand to pick up a not insignificant number of wins: “In 2007-08, Baron Davis produced 11.8 wins while Chris Kaman’s Wins Produced stood at 10.1. B. Davis never really produced for the Clippers. But after 481 minutes in 2008-09, Kaman’s WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] stood at 0.200. Kaman, though, was soon hurt and his production plummeted. If Kaman is healthy in 2008-09, and B. Davis returns from whatever caused his production to drop-off last season, the Clippers could have four players – Camby, Griffin, B. Davis, and Kaman – capable of producing more than ten wins.”
- If the Clippers can limit either the playing time or the lousiness of their unproductive players — both reasonable goals when you consider their offseason acquisitions — they can pick up a few more wins. According to Berri’s measurements, Al Thornton was the NBA’s least productive player last season, with Ricky Davis not far behind. In contrast, the Clippers’ new wing, Rasual Butler, chalked up a respectable 4.2 wins produced for New Orleans. A reduction in playing time for Thornton and Davis in lieu of Butler will logically give the Clippers’ win total a further bump.
Berri’s larger conclusion:
- if the Clippers could somehow get the negative players to be a bit less negative,
- if B. Davis and Kaman to return to form.
- if age doesn’t keep Camby off the floor or substantially reduce his production, and,
- if Griffin can produce as his college numbers suggest…
…then the Clippers might post an efficiency differential in excess of 2.0. And that means, the 2009-10 Clippers might be the best team in the history of this franchise.
Yes, those are a lot of ifs.
Berri’s numbers — like all metrics — should be taken with a grain of salt. Dan Rosenbaum has taken great issue with Berri’s methodology. If you have half an hour and a passionate interest in this stuff, you can watch a presentation by Rosenbaum from 2007 on some of his beefs. One of Rosenbaum’s primary complaints is that, “Wins Produced likely does a terrible job predicting team wins,” in large part because it fails to take into account shot creation (which might explain why a player like Al Thornton is devalued in Berri’s system).
Nevertheless, Berri has had success predicting team performance over the years, and it’s tough to argue with his general premises about the 2009-10 Clippers.