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Brace Yourselves (Part 3)

We've identified the stats, we've examined their validity as recording stats and we've also taken a glimpse at their performance as predictors for the Sixers over the past four seasons. Today, we're going use the available data to see what each stat says about the 2010-2011 Sixers.

The first step, and perhaps the fatal flaw of these equations, was predicting the minute distribution for the roster. About a month ago, I ran through the entire roster in the Early Predictions series, and estimated minutes for each. I wound up about 1,000 minutes over at the SG position, and I wanted to wind up with 48 min/game/position for these calculations (you could add some padding for overtime games, but that's a bit too much speculation for my taste), so I subtracted the surplus from Willie Green, Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner to make the numbers work.

The next step was coming up with two numbers for Evan Turner, WP48 and WS48. I looked at the stats compiled for this post, and decided to be bullish when penciling in his expected production: 0.135 WP48 would put him just below the level of Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans from last season, 0.101 WS48 would put him equal with Andre Iguodala's last year, which isn't going to happen, but let's say it's a best-case scenario.

Finally, Tony Battie barely played last season, so I decided to use his numbers from the previous season. It's a minimal difference, but it's highly unlikely Battie will be as atrocious as he was in '09-10. So in both cases when I thought it was necessary to adjust the numbers a bit, I erred in favor of more wins for the Sixers. Unfortunately, it didn't provide much relief.

Here's the money chart:

Obviously, WP paints an extremely bleak picture of the coming season, and it's not hard to figure out why. Wins Produced values defensive rebounds very, very highly, and this is obviously an area the team will struggle in, unless some people on the roster make drastic improvements on their career numbers. Win shares is a bit more optimistic, but not much. Neither of these numbers is perfect, obviously, but I'd say this math tells us a realistic expectation for the team would be somewhere between 20 and 34 wins.

Let's be clear for a second, I'm not saying the Sixers are going to win less than 30 games. I think it's pretty likely, but this exercise was all about using numbers to set the bar, and to realize exactly what it's going to take for the team to win 40 games and possibly make the playoffs.

I thought now might be a good time to take a look at the silver lining. These numbers have been wrong, very, very wrong, in the past. In fact, we can look at Memphis and Oklahoma City from last season for two examples of how far off they can be:

The important thing to take away from these two charts isn't how far off the projections were, but how each team was able to blow expectations out of the water. I've used color to show the catalysts. In OKC's case, it was pretty much exclusively due to the improvement of both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Durant made the leap from a very good player to a great player. Westbrook went from a nothing to a very good player, production-wise.

Memphis' drastic turnaround was due to the improvement of Rudy Gay, who went from useless to moderately productive in WP, Marc Gasol, who made strides in his second season, OJ Mayo's year-over-year improvement and a miraculous turnaround by Zach Randolph.

I'm sure the question you're asking yourself right now is whether Doug Collins can spark this type of improvement from a couple of guys on the roster. Well, all other things being equal, if Jrue makes the same leap Westbrook did in his sophomore season (.151 WP48 and .101 WS48), you can add 5.7 WP and 4.0 WS to the totals. If Evan Turner performs on the level Chris Paul did as a rookie (.315 WP48, .178 WS48), you could add 7.9 WP and 3.3 WS to the totals. If Elton Brand magically regains the form of his last year prior to the Achilles injury (.270 WP48, .229 WS48), you could add 10.9 WP and 6.2 WS to the totals. We've gone from possibly probable to absurd in the space of a few sentences, but you get the point.

A dramatic turnaround is certainly on the table, but we're going to need to see across-the-board improvement and major, major strides taken by at least one or two players who see significant minutes. Going from 23 wins to 42 is no small chore.

If you're interested in playing with the variables, I've set up this public spreadsheet where you can plug in your own numbers to answer any "what if" questions you may have. (minutes, WP48 and WS48 are the variables you can change, the formulas will update the totals when you make changes).

So what do you guys think? The baseline seems to be somewhere between 23 and 30 games, how much improvement upon that do you expect, and since we're looking at it through the lens of WP and WS, who's going to make the leap, if you expect a significant improvement.
by Brian on Sep 23 2010
Tags: Advanced Stats | Basketball | Offseason | Projections | Sixers |