A little over a week ago I posted some analysis of the three players currently in the running for MVP of the 2014-2015 NBA season – Curry, Westbrook, and Harden. This week, I wanted to look at the current crop of Canadian stars who are playing in the NBA.
There has been a lot of basketball talent coming out of Canada recently and the 2014 NBA draft was full of young stars, with Andrew Wiggins leading the pack as the number one overall pick (Choosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers who then sent him to Minnesota, in a trade that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland to play with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving). Additionally, some of my best friends happen to make up the sports medicine, sports science, and strength and conditioning staffs for the Canadian Men’s National Team leading up to the 2016 Olympics (so obviously I am cheering them on).
One of the biggest issues with the analysis is that several of the players don’t play very many minutes. That being said, I included them anyway.
The main players to play significant minutes were Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, Kyle Olynyk, and Robert Sacre; so we will concentrate the analysis on them.
Each player played in over 70 games and over 1000 minutes, with both Tristan Thompson and Andrew Wiggins making an appearance in all 82 games and playing over 2000 minutes (Wiggins played nearly 3000 minutes in his rookie year).
As you can see in the chart below, Wiggins had the highest average points points per game of the group – averaging around 17 points per game.
However, as discussed in the previous blog article, points aren’t everything. To be an MVP you need to help make others around you better. There are times where players score a lot of points but are actually problematic to their team and cause less winning opportunities. For example, a ball hog who takes a lot of shots, has a poor field goal percentage, and turns the ball over frequently because he is always trying to control the court rather than distributing the ball to his teammates. Allen Iverson was a good example of this, at times, and, if my memory serves, there were three seasons where he led the league in turnovers and despite scoring a lot of points he had a poor field goal percentage and scoring efficiency. In Berri and Schmidt’s research, Iverson actually cost his team wins because of his play, despite the fans enjoying the show – everybody likes to see a guy score lots of points!
Speaking of Berri and Schmidt’s research, as we did in the previous blog article, we will turn our attention to the Wins Produced model, which allows us to understand the player’s contribution to his team winning games throughout the season. How many things does the player do well and how good is the player at minimizing things that cause the other team to score points?
Going back to Wiggins, while he scored more points than the other guys in the analysis – he had a lot more opportunities to score given the high amount of minutes he played – he only produced about 2 wins for his team (or 0.03 wins per 48min). One reason may be due to his high amount of turnovers.
Looking at Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, we see that both players helped contribute about 7 wins to their team. While Joseph’s first two NBA seasons were nothing to write home about, he has put together a great season on a stacked San Antonio Spurs team and might be a guy they look to in the future to run the point guard position as their team continues to age. Meanwhile, Tristan Thompson finished fifth in NBA 6th Man Voting and had a great season coming off the bench on a Cleveland CAVS team led by King James.
Kyle Olynyk pops out in the Wins Produced stat as actually being a bit detrimental to the Boston Celtics. Here is an example of a guy who played a lot of minutes, however, his production is actually less than what an average Center would be able to do given the same number of minutes he played (Olyny played about 100 more minutes than the average for Centers). Olynyk was good for 93 offensive rebounds and 211 defensive rebounds, while Centers, on average, this season pulled down 123 offensive rebounds and 264 defensive rebounds. Kyle did do better than the average in scoring, 656 points to the league average, for Centers, of 522 points. However, he did turn the ball over more than the average, 98 turnovers versus the league average of 74. When looking at all the factors that go into the model, Olynyk didn’t seem to be effective. During his rookie season, 2013-2014, one of the criticisms is that he is not a true center and lacks the ability to defend some of the best big men in the league.
Stauskas produced 0 wins for his team, the Sacramento Kings and Robert Sacre was actually more detrimental to the Los Angeles Lakers than Olynyk was to the Celtics!
Some Other Thoughts
Looking at the stats, it appears that it is a toss up between Joseph (who actually played really well despite playing about 800 minutes less than Thompson) and Thompson for the Canadian MVP. Both had great seasons and contributed a lot to their teams.
Wiggins had a good season as well and, as a rookie, has a lot of room for growth. Controlling the ball is going to be something he will have to work on in the offseason.
Olynyk just finished his second season on a young Celtics team. Perhaps playing Center isn’t his position but he may just need more time to grow into it. Despite having a negative wins produced stat for his team this year, he did start to show promise towards the latter half of the season.
One thing I think about, from a health stand point, is the number of minutes some of these young players are playing. With 3936 available minutes in an NBA season, not counting overtime games, Wiggins logged a massive amount of minutes. Keeping players healthy is the name of the game and managing their health by managing their minutes played (as well as how you help them recover off the court) is going to be critical for these rising stars.