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Biggest Surprises in the West (For Good or Ill)

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Jeff Hornacek is making a play for Coach of the Year, or at least Coach of November. Four of the top ten statistically improved players in the Western Conference during the first month of the season play for his Phoenix Suns. On the other hand, Memphis had three players with the biggest falls in production according to my analysis.

As in my Eastern Conference look, I used Daniel Myers current Advanced Statistical Plus Minus (ASPM), a box score based player metric, and compared it to my preseason projection of each player’s ASPM based on the last two years of data with an age adjustment (up for younger players and down for older players). The cut off for minutes played to date was 160 minutes, a point that showed players’ numbers begin to stabilize.

Below is the table with the top ten biggest pleasant statistical surprises, in addition to the projected ASPM rating, actual ASPM and the change I added a description of their projected and actual play as well the biggest category differences in the their performances:

Player Projected ASPM 2013-2014
ASPM Diff (Std Dev) TM Projected/Actual Key Change
Miles Plumlee -7.09 0.08 3.29 PHO Criminally Atrocious/Average TS%, Steals
Jeremy Lamb -5.2 0.43 2.58 OKC Atrocious/Average TS%, Assists
Marcus Morris -4.67 0.6 2.42 PHO Very Terrible/Average Rebounding. TS%
Travis Outlaw -3.89 0.77 2.14 SAC Very Terrible/Average Rebounding. TS%
Eric Bledsoe 0.76 5.24 2.06 PHO Average/Star TS%, Assists
Patrick Mills 0.21 4.52 1.98 SAS Average/Star Steals, TOV%
Wesley Johnson -2.86 1.46 1.98 LAL Terrible/Good Across the Board
Aaron Brooks -2.32 1.95 1.96 HOU Bad/Very Good TS%, Steals
Marco Belinelli -1.73 2.47 1.93 SAS Bad/Very Good Across the Board
Draymond Green -2.58 1.37 1.81 GSW Bad/Good TS%
Markieff Morris -1.33 2.56 1.79 PHO Mediocre/Very Good TS%

A couple of statistical points on the list. Take Mile Plumlee’s move with some salt due to his dearth of playing time the previous year to base a solid projection on, but I left him on the list because I think he has out performed any realistic expectations moving from a late first round draft pick and trade after thought to a legit starting Center on an above .500 team. As in the East, the top pleasant surprise list leans young, though not exclusively, with 6 of 10 players on the list 25 or under. So, I ran the difference between the projection, which included an age adjustment, and found a small but statistically significant factor for age using all players. However, that became not statistically significant if the Brooklyn Nets were excluded. The points being that it is not a good idea to have all old players on your team, if only for the fact that it confounds the age variable, and that the real value of young player development is not in the average two tenths of a Plus/Minus points per year, but the chance of a real break out.

In addition to Plumlee, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris,  and Eric Bledsoe are all showing a possible ‘Hornacek’ effect. We also see a little of the Popovich effect with Marco Bellinelli improved across the board in his stats moving to San Antonio.

Below is the table with the top ten players with unpleasant surprise starts to their season.

Player Projected ASPM 2013-2014
ASPM Diff (Std Dev) TM Projected/Actual Key Change
Marreese Speights -1.6 -6.45 -2.22 GSW Bad/Criminally Atrocious Across the Board
Quincy Pondexter -0.8 -5.18 -2.01 MEM Mediocre/Atrocious TS%, TOV%
John Lucas -1.26 -5.26 -1.84 UTA Mediocre/Atrocious Across the Board
Tim Duncan 3.69 -0.1 -1.74 SAS Very Good/Mediocre TS%, Reb%
Jerryd Bayless 0.14 -3.35 -1.6 MEM Average/Very Bad Assist% and TS%
Kosta Koufos 2.22 -0.93 -1.44 MEM Good/Mediocre TS%, TOV%
Vince Carter 0.73 -2.31 -1.4 DAL Average/Bad Across the Board
Russell Westbrook 5.34 2.32 -1.39 OKC Star/Good Assist% and TS%
Jason Thompson -0.6 -3.46 -1.31 SAC Mediocre/Terrible TS%, TOV%
Evan Fournier -0.82 -3.47 -1.22 DEN Mediocre/Terrible TS%

A couple of big stars make the downer list. Russell Westbrook really has not found his groove yet this season. I suspect he will given his age and playing in the same system, which is scary for the rest of the West. Tim Duncan has rebounded a bit from his slow start, but it could be that he and Vince Carter are finally going to succumb to age.

Lastly, for individual statistics, here are the biggest movers in the West so far, along with my ‘theories’ of varying validity on why:

  • Assist%- Up-Steve Blake healthy and taking the helm with the Lakers is the biggest up mover.  Down- Jose Calderon playing along side the ball-dominant Monta Ellis.
  • TOV%-DownJ.J. Redick with no pressure to create playing alongside Chris Paul.  Up- Joel Freeland, random.
  • TS%- Up-I am going to skip over Plumlee and go with Draymond Green as his increase comes after playing 1,000 minutes last year. Down- Playing alongside Green, Marreese Speights, and his TS% was not good last year.
  • TRB%- Up- DeJuan Blair going to work in Dallas.  Down- Wilson Chandler doing a worse impersonation of a power forward than last year.
  • MDMH1787

    Vis-a-vis your comment on the Nets, I live in Newark and the general feeling was that playing older players would be worse than playing younger players. The wisdom of streetball is again proven to be correct!

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