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J.Jones: A contrarian case for Team MVP?

    Hi.  I've enjoyed reading the amazing commentary on this site over the season.  Thank you!  I'm something of a bandwagon, fairweather fan.  I hope you won't think too ill of me if I admit that I found the jailblazer era pretty distasteful, and I ignored the team.  Needless to say, I love the new look, and followed this season closely.  I also am not very sophisticated with basketball.  Since I don't really understand the game, in addition to all your commentary, I looked for new-school statistical measures to help me.  I wanted to throw out something of a contrarian view for your collective expertise and criticism.

    The story of James Jones’ knee and its impact on the team was one of the most interesting stories of the season.  I believe, in fact, that James Jones' knee is in some ways more important than Brandon Roy to the Blazers success.  I enjoyed watching Roy and his cross-over dribble for sure, but the vicissitudes of the knee was the big narrative arc for me.  Jones' level of excellence isn’t as high or as broad as Roy’s – he’s not an All-Star in that way – but his success correlates more strongly with Blazer wins than Roy’s success does.  I find this inversion very interesting. 

        Using “game score,” from Basketball-reference.com (an aggregate statistical measure of player productivity that uses points, attempted and made field goals, attempted and made free throws, offensive and defensive rebounds, steals and blocks, assists, personal fouls and turnovers.  10 is about average. - Are there better measures out there, btw?), I tried to determine player value in wins.

        Roy’s game scores ranged from 30.7 to .6, with an average of 14.9.  Jones’ ranged from 17.4 to -6.0, with an average of 5.9.  As you’d expect, by a substantial margin Roy has the broader and better game.  And if 10 is average, Jones doesn’t even rank as an average starter – and, indeed, he’s not a starter.

        But take Jones’ game scores and rank them in descending order, and then divide them into thirds – so you get good games, average games, and poor games.  When Jones has a good game, the Blazers were 16-3, 84%.  His average games yielded 12-7, 63%.  And his bad games, 5-15, 25%.  When he didn’t play, 8-16, 33%.

        When I do the same for Roy – and his *average* game is even a little better than Jones’ good game – Roy’s good games yielded 19-6, 76%.  His average games, 14-11, 56%.  And his bad games, 7-17, 29%.  Though when he did not play, the Blazers were practically guaranteed a loss:  1-7, 13%.

        When Jones has an average game or better, the Blazers were 28-10, 74%; when Roy has an average game or better, the Blazers were 33-17, 66%.

        In crude terms, having Jones nail a few threes correlates with a Blazer win more strongly than any other individual performance.  In wins, he shot 50% from the arc; in losses, 32%.  (I didn’t do the calculations for other players, but I looked for similar patterns, and none of the other players have anything like Roy or Jones’ correlations with wins.  I mean, the streak started when he came back!)

        By this measure his healthy knee (assuming the knee was the reason for his shooting difficulties) is more valuable than Roy.

        Basketball-reference also gives WSAA (win shares above average).  By this measure, with 3.0 Jones is the third most valuable, behind Roy at 5.0 and Przybilla at 4.0.

        Additionally, at 82games.com Jones has very good +/- marks in each player pair, only slightly behind the marks of Blake and Roy.

        Each of these measures gives high importance to Jones and his impact on the team.

     I wonder if he can repeat this, though.  He may not be a good bet for the Blazers to lock up with a multi-year contract.  Before the All-Star break Jones was shooting 48%, but after it he shot 39%.  We all saw the swoon.  Jones is a career 40% shooter, and his season rate this year of 44% was significantly higher – not to mention the stretch where he was shooting 50% or better.  The post-All-Star rate is more consistent with his career rate.  It’s true that the knee injury hampered him, and it’s also likely that the situation in Portland in terms of “culture” was conducive to a higher rate of production.  But was the improvement over the first half of the season more a streak of random variation than a new plateau of sustained achievement?    Hard to say.  Glad I’m not KP!  What do you all think?

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