FanPost

Dissecting the Champions

Winners set the standard. Understanding the anatomy of the ultimate NBA winners ostensibly gives us a blueprint for roster construction - a design to apply to personnel decisions.

Understanding the anatomy of a champion is obviously challenging - but I take a simple approach to the problem here by using a composite stat (Win Shares) to gain insight on what level of overall performance represents a champion caliber roster. Win Shares is convenient - with data easily available from basketballreference.com for all my samples. As a composite stat, it isn't perfect - but it is good enough to draw some basic conclusions.

Technically, I could go back to the late 70's to build my sample size (Win Shares calculated the same way for all teams/players going back that far) - but that is more work than I wanted. So, I limited my analysis to NBA champions in the current millennium. The Lakers dominate the millennium so far - with 5 championships since 2000. How that might skew my analysis, I have no idea.

What we do know is that the average team Win Shares for an NBA champion is 59. The low was 50.6 (2000-01 Lakers) and the high was the 2007-08 Celtics at 70.2. Where it gets interesting is how a 10-player rotation accounts for those Win Shares. After the jump, I take a look at Win Share distribution per Championship team, and I compare that to the current edition of the Portland Trailblazers. Dave recently posed the question of "how long to relevance?". This analysis offers some additional discussion fodder for that very question.

Season Champion Team Win Shares 1st Player 2nd Player 3rd player 4th player 5th player 6th player 7th player 8th player 9th Player 10th player
2010-11 Dallas Mavericks 52.7 11.1 9.4 6.4 5.6 5.3 3.2 2.9 1.8 1.8 1.7
2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers 53.6 11 9.4 7.8 7.7 5.3 3.9 3.4 2.8 1.4 0.6
2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers 60.8 13.9 12.7 6.9 6.3 6.1 5.5 3.7 2 1.6 0.8
2007-08 Boston Celtics 70.2 12.9 12.4 9.7 7.2 6.2 6.2 4.3 3.9 2.7 2.5
2006-07 San Antonio Spurs 64.4 13 10.6 9.6 6.8 4.7 4.1 4.1 3.1 2.9 2.2
2005-06 Miami Heat 52.9 14.4 7 6.2 4.8 4.8 4.2 4.1 3.6 1.2 0.8
2004-05 San Antonio Spurs 63.8 11.2 11 8.1 6.1 6.1 4.6 4.2 3.7 3.1 2.3
2003-04 Detroit Pistons 58.6 11.3 10.2 8.1 7.5 5.9 4.1 2.4 2.1 2 1.4
2002-03 San Antonio Spurs 57 16.5 7.7 6 5.2 5.1 4.8 4.2 2.5 2.2 1.6
2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers 60.1 13.2 12.7 6.9 5.5 5.3 4.3 4.2 2 1.9 1.8
2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers 50.6 14.9 11.3 6.5 5.1 2.6 2.5 1.8 1.8 1.6 1.1
1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers 63.3 18.6 10.6 9 5.7 5 4 3.2 3.1 2.1 0.7
Average Win Shares 59 13.5 10.4 7.6 6.1 5.2 4.3 3.5 2.7 2.0 1.5
Aldridge Batum Mathews Wallace Crawford Camby Hickson Felton Thomas C.Smith
2011-12 Portland Trailblazers 31.3 7 4.8 4.8 3.5 2.3 1.9 1.8 1.7 1.1 1
2010-11 Portland Trailblazers 11.1 6.6 7.2 6.2

A couple of things to note about the above table:

  1. Win Shares is normalized against minutes played - so the lockout shortened season compares to the full season stats for the champions.
  2. The Blazer numbers are skewed by a couple of things - injury (LMA and Batum), trade (Wallace/Camby) and late season pickup (Hickson).
  3. The Blazers don't look quite as bad when we use WS/48 (table below).

What this table tells us is that in a healthy season - Aldridge produces like a bona fide #1 (see his 2010-11 numbers). Batum produces like a cross between a #3 and a #4; ditto for Mathews.

Funny thing is - the WS/48 doesn't support the idea of Aldridge as a #1. In reality - he would be a perfect #3. A caveat here is that WS likes rebounding - Aldridge's particular weak spot. If Aldridge adds a couple of rebounds per game - he could get into that #2 territory for sure - perhaps even #1. Batum has been a remarkably consistent producer that could fill the roll of a 3rd - 4th player on a championship team. Mathews really regressed in 2011-12. In 2010-11, Mathews was a borderline #3. This season, he matched Batum in total production - but only because he played in every game.

Total production isn't the whole story, of course - and the WS/48 table sheds a little more light on the issue:

Season Champion Team Win Shares 1st Player 2nd Player 3rd player 4th player 5th player 6th player 7th player 8th player 9th Player 10th player
2010-11 Dallas Mavericks 52.7 0.213 0.218 0.116 0.12 0.1 0.093 0.104 0.177 0.074 0.132
2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers 53.6 0.22 0.16 0.188 0.143 0.098 0.085 0.096 0.093 0.12 0.084
2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers 60.8 0.223 0.206 0.143 0.123 0.146 0.184 0.138 0.083 0.098 0.034
2007-08 Boston Celtics 70.2 0.265 0.207 0.177 0.15 0.156 0.164 0.256 0.127 0.093 0.128
2006-07 San Antonio Spurs 64.4 0.23 0.246 0.185 0.201 0.125 0.144 0.079 0.111 0.125 0.163
2005-06 Miami Heat 52.9 0.239 0.134 0.164 0.124 0.176 0.104 0.085 0.08 0.085 0.096
2004-05 San Antonio Spurs 63.8 0.245 0.24 0.141 0.168 0.111 0.157 0.114 0.145 0.128 0.13
2003-04 Detroit Pistons 58.6 0.198 0.16 0.141 0.134 0.179 0.124 0.171 0.115 0.137 0.13
2002-03 San Antonio Spurs 57 0.248 0.134 0.172 0.13 0.096 0.102 0.141 0.117 0.109 0.091
2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers 60.1 0.262 0.199 0.154 0.134 0.153 0.091 0.113 0.059 0.142 0.118
2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers 50.6 0.245 0.196 0.13 0.107 0.078 0.067 0.119 0.077 0.088 0.085
1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers 63.3 0.283 0.202 0.17 0.161 0.124 0.093 0.104 0.083 0.082 0.093

Average Win Shares 59 0.239 0.192 0.157 0.141 0.129 0.117 0.127 0.106 0.107 0.107
















Aldridge Batum Mathews Wallace Crawford Camby Hickson Felton Thomas C.Smith
2011-12 Portland Trailblazers 31.3 0.169 0.127 0.104 0.111 0.069 0.1 0.147 0.042 0.067 0.105



71% 66% 66% 79% 54% 85% 116% 40% 63% 98%

The percentages shown in the last row show how far below or above the Blazers were relative to a comparable slot on a championship team. Hickson was good in his limited time - good enough to outproduce Felton's entire season. Dang. Wallace was decent - good enough to be a fourth wheel. Batum is grossly under-appreciated as an asset and potential starter on a championship-caliber team (editorializing here, sorry). Crawford was deplorable. Downright awful. Thomas wasn't good enough. Craig Smith was.

2011-12 was Aldridge's best season a 0.169 WS/48 - well below the #1 or #2 average. As noted above, however, WS isn't favorable to Aldridge because of the weight given to rebounds. Aldridge could bump his WS/48 with a reasonable increase in rebounding (double digits would be nice). The Mavericks and 2009-10, 2008-09 Lakers were lead by Power Forwards (Nowitzki and Gasol) - and their WS/48 for those seasons should be what Aldridge is shooting for (low .200's). Filling in a roster around Aldridge will require adding legitimate #2/#3 players to the rotation. Batum could potentially be the #3. His high WS/48 of .181 was good enough, two seasons ago - but that was in limited minutes. At age 23, Batum hasn't hit his prime - and only needs a 19% increase in production to hit that solid #3 territory. Doable, considering his history, age, and skill set.

A #2 is still necessary, however (not to mention #4, #5, #6, #7. PG, SG, SF, C - three of those four spots is a candidate to add a #2, if we hypothesize that Batum can play either SG or SF. The Blazers do not currently have an on-roster candidate to develop into a #2 - that person has to be acquired either via the draft or via Free Agency. Mathews wasn't very good in 2011-12. However, he was good enough in 2010-11, almost good enough to be a #5 (almost a starter or 6th man). If Mathews and Williams can be the 5th and 6th guys - that would be a plus. Hickson is a wildcard. He is an RFA - so the path to acquiring him is relatively straightforward (same with Batum). However, can he maintain a .147 WS/48? Big question. Plus, he would have to do that playing alongside Aldridge. Babbitt has potential as a rotation contributor. Nolan Smith? Maybe.

The Blazers do have a lottery pick - and potentially two lottery picks. Expecting either to be above average contributors right away is asking a lot. The top picks are all very young. Retooling through FA will require the following:

1) retain Batum as the #4 or hope he emerges as a #3.

2) retain Hickson as the #5; hope he keeps that position and develops into a solid 4.

3) Sign a new #1 or #2 type.

4) Sign a new #3 or #4 type.

Deron Williams would represent a #3. He is not a #1. He might be a good enough #2 if there is a good enough #1 on the team - but the Maverick/Laker examples show that the lower PF leaders are backed by very good wings - better than what Williams has been in his career. Goran Dragic is a #3 or #4. Beyond those two, are there any UFA's that could help this team retool by filling a distinct need for a top player? Ain't gonna happen. The players just aren't there. Those players aren't there in the draft, either, unless the Blazers score the top pick.

Really, the only way for the Blazers to retool is to hope for internal development of players like Aldridge (emerge as a #1); Batum (emerge as a #3); Hickson (emerge as a #4); Mathews & Williams (emerge as #5 & #6) and then sign Deron Williams, Dragic or Nash and have one of those three become a #2. Although there is precedent for a team retooled with declining players to have those players all simultaneously rebound to previous glory days (Garnett/Pierce/Allen), it would be a major stretch to ask 5 players to all hit new heights at the same time.

Bottom line is that the Blazers are searching for a replacement to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden - the two guys that along with Aldridge would have formed a legitimate championship core. Roy was that good. Oden showed flashes. Aldridge would have been perfect as a complement to those two. However, now the Blazers face the task of finding out if they have anything to build around (you don't build around #3's and #4's - you build around #1's and #2's - but only if you already have both).

I don't think the Blazers need to commit to a total rebuild (acquire prospects or tank to acquire prospects) until we find out what kind of players will come out of this draft and offseason. I think we are one year away from a rebuild decision.

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