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Underperforming or lack of talent? The advanced stats say...

I think it's fair to say that the Blazers are in a tailspin right now. There have been many theories floated around that attempt to explain what is going on. One point of discussion is determine just how much talent Portland has on the roster. Portland's performance could either be a product of lottery-level talent or a sincere case of underperforming.

It's difficult to assess roster talent - I surely am no expert! Nevertheless, I wanted to a rough statistical guide. To this end, I calculated a weighted average of both PER and Win Shares/48 for each team in the West weighting each player by minutes played. Because these results may be confounded with performance this season, I also calculated a weighted average of PER and Win Shares/48 for current rosters but based on last year's stats.

Here's what I found:

2012 Weighted Average Win Shares/48:

1. OKC 0.138
2. LAL 0.126
3. SAS 0.122
4. POR 0.120
5. DEN 0.118
6. LAC 0.117
7. MEM 0.117
8. DAL 0.107
9. MIN 0.105
10. HOU 0.104
11. UTA 0.099
12. GSW 0.093
13. PHX 0.091
14. NOH 0.073
15. SAC 0.061

2011 Weighted Average Win Shares/48:

1. LAL 0.138
2. SAS 0.127
3. OKC 0.125
4. DAL 0.122
5. DEN 0.119
6. POR 0.112
7. MEM 0.101
8. LAC 0.100
9. HOU 0.099
10. PHX 0.096
11. MIN 0.086
12. GSW 0.081
13. UTA 0.077
14. NOH 0.071
15. SAC 0.064

2012 Weighted Average PER:

1. DEN 16.292
2. UTA 16.193
3. LAC 16.001
4. SAS 15.974
5. LAL 15.865
6. POR 15.628
7. OKC 15.558
8. GSW 15.482
9. MEM 15.423
10. HOU 15.154
11. PHX 14.940
12. MIN 14.771
13. DAL 14.647
14. SAC 14.273
15. NOH 14.237

2011 Weighted Average PER:

1. LAL 16.308
2. SAS 15.746
3. DAL 15.650
4. LAC 15.609
5. POR 15.593
6. HOU 15.469
7. DEN 15.436
8. MIN 15.107
9. OKC 15.073
10. UTA 14.779
11. MEM 14.772
12. PHX 14.628
13. GSW 14.305
14. SAC 14.205
15. NOH 12.741

While this is by no means a perfect analysis, it does suggest that Portland's talent level exceeds their performance this season, as the Blazers rank in the top 6 in each of these metrics.

You can argue that the West is so muddled that not much separates playoff contenders so that 10th place is not much different to 6th. While this may be true, there are a couple of frightening statistics that paint an even darker picture:

Here is the average opponent SRS of each team in the West:

New Orleans: 1.44
Sacramento: 1.03
Golden State: 0.76
Memphis: 0.75
San Antonio: 0.71
Utah: 0.64
Dallas: 0.54
Denver: 0.44
L. A. Lakers: 0.40
L. A. Clippers: 0.38
Minnesota: 0.33
Houston: 0.18
Phoenix: 0.12
Portland: -0.17
Oklahoma City: -0.18

So Portland has found itself in 10th place despite facing the 2nd easiest schedule in the West. To make matters worse, the average SRS of Portland's remaining 25 opponents is 0.71, so in order to salvage some respectable finish to the season, the Blazers will have to really turn things around. Furthermore, over the last 32 games (nearly half of this lockout-shortened season), Portland is 13-19, good for a paltry 0.406 winning percentage.

All of this paints the picture that Portland is underperforming this year in comparison to their level of talent.

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