...or a possible explanation for why the last three weeks of the Blazers season have created an impact event reminiscent of the Chelyabinsk Meteor.
This links to an advanced stat page for 2012-2013 Trail Blazers. Most interesting among those stats is Wins Created. It's exactly what it sounds like, and takes into account position and standard box score stats. What is likely to stand out first is that LaMarcus Aldridge is the least valuable of Portland's five starters. Or, maybe, that Nicolas Batum is the most valuable starter by Wins Created.
Batum is nicked for not looking like the popular ideal of a great basketball player, an ideal that expounds the preeminence of "pounding the rock," and "creating shots," and honors analysis that begins and ends with points scored. But before his shoulder injury, and playing with a wrist injury, Batum was ranked top ten in wins created. He is a franchise player, seemingly in the one market best able to appreciate misunderstood greatness. All those assists, shots blocked and steals add up.
But here's the big takeaway and why I post this link: Aldridge is not helping the team win. The Blazers are not even breaking even on his salary. Additional to this, Damian Lillard has not started his career like a young superstar. I know all the Rookie of the Month trophies suggest otherwise, but truth is those trophies are indicative of a poor evaluation of value that puts too much emphasis on scoring. By Wins Created, Lillard has been respectable, ranking sixth among all rookies. But that is largely a testament to his minutes played rather than his value per minute. By Wins Created per 48 minutes played, Lillard ranks 25th.
You can throw this knowledge out the window. That's what I expect most to do. Basketball, for whatever reason, seems good and stuck in the Dark Age of statistical analysis. Good analysis is out there and yet Carmelo Anthony is in the MVP discussion.
But consider an alternative: The Blazers franchise could accept received wisdom about what makes a great basketball player, putter along in this protracted rebuild, and hope to one day be bad enough and lucky enough to draft that one-in-a-billion talent that opens a team's championship window. And maybe if they do, that talent will stay and not publicly humiliate the city at the eve of his free agency.
Or the Blazers franchise could see the incredible inefficiencies present in modern talent evaluation, take a risk, maybe fall on their face and find themselves at the top of the draft anyway, or maybe lead the kind of break from orthodoxy that's so successful it rewrites the rules.
Someone's liable to tell you LaMarcus Aldridge is having the best season of his career. Someone's going to say Damian Lillard is a franchise talent. And yet the team loses and loses and loses. But why? And if the answer were really as plain as the Anne on Egg's face, wouldn't it be awfully dumb to ignore it simply because it challenges our assumptions and forces us to, I don't know, stop swallowing whole the nonsense the mainstream media pumps out? the nonsense the minor media seems only too happy to parrot?
Portland has a top-ten talent just entering his prime, and money to burn. There's hope yet. It's just going to take a little thinking.