Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider) has released his player profiles for the 2013-14 Portland Trail Blazers.
Included alongside the analysis are projected Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) numbers for all players expected to play at least 250 minutes, which can be found below. Last season's WARP numbers are in parentheses.
- Nicolas Batum 9.6 (8.9)
- Damian Lillard: 7.6 (6.1)
- LaMarcus Aldridge 7.5 (6.7)
- Wesley Matthews 4.5 (3.8)
- Dorell Wright 4.6 (7.0)
- Robin Lopez 3.5 (5.4)
- CJ McCollum 1.4 (n/a)
- Mo Williams 1.2 (1.6)
- Thomas Robinson 0.1 (-0.8)
- Meyers Leonard 0.1 (-1.1)
- Victor Claver -0.2 (-1.2)
- Will Barton -0.1 (-1.7)
Here are a few thoughts on some of the new guys from his player profiles.
Lopez's defense drew more mixed reviews. Like Portland, the Hornets struggled guarding the pick-and-roll, in part because Lopez had a tough time hedging against ballhandlers. New Orleans had more success using Lopez to plug the pick-and-roll by hanging back in the paint and cutting off driving lanes. He's more confident and effective in the paint, where he's an above-average shot blocker with enough strength to defend one-on-one in the post. Lopez is a poor defensive rebounder, which could be an issue playing alongside Aldridge.
The Jazz wanted Williams in part because they value toughness in their point guards. He's feisty defensively and gives no ground against bigger opponents, but competitiveness can't entirely make up for being 6-foot-1 with only average quickness. Utah was better defensively with backup Jamaal Tinsley at the point.
Robinson correctly fears he can't play inside against bigger opponents. More than 10 percent of his shot attempts got blocked, per Hoopdata.com, and he made just 55.6 percent of his tries at the rim. But Robinson's solution, shooting midrange jumpers and handling the basketball on the perimeter and in transition, was a poor one. He turned the ball over on nearly 20 percent of his plays and was inaccurate from outside. Instead, Robinson should focus on attacking the offensive glass and setting good screens.
Here's an old rundown of WARP for the uninitiated.
What is WARP?
WARP stands for Wins Above Replacement Player. The term and concept are borrowed from sabermetrics and, specifically, Baseball Prospectus. Conceptually, the WARP system seeks to evaluate players in the context of a team made up of them and four completely average players. The performance of this team is then compared to that of a team made up of four average players and one replacement-level player. The method draws heavily on the work of Dean Oliver.
What are the benefits of this method?
For one, this rating system is very flexible. Players can be rated on a per-minute basis (using the theoretical "winning percentage" of the team with four average players), in terms of their offense and defense and in terms of their overall value (WARP itself). Using replacement level shows the value of players that can play heavy minutes and avoid injury while continuing to perform above replacement level. Using wins gives a measure of value that is easy to understand and constant over time. Lastly, by eschewing the traditional linear weights method so common in basketball analysis, I believe WARP does a better job of incorporating defensive value.
What are the limitations?
Like all rating systems based on box-score data, WARP cannot account for contributions that are not tracked in the box score, most notably on defense. It does no better than linear weights methods at evaluating players like Bruce Bowen. Also, it requires a number of assumptions - the value of assists, the trade-off between usage and efficiency, and replacement level.
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