With the 2013 – 2014 season rapidly approaching, it’s time for serious talk about the Cavs. Me though, that’s not my thing. So I’ll add another to my earlier musings, this time derived from a favorite stat; regularized adjusted plus minus (RAPM). This time the pseudo-science gets brazen.
Utilizing the xRAPM and minutes-played data from Jeremias Engelmann’s site, and modifying this method, I converted individual RAPM into approximated team wins. Without belaboring the nuts and bolts, a graph from 2012 – 2013 comparing RAPM approximated wins with actual wins looks like:
From there, with: last season’s xRAPMs; the same minutes distribution from my unbiased Win Shares per 48 minutes projection; and an RAPM aging curve, projected 2013 – 2014 RAPM’s for each player were estimated. Exceptions include the value used for Andrew Bynum is set at 80% of his 2011 – 2012 per possession productivity, and Anthony Bennett represents an average of the players that I deemed most similar to him in June. The results, in non-organized tabular format are (average RAPM is zero and is a per 100 possession value):
Equating those values into wins, using the method vaguely described above, the Wine & Gold forecast for 38 victories this season. Not the hoped for result. What went wrong and should be improved for a “good case”?
First, probably to the shock of most, 2012 – 2013 RAPM does not like Kyrie as much as Varejao or Bynum. Last season at a youthful 20, Irving scorched earth, rating as the NBA’s 20th best offensive player; obviously, there was no one younger & better. On defense though, of 469 NBA players, he ranked 379th. Even worse, Dion bested only 37 guys at that end. That’s a problem. Obviously a foremost solution, and somewhat of a recurring theme, is a big step forward for Cleveland involves the backcourt tightening up their D. Second, clearly a healthy frontline looms large for team defense; Bynum and Varejao both serve as top-fifty defenders, and 22 year old Tristan sits comfortably above average.
Speaking of the frontcourt, the oft-injured Bynum and Varejao are very solid by this metric. Performing strongly at both ends, relative health for those two is critical for a successful 2013 – 2014. Although we knew that, RAPM definitely heaps loads of appreciation on what these two bring to the court. With them playing, plus Tristan, commanding the paint serves as an enormous strength. With all three healthy, the team’s defense should sparkle, and they match-up with the most imposing front units around. Speaking of Tristan, RAPM gives him credit as an average offensive player; not shabby for playing with the wrong hand.
Regarding offense, the backcourt has it in spades. Last week, I mentioned that according to RAPM, Golden State only employed three above average offensive players in 2012 – 2013. Well, the Cavs have four such guards; in addition to Kyrie’s magic, Dion, Jarrett Jack and CJ Miles get buckets. Despite inefficient shooting to start the year, the Cavs offense routinely performed better with Dion playing; even withstanding the complex regressions of RAPM, he served as a top-100 offensive catalyst last season. After learning how to share the court, the Irving, Waiters and Jack backcourt can wreak havoc for the next several years.
How does the crew of newcomers look? As mentioned, thanks to positive two-way impact, Bynum could offer the second-best per possession production on the team. Although a nice offensive weapon, Jarrett Jack may be best served not mentoring Kyrie and Dion of defense…good thing Coach Brown is back for that purpose. What about Earl Clark? Well, nearly league average defense helps maintain Alonzo Gee’s steady presence there, but the offense? Clark ranked amongst the League’s worst according to this metric; hopefully his small sample corner-bombing marksmanship proves sustainable and this projection becomes laughable. Finally, Anthony Bennett forecasts for an overall performance similar to Dion’s rookie season.
So, 38 wins. Booooooooo! Sayonara, favorite stat!! Next week, perhaps a dip into a “good case” scenario is in order. That will be a lot more fun…Kyrie taking another huge leap to super-stardom; under the tutelage of Coach Brown, rapidly advancing backcourt defense from the young bucks; Varejao and Bynum with good health…I’m ready for basketball.