Wednesday, April 13, 2011

John Wall's Rookie Year in Perspective

Averaging over 22 points, 12 rebounds, and almost 4 assists per game Blake Griffin secured Rookie of the Year in December--around the second time he hit his head--mid-dunk--on the backboard. Had Griffin not missed last year because of surgery to repair a broken knee cap, John Wall, who averaged 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game (7th in the NBA) would most likely have won rookie of the year.

So, DBSF thought it was worthwhile to compare Wall's numbers to the last few rookies of the year (and Griffin). But, the problem with comparing the numbers of ROYs is that they usually play on poor teams where their stats get inflated because coaches and GMs let rookies play and shoot their way to all-stardom. So, while Wall put up Jason Kidish numbers he also played 38 minutes per game on a team that won only 23 games (24 if they beat the Cavs tonight) where he averaged almost 4 turnovers per game, shot 40% from the field and under 30% for threes.

Fortunately there are clever individuals, who in college rather than smoke weed and watch Family Guy DVDs over and over, created statistics to standardize players' performance. In comparing Wall with past ROYs two 'advanced' measures are useful. The first, PER (player efficiency rating) reflects per-minute standardized production where the league average is 15 (i.e., being above 15 indicates that you're "above average"). The second 'Win Shares per 48 minutes' estimates the number of wins that a player contributes in a season per 48 minutes. (For actual calculations see PER and WS/48.) Below are the PERs and WS/48s for Wall, Griffin and the last 5 ROYs.

John Wall 15.7; 0.038
Blake Griffin 21.8; 0.150
Tyreke Evans: 18.2; 0.097
Derrick Rose: 16.0; 0.078
Kevin Durant: 15.8; 0.040
Brandon Roy: 18.0; 0.114
Chris Paul: 22.1; 0.178

Arguably the two best players in the NBA this season--Rose and Durant--had rookie PERs and WS/48s closest to Wall. (For another perspective, DeMarcus Cousins, probably the second runner-up for rookie of the year to Griffin and Wall had a PER of 14.6 and WS/48 of 0.022.) Although not exceptional stats for a "rookie of the year" rookie year, Wall's numbers are comparable to recent winners. And, considering Wall's prediction after last night's overtime win over Boston's b-team that the Wizards will make the playoffs next season, you have to believe his improved performance will contribute to this optimism.

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