January 29, 2008

Why O.J. Mayo is overrated – part 9,745,398,606

If any of the following numbers confuse you, it means you probably ought to read this, my previous post on the subject. Long story short, I’m using a metric devised by Professor David Berri called Win Score to analyze the LA collegiate basketball teams (ed note - I wrote, but did not post, this entry before Erich Doerr guest-posted his analysis of pro draft prospects on Berri's site... including his similar conclusions on Mayo; basically, he confirms what I'm about to say). The following post will cover the USC Trojans – not my preferred team, but the one that spurred this post. The results from plugging the Trojan stats into the Win Score formula weren’t entirely surprising, but they were not exactly what I expected either. I would like to note here that all conclusions that follow are simply within the confines of the metric being used – that is, Win Score. You can take from it what you will, though I think much of it makes sense, to varying degrees.

Just to let you know, WS is the total Win Score added by a player up to that point in the season. I haven’t double-checked this in a while, but I believe that 40 points of Win Score is approximately equal to one ‘win.’ We can check by adding up all of USC’s Win Score to that point (1/24/08) and comparing it to the Trojan win total. USC had totaled 509 WS. 40 out of 509 is 12.725, which is just above their actual win total at that point in time, of 12. Looks like we’re on target so far (oddly-accurate, isn’t it? - it nails UCLA's 06/07 win total to within .02). WS/MIN is the Win Score a player adds per minute played. And WS/40 is that player’s Win Score if he were to play all 40 minutes of a single game – this allows us to compare players who don’t normally play the same amount of minutes, to a reasonable degree. Obviously, sample size does come into play here – I’ve removed USC’s 5 lowest minutes players, as they’re significant outliers (I doubt Marcus Simmons would be getting only 3 minutes per game if he was in fact the 5th-best player on the team as his WS/40 would suggest, for example).

So, what do these numbers mean? First, it appears my initial hunch was correct – I just didn’t realize to what degree. Not only is Mayo not the best player on his team, he barely cracks the starting 5, with a VERY pedestrian 4.568 WS/40! A closer look at his numbers explains the low total – not only is Mayo an inefficient scorer, but that’s about the only thing he’s even remotely competent at doing. He doesn’t rebound very well, and though he’s so/so at acquiring assists, his massive 4 turnovers a game far outweigh whatever benefits his passing might otherwise offer. His defensive stats, too, are sorely lacking. I’m aware there’s more to defense than just stats, but when trying to analyze individual contributions one must stick to what is quantifiable – such are the limitations of the medium, and my apologies. Nevertheless, he’s not great at getting steals, and almost never blocks shots. All in all, O.J. Mayo is an inefficient scorer who has not yet displayed any other quantifiable skills, despite his prodigious hype.

Jefferson and Taj Gibson are USC’s best players by a fairly wide margin, and they’re similar players, in results if not in their play styles. They both can’t shoot 3-pointers, but are accurate on 2-point baskets and get to the free-throw line with regularity. They both rebound the ball very well, have solid hands on defense for steals (though both are turnover-prone), and block quite a few shots. It seems for all Tim Floyd’s 'genius,' he’s struggling to entrust more possessions to his far more efficient players at the expense of his wunderkind. Though I should add, USC’s play over their past few games has featured far more Gibson, Jefferson and Hackett – perhaps it’s little surprise they’re doing better.

Having completed that analysis, I decided I much preferred wasting this sort of time on my Bruins instead of the Trojans. So I thought about what I could glean from this season’s group of Bruin basketball players, which we'll get to in the next post.


Erich said...

Thanks for the cite, though please dont worry about the timing. I look forward to your elaboration on these players, as I have only seen them in numbers.

Hopefully, you will be getting a gmail soon....

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