Six franchises represent models for the Blazers to aspire to in upgrading its roster for the 2013/14 season: the four semifinalists (Miami, Indiana, Memphis, San Antonio), Oklahoma City and LAC. OKC gets a mention because without the i...
Six franchises represent models for the Blazers to aspire to in upgrading its roster for the 2013/14 season: the four semifinalists (Miami, Indiana, Memphis, San Antonio), Oklahoma City and LAC. OKC gets a mention because without the injury to Westbrook, it could just as well be OKC in the West finals instead of Memphis. The Clippers were a productive team - rating higher than Memphis in net production. I included them in this analysis before they were knocked out - and I don't want to redo the data.
Obviously, Miami and OKC are not models that can be duplicated by Portland. Each team has two stars that transcend the brightest star on Portland's team, so the question is really whether Portland can achieve success via the Indiana or Memphis model. I don't believe San Antonio is a good model because their roster and system is too unique. I didn't spend any real time looking at the LAC.
The first step (Part 1) in the comparison analysis is to examine rosters using 82games.com's Net Production tables. Net Production is merely PER of the team's player vs. opponent PER (same position; on court).
Part 2, coming later, will look at Basketballreference.com's Lineups - which display comprehensive stats for 5-,4-,3- and 2-man combinations for every team. This second approach emphasizes the most important statistic of all - the ability to outscore the opponent, although it does present very interesting tidbits - such as the fact that the Blazers had a better team TRB% with Aldridge than they did with Hickson. Remember Golliver's "empty rebounds" remarks? There's some merit to that.
Ultimately, the Blazers are very unlikely to add a star (Chris Paul or Dwight Howard) that could elevate them into Miami or OKC status. More likely, they need to upgrade as many positions as effectively possible, including positions 6-10 on the bench. The potential for the Blazers to improve dramatically simply by fielding a competent bench is extremely high. Not high enough to contend for a championship - but probably high enough to make the playoffs.
So - the data will show that upgrading Hickson and Matthews are the two priorities.
Part 1 - Net Production Analysis (Net PER)
This is the more superficial of the two approaches - but still illuminating. Making personnel decisions on this factor alone would not be appropriate. It does start to give us an idea of where the Blazers are weak, relative to playoff teams.
I imported 82games.com regular season Net Production data into Excel for each of the sixteen playoff teams, plus Portland. I then graphed team net production and "Top 5" net production. I used Top 5 vs. nominal starters to give teams that relied heavily on a sixth man proper credit for contributions. I tried to use playing time as the governing criteria - but in some cases (such as Boston), I used an injured player's numbers in the Top 5 - even if the minutes played were less than the replacement's. However, in all cases, I prorated Net Production by using playing time % as a coefficient (playing time presented by 82games.com as a percentage of team's total minutes). This gives a result similar to Value Added (ESPN/Hollinger), which correlates PER to actual playing time.
As expected, the better teams had higher net production overall, but graphing starter net production exposed stark differences in how teams accomplish the basic task of outperforming opponents. Denver, of all the playoff teams, had by far the deepest rotation - with the bench contributing nearly as much to wins as the starters. Miami, not surprisingly, had the largest difference between starters and bench players among playoff teams. A significant part of that difference is James who represents an extreme outlier in terms of net production. However, OKC also has an extreme outlier (Durant) - but a stronger bench - and therefore an overall superior team net production. Also as expected, Portland's bench was a complete disaster. Po