It’s fun to compare players to other players in the NBA. Everybody has done Dirk vs. Durant, we’ve done Parsons vs. Barnes this offseason and there’s Dorian Finney-Smith vs. Nicolas Brussino for the truly sick.
However, very few players actually play a majority of their team’s positional minutes due to various reasons (injuries, rotation changes and DNP-old). In fact, only five Mavericks even averaged 24 minutes or more over 82 games (MP82G) last year. Only one player even averaged over 30-plus MP82G last year (Ironman Wes). Dirk was second at 28.8 MP82G. So while player-to-player makes sense for comps, when ranking positional strength, it makes sense to to look up and down the depth chart.
Over the next few days, we will take a look at how the Mavericks’ rank by position by projecting Win Shares, a simplistic stat I’ve touted before. Win Shares attempts to measure an individual’s contribution to winning (very similar to Wins Above Replacement). This is preferable and easier to get a high-level view than traditional individual stats, as due to differences in playing style (some teams favor shooting, others favor hustle/defense), pace and other factors.
About the projections: I am using individual players’ Win Shares over the last few years, which means: 1) rookies aren’t counted, 2) less confidence for players with little recent data and 3) doesn’t account for system changes (including how a player may or may not benefit from a system). Otherwise, the model looks at career trajectories (a younger player is likely to improve while an older player is more likely to regress) and favors recent performance, a player who was good last year is more likely to do good than a player who was good two years ago. Think of this as a super one-dimensional positional view of fivethirtyeight’s CARMELO. Note that I used ESPN’s rosters here to determine positions.
With these assumptions, we should be able to find out where the Mavericks rank in the league with some confidence. Even if the actual rankings move up or down a few spots due to returning injured players or rookies, they’re not going to drastically be turned upside-down. Long intro finished (the next few posts will get right to it, I promise), let’s get to the rankings!
At point guard, Dallas is ranked No. 13 with 8 wins.
PREDICTABILITY (1 Dirk- not reliable, 3- somewhat reliable, 5- reliable)
In terms of predictability, this ranking is fairly safe since the Mavericks are finally returning the bulk of the players at point guard after featuring a revolving door for the last five years. 2016-2017 will finally be the first year since Jason Kidd left the Mavericks don’t have to work in a new starting point guard. Ironically, point guard might be the most stable position up and down the depth chart for the Mavericks, with only Seth Curry potentially really adding new PG minutes. Even so, Curry profiles more like an undersized shooting guard.
UPSIDE POTENTIAL (1 Dirk- low ceiling, 3- average ceiling, 5 high ceiling)
Areas for upside are Deron Williams and Devin Harris being more healthy, although those would be long bets. Williams also might play a little better due to comfortability but I feel like Seth Curry really breaking out as a point guard and overtaking JJB/Devin as regular rotational players is the only legitimate internal bet for improving the Mavericks’ PG spot overall, which is remains to be seen.
DOWNSIDE RISK (1 Dirk- low floor, 3 average floor, 5 high floor)
Areas for downside are Deron Williams and Devin Harris being more injured, which isn’t that long of a bet. Even if they are healthy, they are at an age where you expect them to get worse season-to-season but that should be baked into the model. Still, the cliff could appear anytime. Overall, I feel like the Mavericks have diversified enough to sustain a drop-off or injury from any one particular player though. JJB and Harris have also proven starter-caliber in Rick’s system.
OVERALL RATING (1 Dirk- weakness, 3 average, 5 strength)
Not a team strength but not a weakness, the Mavericks’ point guards should be a draw most nights but will need to be a resourceful as a group when battling the superstar point guards (Curry, Westbrook, Paul, etc) of the West.