Are 61 Wins Reasonable for the New Orleans Hornets?

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Published: September 4, 2008

One of the first posts I ever made as a blogger was a number-cruncher predicting that last year's Hornets would win 50 games.  At the time, it seemed a pretty crazy number, and I backed off of it later when I did a Season Preview, dropping the number to 48.  With Sean Marks on board, The Hornets now have their usual 14 guaranteed contracts they carry into a season, so it's time for me to put together another prediction.

I will follow the same format I did last year, estimating the number of games and minutes I think each player will play, using career averages, and then use the metrics from Dave Berri's Wages of Wins(which are quite handy for this sort of thing) to figure out the number of wins we can expect.

Minutes
The first thing we have to determine is minutes.  This is, of course, hard to actually guess at since I'm not Byron Scott and of course can't predict injuries.  Still, last year I did alright, missing on the number of minutes Peterson, Wright and Armstrong would play, and thinking our starting five would miss more time to injuries, but I wasn't far off.  Each season there are 3936 minutes available at each position, so here's how I think it'll break down this year.

Center
Tyson Chander:  Other than an injury plagued sophomore year, Chandler has averaged 76 games a year, and he's gone for 35 minutes a game the past two years.  Sounds good. 2660 minutes gone.
Melvton Armly:  I don't have any faith that Hilton is going to progress to a consistent backup center.  Like last year, I expect to see Ely and Hilton trade three weeks stints as the backup center.  Let's say each gets 35 games of 12 minutes each plus a few 30 minute starts each. Thats 1020 minutes used – 510 to each.
Ryan Bowen: At some point, Byron won't be able to stomach either of the above players and will fall back on Hustle Central in the center.  Let's give him the rest of the minutes: 256.

Power Forward
David West:  West is actually my biggest worry for an injury risk, not Peja. West has alternated good years with injury-plagued ones, and his injuries are notoriously slow to heal.  Over his five seasons, he's averaged only 61 games, though one of those he missed 50 games in a season where they purposely didn't rush him back.  So let's say 65 games at his pretty heavy 38 minutes a game.  Thats 2470 minutes used.
Melvin Ely: Ely was our backup PF last year, but he was only used sporadically.  I'm betting he'll get a few runs at this spot, but ultimately lose his minutes to Julian Wright and James Posey.  Let's give him 15 games at 10 minutes each. 150 minutes used.
Julian Wright: Byron isn't easy on the young guys, and Julian is still pretty skinny, so I expect him to get some backup minutes at this position, especially while Posey is playing SF.  Let's give him 40 games at 10 minutes a game.  400 minutes used.
James Posey:  Like I said, I expect Posey to get most of the second unit run as a Power Forward, as well as start when West is out.  That gives him the rest: 916 minutes.

Small Forward
Peja Stojakovic: It seems I say this a lot, but the perception of Stojakovic isn't reality.  In this case, it's his injury history.  Other than the one year where his back went bad, he's played an average of 73 games a year over his career.  Let's stick with that number and go with the same minutes(35) he played last year, since as a third option for this team, he's dyn-o-mite. 2555 minutes down.
James Posey: Posey will be the primary backup SF. Byron loves defense, and loves vets.  Posey's averaged 72 games a year, so let's give him 5 starts at 30 minutes and 63 games at 13 minutes each.  969 minutes in Posey's bag.
Julian Wright: Man, I'd love to see him more than this, but that means he's getting the scraps here.  Another 412 minutes for the giraffe calf.

Shooting Guard
Morris Peterson:  Morris wasn't bad for half the year, but then he tailed off pretty badly.  He's still decent, but this is the place where dogfights will occur for minutes.  Morris will probably end up with about what he did last year – half of every game.  Let's put him down for 77 games at 24 minutes. 1848 minutes used.
Devin Brown:  Devin's a better driver, and a worse shooter than Morris, but I expect him to get a lot of the minutes Pargo received at this position last year. The man is an iron man, so let's mark him down for 80 games with  15 minutes of burn at the SG.  1200 minutes used.
James Posey:  I don't actually expect to see Posey play a lot of minutes here – I think they'll try to keep him primarily against forwards.  But he'll probably get some time.  Let's say 20 games at 10 minutes each. 200 more down.
Rasual Butler:  Byron always gives his veterans a chance.  Rasual will enter some games early in the season, but will not produce much and fall out again.  Rasual has always required a good number of minutes to get his shot going.  Last year I commented on the fact that when he averaged more than 20 minutes a game, he shot around 39%, but only around 28% when given less minutes.  He's not getting more than 20.  He's not playing much.  Let's give him 10 games at 10 minutes.  100 minutes used!
Julian Wright: Again, giraffe calf gets cleanup duty and collects 588 minutes.

Point Guard
Chris Paul: Paul has averaged 74 games a season in his three year career, and went for 38 minutes a game last year.  Seems perfectly reasonable. 2812 PG minutes down.
Mike James: Mike James will start the season at backup point guard.  However, I don't have any of the optimism about him I've seen elsewhere.  James and Pargo like the same shots, but Pargo also had the Byron Scott-pleasing benefit of waterbug quickness and solid on-the-ball pressure.  James hasn't done that in four years and was never the athelete Pargo is.  He'll be out of the rotation by the end of December, with a brief re-appearance around Feb/Mar when Byron gives him another shot.  30 games at 10 minutes a game.  300 minutes done.
Devin Brown: The Hornets tried Julian as a Point Guard in summer league, and he couldn't cut it there against that level of competition.  I honestly believe that is why they went and got Devin, who is a very steady ballhandler, a smart player, and is more than capable of soaking up backup minutes as a point guard.  He cleans up the leftovers, earning 824 minutes.

With all of that done, we now get to use those minutes to determine how well the Hornets will do in the upcoming season.  The Wages of Wins Journal calculates the Wins Produced per 48 minutes(WP48) using the standard stats you can find in a box score.  A score of .100 is considered average, and as a descriptive model it's pretty solid, even if there are quibbles about the weights of some of its metrics.

Player  Minutes  WP48  Wins 
Chris Paul 2812  .406  23.8 
Tyson Chandler  2660  .281  15.6 
David West 2470 .105 5.4
Peja Stojakovic 2555 .095 5.1
James Posey 2085 .136 5.9 
Devin Brown 2024 .080 3.4
Morris Peterson 1848 .048 1.8
Julian Wright  1400  .086 2.5 
Melvin Ely  660  -.058  -0.8 
Hilton Armstrong 510  -.094  -1.0
Mike James 300 -.140 -0.9
Ryan Bowen  256  .025  .1 
Rasual Butler  100  -.003 0
Sean Marks  -.243
Totals 19680  n/a  60.9

61 Wins.  Once again, I'm faced with a pretty daunting-seeming number.  Still, to my admittedly biased eye, it doesn't seem that far fetched.  Trading Posey and Devin Brown for 40 bad Bobby Jackson games, 30 Bonzi Games, and Jannero Pargo should have a big impact on our numbers.  Our oldest players are Mike James and Sean Marks – both of whom I hope will receive only marginal court time.  Peterson, Posey and Peja are all 31, and typically that's considered right at the end of a players prime years – so we've got another couple years before they start to fall off.

And just think.  What if Paul somehow manages to improve.  I can't wait for this season to get started. 

What do you think?  61 Wins a reasonable number?

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