Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jobs take a lot of time. And what the 1980s Sixers can tell us about Elton Brand.

I know. Captain obvious speaking. And, yes, I did have a job all of last year. But I started working at my law firm last Monday (the 15th), and I feel like I haven't had a chance to breath since then. I had none work related stuff going on as well (all good things), but since I tend to not write that much about my non-basketball personal life here I'll just leave it at that. But needless to say, the spare time that I use to sporadically post about the Sixers and basketball took the hit.

I had a few spare moments tonight, so I browsed around my usual haunts (Truehoop, Wages of Wins). And, as usual, Professor Berri (at WoW) had an interesting post up about the Sixers--or, at least, the Sixers from the early 1980s.

In particular, in his post artfully titled "What Ever Happened to "Fo'-Fi'-Fo'"?", he focused on how the Sixers went from very good to NBA champions to first round losers. It's very interesting, so I'd go read it all.

But the upshot (for you lazy people who just want my take on things...) is that you can tie both the Sixers rise and fall primarily to Moses Malone. In his first season with the Sixers, he was fantastic, posting a WP48 of .378 and producing 23 wins. The next year he was still the Sixers' best player, posting a WP48 of .268 (Dr. J had a WP48 of .241 in both seasons) and producing 14.6 wins. But as you can see in those numbers, Malone wasn't nearly the player in the second season that he was in the first season. That said, he was still elite (top 10 in Wins Produced), but no longer super-elite (top 3 behind Magic Johnson and Larry Bird). The difference just goes to show you that even when a player has a very good season, he might not be quite the difference maker that he had been in the past or was expected to be.

And for the current Sixers, that should serve as a warning about getting too hopeful about Elton Brand taking the Sixers into the top tier of the league's teams. In 2005-06, Brand posted a WP48 of .274. In 2006-07, he posted a WP48 of .213. In his injury shortened 2007-08, Brand posted a WP48 of .058. Setting aside last season, we still see a huge difference between Brand's 2005-06 season and his 2006-07 season. At least we do looking at WP48. But I don't think the difference appeared that large to people (like myself) when watching him play. When I saw him play, in both seasons, I was just left with the impression that "Wow. He's a very good player."

And he was. But he was a better "very good player" in 2005-06. I haven't done a WP48 based prediction for the Sixers this year yet (although I hope to soon, especially since last year's prediction turned out to be pretty accurate in overall results), but I expect that the Sixers will be an elite team if the 2005-06 Elton Brand shows up in Philly, yet only a strong playoff team if the 2006-07 Elton Brand shows up. In both cases, we'll think we got a very good player (and we'd be right!), but the case study of the Sixers from the early 1980s and Moses Malone tells us that which version of the "very good player" shows up can make all the difference in the world.


Louis said...

The championship team had more than one star. You mentioned that both Dr. J and Moses had above .2 WP/48... were there others? Do the sixers now have more or less total players over .2 then the team of 80s glory?

Also, what's good?

Sam Cohen said...

The link to Malone's WP48 in the post takes you to the WP48s for the entire roster.

In addition to Malone & Dr. J, Mo Cheeks was phenomenal in 1982-83 with a WP48 of .255-- actually better than Dr. J that year. I was shocked to see that Cheeks rated that highly.

Also, Bobby Jones was at .199. To put that in perspective, Samuel Dalembert had our highest WP48 this past season at .197. (Miller & Igoudala were both around .170)

From what I gather, anything above .200 puts you in the all-star. range, while the top players are above .300 (and sometimes even above .400).

So, all in all, the current Sixers have some nice players (and Brand makes one more), but they aren't in the same ballpark as the championship Sixers at this stage.