December 17, 2009

How is Shaq and LeBron Working Out?

Filed under: Uncategorized — wwinston @ 10:42 pm

In this week’s ESPN Magazine it is claimed that Shaq and LeBron is working out great. The article points out that the Cavs are shooting a great percentage on three pointers, the King is driving to the hoop more than ever, and has the highest FG percentage of his career.

     Sorry, but Shaq and LeBron is not working out. All that matter is how the Cavs do on the scoreboard. After adjusting for strength of opponents here are the salient facts:

  1. Last year the Cavs played 8.9 points better than average. This year they are playing 3.6 points better than average; 5.3 points worse.
  2. When the King is in with Shaq, the Cavs play 2.3 points better than average. When the King is in and Shaq is out, the Cavs play an awesome 13.3 points better than average. Amazingly Big Z and the King in is 13.8 points better than average.
  3. What really works is Varejao and the King in without Shaq: 22 points better than average.
  4. The foursome of West, Varejao, LeBron and Mo Williams plays an amazing 34 points better than average. Basically any 5th guy works with this.

Please let me know how this data shows Shaq is helping the Cavs.


  1. This analysis also passes the eyeball test. The Cavs do not look like they have figured out how to incorporate Shaq into the offense or defense. The game just looks awkward when they try to run things through Shaq. Glad to see some statistical validity to my aesthetic feel.

    Comment by Josh — December 18, 2009 @ 1:06 am

  2. Obviously by “helping” they mean putting people in the stands…as always, great analysis and insight!

    Comment by Jonathan — December 18, 2009 @ 2:47 am

  3. I agree that the Cavs are still trying to figure out how to use Shaq effectively but I think the stats given above fail to mention one major piece of information. The acquisition of Shaq, the elevation of J.J. Hickson, and the signing of Anthony Parker took three players listed above (Ilgauskas, Varejao, and West) out of the starting lineup and put them on the bench. The lineups that are doing so well for the Cavs statistically are doing so well because those lineups are made of former starter playing against inferior competition. Even though Shaq is struggling, he acquistion (and the acquisition of Parker and the development of Hickson) have made the Cavs much deeper. I think a more interesting stat is the record of the Cavs against teams with records above .500 vs. last year’s team. I think that their success in this department bodes well for the future.

    Comment by Zach — December 18, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  4. BTW Josh, the Cavs sold out almost all their games last year without Shaq’s help. :)

    Comment by Zach — December 18, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  5. We adjsut for strength of opponents so inferior lineup point is takec care of.

    Comment by wwinston — December 18, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  6. All I know is, the addition of Shaq helped the Cavs WIPE THE FLOOR with Dallas this year. And they played that game WITHOUT Z.

    Comment by Colin — December 18, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  7. Shaq is for the playoffs, not the regular season.

    Dwight Howard absolutely crushed the Cavs last year, causing Danny Ferry and everybody else in the basketball world to realize a move needed to be made to take care of the situation that would inevitably occur again come Spring/Summer 2010.

    A better statistical question to ask would be: Is Shaq producing better numbers than those he replaced, Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic?

    This was a decision that was based more on matchups than statistics, something that needs to be considered in this discussion. Although you raise a good point countering ESPN’s article, the real results will not be known until the Magic/Cavs/Hawks?/Celtics mayhem in the Eastern Coference Playoffs.

    Comment by ajosep — December 18, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  8. Wayne, you have said you adjust for strength of opposing players and strength of teammates..I am doing a directed study next semester regarding basketball statistics and I wanted to know how you do there a paper you could point to?


    Comment by djn123 — December 18, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

  9. Wayne, as someone else has already mentioned, your conclusions from the stats do appear to pass the “eyeball” test as well. Id only argue in the Cavs defence that they’ve understandably (whether rightly or wrongly) decided to give up some efficiency from last season in return for a better matchup with likely opponents in the playoffs. And with the season being as long as it is, they figure they even have time on their side to polish things up before crunch time anyway. This is pure speculation on my part but I wouldnt be surprised if the Cavs “off the record” said as much.

    One thing about point #1, how likely do you believe that SOME of the point differential drop-off from last season is because of it being an outlier last time? In other words, even if the Cavs hadnt made a single chance, would it have been likely they would have dipped in this particular stat anyway? Not trying to defend the Cavs move for Shaq but it was something that occured to me when reading it.

    Comment by JP — December 18, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

  10. My Mathletics book has a chapter.

    Comment by wwinston — December 18, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

  11. Good point, but he is not making them better yet. My point is that ESPN Magazine’s argument is totally specious, based on performance to date.

    Comment by wwinston — December 18, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

  12. How about the metric of CAVS record v. elite opponents? Last year it was dismal, and they were always crushed by the Magic (regular season and playoffs). Totally different game in their one meeting this year. Lets see how the CAVS do against Lakers on Xmas, Magic, and Celtics. Then you will see his effect.

    Comment by ctownexpat — December 18, 2009 @ 10:46 pm

  13. what you talkin bout willis? If shaq can stop howard, he’s worth the money. the only question is how they sell shaq on the idea of keeping conditioned and uninjured until the playoffs as his sole duty. and if they’ve decided to blow off a few points in the regular season because it’s the best way to keep shaq game ready until the playoffs, when they only use him as required, then it still makes sense

    Comment by eeenok — December 18, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

  14. Mr. Winston,
    Is there a set amount of minutes that gives adjusted plus minus significance, an amount where you can say “this is enough to likely reflect truth”? Recently, the Heat replace chalmers w/ arroyo in starting lineup and improved. This seems to prove the disparity b/w chalmers and arroyo is really a disparity between the quality of player around them, or at least a blend. I have noticed that, with three years total On/Off plusminus data, the composite type statistics have a far higher correlation than they do for any single season.

    Comment by Brian — December 19, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  15. [...] too one-dimensional (i.e. Lebron-reliant), they cannot figure out how to integrate Shaq (some good evidence here), and they’re too reliant on their three-point shooting. Cleveland look like a team who can’t [...]

    Pingback by Sunday Six Pack: Questions on Clutch, Cavaliers, and the rise of Mr. Andersen - NBAMate — December 20, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  16. Can I ask, which it is:
    What really works is Varejao and the King in **without** Shaq: 22 points better than average. Varejao, the King and Shaq **in** plays 22 points better than average.

    Um, What? I am not sure I get this – please clarrify!

    Comment by Moike — December 21, 2009 @ 12:31 am

  17. Standard deviation on a player rating is 3-4 points per season for a player

    Comment by wwinston — December 21, 2009 @ 1:22 am

  18. Sorry AV and King without Shaq is +22 while AV Shaq ad King is +6. Thanks for catching this. Shaq and King without AV is exactly average.

    Comment by wwinston — December 21, 2009 @ 1:24 am

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