February 1, 2010

Who Makes the Nuggets Win?

Filed under: Uncategorized — wwinston @ 5:53 pm

Every time I watch the Nuggets on TV or read a blog entry I am bombarded with the fact that Melo and Billups are the two stars of this team.  Both players have PER ratings in the league’s Top 20. Ergo,  they must be great.

    Actually, I think there is strong evidence that Nene and Birdman key the Nuggets success far more than Melo and Billups.  Both Birdman and Nene have Adjusted +/- ratings around +19, which indicates that per 48 minutes played, they make their team 19 points better. Here are some numbers that should convince you that the media hype surrounding Melo and Billups is overblown. All numbers are adjusted for strength of opponent’s players.

  • When Birdman and Nene are out (91 minutes) the Nuggets play 24 points worse than an average team.
  • When Birdman and Nene are both in the Nuggets in 437 min play 17 points better than average.
  • When Birdman and Nene are in with Melo out the Nuggets play 16 points better than average in 232 minutes.
  • When Birdman and Nene are in and Billups is out, the Nuggets play 26 points better than average in 297 minutes.

I think these numbers make a strong case that Nene and Birdman deserve a lot more money!! Birdman has a -13 Adjusted +/- Defense Rating and Nene a -9 adjusted +/- defense rating. Their defensive abilities often do not show up in box score stats, but they certainly affect the final score.


  1. Hey Wayne, Great numbers and it corresponds with what I’ve been telling people on the forums for quite a while now.

    But if we are going to talk about the MVP of teams should we really take into account PER 48 minutes? Can we really say Birdman is the catalyst of the Nuggets success if he is only playing 20 minutes a game? If we don’t adjust for minutes Birdman is helping the Nuggets out +8 per game. Still substantial, so maybe he is. But just as a general rule wouldn’t it be better to leave out the per 48..if we are talking about how much they are helping there team win? it takes out the theorizing..well if he played 48 minutes..especially for HUSTLE players like Birdman who expand all their energy in their short bursts of playing time. It’s likely that he couldn’t keep up that production for 40 minutes a game.

    On a related point, who are the league leaders in APM, non 48 minutes adjusted? Who , in actuality, effects their teams win/lose record the most?

    Comment by Jevan — February 2, 2010 @ 4:09 am

  2. I agreewith your comments. Ideally I wouldrank guys by Minutes*(Adjusted +/-+5) where -5 is ability of a replacement player. I think this is too messy to explain for the blog. Of course this makes Birdman not as important. My point was just that when he plays he is great. I am sure if he played more his effectiveness might drop becuase he is an energy player. Nene, on theother hand, should have been an all star.

    Comment by wwinston — February 2, 2010 @ 9:07 am

  3. First let me say, I am a Nuggets season ticket holder and have been to nearly every home game this season, and watched every roadie on tv. I follow the Nuggets religously and am a lifetime fan. That said, I believe Bird is, by far, the most overrated player on the Nuggets roster. I get that he is an energy guy and the crowd gets PUMPED when he enters, but for all that excitement I sure don’t see a ton of output. Sure, he gets blocks. That’s cause he ALWAYS goes for the block. I couldn’t tell you the number of times a game Bird leaves his feet on a pump fake; resulting in either a foul, a bucket, or both. Sometimes he gets those blocks, and the crowd loves it. But more often than not, he’s taken by a pump fake and just becomes a liability. Even when he does get his block, he often just knocks the ball out of bounds; giving it right back to the opposition.

    Then there’s his transition from end to end, which may be more frustrating than his gullibility on pumps. Any time he’s forced to expend additional energy on a given set, be it on offense or D, he is sooooooo frequently late to the other end of the floor. Unfortunately, if he is not the last man down the floor, it’ll be Nene or KMart. It drives me nuts to watch these guys walk down the floor with the game in progress. If any of them believe they are fouled on a shot attempt and dont get the call, dont expect them to play defense on the ensuing possession. Heck, KMart will rarely even pass midcourt in these instances, unless the opposition is taking their time.

    I love the Nuggets and cheer just as hard with the rest of the crowd every time Bird steps on to the floor, but he just seems very overrated here in Denver. I hope I’m wrong.

    Go Nuggets!


    Comment by Damian — February 2, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  4. COMPLETELY AGREE and happy to see some evidence showing Nene and Birdman’s major contribution to the Nugs success.
    I also think that THEY will be the key for the Nugs during the playoffs. They bring everything that both Melo and Billups lack at times: rebounding, toughness, defense and hustle.
    Also, if the NBA would make dunks an official stat like the spanish league (ACB) then they would definitely be on top! Nuggets are the most fun team to watch in the league right now in my opinion and I’m not even a fan..

    Comment by Sergio — February 3, 2010 @ 9:01 am

  5. Nene and Bird are the only centers in the rotation on the team. So of course if the Nuggets don’t have either player in the game, then they are playing with a significant disadvantage. As you point out above, the team has played only 91 minutes with neither player on the floor, which probably means that Petro or Malik Allen was playing center those minutes during garbage time.

    Basically, the conclusion I draw from the Nuggets’ plus/minus is that their second unit is very good, and might even be as good as their first unit on some nights.

    Comment by Thomas John O'Neill — February 6, 2010 @ 4:29 am

  6. Again adjusted +/- adjusts for strength of opposition. Also recently the Nuggets have done fine without Melo, so this is consistent with our view that he is overrated.

    Comment by wwinston — February 8, 2010 @ 8:21 am

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