Monday, October 29, 2007

Predictions and Expectations

As we draw ever closer to the start of the 2007/08 NBA season, the Net is buzzing with predictions about how each team and player will perform this year. The Memphis Grizzlies Message Boards typically have a thread or two concerning this very subject and this year is no different with a thread dealing just with the newest imports already up and running. The predictions range from cautiously optimistic to wildly hopeful, which is to be expected with any fan base. So, in the spirit of that, I'll attempt to predict the stats for each member of the Grizzlies.

Pau Gasol
Career stats: 35.4 MPG, 18.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.9 BPG, .510 FG%, .724 FT%
2006/07 stats: 36.1 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, 2.1 BPG, .539 FG%, .748 FT%
Preseason stats: 23.0 MPG, 9.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.75 BPG, .375 FG%, .765 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 38 MPG, 22.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.9 BPG, .530 FG%, .766 FT%

Pau should see an increase in scoring and assists, while the additional help provided by Darko and friends will cause a slight decrease in his rebounding numbers from his career high last season.

Mike Miller
Career stats: 31.8 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, .454 FG%, .398 3PT%, .771 FT%
2006/07 stats: 39.1 MPG, 18.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.3 APG, .460 FG%, .406 3PT%, .793 FT%
Preseason stats: 24.6 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, .382 FG%, .300 3PT%, .600 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 32 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, .472 FG%, .422 3PT%, .795 FT%

Mike will see a slight drop in overall scoring as his minutes decrease, but his efficiency should increase since he won't be dog-tired by All-Star break.

Rudy Gay
Career Stats: 27 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .422 FG%, .364 3PT%, .727 FT%
2006/07 stats: 27 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .422 FG%, .364 3PT%, .727 FT%
Preseason stats: 30.3 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.63 SPG, 1.75 BPG, .462 FG%, .385 3PT%, .871 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 32 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.5 BPG, .440 FG%, .380 3PT%, .720 FT%

Rudy should see slight increases across the board in his second season, most notably in the defensive categories and rebounding as he'll shift over to PF in some lineups. Hopefully, I'm lowballing him, but I don't want to set expectations too high, which is something we'll discuss later in the post.

Damon Stoudamire
Career Stats: 34.3 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, .408 FG%, .358 3PT%, .834 FT%
2006/07 stats: 24.2 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, .391 FG%, .337 3PT%, .795 FT%
Preseason stats: 17.3 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, .465 FG%, .364 3PT%, .875 FT%
2007/08 projected stats (November/December): 18 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, .388 FG%, .350 3PT%, .844 FT%

Damon will be given about two months to prove that he is healthy and can contribute to a veteran team with playoff aspirations (or possibly even title dreams), at which point he will be traded to that team. Call it showcasing if you want, but I believe that this course of action is also necessary so that the Grizzlies don't just throw their young PG's to the wolves right off the bat.

Darko Milicic
Career stats: 15.0 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.2 BPG, .444 FG%, .610 FT%
2006/07 stats: 23.9 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.8 BPG, .454 FG%, .613 FT%
Preseason stats: 22.1 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.3 BPG, .351 FG%, .469 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 28 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.2 BPG, .475 FG%, .626 FT%

Darko will be given ample opportunity to prove himself, and after a slow start will warrant the opportunity to start and finish games. His free throw shooting will continue to be a problem area for him, even as he reverts back to a higher shooting percentage from the floor.

Juan Carlos Navarro
Career stats: N/A
2006/07 stats: N/A
Preseason stats: 24.1 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, .413 FG%, .419 3PT%, .833 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 20 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, .445 FG%, .409 3PT%, .820 FT%

"La Bomba" has been the hit of the preseason so far, with his electric play carrying the team in the 2nd halves of most games. If he manages to avoid "the rookie wall", he could be in the running for Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year...or both.

Kyle Lowry
Career stats: 17.5 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, .368 FG%, .375 3PT%, .893 FT%
2006/07 stats: (10 games) 17.5 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, .368 FG%, .375 3PT%, .893 FT%
Preseason stats: 20.4 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, .417 FG%, .000 3PT%, .706 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 26 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, .395 FG%, .379 3PT%, .875 FT%

Kyle appears to have surged into the lead as the heir apparent for the PG spot when (not if) Damon is traded this season. While that may only last for part of this season, it is encouraging to potentially have two young starter-quality PG's on the roster given the issues the Grizzlies have had at that position the past few seasons. He's another guy that I'm tempering expectations for, since there are so many variables at the PG position this season. I expect him to play more MPG than either Conley or Stoudamire, even though he'll likely be coming off the bench to start the season.

Stromile Swift
Career stats: 20.7 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 0.7 SPG, .471 FG%, .705 FT%
2006/07 stats: 19.1 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 0.6 SPG, .465 FG%, .724 FT%
Preseason stats: 18.6 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.75 BPG, 1.0 SPG, .688 FG%, .750 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 15.0 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 0.5 SPG, .470 FG%, .711 FT%

I think that Stro will be playing elsewhere next season. Either he'll play to his normal levels and be traded (possibly in the impending Damon trade) or he'll exceed everyone's expectations, in which case he'll opt out of his contract to get one more substantial payday. Through the preseason, he has given fans reason to once again hope for a realization of his "Strotential" (hat tip: Scott), but I'm not sure that even a contract year is motivation enough for Stro to achieve consistency.

Hakim Warrick
Career stats: 19.2 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.3 BPG, 0.4 SPG, .504 FG%, .746 FT%
2006/07 stats: 26.2 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.4 BPG, 0.5 SPG, .524 FG%, .771 FT% Preseason stats: 17.4 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0.75 SPG, .451 FG%, .645 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 13.0 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0.5 SPG, .530 FG%, .743 FT%

Why the drop in minutes after Hak played so well last year? Because of the arrival of Darko Milicic mostly, but also because Warrick doesn't play defense, doesn't pass the ball and can't dribble. Marc Iavaroni can forgive one of those things in a player, but not all three. If Stro does get moved, then perhaps Hakim will find some additional playing time. Otherwise, it will take some serious growth and development on his part to become a contributor for this team, IMHO.

Michael Conley
Career stats: N/A
2006/07 stats: N/A
Preseason stats: 16.0 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, .38 SPG, .407 FG%, .500 3PT%, .500 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 24.0 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, .408 FG%, .338 3PT%, .793 FT%

Conley is expected to be the PG of the future, but I think he'll spend most of this year learning from Damon and Kyle, rather than being thrown directly into the fire right off the bat. He'll struggle some, because that's what rookies do, but by the end of the season he might be splitting minutes evenly with Kyle.

Casey Jacobsen
Career stats: 20.4 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, .399FG%, .370 3PT%, .770 FT%
2004/05 stats: 21.5 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, .406 FG%, .373 3PT%, .783 FT%
Preseason stats: 17.8 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, .583 FG%, .552 3PT%, .500 FT%
2006/07 projected stats: 8.5 MPG, 3.4 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, .412 FG%, .389 3PT%, .786 FT%

For whatever reason, Casey seems to have taken Tarence Kinsey's allotment of minutes in the preseason. The most likely explanation for that is that Kinsey's shoulder injury from summer league is more serious than anyone thought. However, it could be that Jacobsen's outside shooting is seen as a more valuable commodity than Kinsey's perimeter defense at this point. We'll see how that plays out over the course of the season.

Tarence Kinsey
Career stats: 20.1 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, .457 FG%, .283 3PT%, .796 FT%
2006/07 stats: 20.1 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, .457 FG%, .283 3PT%, .796 FT%
Preseason stats: 13.8 MPG, 5.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, .400 FG%, .250 3PT%, 1.000 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 15.2 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, .462 FG%, .311 3PT%, .781 FT%

TK impressed a lot of fans with his play during the last 3 weeks of last season. Of course, some pundits have openly wondered if that was merely a flash in the pan or if he can consistently play at that high level. Unfortunately, as noted above, we haven't seen much of Kinsey in the preseason to be able to gauge him on. I would hope that Kinsey can duplicate his "poor man's Tayshaun Prince" act from late last season, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting on it to happen.

Brian Cardinal
Career stats: 17.5 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, .425 fG%, .397 3PT%, .862 FT%
2006/07 stats: 11.2 MPG, 4.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, .494 FG%, .409 3PT%, .926 FT%
Preseason stats: 10.6 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, .435 FG%, .300 3PT%, .667 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 6.5 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, .467 FG%, .419 3PT%, .866 FT%

The Custodian has suffered through three injury plagued seasons since signing with the Grizzlies. While many fans consider his contract a millstone, I think that they have forgotten about how important he was to the team in 2004/05 when he carried the team while Pau Gasol was out battling foot issues, helping them to maintain momentum and reach the playoffs. I don't think that BC will get much burn this season, but his unique skillset could prove to be valuable, as he is a PF capable of shooting from the perimeter proficiently.

Andre Brown
Career stats: 7.1 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, .568 FG%, .600 FT%
2006/07 stats: 7.1 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, .568 FG%, .600 FT%
Preseason stats: 20.7 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, .467 FG%, .500 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 6.5 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, .551 FG%, .667 FT%

What can I say about a guy who probably won't see the floor except in blowouts and the case of injuries affecting the roster? He's long on hustle and short on ball-handling, so he'll get a few minutes here and there throughout the season, but will mostly spend time on the Inactive List.

So there are my predictions for the team's statistical outlook for the season. If you add them all up, it won't look right in terms of Team MPG, PPG, RPG, etc., but it never does, so don't worry about it.

Now the second part of the title to this thread is expectations. I was already working on this post when I wandered over to the Grizzlies Message Board and saw that someone else had a similar idea. The high-quality poster named bgassassin started a thread titled "For Rudy's sake, please dial down some of your expectations" , which implored Grizzlies' fans to be realistic in their predictions for the player many hope is the Grizzlies future star. He put great effort into finding statistics that showed that even the greatest of players struggled with certain aspects of the game in their formative years in the league. WIth his permission, I'm reproducing his work here:

With Rudy's shooting, someone needs to let him know that he doesn't have to be a great outside shooter now. Or for that matter an elite player now. Yet at the same time, I think we have been too harsh on him at times as well.

Jordan was not a good shooter when he came in the league. He was putting up big numbers while being a poor outside shooter. In fact, here are Jordan's 3pt% numbers his first four years and what he averaged:

84-85 - .173 (28.2ppg)

85-86 - .167 (22.7ppg, cut short due to injury)

86-87 - .182 (37.1ppg)

88-89 - .132 (35.0ppg)

Kobe has never even reached 40% from outside. His best was .383 five years ago. In fact, his second best shooting year was his rookie year (.375) and he struggled till the aforementioned time.

The player most of us compare him to, Shawn Marion, started out his first season at an atrocious .183 from behind the arc. He peaked in his third season and has regressed ever since.

Vince Carter started out at .288 from three.

And if we REALLY want to get picky, Reggie Miller shot .355 from outside his first season.

As you can see out of this selected group, only Kobe shot a higher percentage his rookie year than Rudy's .364. And as far as makes and attempts, only Reggie and Kobe are comparable in their first season. Is he really as bad as we think? Should two preseason games continue or even strengthen a certain thought about him? I will admit that I have been guilty of this thought as well at times.Rudy obviously must learn to attack the basket as often as possible to set up his jumpshot. At least then he should be in a position where he's not subconsciously falling away when he does shoot.

As you can see, many players who are considered elite superstars have struggled with parts of their game, only to develop that skill as their career progressed. For this team that is full of young talent (average age of the Grizzlies: 23.7 years old; 22.3 without Damon and BC), patience will be required when establishing expectations for the upcoming season, as well as their progress in the future. Too often we allow our best-case scenario "hopes and dreams" get mixed up with what is realistically achievable. That's one of the reasons I set our win prediction (37 wins) as low as I did. That is a 15-game improvement from last year which, injuries/bad luck or not in 2006/07, is a tremendous jump for any team that didn't acquire a star-level player in the offseason. I'd be happy with even fewer wins than that, to be quite honest.

Improving in the NBA is meant to be a gradual process, contrary to popular opinion. That's one of the reasons that only 8 teams have won a championship in the last 25 years. Many people are comparing this team to the 2003/04 Grizzlies that went from 28 wins the previous season to 50 wins and the playoffs. I admire their optimistic viewpoint, but that team skipped at least 3 steps that most young teams go through. In all likelihood, they should have gone from 28 wins to 33-36, then to 41-44 and then to 50 and the playoffs. This amazing jump lead to unrealistic expectations of title contention for a young NBA fanbase that wasn't as studied in the history of professional basketball as those in the cities of historic contenders (Boston, L.A., Chicago, Detroit, et al), despite having a rich basketball history in the area of high school and college levels. So, much like bgassassin, I urge all of you to temper your expectations for this Grizzlies team. I don't expect them to come roaring out of the gates. Rather, I expect a slow start, as the team develops chemistry, learns each other's tendencies and adapts to Marc Iavaroni's system. That means that they are quite likely going to be below .500 by more than a few games when January rolls around. This isn't all doom-and-gloom, though, because I think they will come together and play well for the last two to three months of the season, which will hopefully carry over to next year. That's my outlook for this season, so send all cheers or jeers to the Comments section.


Chris said...

I've tried to hang in here guys. But this blog sucks!

I'm out!

Spartacus said...

Thanks for the constructive criticism. =^)

scott_7713 said...

I just couldn't finish...I'm sure the rest was great.

Anonymous said...

Just a rookie post.

Taking all the ppg averages, it's like of 122 ppg for the whole team.

Hope Ivaroni can bring some phoenix style, but coming from 104.4 that improvement sounds crazy. Suns averaged 110 ppg last season.

In my opinion, the ones who will underperform that stats would be MM and all the guys who will often stay out from the 8-9 rotation.


ChipC3 said...

Understand please that each players per game averages only are calculated on games he actually played in. Therefore the season averages would be higher than the actual points scored per game by the team.

The post is rather lengthy but I believe Spartacus addresses this issue in his blog.