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How good is Chris Kaman? It depends on who you ask

How good is Chris Kaman? It depends on who you ask

Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Chris Kaman's always put up big scoring numbers. But is he a complete player capable of aiding the team in other ways? (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

by DOYLE RADER

WFAA Sports Blogger

Posted on September 13, 2012 at 3:43 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 13 at 6:58 PM

The Mavericks introduced their new players to season ticket holders and the media on Monday to much elation –– and a few relevant Lamar Odom jokes.

In general, the fans seemed pleased with the new players. But when given the opportunity to ask the newest Mavericks pertinent questions, they skewed the discussion to the perceived lack of respect the team receives from the media. These, of course, were generalized statements, but there have been those who have actively questioned, at least in conjunction with a group of other players, the performance and value of Chris Kaman. 

Ari Caroline plotted the Wins Produced of all the centers in the league, over at Wages of Wins. His chart shows Kaman is one of the worst centers in the league according to this metric. Wins Produced, a favorite statistic on Wages of Wins, evaluates a player’s contribution to winning based on production per 48 minutes, teammates' defensive rebounding production, adjusted for assists, team defense, and position played.

All of it is tied into offensive and defensive efficiency. It’s complicated and a look at the formula is well worth your time.
 
The post is fairly straight forward. Most teams play their centers the appropriate amount of minutes based on the returns they get from them on the court. However, there are certain centers who are undervalued based on their performance along with those that are extremely overvalued. This, as Caroline puts it, is the NBA’s blind spot.
 
It is in the comments, though, as Henry Abbott of TrueHoop first noted, where the discussion of Kaman’s value gets heated.
 
Mark Cuban enters the fray, quickly voicing his belief that Wins Produced does not tell the whole story of a player’s value to a team. Instead, he posits that the way a player is used within the scope of a system has a more beneficial impact on how a team performs. This, he states, is especially true when it comes to coaching. Neil Paine, of Basketball-Reference.com, also chimes in, questioning the viability of the numbers put forth by Caroline.
 
Statistics are beneficial in determining a player’s value. They always have been, even in their most basic form. However, now there is a whole host of metrics to be disseminated. Statistics have completely transformed how NBA teams assess their players, just like Bill James’ Sabermetrics revolutionized baseball.
 
Dallas, like every NBA team, uses a multitude of advanced statistics when evaluating a player’s value. Many of these are widely accessible to the public through various websites, but teams have their own systems of evaluations that they keep to themselves.
 
Cuban, it can be said, is a stat geek. He is a regular at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference each year. Yet, he and General Manager Donnie Nelson do not solely rely on these numbers to assess their players' worth.
 
What should be taken away from all this stat geekery is that few advanced statistics are without flaw.
 
Wins Produced, much like the widely accepted Player Efficiency Rating, is imperfect because it does not incorporate all aspects of a player’s value within a team’s performance. A theoretically perfect, all-encompassing metric would do so, but there are just far too many variables. However, these stats provide benchmarks that help to paint a more complete picture when combined with other advanced statistics as well as the system in which they perform.
 
Rick Carlisle will determine Kaman’s ultimate role on the Mavericks. How he uses him in the flow of the game and what players he surrounds him with will certainly play a part. Dallas knows what the numbers say about Kaman’s game and will place him in situations where they can get the most out of his play.
 
Otherwise they wouldn’t have paid him $8 million. At the very least, simple statistics show that Kaman is a walking double-double (assuming starter-level playing time) and has the confidence of the team’s cornerstone, Dirk Nowitzki, and that of Cuban.
 
It may take time, as there are so many new faces to work into the rotation, but he should fit well in Dallas. Plus, he loves guns and we have plenty of those in Texas. That should make him feel right at home.
 
For more of Doyle's thoughts on basketball (and dinner), follow him on Twitter at @thekobebeef.

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