Last season Jonny Flynn posted what I thought to be the worst season in franchise history. It was truly horrific. This year his Syracuse partner in crime is making a run at the crown.
We’ll take a look at his chances below the fold.
First of all, let’s place Flynn’s 10-11 season into the proper context. For the sake of keeping things as orderly as possible, let’s break down "worst season" as being defined by a few key categories: wp48, ts%, blk+stl48, to48, and fta/fga48. Here is how last season’s Flynn stacked up (all stats taken from the excellent NBA Geek's player/team comp page):
Here is the league average at the point:
In other words, Flynn did nothing much besides shoot like crap and turn it over. It was just amazing to watch in real time. Jonny Flynn would have a hard time standing out in Howard-Pulley. Even I’m amazed (and was wrong) about how bad he turned out to be. I never thought something like that was possible.
This year Wes Johnson is putting up the following line:
FTA/FGA48: .092 (!!!)
Here is the average SF:
If we look at the percentage difference between Flynn and Johnson’s line and the league average, we come up with the following:
TO48: +61.7% (+ here is bad)
TO48: +16.6% (again, positives here are bad)
Who takes the suck cake?
Blk/stl48: Jonny! (they both do very little off the ball)
Folks, this is close. Wes’s saving grace is that he doesn’t do much of anything on the court, to include turning the ball over. He’s just sort of there and when he does manage to do something, he does it horribly.
Flynn...well, he had the ball in his hands a lot more than Wes does.
Let’s take a quick look at a few other metrics to see if our general thoughts about Flynn and Johnson are in line with some other ways of looking at players.
This year Wes has the worst Simple Rating (82 Games) on the Wolves, with a -9.8. Wes has a -15.6 PER differential at the 2 (16% of team minutes) and a -4.1 at the 3 (28% of team minutes).
Last year Jonny had a -8.2 Simple Rating with a -10.7 PER at the point (24% of team minutes).
One of the things that I think needs to be entered into this conversation is the question of player expectation. It’s one thing for a player to post awful numbers if he is expected to be something of a focal point of the offense and he has the ball in his hands a ton. It’s quite another for someone to post awful numbers if he is expected to be someone who hits open 3s, rebounds, and defends. Which awful production is more detrimental to the team?
With the addition of Ricky Rubio we can attempt an answer with the importance of Jonny Flynn. This year Ricky Rubio has a Simple Rating of 7.1 and a +2.2 PER differential at the point with roughly 25% of the team’s minutes (take this with a grain of salt; 82 Games just assigns a variable based on 5 man lineups). He has the following line:
Reb48: 6.1 (!!!)
Blk/stl48: 3.6 (!!!)
FTA/FGA48: .403 (!!!)
Here is how he relates to the league average at the position:
Basically, Rubio is playing like an above average player and his minutes at the point have helped propel the Wolves to a better record. We can probably suss it out a bit more in another post, but I think we have enough to say that replacing bad point guard minutes with good ones is a fairly significant thing. Surprise, right? (%)
What happens when bad but bland Wes minutes are replaced by similar production? This is where the powers of free internet database access start to suffer. We have a read on basic on/off stats but this only tells us about what the team does with Wes off the court.
This season, the Wolves are a much better squad with Wes Johnson on the bench. However, we really don’t know a whole lot about the individuals who fill those minutes. Right now we can only deal in broad guesses about how replacing crap minutes with awesome ones affects the overall effectiveness of the team.
Love: .342 WP48
Non-Love: .148 WP48
Flynn: -.079 WP48
Johnson: .018 WP48
Love: .269 WP48
Non-Love: .641 WP48
Let’s use vjl110’s PA100 score.
Love: 3.83 PA100
How much did Wes and Jonny contribute to the non-Love/non-Love/Rubes/Pek part of the equation?
Jonny was -53.37% of the non-Love WP48 production in 2010/11 compared to Johnson’s 12.16% He was 11.9% of the negative PA100 production compared to Johnson’s 11.1%.
In 2011/12, Wes accounts for -32% of the non-Love/Pek/Rubes WP48 production. He also accounts for 23.7% of the team’s negative non-Love/Pek/Rubes PA100 production (i.e. over ⅕ of the action). The term "active anchor" comes to mind when looking at Wes’s body of work this season.
Before we move on, does the Syracuse Duo have any competition? Throwing aside the expansion years, and looking at players with more than 500 minutes, there is a single man who rises near the top: Sasha Pavlovic.
Here’s the average SF production for the 09/10 season:
Here is the percentage difference between Sasha and the average SF production:
How does this stack up with Jonny and Wes?
FTA/FGA48: Sasha! (Which is just amazing considering Wes’s free throw shooting)
Let’s give each category a ranking, with 1 being the worst and 3 being the best. Adding up all the categories, the player with the lowest score is the worst relative to his position.
In this case, Jonny and Sasha are tied for the worst with a combined rank score of 11. Wes is 3rd with 14. Much like the rest of his game, Wes doesn’t really stand out one way or the other in any single category; he is simply a consistently bad performer across the board, ending up with four 2nd place finishes in 6 categories.
OK, let’s start wrapping this up. Looking over all of the information and thinking about what it was like to watch each of these guys play, I think the question of "who is the worst?" is a matter of the Philosophy of Suck. Do you like sins of commission or omission? Is the "worst" an actively bad performer on a terrible team or a inactively bad performer on what could be a good squad? What about the dose amount of awfulness?
Sasha Pavlovic played 877 minutes of terrible basketball in 2009/10. Jonny Flynn played 983 minutes on his way out the door. Wes Johnson is on pace for 1,465 minutes this year. Jonny Flynn’s last start in a Wolves uniform came on Feb 14, 2011. He started 8 games that season. Sasha Pavlovic never saw a start in Minny white. Wes Johnson has started 29 of the team’s 30 games this year. He is the largest contributor to the team’s league-worst standing at the SF position. A very good case could be made that he puts the Wolves on a 4-5 disadvantage every time he takes the court (i.e. his chunk of negative production is roughly equal to that of a single player, sometimes more).
My answer to the question of "who is the worst" is more of a commentary on my general basketball philosophy than it is any bare-bones number comparison. Sasha and Jonny put up some terrible numbers in their claim to the worst single season in Wolves history but I think Wes Johnson is well on his way to claim that honor for himself.
Why? I think we often focus too much on sins of commission. I think Wes’s large share of 2nd place craptacular finishes in our 6 categories speaks to the overall passive nature of his game. I think nearly 3,000 minutes of awful basketball is more than enough evidence to stop giving him so much playing time. I think his performance in Simple Rating and vj's PA100 along with his relationship to the non-Love/Pek/Ricky production on the team gives him enough statistical oomph to compete for the crown.
Wes Johnson is being paid to defer to Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and (now) Nikola Pekovic on offense while playing good defense, rebounding, hitting 3s when they’re kicked out to him, and running the court. That’s his role. It is really hard to put up enormous suck numbers when your role is small and delegated to the corners of the action. Yet, there he is. His role is small and his impact is enormous. Just look at how the team clicks when he approximates average production for 6-8 minutes (see last night’s game in Houston, for example). That’s why I think he’s in the process of putting up the worst single season in Wolves history. If he is replaced with anything approaching to average production at the SF, this team will take off.
I’m honestly shocked that Wes is having this bad of a season. After seeing Jonny Flynn do what he did last season I thought he had set the gold standard for awfulness in the history of the franchise. This is an amazing thing considering the history of the Wolves. Wes Johnson is in that Sasha/Flynn conversation. If he continues to start, and if he continues to have such a large chunk of the team’s negative production while performing well below the level of his positional peers, I think he takes the cake.
What say you? Are the numbers there to put him in this philosophical conversation?