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NBA PowerScore: Top 5 Wolves of the Week

You all came here to read something exciting – I promise I will get to that point.  First, though, I need to give you a brief background of how these weekly Wolves rankings will be determined.  If you have no interest and want to just skip to the exciting stuff, scroll down to NBA POWERSCORE: TOP 5 WOLVES OF THE WEEK.  If you are willing to suffer through a brief explanation this first week, I promise it will be worth your time.  Here it goes.

Every viewer has his or her own perspective.  Some people fall in love with flashy dunks, others with fancy passes, and then there are those who just love watching guys dominate a game – 2016 Russell Westbrook, Finals LeBron James, anytime Michael Jordan – you get the point.  Each fan has some opinion on what makes a player great.  Comparatively, every fan can watch a team and form an opinion regarding their best players.  In fact, most fans could rattle off a list of who they believe are the best players on their team, ranked in order, without much hesitation.  I bet you are doing it right now.

The best part?  Everyone’s list is different.

All fans have their own perspective on how a good player should contribute to their team, but quite often the “eye test” can be misleading.  Is a dunk really any better than a layup?  They are both worth two points.  Is a ferocious block sending the ball 10 rows into the stands of more value than a simple deflected shot? Probably not.  Is an ankle breaking move by Kyrie Irving more important than Russell Westbrook’s pure speed blowing past a defender?  No – it all depends on the end result of each play. Many fans, however, fall in love with the fancy, exciting, and clutch plays – as they should, because that is half the fun of sports.  Yet, these thrilling plays do not necessarily determine a player’s value or contribution to winning the game.

That is where NBA PowerScore comes in.

Let me give a brief explanation.  NBA PowerScore is a system I developed with the end goal to predict the outcome of NBA games.  It does this by using advanced NBA statistics (much more than simply traditional points, rebounds, assists, etc.) to find the rating, or value, of every player in the NBA regardless of playing time.  The system then takes these individual player ratings and finds a team value – dubbed a “PowerScore” – which is entered into a formula along with other factors (recent team performance, strength of schedule, etc.) to determine each team’s likelihood of winning a given game.

If that made little to no sense to you – it is perfectly okay!  There are really three key points you need to know:

  1. NBA PowerScore correctly predicted the winner of 72.9% of NBA games in 2015-2016, and is surpassing that percentage with 81.25% so far this season. For those who may not know, these are startlingly accurate rates.  I believe it can predict upwards of 75% correct for the year.
  2. The key to the NBA PowerScore system is the player ratings it computes. If these were not accurate, the entire system would be flawed.  So, trust me, the ratings are legitimate.
  3. Here is a chart to help you understand the general meaning behind the PowerScore ratings:
Player’s Value Rating
Super Star > 80
Star player 70 – 80
Top 2 player on a playoff team 50 – 70
Great 30 – 50
Good 15 – 30
Starter 5 – 15
Solid 0 – 5
Should play on average team > -20

So now, back to talking about player rankings.  While a typical viewer’s opinion may be subject to bias of the “eye test” influenced by exciting plays or favorite players, NBA PowerScore’s ratings are strictly based on actual statistics that each player produces.  There is no bias involved, and every aspect of the system is based on fact.

Is it more fun to decide who’s best based on how exciting they are to watch?  Perhaps, but my guess is Thibs values fundamentals more than exciting plays. Therefore, starting today, I am going to use the system to find the value of each player on the Wolves for a given week and post it here on Howlin’ T-Wolf. That way, if you are in an argument with your friend about who had the better performance last week – Wiggins or LaVine, Rubio or Dunn, KAT or Dieng – you can check this site for the answer.

Feel free to disagree – that is half the fun of sports! But remember that these ratings are based 100% on actual statistics, so I myself believe they are the most accurate.

Now, as promised, onto the good stuff that everyone came here for. Here are the top five rated players, via NBA PowerScore, for the first week (and a half) of the season:

NBA POWERSCORE: TOP 5 WOLVES OF THE WEEK (through the first four games)

Welcome to the first edition of NBA PowerScore: Top 5 Wolves of the Week.  This week’s edition will include the first week and a half of play only.  This means it will exclude Saturday night’s game against the OKC Thunder – because let’s be honest, no Wolves fan really wants to talk about it right now.  That game will be a part of next week’s edition.  So, Minnesota fans, it is time to see how your Wolves have performed the first week (and a half) of the NBA season.

1. Andrew Wiggins | PowerScore Rating: 47.7 | Classification: Great

One thing about Wiggins is for sure – he knows how to score.  The 24 PPG that Wiggins averaged through four games is impressive, and the 51.6% he is shot from the field is even more intriguing.  However, his offense is not the only reason he rates so high.  Wiggins is held his matchups to 18% below their average FG%.  There is virtually no possibility of him maintaining this stat over the course of the season, as not even Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James have been able to do, but it certainly shows he has had a huge impact on both ends of the floor.  Now if only Wiggins could make his free throws.

2. Gorgui Dieng | PowerScore Rating: 37.9 | Classification: Great

Fans often miss the contributions of big guys who spend the whole game battling down low in the post.  Gorgui Dieng is one of those men.  Flying under the radar so far in his young career, Dieng consistently puts in the work under the basket.  Through four games, Dieng led the Wolves with 9.3 rebounds (3 offensive), 1.5 blocks, and 14 contested shots per game.  He also had the highest plus/minus on the team with a +12.3, and unlike many Wolves, he has found a way to make his free throws.  If Jon Gruden did a Gruden Grinder award for the NBA, Gorgui Dieng would probably earn it frequently.

3. Shabazz Muhammad | PowerScore Rating: 30.8 | Classification: Great

I, personally, love NBA PowerScore for this very reason: guys who do not always get the minutes or respect they may deserve can get recognition for their actual contributions right here.  Shabazz simply does a lot of things well – not great, but well.  He shoots a solid FT%, grabs a lot of rebounds, and his true FG% is fourth on the team.  He also achieved a Player Impact Estimate (PIE) of 11.9 which is top 5 on the team.  Although he may get criticized for his defense, so far this year Shabazz has shown to be much more engaged on the defensive end.  It may be a small sample size, but he held his opponents to more than 30% below their average FG% and gave up less points to his opponent per 100 possessions than any player on the Wolves.

4. Karl-Anthony Towns | PowerScore Rating: 30.2 | Classification: Great

Wolves Nation: do not freak out!  Yes, KAT has only the fourth best rating on the Wolves through the first four games.  This should not come as much of a surprise.  He had the third worst defensive rating on the team (worst among starters) with a rating of 102.7 – meaning the Wolves give up 102.7 points per 100 possessions while he was on the court.  KAT still managed to grab 2.8 offensive boards per game and score 19.8 PPG while showing an improved ability to step outside and hit the open jumper, but his defensive numbers had the biggest negative effect.  Do not worry – if his defensive numbers turn around to look more like last year, KAT will soon find himself at the top of this list.

Side note: KAT’s performance on Saturday night against the Thunder (one of the lone bright spots from the game) was his highest rated game so far and will be evident in next week’s edition.

5. Kris Dunn | PowerScore Rating: 19.8 | Classification: Good

One aspect of Kris Dunn’s game comes as no surprise – he can play defense.  It is becoming more apparent that Dunn is the future of the Wolves’ perimeter defense in Thibs’ system, and if he can find an offensive game he may be the future of the Wolves at the point.  His aggressive nature has been a difference maker.  Five steals against the Grizzlies contributed to his 4.7 steals per 100 possessions – top 10 in the NBA through four games.  Dunn also had the second best net rating on the team at 18.7, trailing only Gorgui Dieng.  And then there is my favorite stat I’ve seen so far this year: In games started, Kris Dunn is seventh in the league in assists per 100 possessions at 10.5, trailing guys such as John Wall, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Rajon Rondo.  Those are some pretty big names.

Honorable Mention:  I know many of you came here hoping to read about Zach LaVine, but he rated sixth at 17.2 through the first four games.  However, if you take out his first game against the Grizzlies and only run the numbers on games 2-4, LaVine’s rating increases dramatically to 52.3 putting him in the category of “top 2 player on a playoff team.”  Look for LaVine to make a push toward the top of the list in weeks to come.

Check back next week for the second edition.

Follow Evan Hagen on Twitter @Hagen_Wolves and find out more about the NBA PowerScore system @NBA_PowerScore.

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