When you think advanced stats in the NBA, one of the first names to come to mind is Wayne Winston. In addition to working as a professor at Indiana University, Winston has developed countless Excel spreadsheets on the NBA, many for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. For over a decade, Winston has been the Mavs stats guru, passing along data on which lineups work and which ones need some tweaking. Wayne has also appeared on Truehoop TV with Henry Abbott a few times, expressing his thoughts on the league as a whole. He has been kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the Magic with us for a second time after speaking with us before this season started. Below are some of his thoughts on a variety of Magic topics. (Professor Winston's thoughts will be in the normal text style, and the subject matter will be bolded.)
On Victor Oladipo's rookie season and his development at the point guard position:
For a rookie Oladipo came out as a near-average player, but that's actually pretty good for a first-year player because guys like LeBron and Kevin Durant came out as below-average players according to our system in their rookie seasons. You can't judge these guys by what they look like in their first year because they just don't know how to do most of the little things yet. There's no way to expect him to be a good point guard in his first year when he never even played that position in high school or college. He has a very bright future from what I've seen out of him over the course of the past four years.
On Nikola Vucevic's season and what Orlando should do with him in the future:
Vucevic is the player that our model liked the best this season out of all the players on the Magic roster. Boy, if they don't keep him... he's a fantastic player and he's only getting better. There just aren't many great centers in the league nowadays-- he was a real steal for you guys in the Howard trade. They played three points worse than average when Vucevic was in the game, but when he was out they were nine points worse than average. That's a six-point difference-- he's your most valuable player for sure.
On Orlando's best and worst lineups:
The lineup that played the most minutes was terrible. Looks like that was Afflalo-Davis-Harris-Nelson-Oladipo. They were around 15 points worse than average. But basically what was really bad for you guys was when you had two of Harkless, Moore, and Harris on the floor. When at least two of those guys were on the court, you guys had your worst lineups. Specifically, if you had Harkless, Moore, and Harris on the floor all at the same time, you played nine points worse than average. If you had Harkless and Moore without Harris, you were 14 points worse than average. And if you played Harris and Moore without Harkless then you played 12 points worse than average. So it looks like Moore was less than stellar this season-- I really never expected him to be an NBA player after watching several of his games at Purdue. According to our system you guys were 16 points worse than average when Moore was playing point guard-- that's beyond horrible and that indicates that putting him at point guard was a dumb thing to do. If he's going to be in the NBA then he should be playing at the two because his valuable skill is shooting. I can't even picture him as a point guard.
Anyways, if you took the minutes from Harris, Harkless, and Moore out of the mix then the team was only two points worse than average. That's not to say that all of these guys were horrible this season, but the coaching staff probably recognized that they were atrocious together but decided not to do anything about it. Coaching is about a lot of things, but a good part of it is trying to find what works for you and what doesn't work for you. You guys had success with several lineups that didn't have particularly large sample sizes, so it would have been nice to see more experimentation with what worked for the team instead of seeing the same lineups fail over and over again.
However, in 57 minutes Harkless-Harris-Moore-Oladipo-O'Quinn (Editor's Note: This is an augmented version of the famed "Young Guns" lineup) was a very good lineup-- they played 18 points better than average. Another good one was Afflalo-Harkless-Harris-Oladipo-Vucevic... they played eight points better than average.
On the NBA Draft:
The first three picks in this draft are pretty well-decided in my opinion-- Embiid, Wiggins, and Parker. That leaves Exum. Orlando should be in love with him if they truly think that he can run the point. I've heard a lot about him on the radio and on YouTube but of course we haven't seen him play a whole lot. I mean it's a point guard's league-- if you have a great point guard then you're going to have a decent team at worst. If the first three to go in the draft are the three that everyone thinks will go there, then I think picking Exum would be very worth their while. Guys like him don't come around very often.
On Indiana's Noah Vonleh:
He's not ready. I mean he's got the biggest hands in history, and I was surprised how good he was for us this season, but I don't see what he's going to do against people that are as big, strong, and athletic as him. He doesn't have go-to moves on offense right now and he's definitely going to struggle at first. But the good thing is that he's talented and you know that he is going to continue to improve. You see guys like Jermaine O'Neal come into the league and not play great in his first few years and then turn into a really solid player. But some of these guys leave school too soon and they never get good. It's a risky move with guys like him.
One thing that will really define his NBA career is if he'll be able to knock down the professional three-pointer.
Thank you to Professor Winston for taking the time to talk with us-- we look forward to chatting with him again soon.
By: Jake Smith