Another Look at Wiggins, Parker, LaVine and Antetokounmpo, 30 Games In

Recently, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight assessed the state of the #1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins. Statistically, Wiggins was viewed in comparison to other 19 year old rookies and how they fared after 30 games of play. This was a brilliant idea as comparable 19 year olds were ranked based off of box score averages, but I thought I would try to enhance some of these findings by including the title players mentioned as well as a weighted, rather than linear, method to compare the players of interest.

As a fan of the NBA and financial economist, I tend to view NBA teams like stocks in the financial markets. In the same way indexes fluctuate in value, NBA team value trends downward, upward, or goes on relative highs according to player performance, availability, and development. The reason for including the youngest players on the Milwaukee Bucks (Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo) and Minnesota Timberwolves (Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine) should thus be evident as they are obviously two teams with seemingly brighter futures. Additionally, these players satisfy the criteria of being 19 years old and having a sample (this season) of roughly 30 games played.

The box score statistics are exactly the same as those outlined in Silver’s study although overall ranks are now determined by weighting the metrics by importance to win/loss outcomes rather than just summing the ranks as Silver does. These weights were obtained via a logistic regression designed to associate past wins/losses of a team with the statistics shown (or determine importance these metrics play in winning). These weights can be detailed if there is further interest. The adjusted results are shown below.


Like Silver’s study, Anthony Davis still checks in at #1 which makes sense given his high field goal percentage and rebound total. Indeed, the NBA should “fear the brow” as Anthony Davis continues to improve and is now widely considered a potential MVP candidate in only his third season.

Our title characters check in at 14th, 8th , 17th , and 4th respectively out of the 18 players selected. Antetokounmpo ranks highest amongst them but he also has the advantage of having played one season compared to the others. Still though, the fact that he is only 19 years old should bode well for Bucks fans. Also, despite the season ending injury to Jabari Parker, Bucks fans should celebrate that, up to his injury, Jabari Parker ranked  8th ahead of the likes of both Kevin Durant and LeBron James (9th and 10th).

As for Timberwolves fans, they too should be optimistic with their youth. After including the re-weighted results, Wiggins only improved one spot relative to the Silver’s study (moved ahead of Dajuan Wagner) and more closely resembles Bradley Beal in his first 30 games. Beal is currently regarded as one of the more quality young players at his position so Wiggins may not be too far from a similar future based on the first 30 games. Wiggins’ teammate, Zach LaVine, does not fare relatively well but has indeed shown flashes this season. More than anyone, Lavine has similar statistics as Tony Parker at the same age which makes sense given that they both are point guards adjusting to the pace of NBA play. One must also consider that the Timberwolves are a bit behind on the trend upwards as the Bucks have more veteran players and a better overall team (in terms of record). One could argue that the young Bucks have more open opportunities relative to the Wolves as a result of the stronger supporting cast which leads to better statistics.

Finally, you have probably been wondering what the Scoring “Impressiveness” Rank refers to in the table above. During the calculation of the weights I used to compare players, rather than separate field goal percentage and points scored, I decided to consider them in tandem and multiplied them into one variable. The added column shown is thus simply the rank of the multiplication between PTS and FG%, or “Impressiveness” as I like to call it. Typically (and a media flaw in my opinion), players are seemingly given more praise when it comes to scoring which this “Impressiveness” metric reflects. Including other variables and associating weights reflects a truer value to what these players bring to the game.

Similar to the conclusions before, this list doesn’t necessarily forecast player careers. More than anything, it is a useful study conducted to benchmark how players seem to be faring at this point in their young careers in contributing to wins. I’ll admit that I am excited; however, to see both of these young teams and their players develop over the next few years. Years from now, I truly believe that these four and their teams will have made tremendous strides to becoming great (all-stars and championship contenders). These statistics suggest that they are certainly in fine company at this point.