Big Z was the second-most productive center for the Miami Heat last season and will be missed.
This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential and wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (Est.WP48), a star player produces 0.200+ Est.WP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ Est.WP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:
Big Z vs. Average Center
Big Z retired this week and took the estimated two wins he produced for the Miami Heat during the regular season and the playoffs with him. This spreadsheet summarizes Big Z’s work in the regular season.
The spreadsheet shows that Big Z gave the Heat an average level of production with a Win Score per 48 minutes of 9.5 that was identical to the average center in a Heat game during the regular season and playoffs.
Ilgauskas was above average in shooting efficiency and volume, scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking. As a jump shooter, he was below average in getting to the line and was also below average in steals, turnovers, assists and fouls.
Big Z vs. Heat Centers
Big Z’s 2.2 estimated wins produced at center ranked second on the team last season behind Chris Bosh. Ilgauskas led all Heat centers in rebounding and net possessions (rebounds+steals-turnovers) last season and finished second in scoring. He was the worst Heat center at getting to the line, turning the ball over and fouls.
This spreadsheet lists the stats for every Heat player that logged at least 500 minutes at center in the regular season and playoffs.
Replacing Big Z
Pat Riley’s challenge when the NBA Lockout ends will be finding a center that’s an above average scorer and rebounder to play more than 1,000 minutes. That’s not an easy task.
Samuel Dalembert could fill the rebounding and shot-blocking void left by Big Z, but the offense would have to change since he’s not the jump shooter Ilgauskas was last season.
This spreadsheet lists the nine free agent centers that produced a higher Win Score per 48 minutes than Ilgauskas last season:
- Tyson Chandler - 17.8 WS48
- Hamed Haddadi - 16.8 WS48 (less than 500 minutes)
- Jamaal Magloire - 16.2 WS48 (less than 500 minutes)
- DeAndre Jordan - 14.0 WS48
- Samuel Dalembert - 13.6 WS48
- Marc Gasol - 12.1 WS48
- Aaron Gray - 11.8 WS48
- Spencer Hawes - 10.2 WS48
- Erick Dampier - 10.0 WS48
Who do you think should be Big Z's replacement?
It’s a pretty short list for Riley. Haddadi and Magloire cannot play over 1,000 minutes while Aaron Gray and Spencer Hawes don’t provide the length or athleticism Heat Vice President of Player Personnel Chet Kammerer said the team wanted.
Dampier was not good enough to get more starts than Big Z last season, so he isn’t the solution, either.
The list above was pulled from basketball-reference.com which counts Nene Hilario as a forward and not a center. Nene produced a 15.6 WS48 last season. I ran a new query for players 6-11 or taller (instead of centers) that you can see here.
So the short list for Riley is Chandler, Nene, Jordan, Dalembert and Gasol. If he comes back with any other free agent, then it will be a disappointment unless it's followed by a trade for a player better than those four free agents.