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November 1, 2012
Big Man Barometer
Week Ending 10/31/12

by Bradford Doolittle

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After launching the Barometer last week with our preseason rankings of big men across the league, today we remain in ad hoc mode. After all, we've got just two nights and 11 games in the books. That doesn't mean there aren't storylines already emerging, even if we can't yet look at them from a league trend standpoint.

This week's top performances are based on simple box score lines and have been compiled using John Hollinger's Game Score metric. Going forward, we're going to be using a version of WARP that is based on play-by-play data, but we can't calculate WARP until every team has played a game because of the need for league averages. So as mentioned, we're winging it a bit this week.

Our exclusive schedule-adjusted projections are already pretty much in the form that you'll see for the rest of the season. Using a combination of SCHOENE forecasts and season-to-date data, we'll be predicting the weekly numbers for NBA big men based on a Monday-to-Sunday schedule that should be compatible with the vast majority of weekly head-to-head fantasy leagues. By this method, SCHOENE is combined with actual results to product a new baseline forecast for each player. These are then adjusted for a player's upcoming opponents and how well those competitors have defended his position. Of course, this is another case where we don't have enough real data to work with, so the first group of weekly projections is based entirely on SCHOENE and last year's positional data.

The projections are compiled in a module of NBAPET, my system for projecting, evaluating and tracking the league.

Top Five Big Man Performances

(Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, by Game Score)

Dwight Howard, Lakers (10/31, 31.3)

Howard was the primary culprit in the Lakers' 12-for-31 performance from the foul line in their season-opening loss, going 3-for-14. He bounced back with 33 points, 14 rebounds and 15-for-19 shooting from the charity stripe on Wednesday against the Blazers. And the Lakers lost again. Clearly, there are a few kinks to be worked out in Superman's first season on the latest super team.

Joakim Noah, Bulls (10/31, 28.0)

At the end of Chicago's season-opening over Sacramento at the United Center, wry fans were chanting, "MVP! MVP!" at Noah, who went 11 for 12 from the foul line and hit six straight free throws down the stretch. It capped a huge night for Noah, who put up 23 points, 10 boards, three assists, five steals and three blocks. With Derrick Rose out, the Bulls are going to need someone different to step up every night. In game No. 1, it was Noah.

Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers (10/30, 22.1)

The Cavaliers have a nifty starting five with energy bigs Varejao and improved Tristan Thompson to go with high usage guards in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. SCHOENE projected the Cavaliers to be the league's top offensive rebounding team and that trait was on full display in Tuesday's opening win over Washington. Varejao grabbed 12 of his 23 rebounds at the offensive end and chipped in with nine points and nine assists. Only three players grabbed 12 or more offensive rebounds in a game all of last season.

Pau Gasol, Lakers (10/30, 21.1)

Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense is making the Lakers look collectively like they just swigged a big glass of kale juice. The one player who is well suited to the scheme is Gasol, whose work in the high post was the highlight of L.A.'s opening loss to Dallas. Gasol had 23 points, 13 boards and six assists.

Anthony Davis, Hornets (10/31, 20.0)

Davis has such a strong reputation for his defensive work that we forget that he can score as well. He put up an efficient 21 points in his debut on Wednesday, hitting all nine of his free throws. Perhaps even more impressive was who he did it against: Tim Duncan and the Spurs. The Hornets visit Chicago on Saturday where just two years ago Davis was early in his senior year of high school and emerging as the best player in a hoops-heavy city.

Next five: Marc Gasol, Grizzlies (10/31, 19.4); Tim Duncan, Spurs (10/31, 19.2); Spencer Hawes, 76ers (10/31, 19.0); Roy Hibbert, Pacers (10/31, 17.6); Luis Scola, Suns (10/31, 17.4).

Three Bigs to Watch

Kevin Garnett, Celtics

Garnett's numbers fall just outside of our weekly Top 20 projections, but this may still be a big week for the 17-year veteran. The Celtics play three teams grappling with problems in the middle next week. Washington is playing without Nene, with Emeka Okafor sliding over to take his place in the middle. Okafor isn't nearly the defensive force he used to be and isn't completely healthy, either. Boston also has its first matchup of the season against Philadelphia, which will b going without Andrew Bynum for the immediate future. Finally, Garnett will go against a Bucks team that had all sorts of trouble defending the paint last season. Milwaukee is hoping that journeyman Samuel Dalembert can fill that void, but it will be difficult to keep him on the floor against a face-up big like K.G.

Greg Monroe, Pistons

Monroe is poised for a breakout season, which should nudge his projections upward as the season goes along and the preseason forecasts become less important. Next week, he gets the double-whammy break of having four games scheduled and a group of opponents that figures to boost his production by an average of three percent. Denver remains an offense-oriented opponent for any big man. The Kings are still looking to DeMarcus Cousins to lock down the paint, and Sacramento was pounded inside by the Bulls in its opener. Oklahoma City promises to be tough with Kendrick Perkins around to body Monroe and Serge Ibaka behind him to help from the weak side. Finally, Monroe will butt heads with Houston's Omer Asik, who is an excellent post defender but has to cover for some potential holes in the Rockets' perimeter defense.

Glen Davis, Magic

Davis gets an opponent boost of six percent next week, the largest of any big man currently in a rotation. If the preseason was any indication, Davis is ready to soak up a seriously high level of possessions, posting a usage rate of 30 percent over 182 minutes. Also, the Magic look like they are going to be a high-possession, up tempo team under new coach Jacque Vaughn. Just in terms of sheer gall and volume, Big Baby should be worth watching, at least early in the season. Eventually, Vaughn will figure out that Davis just isn't very good.

Top 20 Big Man Projections

For 11/5-11/11

PLAYER            GP   FG%    TR   BK   PTS SCORE
Dwight Howard      3  .599  13.4  2.3  21.1  19.1
Blake Griffin      4  .557  10.1  0.5  22.0  17.8
LaMarcus Aldridge  3  .503   7.8  0.7  21.4  16.1
Pau Gasol          3  .523   9.1  1.4  16.6  15.5
Al Jefferson       4  .494   8.9  1.7  17.9  14.4
Josh Smith         3  .473   9.0  1.6  17.1  14.4
Chris Bosh         4  .506   8.5  0.7  18.3  14.3
Brook Lopez        4  .493   6.7  1.3  19.3  14.3
Al Horford         3  .563   8.4  1.2  14.5  13.8
Paul Millsap       4  .512   7.8  1.1  16.1  13.7
Greg Monroe        4  .539   9.3  0.7  14.7  13.4
David Lee          4  .504   9.1  0.4  16.2  13.3
DeMarcus Cousins   4  .474   9.6  0.9  17.2  13.0
Marc Gasol         4  .516   8.1  1.7  13.9  12.8
Zach Randolph      4  .470  10.1  0.2  15.6  12.6
Anthony Davis      2  .505   9.3  3.1  10.4  12.1
Ryan Anderson      2  .416   6.9  0.6  15.7  11.8
Joakim Noah        3  .500  10.0  1.5  11.6  11.8
Andrea Bargnani    3  .442   4.8  0.7  18.8  11.7
Marcin Gortat      4  .536   9.3  1.5  13.2  11.6
KEY: GP--games played; FG%--field-goal percentage; TR--rebounds per game;
BK--blocks per game; PTS--points per game; SCORE--average Hollinger game score.

Check out our Pro Basketball Prospectus 2012-13 homepage for more details and to order our annual guide to the NBA, available now in both PDF and paperback format.

A version of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider Insider.

Follow Bradford Doolittle on Twitter.

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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