I apologize for having not posted for over a month. I have had some ideas on tap, but I just haven’t done anything with them, and I have been lazy and busy. Furthermore, I am still waiting on The Wages of Wins’s Arturo Galletti to post his new draft model so I can see who is projected to be good. Anyway, while working on a project entirely unrelated to this blog, I came across the 2004-05 expansion Charlotte Bobcats, who won a grand total of 18 games despite having Gerald Wallace, a rookie Emeka Okafor, an old Steve Smith, Brevin Knight, and a productive Jason Hart on their team. (Notice that the latter two were both point guards.) They did poorly, however, because of the presence of Kareem Rush, Melvin Ely, Jason Kapono, Keith Bogans before he was good, and a careening Jahidi White. This gave me the idea to try to create the best Bobcats team possible. In an old forum of some sort, I looked up all of eligible players and the Draft rules, and put their information including Wins Produced and Win Shares in a spreadsheet. I then proceeded to pick my team. Here were the rules, copied from the Bobcats’s website:
A. Player Selection
- The Charlotte Bobcats Expansion Draft will take place on June 22 (if the NBA Finals extend to seven games, it will be June 23), prior to the 2004 NBA Draft on June 24.
- The Bobcats will select a minimum of 14 players who are under contract or restricted free agents for the 2004-05 season.
- The Bobcats may select no more than one player from each team.
- The Bobcats can only select players that are left unprotected by an NBA team.
- Each of the 29 NBA teams may protect a maximum of eight players on its roster who are under contract or are restricted free agents at the conclusion of the 2003-04 season.
- Each of the 29 NBA teams will designate the players on its roster who are eligible for selection by the Bobcats.
- Each of the 29 NBA teams must designate at least one player on its roster to be eligible for selection by the Bobcats, even if the team does not have eight players under contract or as restricted free agents for the 2004-05 season.
- Any player under contract selected by the Bobcats will immediately be placed on the Bobcats roster.
- Any eligible restricted free agent selected by the Bobcats shall immediately become an unrestricted free agent.
- Unrestricted free agents are not eligible to be protected nor are they eligible to be selected by the Bobcats.
B. Pre-Expansion Draft Trades
- Teams will be permitted to enter into pre-Expansion Draft trades involving players or draft picks in which Charlotte agrees to select or not select certain unprotected players in return.
C. Salary Cap
- Charlotte will be permitted to select players in the Expansion Draft without regard to the Salary Cap.
- Charlotte will have a Salary Cap in its first season equal to 66% of the Salary Cap applicable to the rest of the league and a Salary Cap in its second season equal to 75% of the Salary Cap applicable to the rest of the league.
- Charlotte will be permitted to sign any restricted free agent it selects in the Expansion Draft using the same “Bird,” “Early Bird” or “Non-Bird” Exception that the player’s prior team would have had.
- Compensation paid to a selected player under a contract protected for lack of skill will be excluded from Charlotte’s Team Salary if the player’s contract is terminated (via the waiver procedure) prior to the start of the 2004-05 season.
- A team with a Team Salary above the Salary Cap will receive a Trade Exception to replace a player (other than a restricted free agent) selected from its unprotected list.
D. Post-Expansion Draft Transactions
- A team will not be permitted to reacquire a player that it loses in the Expansion Draft prior to the expiration of one year from the date of the Expansion Draft, unless the player is waived and not claimed by any other team.
I followed the original rules and chose my players. They are listed in the order of determine to the best of my ability from Basketball-Reference. I was very careful to limit the use of hindsight and only use foresight for the purposes of this project, as I was trying to simulate the actual thought processes of a GM, given what little information I actually know about the inner workings of an NBA team. Players in bold were actually selected by Charlotte.
- Boston: PF Brandon Hunter. Age 23. 1 Year, $620K. .107 WP48, .066 WS48.
- Chicago: PF Jerome Williams. Age 31. 4 Years, $6.1M. .243 WP48, .127 WS48.
- Dallas: C Danny Fortson. Age 28. 3 years, $5.8M. .169 WP48, .177 WS48
- Houston: SG Adrian Griffin. Age 30. 1 Year, $870K. .093 WP48, .031 WS48.
- Indiana: PF Austin Croshere. Age 29. 3 years, $6.26M. .124WP48, .156 WS48.
- Clippers: PF Matt Barnes. Age 24. Restricted Free Agent. .081 WP48, .045 WS48.
- Lakers: C Jamal Sampson. Age 21. 1 Year, $695K. .286 WP48, .156 WS48.
- Mempis: PF Bo Outlaw. Age 33. Restricted Free Agent. .166 WP48, .107 WS48.
- Miami: C Loren Woods. Age 26. Restricted Free Agent. .144 WP48, .100 WS48.
- Milwaukee: SG Erick Strickland. Age 30. 1 Year, $1.65M. .084 WP48, .069 WS48.
- Philadelphia: SG Aaron McKie. Age 32. 3 Years, $3.5M. .181 WP48, .108 WS48.
- Phoenix: C Jahidi White. Age 28. 1 Year, $6.1M. .052 WP48, .064 WS48.
- Portland: PG Eddie Gill. Age 26. 2 Years, $720K. .092 WP48, .091 WS48.
- Sacramento: SF Gerald Wallace. Age 22. 1 Year, $1.55M. .117 WP48, .052 WS48.
- San Antonio: PG Charlie Ward. Age 34. 2 Years, $1.7M. .132 WP48, .110 WS48.
- Seattle: SG Richie Frahm. Age 27. Restricted Free Agent. .192 WP48, .152 WS48.
- Washington: PF Lonny Baxter. Age 25. Restricted Free Agent. .082 WP48, .094 WS48.
I have some notes. For one, most of these guys are fairly low-Usage. That being said, they are collectively about average with regards to their advanced stats. This team has good shooting and good rebounders. All in all, I think this team would win 30-35 games, which would not have put them in the play-off hunt in 04-05 but would have in 03-04.
The only reason that I picked Jahidi White is because in real life, the Suns traded a future 1st-rounder for the insurance that he would be picked. The Clippers offered a similar trade for Predrag Drobnjak, but that guy was beyond horrible.
There were some other interesting players who I did not pick for one reason or another. Kerry Kittles and Eddie Jones, Wages of Wins favorites, were both available, both both cost a lot of money ($9.25M and $14.55M, respectively). I also seem to remember Kittles having a lot of injuries the following year-I am not sure whether or not he was already suffering. Ruben Patterson was also available, but I think that Eddie Gill, a cheap, youngish back-up point guard, was a better investment considering that Ruben would cost $5.9M and be on the hook for two additional years. Kevin Ollie was a good point guard, but so were the cheaper Ward and Gill, while Anthony Johnson cost only $2.2M but played on the same team as Croshere whose presence made my eyes dance. Greg Buckner was a Wages of Wins uber-favorite in just about every year except for 2003-04. That, and the fact that McKie played on the same team, led to me not picking him.
As for the now-Unrestricted Free Agent that I have Bird Rights for, I would have gone after Frahm and Woods most because they play positions where I am weaker, are known producers, and are not old and expensive like I am assuming Outlaw would be. However, I drafted everyone with the intention of at least trying to sign them.
Because I would not have made the Drobnjak trade, I would have the 4th and 33rd picks. Andre Iguodala, Josh Childress, and Luol Deng are Top 10 Picks who were highly rated by the Old Wins Produced version of Arturo’s Draft Model, as were Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. While Iguodala was picked last from the first group, it was conceivable for him to go as high as No. 3, so he is a feasible selection at No. 4. Hopefully, I would pick him, as he was also the most productive pro of the three all around. With my second-rounder, my selection is almost irrelevant, as Chris Duhon and Trevor Ariza are the only available guys who did anything real in the NBA, and neither are in Arturo’s top five, so I cannot see their projections. Considering this, I would like to trade up into the late teens to snag Nelson. While hindsight is yelling at me to say, “No,” I would consider trading Wallace, a high potential guy, and the No. 33 pick to Denver for the No. 20 pick, which was in fact where Nelson was selected and later traded to the Magic. With that, here would be my starting depth chart:
- PG: Charlie Ward, Jameer Nelson Eddie Gill
- SG: Aaron McKie, Adrian Griffin, Erick Strickland
- SF: Jerome Williams, Andre Iguodala, Grffin
- PF: Austin Croshere, Williams, Brandon Hunter
- C: Danny Fortson, Jamal Sampson
- Inactive: Jahidi White
If I signed Frahm, he would displace Strickland and Griffin would split more evenly, while Woods would probably displace Hunter and go in front of Sampson, as he was more of a proven commodity. I think this team would finish near .500, in good position to select Danny Granger, whom I think has played the 4 really well in his rookie season according to The NBA Geek, or Nate Robinson, who has played the 2 spot regularly, both of whom were recommended by Arturo and picked after the lottery.
Interestingly enough, many of the players that I would have picked regressed the following year, but they were not the likely offenders. Of my over-30 years, Williams regressed but still played at an average levels, Griffin proved that the previous year had just been a down one, Outlaw dipped but only to mediocrity, Aaron McKie was roughly the same, and Charlie Ward hovered just below average instead of just above, although Erick Strickland fell way below 0. However, Hunter became woefully ineffective, Croshere dipped below average, Sampson regressed to the mean, Woods dropped similarly to Outlaw, Jahidi White did a free fall into no man’s land, Gill dropped, Frahm regressed to the mean, and Lonny Baxter barely played. Only White and Sampson can blame their fall on the Bobcats, and Wallace improved by a degree more reasonably attributable to random variance. I honestly cannot explain this. However, Fortson, Barnes, and Wallace did not decline, so this is probably just a random coincidence of strange fortune and a handful of small sample sizes.
Thank you for reading my post. I think that this should prove that expansion teams do not have to be awful, although it is extremely hard to make a good one. One caveat one could point out is that my team is not very young, but it only has four players tied to contracts for more than two years, although all of them are older than 28, and all these players had been historically productive, with the possible exception of Croshere if one wishes to be really picky. Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.
P.S. If you are interested, the spreadsheet that I used to analyze the data can be found at ExpansionDraft. Players highlighted in red have their stats from a season other than the one described.