Anticipating the Masters: A Foolhardy Exercise in Trying to Guess How the San Antonio Spurs Will Select in This Year’s NBA Draft

I absolutely love the NBA Draft.  It is one of the most frustrating and validating proving grounds for analytics.  There is inherent drama in seeing the risers and fallers.  As a fan, one gets to have unrealistic swaths of hope surrounding the future of the franchise (although I should note that I seldom experience this reaction anymore).

To some extent, it appears that the San Antonio Spurs have “figured out” the draft.  While there have been some stinkers (see Ryan Richards tanking for one of the worst teams in Greece, Marcus Denmon, a shooter, shooting 32.7% from range for a mediocre Turkish team, and Sergei Karaulov of the Russian second division), but the Spurs have plenty of rousing successes to compensate for these failures.  They have done this by exploiting the gaps in other teams’ knowledge and drafting internationals and savvy Americans who have fallen because of perceived faults.  Well, today, I am going to try to predict who the Spurs will draft with their first round selection, assuming that they do not trade up.  I should put emphasis on try; I never would have anticipated them selecting DeShaun Thomas with the 58th pick last year.  Using http://www.draftexpress.com as a guide, I will rank players in the order that I find likely that that player will be selected by the Spurs at a particular slot.  Ages are current as of the time of the post.  When I do best and worst case scenarios, note that I am casting a wider net than most people; do not be alarmed!

 

  • 1. SG Bogdan Bogdanovic 6’6″ 200 21 KK Partizan (Serbia)
  • NBA Comparison: I will steal Julien Rodger’s  assessment of him being similar to Joe Johnson (at asubstituteforwar.wordpress.com)
  • Best Case Scenario: Manu Ginobili
  • Worst Case Scenario: Daniel Hackett (First option on a mediocre Euroleague team or the second/third option on a good one)
  • Why the Spurs Might Pick Him: While Rodger may see him like Johnson, and I am in no position to disagree, I see him like Manu Ginobili with a mid-range game.  He is a very good slasher, a decent shooter, and has great scoring capability.  While shouldering the load on an extremely young, low-budget Partizan team, he averaged nearly 5 assists per 40 minutes pace-adjusted, which is doubly impressive when one considers that European scorers are much stingier in allotting assists than their NBA counterparts.  He also plays decent defense, and his efficiency is probably tempered somewhat by his high-usage role.
  • Why the Spurs Might Not Pick Him: There might be some justifiable fear that Bogdanovic’s role this year may have taught him some bad habits as far as shot selection is concerned; he attempted a lot of suspect mid-range shots this season.  Furthermore, in Euroleague play his high assist totals were almost matched by a horrendous 4.4 Turnovers per 40 Minutes pace-adjusted.  And Bogdanovic is all but certainly set to be a superstar at the European level.
  • Then Again…: The mid-range issue is common practice from what I watched in the Euroleague playoffs this year; teams tend to bail out in the last seconds of the shot clock with their best shooter attempting a long pull-up, and this happens rather frequently.   Besides, Popovich has fixed these issues with far more hopeless cases and being a star in Europe did not stop Ginobili from coming across the ocean.

 

  •  2. PG/SG Vasilije Micic 6’6″ 202 20 Mega Vizura (Serbia)
  • NBA Comparison: Tony Parker
  • Best Case Scenario: Last Year’s Version of Goran Dragic
  • Worst Case Scenario: Thomas Heurtel (mid-level Euroleague point guard whose with high assist totals but shaky year-to-year shooting percentages)
  • Why the Spurs Might Pick Him: This guy is a lot like Tony Parker.  He has very good court vision to the tune of about 7 assists per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, and can get points for himself.  He also could spend some time in Europe.
  • Why the Spurs Might Not Pick Him: His limitations are similar to Parker’s: high turnover rate and poor 3-point shooting.  Furthermore, he does not have the elite mid-range game that Parker does, and his numbers are somewhat skewed because of the Adriatic League’s weaker level of competition.
  • And then again…: This guy’s feel for the game fits in extremely well with the Spurs’ system.

 

  • 3. C Nikola Jokic 6’11” 253 19 Mega Vizura (Serbia)
  • NBA Comparison: Take the WABAC and call up Mehmet Okur
  • Best Case Scenario: Dirk
  • Worst Case Scenario: Erazem Lorbek (Lorbek is a stretch 4 whose rights were sent to Indiana in the George Hill trade and is the weakest starter for Barcelona, who made the Euroleague Final Four this year)
  • Why the Spurs Might Draft Him: This guy solves the problem of what happens when Boris Diaw lies out too long in the sun.  This guy is a decent shot blocker and rebounder, but he is also a fantastic scorer in possession three-point range and feel for the game, reflected in his 3 assists per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, in the Adriatic League.  He shot 63.6% from inside the arc in that same league, which is phenomenal when one considers that he is a jump shooter, meaning that either a) he is not shooting mid-range jumpers or b) he’s making a lot of the ones he takes!
  • Why the Spurs Might Not Draft Him: In the Adriatic League, Jokic shot 22.1% from deep.  Ouch.  He is also not a real post presence, although he is crafty, and not the most athletic man out there.  He is also pegged to go in the mid-second round, so the Spurs may see this as a reach and swap second-rounders with somebody else instead.  Furthermore, they may not be able to stash him in Europe; his agent, who owns his club, has other ideas.
  • And Then Again…: The Spurs can make his shot more consistent.  And since when have the Spurs cared about convention?

 

  • 4. SF Damien Inglis 6’8″ 240 19 Chorale Roanne (FRA)
  • NBA Comparison: Maurice Harkless
  • Best Case Scenario: Nicolas Batum
  • Worst Case Scenario: Carlos Suarez  (Long defender with a mediocre jumpshot and a definite size advantage against many/most match-ups)
  • Why the Spurs Might Pick Him: He and Kawhi Leonard would form an incredibly long, solid wing rotation for years to come which could lock down anyone in the league.  He is big enough and a good enough passer to take over the Boris Diaw role in the future, and he knows how to be a role player, as that was his job at Roanne.
  •  Why the Spurs Might Not Pick Him: He has a mediocre jumpshot, shooting only 72.4% from the foul line this year and only attempting approximately 1 3-pointer per game.  He also is not terribly explosive, only attempting about 1 free throw per game, and he was unable to take a big offensive role on a team that was relegated in France.  What is more, the Spurs essentially drafted the same guy last year, right down to the country of origin and shooting woes: Livio Jean-Charles, who plays for ASVEL, the French club owned by Tony Parker.
  • And then again…: The Spurs probably have the world’s best shooting coach, and Jean-Charles missed the entire French season with a knee injury.  What is more, the Spurs love their role players.

 

  • 5. SF K.J. McDaniels 6’6″ 196 21 Clemson
  • NBA Comparison: Corey Brewer
  • Best Case Scenario: Chandler Parsons
  • Worst Case Scenario: Ronnie Brewer at this stage in his career
  • Why the Spurs Might Draft Him: This guy is extremely skilled and versatile defensively, able to guard any perimeter position.  His athleticism gives lots of room for growth, he can block shots very well especially considering his size, is a fantastic offensive rebounder, and he is continuing to develop.  Despite his effort on defense, though, he seldom fouls.  The Spurs can continue to work with this guy.
  • Why the Spurs Might Not Draft Him: His shooting is a problem; he only made 31% of his 3-point attempts this season.  This is a product of very shaky shot selection.  He is another guy who may be taken earlier than the Spurs will be able to draft him, and some of his block and rebound numbers may be fueled by playing bigger than he will in the NBA.
  • And then again…: Shooting is fixable with the Spurs, and McDaniels shot 84% from the charity stripe last season.  He also mocked at 29 according to Draft Express, so he will still probably be in play for the Spurs.

 

  • 6. C Walter Tavares 7’3″ 265 22 Gran Canaria (Spain)
  • NBA Comparison: A taller Samuel Dalembert
  • Best Case Scenario: What Hasheem Thabeet was supposed to be
  • Worst Case Scenario: A Shot-Blocking Giorgi Shermadini (aka a journeyman center in Europe who always plays well but can never stick with a team for long)
  • Why the Spurs Might Pick Him:Mobile 7-footers do not grow on trees, and Tavares has a few inches on that.  The Spanish ACB is the third-best league in the world, behind the NBA and Euroleague, and Tavares was extremely efficient and a great shot blocker and rebounder.  He also just signed a three-year extension with his club, which will both scare other teams off a little and give San Antonio an incentive to pick him and watch him grow.
  • Why the Spurs Might Not Pick Him: He is incredibly raw; five or six years ago, he had never touched a basketball.  He is so efficient because he is strictly catch-and-finish, his passing is utterly non-existent, and  he has an unfortunate proclivity to commit fouls.  These limitations, as well as the lack of great explosiveness, seem to relegate him as a relic of a time quickly passing.  Furthermore, Tiago Splitter is currently ahead of him on the Spurs depth chart.
  • Then Again…: By the time Tavares’s contract expires, Splitter’s will have expired too, and  agile 7-footers do not grow on trees.

 

  • 7. SG Jordan Adams 6’5″ 209 19 UCLA
  • NBA Comparison: Paul George as a rookie? (This is very hard to do.)
  • Best Case Scenario: Manu Ginobili
  • Worst Case Scenario: James Anderson
  • Why the Spurs Might Draft Him: This guy could be the less-fun successor to Manu Ginobili.  He won’t whip passes halfway across the court, but he is very good around the rim, a solid shooter despite not getting many catch-and-shoot opportunities, a good passer, and he gets steals like nobody’s business-to the tune of 3.3 per 40 minutes pace adjusted, good for sixth-best in the nation.  This is another guy, like McDaniels and Inglis, who could create a defensive wing rotation for the ages with Kawhi.
  • Why the Spurs Might Not Draft Him: He is currently No. 23 on Draft Express’s Mock Draft, and…and…I don’t know because the Spurs are not overly enamored with athleticism, which Adams does lack.  This guy is awesome; I could see the Spurs trading up for him.

 

  • 8. PF/C Mitch McGary 6’10” 263  22 Michigan
  • NBA Comparison: Anderson Varejao
  • Best Case Scenario: Varejao
  • Worst Case Scenario: Marreese Speights
  • Why the Spurs Might Pick Him: McGary is a fantastic rebounder, especially on the offensive end.  He also shoots for a very high percentage without being relegated to catch-and-finish opportunities.  He also has an incredibly high steal rate, especially for a big man, and showed something of a post game in very limited opportunities.
  • Why the Spurs Might Not Pick Him: McGary applied for the draft after testing positive for marijuana usage and facing a year-long suspension.  He was also sidelined with a back injury for the vast majority of the season, and his foul rate rivals Tavares’s at about 5 per 40 minutes pace adjusted even though he faced clearly inferior competition.  Furthermore, none of he, Duncan, and Splitter are good shooters, which would limit his playing time unless Duncan retires.
  • And then again…: McGary does not have character issues; by his account, he got caught for a single mistake.  While there is certainly reason to be skeptical, this team also signed Stephen Jackson, and Pop should be able to keep him in line.

 

  • 9. PG Shabazz Napier 6’1″ 175 22 Connecticut
  • NBA Comparison: Damian Lillard (who I personally find to be somewhat overrated)
  • Best Case Scenario: What people think Lillard is/poor man’s Stephen Curry
  • Worst Case Scenario: Aaron Brooks
  • Why the Spurs Might Pick Him: I have a very bad good feeling (as in it is distasteful but likely) that Patty Mills will be gone next year and that Cory Joseph will not be able to replace him.  Shabazz Napier’s skillset is somewhat indicative of Mills’s in terms of shooting and scoring ability, capable but not always shown passing ability, and proclivity to rack up a solid number of steals.  He also is very team-oriented and seems to be a very good fit culturally.  While I hate the leader shtick, it certainly applies here, and Pop likes leaders.
  •  Why the Spurs Might Not Pick Him: There is a good chance that he will be gone by this point; Draft Express’s Mock Draft sees him going No. 24 to Charlotte.  Furthermore, Cory Joseph has shone flashes.
  • Then Again…: Joseph’s flashes are only flashes, and teams are not entirely fond of diminutive point guards or seniors.

 

  • 10. SF/PF Cleanthony Early 6’7″ 209 23 Wichita St.
  • NBA Comparison: Tobias Harris
  • Best Case Scenario: Ryan Anderson
  • Worst Case Scenario: Nicolo Melli (Mid-level European stretch 4)
  • Why the Spurs Might Draft Him: Early is a good shooter who can either be a big small forward or a stretch power forward.  He also fits into the team personality-wise.
  • Why the Spurs Might Not Draft Him: Early is the dreaded “tweener” stuck between the two forward positions, he is not an elite rebounder or passer, and he may have trouble defensively.  There is also the fear that his shooting will not translate as well, as he only shot 31.8% from downtown last year, especially scary considering Wichita St.’s relatively weak schedule.  (Edit: He also never passes–his assist rate is historically low.)
  • And Then Again…: His high usage at Wichita St. might be tempering his percentages, and he is not at that much of a disadvantage defensively.  Furthermore, they could simply plug him into a Matt Bonner role if it becomes too problematic.

 

Thank you for reading, please comment, please come back, and please let me gloat if the Spurs take Bogdanovic at 30.

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I’m Back!

Approximately one year ago,  I stopped posting on this blog.  Nothing traumatic had happened in my life;  I stopped mostly because of the idea that this blog had become a chore.  When a hobby becomes a chore, it is not a hobby anymore, and I felt burnt out and responsible to post for my meager cadre of followers.  Now, however, I feel the urge to start posting again, especially because it is one of the more interesting parts of the NBA calendar; the time surrounding the NBA Draft and the first days of free agency.  I have also become increasingly savvy about the world of basketball in Europe, and I feel that I can continue to churn out articles, hopefully with improved quality.

 

rmummery

My Expansion Drafts

This is the fourth post in my five-part series concerning my Expansion Drafts thought experiment.  The final edition, where I discuss my strategies and the changes since the Bobcats actually drafted in 2004, will come after the draft.

Finally, I am going to complete the drafts themselves.  My Pool Lists are described over the last three posts.  The post before that, where I described what I would have done if I were Charlotte’s GM when they did their Expansion Draft, contains all the rules for the Expansion Draft as they were in 2004 and how I will assume they are for my purposes.  Before I continue, however, there are some players who have already declined their options for next season, or had them declined for them in the case of Team Options, and I need to account for those.  The following players were originally in my draft pools, but will be no longer.  If the player is now Protected because a previously Protected player will not be under contract for next season, the player who caused the new Protection will have his name in parentheses.

  • The League’s Pool: Ben Gordon, Kevin Jones (Marreese Speights), Bernard James (Shawn Marion and O.J. Mayo), Jordan Hamilton (Andre Iguodala), Draymond Green (Carl Landry), Francisco Garcia, Metta World Peace (Jodie Meeks), Tony Wroten (Jerryd Bayless), Mike Miller (Ray Allen), Rashard Lewis (Mario Chalmers), Gustavo Ayon (Monta Ellis), Derrick Williams (Dante Cunningham), Malcolm Lee (Andrei Kirilenko), James White (J.R. Smith), Hedo Turkoglu, Kwame Brown, Matt Bonner (Boris Diaw), John Lucas, Kevin Seraphin (Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor)
  • My Pool: Gordon, C.J. Miles (Speights), Jared Cunningham (Marion and Mayo), Iguodala, Green (Landry), Garcia, Peace (Meeks), Jon Leuer (Bayless), Miller (Allen), Jarvis Varnado (Chalmers), Ellis, Greg Stiemsma (Cunningham), Alexey Shved (Kirilenko), Carmelo Anthony (Smith), Turkoglu, Brown, Bonner (Diaw), DeMar DeRozan (Lucas), Seraphin (Ariza and Okafor)

I have also decided to replace Danny Granger with Ben Hansbrough in my recommended pool, and Ivan Johnson with Shelvin Mack in my “guess” pool, the latter because I noticed that there must be at least one Unprotected player under contract for the following season, and Johnson will be a Restricted Free Agent.

First, I will conduct the draft based on my recommended players, then one from my guesses.  There will be two teams: Seattle and St. Louis.  St. Louis will pick first, for two different reasons.  For one, the first spot would probably be decided by a coin flip, so it is equally likely that either team would go first.  Furthermore, if the league is at all rigged, the league will want Seattle to have more ping-pong balls in the draft, which would lead to St. Louis selecting first here.  Personally, I do not believe that the league is rigged, but who knows for sure?  The teams will alternate, and each team will select fifteen players, one from each team.  I should note both that: a) I am not necessarily trying to pick the best players first, as I am also weighing salary considerations and b) I have a tendency to fall prey to internal groupthink with myself.  The pools of available players can be found at ExpansionDraft2012-13Pools.  Players who are in my recommended draft pool, where I picked the Protected Players, are outlined in green, while those in the “guesses” pool, where I predict who the teams would actually leave available, are bolded.  Here we go:

Recommended Players Pool:

  1. St. Louis: SF Danilo Gallinari, Denver
  2. Seattle: PF David Lee, Golden St.
  3. St. Louis: SG Carlos Delfino, Houston
  4. Seattle: PG Patrick Mills, San Antonio
  5. St. Louis: SF Terrence Williams, Boston
  6. Seattle: PG Steve Blake, Lakers
  7. St. Louis: C Daniel Orton, Oklahoma City
  8. Seattle: C Jason Smith, New Orleans
  9. St. Louis: PF Jason Thompson, Sacramento
  10. Seattle: SF Alonzo Gee, Cleveland
  11. St. Louis: PG Lou Williams, Atlanta
  12. Seattle: SG Evan Turner, Philadelphia
  13. St. Louis: PF Luis Scola, Phoenix
  14. Seattle: C Ian Mahinmi, Indiana
  15. St. Louis: PG Norris Cole, Miami
  16. Seattle: SG Richard Hamilton, Chicago
  17. St. Louis: SF DeQuan Jones, Orlando (Restricted Free Agent)
  18. Seattle: PG Tony Wroten, Memphis
  19. St. Louis: SG Rodney Stuckey, Detroit
  20. Seattle: SF Sasha Pavlovic, Portland
  21. St. Louis: PF Nene, Washington
  22. Seattle: PF Derrick Williams, Minnesota
  23. St. Louis: PF Kris Joseph, Brooklyn
  24. Seattle: SG Kevin Murphy, Utah
  25. St. Louis: SG Josh Akognon, Dallas
  26. Seattle: PF Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte
  27. St. Louis: SF Caron Butler, Clippers
  28. Seattle: C Marcus Camby, New York
  29. St. Louis: PF Drew Gooden, Milwaukee
  30. Seattle: SF Linas Kleiza, Toronto

Now, for my “guess” pool:

  1. St. Louis: C JaVale McGee, Denver
  2. Seattle: SG Courtney Lee, Boston
  3. St. Louis: SF Lance Thomas, New Orleans
  4. Seattle: PG Steve Blake, Lakers
  5. St. Louis: SG Carlos Delfino, Houston
  6. Seattle: C Joel Anthony, Miami
  7. St. Louis: SF Austin Daye, Memphis (Restricted Free Agent)
  8. Seattle: PF Kris Humphries, Brooklyn
  9. St. Louis: PG Patrick Mills, San Antonio
  10. Seattle: C Hasheem Thabeet, Oklahoma City
  11. St. Louis: C Viacheslav Kravtsov, Detroit
  12. Seattle: SF Omri Casspi, Cleveland (Restricted Free Agent)
  13. St. Louis: SG Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento
  14. Seattle: SG Gerald Green, Indiana
  15. St. Louis: PG Shelvin Mack, Atlanta
  16. Seattle: C Jason Smith, New Orlean
  17. St. Louis: PF Jan Vesely, Washington
  18. Seattle: PG Diante Garrett, Phoenix (Restricted Free Agent)
  19. St. Louis: SF DeQuan Jones, Orlando (Restricted Free Agent)
  20. Seattle: PG Jerel McNeal, Utah
  21. St. Louis: PF Malcolm Thomas, Chicago
  22. Seattle: SG Josh Akognon, Dallas
  23. St. Louis: PG Charles Jenkins, Philadelphia (Restricted Free Agent)
  24. Seattle: C Aaron Gray, Toronto
  25. St. Louis: C Chris Johnson, Minnesota*
  26. Seattle: SF DaJuan Summers, Clippers
  27. St. Louis: PG Scott Machado, Golden St.
  28. Seattle: SF Victor Claver, Portland
  29. St. Louis: C Marcus Camby, New York
  30. Seattle: PF Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte

*Johnson should have gone much higher, but I forgot about him.  Oversights happen, I guess.

My analysis post should be up sometime soon after the draft.  Without spoiling too much, I can say that the draft was very brutal, and that the two teams would have lots of trouble competing in the near future.  Tomorrow, I will be posting my Mock Draft.  Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.

 

Edit: I’m sorry that this post never went up.  I think it is clear to see that these teams would be much weaker; I predict that the talent pool would be significantly more shallow because NBA front offices are becoming increasingly savvy.

 

More Expansion Draft Fun: 2012-13 Draft Pool, Part 3

This is the final installment where I set my draft pools for my theoretical expansion drafts.  Enjoy:

Oklahoma City (3 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka
  • Who They Should Absolutely Not Protect: Kendrick Perkins
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Perkins, Daniel Orton, Perry Jones
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Perkins, Hasheem Thabeet, Orton

If the Thunder had amnestied Perkins last season, maybe James Harden would not have landed in Houston’s lap.  I really don’t know, but the verdict here is that it has been a while since Perkins has been solid, and there are very few elite centers left.  Guarding elite centers is basically Perkins’s purpose in this league.  Orton and Jones were great but far from otherworldly in the D-League, whereas Lamb was, hence their inclusion on my lists.  Of course, Jones “runs like a dear”, so I think foul-magnet but reliable back-up Thabeet would be thrown to the wolves.  Or the grizzly bears.  (Could not help myself with that beyond-awful joke.)

Orlando (5 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Mo Harkelss, Nikola Vucevic
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Al Harrington, Glen Davis
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Turkoglu, Nelson, Harrington, Davis, DeQuan Jones (restricted)
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Turkoglu, Harrington, Jones (restricted), E’Twaun Moore, Doron Lamb

The fact that Hedo and Harrington were more or less glued to the bench last season implies that the Magic are none too fond of them.  That is good for them, as they have not shown that they merit much play time. Neither has Davis and Nelson, although Nelson was at least been mediocre, but those guys play a lot, and the Magic have no better alternative at point guard.  I threw Jones on my list partly as bait because he is a zero wins-level player who is also a Restricted Free Agent.  Nice story-I don’t think he could even start for the U-but ultimately not a great NBA player.  Moore and Lamb are recent second-round picks who have not played well and are cheap.

Philadelphia (2 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Arnett Moultrie (maybe)
  • Who They Should Not Protect: No One
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Evan Turner, Kwame Brown
  •  Who They Would Not Protect: Brown, Charles Jenkins (restricted)

In fairly limited minutes, Moultrie played really well last season, as in, comparable to Anthony Davis.  Sooner or later, every team has to give up on every player, and I think that it’s high time that the Sixers do that Evan Turner, as his advanced stats have actually regressed over the course of his career.  Brown is actually not a bad back-up center when he is healthy; the problem is that he has played exactly 31 games in the two past seasons.  Jenkins was a low-risk, lower-upside trade acquisition this year at the trade deadline, and he is a subzero future Restricted Free Agent.

Phoenix (5 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: No One
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Channing Frye, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Frye, Beasley, Scola, Kendall Marshall,  Diante Garrett (restricted)
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Frye, Marshall, Garrett (restricted), Hamed Haddadi, random guess that is probably a Morris twin but may be Shannon Brown

Channing Frye literally did not play this season, yet he has presumably two years and $13.2M left on his contract.  I say “presumably” because the second year is a Player Option, and if he were his team, I would strongly suggest that he not pick it up.  Beasley’s contract is so stunningly awful-$6M/year for a cancer on a rebuilding team-that it makes analysts want to pluck their eyeballs out.  Of course, I don’t think the Suns realize this; otherwise, they probably would have never considered it, even in jest.  When someone is amnestied by the Rockets, it should probably tell one something.  Not the Suns with Scola, who played passably this year, but he is 33 and due $4.5M next year.  During last year’s draft, there were literally ESPN analysts who wondered whether Marshall could ever be a starting point guard, let alone a great one.  My memory might deceive me, but I think that some struggled to believe that he would become a decent back-up point guard.  Considering that he was a subzero player in nine D-League games this season, I would say that was a pretty correct assumption.  Garrett is a similar case, except that he was an undrafted free agent who excelled in a short D-League stint but absolutely tanked in the Association.  Of course, Haddadi is cheap and almost as ineffective as the rest, as well as older than Beas to boot.  I really have no idea who the Suns would jettison fifth; in my actual draft, I think I will settle on Markieff Morris, as he was roughly equivalent to his brother, but they didn’t have to spend a draft pick this February to get him.

Portland (2 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Nicolas Batum
  • Who They Should Not Protect: No One
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Joel Freeland, Sasha Pavlovic
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Freeland, Victor Claver

Damian Lillard did not make my “Absolutely” list because advanced stats are not impressed with him all that much.  Freeland and Claver were European imports in their mid-twenties who did not pan out, Freeland somewhat less predictably.  I am honestly surprised that Pavlovic has managed to remain in the league this long; like Sebastian Telfair, he has never played particularly well yet always manages to secure a low-level contract.  He must be, like, a magician or something.  I dunno.

Sacramento (4 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Their owners-from angry Sonics and Kings fans
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Everybody else, except for maybe Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans (restricted)
  • Who I Would Not Protect: John Salmons, Jason Thompson, Travis Outlaw, James Johnson (restricted)
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Salmons, Outlaw, Johnson (restricted), Jimmer Fredette

The Sacramento Kings’s front office has been horrific in recent years.  Even when they think they sign a bona fide star, like “Boogie” Cousins or Tyreke Evans, it blows up in their face like a Molotov cocktail, although I will admit that Evans legitimately broke out last season, hence his status off of the “Should Not” list.  Salmons and Fredette in the same trade.  I would have rather had the pieces they surrendered; Beno Udrih and Bismack Biyombo, whose name makes me think “Big Smack” and who is purportedly six years, six months, and three days young than The Jimmer.  Of course, the BYU man can shoot a mean three; it’s everything else that’s bothersome.  But I wouldn’t turn him over to the king.  I think that the Thompson contract, $30M for a mediocre power forward, is just absolutely insane now, although it was more defensible a year ago when it looked like he had become a solidly above-average player.  Everyone, say, “Hi,” to Regression to the Mean; he may be annoying, but he isn’t going away anytime soon.  Outlaw is in the same camp as Pavlovic from the previous segment, only this guy gets the big bucks.  James Johnson also did not pan out necessarily, although he has produced in some seasons.  I considered future RFA Toney Douglas, but he has more value to the team and on the court than these other guys.

San Antonio (4 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Unfortunately, Just About Everybody
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Gary Neal (restricted)
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Neal (restricted), Matt Bonner, Nando De Colo, Patrick Mills
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Bonner, De Colo, Mills, Aron Baynes

This Spurs squad is the polar opposite of the Sacramento one.  There is literally not a bad contract on the books, and Parker and Duncan have insanely good contracts-although I am still fuming over some of the poor decisions Parker made on Tuesday in Game 6.  (When the Lakers are out, give the Spurs a shout!)  The four guys I picked are all solid players whose defensive capabilities leave something to be desired.  Neal screams “Irrational Confidence Guy” to me-think Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith-and I’m none too fond of those.  In fact, I would rather take a low-usage player with comparable analytic s over an Irrational Confidence Guy, and numbers and game-watching alike prove that Neal has these tendencies, which is sort of a shame, because he could be even better if he didn’t unnecessarily force stuff so darn much.  The New Zealand-born Aussie Baynes struggled mightily in limited minutes after coming from Slovenia midseason, but I neglected to put him on the “I Would Not” list because he tore up the D-League and because I have a semi-irrational obsession with bringing European players across the Atlantic.  Free Bo McCalebb!  Free Kostas Papanikolaou!  Sorry; I got off on a tangent there.

Toronto (4 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza,
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Gay, Bargnani, Kleiza, DeMar DeRozan
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Bargnani, Kleiza, Aaron Gray, John Lucas

Masai Ujiri’s attempts to rid Canada of the scourge of The Bargs are well-known.  I do not think that he would not get rid of The Italian for nothing, but I also do not think that frogs will fall from the sky, and thermonuclear war is far from inevitable because while we are destructive, we are not that destructive.  (Of course, that didn’t stop from having a semi-nightmare about the latter last night.)  Kleiza is in the same boat, except that he costs just a little over 40% as much, he was productive before he took a jaunt in Europe (correlation: unknown), and I don’t think anyone has misguided opinions from the Missouri grad who has represented Lithuania 51 times.  Unfortunately for Raptors fan, I don’t think that The Great and Powerful Ujiri is quite ready to let Rudy go.  Aaron Gray and John Lucas are guys who have hung around but not whacked anyone with a 2×4, although I believe that Lucas is also an Irrational Confidence Guy.  DeRozan is not a bad player and not a bad guy, but do you really want to pay $9.5M each year for four years for inefficient wing scoring on this team?  [Stifles urge to make joke]  One of them will be booted off the island for sure, and Torontans should be weeping that this is not actually going to happen.

Utah (1 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: No One
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Kevin Murphy
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Murphy
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Jerel McNeal

If they had multiple spots to leave unguarded, I would go with Marvin Williams, as he just never seemed to mesh in Utah and is underrated, but they don’t, so I won’t.  Murphy, whose Arturo projection was just stunningly awful, played less than mediocre…in the D-League, whereas McNeal was solidly above-average.  Of course, the Jazz invested in a few grand in McNeal and a draft pick in Murphy-guess which one they’ll keep.  Yay Sunk Costs!

Washington (2 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutlely Protect: No One
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Nene, Kevin Seraphin
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Nene, Seraphin
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Seraphin, Jan Vesely

It is offical; the Wizards are not stupid because they benched Vesely and Seraphin almost completely in the second half of the season.  I don’t mind keeping Vesely around because of Nene’s $13M bill for the next 3 seasons, considering that the Brazilian is 31, average, and injury-prone, Vesely does not look so bad.  Seraphin, though, is swimming in the depths of Bargnani territory.  That is not good.

—–

So, finally, I am done setting my draft pools.  Where there is uncertainty, I will confirm my decisions during the draft posts themselves.  I hope that you have enjoyed this series of posts thus far, and that you will come back to complete the reading of this five-post segment.  And so I sign off with thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.

 

More Expansion Draft Fun: 2012-13 Draft Pool, Part 2

I’m back, with analysis for ten more teams on the way.  My previous post discusses the specifics of the exercise, and you can click over to it at the bottom of this post.   Here we go with Part 2 of setting the draft pools:

Houston (6 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Greg Smith, Patrick Beverley
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Francisco Garcia, Aaron Brooks
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Garcia, Brooks, Royce White, Tim Ohlbrecht, Thomas Robinson, Carlos Delfino
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Garcia, Brooks, White, Ohlbrecht, Delfino, Jeremy Lin

Once I got past Garcia, Brooks, and Ohlbrecht, the latter two of whom played a combined total of fifty regular season minutes for Houston last year, the guesses got really hard.  As much as I think Daryl Morey likes White’s potential, I am also pretty sure that he is sick and tired of all his antics.  They have been trying to shop Robinson for a draft pick, and having him be picked rather than one of their other solid players would not be a horrible concession.  Garcia is just overpriced and his advanced stats are mediocre.  While Delfino is a solid player, I just think that this team has so many shooters, and the fact that only Garcia on this team is older than him (by about eight months) would leave him as the odd man out.  I think that Houston would and should absolutely protect the four I listed above, as well as Terrence Jones, because all except for Harden are really cheap, they are all solidly above-average, and none of them are older than 25.  I would leave Lin available because of the presence of Beverley and the fact that Harden is so ball-dominant and so much more productive,  I considered leave Donatas Motiejunas available rather than Delfino, but I really just think that he was misused as a shooter, as he shot 57% from inside the arc and 29% outside it, yet took over a third of his attempts from range.  Plus, I really like his name.

Indiana (4 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Roy Hibbert, George Hill, Paul George, Lance Stephenson
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Danny Granger, Ian Mahinmi, Gerald Green
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Granger, Mahinmi, Green, Miles Plumlee
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Mahinmi, Green, Plumlee, Ben Hansbrough (restricted)

I think that Danny Granger is overpriced and in the Antoine Walker/Allan Houston realm of overpriced scorers who are left unprotected because they are paid so much that they will not be picked.  Mahinmi and Green had bad years last year, although the French center’s was somewhat uncharacteristic, and Hansbrough did not produce.  I put Hibbert on my “Absolutely” list even though he only has one good really good season analytics-wise (the lockout year) because of his prodigious interior defense.  Orlando Johnson could have conceivably found his way onto the “They Would Not” list, but I think that Green’s reputation has soured once again to the point that the Pacers recognize his lack of production.

Clippers (1 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Bake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe
  • Who They Should Not Protect: No One
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Caron Butler
  • Who They Would Not Protect: DaJuan Summers

I would leave Butler because he is old, not great, expensive, and having little trade value.  They would leave Summers because when he played, he has been below subpar.  I was very surprised to learn that the Clippers only have eight players under contract for next year.  This should be a very interesting team to watch beyond the Chris Paul saga.

Lakers (4 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: No One
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Bryant, Gasol, Peace, Blake
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Peace, Blake, Chris Duhon, Devin Ebanks (restricted)

Nobody would pick Bryant and Gasol, but if they did, it would be a major salary cap relief.  Peace and Blake are overpriced and have been amnesty candidates.  Duhon fell out of Mike D’Antoni’s rotation, while Ebanks has never been in any rotation.  Unfortunately, the Lakers’s front office seems to like Darius Morris, and Andrew Goudelock impressed in the play-offs despite an abysmal performance last year.

Memphis ((Edit: 3) Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Ed Davis
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Darrell Arthur
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Arthur, Tony Wroten, (Edit: Jon Leuer (restricted))
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Wroten, (Edit: Leuer (restricted)), Austin Daye (restricted)

Tony Wroten did not play well last year, and I seem to remember that his reputation is not squeaky clean.  Arthur seems to be a Stretch 4 made of of paper, but he was inexplicably  the third big ahead of Davis, who is uber-cheap and uber-efficient.  Daye finally played productively for once, but he also was pinned to the bench.

Miami (5 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade
  • Who They Should Not Protect: James Jones, Norris Cole, Rashard Lewis, Jarvis Varnado
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Jones, Cole, Lewis, Varnado, Mike Miller
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Jones, Lewis, Varnado, Miller, Joel Anthony

Except for Miller and Anthony, all of these guys are cheap scrubs.  Miller has run the gamut with his injury history while being paid $6.2M annually, while Anthony rode the pine this year.  Norris Cole and his flattop have broken out this postseason, but I’m still not big on him-relatively small sample size and all that jazz.

(Edit: Accidentally forgot Milwaukee.  This was not a shot at Bucks fans, just a simple error.)

Milwaukee (2 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Larry Sanders
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Monta Ellis, Drew Gooden
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Ellis, Gooden
  • Who They Wood Not Protect: Gooden, Gustavo Ayon

Sanders is a beast.  Monta Ellis is a chucker, although he is slightly better than I imagined.  Unfortunately for Bucks fans, the team offered him a 3-year, $36M extension, which he turned down.  He had better hope someone else offers him a big fat check.  Needless to say, Milwaukee wants to keep him.  I am honestly surprised that Gooden has not been amnestied by someone yet, as his skills have evaporated faster than rainwater in a desert.  Ayon and Ish Smith were acquired in the J.J. Redick trade, and while the former can actually ball, Smith costs two-thirds as much and is three years younger.

Minnesota (4 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Derrick Williams, Jose Barea, Alexey Shved
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Williams, Barea, Shved, Greg Stiemsma
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Williams, Stiemsma, Malcolm Lee, Chris Johnson

While Shved was a good signing, he was not a good acquisition, insofar as he has not panned out as hoped, in part because of an inability to shoot efficiently.  Williams has been given up on, and I don’t blame the T’Wolves.  Lee and Johnson play little, so I guess….People remember Barea for his exploits with Dallas, which led to a massive, undeserved paycheck, but I think that Minnesota’s front office is still aboard the ship headed for Puerto Rico.  Keeping Shved around is more than defensible, though.

New Orleans (3 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Anthony Davis
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Eric Gordon, Jason Smith, Austin Rivers
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Gordon, Smith, Rivers
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Smith, Lance Thomas, Terrel Harris

The fact that Eric Gordon is overrated is irrelevant when you consider his injury history and salary.  That alone is enough to justify feeding him to the wolves.  He would be an awesome risk for an expansion team, but I think that the media will see him as another Brandon Roy-which would be more than a little generous.  Smith has a reputation as a good back-up center, but alas, he is not, as he takes way too many jumpers.  That being said, he is good from mid-range, but that is just not efficient for a center, especially considering his relatively anemic rebounding rate.  Harris is a scrub, but the Hornets have more expensive fish to fry in my opinion, hence the inclusion of the baffling Austin Rivers.   Analytics like Lance Thomas, but his minutes paled in comparison to Al-Farouq Aminu’s, and the Wake Forest grad actually had his rookie option declined, which is really kind of strange.

New York (3 Unprotected)

  • Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Tyson Chandler
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Anthony, Stoudemire, Marcus Camby
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Stoudemire, Camby, James White

The Knickerbockers have been trying to rid themselves of Amar’e for several years now, and I don’t blame them with his humongous salary and far-from-jaw-dropping production.  I differ with Melo, as I think he is overpriced (it is obvious that I learn more toward Wins Produced) and a team-killer.  Camby was really good two years ago with Portland and Houston, but he was not as good in limited minutes in the Big Apple, a phenomenon I think partly caused by injury, advanced age, and sitting on the bench.  Like Jeremy Evans, James White is a phenomenal dunker; unlike Evans, he does not appear to be a diamond in the rough, so I can see the Knicks going that route.

To be continued…

More Expansion Draft Fun: 2012-13 Draft Pool, Part 1

Hello!  My last post discussed the players I would have picked if I had been the Bobcats’s General Manager during their Expansion Draft.  Well, one thing led to another, and I decided to attempt a two-team Expansion Draft for 2012-13.  But before I can do that, I have to determine which players would be left unprotected, which I will do over a series of three posts before culminating in the actual drafts themselves, one for each draft pool.  Therefore, I am going to state my opinions, and then predict on which other player would actually be left out in the cold.  Each team can protect up to eight players, including upcoming Restricted Free Agents.  Upcoming Unrestricted Free Agents can neither be selected nor protected.  It should be noted that exactly one player from each team would be selected in the Expansion Draft.  While my verb tenses may say otherwise, this is merely a thought experiment.  I drew my conclusions using what I have heard of player evaluations, play time, Wins Produced, and Win Shares. Here are the first ten teams to be analyzed:

Atlanta (1 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Al Horford
  • Who They Should Not Protect: No One
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Ivan Johnson (Restricted Free Agent)
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Lou Williams and/or DeShawn Stevenson

Because they only have eight protectable players, they must leave one available.  This is tricky, as there are no awful contracts on this roster, as none of their players are awful, and their mediocre ones are mostly young and cheap.  Johnson, who is 29, is an average power forward who can easily look mediocre or worse as he is a Low-Usage bench player.  Losing the Right of First Refusal and handing over the proper Bird Rights is not a big deal.  However, Williams makes over $5 million for the next two seasons, and Stevenson makes half that.  Williams has trade value, and Stevenson is historically unproductive.  On the surface, neither of these like candidates, especially on a roster with Johnson, Mike Scott, and Shelvin Mack, the latter two of whom are in their mid-twenties and have “low upside”.   However, Atlanta is trying to make a run at Dwight Howard, and any lost cap space would be welcome.  I would probably go with Williams, but I considered Stevenson because Williams may be worth a future first-rounder.  Whoever is chosen will be lost, so putting any other than Horford on the chopping block would not be a bad idea, and only he, John Jenkins, and Jeff Teague would be infeasible from the team’s perspective.

Boston (6 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Fab Melo, Jordan Crawford, D.J. White, Terrence Williams
  • Who They Would Not Protect: White, Williams, Shavlik Randolph, Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Melo, Crawford, White, Williams, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green

Boston has a lot of good players, so guessing the last few of their decisions is hard.  I would choose to leave Pierce available because of his hefty price tag, which implies that he would not be selected, and the fact that only one Celtic will go.  Notably, Eddie Jones and Kerry Kittles were available for Charlotte, and even though I had exhibited a tendency to splurge, I did not jump for them despite advanced stats’ affinity for them.  Kevin Garnett would be in a similar situation.  I think Pierce would be safe, and Green would ultimately be taken.  Green has always been overrated, but the Celtics are one of the teams that overvalues him.  The same applies for Crawford, although I would not be surprised to see him replace Bass, Lee, or Terry on an actual list.  White, Williams, and Randolph are all late season pick-ups, and only Randolph has ever been productive in the NBA.  Unfortunately, Shavlik is the type of player who is frequently overlooked.  I think Melo is a future example of the sunk cost fallacy, but I would not blame the C’s for hanging onto him.  Lee, Bass, and Terry are all productive but slightly overpriced, although Lee is probably underrated.  I also think that Avery Bradley is overrated, but Green is more so.  To put it simply, this was hard.

Brooklyn (4 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Tyshawn Taylor, Kris Joseph
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Wallace, Taylor, Joseph, Kris Humphries
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Johnson, Wallace, Taylor, Joseph

Because the Nets have both a lot of overpriced and ineffective players, this was much easier.  Johnson is below-average, 32, and paid like a star.  I do not think they would leave him unprotected because they have cheap, young, bad players who are typical candidates.  While I considered leaving Williams and Lopez, they have not quite but almost-deserved reputations as star players and could be snatched up.  Wallace has declined and is on the wrong side of 30.  I would say that Brooklyn was just a bad fit except that I have heard that has game relied heavily on his athleticism, which is what Bill James would call a “young man’s skill”.  Wallace ain’t young no more.  Kris Humphries has a reputation for being one of the biggest albatrosses around, so it is a no-brainer that he would be put up for sale.  Taylor played absolutely awfully this season, and Joseph was average in the D-League.  Joseph could be replaced by Tornike Shengelia, but the Shengelia is two years his junior and played at a star level down in the minors.  I would not be shocked to see Mirza Teletovic replace Wallace, but he is much cheaper and I think that Prokhorov likes him.

Charlotte (2 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Gordon, Thomas
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Gordon, Thomas

This is easy; Gordon and Thomas might just be the two worst contracts in the NBA.

Chicago (2 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Boozer, Malcolm Thomas
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Boozer, Hamilton

For some reason, people still think that Rip has value.  I don’t think that he ever really did, or at least not since he turned 30, which was a long time ago.  Boozer is an Amnesty candidate; Malcolm Thomas is treated as a quadruple-A player, although he was really good two years ago in the D-League.  He hasn’t had many minutes at either level since then.  I would also consider leaving Marquis Teague on the market and just amnestying Boozer.

Cleveland (3 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Anderson Varejao, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson
  • Who They Should Not Protect: None
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Kevin Jones, Chris Quinn, Omri Casspi (Restricted)
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles, Quinn

Jones was mediocre this year but had a solid rookie projection.  Quinn played great in the D-League but is 30.  I have been rooting for Casspi ever since I read about him in Sports Illustrated when he was a rookie, but he only played 500 minutes and it costs the Cavs nothing if they let him go.  Originally, I had Marreese Speights and Miles under “Should Not Protect”, but their Win Shares numbers were better than I had anticipated, as I usually look at Wins Produced.  Gee played well last year, but Wins Produced had him as a shooting guard, which inflated his numbers and, consequently, my opinion of him.  I think that Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller have trade value, which is why I would hold onto them.

Dallas (2 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: No One
  • Who They Should Not Protect: O.J. Mayo, Jared Cunningham, Josh Akognon
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Akognon, Bernard James, Darren Collison (Restricted)
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Mayo, Cunningham, Akognon

I don’t think that the Mavs should waste a Protection slot on Mayo because he is almost definitely going to opt out, and Cunningham played terribly in his stint in the D-League.  Akognon played in China, but he is 27, has little history, is a chucker, and…just no.  James is a great story and productive, but he is a 28-year old second-year player…I don’t think Cuban will keep the military veteran around.  Collison was benched in favor of an ancient Mike James this season for some unknown reason, which will also be influential.  I am very confident that I would have guessed correctly.

Denver (Edit: 6 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Kosta Koufos, Kenneth Faried
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Andre Iguodala
  • Who They Would Not Protect: JaVale McGee, Anthony Randolph, Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller, Julyan Stone (Restricted), (Edit: Timofey Mozgov (restricted))
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Randolph, Miller, Stone (restricted), (Edit: Timofey Mozgov (restricted))

I sort of surprised myself with my “I Would Not Protect” section, but let me explain.  Iguodala has all but exercised his Early Termination Option, which means that he is leaving anyway, and the expansion teams are less likely to pick him up.  Wilson Chandler is actually pretty decent for a small forward, and while overpriced, is much cheaper and not much weaker than Gallo.  Randolph, while possessing gobs of potential, will probably not get played much and has “awful feel for the game”, according to Julien Rodger, among others.  Miller was mediocre in the D-League, while Stone would not get picked and should sign his Qualifying Offer.  In my scenario, I would lose Gallinari, but I would figure something out.  However, McGee and Hamilton would replace my “shocks” because they both have been underplayed; McGee has a rep as a headcase; Hamilton must not work hard in practice or something.  I never even considered Evan Fournier; his Win Shares are good, he’s only 21, and he has lots of “potential”.  For once, I believe it, as he is a slasher who is probably still becoming accustomed to the NBA.

Detroit (2 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond
  • Who They Should Not Protect: Charlie Villanueva
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Villanueva, Viacheslav Kravtsov
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Villanueva, Rodney Stuckey

Greg Monroe struggled a little bit last year, but I think that players sometimes just have done years, and that Monroe had one last year.  Drummond looks like Shaq.  Villanueva has been discussed for amnesties.  For the second slot, I considered Kim English, Khris Middleton, and  Kravtsov for my guesses, and Kravtsov is the oldest, most expensive, and least-played.  He was also the most productive.  I would not protect Stuckey because he is expensive and mediocre, and he would be more likely to be selected than the man Kevin Garnett once dubbed a “cancer”.

Golden St. (6 Unprotected)

  • Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Stephen Curry
  • Who They Should Absolutely Not Protect: Richard Jeferson, Andris Biedrins, Kent Bazemore, Dwayne Jones
  • Who They Would Not Protect: Jefferson, Biedrins, Bazemore, Jones, Draymond Green, Scott Machado
  • Who I Would Not Protect: Jefferson, Biedrins, Bazemore, Jones, Green, Andrew Bogut or David Lee (but not both)

There is nobody who follows the NBA who would say that Jefferson and Biedrins do not have albatross contracts.  Jones, Green, and Machado were all late season pick-ups; the only reason that I am would leave Machado protected is that he had a really good Wages of Wins projections.  Bazemore seldom played and was terrible when he did.  Green cannot shoot.  Now, for the big ones.  The Warriors are in the hunt for Dwight Howard.  While their means of acquisition would be a sign-and-trade for Bogut and others, having one selected in an Expansion Draft would free up cap space to make their end of the deal more flexible; they no longer have to perfectly match salaries because they are not brushing up against the apron, $4 million above the tax, which becomes a hard cap the second they sign the sign-and-trade.  They know this would be freed up because no team would miss a chance to snag Bogut or Lee.  I would probably Lee toward Lee because he is a terrible defender, and Bogut is younger and would be used to trade for Howard if he chooses to hop from LA to San Fran.

To be continued…

I’m Back with What I Would Have Done During Charlotte’s Expansion Draft


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.

Beating a Dead Horse: Ideas for How a Basketball Relegation-and-Promotion System Might Work

During my recent blogging hiatus, I discovered the website http://basketball.realgm.com.  While I had been on the site previously, I had not quite appreciated just how good and expansive it is, with regularly updated statistics for a whole host of international leagues-including places so far-flung as Bulgaria and Cyprus-to bare bones versions of ESPN articles.  Furthermore, they have a handful of bloggers who write short, interesting, and presumably original articles concerning the basketball world.  Thus far, my favorite of these columnists happens to be Jonathan Tjarks.  Tjarks is a very good writer with interesting ideas that seem to play the role of the moderate in the partisan arguments of analytical and conventional wisdom.  In this regard, I consider him preferable to Zach Lowe, although I will not go so far as to say that I agree with all of Tjarks’s opinions.

Those of you who have read my work for some time-and I quite honestly have no clue how many of you that is-know that I have a seemingly incurable fixation with relegation and promotion.  Well, Jonathan Tjarks inadvertently conspired to rekindle those fascinations as I got some ideas after a reading an article he wrote on the Sacramento Kings relocation situation.  In that article, Tjarks pointed across the pond and stated that European teams rarely ever relocate or con cities out of millions upon millions of dollars because most major cities already have teams.  The article reads to some degree as a scathing condemnation of the franchise system, referring to it as a “rotten foundation,” and advocates the institution of relegation and promotion as a way to end this rigmarole.  Personally, I was salivating at this support when I read the article, and with a little thinking, I was able to think of some ideas for the structuring of a relegation-and-promotion system for American professional basketball.

If I were a proponent of the franchise system who was not already a part of it, my one of my first retorts against releg/promo (which I will from now on use to shorten relegation and promotion) would be that the European clubs often have a long, established history, a history that we do not have in American sports.  In fact, baseball is the only sport that does have minor clubs with an established history, but the minor leagues are so hopelessly tied to the big league clubs that doing anything resembling releg/promo in American baseball would a fantasy.  While European soccer clubs do fail, these are seldom in a major division; have you ever heard of a team in the Football League or Serie B going under?  Therefore, a way to make releg/promo feasible in any American sport would be to monitor the creation of the lower-level teams.  There are many ways to go about doing this, and my ideas are really the basis of the article.

I believe that one factor that would aid fan support would be a guarantee of the club’s short-term existence.  One of the fears lying in the back of the mind of any fan of a lower-level American sports club must be that their beloved franchise will sooner or later disappear or relocate.  As such, I think that there would be several steps to ensuring that the clubs do not indeed go under.

Of course, the first one would be thorough vetting of any prospective owners.  They must be reputable people with solid finances.  This is obvious.  However, I think that another aspect of same idea would be to have low or (perhaps preferably) nonexistent expansion fees, provided that the owner is on solid financial ground and is reputable.  While this seems counterintutive-if an owner has invested a lot of money just to start a club, he will naturally want to ensure its success-it also makes the expansion process more open.  The idea here is that there needs to be a large number of clubs established at the lower levels to even have a prayer of the lower levels’ long-term success and viability.  If there are more clubs, then by extension more markets have a team.  In this scenario, one  major impetus for instituting releg/promo would be to curbstomp attempts at relocation, and so the more stable teams, the less likely those fiascos will occur.

Of course, the lack of expansion fees is not practical without the next part of my plan.  In fact, the lack of expansion fees would almost be counterproductive without this next segment for reasons already outlined above.  This important portion would be to guarantee that the club will continue to exist in its current location for an extended period of times; my current thoughts lean toward five years.  This is the method I believe would encourage fans to come to the arena; they know that the club will be there for long enough for them to become attached to the team.  This would be maintained by instituting prohibitive fines to the owners for relinquishing club control to the league, which would occur if the owner tried to sell the club and failed to find a buyer who met the league’s approval.  If the owner tried to fold the club, the league would pay him a settlement in order for the club to remain above water.

In order for the club to remain in business beyond the five-year window, the league would have a rule taking effect after the five years stating that the club must have a balanced budget or face penalties.  This is an idea very similar to, and inspired by, the regulations trying to be instituted in European soccer.  Ultimately, I believe that this, coupled with the prevailing attitude among American businessmen that sports are to be a profitable enterprise and the greater number of large markets, would eventually make American releg/promo stronger than the European version.  While I have not quite thought of penalties that would be suitable in this case, particularly since fining the owner would be counterproductive, while the vacation of games appears draconian and would remind some of the NCAA in a none-too-fond way.  However, the key point here is that the penalties would be punitive and accumulative while still being sympathetic.  For example, they would not apply to teams within the five-year window, the revenues considered would be for earlier seasons rather than the current year to safeguard against major drops, and the cap would be adjusted up if a team was promoted.  Having a balanced budget required would be beneficial as it might attract more owners and prevent them from overspending unsustainably, as the former guarantees them a profit unless they fall into the latter group, which would lead to stiff penalties.

Another possible method to attract fans would be to have Local Player discounts.  In these instances, players who went to high school or college in the same general area as one of the clubs could be classified as a “Local Player”.  Teams would be able to have a small quota of designated Local Players-I’m thinking that three would be a good number-for whom the league pays a percentage of their salary.  While The Wages of Wins and other such works have discounted the viability of individual players increasing attendance at the major league level, lesser professional teams could benefit from local players buoying support at least initially.  It would also help relieve the financial burden on newer teams by allowing them to sign a bigger-name player from their area to boost their record.

One of the appealing aspects of playing basketball in Europe is that many of the teams pay taxes and some amenities, such as a house or a car, for their players.  This, while far from crucial to the league’s success, would definitely be a positive, especially for the smaller teams who might not otherwise be able to sway less talented but still able Americans away from crossing the pond.

In order to ease these payments and the structure of the league, the cost of membership would come in the form of a tax on revenues.  The leagues would probably be highly localized to diminish travel costs and use play-off series to decide which teams are promoted and relegated.  If there would be a salary cap, I would ideally have it be a hard cap slightly higher than the current cap with no salary floor.  There would be no floor because the threat of relegation eliminates any advantages that could be gained from fielding a bargain basement team and because there would be such a variety of markets involved.

I know that these ideas are crazy and infeasible as far as implementation is concerned, but I honestly believe that they are fiscally reasonable.  It really is ironic that releg/promo was originally an American idea borrowed by the English.  Nothing but sympathy can be felt for diehard fans whose franchises are being moved because of greedy billionaires who want to take their ball and go home.  Too many will simply point to the major talent gap between the NBA and the D-League and say that is that, never mind that European teams beat NBA squads in the preseason every year.  Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.

 

 

Hi, My Name Is Arsalan Kazemi, And I’m Really Good at Basketball

First off, I would like to apologize for the fact that it has been almost two months since I have blogged.  It’s not so much that I haven’t had much to write about, or that I’ve been extremely busy; really, I think I sort of burned myself out.  Anyway, I am just really excited to get this thing up and running again.  Here we go:

As much as I love examining the Wins Produced statistics of current NBA players, I am absolutely fascinated by those who have not yet made the NBA, even though it is harder to gauge their future productivity.  I think I see this mystery box as an interesting challenge.  At The Wages of Wins, the many talented analysts have to some degree debunked the rumor that players from small colleges should not be given auditions for the NBA because their strength of schedule pales in comparison to the BCS conferences and high mid-majors.  There are other players who are deemed strictly great college players, but who would not be able to make it in the NBA.  Today, I plan on trying to find a role for a player who has had both of these brands at varying times: senior Oregon power forward Arsalan Kazemi, formerly of Rice University.

Kazemi, who is from Esfahan, Iran, is the type of guy that Wins Produced adores.  Despite standing only 6’8″ and weighing 225 pounds, this guy is a very good rebounder and an efficient player overall.  His pace-adjusted Rebounds Per 40 Minutes numbers for each of his seasons in college are: 13.0, 15.1, 13.4 (at Rice), and 12.9 (at Oregon).  It is noteworthy, both now and later on, that in both of the past two seasons his team played at an above-average pace; his unadjusted numbers cluster more around 14.  He is also shot 59.4% and 59.5% in the last two seasons, respectively and has averaged 2.7 and 2.6 Steals Per 40 minutes pace-adjusted over the past two seasons, respectively.  In the same vein as the steals numbers, he has led his conference in Defensive Rating each of the past two years, and his rating this year of 83.0 was ninth-best in the country.  Of the players ahead of him, three went to Stephen F. Austin-including the interesting Taylor Smith-and two went to Savannah State, which are in truly weak conference; Gorgui Dieng is the only truly legitimiate prospect ahead of him in this category.  According to the numbers available at www.draftexpress.com, Kazemi has Old-Style Wins Score Per 40 Minutes averages of 13.4, 16.7, 17,7 (at Rice), and 17.1 (at Oregon). Over the past three seasons, only Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis have produced higher averages in this statistic than Kazemi has.  Kazemi is just amazing.

However, that low usage that mentioned earlier really hurts Kazemi in scouts’ eyes.  While his Usage Rates were always at least average at Rice, he only used about 15.2% of Oregon’s possessions this year when he was on the floor.  This year, he also averaged fewer than 2 Turnovers and 2.4 Fouls Per 40 Minutes pace-adjusted, both definite decreases from his time at Rice; however, skeptics will say that this was probably because of his reduced role, and I would not disagree with them.  He is also not much of a shot blocker, never averaging more than 1.3 Per 40 pace-adjusted, and he only recorded 1.8 Assists Per 40 Minutes pace-adjusted this year.  Still, these are not so big of a deal as he plays power forward, and the assist rate was fifth of twenty-one among power forwards in Draft Express’s Top 100 Prospects list, where he ranks No. 86.

His Prospect Ranking implies that Kazemi will not be drafted.  The likelihood is even less when you consider the rate at which teams select “Project Euros” from picks 45 or 50 and beyond.  However, Kazemi is only a year older than the oldest of the “Project Euros”, and unlike many of them, he can obviously rebound the ball.  However, NBA teams will not draft him if they do not think he can fit in the NBA.

Reggie Evans was not a bad player in college, but he was certainly not an elite one.  In his pre-draft year of 2001-02, his old-style Win Score Per 40 Minutes was only 12.2, 24th among power forwards in the NCAA.  This year, that spot is filled by Oklahoma’s Romero Osby, a player who I doubt very many people outside of the state of Oklahoma consider to be draftworthy.  He only averaged 13.1 Rebounds Per 40 Minutes (pace adjustments are not available at Draft Express for 2001-02), while Kazemi averaged 13.8 Rebounds Per 40 Minutes this season.  Evans was twenty-two when he exited college; Kazemi turned twenty-three just last month.  Evans and Kazemi are both listed at 6’8″, although Evans is twenty-five pounds heavier.  In his rookie season, Evans averaged 13 Rebounds Per 40 Minutes for Seattle, and Wins Produced says that he averaged .216 Wins Per 48.   My point here is that Evans’s statistics in college were not indicative of greatness, but look at what he has become-a fan favorite for Wins Produced buffs are everywhere.  I am hoping that the Lakers will at least consider signing him this summer, especially if they lose Dwight Howard and/or Pau Gasol, if they have any desire to remain competitive because Evans would be so effective.  I honestly believe that Kazemi can be a similar player, and his college statistics are better than Evans’s.

Furthermore, one of the major knocks on Evans is that he is not a great basketball player; he just hustles.  Well, Kazemi’s Per 40 Minute statistics for this season are better than Evan’s in his senior year in every statistic except for fouling, and there there is only a difference of one foul every 100 minutes.  His Draft Express scouting report from February 1 also indicates that Kazemi has at least some athleticism, saying

“Kazemi has proven to be a fairly limited offensive player, relegated mostly to scoring off cuts, offensive rebounds and running the floor in transition.”
“Kazemi still moves incredibly well without the ball, showing excellent hands and solid leaping ability reigning in passes and finishing around the basket.At times, he also shows the ability to attack his man off the dribble in a straight line, though his ball-handling skills are fairly raw and he’s not the type of player who can be consistently asked to create offense for himself.  His active and aggressive style of play allows him to get to the free throw line at a pretty solid rate, though.”

“On defense, Kazemi still shows active hands, and solid awareness, which allow him to defend power forwards adequately at this levelHe does a good job of getting into passing lanes, as evidenced by his career high 3.0 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which ranks him #1 amongst all power forwards in our database and is an accurate reflection of the excellent energy-level and anticipation skills he brings to the table. With that said, he still struggles to guard bigger and stronger post players due to his lack of size, but he nonetheless does a solid job of holding his own in the paint considering his physical limitations.”

“Guarding NBA small forwards may be challenging for him as he does not appear to possess great lateral quickness when defending the perimeter, even if he does a solid job of staying in plays even after he is beat.”

Players like Kenneth Faried (measured 6-6 without shoes), Thaddeus Young (6-5 ¾ without shoes), Chuck Hayes (6-5 1/2), DeJuan Blair (6-5 ¼), Jeff Adrien (6-5 ¼) and Jason Maxiell (6-5) see significant minutes in today’s NBA and are more than holding their own on the interior.”
These quotes all imply that while Kazemi may not be the most athletically gifted player ever, he appears a hard worker and a smart player, in addition to his other skills.  I honestly think that Arsalan Kazemi could serve as a more mobile, yet slightly less strong Reggie Evans-type player, especially for a team with a quicker tempo.  The fact that he is only twenty-three means that, while he is definitely old for a draft prospect, he is not too old to improve at least a little bit.  I definitely think that Kazemi is worth a second-round pick.  Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.

Everything in the NFL Is a Market Inefficiency

Normally, I don’t write about football.  Normally, I don’t really write about any sport other than basketball.  However, I just came up with a new, albeit somewhat unoriginal and possibly inflammatory, idea.

I was looking at ESPN’s Free Agent Tracker and seeing their free agent grades.  Something that struck me was that Victor Cruz was ranked fairly low; while Jake Long was highest-ranked at “86” points on an apparently 1-100 scale, Cruz was only 80.  Considering all the praise I’d heard about Cruz-some of it coming from the pre-season before Cruz ever played an NFL game-I was honestly surprised.  I also remembered Bill Barnwell’s recent article on Grantland about how, with the salary cap not increasing at anywhere near the same rate as it had been historically, mid-level veteran free agents were now heavily undervalued, I started to think.

Everyone knows that football is full of diamond-in-the-rough stories: Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Priest Holmes, and Bart Starr are names that come to mind.  I’ve also previously written that in any given year, about as many or more rookies drafted after the first round will eventually become Pro Bowlers as those drafted in the first round.  Well, I decided to click over to the Approximate Value stat at www.pro-football-reference.com and investigate some more.  Here are the players tied for a place in the Top 10:

  • DE J.J. Watt, Houston: 2011 11th overall pick.  2011 AV: 10, 2012 AV: 20
  • CB Richard Sherman, Seattle: 2011 5th round pick.  2011 AV: 5, 2012 AV: 19
  • RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota: 2007 7th overall pick.  2011 AV: 8. 2012 AV: 19
  • DE/LB Cameron Wake, Miami: Undrafted.  2011 AV: 8, 2012 AV: 18
  • QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta: 2008 3rd overall pick.  2011 AV: 15, 2012 AV: 18
  • DE Julius Peppers, Chicago: 2002 2nd overall pick.  2011 AV: 12, 2012 AV: 18
  • QB Robert Griffin III, Washington: 2012 2nd overall pick.  2012 AV: 18
  • QB Tom Brady, New England: 1999 6th round pick.   2011 AV: 21, 2012 AV: 18
  • DT Geno Atkins, Cincinnati: 2010 4th round pick.  2011 AV: 14, 2012 AV: 18
  • LB Von Miller, New England: 2011 2nd overall pick.  2011 AV: 12, 2012 AV: 17
  • RB Alfred Morris, Washington: 2012 6th round pick.  2012 AV: 17
  • QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay: 2005 24th overall pick.  2011 AV: 23. 2012 AV: 17
  • LB Daryl Washington, Arizona: 2010 2nd round pick.  2011 AV: 9, 2012 AV: 17

If you’ll notice, not a single one of those fourteen players has an Approximate Value within three points of their previous season’s.  It’s well-documented that football statistics are very inconsistent, and this is further evidence, even if AV is specifically designed not to clash too much with conventional wisdom.

Which brings up another point: it is still not absolutely certain exactly what [edit: statistic] wins games in the NFL.  While yards and points are obvious, accreditation is certainly no easy feat, and many people much smarter than me have tried for years.  With all of the systems and reads and luck and everything else, it’s just hard to tell who is responsible for any one play.  However, football is so interconnected and complex that it is difficult-although my love of Wins Produced makes me loathe to say impossible-to determine the absolute truth.  While a SportVU-style tracking camera system would certainly be helpful, it is also worth noting that, as stated by Dave Berri, the average football season has about as many possessions as two or three NBA games for each team.  While a possession in football is much more descriptive than a possession in basketball, with many more plays and events in each one, it is worth noting that the average football game only has about eleven minutes of action; over a sixteen-game season, that is only 176 minutes, or 3-4 NBA games’ worth.

There are so many previously undiscovered “stars” in the NFL each year, and probably many more that we will never discover (what if Kurt Warner gave up during his well-documented and perhaps overblown time grocery-bagging?), that it seems pointless to overpay for players.  Like Barnwell said in his article, it only takes is a little bit of waiting for the price to go way down, and even then it may be ridiculous.  Heck, Jon Kitna played in the NFL for fifteen seasons, but he was discovered at a teammate’s try-out if my memory serves.  Stories like this are over the place;  I mentioned Cruz, an undrafted free agent at the beginning of this post.  It seems to me that experience might just be the biggest market inefficiency out there; until we know for sure how and over what time span to rate players, it seems fallacious to pay millions for one man.  If I worked with personnel in “the league”, I would definitely scour the waiver wire and almost take chances on random players.  If I were really smart, I would avoid the practice altogether.  Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.