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.

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…

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.

Trash to Treasure: Why Wins Produced Is Not Wrong to Value the Garbage Guy

If you play basketball, you know that guy.  Maybe he’s not the most talented, but he works his tail off on the boards and on defense, and he is somewhat competent shooting the ball when he’s open.  When he’s not open, he defers, which is what he should do.  He tries to set screens and is disappointed when they don’t work, considering that they’re the one thing he has full confidence in his ability to do.  He gamely works when the “stars” chuck up Contested Mid-Range Jumper No. 30, trying to calculate every variable that could affect the rebound.

When I played basketball, I was that guy.  I always wanted to play, and I often did, but I was never the starter.  I didn’t even get that many rebounds, but I helped keep the tall guy on the other team off of them, so it somewhat evened out.  I tended to camp out about fifteen feet away from the basket on the wings and shoot when prompted.  Every once in a while, I actually made the shot.  I set screens all the time, but they were rarely used in games, much to my chagrin.  Therefore, I can identify with the Reggie Evanses and Dominic McGuires of the world.

Traditional metrics undervalue these guys in favor of the Monta Ellises and Jamal Crawfords of the world.  News flash!  Ellis hasn’t been good since the moped accident, and that was the only year in which he was any good, while Crawford has only been above-average once, with the Hawks…according to Win Shares!  (Wins Produced gives him an extra year above that benchmark in 2005-06.)  They say Al Jefferson is a very good player, possibly even borderline superstar, when in reality he’s “just” very, very solid (career highs per 48: .158 Wins Produced, .173 Win Shares).

When you think about it, though, aren’t the guys like Evans and McGuire the ones you really want to root for?  They work hard, play well, and are underappreciated.  You want these guys to succeed because they have adapted.  They play smart, they play hard, and they take out the garbage.  They are altruistic, always surrendering the ball because they know their limitations.  They do the little things that get things done.  While the volume scorers may be the celebrities of the world-both from a real-life and metaphorical standpoint-these guys drive the dump truck and work at the post office.  Society doesn’t work without them, but they just don’t get proper recognition, and ultimately no one wants to be “that guy” because of all the more lucrative opportunities.

In contrast, the “stars” get all the glory and most of the money.  They are the star basketball’s equivalent of the big man on campus.  Everyone knows what they do, and everyone tries to emulate them.  At the end of the day, they’re the ones whose talents get noticed.  They like the status quo.

If you think about it in a weird way, this is kind of backwards.  While some scorers, like LeBron James, do several things well and are willing passers, for every LeBron there is a Carmelo Anthony or Allen Iverson who just guns, and guns, and guns with little regard for the health and well-being of the team.  They closely resemble a bully, beating up on his own guys with their horrendous shot selection, or the entitled rich kid deriding the “commoners”.  But really, they wouldn’t get to drive their Porsches and Ferraris around on nicely paved roads without those people doing the big little things (little big things?).

In a way, Wins Produced finally recognizes Evans’s and McGuire’s important functions, provided that they do a reasonable good job overall.  I could continue with other guys who more or less fit the bil: Tyson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Thabo Sefolosha, Jimmy Butler, Shawn Marion, Troy Murphy once upon a time, etc.  And while nobody thinks Wins Produced is perfect-believe me, I have a couple of beefs with the stat that I want investigated-it shows that these guys are valuable and not necessarily dime-a-dozen.  (In fact, many of my issues are related to the fact that volume scorers are somewhat undervalued; see the recent assist percentage argument at www.thenbageek.com where I did not side with the Wages of Wins, or my June article about turnovers.)  And if you hate on Wins Produced only because it “overvalues” guys like Sefolosha and Butler, you look just like the bullies who beat up on the dorky smart guy because he’s weird and he’s smarter than you are.  (Important: I am not trying to insinuate that Wins Produced people are inherently “smarter”, just that intelligence is a definite reason for bullying.)  What is wrong with assigning credit to guys who work hard just to stay in the NBA while devaluing guys who live the high life a bad thing?

We also have to remember that Wins Produced does not measure “skill” per se, but-as it says in the title-Wins.  Really, it says who…produced wins over a certain period of time.  It does not try to be a predictor of how many wins a player will produce next year, although it is a pretty good judge of that, and a better one than Win Shares.  It does not try to predict how many wins a player would produce on another team, but it does that decently well.  In fact, team construction based solely on Wins Produced is a foolhardy exercise; at the end of the day, twelve garbage guys probably won’t win a title.  (However, I may write an article on a mini-study I did on this conflicting this to a degree.)

To have a good team, one has to assemble a roster based on having the most strengths and the fewest weaknesses.  Thus, we have to have players who can fill every role: ball-handling, scoring, rebounding, screen-setting, etc.  Wins Produced simply states that you have to be good and efficient at a job to be productive, and if you meet that criteria, then you are productive.  So to use a probably overused phrase, “Don’t hate; appreciate,” and to use another one, “if you have haters, then you’ve got to be doing something right.”  And Wins Produced certainly does a lot of things right; they even lessened their rebounding “infatuation” by accounting for diminishing returns.  It takes a strong man to admit that he’s wrong, even if he is very stubborn before the fact.  Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.

P.S. I understand that Wins Produced does not account for screen-setting.  I just included it because it is part of the standard definition of “garbage guy”.

Edit: The original title, “Hope for the Dorks: Why Hating on Wins Produced Makes You Look Like a Jerk,” was deleted upon further reflection.

An Artistic Science or a Scientific Art: A Philosophical Debate About Basketball

Basketball is a sport, but what is sport?  Is it a form of entertainment.  Is it a form of artwork that manifests itself before our very eyes in hundreds of forms in thousands of places every day, or is it the constant re-evaluation of principles.  Is it both?  Can we quantify sport, simplifying it into a single number that can be taken in any context to derive value?

This article has largely been inspired by a very brief discussion with an acquaintance of mine and last night’s Academy Awards.  The discussion was when I asked said acquaintance, who prides himself on his debating prowess, about the quantifiability of basketball.  He said that it cannot because of all the minute details that occur in a game of basketball.  This is a very common viewpoint which I happen to strongly disagree with.  This also led to the contrast of art and science because of the Academy Awards.  At one point when they were going over the candidates for best song, I got bored and retreated to my computer to do some mathematical work. stating that, “I’m going to try science,” to quote a meme from Arturo Galleti’s old website (and probably, consequently, xkcd or some related webcomic).  This led me to want to really define this matter.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, the primary modern definition of art is “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.”  In the same dictionary, the main definition for science is “the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.”  To apply those definitions to the game of basketball-or any sport where they have good record-keeping-we are trying to obtain scientific understanding from an art.  To people like the aforementioned great debater, trying to accomplish this is more or less akin to trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.  However, no established member of the advanced stats community believes this; otherwise, they would be little different from how Bill Simmons is/once was.  Even still, I highly doubt that any serious basketball fan would refrain from using any statistics at all when trying to prove a point, even if that stat is points per game.  An entirely atheistic view of the ability of numbers to shed light on a game is highly questionable to say the least.

However, if one does digs but not too deeply, how can they not draw the conclusion that basketball is a game that is best left to the heart and mind rather than the calculator?  Basketball, like any sport, is notoriously difficult to master, with every outcome highly dependent on several minute factors that cannot be easily adjusted in a game situation from play-to-play, let alone be accounted for while said person is actually trying to perform the action.  Even if I knew the optimum angle and velocity with which to propel the basketball into the hoop, there is no way that I can take out my protractor and precisely set up my shot; the prospect is simply ludicrous!  The game of basketball is learned by meticulous practice, careful observation, constant self-analysis, and good coaching.  You cannot teach yourself the game by looking through a bunch of numbers or formulae; you have to learn it!  It does not seem unreasonable to believe that the same approach should not be taken to evaluate the game; just ask virtually any baseball scout pre-Moneyball.

Of course, there are lots of extremely smart people who prove that this is not the case, and people like me who follow them and hope to provide some decent discussion based on these ideas.  They use scientific and mathematical concepts developed for other fields and use them to draw interesting and important conclusions about sport.  The best that people like me can hope for really is to ride on their coattails and hope that we can contribute something-anything-worthwhile.  I am thinking of Bill James, David Berri, Clay Davenport, Nate Silver, whoever came up with Win Shares for basketball (I think it’s Neil Paine), Arturo Galletti, Voros McCracken, and many others.  They show that sports are quantifiable.  And yet, at least in basketball, they tend to disagree.  (Even in baseball, I know that there are at least a couple of different calculations for Wins Above Replacement (WAR).)

When I think of art, I think of a painting or a sculpture.  When we look at art, we all have an opinion.  You could take fifty, or one hundred, or one thousand people, force them to stare at the same piece of art for a while, and, if they were truly isolated when formulating their ideas, would come up with fifty, or one hundred, or one thousands different opinions.  That is where I think there is a difference between art and science; art can be subjective, while science is coldly objective.  This is where the Academy Awards come in; at the end of the day, any score or rating for a movie is going to be a summation or average of a bunch of people’s thoughts and ideas.  It is impossible to quantify it objectively, and if we do, we sort of defeat the purpose of having the art in the first place.

And at its core, basketball is still art.  In this regard, I am so much talking about the events of a basketball game as the basketball game itself.  For example, a strictly analytical person or robot would describe basketball as something akin to, “Basketball is a game played by ten athletes of two teams trying to propel a large round ball into a small hoop suspended ten feet in the air, by bouncing the ball and moving it forward on a wooden court approximately 50 feet wide and 90 feet long,” whereas a basketball fan might describe it as a, “Breathtaking display of agility and brute strength as ten buff athletes maneuver about each other trying to having a large ball swish through a net, while being forced to expertly handle the ball in order to move it, exemplified by sheer athleticism and athleticism.”  Both descriptions describe the same game and, except for the somewhat stuffy language, are entirely different in style.  Thus, sport will always be art.

As I mentioned earlier, the differing opinions will always carry on beyond the game itself.  There are innumerable single-number metrics out there, many of whom have devoted followers who viciously flaunt “their” statistic as being superior.  And even these people will not necessarily subscribe to these numbers as being sacrosanct, each person filled with distinct biases concerning age, style of play, attitude, and other factors both quantitative and qualitative.  One of the most famous aspects of sports culture is outside the game; the bar discussion.  We will never agree about sports, even if we could come up with one single formula that was undeniably superior and unchangeable, which will never happen so long as humanity treads upon this earth and plays the glorious game of basketball.

So, we’ve established in a couple of different ways how basketball is art.  But it is also science.  The fact that the contributions of each of the ten men heroically balling out on the hardwood floor shows us that it is like science.  If you were to look at a Van Gogh or a Monet, even if you knew the exact number of strokes or the exact shade of paint that each man used, would that tell you anything about the painting?  Even if you knew, it wouldn’t matter to you because a) it is difficult to compute exactly what all that entails and b) true art is only something that can be perceived with one’s own sense and feelings and biases.  However, basketball statistics, and sports statistics in general, are not like this.  What these statistics mean is both innately tangible and meaningful.  If I tell you that so-and-so had seven rebounds in last night’s game, you would know exactly what I was talking about and, with a little more additional information, could come up with a clear picture of what that they means and how indicative that is of the player’s play.  Not only can we do this, but we can easily point to numerous areas where we it would tickle our fancies if someone were to add more statistics because our desires are much less difficult to diagnose than with, say, Michelangelo’s David.  The sheer number of mathematical conclusions that we can grasp from sports stats is akin to the number of emotional conclusions that we can draw from art, but we can compare our thoughts in sports and are less prone to biases if we have a number sitting right there, and our biases themselves are based on proofs of what is important and what is unimportant, even if somewhere down the line we come across something whose origin is rooted solely in an unverified thought derived from one person’s mind.  Even our erroneous opinions are enveloped in a cloud of truth.

Perhaps basketball is more science than philosophy, but the science of basketball is unlike the hard sciences of chemistry and physics.  Like philosophy, there are some questions that will never be answered, but unlike philosophy, there are questions that can be answered with finality.  Basketball can be quantified, but the quantifications will always lie short of perfection.  And I am okay with that because the data that we do have works pretty darn well.  Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.

Few Pick the Trader Placard: Trade Analysis

This trade deadline was purported up to have several potential deadline deals, with Paul Millsap, Josh Smith, and Dwight Howard among the notable names.  You know a trading deadline was slow, though, when J.J. Redick is the biggest name actually dealt, whether you ask a stat geek, PER-fan, or the ultimate watch-the-games enthusiast.  I have no idea why.  Honestly, I think it would be in all of the teams’ best interests to have traded those players, even my beloved Lakers’ surrendering of D-12, considering that Al Jefferson, the weaker of the Jazz’s “star” bigs, was in little danger of meeting the moving van.  However, I think I will discuss some of the trades that did go down, and few trades make my job I heck of a lot easier!  Here goes nothing:  (Note that all analysis is based on Wins Produced and Win Shares, but that I will not be incessantly referencing statistics as I generally tend to.)

  • Orlando trades J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon, and Ish Smith to Milwaukee for Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih, and Doron Lamb.

Short-term win for the Bucks, but a long-term win for the Magic if Milwaukee cannot re-sign Redick.  From a strictly financial standpoint, this trade looks fairly even, but Redick is clearly the best player in the trade at present.  Over the long run, however, I think Harris will eclipse all of these players in value.  Udrih and Ayon are both solid players, and with Jameer Nelson’s recent injury, Udrih fills a fairly decent hole before coming off the books this summer.  However, I don’t think Ayon will see the floor a ton staring behind Samuel Dalembert, Larry Sanders, and maybe Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute.  The hope in Wisconsin should be that Redick takes away minutes from Monta Ellis, but he could just as easily remove time from Wages of Wins friend Mike Dunleavy, Jr.  Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.  Smith and Lamb are both terrible and should be non-entities in their environments.

  • The Thunder ship Eric Maynor to Portland for a trade exception.

Maynor is not a good player, but neither are Ronnie Price or Nolan Smith, who were the incumbents behind Damian Lillard (Price has since been cut), so…fresh blood?  I wonder if OKC will actually use that trade exception.

  • The Knicks send Ronnie Brewer to the Thunder for a second-round pick, opening up a roster spot used to sign Kenyon Martin.

I honestly fail to see the necessity in this trade for either side.  Brewer, even after his shooting efficiency has gone down the tubes, is a solid player (although Win Shares is not huge on him), but then again, so are Kevin Martin and Thabo Sefolosha.  Brewer is well-regarded is a defender, but so is Sefolosha, and while Kevin Martin may be awful on D, they’re the same height and Sefolosha can actually shoot, albeit his assisted shot rate is astronomical.  On the flip side, New York is leaving their 2-guard position in the very capable hands of Jason Kidd…and J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert and James White.  Shumpert is young with room to grow, but he has not shown that he is as good as Brewer yet overall.  Kidd has been either outstanding or good, depending on which stat you use, but I don’t want to play a guy 30 minutes a game if he is closer to 40 than a 1-year old is close to birth.  Furthermore, White has never shown me anything other than some awesome dunks, and Smith is a ticking time bomb who insists on exploding at random intervals.  Besides, this is to free up a roster spot for Kenyon Martin, Amare Stoudemire has been playing pretty good lately (remember my recent article?), and I thought small ball was supposed to be all the rage, right?  And while Kenyon Martin has never been terrible, he’s also never been as stellar as some have thought, and at this stage in his career I would almost rather have Melo playing the 4 even though his rebounding is stagnant no matter which position he plays.  Furthermore, the Knicks may have selected Landry Fields, but I have little faith in their scouting department; with the previous pick that year, the Knickerbockers selected Andy Rautins.  Who?  That’s what I thought.

  • Washington dumps Jordan Crawford on the Celtics in exchange for an injured Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins.

Crawford actually hasn’t been awful this year.  However, Collins has, at least according to Wins Produced, and you’re never going to get anything out of Barbosa except for balance sheet relief because of a torn ACL.  Maybe the Celtics’ “veteran leadership” can keep the enigmatic Crawford in line, but, at the same time, maybe they won’t.  However, he is cheap, and Boston has had an interesting guard situation to say the least ever since Rondo went down.  I like this pick-up for Boston if only because they only gave up two useless expiring contracts to get him.  As for Washington, there’s a reason they’ve been consistent bottom-dwellers for the past few year, even if their atrocious play this season has been largely caused by injuries and slumps.  (Where did the heck did Kevin Seraphin go, oh by the way?)

  • Charlotte swaps Hakim Warrick for the Magic’s Josh McRoberts.

I thought that bad teams tanked.  This is not tanking, at least not for Charlotte.  McRoberts is a historically solid player, while Warrick has been rolling around in the muck ever since the lock-out.  Honestly, this is one of those non-trades that doesn’t look like it will make much of a difference for either of these terrible teams.

  • The Hawks’ Anthony Morrow goes to Dallas in exchange for Dahntay Jones.

I honestly wonder if this trade was made because the executives for both teams got bored.  I will say that Morrow is distinctly better than Jones and will ever-so-slightly help the Mavericks’ distant hope for a play-off run.  {Holds thumb and forefinger close together for emphasis on the ever-so-slightly part}

  • The Warriors send Charles Jenkins to Philadelphia for draft considerations (whatever that is) and Jeremy Tyler to Atlanta for the same…considerations.

I think Golden St. was just sending these players out so that Mark Jackson doesn’t accidentally play them.  (Although, to his credit, he hasn’t so far.)  What amazes me is that the Warriors might(?) have gotten something in return for these young scrubs.

  • Phoenix deports Sebastian Telfair to Toronto, receiving Hamed Haddadi and a second-round pick for their troubles.

Telfair has already been terrible, Haddadi has shown flashes, and Phoenix is guaranteed to botch that pick.  Of course, if I didn’t know any better, I would say that Colangelo is taking a psychotic approach to tanking.  On the other hand, maybe I don’t know better.  {Proceeds to ramble about philosophy and/or psychology to self}

  • Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick are sent to Memphis from Miami in exchange for the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez.

I remember that Sanchez’s rights got traded at the deadline last year, which is remarkable considering that the Puerto Rican center is currently playing in Argentina.  There must be something about him that only NBA teams can see.  I’ve got nothin’ on Pittman, and that pick is probably going to be wasted on some Euro who will never end up crossing the Atlantic for more than a vacation or two.

  • Houston acquires Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia, and Tyler Honeycutt while surrendering Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich, and Toney Douglas.  Houston also sends Marcus Morris to Phoenix in exchange for a second-round pick, creating an interesting family reunion in the process.

This one’s old news by now, but I’ll still cover it.  Robinson, if he works on his turnovers and shot selection, could be a solid player.  Houston saves some cap room next year, Sacramento saves some money this year.  Patterson’s solid, and I would call Robinson for Patterson a wash if not for Robinson’s good college projections and easy-to-find flaws.  Besides, Patterson’s second home is from mid-range.  Honeycutt hasn’t  received much play time, and Aldrich’s year performances are kind of random.  Douglas is awful, at least according to Wins Produced, and Garcia is okay and on an expiring contract.  While not necessarily the facepalm-inducing scam that some are making it out to be for the Maloofs’ team, I say Houston won the trade, but this is mostly a swap of young, currently mediocre players with the capacity to improve (with the exception of Garcia).  As for Morris, I really don’t know.  One should remember that the Morrises played next to each other in Kansas, and they had pretty good projections under Arturo’s model.  I don’t blame Phoenix for taking a risk, but this is an awfully strange risk to take.

I think I’m glad Atlanta didn’t trade J-Smoove because, from what I was hearing, they’d either get fleeced or would end up fleecing San Antonio, who I sort of root for because of their class and good grasp on analytic concepts.  Millsap…in the end, I wish Utah had lost a deal so that it would be easier for the Lakers to sneak into the postseason, but ah well.  And for Dwight, I just don’t know.  Anyway, thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.