2/29 Two Quick Links

NYSUN: Vandeweghe Would Succeed Only if Isiah Isn’t Around

[Vandeweghe’s] record does come with some warts. He served as general manager of the Nuggets from 2001 through 2006, helping to rebuild Denver from a lottery team into a playoff contender. The key deal was, not surprisingly, a trade with the Knicks — he got Marcus Camby and the rights to big man Nene from New York in return for Antonio McDyess. He also made a solid move when he signed point guard Andre Miller to a free-agent deal.
However, the rest of his résumé looks spottier. He gave up three first-round picks in the sign-and-trade deal with New Jersey for Kenyon Martin, and Martin’s seven-year, $91 million contract has been one of the league’s worst values. He also passed on Amare Stoudemire in the 2002 draft … twice. One of them was the Nene choice, and the other was all-time bust Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
That said, if he’s hired by the Knicks his biggest move will be choosing the next coach … or rather, that’s what it should be. If he’s stuck with Isiah, he probably won’t accomplish much.
Nonetheless, it would offer a very slight glimmer of hope that perhaps things might get less awful. He’d presumably have the power to start trading the many misshapen pieces of this roster. And one hopes, at least, he’d have Dolan’s commitment to a genuine rebuilding project as opposed to the slapdash quick fix Isiah tried when he took over.
But it’s puzzling that Dolan can’t realize the huge public relations boost he’d get from cutting the cord with Isiah entirely. The fan base would be rejuvenated, to the point that they’d actually be willing to sit tight and support the team through the inevitable multi-year rebuilding job.

Diminishing Returns and the Value of Offensive and Defensive Rebounds
More Diminishing Returns

In some ways I think this study provides stronger evidence for the impact of diminishing returns on defensive rebounding than my previous post. The charts allow one to easily see the effects of diminishing returns, and by looking at the rebounding of all the players in each lineup, the issues brought up by coaches potentially pairing good rebounders with poor rebounders are largely eliminated.

The specific marginal values found of 0.8 for offensive rebounds and 0.3 for defensive rebounds are also interesting. These match closely with how John Hollinger’s PER weights offensive rebounds relative to defensive rebounds (ORB are weighted by the league DRB%, which is around 0.7, and DRB are weighted by the league ORB%, which is around 0.3). And again, these values suggest that Dave Berri’s Wins Produced greatly overvalues players with high defensive rebounding percentages and undervalues players with low defensive rebounding percentages because the system assumes that each player DRB contributes a full DRB on the team level. Alternative Win Score (or AWS), the variation on Wins Produced suggested by Dan Rosenbaum in his paper, “The Pot Calling the Kettle Black”, weights ORB at 0.7 and DRB at 0.3. While these values are based on an assumption and not backed by evidence (just like Berri’s assumption that both should be weighted at 1 is not backed by any evidence), the evidence from the study I have done here (and Cherokee_ACB’s study) suggests that AWS (and PER) may be a lot closer to the mark on rebounding than Wins Produced.

Lee 4:37

“And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.” John 4:37 (KJV)

The Knicks routed a Bobcats team last night that was without Gerald Wallace at the beginning of the game and lost Jason Richardson in the second quarter. The eventual 24 point victory was hardly inevitable. After a depressing first quarter I was preparing myself for the worst. But the Knicks battled hard, then turned the tide in the final four minutes of the second quarter. Sparked by a Jeffries dunk off an assist from Randolph and a Crawford three pointer, the Knicks used an explosive 15-0 run to turn a deficit into a 13 point lead. At the start of the second half, the Knicks went back to the starting rotation and started to falter. The Bobcats used an 8-0 run to get within 8 before David Lee replaced Eddy Curry. When Lee left the game for good at the 6:17 mark of the fourth period, the Knicks led by 29 points. They cruised home from there.

There was a lot to like in this game. The Knicks had 5 1st quarter turnovers, but thereafter protected the ball fairly well, while racking up 25 assist.. Almost everyone got some PT (although Randolph Morris still couldn’t make it off the bench). Every Knick who played scored except for Curry, who made his own highly unusual contribution with two early blocks. We got to see some Wilson Chandler, who loves to shoot, (seven shots in six minutes). We got some Renaldo, who was as fun to watch as ever, and who loves to foul as much as Chandler likes to shoot (5 fouls in 13 minutes). And we got a win, the kind of victory Knicks fans can use right now, lottery balls be damned.

What I liked most, (unsurprisingly, given my longstanding mancrush), was David Lee’s 4:37. He played 29 minutes, had 14 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 0 turnovers, but scored just 4 points. And despite his low volume of scoring, his +/- for the game was a team high +37. No other Knick was better than +21. On more than one occasion David “Good Things” Lee sparked the team with a quick outlet pass after a rebound that led to a fast break. On another play he ran into the crowd to save a possession.

Lee wasn’t asked to speak to the crowd after the game, didn’t get mentioned in the post game interview, barely got mentioned in the recap, didn’t get quoted, but was clearly the best player on the floor, as his Win Score of 18 indicates. Not that this is surprising. He was the best player on the Knicks last year, and entered the game with the best WP48 this year, the best PER, the best on/off on the team at +8, the best Roland rating, the most Winshares, and the best ORtg. The Knicks have been outscored by 329 points through 57 games, but have been outscored by just 54 points with Lee on the court.

NYSUN: A Move to the Second Unit Could Ease Curry’s Woes


Good take on the Curry situation by Martin Johnson.

There were a lot of statistical techniques I learned from reading Bill James’s “Baseball Abstracts” in the 1980s, but one of his comments that resonated most deeply with me dealt with tactics: “Good teams don’t ask their players to do things they can’t do.”

Now, that might seem like just plain common sense. But after growing up watching a variety of inept Chicago teams, then moving to New York where there was no shortage of losers, that comment rang true to me. It came to mind this weekend while I was watching the situation between the Knicks and center Eddy Curry approach a boiling point…

Read the article.

Cross-Conference Deals: Did the East Get Stronger?

Looking back on a frenzied trade season in the NBA I thought I’d take a conference-level approach rather than a team-by-team one, just for kicks and giggles. The dominant perspective among all of us NBA blowhards—bloggers, fans, and press alike—is that the West not only has better teams but also the better top-to-bottom talent. Then the Celtics landed KG and Ray Allen, and some of us thought the deal might reverse the flow of talent back to the East as teams responded to it. After a busy trade season where a lot of players actually did switch conferences I wondered how much those deals have narrowed the on-paper talent gap.

Overall, I think the Eastern Conference certainly managed to stop the bleeding, and perhaps even close the gap a bit. Perhaps most significantly, focusing solely on in-season deals, the second tier eastern teams made moves to restore credibility. That’s important because that’s where I think eastern teams can compete. For instance, New Jersey positioned itself to rebuild reasonably quickly with a solid off-season. Atlanta put itself in a position to get its feet wet in the playoffs and continue to develop its core.

I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the talent that has flowed across conference lines since the season began. Again, my interest is in overall improvement in talent for each conference—not each team. I use two quick-and-dirty indicators of talent: career player efficiency rating (PER) to indicate productivity, and age as a loose indicator of what we should expect from a player in the future. (Due to my interest in the conference, I ignore deals involving teams in the same conference.) This is more of a broad look–not an in-depth statistical profile.

Players Moving East (Age, Career PER)
Gordan Giricek (30, 11.8)
Wally Szczerbiak (30, 16.5)
Mike Bibby (29, 17.1)
Maurice Evans (29, 12.8)
Shawn Marion (29, 20.9)
Trenton Hassell (28, 8.8)
Stromile Swift (28, 16.4)
Brian Cook (27, 14.4)
Marcus Banks (26, 12.1)
DeSagana Diop (26, 10.3)
Devin Harris (24, 16.6)
Delonte West (24, 13.8)
Maurice Ager (23, 1.0)

Average age: 25.2, Average PER: 12.33
(Note: I did not include Keith Van Horn, who is not likely to play for the Nets)

Of the 14 players moving to the East the “prize” acquisitions are either entering their primes (e.g., Harris) or likely have another 2-3 seasons left in it (e.g., Bibby, Marion). Five of the 14 have career PERs at or above league average (15). All but two are under 30. Granted, none have a ceiling comparable to Shaq or Jason Kidd but the list includes a number of useful role players including West, Diop, Swift, and Cook who are still fairly young.

Players Moving West
Shaquille O’Neal (35, 27.4)
Jason Kidd (34, 18.7)
Donyell Marshall (34, 16.8)
Adrian Griffin (33, 11.9)
Anthony Johnson (33, 11.3)
Ira Newble (33, 9.6)
Lorenzen Wright (32, 13.4)
Tyronn Lue (30, 13.1)
Malik Allen (29, 10.8)
Jason Collins (29, 7.6)
Kyle Korver (26, 12.7)
Shelden Williams (24, 11.8)
Antoine Wright (23, 7.2)
Trevor Ariza (22, 14.2)

Average age: 29.8, Average PER: 13.2

When looking at the in-season deals involving players moving to the West, it’s one season after this—maybe two—where Shaq and Kidd can be centerpieces of a championship caliber team. There isn’t much else to consider beyond them, save a few expiring contracts. More than half (8) of the players are 30 or more. Some are useful role players (e.g., Trevor Ariza, Kyle Korver) but none has even Devin Harris-level upside.

The other component to the in-season deals is the draft picks. The Nets own two firsts from the Mavs deal. Seattle owns a second round pick from their three-way with the Cavs and Bulls. Sacramento owns a second round pick from Atlanta. Also, Utah owns a protected first round pick from Philly. To quote Knickerblogger, “looks like a win for the East there too.”