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December 9, 2011
Bouncing Back
Tayshaun Prince's Value

by Dan Feldman

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Tayshaun Prince's WARP has declined the last four seasons, as shown above.

Between the 2003-04 and 2007-08 seasons, Prince played 509 regular-season and playoff games--more than anyone else ever has in a five-year stretch.

Then, he played all 82 regular-season games the next year.

Both those facts (along with a host of other complications) indicate the Pistons erred by giving Prince a four-year, $27 million contract that will take him to age 35.

But it's not so simple.

No other player in the top 10 of total games during a five-year stretch was as young as Prince. The average age of players after the other nine stretches was 32.6. Prince was 27. Is he more equipped to handle such a load?

Plus, it's far from unheard of for declining players to rebound to previous levels of production. Since 1980, 163 players have played five straight seasons with their WARP declining between each. Here's the number of players in the group whose production returned to the level in each year of the declining period:

  • Fifth: 128 (79 percent)
  • Fourth: 78 (48 percent)
  • Third: 39 (24 percent)
  • Second: 18 (11 percent)
  • First: 8 (5 percent)*

*Seven of the eight players had negative WARPs each year. Only Charles Oakley made a legitimate return to his pre-decline production.

Prince is an extreme longshot to ever return to peak form, but based on comparable players, he's about even money to return to his production of two years ago. Consider that Prince--with his long wingspan, crafty moves with the ball and high basketball IQ--relies on his athleticism less than most players, and his odds increase.

For about $7 million per year, that's reasonable. Prince is a good player, and even if he's slightly overpaid, teams will covet his skill set--especially contenders looking for someone comfortable being a fourth option. If Prince is worth $6 million per year, he's probably more valuable in a trade than a player worth $2 million being paid $1 million.

As long as Prince stops declining rapidly--which sounds absurd, but is probably likely to happen--Detroit did OK.

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

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