Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

October 27, 2008

Fantasy Projections/Chat Tomorrow

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:24 pm

For those of you like me who have last-minute fantasy drafts, I’ve updated our projection spreadsheet so it now includes basically everyone who is going to play any kind of role in the NBA this season. The only players who don’t have projections are those who played less than 250 minutes last season (notably Chris Andersen, Ian Mahinmi and Steven Hunter) and guys who played in Europe but not in either the Euroleague or the ULEB Cup (Hassan Adams and Anthony Roberson).

Thanks to Pete, the spreadsheet also now includes positional eligibility from Yahoo! Scott wrote in asking how to use the sheet to actually rank players. I might have a chance to get up a sheet with my value system (hopefully after I’m finished drafting in case anyone is reading). In general, what you want to do is standardize each of your categories so that they are of equal value. FG% and FT% are a bit tricky because they are dependent on how often the player shoots/goes to the line. That is, Kevin Durant and Andris Biedrins don’t add up to 50 percent shooting because Durant shoots much more frequently.

UPDATE: As promised, the spreadsheet now contains two value columns, one for an eight-category league (without turnovers) and one for a nine-cat league (with turnovers). There has been no adjustment made for injuries/projected games played, as that will depend more upon the structure of your league.

Lastly, a heads up that I’ll be chatting about the start of the season, SCHOENE and anything else that’s on your mind tomorrow at 1 p.m. Eastern at BaseballProspectus.com. If you can’t make it during the chat, you can submit your questions ahead of time here.

October 26, 2008

Then there was one

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 10:02 pm

By and large, the number of roster decisions left to be made before the start of the NBA’s regular season has been reduced to one.

The Heat waived rookies Jason Richards and David Padgett, which means that Shaun Livingston has made the ballclub as one of four point guards at Erik Spoelstra’s disposal.

Utah, as expected, waived Gerry McNamara. And while there hasn’t been an official announcement, it appears that the Spurs have kept Desmond Farmer instead of rookie Malik Hairston. Also, Golden State is going to waive Rob Kurz, though Don Nelson isn’t too happy about it.

So all that remains is for the Knicks to try to find a way to keep Patrick Ewing Jr. on the roster. Doing so, even though they appear to wish it, seems to be unlikely.

There could be some other small tweaking. The Lakers may still decide to go with 14 players, which would leave out Coby Karl. And some of the other recently-waived players, particularly D.J. Strawberry or Chris Richard, could find new homes.

October 24, 2008

Last men standing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 8:17 pm

There isn’t nearly as much drama in the NBA when it comes to preseason battles for roster spots as there is in other sports. The composition of a team’s final roster is almost invariably the list of players that have guaranteed contracts. There might be a battle for the 15th spot in some places but several teams don’t even bother to keep 15 players, preferring the cap space, roster flexibility or an avoidance the dreaded luxury tax instead. Heck, the Raptors, Suns and Bulls are down to the minimum of 13 players.

Nevertheless, there are a few decisions that have been made the last couple of days and a few more that need to be made:

Golden State: The Warriors are trying to decide between a pair of rookies to fill out their roster, Notre Dame forward Rob Kurz and Georgia Tech point guard Anthony Morrow. Morrow had a 123.3 offensive rating last season to Kurz’s 112.8. I think he has the edge, especially given the prolonged absence of Warrior point guard Monta Ellis.

Houston: For cap reasons, the Rockets waived D.J. Strawberry and are going into the season with 14 players. Strawberry would be a nice get for a team that is looking to shore up its perimeter defense. On the offensive end, he still needs work and probably won’t ever be a very efficient performer.

Indiana: What the heck is Larry Bird going to do with Jamaal Tinsley? Tinsley hasn’t been in camp by mutual agreement. Indiana has no intention of bringing him back. Tinsley doesn’t really want to be back. Still, he’s sitting there on the roster, dead weight that probably cost Austin Croshere a job.

Miami: The Heat still have the most work to do. Miami has been beset with preseason injuries. The most troublesome is that of Jason Richards, the rookie from Davidson. He was in camp with a non-guaranteed deal but blew out his knee. As a result, Miami has to pay him the NBA minimum salary this season and it counts against their cap. James Jones is out three months with a wrist injury and Jamaal Magloire is hurt as well. On the bright side, Shaun Livingston saw his first court action last night since his catastrophic knee injury. Nevertheless, there are 17 players on the Heat roster. Two guys are going to have to go. I would guess Richards would be one. But if they keep Livingston, then rookie David Padgett could be in jeopardy.

Milwaukee: The Bucks had to release journeyman sharpshooter Matt Freije because of a roster crunch caused by Damon Jones, who was acquired in the deal that sent Mo Williams to Cleveland. Jones hasn’t been in Bucks camp by mutual agreement, but he’s still on the roster. That was bad news for Freije, who had drawn plaudits from new Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles.

Minnesota: The T-Wolves got down to the 15-man limit by releasing Blake Ahearn, who had played well in the preseason, enigmatic center David Harrison and second-year forward Chris Richard. They kept Kevin Ollie and Jason Collins. Hey, that’s the T-Wolves for you. According to my metrics, Richard was Minnesota’s most efficient player on a per-minute basis as a rookie. He’s not a future all-star but a team smarter than Minnesota is going to find work for him.

Cleveland: The Cavs kept former North Carolina player Jawad Williams over Ronald Dupree.

LA Lakers: LA is down to the maximum of 15 players but may elect to go with 14, which would cost Coby Karl a job.

New York: Allan Houston’s comeback is over. He was waived along with Dan Grunfeld. The Knicks need to cut one more player. They have to choose between Anthony Roberson’s offense and Patrick Ewing Jr.’s defense. Suffice to say, I think we know who the Knick faithful are rooting for. And, hey, don’t the Knicks owe their fans a little bit of good will?

Phoenix: The Suns were desperate to avoid paying a luxury tax and have trimmed their roster to the minimum of 13. That was one reason they kept rookie Sean Singletary, who will earn the rookie minimum, over Robert Hite. Keeping Hite, whom they like, would have trigged the tax and cost the Suns about $1 million.

San Antonio: The Spurs had 20 players on the camp roster at one point. They’re down to 16. Desmond Farmer, Anthony Tolliver and Malik Hairston are battling for the final two spots.

Utah: Still has 16 players. The only one without a guaranteed contract is Carmelo Anthony’s former Syracuse sidekick, Gerry McNamara. McNamara won’t make the team. The Jazz are keeping him around as a hedge against Deron Williams’ ankle injury.

October 23, 2008

Greg Oden: Man and Myth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 12:15 pm

According to answers.com, the hub of all things truthful on the Web, the Norse god Odin was:

The one-eyed deity of battle, magic, inspiration, and the dead. The elder son of Bor by the giantess Bestla, Odin was ‘supreme as well as being the oldest of the gods’.

That’s a lot to live up to. Curious, I attended the recent Hawks-Trail Blazers exhibition on a recent, rare NBA stop in Kansas City, most interested in seeing Greg Oden in the flesh. Since Pelton saw him in Sacramento and offered his thoughts, I thought I’d chime in as well.

I was sitting pretty close to courtside, directly opposite Larry Johnson, who was behaving himself just fine. The first thing that jumps out at you is his sheer size. Oden was matched up with Atlanta’s Al Horford and Oden is much bigger, in both height and build. If you want to see the difference between a bonafide NBA center and a power forward playing out of position, just watch Oden and Horford battling on the block sometime.

Of course, Horford isn’t just an ordinary four-man playing the five spot. He was my personal rookie of the year last season, by a smidgeon over Houston’s Luis Scola, and that was based largely on his defensive skills. The last time the pair had hooked up was on April 2, 2007 in the NCAA championship game, when Horford’s Florida Gators beat Oden’s Ohio State Buckeyes for their second straight national title. Oden was awfully impressive in the game, with 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in the loss. Horford put up 18-12-2 in his own right, so it’s not like he was outclassed.

The stakes were considerably lower in Kansas City, but Oden and Horford each played about half the game and checked each other almost exclusively. Horford really made Oden work. Oden had 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, but also committed four turnovers. These came on a pair of offensive fouls and a pair of traveling calls, all stemming from the same problem.

It seemed when Oden had Horford on the block, the only move in his arsenal was to get the defender on his left shoulder and then to drop in a little jump hook. But his range on that shot isn’t much so, instead, he tries to use his considerable bulk to back Horford down under the basket. Skilled as he is, Horford created those four turnovers by holding his ground (causing the offensive fouls) or stepping back when Oden was leaning on him, causing the travels. Oden is going to shoot a very high percentage this season (he’s at 58.1 percent through six preseason games) but his usage is probably going to be pretty low. His offensive game needs polish.

That should work fine for Nate McMillan’s crew, however, who have a lot to work with. Jerryd Bayless was especially eye-popping in the open floor, which got me to thinking. Right now, Oden is already a major defensive factor. Despite not being in game shape (he sometimes didn’t cross midcourt on even non-fastbreak possessions), he seemed comfortable defending the half-hearted pick-and-rolls that Atlanta tried that night. Oden is a frightening presence coming off his man from the weak side to defend the basket. That hasn’t translated to many blocked shots in the exhibition season, but I suspect those will come when he gets in better shape.

Since Oden is going to be primarily a defensive center at the beginning and the third option in the halfcourt offense behind Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, the question is what pace is Portland going to play at? With the depth and athleticism that Kevin Pritchard has compiled on his young roster, it seems almost criminal that McMillan would have Portland playing at a pace similar to last season, which was the second-slowest in the league.

I haven’t run the possession numbers on preseason stats, but Portland’s games have seen a combined 187.2 points per game, 22nd in the league. (The Knicks’ games have been the highest-scoring, by the way, at 212.5 ppg.) I don’t know if that’s indicative of how the Blazers are going to play after the opening bell, but I hope not. Let those athletes run free, Mr. McMillan. Substitute early and often.

October 21, 2008

Who’s got the toughest schedule?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 2:31 pm

Does strength of schedule matter in the NBA?

The easy answer is yeah, sure it does. Quality of competition always matters. In the NBA, though, the differences in schedules from team to team are relatively minor. In fact, if the two conferences were equal in strength — and some people think that may be the case this season — then I’d go so far as to call strength of schedule a virtual nonfactor in the NBA.

Here are the rankings, based on the aggregate winning percentages from last season for the opponents on each team’s 2008-09 schedule, listed in order of toughest- to easiest-schedule:

TEAM PCT
Memphis Grizzlies .524
Minnesota Timberwolves .522
Los Angeles Clippers .522
Oklahoma City Thunder .517
Miami Heat .511
Sacramento Kings .510
New York Knicks .507
Golden State Warriors .506
Portland Trail Blazers .506
Dallas Mavericks .504
Houston Rockets .503
New Orleans Hornets .502
Denver Nuggets .502
Indiana Pacers .500
Milwaukee Bucks .499
Phoenix Suns .499
Utah Jazz .498
Los Angeles Lakers .498
Chicago Bulls .496
San Antonio Spurs .496
New Jersey Nets .494
Atlanta Hawks .494
Charlotte Bobcats .493
Toronto Raptors .490
Philadelphia 76ers .489
Cleveland Cavaliers .489
Washington Wizards .488
Orlando Magic .482
Boston Celtics .480
Detroit Pistons .479

My first observation is that if each team won at the exact percentage of its strength of schedule, the worst team, Memphis, would win 39 games. The best team, Detroit, would win 43. That’s the full range of your quality-of-competition adjustment.

Beyond that, a couple of things are apparent. When you look at the teams grouped at the top and the bottom, it becomes apparent that the worst teams suffer from not getting to play themselves. Conversely, the top teams don’t play themselves, either, and that weakens their schedule strength a tad. The other thing to note is that the bottom of the list is cluttered with teams from the East. The top of the list is heavy on teams from the West.

The West has been treating the East like a cat toy for several years now, so this isn’t exactly front page news. More importantly, it seems as if, by and large, that schedule is a minor factor when it comes to teams positioning themselves within their respective conferences.

While it all comes out sort of even in the end, strength of schedule can nevertheless be an important factor when it comes to evaluating teams as the season goes along. Some teams will play more home games early on; some teams will play weaker opponents. It’s something I’m planning to pay a little closer attention to this season and I’ll be sure to share any observations along the way.

Notes from NorCal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:28 pm

SACRAMENTO INTERNATIONAL (SMF) – I spent the weekend and yesterday in various locales in Northern California, and naturally hoops was a prominent factor. As I wait to wing my way back to Seattle, I figured I’d offer a recap.

On Saturday, Menlo College hosted the 2008 Northern California Symposium on Statistics and Operations Research in Sports (NCSSORS). Dr. Benjamin Alamar, who runs the Journal of Qualitative Analysis of Sports, put together NCSSORS to give us a conference on statistical analysis here on the West Coast, which allowed me and some others to attend. Every previous conference has been in Boston, and while I hope to make it out there next Spring, that’s a long ways for a one-day conference. Thanks to Ben for putting this West-Coast-Biased conference together.

Anyways, while none of the day’s presentations featured basketball, there was still a strong NBA presence at the festivities. Dean Oliver, the godfather of APBRmetrics, offered a presentation on (of all things) frescoball, which illustrated how the concept of “fit” can be very important in team sports. Sam Hinkie of the Houston Rockets took part in a panel discussion on how statistics can be used more effectively to help both teams and the media. It was great to meet a lot of people, including Roland Beech of 82games.com, and we had some lively discussions later that evening as we watched college football and Game 6 of the ALCS.

I then moved east, which allowed me to attend last night’s Portland-Sacramento tilt at ARCO Arena–my first live NBA game of the 2008-09 season. Some observations from the Blazers’ 112-98 victory.

  • Greg Oden was as advertised in the preseason. He’s evidently rusty and not yet confident in the game. Still, his pure size allowed him to be a factor on both ends of the floor; the Kings had little choice but to double-team Oden in the post, which created turnovers but also tons of open three-pointers.
  • I’m pretty sure I caught Nicolas Batum on his worst night of the preseason, but while his talent is undeniable, a starting role seems like a stretch at this point.
  • Rudy Fernandez took about 10 three-pointers last night and is at 18 of his 31 attempts so far in the preseason. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, since Fernandez has shown NBA range (he quickly earned the coveted status of feared by the Kings fans around us). Still, you’d like to see him use more of his skills, as he did in completing an alley-oop from Sergio Rodriguez, as I’d advertised to my cousin we might see.
  • This just in: Brandon Roy and Kevin Martin are really good. That’s a fun Western Conference matchup to watch for oh, the next decade or so. I projected Martin to 24.3 points per game, fifth in the league, and even that feels a little low. (By the way, since a couple of people have e-mailed, the spreadsheet of projections included in yesterday’s introduction to SCHOENE is sorted simply by projected points per game.)
  • Spencer Hawes really struggled and has had an up-and-down preseason. Watching him for 30 games during his lone season at the University of Washington, I wasn’t sold on Hawes’s NBA potential. He struggles with physical play in the paint. After a year in the NBA, I feel better about Hawes long-term, but he’s still very much a work in progress and I suspect confidence could be an issue because the Kings’ fanbase is obviously impatient with him right now. I was more impressed with Jason Thompson, who looked very active and displayed a solid basketball IQ.
  • Sacramento fans love Bobby Jackson. I mean they love Bobby Jackson. I had heard that, but it seems different when you hear the ovation whenever he checks in or see his jersey as one of the most prominent in the team shop.
  • The Kings may not lead the league in many categories, but between Jackson, new addition Brown (pun intended) and invitee Jones, they are tops in the NBA when it comes to guys named Bobby. This is the kind of insight and analysis you will get only from Basketball Prospectus.

October 15, 2008

Happy (Belated) Anniversary

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:29 pm

It’s a good thing I’m not married, because I completely forgot a very noteworthy anniversary: Basketball Prospectus’ first anniversary, which was last Friday. It’s been a fun year, and I hope year number two has much more in store. I asked BBP Managing Editor Joe Sheehan to look through the archives to find some of his favorite columns from the last year, and here’s what he chose, by author.

BRADFORD DOOLITTLE

The Isiah Saga (in three parts)

JOHN GASAWAY

Remember Kansas (John and Ken always did, and by the end of the year so did everyone else)

KEVIN PELTON

Every Play Counts: Brandon Roy
Doing it With D: The Nuggets’ Surprising Defensive Dominance

KEN POMEROY

The Renaldo Balkman Threshold
The Wacky Atlantic Coast: Historic Parity in the ACC
Shot Selection: A Graphical Look

JOHN PERROTTO

Around the Rim: Pat Knight

BACK AND FORTH

NBA at the Quarter Pole

If you’ve got some favorites of your own, send them to kpelton@basketballprospectus.com and we’ll look at a followup post. In the meantime, thanks everybody for reading and here’s to another great year!

October 8, 2008

Early Preseason Notes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 10:48 am

After a couple of games Monday, the NBA’s 2008-09 preseason schedule tipped off in earnest with five tilts last night. Undoubtedly, the big story is Greg Oden’s debut in a Blazers uniform. Oden did not disappoint, dropping 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, five boards and a pair of blocks in 19 minutes.

Beyond Oden, there were plenty of reasons for Blazers fans to get excited. Rudy Fernandez got his first taste of NBA action and had six points and five assists off the bench, while the starting backcourt of Brandon Roy and Sergio Rodriguez combined for 25 points, 14 assists and two turnovers (neither by Roy). Portland is my “home team” now, and if the Blazers play anything like that when it matters, it’s going to make the drive down I-5 seem a lot shorter.

The story that could overshadow Oden is if Antawn Jamison seriously injured his knee against Dallas. Though the fall was ugly, Jamison doesn’t think it’s all that bad. We’ll see what the MRI says.

Elsewhere:
– Antoine Wright started at shooting guard last night for the Mavericks, and while Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News cautions new Dallas head man Rick Carlisle is experimenting, that’s a little troubling. If Jerry Stackhouse goes down, the Mavericks don’t have a lot at the position besides the small lineup of Jasons Kidd and Terry.

– Marc Gasol, Hamed Haddadi and O.J. Mayo all debuted for the Grizzlies last night. Still, the most encouraging player might have been Mike Conley, who had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 24 minutes and even made a pair of threes. A Conley run at Most Improved Player would not surprise me.

– Andrei Kirilenko came off the bench behind C.J. Miles last night, and apparently there’s talk of making him a sixth man until Matt Harpring returns from an ankle infection. Speaking of starters, Trevor Ariza looks like he’s going to get every opportunity in L.A. He started at the three and played 30 minutes last night, with Andrew Bynum serving as sixth man.

October 3, 2008

Extensions Addition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:11 pm

If you’ve been looking for a note on Nate Robinson in my column on extension decisions for the 2005 rookie class, it’s not there. I just plain forgot Robinson, which is odd because he’s one of my all-time favorite players (go Dawgs!). Anyways, here’s what should have appeared in the “Unlikely” section.

Nate Robinson – There are some people who will never accept a shooting guard in the body of a rec-league player point guard. I’m not certain if (Donnie) Walsh and (Mike) D’Antoni fit into that group, though the latter hasn’t been shy about throwing unorthodox lineups on the floor. Strictly on production, Robinson had a solid 2007-08 season and can be an asset in the right role. Before the Knicks see if they have that right fit, an extension is unlikely.

October 2, 2008

QO for Gordon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:45 pm

Concluding protracted negotiations that stretched through the entire summer and ultimately into the first couple of days of training camp, Ben Gordon agreed late last night to play for the Bulls’ Qualifying Offer of $6.4 million for the 2008-09 season. Gordon showed up at Monday’s media day and made it clear he planned to play in Chicago, leaving open only the question of whether he would sign a long-term deal (widely rumored to be around $58 million over six years, the most the Bulls could offer without exceeding the luxury-tax threshold) or take the QO.

“Gordon is now a test case under the current league CBA,” noted Matt Bernhardt of BlogABull. “No player of his caliber has ever taken the qualifying offer. So while the previous examples all ended poorly both for the player and the team involved, perhaps Gordon will be the one who breaks the mold: with a fine season rewarded with a fine contract.”

Maybe so, but I wouldn’t count on it. Gordon does have a lot going for him in comparison with other players who have taken the QO or at least threatened it is that he is too good to be treated differently by the coaching staff because he is a flight risk at season’s end. Wisely, Gordon and his camp have also left the door wide open to returning to the Bulls on a long-term deal next summer. Lastly, Gordon’s salary this season is high enough that he’s not leaving a lot of money on the table.

Still, for Gordon to recoup his lost money could be difficult, especially if he signs elsewhere for a contract limited to 8.0 percent annual raises instead of the 10.5 percent Chicago can offer. To sign with another team as an untrestricted free agent and match the rumored offer, Gordon would have to get a five-year, $51.6 million contract from another team next year, which would mean a starting salary of $8.9 million. Even though the numbers indicate the market is much better for unrestricted free agents than those–like Gordon this year–who carry the restricted tag, that’s a lot of money for a largely one-dimensional player.

This is all moot if Gordon has a resurgent season and demonstrates growth in his game that has not always been apparent since he won the Sixth Man Award as a rookie. On that point, however, score me a cynic.

« Newer Posts

Powered by WordPress