Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

June 25, 2009

Prospect rankings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 10:48 am

I have a piece going up later that will explain more of what you see here, but I wanted to post the results of my prospect rating system.

As for what these categories mean: ATH–a projection of a player’s applied athletic ability. The average score is about 15.0 for this group. oRTG–is offensive rating projected for the NBA level, which can also be defined as points created per 100 possessions. USG–is the players projected NBA usage rate. DEF–is the player’s defensive factor rating, with 1.00 being average and the bigger the number, the better. RTG–is the end rating generated by of all this. I wish it stood for something real, like wins or points, but right now, it’s just a rating. Average is 83.2 for these guys.

As a side note, don’t get too worked up about Ricky Rubio’s ratings here. They are based on a very small sample of data.

LIST              ATH      oRTG      USG      DEF       RTG  RANK
DeJuan Blair     25.3     102.8     24.0     1.15     222.5     1
Stephen Curry    17.9     108.1     27.6     1.02     175.0     2
Blake Griffin    22.6      96.0     27.0     0.86     162.7     3
Leo Lyons        24.5      93.2     26.2     0.93     161.8     4
Jeff Teague      24.0      98.4     20.9     0.98     158.8     5
Lester Hudson    18.1     105.0     25.0     1.01     157.8     6
Tyreke Evans     17.2      94.4     24.2     1.23     156.9     7
Ty Lawson        20.4     105.4     21.5     0.95     141.9     8
Ricky Rubio      19.2      90.6     13.9     1.98     141.2     9
Taj Gibson       16.5      94.5     18.9     1.42     137.2    10
Jermaine Taylor  18.9      99.5     28.9     0.79     136.2    11
Gerald Henderson 23.1      95.6     23.8     0.84     129.9    12
Danny Green      14.9      92.6     20.9     1.41     126.7    13
Marcus Thornton  20.0     101.7     25.0     0.77     121.8    14
Jerel McNeal     17.6      95.9     22.3     0.93     118.7    15
DeMarre Carroll  17.4      96.4     21.8     0.98     117.1    16
Tyler Hansbrough 24.0     103.3     25.0     0.64     116.9    17
James Johnson    14.7      91.9     20.2     1.21     112.5    18
James Harden     19.6      98.0     26.0     0.70     106.8    19
Luke Nevill      13.5      98.2     19.5     1.23     105.3    20
Toney Douglas    19.2      98.2     20.9     0.76     100.4    21
Terr. Williams   13.8      91.9     18.2     1.13      93.3    22
Robert Dozier    13.0      96.8     16.6     1.20      92.1    23
Alade Aminu      14.3      85.8     16.3     1.36      90.3    24
Dante Cunningham 13.8      91.2     19.8     0.98      88.9    25
Eric Maynor      15.1     100.3     25.9     0.66      88.4    26
Nick Calathes    15.9      96.9     23.5     0.77      87.2    27
Austin Daye      12.1      95.8     17.5     1.31      85.2    28
Paul Harris      21.9      88.6     18.8     0.71      81.2    29
Jordan Hill      14.3      91.5     21.2     0.90      80.5    30
Hasheem Thabeet  13.1      87.2     10.6     2.04      78.0    31
Curtis Jerrells  17.6      95.2     20.5     0.66      77.3    32
Tyrese Rice      18.4      95.2     21.1     0.61      75.9    33
Ahmad Nivins     15.5      97.6     17.9     0.81      75.1    34
Jrue Holiday     15.0      91.6     18.9     0.96      74.0    35
Patrick Mills    12.4      96.5     21.3     0.89      71.4    36
Sam Young        13.5      91.3     23.4     0.70      70.8    37
B.J. Mullens     13.0      93.4     18.6     0.98      69.7    38
Darren Collison  13.5      99.1     21.8     0.70      62.8    39
Jonas Jerebko    15.4     100.8     13.8     0.89      61.6    40
Rodr. Beaubois   16.2      91.8     15.9     0.84      61.3    41
Lee Cummard      12.2      99.2     20.7     0.69      61.0    42
Jodie Meeks      15.5     101.0     20.9     0.53      59.6    43
DaJuan Summers   13.5      92.0     20.0     0.77      58.9    44
Patrick Beverley 18.9      88.2     17.2     0.63      57.1    45
Earl Clark       11.6      85.3     19.8     0.87      57.0    46
Dionte Christmas 12.8      94.6     22.6     0.59      51.8    47
Jonny Flynn      14.5      94.0     20.0     0.53      48.8    48
Chase Budinger   10.8      94.9     21.0     0.62      48.8    49
Jeff Adrien      15.4      91.8     15.8     0.61      47.4    50
Derrick Brown    10.4      97.8     18.9     0.66      47.0    51
Jon Brockman     18.2      93.3     18.8     0.42      44.5    52
Brandon Jennings 13.2      85.9     18.7     0.71      44.3    53
Josh Heytvelt    12.0     104.8     17.8     0.63      44.2    54
Victor Claver    12.4     101.7     13.5     0.77      42.1    55
Jeff Pendergraph 11.3     102.4     20.5     0.51      39.1    56
Omri Casspi      12.4      88.0     16.4     0.69      37.6    57
Wayne Ellington  12.1      96.0     20.8     0.46      34.8    58
Emir Preldzic    10.0      99.1     17.0     0.67      33.7    59
Nando De Colo    12.7      89.5     19.3     0.49      31.7    60
Demar DeRozan    11.6      91.3     18.9     0.47      31.4    61
Jack McClinton   11.9      99.5     21.4     0.30      26.0    62
Milenko Tepic     9.3     108.9     19.0     0.44      25.6    63
Sergio Llull      9.0     128.4     14.8     0.38      20.6    64
A.J. Price       10.8      91.3     18.4     0.27      17.5    65
Henk Norel        7.4      69.2      9.1     0.47       6.7    66

Just because a player doesn’t rate highly here, or vice versa, you can’t make any definitive statements about these ratings. This is a brand new system and will surely be improved dramatically in the years ahead. However, I do think there are some interesting things here. For instance, in Kevin’s European translations post, he noted how well Sergio Llull’s translations came out. I don’t know if he’ll play in the NBA next season, but if he does, he’ll be an interesting litmus test for the differences between our systems. His projected offensive rating in my system is off-the-charts good, the best in the group. The system also sees him as being very limited athletically, completely unable to get his own shot and lacking big-time on defense. To me, he’s got shooting specialist written all over him, but it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. It’s also entirely possible my system isn’t picking up on inherent differences between the American and European versions of the game.

Shaq Doesn’t Answer Cavaliers’ Problems

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:17 am

When rumors first connected Shaquille O’Neal with the Cleveland Cavaliers before the trade deadline, I wasn’t a fan of the deal. Now that a deal has reportedly been consummated in the wake of the Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference Finals flameout against the Orlando Magic, I like it even less. It’s not that I question O’Neal’s ability to contribute, something he demonstrated last season in Phoenix. It’s that he’s a terrible fit for Cleveland for two primary reasons.

1. O’Neal Needs the Ball to Be Effective on Offense
Adding another scorer certainly wasn’t a bad idea for the Cavaliers, who proved highly dependent on LeBron James on the offensive end in the Eastern Conference Finals. When Cleveland has succeeded without James dominating the ball, it’s been by making use of him in the post or through ball movement. O’Neal’s post-ups are an entirely different animal. They mean having James spotting up, far and away the worst part of his game, or at best a threat as a cutter.

The Cavaliers could be effective with an offense based around O’Neal when James is on the bench (which might allow him more rest than he got in the conference finals), but most of the time the two of them are going to have to coexist, and I suspect that pairing will be uneasy at best. O’Neal isn’t a threat outside of 5-8 feet, meaning his defender will always be in the paint as a deterrent. The fact that O’Neal remains a strong finisher in the paint reduces the ability for his defender to give help without surrendering a certain bucket, but the spacing is still nowhere as strong as with Zydrunas Ilgauskas spotting up.

2. O’Neal is a Defensive Liability
When the Suns dealt for O’Neal in February 2007, it was in large part because they believed he could help them at the defensive end of the floor. Instead, their defense tanked with the loss of Shawn Marion. In terms of post defense, O’Neal remains solid, his strength giving him the ability to establish position. Everywhere else, however, O’Neal has trouble at this stage of his career.

The biggest problem for O’Neal for years has been his ability to defend the pick-and-roll, something I watched the Sonics work over and over again in the early part of this decade. At this point in his career, it’s unreasonable to expect him to be able to step out and cut off a ballhandler while getting back to a dangerous roll man like Dwight Howard. Instead, Cleveland will likely be forced to keep O’Neal behind the play at the edge of the paint, giving quicker guards the opportunity to build up a head of steam before blowing by O’Neal. For a team that has prided itself on defense, that is an untenable situation.

Even last year, during O’Neal’s bounceback year, the Suns were better defensively when he was on the bench, and it’s hardly as if his backup (primarily Louis Amundson) is highly regarded for his defense.

Now, the upside for the Cavaliers is they really didn’t lose much in this deal, sending out Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round pick and cash. Wallace was injured throughout the second half of the season, scarcely played in the playoffs and has openly considered retirement. Pavlovic is, well, Sasha Pavlovic. Mike Brown gave him a chance in the postseason in Orlando, and Pavlovic did little with it, which is generally the story of his career.

However, there’s always an alternative cost in the deal not made. O’Neal may have an expiring contract that makes him moveable at any point of the season, and allows the Cavaliers to walk away at season’s end, but Detroit found out the hard way that when it’s attached to a name like O’Neal or Allen Iverson, an ending contract is more than just a contract. There’s a certain pressure to use Iverson or O’Neal because of who they once were, one that helped undo the Suns and one that the Pistons never resolved until Iverson’s season conveniently ended early due to injury.

Acquiring O’Neal distracts from Cleveland’s task of finding a solution to the problem that truly proved costly in the Eastern Conference Finals–a big three or undersized four who can play alongside James in a lineup capable of matching up with versatile power forwards like the Magic’s Rashard Lewis. The Cavaliers surely won this trade on talent, and it’s not even close. But succeeding in the NBA is more about fit than talent, and there O’Neal is not the answer.

Euroleague Translations

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:17 am

While I covered the NCAA guards in tomorrow’s draft this morning and will be wrapping up with frontcourt players tomorrow, pre-draft analysis isn’t complete without looking across the pond at the European prospects in the draft, as well as Brandon Jennings, whose only meaningful statistics come from Euroleague. Because the level of competition is uneven at the national league level, I only can do translations for players who played in the Euroleague, which knocks out several second-round prospects as well as Jonas Jerebko, who strictly played in Italy. Still, we can find out some more about a handful of players, including Jennings and Ricky Rubio.

Note that in contrast to the NCAA translations, which are truly more projections because they automatically include a year of development, Euroleague translations are based on players going both directions across the Atlantic and at all ages. It is more accurate to think of them as what the player would have done in the NBA this past season, the adjust for development from there. As a result, instead of using collegians as comparisons, we’ll be looking at past NBA players.

Ricky Rubio, DKV Joventut
Age: 18.5 | Translated Stats: .449 Win% | .402 TS% | 14.8 Usage | 12.4 Reb% | 5.40 Pass Rating

Because of injuries and his team’s early elimination, Rubio played just 66 minutes over five Euroleague games this season, so his stats are relatively meaningless. (They’re also quite entertaining. They project Rubio to have more fouls than points.) However, we can glean more value by looking at Rubio’s 2007-08 performance in the EuroCup. The EuroCup translations are a little less reliable because fewer players have come to the NBA from the less prestigious second continental competition, but EuroCup stats did a reasonably solid job of projecting the performance of Rubio’s teammate Rudy Fernandez and Marc Gasol this past year. Here’s what those numbers look like:

Age: 17.5 | Translated Stats: .461 Win% | .517 TS% | 13.1 Usage | 9.1 Reb% | 3.74 Pass Rating

Those numbers are a bit less extreme across the board. Because Rubio was so young, we can’t do comparisons by age. I looked instead at the players of any age with the most similar stat lines, which reveals how unorthodox Rubio’s game truly is.

Gary Payton (1990-91, 93.0); Nate McMillan (1989-90, 92.8); Charlie Ward (1998-99, 91.9); Brevin Knight (2002-03, 91.6); Clinton Wheeler (1987-88, 91.6)

I’ve used Jason Kidd as a subjective comparison, as well as Rajon Rondo, but young GP actually works pretty well. Three of McMillan’s seasons actually show up in the top 10. Here’s the thing: Payton was 22 at the time, McMillan anywhere from 22 through 25. Rubio’s translated numbers are similar before the age of 18. If you believe in the importance of age in a prospect’s development–and I firmly do–the argument that Rubio has more upside than anyone in this draft is a reasonable one. He figures to become an elite passer, one of the league’s great ballhawks (his translated steal rate would rank him third in the league behind Chris Paul and Knight) and a terrific rebounder for a point guard. If he develops any semblance of a scoring threat, Rubio will be a perennial All-Star. If I had the No. 1 pick, I would seriously consider Rubio, and I would take him over anyone in the draft besides Griffin.

Brandon Jennings, Lottomatica Rome
Age: 19.6 | Translated Stats: .310 Win% | .441 TS% | 18.0 Usage | 5.1 Reb% | 1.02 Pass Rating

Comps: Tony Parker (93.6); Sebastian Telfair (91.8); J.R. Smith (90.7)

Jennings’ list of comps is definitely much better than his translated stats, and part of the reason the scores are so low is that few players have sported such a low winning percentage over a full season. Jennings wasn’t especially effective in any area in the Euroleague. How much of that was the adjustment to an entirely different style of basketball and culture? Impossible to say. In this case, I’m not sure how much we can take from the numbers. The two best comps, Parker and Telfair, portend wildly different futures for Jennings, and he could go down either path or fall somewhere in between.

Omri Casspi, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Age: 20.8 | Translated Stats: .413 Win% | .534 TS% | 19.6 Usage | 11.3 Reb% | 0.03 Pass Rating

Comps: Tim Thomas (98.0); Dirk Nowitzki (97.0); Marvin Williams (96.6) Rudy Gay (96.5); Joe Johnson (96.1)

Young wings with size and the ability to shoot usually end up faring pretty well, as Casspi’s comps indicate. Based on them, he looks like a steal late in the first round. Casspi’s translated numbers were at replacement level last season with the chance to get better in the hurry. He should be able to contribute offensively right away, with translated 39.8 percent three-point shooting and solid ability to get to the free throw line.

Sergio Llull, Real Madrid
Age: 21.4 | Translated Stats: .407 Win% | .566 TS% | 13.4 Usage | 3.9 Reb% | 4.31 Pass Rating

Comps: Deron Williams (92.6); Delonte West (92.5); Daniel Gibson (92.4); Tony Parker (90.6); Ray Allen (90.1)

A likely second-round pick, Llull also looks like a potential steal. He’s got a diverse offensive game with the ability to really shoot it (95.5 percent from the free throw line; 33.6 percent on threes, albeit at an extraordinarily high volume) and very competent ballhandling skills. That draws comparisons to some elite players. The question mark with Llull, and what holds down his translated winning percentage, is the other end of the court. He’s a complete non-factor on the glass, gets few steals and fouls at an astronomical rate–a translated 5.1 per 40 minutes. (Actually, all of these guys foul a great deal, though Rubio in particular has more of an excuse because of all the good he’s doing defensively in the process of drawing those fouls.) Surely, someone will take the gamble that Llull can figure things out and live up to his offensive potential.

June 23, 2009

Report: Wizards-Wolves swing a deal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 8:43 pm

The long-rumored preference of the Washington Wizards to trade the fifth pick in Thursday’s draft has apparently come to pass. Fresh off the AP wire:

“Yahoo! Sports is reporting the Wizards and Timberwolves have agreed in principle to a deal that would send Minnesota guards Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Washington for the No. 5 pick in the draft and three players.

The Timberwolves would receive Etan Thomas, Oleksiy Pecherov and Darius Songaila, and the deal would leave them with the fifth and sixth overall choices in Thursday’s NBA draft.

The Web site cited unidentified sources.”

So it’s not official yet, but let’s break it down real quick anyway.

The Wizards deal the expiring contract of Thomas and throw in a pair of spare parts, plus the fifth pick. They bring back Foye, who will make a perfect running mate for Gilbert Arenas, and Miller, who will help a team that was 29th in three-point percentage last season. Foye is still working off his rookie contract, but Miller will earn $9.9 million next season which makes the overall money in the deal pretty much a wash. So Washington is still going to have some luxury tax tap-dancing to do before Feb. 10.

The Wolves now own the 5th, 6th, 18th and 26th picks in the first round on Thursday. I assume this deal is a precursor to an attempt to jump up for a shot at Ricky Rubio. Giving up Foye to do so is a steep price. The only guards still under contract are Sebastian Telfair and … that’s about it. Bobby Brown is a restricted free agent. We’ll see where David Kahn is taking this thing.

The Spurs are Going For One More

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:02 pm

ESPN’s Chad Ford has reported that the Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a pre-Draft trade that sends Richard Jefferson to Texas in exchange for the expiring contracts of Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas.

This deal signals that San Antonio’s future is now. Before making this deal, the Spurs had the opportunity to instantly rebuild in the summer of 2010, with every signifcant contract up save those of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Acquiring Jefferson–who has a player option for the 2010-11 season he is sure to pick up–cuts San Antonio’s potential cap space in half, if not more. The Spurs appear willing to sacrifice the early portion of the next decade in order to give their aging core one last chance to win a title.

Can Jefferson push San Antonio over the top? The upside is that when Manu Ginobili is out of the lineup (a reality the Spurs simply must plan for at this point), he gives them a third player capable of creating his own shot, something the team has really missed. The downside is that when San Antonio puts Parker-Ginobili-Jefferson-Duncan-whoever on the floor, that second wing has usually been primarily a spot-up shooter, and that’s not really Jefferson’s forte. He did hit 39.7 percent beyond the arc last season, but that was easily a career high; he’d never before shot better than 36.4 percent on threes. Jefferson has declined significantly since his All-Star prime, and that the Bucks would willingly surrender him solely for expiring contracts indicates how far his value has fallen around the league.

If the Spurs can stay healthy, the addition of Jefferson has a chance to make them the second-best team in the Western Conference next season. San Antonio will need to find lots of help up front, with Matt Bonner now the only rotation-caliber big man the Spurs have under contract save Duncan. No matter who else the Spurs add, it’s tough to see them closing what has become a sizeable gap between them and the Lakers.

From Milwaukee’s perspective, shedding Jefferson’s deal creates more salary-cap flexiblity. According to Ford, the Bucks save about $3 million this year in addition to the massive difference next season, which will help them in their efforts to re-sign Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva. The deal is a damning indictment of Milwaukee’s move to add Jefferson on the day of last year’s Draft. The Bucks could have gotten similar salary-cap relief in 2010 by simply holding on to Bobby Simmons, but gave up Yi Jianlian to the Nets in addition to Simmons to facilitate that trade.

UPDATE: I’m seeing conflicting information on how much of Bowen’s and Oberto’s 2009-10 salaries is guaranteed. We’ll have to wait for the beat writers to sort this out, but it sounds like that could push Milwaukee’s savings for this season to as much as around $7 million, which would be a much larger coup for the Bucks and enough to potentially cover the first-year salary of either Sessions or Villanueva.

June 22, 2009

Time to mock … and chat

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 10:25 pm

My second annual mock draft will be unleashed upon the interwebs in the morning. Take notes as you read and you will have a chance to mock me … chat style. I’ll be taking questions on what is shaping up as one of the more mysterious draft nights in recent memory, starting at noon over at Baseball Prospectus.

Chat will be here and you can go ahead and start submitting questions now. But don’t start the mocking until after you see my forecast.
Catch ya maƱana.

June 19, 2009

A Matter of Age

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 8:15 pm

Next week, Basketball Prospectus will be all-draft, all the time. As I’m preparing my own portion of the draft coverage, I was struck by some of the ages I entered in for this year’s prospects. There can be a wide discrepancy between even players of the same year of eligibility. Especially for lottery picks being counted on to develop over the next several seasons, this is not an inconsiderable factor. In this Gilbert Arenas column six years ago, I showed in a quick study the enormous difference in future development depending upon at which age a player enters the NBA.

Older Than You’d Think

– Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin (24.7 as of the end of the NBA regular season)
The mid-major standout was already 20 when he started community college, then sat out a year to establish his academic eligibility before starting his career at Tennessee-Martin.

– Jack McClinton, Miami (24.3)
McClinton turned 20 during his freshman season at Siena before losing a year when he transferred to Miami.

– Lee Cummard, BYU (24.1)
This should come as little surprise, as BYU traditionally boasts the NCAA’s oldest teams due to two-year LDS Missions. Cummard served his before starting college.

– Sam Young, Pittsburgh (23.9)
Young is an extra year older because he spent a season at Hargrave Military Academy between graduating high school and arriving on campus at Pitt.

– Taj Gibson, USC (23.8)
Gibson is a bizarre case, since he is actually an early entrant to this year’s draft. I’m not quite sure why he started college so late; apparently he was home-schooled prior to starting high school.

– Chris Johnson, LSU (23.8)
Johnson went the prep-school route before enrolling at LSU.

– Goran Suton, Michigan State (23.7)
A strike against a BP fave. Suton started high school late after coming to the U.S. from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina (23.5)
Here’s one I wasn’t aware of that limits Hansbrough’s future value. I’m not sure why Hansbrough, who was nearly 20 already when he first set foot on campus in Chapel Hill, is behind his class by a year.

Younger Than You’d Think

– Jrue Holiday, UCLA (18.9)
The youngest NCAA player in the group of nearly 60 players I’m considering, Holiday just turned 19 last week. That’s a point in his favor.

– James Harden, Arizona State (19.7)
Harden is very much on the young side for a sophomore; he won’t be 20 until August. Harden is two and a half weeks younger than Demar DeRozan, his Pac-10 rival who is entering the draft after his freshman season. For, the record, B.J. Mullens (20 in February) is the oldest of the freshmen in the draft.

June 18, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:27 am

After introducing the SCHOENE projection system last fall for the NBA, one of my goals this year was to come up with a WNBA equivalent. It’s as yet unnamed, and completing it took until a week and a half into the season, but I laid out my WNBA projection system today on, my other online home.

From a projection perspective, the WNBA presents some different challenges from the NBA, in large part because there is not as much history with which to work. SCHOENE draws comparable players from nearly three decades, starting in 1979-80 (when the NBA introduced the three-point shot). It’s a pool of more than 7,000 players. By contrast, the WNBA projection system chooses from fewer than 1,000 players because there’s only 12 years’ worth of history and about half as many teams as the NBA. This makes it much harder to create a reasonable sample size of players who are truly similar to the player whose development they are being used to project.

Additionally, while the overall level of talent in the NBA can be reasonably assumed to be fairly steady over the last three decades (benefiting from the influx of foreigners, somewhat offset by expansion), the WNBA’s level of talent has jumped around quite a bit between the death of the rival ABL, rapid expansion, contraction and the ongoing rise in athleticism. This tends to punish older players, especially guards, quite severely.

Along with the other inherent issues that make SCHOENE a work in progress, these factors produced some head-scratching outcomes in my 2009 WNBA projections, which suggest both a worst-to-first scenario in the Eastern Conference (with the Atlanta Dream, in just its second season) and a first-to-worst one in the West (the defending conference champion San Antonio Silver Stars). One aspect of the projections that makes sense subjectively is the expectation of league-wide parity. With the league’s weaker teams loading up on a top-heavy draft and through the dispersal of the former Houston Comets, the WNBA should be wide open this season.

June 4, 2009

WP82 leaders for the playoffs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 9:32 am

Since we’re not uploading data for the postseason, I thought I’d check in with my WP82 leaders for the playoffs. I’ve also listed the regular season figures for each player so you can see who has raised their games … and who hasn’t. I’m going to change the name of my core metric after the season because ‘Wins Produced’ conflicts with Dave Berri’s work at Wages of Wins. Because of the way it’s calculated, I thought Win Shares might work. Wait … dammit. How about Wins Claimed (WC)? World Wins Expected (WWE)? Wins Taken or Found (WTF)? No, all those have stigmata. Maybe Approximate Wins (AW). Gotta keep thinking …

_# Player         Playoffs  Regular
_1 LeBron James       22.2     18.7
_2 Kobe Bryant        14.1     14.3
_3 Dwyane Wade        11.6     12.5
_4 Chauncey Billups   11.5      9.9
_5 Dwight Howard      11.2     11.1
_6 Carmelo Anthony    10.9      7.3
_7 Dirk Nowitzki      10.7      9.3
_8 Rajon Rondo        10.5     10.5
_9 Pau Gasol          10.4     11.7
10 Rashard Lewis       9.7      9.8
11 Andre Iguodala      9.2      8.6
12 Mo Williams         9.0     10.4
13 Delonte West        8.9      7.0
14 Lamar Odom          8.7      7.6
15 Ron Artest          8.3      7.5
16 Jason Kidd          7.9      9.5
17 Brandon Roy         7.9     11.2
18 Aaron Brooks        7.7      5.0
19 Trevor Ariza        7.3      5.8
20 Ray Allen           7.1     11.2
21 Andre Miller        7.0      7.7
22 Paul Pierce         7.0     10.8
23 Hedo Turkoglu       6.9      9.1
24 John Salmons        6.8      4.3
25 JR Smith            6.6      7.9
26 Rafer Alston        6.5      6.6
27 Luis Scola          6.4      7.0
28 Ben Gordon          6.3      7.7
29 Mike Bibby          6.2      8.0
30 Shane Battier       6.1      4.6

June 1, 2009

A WNBA Deal with Major NBA Implications

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:42 pm

The WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury made an announcement this morning with significant ramifications for the NBA. The Mercury has sold advertising space on its jerseys to Tempe, Ariz.-based LifeLock, a company which works to prevent identity theft. The LifeLock logo and wordmark will replace “Phoenix” and “Mercury” on the team’s jerseys, which will still be branded with the team’s secondary logo above and to the right of the company name. That’s a first for a prominent U.S.-based non-soccer team.

The most significant thing about this partnership is that NBA commissioner David Stern is participating in the press conference in New York announcing the deal. In doing so, Stern is surely giving his tacit approval to not only other WNBA teams but NBA teams as well to pursue jersey sponsorships. And while there will surely be a backlash bemoaning the spread of advertising onto player jerseys as a sign of the Apocalypse, don’t doubt that this is coming to the NBA at some point.

Alas, this is probably about the worst time in recent history to be looking for increased sponsorship opportunities, not only because of the economic crisis in general but specifically because of the criticism around the advertising done by troubled companies, like Citigroup’s naming-rights deal with the New York Mets’ Citi Field. Never has advertising seemed more frivolous in the public eye. In time, however, this is sure to blow over. If you put the over-under on when a company will appear on an NBA jersey at five years, I would take the under. And if you put the over-under on when every NBA jersey is sponsored at a decade, I’d be awfully tempted.

It makes sense that the NBA will be the first to experiment with sponsored jerseys. Under Stern, the NBA has always been the most progressive of the three major sports leagues from a business perspective, and quite frankly there are a lot of teams that could use the infusion in cash. The Arizona Republic has reported that the Mercury-LifeLock partnership (which also includes court branding) will be worth more than $1 million, a huge sum that could be enough all by itself to take the Phoenix WNBA franchise from the red to the black. In the MLS, where jerseys have been sponsorable since 2007, the average cost appears to be about $2 million, with the L.A. Galaxy and Seattle Sounders reportedly bringing in $4 million a year or more. In that context, you’d figure a struggling NBA team could potentially make somewhere in the eight figures by selling space on its jerseys.

The other reason the NBA is a natural early adapter when it comes to jersey sponsorships is that it is the most global of the major American pro sports leagues, and around the world fans will surely yawn at the supposed “groundbreaking” nature of today’s news. The notion of a team’s jerseys not being branded by a corporation would be more revolutionary in Europe.

That ties in with the other significant NBA financial news from the past couple of weeks, the Cleveland Cavaliers reaching tentative agreement to sell a minority stake to investors from China. I can’t believe this hasn’t been a bigger deal, if only for the same kind of jingoistic “the sky is falling” response we saw to some extent when Japanese businessman and Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi led a group that purchased the Seattle Mariners in 1992. Surely it won’t be the last we see of foreign money coming into the NBA in an ownership capacity.

Say what you will about Stern’s stewardship of the NBA–and the reaction is not especially positive here in Seattle as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Sonics’ NBA championship today, that’s for sure–but you cannot question the brilliant job he has done of making the NBA a leader internationally. We continue to see the positive effect of that on the NBA’s bottom line.

CHAT TUESDAY: Join me tomorrow at Baseball Prospectus at 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific to discuss the NBA Finals as well as the offseason happenings for the other 28 teams who have already been eliminated from contention for the championship. As always, leave your question now if you are unable to make the chat in progress.

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