Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

April 9, 2010

Site Survey

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:42 am

With the NCAA season coming to an end, we’re starting to think about the future. (Though don’t worry, NBA fans, there will be tons of content throughout the postseason and there is no real offseason for NBA analysis–except when we’re trying to finish the book.) In order to make Basketball Prospectus the best site it can be in 2010-11, please help us by filling out this brief 10-question survey about the site.

Two readers who fill out the survey will be randomly selected to win PDF copies of their choice of either the college or NBA book next fall. Make sure to provide your name in the last question to be eligible to win.

As always, thanks for reading.

UPDATE: And … we’re back.

April 7, 2010

Notes from a Thriller

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:49 am

Because I went out to dinner this evening, I DVRed the Oklahoma City-Utah game in the third quarter when I left. That might have been my best decision of the year, because when I got back I got the chance to devour the fourth quarter and overtime of one of the more entertaining regular-season NBA games you’ll ever see. It was so good that, at the risk of making Basketball Prospectus entirely too Thunder-heavy, I had to jot down a few thoughts.

– Despite the fact that Oklahoma City lost, Kevin Durant became even a little more frightening to Western Conference foes. The best way I can describe the experience of watching a replay is comparing Durant to a villain in a horror film. You want to tell the Jazz, “Don’t open that door!” but it’s too late. Durant has already struck. He hit a 40-foot three-pointer during the midst of the Thunder comeback he sparked and did so without any extraordinary effort. He is not human.

– As great as he was, Durant was overshadowed by Deron Williams, who not only dropped a career-high 42 points but hit the game-winner with 1.1 seconds remaining. Down the stretch, Thabo Sefolosha defended Williams. Sefolosha is one of the league’s top stoppers in my opinion (more on this topic later this week), but he didn’t have a prayer against Williams, who left him swiping at air time and again.

– Really strong play call by Jerry Sloan on Williams’ shot. There was so much going on in a small area–Carlos Boozer catching the inbound, Williams receiving a handoff and C.J. Miles cutting backdoor after initiating the play–that the Thunder’s defenders got a bit out of sorts. Williams’ shot wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but he had enough airspace to give him a good look for the situation.

Jeff Green is, at least this year, one of those guys who always looks much better to me when I watch him than he does in the stats. He made the three-pointer that sent the game to overtime and the go-ahead runner in regulation and was very solid as a second option for the Thunder when the defensive pressure on Durant was too great. Also credit Durant for his willingness to share the basketball in those situations.

Scott Brooks‘ decision to go with extreme smallball down the stretch (Green at center, Durant at power forward) paid huge dividends. After James Harden replaced Nenad Krstic, Oklahoma City scored 22 points in the final 3:33 of regulation to erase an 11-point deficit. Brooks stuck with the lineup in the extra session and it played the Jazz even despite being physically overmatched in the frontcourt.

– What took the game to the next level was what was at stake. Utah stood to drop to fifth in the Western Conference with a loss, but now sits second in the conference and atop the Northwest Division. Meanwhile, the Thunder’s hopes of stealing home-court advantage in the first round took a severe hit, and with a brutal schedule the rest of the way the eighth seed is not out of the question. That’s what makes the final no-call so painful for the Thunder, and the controversy over that call marred an otherwise fantastic game.

April 2, 2010

Bryant Signs Extension with Lakers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 6:56 pm

Overshadowed by the speculation over LeBron James and the other big names in the 2010 free agent class was the possibility that Kobe Bryant could join the group. Bryant had the option of opting out of the final year of his contract and becoming a free agent, but chose instead to sign a three-year contract extension through the 2013-14 season, announced Friday afternoon by the Lakers. Larry Coon pointed out last fall that Bryant could cost himself some money by leaving the value of the extension in the hands of the next NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. If he opted out and signed the same contract with the Lakers this summer as a free agent, it would be subject to the current CBA.

Perhaps Bryant is more optimistic about negotiations for the next CBA, anticipating it will not affect star players that much. He might also be pessimistic to the extent that that there has been some speculation that the league will ask to retroactively apply its provisions to existing contracts. (This, I grant, seems very unlikely.) Or maybe he’s just not that concerned about the money.

If the new CBA does cost Bryant, it won’t be the first time–or anywhere near as costly as the 1999 Collective Bargaining Agreement. Sports Illustrated‘s Jackie McCallum reported at the time that Bryant was one of five players to vote against the deal that ended the lockout. Bryant had powerful incentive to be against the newly instituted maximum salary. While every superstar has seen his earning power hurt by limits on individual salaries since then, Bryant was the closest to realizing that potential. He was eligible for an extension after the lockout was resolved. Bryant ended up signing for six years and $70 million, but who knows how much he might have been able to make without a max salary. A year earlier, Kevin Garnett had extended his contract for six years and $125 million, and Bryant surely would have been looking for a similar deal.

There was never any question the Lakers would bring Bryant, but how does this deal look from their perspective? We can compare Bryant to the 2010 free-agent crop using the three-year similarity projections I introduced in the first part of my Summer 2010 Preview. Players similar to Bryant produced 25.3 WARP over the next three years, which puts him a step below the Chris Bosh/Dwyane Wade level. Yes, if you follow the link, Manu Ginobili (26.7) has a slightly better projection, but don’t read too much into that. The difference can entirely be explained by the fact that Ginobili draws Michael Jordan as one of his 10 best comps, while Bryant can’t because at the same age Jordan was busy trying to hit curveballs.

The bottom line is it’s unlikely that Bryant will be playing at his current level by 2014, though he should still be a valuable player. And even if he’s overpaid by then, he’s earned it.

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