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July 16, 2010, 12:07 PM ET
Follow-Up on Long Term Contracts

by Kevin Pelton

Good e-mail in my inbox this morning from a curious reader in response to today’s piece.

Anyway, given the multiple ways that players’ performance over long contracts were sorted, I was disappointed to not see a distinction of age. Obviously we know what results are expected, but I still think it might be nice to see whether the data really bear out that oldsters on 5-year contracts drop the most. Also it could be interesting to compare these numbers to their WARP (or Win% as per-minute might make more sense) of the season before the contract or extension was signed. More interesting data!

When it comes to age, the results might not be as dramatic as you’d expect. Naturally, teams are already pricing age in to some extent or another; none of the players who got these long contracts was older than 30, and more of them were younger than 27 (which I used as my cut-off) than older.

Type       Yr1    Yr2    Yr3    Yr4    Yr5

Old       2284   1931   2118   1465   1042
Young     2105   1804   1884   1541   1270

Type       Yr1    Yr2    Yr3    Yr4    Yr5

Old        5.0    3.1    3.2    1.8    1.8
Young      2.7    1.0    2.1    1.3    1.1

For both groups, three years appears to be the point at which they decline. In terms of minutes, it is a little more dramatic for the older cohort, but they were still more valuable in years four and five of the contract and substantially better in years one-three. This suggests to me that the risk is not solely in terms of age, but also the randomness of injuries (the two players more substantially affected, Darius Miles and Bobby Simmons, were both fairly young when they signed) and the assumption that young players will develop well.

As to the other question, in the year before becoming free agents, these players averaged 4.7 WARP. Naturally, this was better by a notable margin than they performed even in the first year of their long-term contracts (3.7 WARP). If we go back two years (for everyone but Damien Wilkins, who was a rookie before getting his new deal), that average drops to 2.4 WARP. A lot of these players were signed after career years, and here age is probably more relevant. For young guys like Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson, their development heralded a new level of play. When older players like Simmons and Brian Cardinal “broke out,” it was really largely a fluke. Buyer beware.

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