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December 23, 2010

Airing a Grievance on Injuries in the Draft

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 5:29 pm

Today is Festivus, so it’s only appropriate that I air an NBA grievance. Brandon Roy‘s knee troubles have brought up something that drives me batty: The overly conservative nature of general managers when it comes to dealing with the health of potential draft picks. In an Art Garcia piece on, former Timberwolves decision-maker Kevin McHale explained that Roy’s knees–which had already been operated on twice, once for each knee, by the time he entered the draft–were a factor in Minnesota choosing to deal Roy’s rights for those to Randy Foye.

“I remember very vividly sitting in a room with a bunch of doctors and they were saying, ‘Well, I don’t know, he could have problems in a couple of years. It could be five, it could be 10, it could be never, but the range that he has, he’s going to have problems with his knee,'” said McHale, now an NBA TV analyst. “This was before he played one NBA game.”

As it turned out, Roy is now dealing with those very knee problems, but only after a highly productive start to his NBA career. Here are the WARP totals through 2009-10 of everyone drafted in the 2006 lottery:

Pk   Tm    Player              WARP

1    TOR   Andrea Bargnani      5.9
2    CHI   LaMarcus Aldridge   18.6
3    CHA   Adam Morrison      - 8.0
4    POR   Tyrus Thomas        11.4
5    ATL   Shelden Williams     1.3
6    MIN   Brandon Roy         37.9
7    BOS   Randy Foye           5.1
8    HOU   Rudy Gay            11.1
9    GSW   Patrick O'Bryant   - 0.5
10   SEA   Mouhamed Sene        0.2
11   ORL   J.J. Redick          5.2
12   NOK   Hilton Armstrong   - 3.5
13   PHI   Thabo Sefolosha      0.9
14   UTA   Ronnie Brewer        9.6

Of the 14 lottery picks, how many of them are likely to match Roy’s current WARP total? LaMarcus Aldridge is likely to get there, and Rudy Gay, who is still young and already has put up 3.0 WARP this year, has a pretty good shot. Tyrus Thomas might do so if he figures things out. And that’s it. So even if we conservatively assume that Roy is entirely finished as an NBA player of value, he is still likely to be at worst the fourth-best player in the lottery. Suffice it to say that Foye, who can’t even get off the bench for one of the league’s worst teams, is not going to make it.

What’s odd is that this is the exact opposite of a moral hazard for GMs. Most likely, by the time long-term knee problems develop, they’ll have moved on (as is the case for both McHale and the guy who landed Roy, Kevin Pritchard). My sense is that they don’t want to be blamed for something that is easy to argue in hindsight. Still, better to be known as the guy who drafted a productive but injury-prone player than the one who can’t play at all.

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