Saturday, April 23, 2011

Alien Clone Ghost NBA Team, etc

After listening to the most recent Disciples Of Clyde podcast a couple days ago, I was motivated to put together my own Alien Clone Ghost NBA Team to save the human race. For those not inclined to click on the link, the idea is to put together the best NBA team possible.

9 Man Rotation
C: '92 David Robinson
PF: '65 Bill Russell ('03 Tim Duncan)
SF: '92 Scottie Pippen ('77 Bobby Jones)
SG: '91 Michael Jordan ('07 Manu Ginobili)
PG: '70 Walt Frazier ('88 John Stockton)

Injury Replacements: '04 Kevin Garnett, '83 Sidney Moncrief, '08 Chris Paul.

Coach: Bill Russell
Assistants: Phil Jackson, Tex Winter

Various Notes and Justifications

I tried to put together a team on which (1) everybody can play defense, (2) could match up against anybody, and (3) wouldn't have too many chemistry issues (you don't want Oscar, Jordan, Kobe, and Wilt in the same lineup for obvious reasons). The team would primarily run the triangle when the starting lineup was in, though there would be a decent amount of pick and rolls (especially when Stockton was playing). They could run just about anything, though.

Matchups explain why, for example, I chose Duncan over Garnett. Russell and Robinson together pretty much duplicate Garnett's skills (elite defense, passing, stretching the defense), while there wasn't another player on the roster with Duncan's low post skills. If I had gone with Kareem instead of Robinson, I would have chosen Garnett as the 6th man. I didn't choose Kareem mainly because I thought he was more of a ballstopper than Robinson, and would clog Jordan, Pippen, and Frazier's driving lanes (especially with Russell having no jump shot).

All of the starters would normally play 30-35 minutes. Duncan, the 6th man, would get about 30 minutes. Based on matchups, Stockton would play between 20-30 minutes, Ginobili 15-25, and Jones 5-15.

This roster assumes current NBA rules. If, for example, the team was playing without a three point line, I'd substitute Moncrief for Ginobili. If the team was playing without the handcheck rules, I might substitute a forward for one of the quick guards.

[EDIT 5/8/11-In retrospect, I'd probably substitute Nowitzki for Jones, and switch his minutes with Ginobili. This team could use another three point shooter, and that move would add arguably the most effective shooter in NBA history and a 7 footer who can play small forward at the cost of another defender off the bench. I think the rest of the team would be able to make up for it, though.]

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Revisionist History: ReDraft 2006

Players drafted in 2006 are finishing their fifth season in the NBA, which leads me to wonder, if we knew in 2006 what we know now, how would the 2006 draft, one of the weakest in recent memory, have looked?

#1: Toronto Raptors (27-55). Coming into the draft, Toronto's best players were Chris Bosh, who had averaged 23 and 9 the year before despite being only 21, veteran guards Mike James and Morris Peterson, who would leave that summer as free agents, and rookie Charlie Villanueva, who would be flipped for T.J. Ford two days after the draft. They decided to draft skilled international big man Andrea Bargnani, who has shown he can score, but does little else.

Despite the fact that others in the draft will have better careers, I think the best choice for Toronto would have been Brandon Roy (6th). He would have given the Raptors an elite wing to team with Bosh for a few seasons, and the team's inevitable winning would have made it easier to convince Bosh to stick around and other good players to join the Raptors (always difficult) so that Roy's eventual injury problems wouldn't have been crippling. Of course, this scenario is risky, and based on the premise that Toronto's management wouldn't give Roy a max contract and let Bosh go anyway. If you want a safer pick, then Toronto should have taken Rajon Rondo.

#2: Chicago Bulls (41-41). Chicago's future looked bright, with 23 year old Tyson Chandler, 20 year old Luol Deng, and 22 year old Ben Gordon all having played big roles the previous year. Kirk Hinrich (25) and Andres Nocioni (26) were also solid, and the team was hoping to add a star with the pick they had fleeced from the Knicks. Then they decided to trade down on draft day, draft Tyrus Thomas, and trade Tyson Chandler for P.J. Brown. It worked out okay in 2007, thanks to the acquisition of Ben Wallace and breakout seasons from Deng and Gordon, but in 2008 they only won 33 games. Of course, they picked Joakim Noah with another Knicks picked, lucked into Derrick Rose, signed Carlos Boozer, and held onto Deng, so everything worked out great in the end.

But, knowing their situation in 2006, what should they have done? Draft LaMarcus Aldridge (2nd), probably the best player available in the draft.

#3: Charlotte Bobcats (26-56). Their best player was Gerald Wallace (23), and they also had rookie Raymond Felton, promising center Emeka Okafor, and an uninspiring collection of veteran role players. And they picked Adam Morrison.

Who should they have picked? The BPA at this point is probably Rajon Rondo (21st), and in retrospect Charlotte should have taken him. Sure, there would be issues with putting him and Felton on the court at the same time, but when the cupboard is that bare, you need talent, not fit.

#4: Portland Trail Blazers (21-61). They had Zach Randolph, coming off a terrible season, and...Steve Blake and Joel Pryzbilla? Portland hit gold in this draft, somehow turning Tyrus Thomas, Victor Khryapa, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, and Trent Plaisted into LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. The next season they got rid of Randolph.

What should they have done? Exactly what they did, except perhaps giving Roy less money. But if Chicago wouldn't trade, and with Aldridge, Rondo, and Roy gone, the best players available are Paul Millsap (who replicates Randolph), Rudy Gay, and Kyle Lowry. They would probably take Gay (8th), but none of the options are really what you'd expect from the 4th pick in the draft.

#5: Atlanta Hawks (26-56). The young Hawks had Joe Johnson, Al Harrington, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, and Zaza Pachulia. Harrington was the old man at 25, and this team with a thousand wings really needed a point guard. Instead, they drafted a 6-9 forward that busted, and was traded for Mike Bibby.

What should they have done? Taken Kyle Lowry (24th). Someone to direct the offense that could actually defend and penetrate would have made these recent Hawks even better.

#6: Minnesota Timberwolves (33-49). I think Kevin Garnett won those 33 games by himself. Minnesota needed everything. So, they decided to draft and trade Brandon Roy for Randy Foye. That did not turn out so well. 2007 would be Garnett's last in Minnesota, the Al Jefferson show bombed, and now it's Kevin Love's turn to be a great power forward on a bad team.

What should they have done? Best player available, especially with Garnett having one foot out the door. The best player left is Paul Millsap (47th).

#7: Boston Celtics (33-49) or Portland Trailblazers (21-61). This is kind of complicated. Boston essentially traded this pick to Portland for Sebastian Telfair, who swapped spots with Minnesota. To complete the circle, Minnesota and Boston had swapped Ricky Davis and Wally Szczerbiak a few months before.

Whichever team was picking, Boston or Portland (or Minnesota), the best player available was Ronnie Brewer (14th). Brewer turned out to be better than Telfair, so maybe Boston doesn't make that trade (though I don't know how that affects future cap space).

#8: Houston Rockets (34-48). The Rockets drafted Rudy Gay, and shipped him to Memphis for Shane Battier.

Needless to say, the Rockets would gladly trade anybody still available at this point for Shane Battier. Let's say, J.J. Redick (11th).

#9: Golden State Warriors (34-48). The year before their upset of Dallas in the playoffs, the Warriors, led by Jason Richardson, Troy Murphy, and Baron Davis, chose Patrick O'Bryant, who didn't do anything in the NBA.

If they had this pick back? I'm not sure if he's the BPA, but Andrea Bargnani (1st) seems like he was born to be a Warrior.

#10: Seattle Supersonics (35-47). Remember them? This team led by Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Luke Ridnour chose Mouhamed Sene, and international big man who barely played in the NBA.

Who should they have taken? Thabo Sefolosha (13th). Funny how things sometimes work out.

#11: Orlando Magic (36-46). Back when Dwight Howard was still figuring things out (but still good), and Tony Battie was their fourth best player, the Magic chose J.J. Redick, a good pick in retrospect.

Now, the best player left would be, imo, Tyrus Thomas, but on the chance that Stan Van Gundy might kill him, the Magic draft Boobie Gibson (42nd).

#12: New Orleans/Oklahoma City Thunder (38-44). The Hornets finished near .500 thanks to the rookie Chris Paul and David West. The Hornets drafted Hilton Armstrong with their pick, but in this redraft, get Tyrus Thomas (4th).

#13: Philadelphia 76ers (38-44): As we approach the end of the lottery, there are only a couple players left from this draft that have done anything in the NBA, and the 76ers take Randy Foye (7th).

#14: Utah Jazz (41-41): Jordan Farmar (26th) is a good backup point guard for Deron Williams.

#1 TOR: Brandon Roy
#2 CHI (to POR?): LaMarcus Aldridge
#3 CHA: Rajon Rondo
#4 POR (to CHI?): Rudy Gay
#5 ATL: Kyle Lowry
#6 MIN (to POR?): Paul Millsap
#7 BOS (to POR? to MIN?): Ronnie Brewer
#8 HOU (to MEM?): J.J. Redick
#9 GSW: Andrea Bargnani
#10 SEA: Thabo Sefolosha
#11 ORL: Daniel Gibson
#12 NOK: Tyrus Thomas
#13 PHI: Randy Foye
#14 UTA: Jordan Farmar

Friday, April 1, 2011

Historical Comparables: DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins has had a tumultuous rookie season, to say the least. The player many considered to be the most talented of the 2010 draft class has put up some impressive numbers; 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists per 36 minutes, but also some less than stellar stats, including a .428 FG%, and over 4 turnovers and 5 fouls per 36 minutes. I was interested to see what happened to similar players. Did they cut down on their mistakes, or flameout despite some initial gaudy stats?

Cousins has a usage rate over 27% and a rebound rate over 17%, meaning he can create shots and rebound at a high level in the NBA. What other NBA rookies have shown similar abilities, say, a usage rate over 24% and a rebound rate over 15%? The result? Fourteen other players have accomplished this feat while playing significant minutes. If you don't want to click on the list, they are David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, Shaquille O'Neal, Blake Griffin, Terry Cummings, Arvydas Sabonis, Alonzo Mourning, Elton Brand, Clark Kellogg, Ralph Sampson, Christian Laettner, Cliff "not Clifford" Robinson, and Karl Malone. Before you become too optimistic, it should be noted that Karl Malone was the only one of these players to approach Cousins' inefficiency. Lest you become too pessimistic, Karl Malone was nearly as inefficient as Cousins in his rookie year.

But this list is hardly fair. Who would honestly compare the 31 year old international superstar Arvydas Sabonis to a kid coming out after his freshman year? It's not just Sabonis, either. Robinson was 24, and the list is filled with polished four year players like Laettner, Bird, and Sampson. What about a cut off by age? Cousins is 20 this year. What does the list look like if we change the qualification to 21 or younger? The list becomes 2 Shaq seasons, 2 Elton Brand seasons, 2 Cliff "not Clifford" Robinson seasons, Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin, Terry Cummings, Clark Kellogg, and Antoine Walker. Again, Cousins' 2010 was easily the least efficient season in the sample (yes, Virgina, less efficient than Antoine Walker).

That's the good. What about the bad? This time, I looked for players 21 or under that had a turnover percentage over 16 (Cousins is at 18.2%), a field goal percentage under 46%, more than 4.5 fouls per 36 minutes, and a rebounding rate above 12 to weed out the smaller players not really comparable to Cousins. This resulted in a surprisingly small list. The only other player to play more than 1100 minutes (Cousins has played over 2000 this year) while fitting that criteria is Danny Fortson. Other players who, in limited minutes, fit the criteria were Erick Dampier, DeSagana Diop, and Andray Blatche.

What have we learned? That in the past 30 years of the NBA, when all of the stats I have been sorting by have been tracked, DeMarcus Cousins is unique. There really aren't any players like him. His best comparables are probably Danny Fortson, Antoine Walker, Karl Malone, and Cliff Robinson. Players don't put up the kind of numbers Cousins had if they aren't any good. On the other hand, if they do certain things as badly as Cousins has, they don't stay on the court very long. He's already practically a 20-10-3 guy. If he cuts down on the mistakes*, he's an all-star. If he can't, he's a less valuable offensive player than Bruce Bowen ever was. Unfortunately, considering the organization he's with, that kind of improvement seems unlikely in the short term.**

*i.e., make fewer bad passes, show better awareness on defense, and take more shots closer to the basket.
**I think the only player in recent memory to improve after going to the Kings has been Beno Udrih, for some strange reason.