Is Vince Carter the Problem in New Jersey?

The Nets won 49 games last year and fully expected to dominate a very weak Atlantic Division. But after 29 games the Nets have only won 11 contests and find themselves in third place in the weakest division in the history of professional team sports. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports argues that the problem is the attitude and play of Vince Carter. If we look at the team’s Wins Produced this year, though, we see a different answer.

Last year this team consisted of three stars – Carter, Jason Kidd, and Richard Jefferson – and very little else. This year Kidd is still amazing. In 2005-06 he posted a Wins Produced per 48 minutes of 0.382. This year his WP48 stands at 0.370. Carter is not quite that good, but still above average. Last year his WP48 was 0.190, this year it has dropped a bit to 0.179. Again, that’s still quite good.

The third member of the trio is Richard Jefferson, who Wojnarowski indicates has been injured. Last year he played small forward for the Nets and had a WP48 of 0.244. This year he is spending time at both forward spots and his WP48 is now in the negative range. This is a dramatic change in player performance. If we look at the individual stats we see a player who is rebounding less and shooting less efficiently.

If Jefferson was playing as well as he did last year this team would be on pace to win about 49 games. In other words, they would be about where they were last year. Given that this team did little to improve itself in the off-season, this is what we would expect. Jefferson, though, has offered considerably less this season and consequently the team’s fortunes have declined.

So here is the situation facing the decision-makers for the Nets. If Jefferson can become healthy and return to form, then the Nets can expect their team to improve in the near future. If not, then this team needs to make changes. Given the talents of Kidd and Carter this team should be contending. But when no one else on the roster helps, the talent of these two stars is just wasted.

I would note that it’s possible that the Nets can get additional production from rookies Josh Boone or Hassan Adams. Both have played well in extremely limited minutes. If these players are not the answer, it’s likely the Nets will need to make some changes to this roster.

And it better do so soon. Kidd and Carter are not getting any younger. It would be too bad if age robs these players of their talents before the Nets took the necessary steps to once again field a contender.

– DJ

Quick note to those making requests for analysis of specific teams. Requests have been made for the Wizards, Timberwolves, and Clippers. I hope to get to the Wizards tomorrow. The Timberwolves and Clippers are two teams I will look at this weekend or early next week.

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