Now it’s time to look at the players the NBA’s assistant coaches have chosen to play in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam. Although the name of the event is somewhat unclear (what’s a “Youth Jam”?), this is the NBA’s Junior All-Star game between the “best” first-year and second-year players.
The assistant coaches selected the following nine first-year players to play for the Rookie team (Wins Produced and Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] are listed with each player).
- Brandon Roy [2.3 Wins, 0.164 WP48]
- Jordan Farmar [2.1 Wins, 0.148 WP48]
- Paul Millsap [2.1 Wins, 0.159 WP48]
- Jorge Garbajosa [1.0 Wins, 0.044 WP48]
- Randy Foye [0.5 Wins, 0.027 WP48]
- Marcus Williams [0.0 Wins, 0.003 WP48]
- Rudy Gay [-0.4 Wins, -0.022 WP48]
- Andrea Bargnani [-1.2 Wins, -0.063 WP48]
- Adam Morrison [-3.8 Wins, -0.136 WP48]
The Wins Produced and WP48 for each player is based solely on what these players did across the first 41 games of the season. These players played a total 7,730 minutes in the first half of the season and produced a combined 2.5 wins. This level of wins production in this time translates into a WP48 of 0.015. If this was an NBA team, we would expect to see 6.3 wins over an 82 game season. In other words, the Rookie Team is really, really bad.
Before we get to which Rookies the assistant coaches left home, let’s look at the Sophomore team.
- David Lee [9.8 Wins, 0.386 WP48]
- Chris Paul [5.7 Wins, 0.272 WP48]
- Andrew Bynum [3.0 Wins, 0.175 WP48]
- Andrew Bogut [4.6 Wins, 0.165 WP48]
- Luther Head [4.0 Wins, 0.161 WP48]
- Deron Williams [4.9 Wins, 0.155 WP48]
- Danny Granger [3.4 Wins, 0.128 WP48]
- Raymond Felton [2.9 Wins, 0.094 WP48]
- Monta Ellis [0.0 Wins, 0.001 WP48]
The Sophomores played 11,081 minutes and produced 38.3 wins in the first half of the season. This translates into a WP48 of 0.166. An NBA team that has an average WP48 of 0.166 would expect to see 68.1 wins across an 82 game schedule. In other words, the Sophomore team is really, really good.
To put this game in perspective, the best team in NBA history – the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96 – won 72 games. The worst team was the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who only won 9 games. In essence, T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam is pitting a team similar to the best in NBA history against a collection of talent similar to the worst in NBA history.
Is there anything that could have been done to give the Rookies a better chance in this contest?
Last week I posted a projection of the 2007 All-Rookie team (which I am re-posting below).
This table indicates that the assistant coaches could have built a better team. The production of M. Williams, Gay, Bargnani, and Morrison was either close to or in the negative range in the first half of the season. Each of these players could have been replaced by the following four rookies.
- Shelden Williams [2.4 Wins, 0.127 WP48]
- Craig Smith [2.3 Wins, 0.168 WP48]
- Rajon Rondo [1.8 Wins, 0.137 WP48]
- Renaldo Balkman [1.5 Wins, 0.140 WP48]
These changes would raise the Rookies collective WP48 to 0.115, which translates into 47.3 wins over an 82 game season. Yes, that’s still not quite as good as the Sophomore team, but it does narrow the difference in the relative level of production we see from each squad.
Although the Sophomore team is quite good, one player doesn’t seem to belong. Monta Ellis has shown an ability to score. But he is very prone to turnovers, which reduces his level of production. In the first half of the season we saw several sophomores that offered more than Ellis. Here are four players the assistant coaches could have considered.
- Sean May [3.1 Wins, 0.203 WP48]
- Jarrett Jack [2.8 Wins, 0.102 WP48]
- Chuck Hayes [2.7 Wins, 0.168 WP48]
- Jose Calderon [2.7 Wins, 0.176 WP48]
When we consider the Sophomore talent that was not invited it becomes quite clear that the second-year players are generally quite a bit more productive than the Rookies.
There is some evidence that players improve between their first and second seasons. So it’s possible that some of these rookies will be better in the future. For now, though, the rookies are generally not very good NBA players. And so the Junior All-Star game does not look to be as competitive as one might like.
All that being said, this is just one game, and it’s possible for even a bad team to win one game. For example, the 76ers of 72-73 did manage to win nine games. And the Bulls of 95-96 still lost 10 times, including a game against the 21-61 Toronto Raptors. So although this looks hopeless for the Rookies, upsets can happen (of course, so do embarrassments).