Once upon a time, Scottie Pippen was an amazing basketball paper. In seventeen seasons he produced 203.1 wins. His Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] for his career was 0.237, which is well above the average mark of 0.100. In sum, he had a wonderful NBA career (emphasis on the word “had”).
If we look at his year-by-year numbers, posted in the following table, we see the classic player performance profile.
His rookie season he was below average. In his sophomore season he became an above average performer. Further improvements were seen in seasons three and four. After season four he had a collection of extremely productive campaigns. But after posting a WP48 of 0.223 in 1999-00 (with Portland), his last four seasons were progressively worse. In his last season, back with the Chicago Bulls, he returned to what he was as a rookie.
Today he is a 41 year old ex-NBA player who wants to help an NBA team win a title. But the help he offers involves taking minutes from a current player. Given his below average level of productivity in 2003-04, exactly how would it help a team seeking an NBA title to allocate its scarce supply of minutes to such a player?
Easy answer — it probably won’t.
Here is the problem facing Pippen. In basketball, 41 is an old man. Although he can remember what it was like being a very good player (and Pippen was very good), his body is probably not going to let that happen today. And there isn’t anything Pippen can do about this fact.
Yes, if he plays only limited minutes for a team he won’t hurt his new team very much. But why should a team trying to win a title bother to give minutes to a player who can only promise “not to hurt his team too much”?