It’s suspected that the Boston Celtics did their best to secure one of the top two choices in the 2007 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, all their efforts didn’t pay off. When the lottery gods had spoken, the Celtics were left with the 5th choice in the draft. Despite such luck, though, it may be the case that the player Boston acquired with their pick will be the best player in 2007-08.
Let’s begin by looking at the choice. The Celtics were hoping to land either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. But with these players off the board, Boston turned to Ray Allen, a 6’5” shooting guard out of Seattle.
Allen began his career in 1996 with the Milwaukee Bucks and then moved on to the Seattle Super Sonics during the 2002-03 campaign. Across eleven years he has produced 105 wins with a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] of 0.170. An average player will offer a WP48 of 0.100, so Allen has been well above average in his career. Unfortunately Allen has already played eleven seasons, so it seems unlikely that he will be very productive for too many more years. Still, if all we focus on is 2007-08, it’s certainly a strong possibility that Allen will produce more wins next season than anyone else acquired on draft night.
Across his career, Allen has averaged 37.5 minutes per game. Given this average, if Allen posts a 0.170 WP48 across 75 games, he will produced ten wins this next season.
If we go back to 1993 we see that only fifteen rookies have produced ten wins or more their rookie season (and if I wasn’t traveling I would post the list). To put that in perspective, 29 NBA sophomores have produced at least ten wins in a season since 1993. And when we look at third and fourth year players we see that in each case 39 players have produced at least ten victories. In sum, ten wins out of a rookie is somewhat rare. The Celtics, though, acquired with their draft pick (and Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak) a player who has a good chance of producing ten victories in 2007-08. So although this may not be a good move beyond next season, for the immediate future the Celtics look to be improved.
How much better off, though, is this team? In July we are not entirely sure what the final roster that takes the floor in November will look like. Still, we can play the game of “what if” and make a guess.
Imagine if the Celtics gave these minutes to the following players (WP48 from 2006-07 reported)?
– Rajon Rondo: 30 minutes, 0.189 WP48
– Ray Allen: 36 minutes, 0.170 WP48
– Paul Pierce: 36 minutes, 0.202 WP48
– Ryan Gomes: 24 minutes, 0.032 WP48
– Al Jefferson: 32 minutes, 0.252 WP48
– Sebastian Telfair: 18 minutes, -0.052 WP48
– Tony Allen: 12 minutes, 0.179 WP48
– Gerald Green: 12 minutes, -0.042 WP48
– Brian Scalabrine: 12 minutes, -0.133 WP48
– Leon Powe: 12 minutes, 0.113 WP48
– Kendrick Perkins: 16 minutes, 0.042 WP48
When we look at the starters we see four players that are well above average. Who plays with Jefferson in the frontcourt is still an open question, but regardless of who is chosen, this looks like a good starting unit. The bench is a bit of a problem. Of the reserves, only Tony Allen and Leon Powe are above average. T. Allen was hurt last year, so we don’t know if he will fully recover. And it’s not clear that Powe will even get significant minutes.
Still, if we have correctly identified the players Boston will put on the court, guessed the minutes each player will get per game, and observe the reported WP48 for each player, then the Celtics can expect to win about 48 games. In other words, if all these guesses are right this team could expect to double the number of games the team won last year.
Of course, and this point needs to be emphasized, there are many problems with these guesses. First of all we need to note that the forecast only considered eleven players. So the first question is – who else is going to play on this team?
Additionally I can think of three more questions: Will Telfair be on this team in November (he really doesn’t help, but he was part of the forecast)? Will both Ray and Tony Allen recover fully from injuries (they do have to recover for this team to be successful)? And again, who is going to pair with Jefferson in the frontcourt? In sum, there are many, many unanswered questions.
So although I said 48 wins, it is way too early to make such a specific forecast. What we can say is that it’s likely the Celtics will be much better next year and should contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In other words, the drafting of Ray Allen may be a pretty good choice, if all that matters is the 2007-08 season.
And given the disaster that was 2006-07, all that might matter for Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers is next season. If this next campaign doesn’t go much better, both might be living elsewhere in 2008.