On Tuesday the Denver Nuggets essentially gave their most productive player – Marcus Camby – to the LA Clippers. Well “gave” is not quite the correct word. The Nuggets did get a trade exception and the right to swap second round picks in 2010. Although these resources could have value, it’s not clear at this point what that value is going to be. It does seem clear that a player who produced 21 wins for the Nuggets – and posted a 0.365 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] – should be worth more. In sum – and I think you can tell this from the reaction of both Denver fans and head coach George Karl – it looks like Denver has taken a step back.
The impact this move has on the Nuggets, though, is not the subject of this post. This post is going to examine the impact of this transaction on the Clippers.
At first glance it looks like the Clippers are suddenly quite good. The team already signed Baron Davis (11.8 Wins Produced and 0.177 WP48 last season). And Chris Kaman (10.1 Wins Produced as 0.233 WP48 last season) is returning. With Camby on board, the top three players on the Clippers in 2008-09 produced 42.9 wins last season.
To put that number in perspective, the three most productive players in Boston in 2007-08 – Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo – produced 41.6 wins. And led by this trio the Celtics went on to win 66 games and an NBA Championship. Typically, the top three players produce 80% of a team’s wins (refer to the original post on the Pareto Principle for details on this rough rule of thumb). The top three in Boston, though, produced only 61% of the team’s Wins Produced. So the Celtics had more than just Garnett, Pierce, and Rondo (Ray Allen, James Posey, and Leon Powe immediately leap to mind).
The Clippers supporting cast – as detailed below – is not going to remind anyone of the Celtics. Still, if the Clippers supporting cast could follow the dictates of the Pareto Principle, and Camby, Davis, and Kaman maintained their production from 2007-08, the Clippers could expect to win about 54 games and contend for a playoff spot.
But it doesn’t look like the Clippers have heard of Vilfredo Pareto.
Unlike the Celtics, after the top three the Clippers have basically nothing.
As Table One notes (posted in May in my review of this team), the Clippers received 17 wins from Kaman and Corey Maggette last season. The rest of the team, though, produced only 4.6 wins.
To this meager supporting cast the Clippers have added rookies Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, and Mike Taylor. Erich Doerr’s analysis, though, indicates that all three struggled last year. So it seems unlikely that the Clippers will get much help from their 2008 draft choices.
With little help from the draft or the supporting cast, it looks like the Clippers are going to be relying primarily on Camby, Kaman, and Davis to produce their wins. And if these players give what they gave last season, this team can expect to win about 42 games.
Challenging a Record
For most NBA teams, 43 wins is nice, but hardly cause for celebration. For the Clippers, though, 43 wins is not far off the Clippers best mark of 47 victories in 2005-06 (the Buffalo Braves won 49 games in 1974-75). In fact, if the Clippers do manage to get a little something beyond their top three, it’s possible the Clippers could post the franchise best mark for victories in 2008-09.
Unfortunately, that plan depends upon Camby playing and producing the entire season. This is the same Camby who has played more than 70 games only twice in his career and who turns 35 next March. In other words, there is a reason why the Nuggets decided to move forward without the aging Camby.
And Camby is not the only player who has trouble staying on the court. Although Baron Davis played in all 82 games last year, the previous five seasons saw Davis miss 110 regular season contests (or nearly one-third of all games). Furthermore, Chris Kaman missed 26 games last year (yes, that’s also nearly one-third).
Obviously if any of the top three miss a substantial chunk of the season, the franchise record set by that immortal team from 2005-06 will not be threatened. And then people might question the wisdom of swapping second round draft choices to acquire Camby (okay, can’t see that happening).
Let me close this brief post by noting that much of what I said was already noted in the comments in my last column (The Brand Value). So if you already read those comments (or actually wrote those comments), I apologize for wasting your time with this post. Unfortunately I can’t comment on these events quite as fast as the astute readers of this blog. Maybe it would be better if I just started posting the comments (hmmmmm…, now that would be a time-saver).
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Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.
Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:
Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.