Building a Winner in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Nets announced Sunday that they have signed Keyon Dooling.   Dooling is coming off his best season, which suggests this move might help.  At least, until we learn what “best” means for Dooling. With the Orlando Magic in 2007-08, Dooling produced 1.4 wins in 1,334 minutes.  This works out to a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] of 0.050.  Average is 0.100, so Dooling was not exactly good. And yes, that’s the best he has ever done.

The Dooling move is quite consistent with the other moves the Nets have made this summer.  So far this off-season the Nets have added – in addition to Dooling — the following players:

Yi Jianlian [-0.056 WP48 in 2007-08]

Jarvis Hayes [0.048 WP48 in 2007-08]

Bobby Simmons [-0.022 WP48 in 2007-08]

Eduardo Najera [0.038 WP48 in 2007-08]

Brook Lopez [rookie who Erich Doerr's analysis does not treat favorably]

These six players are added to the following returning talents:

Devin Harris [0.135 WP48 in 2007-08 with Nets]

Vince Carter [0.181 WP48 in 2007-08]

Josh Boone [0.154 WP48 in 2007-08]

Sean Williams [0.070 WP48 in 2007-08]

Marcus Williams [0.051 WP48 in 2007-08]

Now if we look at these numbers we see that none of the six players the Nets added this summer look to be more productive than the five rotation players the team retained.  In sum, it looks like the Nets – who won only 34 games last year – are not heading in the right direction.

A Different Perspective on the Nets 

At least that’s what Wins Produced indicates.  Rod Thorn – the team’s president and architect of this team -is more optimistic about the Nets.  Here is what Thorn said in the New York Daily News:

“I feel better about this team going forward than I did a month ago,” Thorn said Wednesday after officially announcing the signings of the two most recent additions, veteran forwards Eduardo Najera and Jarvis Hayes. “We’ve gotten bigger, we’ve gotten younger and we’ve gotten stronger. Over the past six months, we’ve lost a great player in Jason and a heck of a player in Richard, so we’ll have to see. But long-term, I feel better about our team.”

The long-term that Thorn may be talking about is 2010.  That is the summer of LeBron, or the summer when the New Jersey (or Brooklyn) Nets hope to lure King James from Cleveland to New York.  It’s suspected that the moves the Nets are making now are not designed to win games this season or in 2009-10, but rather done to create enough cap space to sign LeBron.

I don’t think one needs Wins Produced to know that Yi Jianlian, Dooling, Najera, and Hayes are not the core players a championship team requires.  And if this is true, it makes the LeBron conspiracy all the more plausible.

The Fan’s Response

If the Nets are in full “LeBron pursuit” mode, though, one wonders what fans of this team should do over the next two years.  Generally when you buy tickets to see your favorite team play, you hope your favorite team is trying to win games. But the Nets don’t look like they are putting together a winner in 2008-09 or 2009-10.  This means that for two years, the Nets are going to be among the NBA’s losers.  So should fans buy tickets to see this team play?  Or should fans of this team simply wait until the Nets actually field a competitive squad?

Sports fans don’t like to be accused of being “fair-weather fans.”  In other words, people seem to take pride in their willingness to be supportive even when their team is a loser.  It’s odd, though, that we don’t see this behavior in other areas. You don’t hear people return to a restaurant that serves food that doesn’t taste good.  Or hear people say “I was eating here when it was awful.  But I kept coming because I wanted to be here when it was good.”

What we don’t see with respect to restaurants, though, we often see with respect to sports fans.  The “true” fans of the Nets are simply going to suck it up and keep watching this team lose.

What will LeBron do?

Will all that losing, though, be worthwhile? Does LeBron need to come to New York?  It used to be the case that living in New York was quite advantageous for an athlete.  Advertising people tended to live in New York and they seemed to want to cast their favorite athletes in commercials.  If you watch TV, though, you have seen LeBron in many commercials.  Apparently, living in Ohio – where LeBron is from – has not prevented LeBron from earning money off the basketball court.

It’s possible that LeBron is not motivated by outside earnings, but rather by winning.  And since Cleveland has not provided him with the best supporting cast, King James might be willing to look elsewhere. But is King James going to win in New Jersey (or Brooklyn)?  When we look at the current cast in New Jersey, it’s hard to see that happening.  At least the supporting cast in New Jersey doesn’t look any better than what we see in Cleveland. 

Of course if the Nets keep losing and adding lottery picks, maybe the picture will change.  But that picture is going to involve much losing before it changes.  And the fans buying tickets are still going to have to pay to see a team that is often going to leave a bad taste in their mouth.

- DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.

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