“Where there is no Standard there can be no Improvement” – Taiichi Ohno
That table up top is where the GM in me would begin when prepping his offseason strategy for his team.
One of the key ideas pounded into my head as an improvement engineer was the idea that before I decide to take action, I must understand what the situation is. I must know what I am working with. I must establish a baseline based on the data I have available. I must understand the goals and standards I am working against.
If I don’t know where I am and I have no idea where I am going, how in the world will I ever get there?
It’s therefore logical for me to apply this kind of analysis to NBA teams prior to making any sort of judgement on how they did in the offseason. I need to know what they were actually working with, I need to set some targets and I need to figure out what the process looks like over time. That’s because hope, faith and blind luck really is not a plan
Let’s start at the beginning, the goal of an NBA GM is to build a team that will be a contender over the course of time and have a chance to win a title. To be specific, we want a team that:
- Will win 52 or more games
- Have either >2 Stars , > Star + Superstar or > 2 Superstars. Where a star has >=.180 Wins Produced per 48 / >= 2.5 Points over Par (PoP) per 48 and a superstar has >=.260 WP48 / >= 5 POP
- Do it over the course of multiple seasons (for the purposes of this exercise let’s say five seasons).
If our roster is close to that we want to make small moves to get it there. If our roster is not close we want to get more radical.
We also need to keep age in mind.
Young rosters improve, old rosters decay. Too old a roster means it’s time to blow a team up or do a major retooling.
To be clear, the evaluation will be with the rosters that each team had for last season. Trades, the draft and all other offseason moves will not be considered.
It is after all a baseline.
Let’s look at those rosters shall we?
One of the interesting points I considered when doing this analysis is that teams change during the course of the season, some more than others. To capture that I looked at numbers for the whole season as well as pre and post trade deadline. I looked at the productivity and age of each roster (weighted by minutes played) and projected the performance of the rosters as they were for the next five years.
And that is how we come full circle.
- Based on the performance on the rosters last year, there were four teams who looked to have set rosters for the future: OKC, Chicago, Philly and San Antonio. OKC and San Antonio predictably stayed the course (improve through the draft and the fact that they’re smarter than everyone else). Chicago and Philadelphia somewhat predictably panicked. Chicago overrated the impact of Rose on their fortunes. Philadelphia replaced good with bad (hello Nick Young).
- Minnesota and Washington both turned in some very good halves of the year. The twolves were a good young team that got hurt and they proceeded to capitalize in the offseason. Washington was good post deadline and made some offseason moves to get better.
- Dallas, the Lakers,the Suns the Celtics and Miami to a lesser degree all had aging rosters. Dallas continued to dismantle their championship team in the hopes of landing a star but they have not been very successful so far. The Suns moved rapidly to the bottom of the West after perennial contention. The Lakers made some splashy moves that kept them in the game for next year and gave them the blueprint of their next (and rapidly approaching rebuild). The Celtics took some shots in the draft and in Europe to attempt to retool. Miami stood pat for the most part but they will need to retool fairly soon is they want to not make Lebron a liar (i.e not one ,not two …)
Now we just need to review every team in detail.