The NBA Offseason List part 3: A Sound of Thunder

“Stay out of this!” Travis shook his hand away. “This fool nearly killed us. But it isn’t that so much, no. It’s his shoes! Look at them! He ran off the Path. That ruins us! We’ll forfeit! Thousands of dollars of insurance! We guarantee no one leaves the Path. He left it. Oh, the fool! I’ll have to report to the government. They might revoke our license to travel. Who knows what he’s done to Time, to History!” –
Ray Bradbury, “A Sound of Thunder,” in
R is for Rocket, (New York: Doubleday, 1952)

In a different world, things played out differently. The right choice was made. The trade never happened.

At the end of the 2012 season, the OKC Thunder were coming off an appearance as the youngest ever team in the NBA finals by two years (25.2 for Thunder, 27.1 for the 91 Bulls). And given the age progression of teams, there was every reason to believe they would dominate the next decade.

Then for some weird reason, Sam Presti decided to trade James Harden for what — unless a miracle occurs — amounts to a cup of coffee, instead of amnestying Kendrick Perkins. And then this happened:

Morey wins

Morey wins (the flowchart is from Mike Prada, see link below)

The Rockets converted:

  • 1 year of Kevin Martin
  • Jeremy Lamb (who i’m projecting for three minutes a game next season, good job!)
  • A second rounder from the Bobcats (Álex Abrines)
  • A first rounder from the Mavs, top twenty protected through 2017, unprotected in 2018
  • The Raptors 2013 first rounder (Steven Adams)

Into the 22 year old, best shooting guard in the league.

(Note: A full masterful breakdown of how the rockets converted the assets from the 2009 team to this without tanking is here By Mike Prada @MikePradaSBN)

The Rockets also got him at the expense of their principal obstacle among Western Conference teams.  Add in stealing the best center in the League (in his prime!) from the perennial best team in the West (at no cost as a direct result of that trade!) and OKC quite possibly cost themselves a few banners.

Just to keep Kendrick Perkins in the locker room.

One decision changed the course of the NBA.

No..well, yes but not this one.

No..well, yes but not this one.

The big question though is if it’s irrevocable.

Keep that in mind as I give you a full accounting of the state of the league, including a complete evaluation of every contract and the value of each player in the league for the next five years. For reference, this is version number 3. Previous parts are here and here and serve as a nice chronicle of the offseason so far.

List 4

That’s the up-to-date (as of 12:01 AM EST, 7/17/13 ) list of all players, signed and unsigned. Players are sorted by team and expected value over the next five year. Now that I have some time, I’m going to walk you through everything.

  • Player Vitals: simple enough; name, old team, new team, contract status at start of offseason, position over last three years, age right now, minutes per game (this is the greater of the average minutes played for all games over last three years or last year) and Wins Produced per 48 minutes for the last three years.
  • Projected Wins: using the player’s age, minutes per game, Wins Produced per 48 for the last three years and the Age Model, I project the player’s expected Wins Produced for each of the next five years. The big enhancement here is that I went through the minute rotations in more detail and I used raw productivity to account for size in the projection.
  • Market Value: I then estimate the value of those wins using the data from Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and general math (see here or here for a nice illustration of the method). Basically I work out the BRI (basketball Related income), divide it by two (player share) and then divide it by 30 teams and 41 wins. I take that value, multiply it by the Wins Produced by the player, and I get the player’s market value.
  • Target Contract Amount is just me giving you a look at the total dollar amount the player is worth in a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 year deal, as well as the player value rank based on the value of a five year deal with the player.
  • Win Delta is meant as an objective measure of the value of the contract. Simply put it’s the difference between the wins paid for by the player’s contract and the actual wins expected from the player. Contract Rank is then a measure of the contracts with the best and worst surplus wins.

Got it? Here’s the data as an excel file:

List v4

Yes, I’m so nice that I decided to include the list as an excel file for you to play with.

Let’s break it down by lists.

1. Every Player that signed a contract or got traded, ranked by the value of their contract:


This list loves long walks on the beach, CP3, Bynum, Brandan Wright, the Jared Dudley trade, Iggy, Tony, Jose, Darren, laughing at everything the Knicks do, and pretty much every contract on the Rockets roster (you go Daryl!); it hates every player on the Lakers, the Paul Pierce/Gerald Wallace trade for both sides, Kevin Martin, Utah helping Golden State out for charity, bad draft picks, biased judicial processes, Carl Landry’s track record over the last three years, the general health and composition of Golden State, Tyreke, Al and Josh getting paid, David West and his tricky injury history and age, and Andrea Bargnani as a general principle.

It’s definitely here for the right reasons.

2. Every remaining prospective free agent ranked by five year value (has to have played in the league in the past three years — sorry Greg Oden):


That one is pretty self explanatory. We are officially at the point where Brandon Jennings is a real option. I don’t really get why Ronnie Brewer is still unsigned. Blair and Dalembert are nice bargain bigs.

Indiana, Memphis, Thunder, Spurs, Rockets, Nets are all teams that should be thinking “Mike Miller is available for the minimum? We should call him.” Keep in mind Miller played at star level for the playoffs and in a Finals with at least eight future Hall of Famers (by my count).

What does it all actually mean in terms of teams and their rosters? Here’s where a rather more involved early season win projection comes in. I did both a simple win projection, a win projection using size and a margin of error considering age and ranges of performance over the last three years. I also included financials for grins and giggles. It looks like so:


Let’s review bottom to top:

  • The Lakers have Blake, Farmar, Young, Meeks, Wesley, Hill, Sacre, and Kaman on their roster. I was kind and assumed that Pau and Nash were 1 and 2 for minutes for the season. I have Kobe coming back early. It doesn’t matter; that is a freaking travesty of a roster. The Lakers are the worst team in the NBA by a country mile right now and are the odds on favorite in tankapaloza 2014.
  • The Knicks, oh the Knicks. Felton, JR, MWP, Melo, and Bargs; never has a lineup with less shooting conscience come together. The Knicks are the YOLOVoltron. Never change, James Dolan.
  • Sacramento, Phoenix, and Orlando are not far behind.
  • The Pelicans, Blazers, Celtics, and Sixers all have young rosters with potential and could go either way. No way to tell if they quit on the season. Ditto for the Bobcats.
  • Indiana is hurt by their lack of depth in this model which flattens minute allocation out on purpose. When I do my modeling further on in the offseason, I’ll make their lineup more top heavy in minutes and that will move them up to the 42-47 range as an average. Nevertheless, age and depth are a huge concern for this team. Not a lot of margin for error.
  • Minnesota and Golden State are two peas in a pod. They have porcelain rosters. The model is very, very, very wary of going top heavy in minutes for either team. Both could get into the fifty win range or drop like stones. Golden state is getting killed in particular by their lack of depth at the five and four.
  • Brooklyn is really, really, really old. They also have a very tricky roster. I suspect they’ll figure it out on pain of death, but I also think their final win total will depend on how bad the tanking gets. They’ll be a a better playoff team.
  • Denver and Dallas are afterthoughts in the West.
  • Lots of scrappy young teams in the East: Sixers, Celtics, Bucks, Hawks, Raptors, Pistons, Wizards, and the Cavs. I suspect the 4th seed fight will be the Hawks, Raptors, Pacers and Wizards. I think that the Bucks, Pistons, and Cavs will be the eight seed fight. Don’t trust Bynum’s knee yet.
  • Memphis, Chicago, and — surprisingly — Utah look to be the second tier contenders.
  • The top of the league is really crowded with some tremendous teams. The Heat and Spurs, though a year older, will still be there at the present. The Clippers are better and want to inherit the throne. The Rockets look to be on the verge and may in the future. But the top team in the league?

There is a sound of Thunder.


P.S. Thought i’d throw in the link to the Ray Bradbury short story quoted in the post. Do yourself a favor and read it if you haven’t.

P.P.S.Here’s a fun an interactive version of the team data for you all to play with.

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