Archives For January 2005

Whither Devean

 —  January 24, 2005

According to Joel Meyers and the Los Angeles Times this morning, Devean George should be back on the roster within a week.

He’s a familiar face that will make a lot of Laker fans happy, but not me — I’ve never been a big George fan. I think right now they are getting more out of Jumaine Jones coming off the bench than they will from George. Plus, the return of George presents two other questions: Who goes on the IR to clear room for him? What about the glut at small forward — can we trade Devean, or Luke Walton?

First, let me explain that I think George is one of those players who has the reputation and — thanks to hitting a few key shots — gives the perception that he is better than he actually is. Last season, George’s PER was 11.53 (the league average is 15), his opponents PER was 15.2, his Roland Rating was +0.4 (meaning that averaged over 48 minutes, the team was about the same with him on or off the court) and his eFG% was 46.5% (right about the league average of 47% last season). Lest you think that was a one-year aberration because of Karl Malone’s presence (or any other reason), George’s PER in the 2002-03 season was 11.35, his Roland Rating was +.1 and his eFG% was 44%.

Those are pretty pedestrian numbers. For comparison, this season Jumaine Jones (who has taken over the first small forward off the bench role) has a PER of 14.53, an opponents PER of 12.8, an eFG% of 56.1% and leads the team in Roland Rating at +13.6.

While I may not think much of George, he appears to have a good reputation around the league, which makes him good trade bait. With the Lakers’ glut at the three, they need to trade at least one small forward, and I would put George at the top of the list of people to move. The question is what they can get for him — I’d personally settle for a first-round draft pick next season (the Lakers would be without one if they make the playoffs) and a scrub/salary filler if needed. As we have discussed before, while the Lakers need to get a point or a four in a trade, I’m not sure there’s anyone they can get for George or anyone else.

In the short term, who will go off the roster to make way for George? The logical choice is Tony Bobbit, who was activated when Kobe went on the IR but has never seen the court. The problem there is if Butler or another guard is injured, the Lakers will be very thin in the backcourt. The other option is to put one of the two forwards not seeing court on IR time to make way — Luke Walton or Slava Medvedenko. To me, this makes more sense in terms of the numbers game, but it would be a shame to see one of two guys itching for their chance to be put on the shelf.

Basketball and Doug Pappas

 —  January 22, 2005

One simple and easy way to see what teams are choosing their players and spending their money well is to divide the number of wins into the money spent on payroll.

Kevin Broom over at Real GM has done that, and here’s what he found.

1. Phoenix Suns $680,040
2. San Antonio Spurs $740,041
3. Seattle Supersonics $870,239
4. Cleveland Cavaliers $981,325
5. Washington Wizards $992,984
14. LA Lakers $1,468,112

28. Portland Trail Blazers $2,484,539
29. NY Knicks $2,719,063
30. New Orleans Hornets $4,977,440

This can be used for any sport and can tell you a few things. But the late, great Doug Pappas went one better with “Marginal Wins per Marginal Dollar. (Pappas’ “Business of Baseball” was one of the first sports blogs I started reading regularly and his is one voice that has not, and maybe cannot, be replaced.)

Let me explain his concept, as applied to basketball: Let’s say the biggest idiot you work with (I know, there’s a lot to choose from) was given control of an NBA team. Said person is cheap and doesn’t care about winning (insert your Donald Sterling joke here). Well, the NBA not only has a soft salary cap, they have a salary floor (this season that’s $32.9 million). What’s more, as bad a team as your coworker fields, they’ll probably win about 10 games, only one NBA team has ever done worse.

Pappas figured that to calculate wins per dollar from the worst that could be expected was a better way to figure who was spending wisely than just the basic system seen above. He was right.

And Kevin Broom deserves some courtside seats next to Jack for pulling together Marginal Wins per Marginal Dollars for this season as well (using the league minimum payroll and a 10-win pace).

Thing is, you see a lot of the same teams so far this season:

1. Phoenix Suns $207,000
2. San Antonio Spurs $263,812
3. Seattle Supersonics $400,334
4. Cleveland Cavaliers $405,692
5. LA Clippers $419,676
14. LA Lakers $955,636

27. NY Knicks $2,512,677
28. Atlanta Hawks $2,906,998
29. New Orleans Hornets $20,583,951

(As a side note, the expansion Charlotte Bobcats were not included in this because they are allowed to operate under the salary minimum this year.)

Still, it tells you that most of the top teams in the NBA don’t spend their money blindly — they are looking for value. That’s what smart owners in any sport do. I’d also argue that NBA “moneyball” stats can help a team do that more efficiently.

On Tap: The Golden State Warriors

 —  January 21, 2005

Didn’t we just watch this game?

Actually, tonight’s game should not be a repeat of last Saturday’s for a couple of reasons. The key one is that Jason Richardson has returned to the Warrior lineup, and did so with a vengeance against Denver Monday, scoring 42. The Warriors are a jump-shooting team (71% of their shots come from 15 feet or more) and they don’t shoot well as a team, but Richardson does (48% eFG%). Richardson has the best PER on the Warriors by far, 18.59.

His return gives the Lakers some serious match-up trouble tonight. Speedy Claxton and Richardson will start in the backcourt, then Derek Fisher — he of the 29 points last game — comes off the bench. Atkins (and Brown) will struggle with Claxton and we’ll see if Butler can hang with Richardson. Sasha’s been getting minutes with Kobe out, but he may be overmatched one-on-one against any of the main three in the Golden State backcourt. The Lakers are going to need Chris Mihm and Odom to slow any penetration and block a few shots, but without getting in foul trouble. Some zone defense may help as well.

Odom really took charge of the offense for the Lakers last game against Golden State, including hitting the shot over Robinson to win it. However, last game he saw one-on-one defense almost exclusively, let’s see how he and the rest of the team handles the double teams that will come.

The Lakers are going to need a good games from Odom and Atkins if they are going to attack the Warriors’ defensive weaknesses (based on oPER). Last Saturday, they were the Lakers two leading scorers. If Atkins plays the kind of all-around game we saw against Minnesota, things may bode well for the Lakers. Also, this is a game where Mihm should be able to get some points inside.

Every game the Lakers win with Kobe out helps not only in the playoff chase but also in team confidence. Tonight can be another step down that road, especially with more difficult games against Seattle and New Jersey looming next week.

Carlos Arroyo Not Coming West

 —  January 21, 2005

For those of you who have been lusting — or if that’s too strong a word, lets say drooling — over the prospect of Carlos Arroyo in a Laker uniform, you’re dreams are not coming true. Same with those dreams about Eva Longoria, but that’s a different matter.

As first rumored by Peter Vecsey in the New York Post today Arroyo has been traded to Detroit in a swap for Elden Campbell and a first-round pick. This isn’t a surprise, Utah wanted both a big guy to grab boards and get rebounds in the paint, plus some cap flexibility, and they get that. At first glance this deal gives the Pistons some depth at the point, but not having Campbell to body up and foul Shaq in the playoffs may come back to haunt Detroit.

I think Mitch would like to make a trade for a point, maybe a four, but there just are not good options out there for him.

The Other Bryant

 —  January 21, 2005

Sometimes I think we forget that Kobe is a second-generation NBA player, his father a 76er back in the 70s who went on to play eight years in Italy. Basketball-reference says similar players to him now are Hedo Turkoglu or Detlef Schrempf.

Jellybean is still on the court today, coaching the Boston Fury of the ABA (one of the minor leagues floating around out there). At age 50, he even played a few games for his team and averaged almost 20 points and 5 rebounds per contest.

There’s a nice story in today’s Providence Journal about him.

I hope his team sticks it out. For those who haven’t followed the ABA — and my guess is that’s most of you (I have just by reading the papers in Long Beach) — here’s a brief run down: The league was resurrected a few years back, complete with the red, white and blue basketballs and some rules designed to generate high-paced, high scoring games. Last season, the Long Beach Jam won the title but — in a sign of the financial struggles of the league — it almost didn’t come back for this season.

In a business decision rivaling New Coke, the ABA’s owners decided heading into this season the best way to deal with financial uncertainty in the league would be rapid expansion. The ABA grew from eight teams last season to 37 this season, including one at the Forum in Inglewood and one in Orange County that never had a home. The whole thing went about as well as you can imagine — already a number of teams have folded, including Orange County. Team owners have serious regrets. The league, at least in this form and likely in any, will not be back next year.

Somehow, I still think Jellybean will land on his feet somewhere. And will land on a basketball court.