Friday, July 6, 2007

Vegas Summer League starts today

The Vegas Summer League starts today. Annoyingly, I can't find a complete roster for the Sixers' summer league team, but a partial list of players competing includes:
2007 NBA Draft acquisitions Derrick Byars, Herbert Hill, Jason Smith and Thaddeus Young, along with Louis Amundson, Rodney Carney, Bobby Jones, Shavlik Randolph and Louis Williams.
You can also find a complete schedule, along with other summer league information, here.

What I'm really excited about is that the NBA is making all 55 games available as live video webcasts. The Sixers' first game is at 4:00 pm (EST) this afternoon, so hopefully I'll have a chance to watch the game and post some comments (but no guarantees-- I'm attending a bachelor party this weekend that starts with dinner tonight, so I might run out of time before I have a chance to post).

[Update: I found it very hard to focus on the small screen that the NBA feed was webcast on, so I didn't really follow the game. I'll try and do better for another game at some point.]


I was all set to write a post today about how the Sixers should make an offer for Yi Jianlian since his agent's comments indicate a strong lack of desire on his part to play for Milwaukee. Then I read this article a few minutes ago in which Larry Harris (the Bucks GM) says that they have no interest in trading Yi.

Oh well.

You know what? The Sixers should still make an offer. The worst that can happen is that Milwaukee says no. I doubt we can get him, but it's worth a try.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

High profile offers for Greg Oden

Via TrueHoop, we get directed to this article by Jason Quick in the Oregonian from this past Sunday. In it, Quick describes some of the offers that Kevin Pritchard (the Trailblazer's GM) received for the number one pick (i.e. Greg Oden) in this past draft, and apparently some of the offers were quite substantial:
  • From an Eastern conference team: A five-time All-Star and this year's lottery pick in exchange for the No. 1 pick and the Blazers' 2008 first-round pick.
  • A team within the Blazers division proposed a trade involving a future Hall of Famer and a standout rookie for the Blazers' No. 1 pick.
  • From a "Western conference power": The general manager wanted the Blazers' No. 1 pick. And he was willing to offer a player that will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Quick leaves the details on these proposed trades a bit thin, most likely to protect his sources, but I think it isn't too hard to figure out the identities of the involved parties, particularly in the first two trade scenarios.

In the first trade offer, I think it's clear that the offer was Paul Pierce and the Celtic's lottery pick (5th overall). There are only six Eastern conference teams that were in the lottery this year (Atlanta- twice, Milwaukee, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago- from New York, and Philadelphia), and Paul Pierce is the only five-time all-star on any of these rosters.

In the second trade offer, I think the offer must have been Kevin Garnett and Randy Foye. The teams in the Blazer's division are Utah, Denver, Minnesota, and Seattle. Of those teams, only Denver (Iverson) and Minnesota (Garnett) have players that I would consider certain Hall of Famers at this stage of their careers, and of those two teams only Minnesota had a standout rookie this past season.

The third trade offer I think is a bit trickier. Over at TrueHoop, Henry Abbot identifies San Antonio, Phoenix, and Dallas as the Western conference powers, eliminates Nowitzki from consideration as not a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer, eliminates Nash because the Suns attack only works with him running it, and comes to the conclusion that the Spurs offered Tim Duncan for the right to pick Greg Oden. I'm not sure I agree.

First, I find it hard to believe that the Spurs would offer Tim Duncan in a trade under any circumstances. He is, in my opinion, currently the best player in the NBA. His teams just win. And the Spurs have a very real chance to win another 2-3 NBA titles before Duncan retires. Why make a trade to get someone who may or may not one day be as good as Duncan is right now? I don't think it makes much sense, especially since the Spurs are already stockpiling talent (drafting players who continue playing overseas) for the day when Duncan is no longer the dominant force in the NBA. In addition, the same article by Quick mentions Popovich having a conversation with Pritchard, apparently before this third trade offer was made, in which Popovich talked about Pritchard having the chance to put together a twin-towers tandem even better than Duncan and David Robinson had been. I highly doubt he would have given such fulsome praise to Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge just before trying to get Pritchard to trade Oden.

If not Duncan, then who? I really don't know, but I think Henry Abbott might have read "Western conference power" too restrictively. In my mind, the two current first ballot Hall of Famers playing in the Western conference are Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. While they aren't currently a powerhouse, the Lakers are still a playoff team and they are certainly a traditional Western conference power. Especially considering all the Kobe Bryant fireworks that have gone on this summer, I think it's more likely that the mystery general manager was Mitch Kupchak (the Laker's GM) rather than RC Buford (the Spur's GM). But I guess we'll never really know.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy July 4, 1776!

And, also, happy July 4, 2007! Go eat some hot dogs and watch some fireworks.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How much is Andre Igoudala worth?

In yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, a brief note mentions that the Sixers want to sign Andre Igoudala to an extension early this summer. If the Sixers are going to sign Igoudala to an extension, then the obvious question is "how much is he worth?"

For my tastes, the article is a bit hyperbolic in describing Igoudala. He's called the "cornerstone of the franchise" and compared to Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Tracy McGrady (as the only players to average 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists last season). I like Igoudala, but I think these statements overstate his value just a tiny bit. For instance, while he might be one of only four players to average 18-5-5, those other players averaged 31.6, 27.3, and 24.6 points respectively, not just the 18.2 points averaged by Igoudala.

Igoudala is still only 23 years old, so I'm assuming that the Sixers are going to pay him at least partly in the belief that he will continue to improve over the course of his next contract. If that's the case, how much better can we expect him to get? Based on the similarity scores developed by Basketball-Reference, the answer might be "Not much."

Briefly, similarity scores are a way to compare a player's season to other player's seasons by comparing various measures of statistical production. The results tell you which players had seasons that were most nearly identical to one another. According to this measure, Andre Igoudala's season at age 23 (i.e. this past season), most closely resembles the seasons of the following players when they were 23 years old:
  • Reggie Theus
  • Derek Anderson
  • Larry Hughes
  • Ron Artest
  • Doug Christie
  • Jerry Stackhouse
  • Steve Smith
  • Ricky Davis
  • Doc Rivers
  • Bob Sura
Many of these players are quite good and have had long, relatively distinguished NBA careers. On the other hand, most of these players never reached the stage where they were the cornerstones of legitimate title contenders. And, in many cases, many of them never sustained a level of play that was substantially higher than their performance as 23 year olds (when measured on a per 40 minute basis). Often they had a year or two of much better play, but then they returned to their more customary level of performance.

In negotiating with Igoudala, I hope the Sixers keep this sort of historical information in mind. He's a good player, but he should be paid like what he will most likely end up being in the long-run based on these comparisons--the third or fourth best player on a team with legitimate championship aspirations.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Shawn Bradley: Not as bad as you think

The other day, the Philadelphia Inquirer had a reader poll asking "Who is the 76ers' worst draft pick ever?" Not surprisingly, Shawn Bradley "won" by a substantial margin--he had 55%, and his nearest "competitor," Sharone Wright had 12%.

I'm not quite sure how, but somehow I've become Shawn Bradley's unofficial defender in too many of these conversations. And in that capacity, I need to tell you that Shawn Bradley was not as bad as you think.

Yes, he was the second pick in the NBA draft. No, he never became an all-star. On the other hand, he did have a very productive twelve-year NBA career. Per 40 minutes, he averaged 13.8 points (46% FG), 10.8 rebounds, and 4.3 blocks. If he had been picked fifth in the draft, then no one would have anything but nice things to say about his career (well, except for the other NBA players who got caught in the jaw by his sharp elbows).

Plenty of solid players came out of his draft in 1993, but other than Chris Webber and Anfernee Hardaway in their primes (injuries really did a number on both of their careers) there really aren't any other players from the draft that make you ask, "How could the Sixers have ever taken Bradley over [Player X]." I'd say the other top players from the 1993 draft were Jamal Mashburn (4th pick), Isaiah Rider (5th pick), Allen Houston (11th pick), Sam Cassell (24th pick), Nick Van Exel (10th pick in the 2nd round), and George Lynch (12th pick), with Calbert Cheaney, Rodney Rogers, Lindsey Hunter, and Ervin Johnson also having nice careers.

[I wasn't sure whether or not to include Vin Baker in the list of players who had nice careers-- at his best, he was an all-star, but he had a very troubled career in many respects. Evaluate him however you want.]

By comparison, Sharone Wright had a much less successful career. He was drafted 6th in the 1994 draft, one year after Shawn Bradley had been chosen. Per 40 minutes, he averaged 17.4 points (46% FG), 9.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. Per 40 minutes he also averaged slightly fewer assists and steals, and slightly more turnovers than Bradley. Plus, he only managed to stay in the NBA for four seasons. Clearly, Shawn Bradley was the superior player (or, at least, NBA GMs thought so). That said, the Sixers management might have been hard pressed to have made a better selection that year--the 1994 draft was not particularly deep. The only players chosen after Wright who went on to have good NBA careers were Brian Grant, Eddie Jones, Jalen Rose, Aaron Mckie, Lamond Murray, Eric Piatkowski, Wesley Person, and Charlie Ward.

Shawn Bradley wasn't the best 2nd pick ever made in the NBA draft, but his reputation in Philadelphia really suffers from the unrealistic expectations that surrounded him at the time of the draft. When it comes to Shawn Bradley, just remember: He wasn't as bad as you think.