Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ex-Celtics swapped just for fun

Well, I'm sure it wasn't just for fun, but I'm still not sure what advantage both teams were looking for in the deal.

In case you haven't heard (and if you don't check basketball related websites religiously like I do, you probably haven't), the Miami Heat traded Ex-Celtic Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac, and some potato chips (potato chips = Wayne Simien and a conditional first round draft pick) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Mark Blount and Ricky Davis.

When I first heard about the trade, my initial thought was that Kevin McHale was trying get as many former Celtics on his roster as he possibly could. Sort of like a scavenger hunt, but with real NBA players as the items you were supposed to collect.

Then I realized that both Ricky Davis and Mark Blount were also ex-Celtics, so McHale was actually lowering his number of former Celtics by making this trade. At this point, I decided it'd be impossible to figure out what the point of this trade was for either team (which doesn't mean I won't try).

As near as I can tell, this trade was done entirely for personality reasons. It's been all over the (basketball) news the last few days that Riley was unhappy with Walker for not being in condition to start training camp (I guess Shaq has a special dispensation to play his way into shape over the course of the season. Role players--and that's what Walker is these days--don't get that same luxury.) There were also reports earlier this summer (after the big trade for Garnett) that Al Jefferson hadn't really gotten along with Blount when they'd been in Boston together. If true (I have no idea), that would explain Minnesota's desire to make the trade.

In terms of playing ability, Michael Doleac and Mark Blount are basically the same player, and I don't buy the argument that Ricky Davis is a better offensive player than Walker--they're both high volume, low percentage shooters.

[brief pause as I go and actually look up Walker's and Davis' stats from last year...]

Well, it turns out Davis is a better offensive player, but not by that much. Last year Walker shot 39.5% from the filed, taking .37 shots/minute. Davis shot 46.3% from the field, taking .36 shots/minute. I was going to say that I thought Minnesota got both the better players and the better contracts (Walker's contract goes for two more years, but Blount's goes for three more years), but I guess I'll just need to say that Minnesota got the better contracts.

I guess for the first few weeks while Wade is out Davis will be an important player for the Heat, but I'm not sure I see him playing a major role once Wade returns. (And if Wade doesn't return, it really doesn't matter who the Heat have on their roster.) He can play pretty good perimeter defense, so maybe they can play him at the small forward position and have him guard the better perimeter players so Wade can rest on the defensive end. Still, I don't see this trade really doing much for the Heat's chances this year.

I'm also unclear what role Walker will have with the Timberwolves. Jefferson is clearly the centerpiece of the revamped team, and he and Walker both play the power forward spot. The Wolves could go small and play Jefferson at the center position, but if they were going to do that then I'd think they'd want Craig Smith to play the power forward position (a defensive and rebounding presence to complement Jefferson's offensive presence). The article I linked to indicated that McHale might have some other trades in the works, so my best guess is that Walker's stay in Minnesota will be a brief one.

And yes, I know that this trade doesn't impact the Sixers in any way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Predictions galore!

Good thing I've already given you my prediction for the upcoming Sixers' season, otherwise you might think that I was just copying all these predictions that have started appearing. came out with their NBA season preview yesterday (or, at least, that's when I found it). Their Sixers preview really focuses on how the Sixers' use of "small-ball" really hurt them last year, and might again this year unless Mo Cheeks stays away from those line-ups. It's a point I've made before, so I obviously think they're on to something important. No projected record for the season, but I forgive them.

The Miami Herald also got in the Sixers preview swing of things (although I'm not really sure why--maybe they did previews for all 30 teams). They laud the Reggie Evans signing, point out the critical nature of Dalembert's injury status, and pan the short-term impact of the Sixers' draft picks. Solid review, but no real surprises for someone who's been reading this website. They predict the Sixers to only win 25-28 wins this season, so I disagree with them there.

Finally, Sports Illustrated posted a good chunk of their NBA preview on-line today (maybe all of it, but I don't think so--I haven't gotten my copy in the mail yet). You can see an opposing scout's view of the Sixers here, and a more overall preview of the Sixers here. The scout's opinions generally seem on target to me-- he discusses Dalembert's importance, but also his tendency to be out of position defensively; he discusses Evans strength as a rebounder; and he puts Igoudala's importance to the team and his talents in perspective. The overall preview doesn't say much other than that the Sixers are young. SI thinks the Sixers will bring up the bottom of the Atlantic division because they more or less stayed still while the other bad teams from last season (Celtics, Knicks) made splashy moves. No need to reiterate that I think the Sixers will be around .500 this year (although I guess I just did).

Anyway, those are the previews I came across in the last 24 hours. Check 'em out!

[Update: And now has out its season preview. Check out the Sixers' preview here. I'll give you a hint-- they don't think the Sixers are going to be very good.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Sixers prediction (WP48 version)

Well, after discussing my thoughts on the swing players that are going to get squeezed out of the Sixers' rotation in yesterday's post, it's time to move on to the main event.

To make things simpler on myself, for the purposes of making a Wins Produced based season prediction for the Sixers I made the assumption that none of the Sixers' rookies were going to play at all this year.* Why did I make this assumption? Two reasons: (1) I don't have WP48 numbers for the rookies, and (2) I have no good way to predict them. I'll make the assumption that the rookies will have the same WP48 as the player's that they take playing time away from. Probably not a perfect prediction, but it's as likely to benefit the Sixers as to harm them.

With those assumptions in mind, what did I predict (Reggie Evans WP48 from here, all other WP48 stats from here)?

The likely scenario (given in the form of [player] [WP48] (mins/gm) = [WP]):
  • Andre Miller [.161] (35) = 9.63
  • Andre Igoudala [.195] (37) = 12.33
  • Samuel Dalembert [.178] (30) = 9.12
  • Reggie Evans [.216] (30) = 11.07
  • Kyle Korver [.047] (30) = 2.41
  • Willie Green [-.120] (23) = -4.72
  • Calvin Booth [-.010] (15) = -.26
  • Shavlik Randolph [.158] (11) = 2.97
  • Louis Amundson [.061] (10) = 1.04
  • Louis Williams [.105] (10) = 1.79
  • Rodney Carney [-.105] (6) = -1.08
  • Kevin Ollie [.015] (3) = .08

  • Total = 44.39 wins!
[note: do I really think that Calvin Booth will play 15 minutes per game? No, but with Randolph coming back from injury and Amundson only having played 90 minutes all of last year, it seemed like the safe prediction to make.]

The best-case scenario (I'm not optimistic enough to predict that the Sixers drop Willie Green from the rotation, so for my best-case scenario I assume that the Sixers drop Carney, Ollie, and Booth from the rotation, play our starters slightly heavier minutes, and Randolph is healthy enough to pick up the other big man minutes that open up):

  • Andre Miller [.161] (35) = 9.63
  • Andre Igoudala [.195] (37) = 12.33
  • Samuel Dalembert [.178] (33) = 10.03
  • Reggie Evans [.216] (33) = 12.18
  • Kyle Korver [.047] (33) = 2.65
  • Willie Green [-.120] (23) = -4.72
  • Shavlik Randolph [.158] (20) = 5.40
  • Louis Amundson [.061] (10) = 1.04
  • Louis Williams [.105] (16) = 2.87

  • Total = 51.41 wins!
So there you have it. Based on WP48 and my predictions about playing time, I predict the Sixers to win between 44 and 52 games. I guess I should have also done a worse-case scenario prediction, but what' the fun in that?

In truth, my gut prediction (based on comparing the Sixers roster to the rosters of other teams) is that the Sixers will win between 40 and 42 games. I'll be really happy if the WP48 method turns out to be a better indicator of success, but I'm not sure I completely buy it. I'm already more optimistic than most predictions, and WP48 tells me I should be even more optimistic.

On the other hand, Dalembert's ongoing foot issues is making me more pessimistic.

That said, it'll be interesting to come back to this prediction over the course of the season-- looking at how actual playing time differs from my predictions, and how a WP48 prediction would have differed based on that information.

Tomorrow: Some general observations about the competitiveness of the league for this coming season.

*Yes, I know, this assumption contradicts what I said yesterday about Carney being squeezed out of the rotation in favor of Thaddeus Young. What do you want from me-- consistency?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Who isn't going to get playing time?

For my Sixers' prediction, I thought I'd take WP48 numbers for the Sixers' players and then apply them based on my predictions of playing times for the various players on the roster to get at a total Wins Produced prediction.*

In trying to predict playing times, I realized that the numbers just don't add up. Someone who's expecting to get at least a decent chunk of time is probably going to spend most of the season sitting on the bench.

In particular, looking at the wing players (shooting guards and small forwards) on the Sixers' roster, I don't see how everyone is going to get playing time. The articles I've been reading talk about Andre Igoudala, Kyle Korver, Rodney Carney, Willie Green, and Thaddeus Young getting time on the wings, not to mention a few articles that talk about Louis Williams getting some playing time at the shooting guard position.

That's five players (excluding Williams) competing for 96 minutes of playing time each game (48 at each position). You can pencil Igoudala in for 35+ minutes a game (he was actually at 40/game last year), and Korver will almost certainly get 30 min/gm again as the sixth man. Once those two players are accounted for, we're really talking about 30 minutes of playing time (at most) being divided among three players.

Divide the time evenly and each player is looking at only 10 mins/gm. Well, Willie Green played 23 minutes a game last year and Carney played around 14 mins/gm. Just between the two of them, all the remaining available minutes are used up, leaving Young, our "prized" rookie, with no playing time.

As discussed yesterday, the Sixers' use of a small line-up means that more time will be available for these players (as evidenced by Green and Carney combining to play more than the remaining available small forward/shooting guard minutes last season). But the small line-up doesn't help the Sixers win games, so I don't think using it just to give players playing time is a very good idea (i.e. it's a very bad idea).

All of which circles us back around to the original point-- the numbers don't add up, and someone who is expected to see time this year is going to find themselves buried on the bench. Who's it going to be? I don't know, but my guess is that Carney will eventually find himself as the odd man out. The Sixers' coaches and management have an inexplicable love affair with Willie Green, so I imagine he'll get at least 23 mins/gm again. The battle for the remaining 10 mins/gm will then come down to Young and Carney, and I don't think Carney has shown enough to keep the Sixers' coaches from wanting to try out their shiny new toy (that would be the rookie, in case my metaphor wasn't clear).

Of course, since I don't think Green or Carney are good, and I don't expect much out of Young as a 19-year old rookie, I'm not sure it matters who the coaches end up playing for these minutes. But it does make for interesting speculation.

*(The reason WoW has given for not making specific predictions for each team is that it's too hard to guess how coaches will divide playing time for each team, but I figured it wouldn't be too hard to do for just one team. Having tried to get inside a coaches' head for one team, I can certainly understand why they didn't want to do it for 30 teams.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Igoudala, Miller, Dalembert, and some guys off the street

It's preview week here at Sixerpride!

Later in the week I'll give my specific predictions for the Sixers and the NBA as a whole, but for now we'll start by looking at the Sixers preview developed by the good folks over at the Wages of Wins.

I think the preview can be summarized pretty easily: Igoudala, Miller, and Dalembert are good, and the rest of the team is pretty worthless. Well, that's not entirely true since Reggie Evans has a very strong WP48 score, but it was true for last year's team. And with the exception of the aforementioned Evans, this year's team is pretty similar to last year's team.

Of course, since last year's team was above .500 for the second half of the season that statement isn't the death knell for the Sixers that most commentators have been treating it as.

WoW also makes two other observations about the Sixers that I think are spot on.

First, the Sixers played Willie Green and Rodney Carney significant minutes last year, and neither player is good (in fact, they're bad). Unfortunately, based on the articles I've been reading, it sounds like both players are going to be getting significant minutes again this year-- with Willie Green likely starting and Carney getting minutes as his back-up. It's not clear why the Sixers' coaches and management are so high on these two players, but I guess that's just something we need to live with as fans.

Second, the Sixers played at least 800 minutes last season with one of our small forwards (Korver or Carney) playing as the power forward in a small line-up. Neither of these players is capable of rebounding at the level needed from a power forward, so these small line-ups hurt the Sixers. Again, based on the articles I've been reading, it looks like Mo Cheeks is planning to use some small line-ups again this year (although possibly with Thaddeus Young as the power forward). Hopefully Mo Cheeks will decide against this strategy, but I'm not holding my breath.

All in all, Wins Produced gives a much more optimistic picture for the upcoming Sixers season than most other predictions. WoW doesn't give a firm prediction, but does expect the Sixers to end up with more than 35 wins.

As I've mentioned before, my personal prediction is much more in-line with this more optimistic view. But that's a story for tomorrow's (and the rest of the week's) posts.