Friday, February 4, 2011

Rookie Challenge Rosters

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On Tuesday the lineups for the All-Star Rookie Challenge game were released. Andres of Nerd Numbers already wrote a post about which team he thinks will win, but I want to look at those names a different way. According to ESPN, the rookie roster is as follows:
  • Blake Griffin
  • Landry Fields
  • John Wall
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Greg Monroe
  • Derek Favors
  • Gary Neal
  • Wesley Johnson
  • Eric Bledsoe
It's a pretty decent team; as Dre notes, it's good enough to be favoured over the sophomore team. But I wonder - are there some rookies who got snubbed? Check out this table (full version here):

Wesley Johnson has been terrible so far this season, and the only reason he is on the team is his fifth-ranked PPG average (which is thanks to the playing time and shot opportunities offered to a #4 pick). DeMarcus Cousins has also been bad, and is on the team for the same reasons (he also happens to play centre, which is a position with very little competition). Eric Bledsoe and Gary Neal aren't doing so hot either, although only Neal is a highly ranked scorer.

But what about the snubs? There are four rookies who have produced more wins than Johnson, Cousins, Bledsoe, and Neal: Raptor Ed Davis, Evan Turner, Paul George, and Jeremy Evans. Even better, the four snubs can be configured to play the positions of the undeserving four: Davis replaces Cousins at centre, Evans replaces Johnson at forward, and Turner and George replace Neal and Bledsoe at the guards. Once we make the replacement, the WP48 for the new and improved rookie team becomes 0.186 - certainly a force to be reckoned with.

What about the sophomore team? Their roster is as follows:
  • DeJuan Blair
  • Tyreke Evans
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Stephen Curry
  • Taj Gibson
  • Jrue Holiday
  • Serge Ibaka
  • Brandon Jennings
  • Wesley Matthews
Again, that's a pretty good team. But is the team as good as it could be? Here are the snubs (full version here):

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that DeMar DeRozan does not deserve to be on this roster - he's actually produced a negative amount of wins over his brief career. Of course, he was a high draft pick and has the fifth-highest PPG average this year, which explains why he was selected, but he is the least productive player in this table. There are three other players who made the team - Brandon Jennings, Wesley Matthews, and Jrue Holiday - who, despite being relatively good players (they all have WP48s around 0.070), have been outplayed by some snubs.

The players who have outplayed DeRozan, Jennings, Matthews, and Holiday are Omri Casspi, James Harden, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, and Chase Budinger. These snubs have produced more wins over their careers and been more efficient over their careers (have higher WP48s). In addition, every one of the snubs has produced more wins and been more efficient than the undeserving four so far this season, with the exception of Darren Collison and Chase Budinger, who haven't been able to top Holiday's win total (and for Collison, efficiency as well) during the current season. If you think the sophomores should be rewarded for their careers to date, then Collison and Budinger should get the nod over Holiday. If you think the current season matters more, then Holiday takes the spot. Personally - although I can see why someone would prefer using this season's numbers - I think that the career numbers are more impressive, and so I'd go with Collison and Budinger.

In that case, do our snubs play compatible positions with the players that will be replaced? Sure: Casspi can replace DeRozan at forward, Harden replaces Jennings at guard, Lawson replaces Holiday at guard, and Budinger replaces Matthews. Budinger gets the nod over Collison in order to keep the roster balanced (2 Cs, 3 Fs, 3Gs, and one wild-card). Luckily, the difference between Collison and Budinger is quite small; while Collison has a 0.2 win lead over Budinger in career wins, they both have produced the same amount of wins so far this season. Futhermore, because Budinger has done it in fewer minutes, he's actually more efficient than Collison. This new lineup has a career WP48 of 0.141 and a 2010-11 WP48 of 0.140, so while we've improved the team, it's still not better than the rookie team - as long as the coaches know how to allocate the playing time properly.

Another thing I'd like to point out: for both the rookies and the sophomores, I've included a total of nine snubs, which is equal to the number of players who have been selected. In both cases you could actually build a team of snubs that would, on average, be better than the team that was selected! Even though the snubs would be more productive, the following things are true when we compare the players that were actually selected to the snubs:
  • they were drafted higher (15.4 vs 28.9 for the rookies; 21.7 vs 29.2 for the sophs).
  • they score more points (11.0 vs 5.4 for the rookies; 13.8 vs 8.4 for the sophs during the current season).
  • they play more minutes (1259 vs 545 for the rookies; 1343 vs 863 for the sophs during the current season).
  • both the top six scoring rookies and the top six scoring sophs (by PPG for the current season) made the teams.
To people familiar with the Wages of Wins, this is not surprising. Because players that are drafted earlier get more playing time (there's a relevant link floating around somewhere, but I can't find it at the moment), the earlier draft picks shoot and score more, and since - as David Berri likes to point out ad nauseam - scoring drives perception in the NBA, these players are more likely to be recognized and given awards.

 - Devin


  1. It's also important to note that two players on both of these rosters, Neal and Blair, play for the team with the NBA's best record. Apparently, someone must have thought that highly of the Spurs' start.

  2. Devin,
    Awesome post! I do think it is telling just how good Griffin and Fields are when the best the Sophomores could come up with still doesn't compare. Man DeRozan. . . what is with Toronto and overrated scorers?

  3. The All-Star games are showtime, a spectacle. The mistake you make is thinking that ANYBODY cares who wins.

    Omri Casspi may be a better, more productive player than DeRozan, but c'mon, who would you rather see play in a wide open, free-for-all like the Rookie-Sophomore game?

    The score will be something like 130-127,and I,for one,happily suspend my WOW sensibilities for an hour or two.

  4. You're just looking at stats and don't watch the games. Demar Derozan is better than casspi now and will be in the future. Same with Demarcus cousins. He's been playing stupid basketball at times but when he's dominate he's a force ie the laker game.

  5. Andres:

    Colangelo is obsessed with high volume, inefficient "scorers", plain and simple. Bargnani, DeRozan, Kleiza, Barbosa....


    Well that's fine if that's what you're looking for. I, for one, happen to believe that the All-Star festivities are for recognizing those players who have been the most productive (ie: best), and so I want productive players in them. DeRozan's already in the dunk contest; that's a better place for "exciting" players.


    Sorry, I've heard that argument only about a million times - you'll have to come with something better than that. The "eye test" doesn't quite cut it.

  6. Once you get you're tv fixed you can actually see the players play. omri casspi and chase budinger over derozan and matthews? hahaha no one in their right mind would would make that choice except a stats sheet guy like yourself.

  7. james:

    Again, you have no data backing up your assertion; I do. The fact is that some players who appear to be good actually aren't: I could spend hours listing players that fit this description (Iverson, Antoine Walker, Jalen Rose, Carmelo Anthony).

    I won't tolerate any more unproductive comments. If you have something useful to add to the conversation, let's have it, otherwise kindly occupy yourself somewhere else.

  8. Why penalize a player for the weakness of the team (in wins) that drafted him? Why reward a player for playing on a good team? This seems to overstate the performance of average players on good teams. And Derozan's FG% is close to 47%, not bad.

  9. Anonymous:

    I'd agree. According the people who favour considering win/loss record during the selection process, Kevin Love isn't an All-Star because his team sucks. And Kevin Garnett wasn't a good player when the Wolves missed the playoffs, but once he was traded to the Celtics and won a ring, he became a first ballot hall-of-famer.

    But DeRozan's FG% - or his advanced shooting numbers, like PPS, AdjFG%, and TS% - aren't too hot. He's actually shooting worse this year than he was last year - his TS% is 8th on the team (if you limit minutes played to 150), and as a team Toronto is ranked 19th in the league. So...not so good.

  10. I applaud the nice write up but your overall analysis.. meh