After the trade deadline, we're back to a regular edition of my weekly NBA mailbag.
@kpelton q: who is the greatest ever veteran mid-season free agent after buyout pickup? PJ Brown 2008 celtics ?
- Asher Gilani (@the_real_asher) February 27, 2017
I don't know about ever, but I went looking for candidates since 1990 in a somewhat haphazard fashion and settled on the following list -- which is admittedly probably guilty of recency bias -- as sorted by value over replacement player (VORP) from Basketball-Reference.com:
It's interesting that the label of best buyout pickup has stuck to P.J. Brown, who wasn't actually all that effective with Boston. He averaged 2.2 points per game in the regular season, shooting 34.1 percent from the field. Brown did make more of an impact in the playoffs, seeing action in all but one of the 26 games the Celtics played en route to the championship.
Ultimately, this legend surely owes entirely to one game: Brown scoring 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in 20 minutes in a tight Game 7 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference semifinals. It's possible that without Brown, Boston loses that game and the course of NBA history shifts dramatically.
Nonetheless, I'd probably go with Birdman as my pick -- so long as he counts. Chris Andersen was actually waived by the Denver Nuggets using the amnesty provision the previous summer, but in part due to pending criminal charges (he was later cleared of all charges), he remained unsigned until midseason. Andersen averaged 15 minutes per game in the playoffs and shot 80.7 percent as the Miami Heat repeated as champions.
The other strong contender to me is Boris Diaw joining the San Antonio Spurs midway through the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season after being waived by the then-Charlotte Bobcats. You'll recall that the Bobcats were on their way to finishing 7-59, so Diaw was thrilled to join a title contender, and his effort level reflected it.
The Spurs went 18-2 during the 20 games in which Diaw played in the regular season, and they started the playoffs 10-0 before the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied to upset them in the Western Conference finals. I give Andersen a slight bonus since he won a ring, but Diaw was the better post-buyout player and had the most lasting impact of any of these guys, playing a key role in San Antonio's 2014 NBA Finals win over Miami.
If you can come up with someone better than Diaw, particularly someone from before the year 2000, let me know via email or Twitter.
"Have the details of the actual trade package Boston proposed to Charlotte ever been revealed? What were the four first-round picks and where did they land? Were the Brooklyn picks involved?" - Emmanuel Mpagi
At the time, Zach Lowe reported that the package included two 2015 picks: the Celtics' No. 16 pick, used to draft Terry Rozier, and one Boston was to acquire from the Atlanta Hawks (No. 15, eventually traded to the Washington Wizards so they could draft Kelly Oubre). Lowe also reported it included one of the Nets' picks. I've since clarified that it would have been the 2016 pick, which landed No. 3 and was used to draft Jaylen Brown, not the swap rights Boston holds this year or Brooklyn's 2018 pick.
Lastly, Lowe reported the Charlotte Hornets could "probably" have gotten their choice of a protected first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves -- which did not convey last season and converted instead to a 2016 second-round pick used to take Rade Zagorac and a 2017 second-round pick -- or the protected first-round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies that won't convey until 2019 at the earliest.
I haven't yet worked out exactly how to depreciate future picks, but if you go by my trade value chart and use the Minnesota second-round picks -- assuming this year's falls at No. 39, a little worse than it would be if the season ended today -- here's how this deal rates.
2015 No. 9: 2,120 points
2015 No. 15: 1,630 points
2015 No. 16: 1,580 points
2016 No. 3: 2,890 points
2017 No. 35: 600 points
2018 No. 39: 500 points
Total: 7,200 points
To reiterate, this is the most cynical view possible of Charlotte's decision. It wasn't clear at the time the 2016 Nets' pick would be so valuable, since the team had not yet bought out Deron Williams, and future picks surely are somewhat discounted in value. And both teams were correct to believe the No. 9 pick was unusually valuable in 2015 because of the depth of the draft. (So far, however, No. 11 pick Myles Turner looks like a better prospect than either Hornets pick Frank Kaminsky III or Celtics target Justise Winslow.)
Still, based on typical pick values, merely trading the 15th and 16th picks for the ninth pick would have been overpaying -- as most trades up in the draft are. The additional picks would have made this an incredibly lopsided trade.
"Pure hypothetical here: Would it make sense to have a Professional Basketball Champions League? Really, I just want more NBA-Euroleague crossover games than the few preseason games we've gotten, but I have no idea if the level of competition is close enough to justify such a suggestion. Thoughts?" - Andrew Barnard
No, I think we're a long ways from having such a competition be meaningful. I'd love to see NBA teams competing their hardest against European counterparts, but at this point, I don't think the best teams in Europe could come close to the best teams in the NBA, given the massive disparity in top-tier talent.
I do think based on the translations that I've done that the very best European teams could compete with average NBA teams, but that's not good enough to justify the extended travel that would be necessary for a basketball Champions League.
- Sherman Riddle (@shermriddle) February 24, 2017
Well, because I don't think he's particularly deserving of making it. Naturally, scoring was the single-best aspect of Tom Chambers' game. If you run a regression to figure out how much of a player's wins above replacement player (WARP) by my metric can be attributed to their scoring ability, he's got 82.6 WARP as a scorer -- a pretty good total, similar to that of Hall of Famer Joe Dumars (81.6), for example.
But Chambers actually had just 46.2 WARP in his career, a total far below the typical Hall of Fame threshold. It usually takes about 100 WARP to get in the conversation, and even that is not a guarantee of making it.
We can figure from those totals that Chambers' nonscoring contributions were 36.4 wins below replacement level, and no Hall of Famer in the modern era has been more than 17.2 wins below replacement level in terms of nonscoring contributions. (I wouldn't take those calculations too seriously, since they don't account for the differing replacement levels of offense and defense by position, but they offer a reasonable comparison for Chambers.)
So Chambers might have scored like a Hall of Famer -- he also benefited from playing in a fast-paced era, when points were relatively easy to come by -- but the totality of his game is more appropriate for the Hall of Very Good.
I would also add that we're likely to see many more non-Hall of Famers score 20,000 points as pace increases again and players enter the league earlier. Antawn Jamison seems like a distinct long shot and, as I've mentioned before, Joe Johnson (closing in on 20,000) is no sure thing.
"In your old chats, we could occasionally draw a book suggestion out of you. So, in this new format, I plan to occasionally inquire similarly ... any good book recommendations?" - Jonathan Dennis
I don't think I've done recommendations since reading Michael Lewis' book on the relationship between (and research done by) Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, "The Undoing Project." It was predictably terrific and inspired me to revisit Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow," which is essential for anyone who wants to make better decisions. (Hopefully, that's all of us.)
Lewis' book does have a basketball tie: The first chapter (excerpted on Slate) is all about how the Houston Rockets have evaluated draft prospects under general manager Daryl Morey, including how they learned from some early mistakes.