Chat with Kevin Pelton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, NBA Insider Kevin Pelton stops by to chat about the latest news from the hardcourt.
Pelton is a co-author of the Pro Basketball Prospectus series and a former consultant for the Indiana Pacers. He developed the WARP rating and SCHOENE projection system.
Also, be sure to check out Friday's weekly episode of TrueHoop TV, featuring a round table discussion with a few of ESPN's NBA experts.
Send your questions now and join Pelton Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
Kevin Pelton (3:00 PM)
Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for my weekly chat. Between the Sweet 16/Elite 8, playoff races taking shape, the Sixers and players declaring for the draft, plenty to discuss this week. Let's get started.
Last week you said that revenue from jersey ads wouldn't encourage teams to lower ticket prices. But it seems like poor-attendance teams with a new revenue stream might try lowering ticket prices just so that the stadium would be more competitive with other entertainment options in their city. I have no idea how the numbers would work out, but it seems possible that the revenue from jersey ads could allow a poor-attendance team to lower ticket prices to a level that otherwise would have been too low to meet short-term financial goals. Does that idea work, or am I missing something?
Kevin Pelton (3:03 PM)
If they thought they would sell enough extra tickets by lowering prices to offset the loss per ticket, naturally, they'd be doing it now. There are other benefits (home-court advantage, fan experience) to having more people in the building, so maybe there's a little less pressure to maximize revenue from ticket sales with additional income, but that it would make a major difference seems too optimistic to me.
Kevin Pelton (3:04 PM)
We should also be realistic about what jersey sponsorship is going to bring in. For a marquee team like the Lakers or Knicks, it could be hugely valuable, but for smaller-market teams that are really having trouble selling tickets, it will probably be a relative drop in the bucket. I think I saw Adam Silver make the point that it probably would be a slight increased commitment from an existing sponsor rather than a completely new partner.
Is Kyle Anderson the most underrated prospect? His defense is suspect but how does that show in your projections as his steal rate is not bad.
Kevin Pelton (3:05 PM)
I like Anderson, but I don't think he's the most underrated prospect on his own team. That would be Jordan Adams, although it doesn't appear Adams will declare for this year's draft.
Jacob (College Computer Lab)
I worried about my wizards. Without Nene is killing them, I actually think if they fall to that 7 line they should tank to get to the 8th spot. I like there chances a lot more against the Pacers, no way they shock the Heat. Your take?
Kevin Pelton (3:07 PM)
Haven't the Wizards been surprisingly successful against the Heat in recent years? Either way, I don't think Washington could get to eighth if it tried based on the way the Hawks are sliding. And the Wizards are still the favorites to finish sixth. I think people underestimate how hard it is to make up ground this late in the season. Not impossible, but hard.
Alan Gomes (Vienna, Austria)
Dear Kevin,love your chats! Like just about everyone I think the brazen tanking by the 76ers and others this season is damaging to the sport (so many meaningless games!), and like just about everyone I think I came up with a solution for it.Here's my fix: the teams with the two worst records are automatically excluded from the lottery; they get the 5th and 6th picks in the next year's draft. This season, that would mean the Bucks and the 76ers would still get a high pick (5th or 6th), but wouldn't have a shot at the 1-4 picks.Wouldn't this fix be enough to deter tankers? Wouldn't bottom feeders be trying hard to escape the last two spots to try and keep a shot at a top-4 pick? And it wouldn't be excessively punitive to lousy teams - they'd still get a high pick, just not a top-4 one.
Kevin Pelton (3:08 PM)
The danger in a model like that is if everybody's trying to avoid the worst record, it makes it more likely that the team with the worst record (or bottom two) is actually the least talented and therefore the team in most need of help.
Hey Kevin, which Bull is most deserving in your mind: Noah for DPOY, Thibs for COY, or Taj for 6th man?
Kevin Pelton (3:08 PM)
I wouldn't vote for any of them at this point, but Taj for Sixth Man is probably the one in the top three on my ballot.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Kevin - The Portland Trailblazers got off to a 31-9 start since then have gone 14-18, can they turn it around soon to finish as 3 or 4 seed or will they finish as the current 5th seed or as a 6th, 7th or8th seed ?
Kevin Pelton (3:10 PM)
4th seed? 4th seed? You kidding me? 4th seed? I just hope [the Blazers] can win a game!
Kevin Pelton (3:11 PM)
Although I haven't accounted for Patrick Beverley's injury, as of this morning Portland didn't move up in any of the thousand simulations of the season I ran. But the Blazers still have a good chance of holding on to the fifth seed if they can take care of business at home against other playoff contenders with LaMarcus Aldridge back in the lineup.
Drom John (Macon, GA)
NCAA steals are the hot new tell. But you have to go deep to find any NBA players on the leaderboard: Speedy Claxton and Kent Bazemore; and this years mock drafts have Jordan Adams as a mid second rounder. So if the top NCAA steals guys haven't been NBA stars, is it just that the near no steals guys should be avoided, leaving steals as a tiebreaker for everybody else?
Kevin Pelton (3:13 PM)
You know the ads that advise that cereal, or whatever, is part of a complete, balanced breakfast? That's how I feel about steals. Nobody is really going to get to the NBA on steals alone, but that doesn't mean they don't matter in the context of the bigger picture. Also, the leaderboards in the NCAA tend to largely be populated by small-college guys, so I'd assume most stats show fairly similar trends. Blocks and rebounds might be the exceptions?
Andre Drummong will never play for a title-contender because of his 42% free throw shooting (he would get hacked the whole 4th quarter in playoff games) . Agree or disagree?
Kevin Pelton (3:15 PM)
Well, A.) that assumes Drummond won't continue to improve his foul shooting. Even marginal improvements matter at that level. But more importantly, B.) the whole fourth quarter is an awful lot of fouls to give up.
peteyhasnohead [via mobile]
Any Seattle based talent hitting the Draft this year
Kevin Pelton (3:16 PM)
With the Patrick Beverly injury , do the Rockets look for veteran help? Who is available?
Kevin Pelton (3:18 PM)
I'd be surprised if that happened. The Rockets would have to cut a prospect like Robert Covington or Troy Daniels loose to create the roster spot, and I don't know if the Mike Jameses of the world are an upgrade on Isaiah Canaan. Might be interesting to see whether they try using James Harden as a backup PG and playing more wings. But this was the risk Daryl Morey was taking by trading Aaron Brooks at the deadline.
Mike P (San Diego)
Hey Kevin, the Suns were expected to finish pretty much amid the bottom of the league. Since those predictions, it's not like the roster has changed much. What did all those prognosticators miss?
Kevin Pelton (3:22 PM)
Every single player in the rotation has exceeded expectations, so it is the same roster, but it's not the same roster. As far as specifics, I'd point to the value of the Suns' ability to put shooting at four spots on the court, Jeff Hornacek's ability to put together a strong defensive scheme in his first year as a head coach and how playing two PGs allows them to stretch the floor side to side.
Is it just me, or are the sixers a darkhorse to land kevin love and durant as potential free agents in 2015 and 2016
Kevin Pelton (3:22 PM)
It's just you.
Is it possible the Bobhornets are looking at a little run of 4-6 seed years?
Kevin Pelton (3:23 PM)
They could become the new Hawks, yes. But that would probably require their young players showing more improvement than they have so far this season, since the East is likely to be deeper next year with better health.
I don't want to get crazy but i've always been under the impression that Dion has the potential to one day be better than Kyrie. Dion is a very underrated passer and also has the tools to be a good defender (motivation & Length). Thoughts?
Kevin Pelton (3:24 PM)
Let's see Waiters get his true shooting percentage within striking distance of league average before we start considering the possibility he's better than Irving.
Why should I believe that Zach Lavine is going to be better than Austin Rivers or Von Wafer.
Kevin Pelton (3:25 PM)
Von Wafer? I don't really know how to compare those two guys, but as compared to Rivers LaVine is a better outside shooter and bigger, which gives him the ability to play shooting guard in the NBA. I don't really see their games as all that similar.
Austin (San Antonio)
Hey Kevin,my spurs are streaking so far. How do you think they will do in the postseason?
Kevin Pelton (3:26 PM)
I think they will do well. Tom Haberstroh disagrees (somewhat): http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/10669856/nba-debating-san-antonio-spurs-nba-best-team
How many WARP is each draft spot worth historically? If the Hawks hold on to the last playoff spot they draft 17th; if they lose it to the Knicks, they likely draft 10th or 11th (and could even rise to the top 3).
Kevin Pelton (3:30 PM)
The worst playoff team picks 15th. Over the course of a four-year rookie contract, the average difference between the 15th pick (6.5 WARP) and the 11th pick (8.2 WARP) is less than two wins. Some of that difference is made up for by the fact that the 11th pick gets a larger contract, so I don't think the difference is worth missing the playoffs (or hoping to miss the playoffs), generally speaking.
I know it sounds absurd to suggest that the Heat have been "under-covered," but doesn't it seems as if more has been made of the Pacers' recent poor play than theirs? What gives? Championship pedigree? Don't get me wrong, the Pacers have been awful to watch. But I don't understand critics (many of whom reside at ESPN, though I'm not suggesting you) circling the wagon.
Kevin Pelton (3:32 PM)
As I explained in Wednesday's column on the Pacers, while the teams have similar records since the All-Star break, Indiana's performance has been much worse in terms of point differential against an easier schedule. So the Pacers' play offers much more reason for concern.
Donny (Kenmore, WA)
Zach Levine is a talent but he is not ready for NBA. I say that as a friend!
Kevin Pelton (3:33 PM)
Sure, but that's not really the question. The question is whether entering the draft maximizes his long-term development. I think, if you're a first-round pick, it's probably smart to get to the NBA as quickly as possible because the longer you stay in college, the less forgiving scouts are of your shortcomings.
Is Kawhi still considered an elite level talent? He's a nice player (especailly on D) but doesn't seem to be improving his game much since entering the league.
Kevin Pelton (3:35 PM)
People got a little too excited in the wake of Leonard's playoff run last year, but at the same time he's not yet 23 and has made a massive leap since where he was at San Diego State. While I'm not certain that Leonard will be able to create his own shot on a regular basis, my biggest concern is the condition of his knee.
You dont think a core of noel, mcw, and wiggins/gary harris would be attractive to a free agent?
Kevin Pelton (3:36 PM)
Elite free agents have shown that they're more interested in what teams have accomplished than what they have the potential to accomplish in the future. Until that group starts translating its talent into wins, it's not going to be a compelling argument.
Kevin Pelton (3:37 PM)
Also, I'd be careful about penciling Wiggins into the lineup just yet. Ask Celtics fans who did that with Tim Duncan.
I don't understand why more interior defenders aren't better at going straight up. So often it seems like if the defender had just put his hands straight up instead of towards the offensive player at 45 degrees then he would get the same calls that Hibbert gets. I hear it spoken like a masterful skill when Hibbert does it but it can't really be much more than a mental thing right?
Kevin Pelton (3:38 PM)
I mean ... mental things are hard! But really, I think it's more about instinct and repetition than anyone else. The natural human instinct is to swat at the ball. It took a lot of drillwork for Hibbert to get to where he is today. I'm sure we'll see more centers starting to do something similar.
Why aren?t assists measured on the point production that comes from the pass. Shouldn?t a player get credit if he gets his teammate a good look that gets him to the line? A value of 3 for a 3 pointer, if someone makes .5 from the line then a value of 1 etc? Wouldn?t this be a better representation of the point that a player is responsible for creating? There have to be some guards who are superior at getting teammate open 3 pointers.
Kevin Pelton (3:39 PM)
There are, certainly, but that also tends to measure the talent of their teammates around him. For example, Rajon Rondo gets criticized for setting up a lot of long 2s, but the Celtics had a bunch of players who specialized in long 2s. So is he not supposed to pass to those guys?
Kevin Pelton (3:40 PM)
But generally speaking, the most valuable assists tend to be those that set up shots at the rim, so I wouldn't want to discount those vis-a-vis setting up 3s.
What team doesn't make the playoffs in the west?
Kevin Pelton (3:41 PM)
It's about a coin flip between Dallas and Phoenix at this point, though it's still possible both of them could make the playoffs and Memphis (or much less likely Portland) could miss out.
with the discussion of the higher than formerly believed value of steals, should we retrospectively increase our evaluation of John Stockton (and may be Jason Kidd) and decrease our evaluation of Steve Nash?
Kevin Pelton (3:43 PM)
Since WARP already placed a high -- and I think appropriate -- value on steals, Stockton and Kidd are two of the Hall of Fame players who come out higher in my numbers than they do by conventional wisdom. So I would say yes, and that is a point of distinction between them and Nash.
Daniel Josephson (Utah)
For a draft fix, how about the first round is a real lottery: every team gets one ball and the selections go from 30th pick to 1st pick. This will be televised. (Then second round can go strictly by record, worst to best). That seems to be fair for all teams, no? And who wouldn't watch that?
Kevin Pelton (3:43 PM)
So how do bad teams get better?
Your thoughts on verticality rule? I get that if you're straight up and there's contact there wouldn't be a foul. But I can't see how the vertical defensive player can draw an offensive foul if the offensive player drives into him. Doesn't make sense that a defensive player cannot draw an offensive foul if he's standing inside the semi-circle, but he can draw one if he's jumping?
Kevin Pelton (3:44 PM)
The thing is that the charge circle is only to discourage players from sliding in at the last minute under unsuspecting offensive players. That can't happen if you're in the air. So I think that application of the rule is appropriate.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Have you had a chance to see Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky play yet? I thought Baylor's frontline would be able to cause him some problems, but he was very impressive. Does he have any future in the NBA?
Kevin Pelton (3:45 PM)
Sure. I suspect he'll see his stock rise quite a bit next year, if it hasn't already based on his tournament run.
recording live from (somewhere)
Why is Joel Embiid not just Meyers Leonard?
Kevin Pelton (3:46 PM)
Why aren't any of us just Meyers Leonard?
Brett (Altoona, Pa)
Would the Hawks or Knicks have a better chance of upsetting the Pacers in the first round?
Kevin Pelton (3:47 PM)
At this point, I think I'd have to say Knicks. Their true talent, by my measure, has risen above the Hawks.
If you are the Utah Jazz and win the draft lottery, who do you pick at #1?
Kevin Pelton (3:47 PM)
Whoever I think is the best player available, and that holds basically no matter the team that gets the No. 1 pick. Other than a tie-breaker, need is for later in the draft.
What position do you see Kyle Anderson playing at the next level?
Kevin Pelton (3:49 PM)
I think you have to break that down into role on offense and defense. I think he probably has the best chance of being competent defensively against smaller power forwards. But offensively, a team has to take advantage of his ability to handle the ball. One thing that makes him different from, say, a Boris Diaw is that he seems to be most comfortable and effective with the ball in his hands facing the basket. So ideally you'd want to play him with some smaller shooters who don't have playmaking ability.
Andrew (Tulsa) [via mobile]
Hey Kevin. Love these chats. This might be a tough question to answer but Im going to ask it anyway. In general, what percentage (in your opinion) of a players skill is not ever seen in the box score? Basically, what percentage of a players skill is simply just not quantifiable?
Kevin Pelton (3:53 PM)
Hmm. Interesting question. I'd say something like 40%. And I'd say 3/4 of the untracked value comes at the defensive end.
How do I evaluate a player like Hollis Thompson? He has a historically low usage rate on a historically bad team. But he is big, young, athletic, and he can shoot. What will translate as he grows and the team gets better?
Kevin Pelton (3:54 PM)
I think you have to project him in a role where with better teammates, his weaknesses (ability to create shots) aren't so much of a factor. From that standpoint, I think he's shown there's a place for him on a good team.
Nick (Brooklyn, New York)
Is there a benefit to a below average offensive team and elite defensive team (I'm thinking the Celtics championship teams from the 50s/60s per a Neil Paine article on Basketball Reference a few years ago) playing at an extremely high pace?
Kevin Pelton (3:55 PM)
Given we haven't seen anybody entirely pull off that combination in modern NBA history, I would say probably not. But perhaps it is possible if a team really specialized in forcing turnovers, like Rick Pitino's vision for the Celtics, it would work.
Hi Kevin, who do you see as a fair comparison for Doug McDermott? Wally Szcerbiak and Kevin Martin come to mind more than Kyle Korver.
Kevin Pelton (3:56 PM)
To me, he's not as quick or as good a ballhandler as any of those players. I would cross them with, say, Steve Novak. But he may just be his own new type.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Do you think Napier's game will translate to the NBA? His shot and handle are fantastic and I think he can be a solid defender, but I see him get caught out of position too often
Kevin Pelton (4:03 PM)
I think at the very least he should be a high-caliber backup point guard, and an immediate contributor.
Is Nik Stauskas overlooked? He's put together a complete offensive season for Michigan. Everything about that side of the ball seems spectacular.
Kevin Pelton (4:04 PM)
I think he's been in Chad Ford's lottery, or close to it, so it's hard for me to say he's been overlooked. You're also conveniently leaving out the defensive end of the floor.
Kevin, with the recent play, and known skillset of Dieng, does it make sense for the Wolves to explore trading Pekovic this summer? Pek is a very good offensive player, but he and Love just don't match up well defensively in the slightest, and Dieng seems like a much better frontcourt compliment. What could the Wolves realistically expect to get for Pek if they trade him?
Kevin Pelton (4:07 PM)
No idea what the market might look like, since there aren't a ton of teams chasing starting centers, but I definitely think they ought to explore it given their needs on the wing.
How do the Analytics measure up on Trey Burke in crunch time?
Kevin Pelton (4:13 PM)
Among players with at least 40 attempts in clutch situations(last 5 minutes, game within 5 points), he's seventh in FG% at 50 percent, including 11-20 (55%) from 3-point range. At the same time, should be noted that the 95% confidence interval around his true underlying shooting percentage in these situations covers from 35% to 65%. He's probably been somewhat lucky in addition to good, and we won't know the ratio of one to the other until he has more opportunities under his belt.
In addition to Steal Rate and DRB% (for PGs) what other NCAA stats correlate to NBA success? Does it vary by position?
Kevin Pelton (4:14 PM)
Basically, any element of performance translates to the NBA to some extent or another. The things I've highlighted are generally indicators that translate more than scouts implicitly think based on where players are drafted. Does that make sense?
Can we agree that while Sam Hinkie might have done a good job creating cap space and getting assets that a championship in the next 5 years is unlikely but he will always have "GM of one of the worst teams in NBA history" on his resume, whether or not it was intentional?
Kevin Pelton (4:15 PM)
I dunno. Does anyone talk much about the 20-62 2007-08 Seattle Sonics when discussing Sam Presti's resume? I don't think it gets held against him.
What are your thought on Gorgui Dieng? After barely playing most of the season, he has averaged 13 points and 14 rebounds as a sterter the last 6 games with Pekovic and Turiaf injured. Is this a fluke, or can he sustain it?
Kevin Pelton (4:16 PM)
I don't think he'll continue to average a double-double, but I think he can keep playing at a level similar to this, which would be enough to make him a starting-caliber player.
Gary (Fort Wayne)
Is there any chance the Warriors will suffer a late collapse and miss the playoffs? Would the Jazz still get their lottery pick?
Kevin Pelton (4:17 PM)
There is a small chance of this (it happens in 1.4% of simulations), but I think it's time for Jazz fans to let this go and be pleasantly stunned in the extraordinary event it does happen.
jason(tx) [via mobile]
If the mavericks dont make the playoffs for the second straight year do u think mark Cuban makes a coaching Change.
Kevin Pelton (4:19 PM)
There are a few coaches with more job security than Rick Carlisle, but not many. Maybe few enough to count on one hand. If for someone reason the Mavericks did let Carlisle go, he'd have another job as soon as he wanted it.
Kevin Duong (GTA)
Stat geek inquiry - Where can one find stats such as Lowry's PER since the Rudy Gay trade or the Spurs pace-adjusted point differential during their current win streak? Speaking of streaks, Spurs lose first or (2)6ers win first?
Kevin Pelton (4:20 PM)
Pace-adjusted differential is available for a variety of splits on stats.nba.com, but I'm afraid the PER is only on the Excel version of StatsCube.
Kevin Pelton (4:21 PM)
Spurs have some tricky games coming up -- at Indiana and at Oklahoma City -- so I think I'll say their streak ends first.
Matt T (Boston, MA)
Hi Kevin, Tyreke Evans has been playing well his last 10-12 games. Is that a testament to just increased playing time, or should I be optimistic, and believe he could get back to his ROY form?
Kevin Pelton (4:22 PM)
Well, the issue isn't really getting back to his ROY form; it's that we assumed back then that it was the start of what Evans would do, and instead his game is largely the same now as it was then. And I think that remains the case even during this streak, but as long as he can keep it up for an extended period, he's still a useful player.
Kevin (Bay Area)
Hi Kevin, Please rank in order of priority (if you were the GM) who Mitch should sign of own free agents this summer: Young (when he opts out), Farmar, Pau, Henry, Meeks, Basemore. Thanks!
Kevin Pelton (4:23 PM)
As always, depends on the price, but I think Meeks, Farmar and Gasol are probably the most difficult to replace in terms of skill set. If the Lakers can get Gasol back on a one-year deal, I think it allows them to stay reasonably competitive while maintaining their flexibility.
Kevin Pelton (4:24 PM)
I laughed at the Detox joke, and that's all I can say.
Nick (Brooklyn, NY)
Do you think that Victor Oladipo has shown enough as a point guard this year for the Magic to be comfortable trying that going forward, or has he been better playing off the ball (or at the least as a wing who has the ball quite a bit rather than a PG)?
Kevin Pelton (4:27 PM)
When Oladipo plays with Jameer Nelson, the Magic score 100.5 points per 100 possessions. When Oladipo plays without Nelson, that drops to 94.2. Now obviously some of that has to do with the other guys in that spot not being as good as Nelson, but to me that's an indication that Oladipo is not really a point guard. I think Orlando can use the progress he has made as a lead guard and have him share those duties, but I would not look at him as a primary point guard going forward.
Can the Thunder expect to win a championship playing Kendrick Perkins heavy minutes?
Kevin Pelton (4:28 PM)
Oklahoma City probably can't beat Miami that way, but if the Thunder can get to the Finals with Perkins playing heavy minutes, I don't see any reason they can't win a championship as well.
Kevin Pelton (4:28 PM)
Oklahoma City's struggles on defense without him (and Thabo Sefolosha, yes) should probably temper some of the harsher criticism of Perkins.
Is it possible to see Ennis as the first point guard off the board in the draft?
Kevin Pelton (4:29 PM)
If you count Exum as a point guard, then very unlikely. If we're strictly talking him and Marcus Smart, then I think it's possible depending on how Smart works out and interviews.
Sean (Orem (UT))
How about this idea: The bottom 14 teams in the lottery play a single elimination tournament at the end of the year. Seeded by record. The winner of the tournament then gets the best odds for the #1 pick in the lottery (2nd, 3rd, etc.) This would encourage winning, give no reason to tank, and still give every team a "chance". I mean, say the Suns miss the playoffs, it isn't a lock they'd win a single elimination tournament by any stretch. Plus, more games, a post season to look forward to, and some pretty exciting games I'm sure. Whats the downside?
Kevin Pelton (4:30 PM)
Again, it doesn't get the best talent to the teams that need it most. And that's my issue with most ideas to reform the lottery.
Jake S. (Ohio)
Wouldn't an "easy" fix for the lottery be giving the worst ~6 teams, say, a chance, and teams 7-14 an %8? I know my math is off, but have it more rounded. Not top heavy. And stop giving the worst team a guaranteed top 4 pick.
Kevin Pelton (4:31 PM)
I think the latter might be a bigger factor than the former, but I think going back to weights more like they were from 1990-93 is probably where we're headed.
This might be a weird question, but do you think some of the guys that declare early to the NBA draft this year do so because they want to have thier head scanned for the next generation NBA 2K game for next year?
Kevin Pelton (4:31 PM)
Until a player mentions it, I'm going to assume it's probably not a factor.
What would stat would you pick as most indicative of a players hierarchy within the league? PER?
Kevin Pelton (4:34 PM)
Hmm. Given that PER places more value on usage, I would say it probably hews slightly closer to conventional wisdom. But you'd want to include minutes, so I would say EWA and not PER.
How much does Beverly's injury hurt the Rockets' title chances? Lin's better suited as the spark off the bench, and Beverly's defense will sorely be missed. I'd downgrade them to Conference contenders now, from Title Contenders they were before.
Kevin Pelton (4:36 PM)
Lin has actually played better this year as a starter, so I think the Rockets will probably feel the hit more to their second unit than their starting five, but in a conference as competitive as the West, it definitely makes a big deal. I would be surprised if they can get past the second round without Beverley returning by that point.
Jason J (NYC)
How do y'all Sonics fans feel about Durant? Is he still your guy since he was a Sonic prior to the move? Is he the one that got away? Does he make the Sonics all time team with GP?
Kevin Pelton (4:37 PM)
I think "one that got away" probably sums it up best. I don't think he can be on an all-time Sonics team because he only played one season in the green and gold, but there is still a fondness for Durant, especially since he's been complimentary of Seattle and Sonics fans.
Dominick (CUllman al)
I think that Randle is going to be a more diverse version of zach Randolph. My question is if he can be gaurunteed to be zach then would he be worth going first? Or is the potential of others high enough to make randle an ouside five pick? Thanks!
Kevin Pelton (4:39 PM)
If he were guaranteed to be prime Zach Randolph on an earlier timetable, I would say yes, that would probably be worth the No. 1 pick because of the certainty of it. But I think it very much remains to be seen if Randle can be as good at finishing in traffic and owning the offensive glass.
A friend & I have been arguing. I contend that Isaiah Thomas is a high-end starting PG. He's not Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo, but guys who can average 20
Kevin Pelton (4:40 PM)
It's hard to think of a player who has gotten less attention for putting up such good numbers. By WARP and EWA, Thomas is in the NBA's 25 most valuable players this season. But I think people are so predisposed to look at him as an energy guy/too small to start that they have a hard time thinking of him that way, which is to the Kings' benefit as he hits the market next summer.
Do you think Steph Curry is a legit top 5 mvp contender?
Kevin Pelton (4:40 PM)
He's a contender for one of the five spots on my (hypothetical) ballot. I'd be very surprised if he finished in the top five in voting, though, as I think voters will hold the Warriors' record against him.
How far back did the bumbling Maloofs set the Kings franchise back? Their last few years as owners were as bad as any ownership group in history. Is it possible for this team to do anythign positive before the next decade?
Kevin Pelton (4:42 PM)
I think Ted Stepien observers would disagree. Neglect hurt the Kings, but there's still a core of talent in place. I think the depth of the West is a bigger obstacle to competing over the next 2-3 years than the Maloofs.
I read a great idea today (from the King's new owner) that would have the draft lottery stay as it is today, but get finalized according to team records at the all-star break. That way no need for tanking at the end of the season. I think it's almost perfect. Your thoughts?
Kevin Pelton (4:43 PM)
This idea has popped up in a few different versions. I think it would probably mitigate the number of teams that tank because teams would not necessarily spend as much time before the deadline out of playoff contention. But for teams that know they have no chance of making the playoffs like this year's 76ers, it basically just encourages them to trade their players earlier. So I'm not sure that's better on balance.
Who has the advantage when a home team is on a b2b and the road team is rested?
Kevin Pelton (4:44 PM)
The impact of home court is larger than the impact of a night's rest, though I think by the time you get to 4 games in 5 nights it might even out or tip the other direction. Not sure about that.
Everyone puts the Clippers, Rockets, and Thunder at an echelon above the Grizzlies, but since they've been healthy, the Grizz have a win % right there with those teams. Are the Grizzlies on the same level?
Kevin Pelton (4:46 PM)
Houston and the Clippers have been markedly better since the All-Star break, and Oklahoma City's season-long numbers are still better than Memphis' post-break numbers, so I would say the Grizzlies are a notch below.
The Whistle (Ref's pocket)
Hey Kevin, love your brand of insight... What did you make of the officiating in the Heat/Pacers game and would you agree with Bosh that the flagrant rules need to be clarified????
Kevin Pelton (4:48 PM)
Well, based on Bosh's comments about "playing the ball," apparently he needs a refresher course in them. That is not part of the rule/determination, and it's unfortunate the players and the media continue to encourage the notion that it is.
Kevin Pelton (4:49 PM)
With the caveat that I didn't watch the whole game because I was focusing on some other teams, I thought the officials were in a really tough position Wednesday night. That much intensity is going to lead to a lot of borderline plays that probably could go either way. I don't envy whoever works the Eastern Conference Finals.
To somewhat piggyback off of Andrew's (Tulsa) not very stats-y question, how much of what separates "good" NBA players from mediocre or below-average NBA players do you think is skill (i.e. shooting ability, court vision, etc.) and how much do you think is sheer athleticism? Do you think the ratio would be similar at the college level?
Kevin Pelton (4:50 PM)
Hmm. Some of that depends how skill and athleticism are separated, along with, say, instincts. But I would say maybe half and half at the NBA level? I think at the college level, athleticism is probably more than half because elite athletes can be so physically dominant over lesser players, whereas everybody's a good athlete in the NBA.
Kevin Pelton (4:51 PM)
That's what gets me when people talk about how Andrew Wiggins will definitely be a superstar because of his athleticism. There are a lot of athletes in the NBA. Take Terrence Ross. He's a freak, as evidenced by his success in the dunk contest. He's also a very good outside shooter. And he's still not that good a player! It takes a lot to be a good NBA player.
Any books you would recommend on building projection models?
Kevin Pelton (4:52 PM)
Honestly, my main guide was Baseball Prospectus 2003 (I think that's the one where Nate Silver describes PECOTA). I'm sure there are better answers than that, though.
What is your take on the subjectivity of an assist. While there is a rule dictating what an assist is, that rule as to be interpreted. This does not apply to most other stats (points, rebounds, blocks, etc).
Kevin Pelton (4:53 PM)
It's an issue, though there's some subjectivity to which players get awarded rebounds and blocks as well when a couple combine for them.
Daniel Josephson (Utah)
To answer your question (about how bad teams get better from my draft fix idea above), Kevin, how about teams make smarter trades, do better scouting, employ better coaching staffs, and manage their cap space better? High draft picks don't 100% equate to making teams better (see: Cavs, Bobcats, etc.).
Kevin Pelton (4:55 PM)
Not 100%, certainly, but they help. And I think the numbers I've looked at the last couple of weeks in this column and this one suggest the system actually works pretty well in terms of creating parity the long run.
What are your thoughts of have the draft spot be based on overall record for last X number of years. Maybe 3 years.
Kevin Pelton (4:55 PM)
This has been one of my favorite tweaks in the past, though it has the downside of encouraging extended rebuilds rather than getting in the lottery and getting out.
But what about the portion of Josh's question about getting no assist credit for passes that result in foul shots?
Kevin Pelton (4:56 PM)
Ah, yeah, we definitely should do that and now have the ability to do so with SportVU tracking this and hockey assists.
You just described Kyle Anderson as the guy who will finally make Jimmer a star!
Kevin Pelton (4:56 PM)
Offensively, yes. That defense could be kinda rough.
Could the 76ers land Kevin Love for their two 1st rounders in the 2014 draft?
Kevin Pelton (4:57 PM)
Maybe? Both Zach Lowe and Marc Stein noted today that all indications are the Wolves want to hold on to Love as long as possible before making a decision on trading him. But if the Sixers dangled the No. 1 pick, you'd have to at least discuss it. (Not sure why the 76ers would do that, but entertaining the hypothetical.)
Do the Knicks have the means to acquire second round picks in the upcoming draft? Assuming their goal is to run the Triangle, this draft seems especially ripe with combo guards that would fit that system (Marble, Clarkson, Sykes, Suilamon) and could be obtained with a second round pick.
Kevin Pelton (4:58 PM)
As long as the Garden ATM isn't broken, they certainly do. I'd also love to somehow see Kyle Anderson in the triangle.
How different would this year have went for the Hawks if Horford had stayed healthy?
Kevin Pelton (4:59 PM)
They wouldn't be fighting for one of the last playoff spots, but I don't think they could have kept up with the improvement from 3-5 in the conference. I think they'd be in the mix for 6 and 7 with Washington in that scenario.
Do you agree with how far Embiid has fallen on some draft boards since his injury? Where would you draft him?
Kevin Pelton (5:00 PM)
It's tough for me, or anyone, to really say without knowing the medical results. If his back could be a long-term issue, that probably should push him down a couple of spots.
Paul (SF, CA)
Any insight into the Mark Jackson situation? It seems odd that there would be so many rumblings, when it seems like from a record standpoint the team is meeting most peoples expectations from before the season started.
Kevin Pelton (5:02 PM)
Well, I think standing in the conference is probably more important than record in this regard, and I would also suggest that Warriors ownership was probably more optimistic than fans at large.
The more I watch Aaron Gordon play the more I'm impressed. Are his shooting woes (especially at the line) correctable? If so, he could be a superstar. Against SD ST, they kept replaying his ally-oop, but it was his stop on the ball on D that set up that score.
Kevin Pelton (5:02 PM)
I'll say this: A lot of mistakes have been made in NBA history assuming that shooting woes were correctable.
Zed (Austin, TX)
If Jay Williams had not gotten into that horrific accident, what kind of career would he have had? Would you say rich man's Jameer Nelson?
Kevin Pelton (5:03 PM)
He didn't come out well by the early incarnation of my draft ratings. He's not in the current version, but based on that and his rookie season, I'm not sure he was destined for a great career -- although the rules reinterpretations of 2004-05 would have surely helped.
Any insight on why the Jazz declined to trade Marvin Williams for a first round pick (before the 2014 trade line)? I'm confused why the Jazz would pass up on the chance to stock pile another first round pick.
Kevin Pelton (5:04 PM)
Presumably said first-round pick came attached to an onerous contract that would have cut into Utah's cap space.
Sean (Orem (UT))
Read recently about the value of a steal. I happen to coach a kid who "gambles" for steals all game long and ends up with several (leads the team in steals) but I can't count how many times his gambles have cost us as a team D. Anything to this? Anyway to track gambles for steals that result in steals/shots/easy shots, etc.?
Kevin Pelton (5:06 PM)
I'd love to see Vantage Sports track this as part of their package. Like everything in else, it's a tradeoff. But I think coaches probably tend to exaggerate the risks at higher levels and underestimate the benefits.
Which Washington player that dominated in college ball but never got around to playing professional ball do you miss the most?
Kevin Pelton (5:07 PM)
I always wanted Tre Simmons to get a chance in the NBA. He was in camp with the Sonics for a few days, and when the team moved I was able to hook up a friend who went to the same high school with a Simmons Sonics jersey.
Jordan [via mobile]
What about replacing the draft with a bidding process? The worse the team the more money they get to offer rookies, but the rookies get to pick the offer they like. Is it worth tanking for a million more dollars if that might convince wiggins/Parker he doesn't want to play for a team that lost 26 straight?
Kevin Pelton (5:08 PM)
A lot of danger there that the best prospects only go to the top markets and leave the smaller ones out in the cold.
What if an indpendent review panel seeded teams according to a combination of record and the collective WARP/PER of their players, so that you actually were doing your best to actually identify the worst team (as opposed to the team with the worst record)?
Kevin Pelton (5:08 PM)
Given the effectiveness of the NCAA selection committee, I'd probably stay away from subjective judgments.
How about not rewarding the terrible teams for being terrible? You still get high enough pick to get talent in most other lottery ideas, but they shouldn't hand you a prize for managing a team horribly.
Kevin Pelton (5:09 PM)
Has Sam Hinkie managed the Sixers horribly?
Paul (SF, CA)
So one of the criticisms of the Warriors is that they seem to have lost more winnable home games than they should. This seems like something that could actually be measured, and if it turned out to be true, do you think it's actually something significant?
Kevin Pelton (5:11 PM)
I should be able to run some numbers on that and tweet them at some point. As to whether it's significant, given the small margin between seeds right now, I would say yes.
Kevin, why are there so many "Draft Reform" ideas for the NBA, as compared to other sports? In other sports, there is no lottery, so therefore, tanking can be perceived as more beneficial than the NBA, because the worst team is guaranteed the best pick.
Kevin Pelton (5:12 PM)
Because a single player makes more of a difference in basketball, is more of a sure thing than baseball and the season is longer in football. It's a structural problem that's fairly unique to the NBA but not exactly they league's fault.
Do you expect any upsets in East in playoffs? Despite how both the Pacers and Heat have been playing lately, still expect to see them in Eastern conference finals.
Kevin Pelton (5:13 PM)
I think people are underestimating the chances of an upset. Simulation shows the Pacers and Heat meeting about half the time. I'd put the odds higher than that, but nowhere near 100%.
Are NBA GMs too obsessed with draft picks? Isn't a productive player with a reasonable contract (Aaron Afflalo, Thad Young) more valuable than an unknown quantity (late first or early second round pick)?
Kevin Pelton (5:15 PM)
No, because generally speaking these players are paid what they're worth. Nate Silver once put it well. There are only two ways to beat your opponents: Spend more money than them or spend your money more efficiently. Well, a variety of rules make it tougher to spend more money in the NBA, so efficiency rules. And draft picks are, other than above-max superstars, the most efficient assets in the league.
I think people underestimate upsets because generally a 7 game series is won by the better team, this isn't the NCAA with one game playoffs.
Kevin Pelton (5:16 PM)
Certainly it's much less likely, but there's still plenty of room for randomness in a seven-game series. Upsets have happened, and will happen.
Justin (Los Angeles)
I am pretty sure Quantum Analytics Diversification of Lilliputian Contraction will be the standard to judge players in upcoming years. Why does Math have ruin everything?
Kevin Pelton (5:16 PM)
How is math ruining it?
Hi Kevin, great work. I read that the post centric offenses of the 90s (Rockets, Spurs, Knicks, etc) from an advance stat stanpoint are less efficient than todays pick and roll schemes. How do you think a post centric offense would turn out in todays game, if there were a trancesndant scorer playing C, (like Embiid, perhaps?). Can that style win a title?
Kevin Pelton (5:18 PM)
The issue is more that defenses are different now than that we've learned something new about offense. Double teams and help defense are much more sophisticated now. Mike Prada had a good look at this. So I think because of that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for a player to be a transcendent post scorer today.
What is with the tanking outrage? the lottery itself should be the tanking deterrent... it rarely ever works out.
Kevin Pelton (5:19 PM)
Deterrent, yes, but obviously we do see teams playing for draft picks by choosing to rebuild if not necessarily intentionally losing games. So that's why it's a discussion point. I am surprised people are so interested in it this week, but everybody has an opinion/their idea about it.
So I read some NBA piece saying the true reason for the NBA wanting players in college longer is owners want them to be older to limit the player's value when they hit free agency for their 2nd/3rd/4th contract? Do you know the article I'm referring to? Thoughts?
Kevin Pelton (5:20 PM)
I don't think that's a big factor. The players are going to make the same amount of money regardless; that merely changes how it's distributed. So I think the league honestly believes players are better off spending two years in college.
Speaking of trades between the Wolves and Sixers wouldn't Pekovic for their second first round pick be a smart move. They have the cap space. He is still relatively young on a reasonable contract and if Noel can do nothing else he will likely be one of the best shot blockers in the league
Kevin Pelton (5:21 PM)
Even if the Sixers were looking to add veterans now, they've made it clear they view Noel as a center and want to put shooting alongside him. So not a fit.
Jason J (NYC)
Do you think the NBA should strive for greater parity or greater dynasties? It seems like NBA popularity tends to peak when there are super teams around - Magic's Lakers, Bird's Celtics, Jordan's Bulls, Shaq's Lakers, LeBron's Heat.
Kevin Pelton (5:22 PM)
Good question. The studies I've seen have suggested that dominance is good for a short period of time, but not for too long. But the NBA also has to maximize each of its teams in addition to the league as a whole, and giving them real hope of competing is a part of that.
Suns fan - so its down to making the play offs or getting the 14th pic - is there data that shows how even making the play offs and getting swept would have value over the 14th pick. Or just common sense that in the NBA, winning is a process of learning to win and it takes losing in the playoffs and this speeds up the process by one year.
Kevin Pelton (5:23 PM)
I studied this in one of the Prospectus books a few years ago and there was zero impact going forward. The Suns are in a fairly extreme position because they'd be picking like 18th if they made the playoffs, but again, the difference between those spots is marginal. Pull for your team to win.
Regarding successful Washington State athletes, I don't think Mark Hendrickson (from Mt. Vernon), gets enough credit. He played professionally in the NBA and pitched in the Major leagues! What say you?
Kevin Pelton (5:24 PM)
Rare group in modern history, yeah.
Jason J (NYC)
Isn't LeBron a transcendent post scorer? If you look at team stats from the 80s and 90s, the eFG% are much lower because the paint is packed and fewer threes are taken. However, ORTgs were often higher than today because of offensive rebounding and more free throws (less threes, more interior play).
Kevin Pelton (5:24 PM)
I don't think he does it enough to be considered transcendent.
Mike (Boston) [via mobile]
That Celtics/Tim Duncan remark hurt :(
Kevin Pelton (5:25 PM)
Sorry, didn't mean to twist the knife but I see that I did.
If Napier continues his stellar play and takes UCONN to the championship game, is there any way he could be a top 10 pick in the 2014 draft?
Kevin Pelton (5:25 PM)
I'd have a hard time seeing him playing his way into the lottery. Kemba Walker was barely a top-10 pick and his stock was much higher entering the tournament.
With Favors and Kanter on the Jazz, would Utah consider drafting Gordon in the 5-8 range? His defense seems great, which the Jazz lack.
Kevin Pelton (5:26 PM)
Given how ineffective the Favors-Kanter frontcourt has generally been, I think it's possible to argue that a power forward is Utah's biggest need rather than a position to be avoided.
Nets or Bulls: who's the tougher play in the playoffs?
Kevin Pelton (5:28 PM)
I would say Chicago, if only because it will be more physically taxing.
Do you use your statistical prowess to fill out NCAA tourney brackets? If so, how are your brackets doing?
Kevin Pelton (5:29 PM)
I will answer this because I'm now in the 95th percentile nationally. Although I'm knocking on wood so as to not jinx my three remaining Final Four teams.
If stats were able to suddenly measure defense as accurately as they seem to do offense, which players do you think would make the greatest leap in terms of our perceived value? Rajon Rondo? Ricky Rubio? Labron James (not that he can go much higher)?
Kevin Pelton (5:30 PM)
I think it would almost entirely be post players. To the extent that guys like Rondo/Rubio help, it's largely tracked through the box scores. But already we've made a lot of progress in this regard in terms of measuring rim protection, so I don't think there would be any huge surprises.
Is Chris Copeland really that much of a defensive liability that he can see more time in the Pacers 2nd unit rotation? With Watson out, doesn't a line up w/ Turner or Stephenson handling the ball and Copeland at the 3 work? Or couldn't he take some of Scola's minutes considering he can't hit the broad side of a barn?
Kevin Pelton (5:31 PM)
As a small forward, I don't think the offense Copeland provides can make up for his defense, but I would try him at power forward in place of Scola to see how it works.
Andrew (Tulsa) [via mobile]
I don't understand people's griping over the amount of time it takes to look at replays. It's not like people are going to stop watching the game because it takes a couple of minutes to figure out the correct call. It's silly to think that those few minutes are actually making your life all that much worse. What are your thoughts on replay?
Kevin Pelton (5:32 PM)
I think it's somewhat worse watching at home than in the arena, because there's more drama and tension and less feeling that you're missing out on watching something else. But I think the bigger issue here is there doesn't seem to be much marginal return on the additional time in terms of making replays more accurate.
Kevin Pelton (5:33 PM)
Alright, everyone, good long chat today but I think I'm going to wrap it up. Thanks for your questions and see you next week!