Bucks Diary

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bucks Trade Instant Analysis: Which Jefferson are the Bucks getting?

The outcome of the Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian trade will hinge on two questions. One, can Richard Jefferson get back to the elite small forward level he played at three seasons ago, or is he damaged goods stuck in a permanent decline? Two, was last year a truly representative example of Yi Jianlian's ability, or did he merely scratch the surface of what he can do? Once we have the answer to those two questions we will know.

Three seasons ago Richard Jefferson was a way above average offensive Win Contributor and an above average defensive Win Contributor. The two elements combined to add 10.3 wins to the New Jersey Nets, with 13.3 offensive half wins and 7.3 defensive half wins. That's lower elite production. The next season, however, his defense held steady, but his offensive production and his minutes played went into free fall (I believe he injured his knee). So did his win production, as he added 3.0 wins to the New Jersey Nets, with 4.3 defensive half wins and 1.7 offensive half wins.

Last season the trend continued. Even though Jefferson played a full season, his offensive production was below average, and his defensive production slipped below average as well. As a consequence, even though he played many more minutes than he had the previous season, he was only able to add 4.3 wins to the Nets total, with 3.2 offensive half wins and 5.5 defensive half wins.

The really troubling thing about that is Jefferson's defense at his normal spot, small forward, was way below average whereas his defense at his secondary spot, power forward, was actually above average. What's so troubling about that? Well it suggests his defensive decline was not caused by disinterest in a losing cause. If he was playing above average defense at the 4 and yet poor defense at the 3, it suggests his effort was there, but perhaps his athleticism has left him... similar to the way Hank Aaron got stronger in the home run department as he aged but could no longer play the outfield. Aging athletes tend to get stronger even as their elite reflexes fade away.

So Jefferson's trajectory is a concern. But what have the Bucks given up when they traded Yi? Well, a week or so ago I was trying to argue that Yi had the tools to be a Mandarin version of Kevin Garnett. But there were a lot of "ifs" in that proposition. I argued essentially that Yi needed to change his entire demeanor and approach to the game.

Is that likely to happen? I don't know. Erich Doerr and others have told me they still see potential in Yi, but speaking candidly, I didn't hold out that much hope that Yi would transform himself. He was nearly 22 years old, he was receiving substantial playing time... I think what we saw was what he is going to give. Glimpses of offensive production, occasional rebounding, a bit of surprising defense, and overall middling statistics.

I could be wrong and Yi could indeed transform himself into the next great thing. But I kind of doubt he will.

As for present value, here is my "Win Chart" comparing the performances of Richard Jefferson and Yi Jianlian/Bobby Simmons. As you can see, Jefferson was the best player, but technically because of his percentage of playing time, his below average play did more damage to the Nets than Yi's below average play or Simmons way below average play did to the Bucks.


At June 26, 2008 at 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're not helping me get any more excited, main. I was looking at those career stats too, looking back 3 and 5 years. He is just 28... but probably on that downside. I think I will like him all right but I can't say I'm excited.

But in a way this trade kind of pounds home how far this team was and is from contending. Maybe it's just me, but Williams-Redd-Jefferson-Villanueva-Bogut seems like at least another kind of big trade should hopefully be on the way. I was hoping they'd unload this pick though, can't say I'm excited about Alexander either. Have to admit I don't know much about these college players though.

At June 26, 2008 at 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to hope Jefferson can play more like 30 minutes a game with the Bucks and be more effective. With either Mason or Alexander contributing when he is resting

At June 26, 2008 at 8:47 PM, Blogger TCW said...

That's not an "According to Hoyle" analysis. I did it as quickly as possible. Maybe if I contemplate a little longer I'll see things "Greener and Redder" so to speak. But, as the Diesel said, he's better than Yi or Simmons, so that's adding by subtracting anyway.

He's only 28??? That kind of shocks me. Doesn't it seem like he's been playing for 28 years?

I'm worried though. He's definitely trending downward. Can he reverse that? He should be in his prime, so maybe

At June 26, 2008 at 11:17 PM, Anonymous paulpressey25 said...

The part we forget is the massive negative trade value Bobby Simmons had. Few teams would take on that $20 million in dead weight but for the Nets positioning for LeBron in 2010.

At July 17, 2008 at 1:44 AM, Anonymous Jonathan said...

no question that rj is the best player on the trade. however i cant help but feel the bucks are giving up more than they are accquiring. the bucks can keep simmons and when his contract expires, they wld be able to push for better players than rj come summer 2010. and yi, who will probably become a good solid player brings so much financial windfall to the bucks that not many players can. isn't that worth something? also in 2010, the bucks will be stuck with a much of draft picks who are good but no outstanding, an ageing jefferson and a whole bunch of good players but nothing more than a playoff berth!


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