Bucks Diary

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Celtic heist no one mentions


Lately everyone seems to be having a good old time making fun of Minnesota GM Kevin McHale for agreeing to the Kevin Garnett trade (even his old buddy Larry Bird). We all forget that there was another trade that was crucial to Boston's success and just as lopsided in Boston's favor: the Celtics traded the fifth pick in last year's draft to the Seattle Supersonics for SG Ray Allen.

This outcome of this trade should serve as an abject lesson to all of those who believe trading a proven Win Contributor for even high draft choices is a good deal.

The Sonics ended up selecting Jeff Green with that pick (rather, Boston selected him and traded him to Seattle). In his rookie season, Green was absolutely horrible. He helped turn the Sonics from a franchise on the edge of contender status to a franchise that is so bad that it is arguing in open court that their fan base is actively "disinterested" in them.

Meanwhile, Ray Allen has been a key component in one of the most stunning franchise turnarounds in modern sports history. One year ago today, the Celtics looked like a franchise that once was and would never be again. Today may be the day they win the 17th World Championship in their glorious history. Unbelievable.

Comparing the Two

But doesn't Green have a lot of "upside" while Allen's on the back end of his career? First of all, Allen is about to help deliver the Celtics a World Championship, so his time in Boston has already justified itself. Second, its very questionable how much upside Green actually has. He had a terrible rookie season. Players can improve, but its extremely rare for a truly talented player to have as bad a rookie season as Green had. Green has the markings of a bust.



Green can't play defense or offense

As you can see Green was a very subpar defensive player and a subpar offensive player. Green is an extremely poor rebounder as a power forward, and a merely adequate one as a small forward. His .16 rebounds per minute rate is well below the power forward average of .24 and just above the small forward average of .15. Green is also a poor shooter. His adjusted field goal percentage of 44.2% is below average for both the small forward (48.4%) and power forward (48.6%) positions. He is also below average when it comes to turnovers, assists, blocked shots, and personal fouls. Besides that he shows a lot of promise.

Can he get better? If you look at his college statistics, it doesn't look like it. His collegiate Win Score projects out to an NBA average of 6.5 Win Score points per 48 minutes for his career. That would be well below average for a power forward, and below average for a small forward. But it is better than the 4.7 Win Score average he put up this season, so he does have room to improve.

The trouble is he's never going to rebound well enough to be an adequate power forward because he lacks the bulk. So they should give that position up. As a small forward, he could be okay, but his college record shows he's always turned the ball over too much and he has never been an efficient shooter from the field.

What about his defense? That doesn't look too promising either. Coming out of Georgetown defense was supposed to be his forte. But his Defensive Win Score at both power forward and small forward were well below average.

How much of that is just a reflection of Seattle's poor defense? Defensive Win Score obviously has a team component. If you're on a team that plays good defense, your Defensive Win Score will improve. For instance, Ray Allen's Defensive Win Score at shooting guard went from 5.9 in his last season with Seattle to 4.0 this season with Boston. However, we can still say that Allen is a good defender at the 2 because his DWS outdid Seattle's Team Defensive Win Score by 11% and Boston's Team Defensive Win Score by 7% (Allen was a poor defender at the small forward position in both Seattle and Boston).

By contrast, Green looks like a poor defender at both the 3 and the 4. Seattle's team defensive Win Score was 16.5% below the NBA average, while Green's Defensive Win Score as a power forward was 32.3% below the NBA average, his Defensive Win Score as a small forward was 28.2% below the NBA average. So he significantly underperformed his team's already below average performance. Not a good sign.

Introducing "If he were the whole team"

I've just invented a new statistic to help translate the meaning of the statistic "Win Value over Average". Its on the above linked Allen-Green Win Chart and its called "If he were the whole team".

"If he were the whole team" purports to show what kind of record the team would have if everyone on the team performed at the same level as the player in question. It kind of lets you know just how good or how bad the player's Win Value actually is.

The statistic is calculated as follows: (Win Value over Average) divided by (player's % of playing time) plus 41. The statistic answers the following question. If everyone on the team added/lost wins at the same rate as this guy, what would our record be? As you can see, Ray Allen produced 2.1 more wins for the Celtics than you would expect the average player at the same position(s) to produce if they played the same number of minutes. Since Allen played .136 % of the total Celtic player minutes, if ever player on the team produced wins like Allen the team would have had a record of 57-25. That's excellent, but worse than their actual record. So you know their were others on the team that produced at phenomenal rates (see Garnett, Kevin and Pierce, Paul).

Green on the other hand was so far below average, that if the whole team produced wins at his rate the team would not have won a single game (in fact, they would have lost 6 extra games, theoretically). He was exceptionally bad.

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