FanPost

Atlantic Division Preview

Oh hello. Wow. I didn't expect to see you again, here, at this place where we are. It's been a while hasn't it? You know the last time I saw you things got bad. There may have been tears. But you're back now, and that's the important thing. It is what it is. Right? Huh? That's weird: I thought you would have had more to say after all this time you've been doing those things away from me here sitting here waiting. But, you're back. And that's really cool. Really cool. For everyone. I got a new job now. I'm a trainer. I'm training to be a trainer. Is that a paradox or an oxymoron? Right. Anyway, you're back, and I think it's going to be one of the best things that's ever happened to us. Yeah? Great. That's really great. See you around then....

This year I would like to do a set of previews. There will be six previews covering every team division by division. The basic idea is I write a blurb about each team hitting an angle I find interesting or especially relevant or under-reported. For each team I mention the major moves made this summer and a win total prediction based on a stat blend I put together.

I also use the results of this stat blend to evaluate four contracts from each team: best and worst value large contract; best and worst value small contract. The average NBA salary this year is approximately $5.1M, so I am going to call all contracts less than or equal to $5.1M a small contract, while anything above $5.1M will be a large contract. Contracts are said to be good or bad based on their price divided by the number of wins I project the player to add this year.

The flaws of looking at contracts this way appear immediately. A player like Asik whose situation will depress his minutes is going to look much worse than he is. Likewise for players who have injuries to heal from like Kobe or Rondo.

Additionally, there is no one in the world who would say that a $25M player who gives you 20 wins is a lesser value contract as a $6M player who gives you 6 wins. I think this example shows that what I am measuring is something like the "value efficiency" of a contract; it is an imperfect metric but I think it gives us an interesting look at roster construction.

BROOKLYN NETS:

54 Wins

Notables In:

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Terry

Notables Out:

Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, C.J. Watson

Best Value Large Contract:

Kevin Garnett ($1,592,936 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Joe Johnson ($3,412,415 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Shaun Livingston ($409,233 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Mirza Teletovic ($11,485,083 per Win)

With all due respect to Pierce and Kirilenko, Garnett was the big haul in the Nets-Celtics trade this summer and the reason is defense. So the question is: how much can we expect Garnett to improve the Nets' defense? To get an idea I think we can do a simplified thought experiment with non-prior informed RAPM.

Let's pretend last year's Nets had only three players: Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries. And let's further pretend that each season consists of 82 games but only 10,000 defensive possessions. Here is what last year's Nets "team" looks like defensively:

BROOKLYN NETS 2012-13

NAME

Possessions

DRAPM

Total Defensive +/-

Gerald Wallace

4000

+3.4

+136

Reggie Evans

4000

-0.7

-28

Kris Humphries

2000

+0.3

+6

If we add the +/- numbers and divide by 82 games we get a defensive efficiency differential of +1.4 for this "team".

Now if we do the same for a "team" consisting of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Reggie Evans:

BROOKLYN NETS 2013-14

NAME

Possessions

DRAPM

Total Def. +/-

Paul Pierce

4000

+0.9

+36

Kevin Garnett

4000

+4.7

+188

Reggie Evans

2000

-0.7

-14

Again adding the +/- numbers and dividing by 82 we get a defensive efficiency differential of +2.6, giving this Nets "team" a +1.2 point advantage over last year's. A similar increase would have been sufficient to move the Nets from last year's 17th place in DRtg to 11th. I think a top 5 finish on offense and a top 13 finish on defense is doable for this Nets team.

NEW YORK KNICKS:

49 Wins

Notables In:

Andrea Bargnani, Metta Peace, Beno Udrih

Notables Out:

Steve Novak, Jason Kidd, Chris Copeland

Best Value Large Contract:

J.R. Smith ($942,324 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Andrea Bargnani ($9,945,564 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Metta Peace ($306,377 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Beno Udrih ($1,082,207 per Win)

The Knicks' power comes from its frontcourt, which is built around their best player Tyson Chandler. Here are the main big man pairs the Knicks played last year, along with their offensive and defensive performance.

PF/Center

Offensive PPP

Defensive PPP

Amare/Chandler

1.16

1.03

Melo/Chandler

1.11

1.04

Melo/Amare

1.09

1.13

Once again Woodson will probably want to avoid putting Amare and Melo together at the center and power forward position. Does that mean Amare cannot play center this year? I am not sure Woodson will have a choice. The only other option would be Bargnani and he may be even less of a center than Amare. Amare and Kenyon Martin had success in very limited minutes, but my bet is with World Peace as a stretch 4 to pair with Amare. Peace played about 110 minutes at the four this year with LA and that lineup had an efficiency differential of +31.6 per 100 possessions. He has great strength, can shoot 3s well enough for a power forward, and has the post skills to take advantage of smaller defenders. This would also give the Knicks some continuity of style when Melo goes to the bench.

The Knicks should still be frisky this year. They lost to a very good Pacers team in 6 games while playing them to a draw in point differential.

TORONTO RAPTORS:

41 Wins

Notables In:

Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough

Notables Out:

Andrea Bargnani

Best Value Large Contract:

Amir Johnson ($776,549 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Rudy Gay ($3,726,924 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Quincy Acy ($599,509 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Aaron Gray ($16,301,310 per Win)

Here is a question: why don't more teams just play their starting lineup tons of minutes together? The average most used lineup played 522 minutes last year and only Indiana, OKC and Portland played a lineup in excess of 1000 minutes.

How does this relate to the Raptors? Because the Raptors' most used lineup (Lowry/Derozan/Gay/A. Johnson/Valanciunas) played 269 minutes last year and had a +14.2 efficiency differential. Jonas and Amir both have high foul rates which may put a cap on the number of minutes this lineup can play; but given that those two fouled out a combined 10 times all last year, it is certainly arguable that coach Dwayne Casey has been too protective and could run with that lineup more. That 5-man group gave up 96 points per 100 possessions defensively. Looking at the numbers, I would say the 43 FG% that lineup gave up on layups is probably unsustainable, but everything else looks more or less replicable.

Offensively I think there are two issues. First, Gay and Derozan need to make some threes to help boost some of these other lineups. If that combo combines to shoot under 33% from three again some of the Raptors' non-starting lineups are going to struggle offensively.

The second issue is the Raptors did not get any easy points last year. They were in the bottom quarter of league in fast break points per game, fast break efficiency and points in paint. Kyle Lowry playing more than 2000 minutes could be a fix for the latter issue as he was the only distributor last year who could get into the lane, something which is true again this year. The other two require the Raptors to start getting some stops on the defensive end.

It has been two years since Casey had the Raptors playing average defense. If they can get back to that the Raptors could be a tough little team.

BOSTON CELTICS

30 Wins

Notables In:

Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries

Notables Out:

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry

Best Value Large Contract:

Courtney Lee ($1,181,855 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Kris Humphries ($4,994,275 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Jared Sullinger ($548,756 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Jordan Crawford gets $2.1M, is bad

What if Doc Rivers had stayed in Boston for this year? Consider that they will be without anyone who resembles an NBA point guard until December or so. Consider that Jeff Green will probably be their best shot creator. Consider that Paul Pierce and Jason Terry accounted for 54% of Boston's three point makes last year and that their replacements are Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace. Consider the Celtics' big men unit. Now think about what this team would have been like if they had to hew to Doc Rivers' transition defense strategy, the one that produced the worst, second worst and fifth worst offensive rebounding teams in NBA history. This could have been an unusually bad offensive team. It's still going to be bad, but they are probably going to have to hit the offensive boards hard to make up for their shoddy shooting and ball handling.

This Rondo character some of you people on this site have a weird thing about is going to come back maybe in December, and while he will hit the offensive glass I do not think he is going to help this team shoot more threes. I say this because before the All Star break last year 20% of the Celtics' shot attempts were threes. After the All Star break, when Rondo was out of the picture (his last game was two and a half weeks before the break), 23.3% of the Celtics' shots were threes. So they were at least closer then to league average (24.3%).

Good news: it looks like this Brad Stevens guy's Butler teams always took a lot of threes. So maybe he can get his new team to do the same.

Bad news: there is a rumor that the Celtics may have to add an assistant coach whose sole job is to help Rondo communicate with Mr Stevens and not be crazy. That's strange. Is this the way to get Rondo to cut his recent selfish, stat-padding nonsense? I have no idea. I have never heard of a player needing his own personal diplomat before.

PHILADELPHIA 76ers

16 Wins

Notables In:

None

Notables Out:

Jrue Holiday, Dorrel Wright, Nick Young

Best Value Large Contract:

Thaddeus Young ($1,180,486 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Jason Richardson probably will not play

Best Value Small Contract:

James Anderson ($372,192 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Kwame Brown ($2,070,909 per Win)

Something something tanking something. Nerlens Noel might be back in December apparently, so I guess we have to wait a few months for the shitty Christmas puns. But all I want to know is if Thaddeus Young will be on the team by the end of this season, or if someone looking to make a playoff push will try to attain him. Something like Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham and a pick for Thad perhaps.

Stats courtesy of:

Basketball Reference

NBAWOWY

Hickory High

NBA.com

Team Rankings

Synergy

Vorped

Shamsports

http://stats-for-the-nba.appspot.com/

FanPosts are user-created posts from the BlogABull community, and are to be treated as the opinions and views of that particular user, not that of the blogger or blog community as a whole.

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