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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday February 12, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).


Hard-core hardcourt action can lead to hard questions, but who better to ask them of than Kevin Pelton of BasketballProspectus.com?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hey everyone, hope your Friday is going well. The All-Star break is upon us and we're less than a week out from the trade deadline, so there's plenty to talk about today and already lots of great questions in the queue. Without further ado, let's get talking NBA.

dianagramr (NYC): You are the director of Marketing for the Nets. What title will you bestow on the 2009-10 Nets highlight DVD?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets: The Quest for 10 Wins. (See Anthony Macri's analysis today of the Nets' chances of getting there: http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=917)

SMC (SF): I'm a big sabr baseball fan but haven't taken a more critical approach to basketball. I'm still a casual fan but can you give me your top analytic websites to check out? Please mention more than your employers. I'm looking for the fangraphs, BP, book blog equivalents.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Unfortunately, there isn't that kind of diversity in voices in the hoops blogosphere. It seems every time a good young writer pops up, they're snatched up by a team, which is great for them but unfortunate for the public. That happened recently with Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com and Ryan Parker of BasketballGeek.com.

Right now, I'd say the best site to check out on a regular basis is Hoopdata.com. I cite their numbers, especially charges drawn and shot locations, on a frequent basis in my columns, and Tom Haberstroh is one of the best guys out there. BasketballValue.com and 82games.com don't offer commentary, but their plus-minus data remains uniquely valuable. Neil Paine is very good (but writes too infrequently) at the Basketball-Reference.com blog. John Hollinger of ESPN Insider is, of course, a must read for anybody involved with the NBA and worth the price of Insider admission. (Scott Brooks was joking with him about this after the Portland-Oklahoma City game the other night, having to pay his $16.95 or whatever for his subscription.) Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie isn't strictly a statistical analyst, but his observations and insights are informed by the numbers and extremely keen. You could say something similar about Kevin Arnovitz, who posts at TrueHoop as well as Clipperblog.com. I'd also suggest Hoopsanalyst.com and lastly, the APBRmetrics message board I moderate features discussions involving a lot of these people. I'm sure I forgot someone, so I apologize to them.

NLBB15 (SMC (SF)): I'm a big sabr baseball fan but haven't taken a more critical approach to basketball. I'm still a casual fan but can you give me your top 5 or 10 basketball players? I'm guessing it's Lebron, Wade, Kobe, Dwight, CP3, Durant, Carmelo, Nash, Roy

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That's an awfully good list. I would add Tim Duncan, and Pau Gasol is right at the fringe of the top 10 along with Anthony and Roy. I would have Paul ahead of Bryant, though a lot of smart people are worried about the time Paul has missed this season.

Josh Stein (Needham, MA): Talk about this Ray Allen for Jamison and Butler rumor. Ainge is denying it. But he's a sneaky guy. Could it happen? If not, does Ray stay in green?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If you listen to Danny Ainge, he's either lazy or not doing his job. No, he's obviously talking to people. I would say that this particular rumor is awfully unlikely because it doesn't give the Wizards any future talent in return for either Jamison or Butler. It's a fall-back option if Washington can't get prospects in return for those guys individually along with the salary-cap relief Ray Allen's deal would provide. Who would have imagined a month ago that Allen would end up strictly an expiring contract on the trade market at this point?

Owen (Los Angeles): If you were Danny Ainge, would you be looking to move Ray Allen? And if so, what kind of return would you be looking for?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm on the record as thinking Allen has deteriorated to the point where he needs to be on the block, and the Celtics have only this limited window over the next week to take advantage of his expiring contract since they're still way over the cap. One counterpoint, though: Wayne Winston has been trumpeting Allen's adjusted plus-minus and the Celtics have been a better team this season with him on the floor: http://basketballvalue.com/teamplayers.php?year=2009-2010&team=BOS

As for return, the ideal would be a younger version of Allen, I think. If the Kings decided they wanted to move Kevin Martin for an expiring contract (and this isn't going to happen), he would be about perfect.

Owen (Los Angeles): The Warriors aren't going to sell low on Randolph and/or Biedrins this week, right? They're not going to nuke their future just to cater to a loony old coach, right? RIGHT?!

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I never make any promises when it comes to the Warriors. Sorry.

Matt (Dallas): Quick question for you: is there a primary factor (or factors) that account for the difference between BP's individual offensive and defensive ratings and Basketball Reference/Dean Oliver's formulas?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The single biggest difference is that our individual Offensive Ratings account for player usage rate, and Oliver's don't until they reach the wins level. So a guy who has been efficient in a small role will look much better by the Oliver Offensive Ratings.

Cole (Portland): If Portland trades for Tyrus, will the Blazers be the first team to own three of the first six picks in a single draft?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Would you believe no? The 2004-05 Miami Heat had the top three picks from the 1992 Draft--Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Christian Laettner. Had they done that before those guys were in their mid-30s it would have been really remarkable.

lennyd (Portland): Hi Kevin Before which season does the NBA contract with the players come up for renewal?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The CBA expires after the 2010-11 season, and even though that's still about 16 months away the sides are already talking because of how contentious the negotiations are expected to be. The league always aims high with its initial proposal but what was offered last week would basically change everything we know about the league's financial structure, both good and bad.

Erick Blasco (Brooklyn): Shane Battier has appeared to have lost a step and isn't having the same impact as a stopper that he's had in the past---of course not having a Yao or Mutombo to funnel ball-handlers to doesn't help. Whether looking at numbers or looking subjectively, I'm interested in who you think are the Top 5 wing defenders in the game right now?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): You're right that Battier's numbers aren't the same, though I haven't noticed a huge difference when I've watched him this season. (Part of the numbers might be extensive cross-matching since both Rockets wings are interchangable defensively.) I would still put him in the top five along with Thabo Sefolosha, Jared Jeffries, Mickael Pietrus and Ron Artest. That's in terms of pure stoppers, so I'm leaving out well-rounded defenders like Andrei Kirilenko and Gerald Wallace and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute because he defends 3s/4s more than 2s/3s.

Raj (Phoenix): What does your scouting eye say about Amare Stoudemire's defense? I was surprised to see that his dMult was 1.0 (i.e. holds players to exactly their average production)- given how much his defense is ripped in the media, what's your take on this? Is it a case of cross-matching that is protecting his shoddy defense?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): As if on cue from these last two questions, Bradford Doolittle's article on the leaders in dMult is up now at Basketball Prospectus. Give it a look: http://basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=918

Remember that dMult is strictly looking at individual defense, and from my perspective that's never been the biggest issue with Stoudemire. I think he's below average there, but the real problem is his poor help defense. I think the criticism he takes in the media is legitimate, if a bit too personal. Look, some guys just aren't defenders. It is what it is. And Stoudemire remains incredibly valuable anyway. The Every Play Counts I did on him this time last year remains applicable: http://basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=542

Bryan (Amherst): The popular opinion amongst local media in Massachusetts is that the Celtics are no longer an elite defensive team. Fair or unfair?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Unfair. Their problems are much more on offense than on defense. I don't have the last two nights in my spreadsheet at the moment, but they still rate No. 1 in the league in Defensive Rating. They're not at the all-time great level they were two years ago, but the defense is more than good enough.

BK (Boston, MA): What do you think of this with the new CBA negotiations (and yes, it's a fantasy): contract to 26 to 28 NBA teams, and field a 30 team D-League with a better salary structure. This way, you have a more formalized "minor league" system for teams w/c provides employment for more players, and the talent pool among teams is less diluted in the NBA.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): There is no way I or anyone who has ever lost their favorite team will ever endorse contraction in a million years. From an analytical perspective, with foreign players in the picture, the talent pool is enormous right now.

The D-League should be on the table during these negotiations, however. The league has to figure out how important it wants the D-League to be. Are salaries going to be competitive with what players get in Europe or are they going to have to sacrifice to play in the U.S.?

edkupfer (Toronto): What can we do to get some of these smart baseball nerds into hoops analysis? Seems like while they're working on even more minute aspects of baseball, there are entire worlds of hoops analysis waiting to be discovered, raining fame on he who comes up with the DIPS of basketball.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If only they knew that you were willing to buy them free beer if they simply mention Employee No. 8! I tend to agree in terms of basketball analysis has always been more interesting to me because it's more challenging and there is more room to be explored because the field is less mature. So come on, Baseball Prospectus readers, take up the charge and join us! Maybe we'll do some recruiting at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference next month. And if we could only convince Michael Lewis to write a whole book on us instead of just that NY Times magazine article on Shane Battier.

Jonny (The Cleve): How terrible are the Mariners going to be? Put me down lightly, please.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): They look pretty good to me, which does mean my commute home is going to be significantly worse this summer. It's a tougher tradeoff than you might imagine.

Nathan (Portland Roundball Society) (San Antonio): What's up KP2? What realistically available player on another team would most help Portland in the long term?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm not sure I see anyone who would really help the Blazers in the long run. Caron Butler is the primary guy in that discussion, but Nicolas Batum has flashed so much potential in the last couple of weeks that I don't think it makes sense to block his path to the starting lineup.

Griff (Vancouver, WA): Do the Blazers make a trade? Should they? Brandon thinks they are still a dangerous team - even without the presence of a big man (joel or greg).

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That said, I do think if the Blazers can pick up a big man with an expiring contract (Brendan Haywood or Marcus Camby) without giving up a first-round pick, they have to do it. Maybe even if they give up a first-rounder. The hole in the middle is too enormous and the West too open after the top two teams in the conference. That could be the favorites to win a playoff series with the right move.

Griff (Vancouver, WA): Do the Blazers make a trade? Should they? Brandon thinks they are still a dangerous team - even without the presence of a big man (joel or greg).

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That said, I do think if the Blazers can pick up a big man with an expiring contract (Brendan Haywood or Marcus Camby) without giving up a first-round pick, they have to do it. Maybe even if they give up a first-rounder. The hole in the middle is too enormous and the West too open after the top two teams in the conference. That could be the favorites to win a playoff series with the right move.

Blazer Guy (Boston): Word today is that the Blazers are interested in trading for Tyrus Thomas. I'm not sure what Thomas provides that Dante Cunningham and/or Travis Outlaw won't provide (and with much less drama). Thoughts?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): To close the Blazers section of today's chat, I think Thomas is a better defensive option than those guys, but given what Portland would have to give up and Thomas' difficulty fitting in with the Bulls I don't see that move making sense. Dante Cunningham is playing great minutes right now at the four and I really like the undersized frontcourt with him and LaMarcus Aldridge.

William (Orlando, FL): What's your take on Vince Carter's slippage this year? I know it's a common question, but I am truly amazed by the fact that he is shooting SO poorly, despite being surrounded by far more offensive talent than he was surrounded with just last year in New Jersey. And yet his defense has been above-average?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm hoping he's hurt. I can't understand why he's forcing things so much despite the talent around him, but even given that and his age there's no way he should be playing this poorly. Hopefully his big game on Monday is a sign that he's returning to form and not just a case of awful wing defense from the Hornets.

Owen (Los Angeles): Jeff Green is posting horrible plus-minus numbers for the third straight year. Is this something that'll correct itself, or should the Thunder consider removing him from their long-term nucleus?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Even his individual numbers don't indicate that Sam Presti should consider power forward completely solidified for the long term, and Green will be a restricted free agent and looking for a payday after next season. Especially with center looking better with Serge Ibaka's emergence, I think you could see Oklahoma City use its cap space/picks on a power forward at some point.

twinkies25 (MN): In retrospect, do you think David Kahn should have pulled the trigger on the Granger-Jefferson deal? Also, who's the T-Wolve's "franchise" player? Al? Kevin? Brewer? Rubio when he comes? (speaking of Rubio, how's he looked this year in compairision to Flynn?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, let's not lend too much credence to a rumor, but I do think that would have done a nice job of diversifying the Timberwolves' talent and they're probably going to have to make a move like that at some point. Right now, I think Love and one of the PGs have to be the guys you build around.

As for Rubio, one of those people I was remiss in not mentioning earlier was M. Haubs of The Painted Area, who keeps a close eye on Euroleague play and had a very positive column on Rubio recently: http://thepaintedarea.blogspot.com/2010/01/checking-in-on-ricky-rubio.html

BK (Boston, MA): Saw some Synergy data recently w/c indicated 15% of the Knicks' shot attempts come on post-ups, and by my personal observation, they don't really have an accomplished back to the basket player. Last year, Quentin Richardson was at least posted up a fair amount against leaner wings. Does D'Antoni need to diversify his offense and get someone like Bosh or Boozer for 2010 (assuming the primary FAs stay)? Right now, almost everything is facing the basket and mostly jumpers...even David Lee.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I don't think you need a post scorer in the NBA 2010, and I'm not sure how comfortable D'Antoni would be coaching that style. What the Knicks need is better guard play, given their current group is adequate at the very best.

krissbeth (watertown, ma): In honor of the NFL's war on head injury related bad PR, what one rule change should be implemented to protect basketball players?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would be in favor of doing more to protect airborne players, but there aren't really the kind of long-term ramifications to playing in the NBA that exist in the NFL, realistically.

Scott (Chicago): Could the Bulls realistically come up with two free agents next year? How much consideration do LeBron/Bosh put into playing with Rose and Noah? Am I reading too much into LeBron changing from #23 next year (the number just happens to be retired here, some dude wore it a few years ago). The Bulls, to me, have the best star-potential-core out of any team looking to acquire players and it would seem to be an attractive landing spot.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Not without a trade that sends Kirk Hinrich out for expiring contracts. As it stands, they'd barely have enough money for one marquee free agent right now. Their focus has to be on bringing Dwyane Wade home. LeBron James is a pipe dream.

Bryan (Amherst): Where does McGrady end up next season?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Looks like he's going to end up in New York at some point or another, and while the Knicks probably won't have much money to offer him, they'll have playing time.

Tyrus (New York, NY): Let's talk about David Lee for a second. He's a nice player but a bit one-dimensional (not a good defender) and not worth an enormous contract. What should the Knicks do with him? Am I crazy for thinking that they should try to trade him?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): His scoring and rebounding would seem to be two dimensions. Given Lee's contract, he's very difficult to trade, so not seeing this.

SGreenwell (Charlestown, RI): Everyone keeps harping on Allen in Boston, but isn't the elephant in the room Kevin Garnett? It looks like he's entering the "Chris Webber in Philly" portion of his career, as his health is so bad you can't count on him to be consistent from game to game.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): My opinion is that rumors of Garnett's demise are greatly exaggerated. When they're on the floor, he contributes more than Allen, and obviously his contract isn't moveable at all. So the Celtics need him to get healthy.

krissbeth (watertown, ma): What teams likely to be in March Madness can I root for with the cleanest conscience, i.e. high graduation rates and minimal recruiting shenanigans? Which teams should I root against on the same criteria?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Cornell. Probably Kentucky. (Sorry, UK fans. It's nothing personal.)

Tim (Tampa): Are the Hornets stuck in a limbo of sorts right now? They're going to do everything they can to keep Chris Paul happy, but at the same time, what do they need to do to surround him with talent enough to make them contenders?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Keep acquiring young players in the draft and--and this is key--actually play them. Now that Collison and Thornton are thriving do people understand why Byron Scott had to go? Their depth up front remains atrocious.

Scott (Chicago): You really think Wade is the best fit? He's another point guard that needs the ball and can't shoot threes. Don't they already have that player in Derrick Rose?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Agreed, but in terms of who is likely to sign with the Bulls, it's the guy who grew up in Chicago, no?

Bryan (Amherst): Does it makes more sense for the Heat to trade Beasley for Stoudemire now or wait to the offseason to make a big move?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think you trade for Stoudemire if you're concerned that Wade is likely to bolt if the team doesn't make any kind of a spash this season. That's the only way to justify giving up Michael Beasley, even if I'm very down on him right now. Otherwise, wait and play the cap space.

sorrento (Oil City): Who do you have in the dunk contest? I've enjoyed the last few years, but I don't know if there is any room for things to get crazier every year. Do you see a return to more conventional dunks this year?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): #LetShannonDunk. Nate Robinson's dunking is stale (I say this even as one of his greatest admirers) and whoever wins the dunkoff will already have used some of their best material. Gerald Wallace might surprise me, but right now Brown seems like an overwhelming favorite.

Tim (Tampa): Please, PLEASE tell me that the Warriors could be moving in the right direction. I don't see Nelson returning after this season, and the impending sale of the team makes me hopeful that a revamped team built around a core of Ellis/Curry/Randolph seems like a possibility.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Stephen Curry looked phenomenal on Wednesday night. His numbers are solid for a rookie, and he's got a bright future ahead of him. I have thus exhausted my Warriors optimism. Sorry.

Noah (Kalamazoo): Maybe it's just because I'm originally from Tucson, but the idea of the getting Andre Iguodala for Amare Stoudemire seems to sit well with me. How does the potential trade look when we dig through the numbers?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think Iguodala is highly underrated, and would thrive in a situation where he wasn't asked to be the go-to guy. He's a smaller Shawn Marion in Phoenix. The issue with that deal is you're very thin up front and there's no one to really run the pick-and-roll with Nash. You're limited to picking-and-popping with Frye.

Scott (Chicago): I guess I agree with that, yes, but I also believe the market and team has a lot to offer. What is really the difference between LeBron playing in New York or Chicago? Also, discussed this with some friends last night; assuming the Nets get the first pick and take John Wall...could the combination of the Nets Harris/Lopez/Wall core + Jay Z part ownership + impending move to Brooklyn influence LeBron's decision? Weird thought, but I think Wall might have some impact on where these guys end up.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, I think LeBron is most likely to stay in Cleveland. I do agree that Wall could impact that decision and a Wall/James combination in Brooklyn with Jay-Z would, to put it simply, be the most popular team of ever.

rick (white plains): Which player in the 2010 draft has the best NBA career after they all retire?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): It's John Wall, though at some point here I'm going to have a column arguing that he's somewhat overhyped (a hyping of which I am certainly guilty). Beyond him, I'm starting to come to the belief that Evan Turner is the clear No. 2 in this draft. The numbers really like him.

Ty (South Jersey): As much as the Nets need some talent and depth, they desperately need a coach. Who would be some good names for the team to look at, preferably some who are relatively unknown at this point and aren't coming from college?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Adrian Wojnarowski reports today that the Nets are looking for a big name, specifically Coach K. Depending on what happens in free agency, I'm not sure I can see them entrusting the team to a young up-and-comer. Unfortunately, the experienced options aren't great right now. As for that group of relative unknowns, I would mention Monty Williams from Portland, Brian Shaw of the Lakers, Tyrone Corbin of the Jazz and maybe Michael Malone of the Cavaliers as guys who might be head coaches soon. Also, somebody has to give Tom Thibodeau a chance at some point, right?

twinkies25 (MN): Out of all the players that the Timberwolves got rid of this past offseason, are their any that they should regret losing (Craig Smith, Bobby Brown, Telfair, Foye,or Miller?)

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No, are those guys all replaceable.

Dirk (Madison, WI): I'm getting tired of hearing about possible trades that work under the cap and could be slanted to work for both teams. What's going to be the first big deal to actually happen?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think either the Wizards or Stoudemire will be the first pieces to fall, but I've been saying that for a month now.

Bobby (Mountlake Terrace): Besides the Dontonio Wingcast, of course, are there any NBA podcasts that you'd recommend with information like the websites you listed earlier?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm not really a podcast guy, so I'm not the best person to answer. I will offer a plug for the Pac-10 18 and Life podcast, which had me on as a guest to talk about NBA prospects this week: http://eighteenandlife.podbean.com/

paul (work): Instead of waiting for a small chance at LeBron or Wade in free agency, why don't the Bulls aggressively pursue Kevin Martin? Seems like he'd be a great fit in Chicago.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): He'd complement Rose much more nicely on offense, though I'd hesitate to see that team's perimeter defense. The problem is I don't think Kevin Martin is going anywhere at this point.

Dan W (Bklyn): John Wall needs a nickname or else the first time he goes 3-for-15 for the Nets, the back page of the Post and Daily News won't be able to get "Another Brick in the Wall" into print quickly enough. Thoughts?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Heh. This is true.

paulbellows (Calgary): (Shameless fantasy question)....Who is the one player you can foresee having a huge increase in production after the deadline?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Randy Foye might have to do a lot of scoring for the Wizards the rest of the way. J.J. Hickson, if he gets dealt somewhere. Other than that, I'd have to wait until the dust settles.

Trev (Seattle): I look at Russell Westbrook's stat line and don't see an NBA point guard. Should Ricky Rubio be running the Thunder?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Don't agree at all. He's made huge strides with his assist rate this season and is clearly a part of the Thunder's talented young core. I like Rubio a lot, but I don't second-guess OKC passing on him at all.

Aaron M (Phoenix): Cavs are now 7-2 against the 1-2-3 seeds in both conferences. Those two losses are by a combined 3 points, and the wins are by an average of 8.5 points apiece. Last year, the Cavs were 7-6 against the 1-2-3 seeds. All but one of the losses was over 10 points. Do you think this difference is a product of small sample sizes, or something more relevant?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): A little of both. Right now, Cleveland seems to match up with those top teams better than a year ago. Also, the Cavaliers are more clearly dominant out of that group at this point than they were. I'm not totally sold on looking at records that way because of the sample-size issues, but there's predictive value in regular-season head-to-head performance, so it's certainly good news for the Cavaliers.

scott (Chicago): Is Joe Johnson a better fit tha Kevin Martin?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Johnson's age is certainly a concern, as BlogABull recently pointed out (http://www.blogabull.com/2010/2/8/1300945/what-can-we-expect-from-joe-johnson). On the upside, he's a year younger than Ray Allen was when he signed his last contract, and Allen has ended up OK. He matches Rose better than Martin.

Dan W (Bklyn): I'm a lifelong Knicks fan (since roughly '85-'86) but now live a three minute walk from the site of the Nets' future arena. It's been nearly a decade since it was fun to be a Knicks fan. Why shouldn't I jump ship?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, Isiah Thomas is no longer in charge at the Garden! I don't think anyone could blame you for making that switch, however.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Thanks to everybody for a great chat today. We went more than an hour and I'm almost certain that's a record for questions I've answered. Be sure to check out Basketball Prospectus after anything goes down before next week's trade deadline. We'll have complete coverage and analysis. Then join us on Thursday for a live chat from 11 a.m. Eastern right through the 3 p.m. trade deadline as we take these kinds of questions and discuss rumors as they appear. It should be a whole lot of fun, unless it's one of those deadlines where nothing major happens.

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