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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday October 08, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).


Pro hoops is around the corner, and BasketballProspectus.com's Kevin Pelton wants to talk about the new annual and the next NBA season.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for our first chat of the new NBA season on Baseball Prospectus. The book is done and I'm ready to take your questions about it and all the other goings-on thus far. Let's get started.

notherbert (theone): the book looks great and i'm ready to buy but wait....there's no seperation of OREB% from TREB%. i know space is a limiter but i wonder what your thinking was behind excluding it? also, i'm guessing you get it all the time but i'm looking forward to a BP article on how well SCHOENE did last season.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The answer is in the question on that one. With only so many stats we could include, it didn't make sense to include both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. To the extent those are different, Bradford and I generally tried to make a note to that effect in the player bios.

We evaluate SCHOENE's performance in an essay in this year's book. I've been trying to decide whether that is worth posting on Basketball Prospectus or not.

lagronem (Newark, DE): Hi Kevin, Loving the pdf version of PBP2010! As someone coming back to NBA fandom after a few years, and searching for a new team to cheer, I wanted to get your thoughts on who you judge to be the best local announcing teams (TV and radio). I like David Locke with Utah--anyone else comfortable with modern stats?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm told the Blazers may be on the radio here in Seattle this season, and both Locke and Minnesota's Alan Horton are old friends, but otherwise I'm not really familiar with the radio guys. The TV broadcasters are a different story thanks to League Pass. I would say the only combo that really uses advanced stats is David Steele and Matt Goukas in Orlando. They're also very plugged in to the Magic's excellent pair of blogs, Orlando Pinstriped Post and MagicBasketball.net.

My favorite PBP duo is Golden State's Bob Fitzgerald and Jim Barnett. I also enjoy Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith with the Clippers and New Jersey's and New York's various combinations, to name four.

lee (new york): hey kevin - i gotta ask, what has kevin durant done to prove that he is anything more than a super-elite scorer, slightly above-average defender, and decent rebounder? He doesn't create shots for any other players on his team, and he hasn't shown the ability to score in crunch time in the NBA. Why do people forget this when they talk about him as being the best player in the league now? because he re-upped in okc for the max?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The best player in the league business is just silliness based on things that have nothing to do with basketball, but Durant isn't far. I think the comparison of his performance last year to other players at the same age in the book is really eye-opening. Given how much he's improved the last two seasons, I wouldn't doubt his ability to improve as a passer. I also would disagree in terms of his ability to score in crunch time. I don't think the numbers bear that criticism out.

Will (Mactaquac): Is VC just inevitably winding down, or is there hope for some rebound in him for this year?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If he can maintain the level at which he played over the second half of last season, I think this will be seen as a bounceback year for Vince. At his age, that might be difficult. I think he's got another year or two left as a quasi-elite player, tops. Wings don't age well.

By the way, it's Matt Guokas. Auto-fill tricked me into thinking I had that wrong the first time.

swaggasaurus (moraga, cal): What are we to make of Rose, Jennings, Evans, Curry, Collison, Sessions, Wall, Westbrook and even Rubio next year; Is the new wave point guards amongst the more established stars transforming the position to the equivalent of first base in baseball-where if you are not producing at an extremely high level you may not even be worth having around?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm not sure I would put it that way, but I would say it puts pressure on the teams that aren't getting major production from the position. Then again, the Lakers might have been foremost among those teams last year, and they won the championship, so ... there are many ways to build an elite team.

boombaby (Indianapolis): Does your role working with the Pacers prevent you from sharing your insight on them with us publically?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Yes, I'm afraid I don't really comment on them at all. It wouldn't be fair to the Pacers or to Prospectus. Stay tuned for a Bradford Doolittle chat to answer your questions on them.

Nathan Begley (San Antonio, TX): I'd love to see SCHOENE's performance over time. Has it changed your confidence level in the metric at all?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, there's only been two years, so there's not really a lot of "over time." When we introduced it on the site in 2008-09, it was still limited on the player projection side because we were considering only one year's worth of statistics instead of the three we now use. Last year's results were much improved, and stood with any of the statistical projection systems out there (as explored in the book). I think this year really generated much crazier results than I anticipated. I'm not going to evaluate whether that was a good thing or a bad thing until after the season.

Adam (Santa Barbara): The Lakers' most obvious need remains at the point - do you think a legit shooter/scorer at the position would take them back elite offensive efficiency? who are potential names the Lakers' could realistically target?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The shooter aspect of that is really the key. As mentioned, for the Lakers a ball-dominant point guard would be a negative because of the triangle and because Kobe does so much of the playmaking. If Steve Blake was a good defender, he would basically be an ideal fit. He's not that, but assuming his game holds up (he's not exactly a young replacement for Derek Fisher), he will help.

lennyd (Portland): Hi Kevin, Listening to the Utah interview you clearly have some different win projections than Schoene. Can you give us your major differences with Schoene

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think my biggest differences are most everybody's biggest differences. I think the Lakers will be better because focusing strictly on regular-season performance does them a disservice. I'm not convinced Golden State will be as good as fast as the numbers say. One that hasn't gotten a lot of attention is Houston slipping back from last season's record, and I just don't see any way that's possible with a full season of Kevin Martin and Yao Ming. In the East, I have a hard time seeing Atlanta completely slipping out of the playoffs unless things get ugly and they make a move because of the money they have already committed to Joe Johnson and might commit to Al Horford. Boston is in a similar position to the Lakers, though I think you'd be hard-pressed to make the argument that they can win 50 games this season.

Frank (Toledo): Are you at all surprised that Josh Boone hasn't landed anywhere? I know there are concerns about his work ethic (given his consistently awful foul shooting) but he's a solid rebounder and help defender. As a fifth or sixth big man, he's not bad. There are certainly worse.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Very surprised. If Jeff Pendergraph's injury turns out to be serious, I think he'd be a guy that Portland should look at to fill that backup center role until Oden and/or Przybilla get healthy.

Paul (DC): Yes the newly red-white-and-blue Bullets (erm .. Wiz) now have Wall to root for. Anyone else currently on the roster likely to still be here whenever the Bullets next make the playoffs? (say 2013-2014?)

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think Blatche definitely falls into that category, and probably JaVale McGee as well. McGee seems a bit like the kind of player who is always going to tantalize with his potential, but he's demonstrated he can at least be serviceable in the middle. Yi Jianlian's strong start in D.C. is intriguing. The Wizards have to be careful not to commit too much based on a couple of weeks, but the talent has always been there.

Adam (Santa Barbara): If Durant develops some playmaking ability, he's basically the 21st century Larry Bird - right? (or do comparables have to come from the same race ...

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That's one of the things I love about statistical comparables: They're color-blind. That said, I think Durant would have to improve a great deal as a passer to get to Larry Legend's level. I'm not sure there is a really good comparison out there for Durant. He's already a better defender than a lot of guys that are thrown out (George Gervin and Tracy McGrady, for two) and a level better than Carmelo Anthony. He might be an entirely new mold.

Will (Mactaquac): Sorry, I didn't get the Matt Guokas line. Why is the basketball annual never in brick and mortars? Who gets to start in Utah when Okur gets better? Why can't I have hard returns in my questions? :)

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): At first, it was a disappointment to be unable to secure a book deal, but like Football Outsiders we've come to view it as a feature because of the flexibility it offers in terms of deadlines and editing. If we were publishing like the baseball book, our deadline would have probably been something like mid-August. Instead, we were able to get Carlos Boozer's injury in there, which happened Oct. 3. That said, CreateSpace does offer a wholesale service now, so if you ask your favorite bookstore, it is possible they might be able to order the book for you.

Utah frontcourt--I'm not sure Okur is ever going to be the player he was pre-injury, and this season it's going to be very difficult for him to get to that role. I think Jefferson and Millsap are your starting duo for the foreseeable future.

Marshall (New York City): Do you have any predictions on the gutted Cavaliers' style of play this year? Will they follow the pattern of typical Byron Scott teams? I think they might end up as a fascinating, albeit ugly, basketball experiment.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That's a little hard to say to the extent that Scott's Hornets teams were so much different than his New Jersey teams. I think the Cavaliers will probably play more like the Nets in terms of pushing the pace, especially if they run out some small lineups with Hickson in the middle and two point guards in the backcourt. There's more talent there than people give credit for. As long as Cleveland's defense is sound, this should be a competitive team.

bjlevy34 (Palo Alto, CA): Any thoughts on the SCHOENE projection for Wall? That outcome would be seen as a huge disappointment for him, so do you think this is exposing a weakness in SCHOENE or are you skeptical about Wall's immediate impact?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think Wall will be better than that projection, to the extent that his game is made more for the NBA than college with the emphasis on speed, but if the expectation is that he'll be an All-Star in year one, that sort of thing, it deserves to be tempered. His stats were in the same vein as his Calipari predecessors, but not quite as good as Rose's or Evans' numbers. He's going to turn the ball over a lot, and without much of a jump shot to rely on, his shooting percentages are going to be low. The rules changes have made the transition easier for rookie point guards, but it is still a challenging one.

Kevin (Seattle): Last year Kurt Rambis installed an offense that was inappropriate for his team. What is your evaluation of the new coaches and the offenses they are installing?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would say the one place I have concern is with Atlanta and Larry Drew's attempt to trade isolation plays for more motion. In general, I prefer motion-based offenses and the isolations struggled in the playoffs, but the Hawks were an elite offensive team during the regular season because of the way that offense played to their strengths and limited turnovers. There's a danger here of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Thrilling news! During the midst of this chat, the proof copy of the book was delivered. The cover looks great, and as long as the inside matches, we'll have the printed book on sale shortly.

Frank (Toledo): I keep looking for reasons to count the Bobcats out of the playoffs, but can't find any. Yeah, they're going to have a horrible offense, but I can't reasonably pick any of the teams behind them to leapfrog them. Indiana? Philly? Just not seeing it.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): SCHOENE has both New Jersey and New York in the playoffs, and those are two predictions I'm willing to stand by. Charlotte will be competitive on defense, but with the downgrade at the point and likely regression from Jackson and Wallace, the offense will be ugly. Capital U Ugly.

dnelson (Oakland): What do you think led SCHOENE to project so many wins for Golden State? Does it have anything to do with your changes to WARP?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No, the changes in WARP were not incorporated into SCHOENE's team projections whatsoever. I would say the Warriors have significantly upgraded their talent, they're going to play legitimate NBA lineups and their young guys should get better. I didn't expect fourth in the West, but I'm more surprised that John Hollinger's projections had them so low. I think this one follows pretty cleanly from the numbers no matter how you look at them.

Frank (Toledo): Kevin, any idea which role-players (not Carmelo, for example) seem most likely to be dealt by the deadline?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Expiring contracts, mostly. I think the Rockets would like to make a move to consolidate some of their talent, so guys like Battier and Scola could be in play. If the Rashard Lewis small forward experiment doesn't work, Orlando may have little choice but to make a deal to clean up the frontcourt. Charlotte clearly wants to get involved in a deal for a PG, likely with Boris Diaw.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Thanks for all of your questions. We'll try to set up another season preview chat near the end of the month, World Series schedule permitting. The book looks terrific, so if you've been waiting to get a printed copy, it should be available on CreateSpace.com later today. The .PDF format remains available for a lower price and immediate access. Content on BasketballProspectus.com should get back to normal next week. I'm wrapping up my contributions to the expanded College Basketball Prospectus 2010-11 and then will return my focus to the website.

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