Hitting the ESPN headlines — bad knees and lucky bounces

The transactions keep flowing in the NBA. Nene signed a big contract with the Nuggets (more than $67 million, 5 years) that only looks small because many thought he might receive a $100 million offer. However, this still reminds me of the contracts that brought us NBA Lockout 2011 (which is also the name of a really boring video game about collective bargaining and corporate finance). We’re talking about a big man with past knee problems and a rebound rate around 15 over the last four years. Guys like Dwight Howard and Kevin Love are in the 20s.

I think Nene is a decent defender as well, but this contract is most likely a questionable decision in response to a bad situation. Three of the Nuggets rotation guys (Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, and Wilson Chandler) are stuck in China for most of the year! I had forgotten about this, and I bet they’re not the only team in that situation. The Nugs needed to sign some guys; they were able to acquire Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez, but that should excite no one. Signing Nene is probably the only way the Nuggets stay competitive this year with a weak free agent market, and the Nets et al. happily bid up the price. Comparing this deal to Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan’s questionable deals does not make it better. My buddy Tim (from Denver) thinks the Nuggets will overpay to resign Arron Afflalo next. Seems like the lockout didn’t change much — midlevel guys are still getting paid big money when there’s nothing else available and cap room to spare. I would advise Denver to try something totally different, such as my Seattle Scientists model.

Elsewhere around the NBA, John Hollinger thinks that the Lakers are no longer trying to win a championship (though of course you won’t be able to read the article, since none of us have ESPN Insider). This is classic alarmist journalism. Kobe Bryant would never settle for cost-cutting when he only has a couple competitive years left. In fact, the Lakers are still trying to trade for Chris Paul. Not sure how that would fit in with Hollinger’s theory. Lamar Odom has always been an inconsistent luxury for the Lakers, and he was disgruntled about being offered for Paul. I’m not too surprised they moved him to Dallas, even for chump change. Later on, I’ll tackle a bigger Hollinger fish — PER.

On an unrelated note, is there any sport where luck matters more than hockey? My Red Wings traveled to Pittsburgh for a showdown between two of the NHL’s top teams last night. Crosby was out again because of concussion symptoms, but Evgeni Malkin played out of his mind to pick up the slack. He nailed the post three times, but only one went in the net, and the Red Wings got a late counterattacking goal and an empty netter to win 4-1. It’s no wonder that the eight seed has won 28% of first round series (9 out of 32) since the current NHL playoff format was adopted in 1994. Only 3 eight seeds have advanced in the NBA, including the Knicks in the lockout-shortened 1999 season.

6 responses to “Hitting the ESPN headlines — bad knees and lucky bounces

  1. The NHL is incredibly luck dependent and incredibly goal tending dependent. Now, how would you go about luck? Some interaction of shoots, shooting percentage, and save percentage, maybe?

    Concussions are a huge problem in the NHL right now (Crosby, Giroux, Pronger, Skinner, Staal, etc). There are some clear equipment changes that the league could make – smaller, softer pads, external padding on helmets to name two – but there’s another, more systemic problem: the NHL season is too long and too dense. As players get bigger, stronger, and faster, the NHL comes to look more like the NFL. This week, my hometown Maple Leafs will play five games in seven days, an absolutely insane amount of hockey given the physicality of the game. Larger rinks and allowing the goalie to handle the puck behind the net would help as well, but the game is too physical for the number of games the players play.

    • I defer to you on most of the hockey stuff, my Canadian friend, though regarding measurement of luck, I’m worried that the stats you listed are a jumble of luck, skill, and strategy (even in combination). Maybe over time you could get the true shooting percentage for each team, and then say whether they were lucky/unlucky depending on if they exceed/fall short of that shooting percentage in a given game. However, the shot strategy in each game could be different (and dependent on the opponent), so I’m not sure you would learn much.

      Has anyone documented an increase in size for hockey players? I have in my head that the physical development of hockey and rugby have similar trends (with rugby picking up pace in the 90s due to professionalism, hockey picking up pace due to a realization that weightlifting would help). Would you agree? I don’t think you’ll ever convince anyone to have them play less unfortunately. Expanding rosters would be another option.

      • You’re right about how those factors are affected by many things. I think that shooting percentage is pretty consistent between players year to year (Ovechkin is high shots, low conversion rate every year). The rest of it is hard to disentangle, I have some thoughts, but I’ll save the space for now.

        And yes, the increase in size has been documented: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080916144004.htm. It seems that the change has been mostly driven by defencemen. Anecdotally, Crosby is 5’11 200, Gretzky was 6’0 and 190, not a huge difference (although Lidstrom and Coffee were about the same size. Has it been a growth in size of the goons? Another good reason to abolish fighting). Certainly power outputs have increased with better training. As with number of games, the ultimate problem might be an economic one. The NHL is a gate driven league and there’s no way they’re going to cut into their revenue for player safety at the moment.

      • Yeah I think more roster spots and a lower minimum salary are the only realistic way to reduce wear and tear, and that’s probably not very realistic either.

        By the way, I know you’re in the Great White North right now, but we spell it “defensemen” in this country.

  2. Pingback: The shootout: worth the publicity? | Causal Sports Fan

  3. Pingback: Byebye, Nene | Causal Sports Fan

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