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Archive for January 2015

Jeff Teague vs DeMarre Carroll: A player evaluation inefficiency?

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With a 39-8 record the Hawks have become the soup de jour of the league. In addition to last year’s champion Spurs they represent a new style of contender based on balance.

The stars getting the praise are Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford, with all but Korver making the all-star game although many have advocated for Korver to get in.

The Hawks 5th starter is DeMarre Carroll. His minutes played also reflect a greater role than the rest of the Hawks undercard as Carroll averages 31.6 minutes per game, while the 6th highest player in minutes per game on the Hawks is Thabo Sefolosha at 19.0. No Hawk averages between 20 and 30 minutes per game.

However in media recognition Carroll’s season is a significant distance behind the other 4 Hawks starters.

I don’t quite agree with Carroll’s placement as so far behind Jeff Teague’s, in particular.

Teague is significantly ahead in traditional statistical measures. He has a team leading 21.9 PER to Carroll’s 14.9, which ranks 7th on the Hawks among regular rotation players. Teague averages 16.9 points, 7.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, eye popping compared to Carroll’s 11.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game. Both players have above average efficiency with .573 TS% for Teague and .585 TS% for Carroll.

However offensively this doesn’t account for the difference in floor spacing. Carroll averages 39.7 3P% on 4.2 attempts a game which makes him one of the best shooters at the small forward position. Teague averages 33.3 3P% on 3.1 attempts a game which is an average combination of efficiency and volume at PG. Furthermore not all 3 point attempts have equal impact in regards to floor spacing. Because Teague is a more ball dominant player he’s likely to create his own 3s off the dribble. Because Teague has the ball, his 3pt attempts when off the dribble wouldn’t open the floor for his teammates as strongly as when Carroll is in spot-up position at the 3 point line, but a teammate has the ball. Therefore I believe the difference in floor spacing between a Carroll-style player and a Teague-style player is likely to be greater in favour of the off ball player than the numbers indicate, which already favour Carroll in this case.

There are also other differences between point guards and small forwards statistically. Teague averages many more points and assists than Carroll, but so does the rest of his position. Teague’s 16.9 points per game ranks 11th for qualified PGs, while the 11th ranked SF Nick Young averages 14.1 points per game. Carroll’s 11.8 points per game ranks 19th for SFs, while 19th for PGs is Tony Parker at 14.5 points per game. Teague is a better scorer for his position than Carroll is, but when adjusting for position it’s more like the difference between a 17 points per game and 14 points per game scorer if they were both PGs.

Jeff Teague’s passing is a major advantage as his 7.6 assist per game ranks 6th at SF, while Carroll’s 1.5 ranks 25th at SFs. However Carroll is the less turnover prone player. Teague 10.7 turnover ratio ranks 31st for PGs, while Carroll’s 7.2 ranks 8th for SFs. Individual ORTG which takes into account assists and turnovers along with shooting efficiency from the field, ranks Carroll’s 116 ORTG ahead of Teague’s 114.

The difference between them defensively is hard to measure. DeMarre Carroll has excellent length and size for his position, although Teague has turned into a solid ball thief at PG, a position hard to excel at defensively. The Hawks are better defensively with Teague on the floor (-3.5) and worse defensively with Carroll on (+4.6). However this could be heavily effected by a defensive standout Thabo Sefolosha replacing Carroll in lineups. The Hawks still play above league average defense with Carroll in the lineup.

Jeff Teague is undoubtably a standout player. The Hawks need his penetration, playmaking and the attention he garners from defense as a higher volume player. However the league is heading to a player where a “3 and D” wing can be as valuable and rare as a ball dominant player putting up star-level statistics. Just as a shot blocking centre did not need to put up star level offensive statistics to be considered a key cog to a championship team, a case can be made a floor spacing, positive defending wing can be rated just as valuably in spite of his statistics. One very simple but effective way to look at is to take all the contending teams in the league and give them the choice between adding Teague or Carroll to their lineup. On a case by case basis in my opinion:

Golden State – Teague on the Warriors would be their 6th man behind Curry and Klay. Carroll would either start over Harrison Barnes or come off the bench. The Warriors need another ball-handler to take pressure off Curry so I say the edge goes to Jeff Teague here.

Memphis – The Grizzlies would potentially bring Teague off the bench as their 6th man and play him beside Conley for stretches, if they like the defense of having Tony Allen at SG beside Conley. The Grizzlies just added another high usage wing in Jeff Green to their lineup. Although the Grizzlies could use a guard off the bench who scores, the Grizzlies have long ranked at the bottom of the league in 3pt attempts which is a problem for a team built around two post scorers. I’ll give them Carroll.

Houston – Patrick Beverely is a nice fit beside James Harden because he hits open 3s and plays defense and allows him to be ball dominant. Teague would be a juiced up version of Jeremy Lin’s role last year. However the Rockets also need the offensive improvements. The Rockets could split Carroll’s time with Ariza, with Ariza the superior defender and Carroll the shooter who also gives them floor spacing they need. This one is close but I will give it to Teague narrowly.

Portland – Jeff Teague would likely be the Blazers 6th man behind Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. Carroll could replace the struggling Nic Batum in the starting lineup and space the floor for Lillard and Aldridge. The Blazers have long needed bench scoring so I’ll give them Teague.

L.A. Clippers – Teague gives the Clippers another scorer off the bench although it’s hard to share the ball with Jamal Crawford who already plays that role, along with J.J. Redick as a secondary backcourt scorer in the starting lineup. Matt Barnes is a solid shooter at SF for the Clips, but having a second one still helps, as does Carroll’s ability to take the bigger defensive responsibility for SG Crawford and Redick can’t guard. Carroll seems like a great fit for the Clippers.

Dallas – Teague is a questionable fit with Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis, an already ball-dominant more than spacing friendly backcourt. Carroll gives them a 3rd wing behind Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons. Carroll’s shooting fits the spacing-friendly system and gives them some size defensively on the wing. I like Carroll here for the Mavericks.

San Antonio – Tony Parker’s numbers are dwindling so giving Teague the reigns over him would be a long term relief. Carroll is a Spurs like fit shooting and moving the ball but with Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard in the lineup he’d have to fight for minutes. Teague feels better here.

Phoenix Suns – The Suns have 3 PGs in Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas already, while Carroll gives them a floor spacing wing who could bump Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker a spot down in the SG/SF ranks . This one’s easy in favour of Carroll.

Oklahoma City Thunder – Jeff Teague is better than Jackson and Waiters but still leaves the Thunder with a small Westbrook-Teague backcourt who are dominating the ball and keeping it from Kevin Durant, to say nothing of Reggie Jackson and Dion Waiters off the bench. Carroll’s off ball game is an ideal fit spacing the floor at SG between Westbrook and Durant.

Toronto Raptors – Teague would likely be the 6th man behind Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan as an improved version of what Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams give them. DeMarre Carroll would be starting SF as a more reliable version of Terrence Ross on both ends. The Raptors already have issues with defense and guards chucking up too many shots, so I like the fit of Carroll at SF for them.

Washington Wizards – Teague could be their starting SG behind John Wall with Wall guarding the harder assignment, or a 6th man scorer they need. Carroll would have value off the bench for them if backing up Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce, although Rasual Butler and Martell Webster if he stays healthy can also space the floor for them. This one’s tight, I’ll give them another offensive creator in Teague.

Chicago Bulls – If they let Teague play ahead of Rose he could provide them the stable offensive presence they need there. The Bulls need another shooter who isn’t Mike Dunleavy as well, however. I like Teague here based on Rose’s poor play so far this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavaliers are having troubles finding shots for all of Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, Kevin Love and new additions like J.R. Smith, so another ball-needing PG in Teague is not a great fit. Carroll is the type of floor spacing wing they need.

I gave Carroll to 7 teams and Teague to 6, a fairly split result. It’s possible that for poor teams who are less likely to have great PGs and ball dominant players, Teague would gain a greater edge over Carroll.

Supply and demand exists in the league and the lack of wings who both space the floor and contribute defensively is so lacking that it could lead to huge contracts to “role players” like Wesley Matthews and Danny Green this summer. Whether Carroll deserves to be mentioned with those two as a 3/D player is up for debate. But I believe the assumption that Carroll is far behind Jeff Teague in value is conceivably misguided.

Written by jr.

January 31, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

On Kevin Love’s 2015 or 2016 free agency and the San Antonio Spurs

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The parallels between Kevin Love’s season with the Cavaliers so far and Dwight Howard’s with the Lakers have not been missed. Both teams traded for a superstar and free agent to be assuming they would resign after a contending season. Howard’s season with L.A. brought unhappiness and diminished statistics and he left for the Rockets who boasted a younger roster and better management. It’s unclear whether Love will pick up his 2015-2016 player option to get a bigger deal in 2016’s TV market conditions or whether he’ll take the security of a max early, but there’s a chance Love leaves as early as this summer after 1 year like Howard. Even if he picks up his option and gives Cleveland a shot for 1 more year, he then becomes a risk to leave in 2016 anyways which makes this discussion similar.

Like Howard in L.A., Kevin Love’s reputation has taken a dive this season. His statistics are far below his recent Minnesota years enough that he was left out of the all-star game in favour of Kyrie Irving. The Cavs defensive struggles have been pinned on him, fairly or not. Add in his lower offensive numbers and frankly, the combination is starting to look like a standard David Lee season. Unlike Lee Love still provides valuable floor spacing to the Cavaliers offense but floor spacing remains not quantified and thus under appreciated by the media.

When Kevin Love was in Minnesota, I speculated repeatedly that he’d have no interest in being traded to the Lakers or signing there. My reasoning for this was Love had never made the playoffs and the biggest danger to his ego and reputation was being branded a loser. The Lakers are a losing team and poorly run and Kevin Love going there would likely lead to many more painful seasons like in Minnesota. This ended up being correct. Love instead embraced playing in Cleveland which was a situation the opposite of L.A. Instead of going after home-state nostalgia or a big market Love simply went for the wins and the chance to contend.

What Love wanted out of Cleveland – wins and playoff appearances, he will get. The Cavs are likely to only get better from here as they fit together and the bench gets deeper. This is a 50 win core for the foreseeable future whether they break the mark this year or not. But it’s unclear whether Kevin Love will reclaim his reputation as a star. Kyrie Irving has so far TKO’d Love in terms of the “who will be the 2nd option in shot attempts” question and as the Cavs pick up more established players like J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov there will be more mouths to feed in terms of shots. In Chris Bosh’s 4 seasons in Miami he averaged 18.7, 18.0, 16.6, 16.2 points, a decline every season. But Bosh remained a star because his defense improved to star level, which may not happen with Love. With his physical limitations it’ll always be hard to prove to anyone he’s a good defender even if he does improve to an adequate level.

A factor that would scare me about resigning in Cleveland if I was Love is the concept of control. Kevin Love signing a 4 year max contract for Cleveland doesn’t mean Cleveland commits to keeping him for 4 years. There’s so many reasons why Kevin Love will end up being the fall guy if Cleveland’s core disappointed in the playoffs. It’s widely accepted defensive big men are crucial to contending in the playoffs, Love is the one who’s statistics are floundering and unlike Kyrie who was a homegrown draft pick, Love took a future crippling trade package to acquire and the media crows are already circling around that trade. If Lebron, Kyrie and Love don’t make the Finals in the East their first few seasons together, could Dan Gilbert push the panic button and split them up? Absolutely.  It’s conceivable Love could resign in Cleveland this summer, then as early as something like 2 seasons into his Cleveland tenure, only 1 season into his new contract, fall into a nightmare situation of getting traded to another bad team like he had in Minnesota without his control. This could also be a reason why Love would want to prolong his free agency until 2016. As for the idea of Love avoiding this just by asking for a no-trade clause in a max deal, only a few players in the league have them and after a non all-star season, I question whether Love has to clout to get one from Cleveland.

This brings me to what I consider a threat for Love this summer: San Antonio

Now the Spurs becoming a pursuer for Love or another free agent like Marc Gasol (who has many more reasons to stay with his team than Love), would take a few things to happen. It all but definitely requires Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to retire instead of the Spurs signing them to new deals. Even then, having max free agent capspace likely mean letting Danny Green walk and replacing him would Love would be a blow to the Spurs defense. Green could get a max contract this summer in my opinion as teams give inflated deals preparing for the post 2016 TV deal salary conditions, thus the Spurs may not be a lock to want to resign him at that price anyways. To pursue a max FA it’s also unlikely the Spurs could resign an appealing PG in Cory Joseph. With Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Kyle Anderson signed and a max deal to Kawhi Leonard, I believe they’d still be a few million short of the type of contract Love would settle for. Thus they may need to move a package like Mills and Anderson’s contracts to another team, unless they can find a way to trade Boris Diaw’s 7 million a year deal.

In any case, the short version is the Spurs as a Love suitor works if Duncan and Manu retire and the Spurs internally decide they’d rather have Kevin Love than Danny Green. On the other hand, even if Duncan and Manu don’t retire, or the Spurs prioritize Danny Green, or Kevin Love picks up his player option, the concept Love to the Spurs doesn’t die, it just might get delayed until the summer of 2016 when the new TV deal would erase cap concerns in terms of having the room for him.

What San Antonio gives Love is a little of both worlds. On one hand like in Cleveland he gets to win games and contend like he didn’t in Minnesota. Even with a depleted roster without Duncan, Ginobili and Green, playing with a star in Kawhi Leonard and other good players like Parker and Splitter, is a quality squad. Popovich would provide elite coaching if he stayed, if he retired I’d still count on the Spurs management to know who to hire as his replacement. Moreso the Spurs roster with an aging Parker, Leonard and Splitter as the other featured pieces do not have the high usage superstars that the Cavaliers presently have. Thus feeding Love like a #1 option would make sense not only because the Spurs have the management and coaching gameplan to take advantage of him, but because the talent on the team makes him a likely top option too. Leonard and Love in particular are a perfect combination together as the defense-first small forward and the offense and spacing-first power forward and it’d be easy to build the rest of a contender around them.

Another way to sell Love on a Spurs partnership is the ways they could improve the team. Giving the Spurs extra capspace because of the upcoming TV deal could be scary in their hands, as is their history of drafting and development success likely to continue. The Spurs with Love could be great now and better later. But all in all, it’s really the management and coaching that separates the Spurs from the Wolves and Cavaliers. That’s what the Spurs can promise to him that he hasn’t gotten from Minnesota or Cleveland. The Spurs are a good bet to invest your future in.

Written by jr.

January 30, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized