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September 23, 2010
SCHOENE on the Summer
Potential Failures

by Marc Normandin

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Last time out we took a look at some potential quality transactions made by NBA teams in what has been a hectic offseason, so this time around we will analyze the other side of things, the moves that may not work out as well as planned or aren't bargains in any sense of the word.

Samuel Dalembert had a good run with the 76ers, posting WARP of 8.0, 4.3 and 5.8 over the past three seasons, but his minutes are expected to decline with the move to Sacramento and that will cut into his value. This isn't a problem from a production standpoint, as Dalembert is still expected to have similar usage rates to his three-year average (.141 is the forecast, .147 the average) and is projected by SCHOENE for Offensive and Defensive Ratings of 103, right in line with what he put up with the 76ers back in his age-27 season three years ago. It is a problem from a value standpoint, though, as Dalembert will make $13.4 million in 2010-2011—he's projected for 20 minutes per game and just 2.7 WARP because of it, which is well below what he needs to produce to match the value of the contract, never mind provide a surplus.

The center is on an expiring deal, so there is value in that assuming the Kings move him in a quality trade, it's just a different type of value than the cost of a win—-with the cost of a win on the free agent market this winter somewhere around $2M, Dalembert comes up worth about $5.4 million in his projection, a difference of $8 million from what he is being paid. If they end up having to eat the contract for the entirety of the season, this will not be an acquisition that paid off.

Forward Drew Gooden had a 3.3 WARP campaign in 2009-2010, and the Bucks gave him a five-year, $32 million deal to join his ninth team in as many seasons. SCHOENE is not a big fan of Gooden, forecasting just 1.3 WARP despite 25 minutes per game and a .205 usage rate. A lot of that has to do with having a lower Offensive Rating than Defensive Rating, neither figure being impressive either. That has a very good chance of being accurate as well, as 2009 was the lone occurrence in the last three years where his ORtg surpassed his DRtg, and it was by all of 0.2 points.

Using that $2M per win value cited above, Gooden is expected to be worth around $2.6M in 2010-2011, but Milwaukee is paying him $5.8M for the rights to that, and the contract's average annual value is $6.4M. If he is able to replicate his 2009 success with Milwaukee he will match his contract's value, but with a three-year average of 1.3 WARP that matches his projected production, that's not a bet I'm inclined to take the over on.

Rudy Gay stuck with the same club, but they did their best to outbid everyone else from the outset by offering a max contract up front. He signed a five-year, $82 million contract with the Grizzlies, which will pay him $13.6M in the first year of the deal. Based on the production of the last two seasons, this isn't even close to a good deal for the Grizzlies, as his combined value over that time frame fails to match that of his 2010 salary, but SCHOENE is optimistic that Gay will be closer to his 2007-2008 than the last two years and is forecasting a 6.2 WARP season from the 24 year old. That production would still make him overpaid, but by just around one million dollars rather than $8-9 million, which is what the difference would be if his upcoming season ends up like his last one.

That being said, it's still a contract signed at a loss, and with the value of the deal going up in the future (Gay is set to make $15M in 2011-2012), even development of his game to the point SCHOENE envisions may not be enough to make this a no-brainer signing by the Grizzlies.

David Lee moved in a sign-and-trade to Golden State from the Knicks and was awarded a six-year, $80 million deal in the process. New York did an excellent job of getting value in return for Lee, picking up Anthony Randolph and his projected 6.3 WARP, youth and inexpensive contract in exchange for the sign-and-trade. The Warriors may not find themselves as happy as New York with what they acquired.

As the Knicks center last year, Lee had his most productive campaign, posting 11.6 WARP on the back of a .240 usage rate and a .584 TS% to go along with strong rebounding (Lee was at 18 percent for rebounding, and the league average for centers was 14.8 percent). SCHOENE sees him dipping a little in various areas though, with a drop in rebounding percentage to 16.5 percent, a drop in ORtg to 106.8 from 108, and a DRtg more in line with his pre-2009 figures at 105.4.

There is nothing wrong with a 7.6 WARP out of your center, especially when you are paying him half of his assumed value ($10.8M in 2010—he's projected to be worth closer to $20M) but it stings to see that Randolph is going to have so much surplus value for production that is much closer than the monetary difference between the two players. This was a good move by the Warriors in the sense they got an established presence at center who can rebound and score more points than his defense will give up, but if SCHOENE has pegged Randolph properly, Golden State could have done better

There are plenty of reasons to make the move though—center Andris Biedrins is already locked into a six-year, $54 million contract with four years to go on it, so with both Lee and Biedrins Randolph wouldn't get the minutes to post that kind of WARP (though with Biedrins' recent injury history—20 missed games in 2008 and just 33 games played in 2009, there are worse things to have than the insurance of a young, inexpensive Randolph). It also does not help that Randolph may have driven coach Don Nelson crazy more often than he excited him with his ability, making Randolph somewhat expendable in the trade that did occur—it's just a shame, for the Warriors' sake, that there wasn't a way to have them all on the same club at once.

Marc Normandin is a writer for Baseball Prospectus who will be helping out on the basketball site this summer. You can contact Marc by clicking here.

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On the Beat (09/22)
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