This article is part of our Hoops Lab series.
The Hoops Lab
By Andre' Snellings
RotoWire Staff Writer
First of all let me say that the Slam Dunk contest last weekend was the best that I've seen in at least five years. There were some flat out ridiculous things being done by both Dwight Howard and Gerald Green on Saturday night. Howard brought the house down with his Superman impression, and his volleyball tap off the backboard is one of the sickest dunks I've seen, but don't sleep on Green's Birthday Cake dunk or his between-the-legs dunk in socks. In socks? I tell you what, YOU go try to run and jump on a basketball court in slippery socks and see just how hard it would be to even get off the ground.
I will get to the flurry of deadline trades below, but before I do I want to look over the season thus far and see if I can identify a few young breakout candidates for after the All-Star break. I wanted to try something different and see whether any of the basketball sabermetric measures I have been discussing in recent articles can be used to spot a diamond in the rough. So today I will use the Wins Produced stat from wagesofwins.com and the Roland Rating from 82games.com to look for my sleepers. The Wins Produced stat is calculated based on how much a player's stats have contributed to the team's wins, and the Roland rating is a composite stat that takes into account a player's net Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and the team's net +/- value with him on or off the court. Each stat is made of complicated calculations, and if anyone is that interested in the math they should check out the websites for more details. But here, I will just take the results of the stats as given indications that a player may be ready to produce if given more minutes/opportunity.
Based on my non-scientific examination of the players in the NBA using these stats, I have come up with these criteria to look for my sleepers: Wins produced/48 minutes (WP48) greater than .13 and/or Roland Rating greater than 0, minutes played between 10 percent and 50 percent of the total available at their position, and situations with a legitimate shot to play more minutes for the remainder of the season. Don't worry so much about the statistical details here, just know that most of the NBA players that fit these numerical criteria are impact players, so if a young player is doing it in fewer minutes perhaps that's a sign that he's ready to breakout with more opportunity. Ready? OK, here we go.
Joakim Noah (Chi): WP48 = +.222, Roland Rating = +2.8 Noah was already one of my favorite young breakout candidates based upon his numbers even before the Bulls' trade on Thursday, but now he's even more so. His WP48 numbers are among the top-100 in league overall, and he is also one of the few rookies in the league with a positive Roland rating which indicates that his team performs better with him on the court and that he out-produces his opponents on a nightly basis. His strengths as a roto producer are his ability to rebound and play defense, but he's also a great passer for a big man, and he is now one of the only center options on the Bulls with Ben Wallace and Joe Smith traded to Cleveland.
Tyrus Thomas (Chi): WP48 = +.064, Roland Rating = +1.4
Thomas' win percentage numbers are not as impressive as his teammate Noah's, but he also sports a positive Roland rating and has a chance to earn bigger minutes in the new Bulls regime. The Bulls are now extremely young and mobile, especially in the frontcourt, and this should fit well with Thomas' athletic skill set.
Thaddeus Young (Phi): WP48 = +.059, Roland Rating = +2.1
Young entered his rookie season as an extremely athletic small forward with prototypical size and skills, but there were questions about whether he was mature enough to produce this season. His positive Roland rating over the first 50 games show that he has been able to hold his own immediately in the league, and in recent weeks he has been earning more playing time for Philadelphia. The Sixers are a very young team who, though competitive for a playoff spot in the East this season, are looking more towards the future and are likely to continue to give Young opportunites to establish himself as a future cornerstone.
Mike Conley Jr. (Mem): WP48 = +.131, Roland Rating = -2.3
Conley has an impressive WP48 number for a young point guard, indicating that his statistics have helped translate into success for the Grizzlies when he was on the court. Generally young point guards take a while before they begin to help the team, (e.g. Acie Law, another lottery rookie PG whose WP numbers put him in the lower 20 players in the NBA for the first half of the season), so for Conley to help off the bat indicates his advancement up the learning curve. Add in that the Grizzlies are out of the playoffs hunt and are building for the future around him, and he should get plenty of opportunity from here on in.
Louis Williams (Phi): WP48 = +.050 , Roland Rating = + 0.1
Williams has been a favorite sleeper candidate for much of the season, and his Roland Rating indicates that his production helps the team when he's on the court. The problem for him is that Andre Miller was not traded, which means that barring injury, Williams likely remains a backup for the Sixers. If he does get minutes, though, he makes a great pick-up and potential break-out candidate.
Others to note:
Tony Allen (Bos): WP48 = +.057, Roland Rating = + 0.2
Dorrell Wright (Mia): WP48 = +.170, Roland Rating = -1.3
DeSagana Diop (NJ): WP48 = +.177, Roland Rating = -0.9
Amir Johnson (Det): WP48 = +.208, Roland Rating = + 3.0
Justin Williams (Sac): WP48 = +.171, Roland Rating = + 2.0
Situations and Quick Hits: Trade Deadline Edition
LeBron's new Merry Men:Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Joe Smith now find themselves playing as the supporting cast for LeBron James. It has been Szczerbiak's manifest destiny to return to Ohio as the spot-up shooter for James, and he could thrive in this role as one of the best pure shooters from range in the NBA. Wallace and Smith fit well as role players in the Cleveland frontcourt next to Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao, but when all four are healthy, there may not be enough minutes to go around for each to maintain a level of impact. I think that Delonte West may make the biggest immediate impact among the new guys, as Larry Hughes is gone and Daniel Gibson is hurt for the next six weeks. Look for West to come in and produce right away.
Time crunch in Chicago: The Bulls moved their two main big men options in Wallace and Smith, and replaced them with Drew Gooden. This likely means that Andres Nocioni will spend more time at power forward than small forward and also opens up time and opportunity for Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas to grab a more significant spot in the rotation. There's more of a time crunch on the perimeter, where Larry Hughes joins the now-healthy trio of Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng as well as Thabo Sefalosha and Chris Duhon in a battle for minutes at three slots. Best guess is that Hughes joins Hinrich and Deng in the starting lineup, which cuts into Gordon's minutes and sends Sefalosha and Duhon back to fantasy irrelevance.
Youth Revolution in Seattle: The Sonics pulled of two trades that sent Kurt Thomas, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West out in exchange for vets that aren't likely to play and draft picks. These trades were very good news for Jeff Green, Nick Collison and Earl Watson as it cleared away playing time competition for them, and even deeper sleepers like Johan Petro, Damien Wilkins and Luke Ridnour could eventually make a blip on the fantasy landscape due to these moves.
Replacing Kidd in Jersey: With superstar Jason Kidd leaving town there are vacuums in production for the Nets that need to be filled. The obvious hole is at point guard, where eventually Devin Harris could step in and improve his fantasy production from Dallas. Meanwhile, with Harris out for the next couple of weeks with an ankle injury, Marcus Williams has the short-term opportunity to put up numbers and show what he can do as a starter (25 points/four assists/four boards in his Wednesday night debut). Also with Kidd gone, the "superstar" role for the Nets is up for grabs, and on Wednesday, it appeared that Vince Carter is the frontrunner to assume that role (33 points/nine boards/seven assists). Finally, Kidd was such a strong rebounder that his absence creates more opportunities on the glass. On Wednesday Josh Boone (15 boards) stepped up, and he along with new Net DeSagana Diop are in the best position to fill that gap.
Kidd finally back in Texas: Kidd in Dallas does not dramatically change the fantasy outlook of Kidd or the other impact players, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard. But with Diop now in New Jersey, Erick Dampier may get more minutes and could go from a roto fringe player to worthy of a roster spot in most leagues.
Burning Beno: By trading Mike Bibby to the Hawks, the Kings have resuscitated the fantasy value of Beno Udrih. If he's still available in your league he should be an immediate pickup, as evidenced by the 18-point/10-assist game that he dropped on Wednesday. The Kings also picked up Shelden Williams in the deal, and he could get the chance to prove that he was worthy of the No. 5 overall pick in the 2006 draft. Call him a deep sleeper for the last 30 games.
Bibby Goes East:Mike Bibby now resides in Atlanta, but his fantasy value does not seem to change much due to the trade. The fact that he's starting to get fully healthy after his long injury layoff, though, could contribute to him posting better numbers for the Hawks than he thus-far had for the Kings.
BoJax and Green in Houston: The Rockets made two trades that essentially converted Bonzi Wells and Mike James into Bobby Jackson and Gerald Green. This indicates to me that they wanted better veteran production at the point guard position but felt more comfortable to take a chance on talent/athleticism at the swingman position. I think that Jackson could cut slightly into the minutes of Rafer Alston, even though Alston has been playing great lately. Green will come off the bench behind Tracy McGrady and Shane Battier, but he is likely to get more of a shot in Houston than he was getting in Minnesota. And if McGrady gets hurt again, Green has shown that he can score well in the double-figures with multiple treys per game when given starter's minutes.
Bonzi and James to the Big Easy: Both Wells and James are likely to fill back-up roles for the Hornets, and barring injury they do not appear to have much fantasy value.
Article first appeared 2/22/08