Challenge #2: Choose an NBA team. Think about the team’s strengths and weaknesses during the 2011-12 season. What needs do you think the team should be addressing in free agency?
- If the team has already signed a free agent, how would you evaluate the fit of the signed free agent with the team’s needs? If you agree with the signing, why do you think it was a good move? If you disagree with the signing, which player should the team have signed instead?
- If your team has not yet signed any free agents of note, who should they be chasing?
- Please support your response with an analysis of the team’s strengths and weaknesses and how the particular player fits in with those strengths and weaknesses. Feel free to focus on players acquired through trades as well.
The team that I have chosen is the Denver Nuggets.
First, I have compared some of the Nuggets’ stats with the league average (the stats are Points Scored, Opponent’s Points Scored, Field Goal Percentage, Opponent’s Field Goal Percentage, Three Point Percentage, Opponent’s Three Point Percentage, Free Throw Percentage, Assists Per Game, Turnovers Per Game, Steals Per Game and Blocks Per Game):
This comparison shows that the Nuggets are better than the league average in the PTS, FG%, AST and STL categories. Nevertheless, it also shows that they are worse than the league average in the OPTS, OFG%, 3PT%, O3PT%, FT%, TO and BLK categories. So, basically, the Nuggets should:
- Reduce OPTS
- Reduce OFG%
- Improve 3PT%
- Reduce O3PT%
- Improve FT%
- Reduce TO
- Improve BLK
Now, I have sorted the categories from the most important for the team to improve to the least important, depending on my judgment and my understanding of the game:
- Reduce OFG%
- Reduce TO – I wouldn’t want my team to be below the league average in these two categories; in my opinion they are essential for a team’s success (jointly with AST and FG%)
- Reduce O3PT% – It should be improved too as it is well above the league average.
- Improve 3PT% - There is not a great difference with the league average; it can be improved in practice by teaching the players some decision-making (basically teaching when and who can take a 3PTer).
- Reduce OPTS - I don’t think that it is a priority because the team’s PTS are greater and reducing OFG% will lower it too.
- Improve FT% - It can be improved in practice.
- Improve BLK - There is just a minimal difference with the league average.
Then, basically, the most important categories in which I think the Denver Nuggets should improve are:
How can the Nuggets solve their problems?
The Nuggets had three substantial problems. If we check last season’s stats for the first, the TO, we can perceive that, from all the players in the roster, the PGs had nearly one third of all the team’s TO. I think that this is a very bad stat for the Nuggets, as PGs should be the players who took care of the ball better.
I can’t check the individual stats for the OFG% and O3PT%, so I have decided to estimate a player’s defense using the stat, DefPl (Defensive Plays = Steals + Blocks + Charges). I will explain later why I have used the DefPl as a stat representative of the defense that a player provides to a team.
So, from both of our PGs, we get a DefPl stat below the league average. Then, I have arrived to the conclusion that the Denver Nuggets need a new PG who can improve the team’s stats in those categories.
Fortunately for the Nuggets, Andre Miller, the worst from both PGs is an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA). In my opinion (based on the stats), they should let him walk to get a replacement who could take the team to another level.
The PG that the Nuggets should acquire via Free Agency should not have turned the ball over more than the league average last season. Furthermore, it would be excellent if he could have made more than the DefPl league average last season. Based on these criteria, there were four PGs who were free agents and who performed accordingly to my demands last season:
Now, I am going to explain why I think that the DefPl are representative of the defense that a player provides to a team. To prove so, I will show you some team’s stats:
Those are the teams for which the free agents I have in my “wish list” played for last season (Dragic in Houston, Nelson in Orlando, Augustin in Charlotte and Kidd in Dallas). As the stats reflect, Dallas, which is Jason Kidd’s (the best defensive player according to the DefPl) team, was the best defensive team in the OFG% and O3PT% categories. On the other hand, Charlotte, which is DJ Augustin’s (the worst defender according to the DefPl) team, was the worst defensive team in those categories. The comparison is not perfect, but I thought that it was the best that I could use to see a player’s efficiency in the defensive end of the court.
Finally, the question is reduced to one: which player would be a good addition to the Denver Nuggets to improve their performance next year? My answer is Jason Kidd, because he improves the team defensively and he turns the ball over less than the last player in his position (Andre Miller). Moreover, he will be alright coming off the bench, he will be mentoring Ty Lawson and he is a good decision-maker.
Even though I am not a guru when it comes to the salary cap regulation in the league, I think that it is safe for me to say that the signing of Jason Kidd would have been possible for the Nuggets, as he only received a yearly salary of around $3 million from the Knicks.
To finish, I wanted to make a comparison of the stats that Andre Miller (the player that leaves the team) and Jason Kidd (the player that joins the team) had last season. This way, we will be able to check if the swap of players will potentially be an improvement or not:
Even though PTS, AST, FG% and FT% go down a bit, I think that the signing would be appropriate for the Nuggets, as they massively improve their 3PT%, they decrease hugely TO and they get a better overall defensive production (REB, STL and BLK).