Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? Part 6: How To Compare Dynasties
An elegant idea. Silly? Maybe. Elegant? Definitely.
We’re Finally Back
It’s been a while since I started this series, and it’s finally time to return to it. We laid out the constraints and boundaries of this analysis in the series master post, Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? An In-Depth Series.
In Parts 1-5, we walked through the year-by-year drafts of the Five Finals Warriors, and looked at the other players available. It wasn’t a great haul, but relative to who was available, it was okay.
For the rest of the series, we will look at how other dynasties drafted. All modern NBA dynasties face the same problems: they draft very late for several years in a row and they are constrained by the salary cap from trading for high draft picks. The whole salary cap and draft / lottery system is built to erode and destroy dynasties.
How Do You Compare Dynasty Drafting?
I’ve mulled over different options for comparing how well teams draft, and how to measure player value, and have wrestled with these questions:
Which player performance measures are appropriate here? You could compute some all-in-one number like Win Shares or Value Over Replacement Player or BPM per 48 and sum up the total of draftees, or average such value per draft pick, or go harder and look at stats that incorporate plus/minus like RPM, PIPM, etc etc. These have different strengths and weaknesses and the hugest weakness for ALL of these are: (1) most advanced stats aren’t available before recent years and (2) they aren’t calculated separately for playoff performances.
How do you account for players that were injury-prone and only played some of the games? *cough* Looney *cough*.
Do you account for draftee performance compared to their peers, or to the expected value of the draft pick, or compared to who was available, or some other way?
How do you account for the value of picks that were traded to bring in veterans?
How do you account for prorating player value drafted later in the dynasty?
In the end, I came up with an elegantly simple measure of how well dynasty teams drafted. Simply count up the total number of minutes the draftees played in playoff games during the dynasty. For a rate measure, compute the number of playoff minutes per possible playoff game (including games they were DNP, not dressed, or injured… Yes, we punish players for not being available *cough* Looney *cough*).
Is this a perfect measure? Of course not. But it captures directly how much the team trusted them to play in the only setting that counts for a Dynasty, and how much they were available.
You could improve this by somehow accounting for the leverage of the minutes. But it’s not necessary, because — spoiler alert — frankly, almost all the dynasty drafts were really bad. We’re not coming up with a general player value. We are measuring how much value these teams got out of their picks when they are expecting to make the Finals and win everything. That comes down to how much players contribute in the Playoffs, and for role and bench players, that’s roughly proportional to how much they are allowed to play and available to play.
Now of course this blunt number won’t tell the whole story, so we will try to look at each draftee and give some context on their contributions. I will look at the Dynasty drafts starting with the draft after the first Finals, through the draft before the last Finals.
Measuring the Warriors Dynasty Drafts
Let’s establish the baseline and look at how the Warriors did by this measure.
We’ve just completed a study of how well the Warriors drafted during the Five Finals run. We saw the Warriors netted in four drafts:
#30. Kevon Looney. Key starter/first bench big with major contributions in the 2018 and 2019 Playoffs. 819 minutes in 43 playoff games = 19.1 Playoff Minutes Per Game. We count the first two years that he missed, so that’s 819 min in 83 playoff games = 9.9 PMPG.
#60. Traded to IND in 2011 in the Brandon Rush - Louis Amundson trade.
#30. Damian Jones. Athletic flashes, but very injury prone and inconsistent, leading to his being traded to make the D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade possible. He was on the roster for 60 playoff games and played 40 minutes = 0.7 PMPG.
#38. Patrick McCaw. Occasional moments, including some nice spot minutes in the 2017 Finals, but wanted a bigger role and forced a trade. Pick acquired through cash considerations. He played 197 minutes in 38 playoff games = 5.2 PMPG
#60. Traded away in the Andre Iguodala sign-and-trade (for Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, the 2014 1st, 2016 2nd, 2017 1st, 2017 2nd, 2018 2nd and cash).
#38. Jordan Bell. Spectacular cult hero with key contributions in the 2018 HOU series, but overall a role player with minor impact. 279 Playoff Minutes in 43 playoff games = 6.49 PMPG.
#30 and #60. Iguodala trade (see above).
#28. Jacob Evans. Never quite found his shot, was shifted to point guard, and then was traded to get out of luxury tax repeater penalty. 18 minutes in 22 playoff games = 0.8 PMPG.
#58. Iguodala trade (see above).
The Warriors in 4 drafts got Kevon Looney, Damian Jones, Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell and Jacob Evans for a total of 1353 Playoff Minutes, and made the sign-and-trade for Andre Iguodala (2851 Playoff Minutes) possible.
Too Long; Didn’t Read: Spoilers
I’m going to give you the big picture now, and give you the gory details over the next few days. In short, GSW actually did better at dynasty drafting than every other post-80s dynasty, with the possible exception of MIA 2011-2014.
Here are raw numbers of how many dynasty Playoff Minutes were played by the dynasty’s picks and also the players they added by trading the picks. These numbers are just for a quick overview and are an extremely blunt measure. To see the story behind the numbers, we’ll dig into each dynasty’s draft for the rest of the series.
By strict standards, GSW drafted better than BOS 1984-1987, though BOS drafted much better if you include 1980-1983. PHI 1980-1983 drafted better, due to one home run high pick. Also 1980s LAL drafted much better, epically well even. But the large part of the value from 1980s PHI, BOS and LAL drafts came from their high draft picks (lower than #8).
These great picks came from legendarily bad trades where the coaches and owners involved were usually kicked out of the league soon after. Even ignoring the worst malpractice, overall in the 1980s era, most teams didn’t properly value draft picks. That makes BOS and LAL far-sighted and brilliant. But it also means that the rest of the league caught up, and no dynasty since the 1980s got anywhere near such high draft picks (no dynasty has drafted better than #20 since then).
The Other Dynasties
For the sake of this series, I am going to use a generous definition of Dynasty. Let’s look at every team that made the Finals 3+ times after 1980, advancing to the majority of possible finals over that span.
Part 7: Comparing the LeBron-Love-Kyrie Cleveland Cavaliers
Part 8: Comparing the LeBron-Wade-Bosh Miami Heat
Part 9: Comparing the Shaq-Kobe and Kobe-Pau Lakers
Part 10: Comparing the Dynasty Spurs, the Raid Boss
Part 11: Comparing the Michael Jordan Bulls
Part 12: Comparing the Bad Boy Pistons and Julius Erving Sixers
Part 13: Comparing the Larry Bird Celtics
Part 14: Comparing the Magic Johnson Lakers
The reason for the looser definition is that all these teams faced Dynasty troubles by reigning over their conference: drafting late over a series of years and being strapped by the salary cap from trading easily for young talent.
Okay, Part 7 coming next week…
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