Dynasty Drafts: GSW vs the LeBron-Wade-Bosh Miami Heat. & Open Thread
Not four, not five, not six ...
We laid out the constraints and boundaries of this analysis in the series master post, How the Warriors Extended The Dynasty Through The Draft, an in-depth series. This also has links to all the articles in the series.
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 well did the Dynasty Miami Heat draft?
This original LeBron superteam dominated the Eastern Conference from 2011 through 2014, after assembling the top two free agents, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, with Dwayne Wade. Perhaps a disappointment due to their dud of a first Finals (losing to Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks) and the whimper end of the fourth Finals (losing to the Kill Bill Revenge Spurs).
Let’s examine the Miami Heat dynasty drafts.
#28. Norris Cole. This was a solid draft pick. He played lots of regular season minutes at the backup point guard and solid minutes off the bench in the playoffs after the first year. In Win Shares, he ranked #35 in his draft class, and #54 — dead last among all in his draft class that played NBA minutes — in Value Over Replacement Player. So, quite frankly, advanced stats hate him. Nonetheless, his big minutes show he was playing a significant regular role for the team. He played 992 Playoff Minutes in 62 games.
#31. Traded to MIN with 2014 2nd and cash for #28.
#58. Traded to LAL in 2009 for 2009 #42 (who turned out to be Patrick Beverley, who did not contribute to this Dynasty)
#27. Traded to PHI for #45 and PHI future 1st.
#45. Justin Hamilton. Played a handful of games in 2013-2015 and zero playoff minutes.
#57. Traded to BRK for future 2nd.
#30. Traded in LeBron James sign-and-trade.
#50. James Ennis. This was a sneaky great draft pick, but MIA either didn’t know what they had, or didn’t know how to use it. Ennis is #17 in his draft class for Win Shares and #22 in VORP. But most of this came for other teams.
Because of using up the salary cap elsewhere, MIA could not sign him to a minimum salary and Ennis didn’t want to play for a D-League salary, so he played in Australia and Puerto Rico for a year. Then MIA signed him properly for 2014-15, but by then LeBron had already used up all the team’s resources and moved on to the next town. The result is Ennis played 0 Playoff Minutes for MIA.
#60. Minor trade to MEM.
Evaluating the Drafts
In the master series post, I considered a range of options for comparing how well Dynasty teams drafted, and came up with a simple measure: simply count up the total number of minutes the draftees played in playoff games.
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. Doesn’t this advantage teams whose Dynasty lasted longer? YES. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. If your draft is part of a process that leads to a longer Dynasty, that is better drafting.
Comparing MIA vs 2015-2019 GSW
So the Miami Heat in 3 drafts got 3 players, 2 of whom played 0 Playoff Minutes Per Game, and Cole who played 992 Playoff Minutes and 16.0 PMPG, but at an efficiency hated by advanced stats.
First, let’s JUST consider the Warriors playoffs from 2015-2018, as that has a similar length to the MIA dynasty.
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.
Every GSW draft pick’s advanced stats are given in their individual reviews in the early parts of the series.
But since Cole is the only comp that I flagged for advanced stats, here it is in one spot. Let’s do Win Shares since Cole is a bit better there. Numbers as of July 2022.
Cole, #35 rank by Win Shares in draft class
One could make an argument either way. Perhaps MIA got better value by getting one player who played 16.0 Playoff Minutes Per Game. Or maybe GSW got better value by getting three players who contributed almost 1300 Playoff Minutes. Or maybe GSW got better value because Kevon Looney didn’t take up a playoff roster spot his first two years and then played 19.1 PMPG his last two years, being an even bigger contributor than Cole.
Looking at pick trades, MIA got value for the draft picks by facilitating the LeBron sign and trade because, well he’s LeBron. However, GSW got more value by facilitating Andre Iguodala’s trade, since that sign-and-trade was very very close to not happening, with Andre set to go elsewhere up to the last minute, so the multiple Dynasty picks made the difference. In contrast, it was an absolute certainty that LeBron was coming, so the LeBron trade was just haggling during Miami’s extortion of Cleveland.
Verdict for just Warriors 2015-2019: We judge the Warriors Dynasty drafted slightly better than the Heat Dynasty, but would respectfully hear out arguments we that the Heat drafted better.
Factoring in the full drafting with the effects of the 2022 run, there’s no contest.
The Warriors got players totaling 2650 Playoff Minutes, and made the sign-and-trade for Andre Iguodala (2912 Playoff Minutes) possible. They got Looney, a modern NBA center playing the perfect defense for 2022, and Poole who was a sixth man backup point guard and clutch time shooting guard next to Steph, and a pupu platter of bonus production from the others.
Here is everything summarized in one chart:
In the big picture, the Cavs got an inefficient backup point guard, greased the wheels a little for the LeBron sign and trade and Love’s arrival, got Mozgov who was low-key very good for 3 Finals games before obsolescence, and punted most of their other picks, so their drafting did not help extend their dynasty.
Looney alone contributed more than Cole.
Verdict: Warriors drafted better.
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This was my "Morpheus is fighting Neo" moment!
According to NBA reporter Marc Stein: "The only certainty regarding Iguodala's plans for the coming season is that he intends to announce his play-or-retire decision at age 38 on his weekly podcast with Evan Turner. The Warriors, I’m told, do expect Iguodala to play for one more season but are prepared for any outcome and are also open to bringing the 18-year veteran back on his timetable."