No Analytic Love For New Nets Team


Whether you like it or not, the analytics revolution is only gaining momentum throughout the NBA. There’s simply no way of denying it.

Two huge proponents of the analytics movement are ESPN’s Steve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann, who recently took a close look at each NBA club and explained why the Brooklyn Nets had the worst offseason of any team in the league. Ilardi and Engelmann did so by examining the “Real Plus-Minus (RPM)” of several Nets players:

According to our analysis the Nets have still managed to overspend in free agency more than any other team. Specifically, Brooklyn’s six major signings have generated a whopping $74 million deficit in surplus value. In other words, the team has spent far more on these players than the real value they’re likely getting in return.

They also had this to exclaim regarding the re-signing of Brook Lopez:

Even if Lopez somehow proves capable of staying on the court for another 2,100 minutes during each of the next 3 seasons, his surprisingly pedestrian Predictive RPM (+0.24) is still far too low to justify his new $21 million-per-year salary. Remarkably, despite his rim protection, skilled post game and advanced ability to play facing the basket, Lopez no longer moves the needle in terms of team efficiency.

It’s analyses like these that make me, for the most part, anti-analytics.

I’ve always preferred the good, old-fashioned eye-test. And when it comes to the most recent one with Lopez, it became crystal clear toward the end of last season that he was worthy of a max contract this summer.

Lopez carried the Nets into the playoffs over the final few months of the season, averaging 20.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game during March and 20.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in April. He also shot more than 53 percent from the field over those final two months.

You don’t need analytics to tell you that Lopez was absolutely dominant over that stretch.

So long as he remains healthy, Lopez can continue to produce at that level next season, especially with Deron Williams out of the picture.

Ilardi and Engelmann also had this to add about the Nets and their spending ways:

The team somehow managed to overpay for nearly every player they acquired. For example, they’re paying Thaddeus Young – essentially a league-average player (+0.34 RPM) – $14 million a year for a guaranteed four years. And they’ve signed three players, Andrea Bargnani, Thomas Robinson and Shane Larkin, whose contributions project far below replacement level according to RPM. Even on minimum contracts, such players are overpaid.

Young’s impact in the Nets rotation was visible the moment he stepped on the floor following his February acquisition from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He gave Brooklyn an instant scorer at the power forward position who could man the post and also spread the floor with range that extended as far as the three-point line.

In other words, forget the RPM.

As far as the other three players go, it’s all about the hope of this being the right situation for them. When healthy Bargnani has always been a solid offensive threat; Robinson’s efficiency is a matter of receiving consistent playing time and proper coaching, while Larkin is still young and is much more suited for the fast-paced tempo Lionel Hollins wishes to run as opposed to Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.

Analytics does have its place in the NBA, I’m just not sure that RPM is one of them. At least, not in this case.

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