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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday January 07, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).

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With pro hoops action switching into a higher gear, the time to ask BasketballProspectus.com's Kevin Pelton your questions is here.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Good afternoon or good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining me here at Baseball Prospectus to talk NBA hoops (as well as the odd D-League or West Coast basketball question). Let's get right to it.

krissbeth (watertown, ma): Can you give us your take on the Arenas suspension? Is this commissioner over-reach? An appropriate response to control the NBA brand? What do the Wizards do next?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): This is the big story of the day, of course. I don't like the implication that Arenas is being suspended now more due to how he's acting than his actual crime, but admittedly he has at the very least broken the NBA rule against having guns in a locker room or on team property. The key going forward is that David Stern can't make this personal. It's got to be about what has happened, not who has done it.

From the Wizards' perspective, I may take a stab at this later, but I'm not sure it's a big deal. They can lose without Arenas as easily as they lost with him. Even if they made/make the playoffs, they're not going anywhere this season.

TheBunk (Toronto): Andrea Bargnani's man defense this year has been pretty darn good punctuated by the job he did on Dwight Howard last night. He still has a long way to go with his help defense but is he always going to be perceived as a bad defensive player because of poor rebounding numbers?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would argue that man defense is a relatively small part of a center's job defensively, with help defense being by far the bigger factor, so it definitely goes beyond his rebounding. (And, while this surely reflects the weakness of the team as a whole, our numbers show him allowing opposing centers 9.2 percent more productivity than normal.)

At the same time, given how much better the Raptors' defense has been lately, the blame ratio has swung much more to Jose Calderon rather than Bargnani, and I may have to eat my words for suggesting it would be nearly impossible to build a decent defense around him.

Steve (North Dakota): What would you consider the most untradable contract in the NBA?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hmm ... a combination of years remaining and dollars per year. I would say, off the top of my head, probably Elton Brand.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Any word on who will take the Cavs open roster spot?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I defer to Brian Windhorst, but since I'm not finding any analysis from him quickly I'll say that if they do anything with the spot right now it will probably be someone on a couple of 10-day contracts keeping the seat warm for players who might be cut after the trade deadline (or some kind of a deal the Cavaliers make themselves). I can't imagine there's anyone Cleveland would sign right now who would make an impact, so most likely they just save the spot.

Owen (CA): Do the Warriors have any shot of enticing Utah with Speedy Claxton's (80% covered by insurance) expiring deal? And is there any way the Jazz would consider dealing Kirilenko as opposed to Boozer? Might we finally land our goofy white whale?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think the Jazz would love to trade Kirilenko for an expiring contract. That would take a lot more money than Claxton's deal, though, and I'm not sure there's a good fit. At the very least, Utah would have to take back Vladimir Radmanovic's salary for next year and I'm not sure how much luxury-tax savings the Jazz would get out of a Bell + Claxton + Radmanovic deal.

Justin (Normal, IL): Are you worried about the development (specifically, lack of) of Derrick Rose with Vinny Del Negro apparently saving his job for now?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Without having given a close reading to his numbers over the last couple of weeks, it's starting to feel to me like his slow start this season was much more about his ankle than any real lack of development. I don't think Del Negro is necessarily bad for the latter.

Dexter Fishmore (Hollywood, CA): Let's say you're assembling an NBA roster and have your choice of point guard. Please rank the following in order of desirability: Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose, John Wall and Russell Westbrook.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): This is a great question, Dex. I've toyed with writing an entire column on a similar conceit (most desirable PGs under 25, which adds Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo to the mix.

I would say without a thorough analysis that I would go Wall/Jennings/Westbrook/Rose/Evans, dropping the last one only because he's not really a point guard. If it's just as a player overall, I think Evans is about tied with Jennings. Wall is so good I might question him against Paul. No, not actually, but he is really phenomenal.

krissbeth (watertown, ma): What do you watch for during garbage time?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Skills that can be translated to real basketball. Athleticism. Who's playing hard.

BK (Boston, MA): Memphis radio interviewed Aaron Barzilai of BasketballValue (who does some work for the Grizzlies) as well as Chris Wallace, and there was a great discussion on the role of statistical analysis with the Grizz. Wallace mentioned that stat analysis helped identify Rondo as a game-changer, but that the numbers overrated Shelden Williams' potential NBA impact. How would you assess the respect given to statistical analysis these days? Seems like the dropping of Lawson and Blair despite numerous recommendations from people like Hollinger indicates draft types remain skeptical of the numbers..

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I listened to the interview with Aaron, who is a friend, and I think a good point he made was that different teams use analysts in different ways. Even teams that are interested in statistical analysis--and right now I think that group encompasses about half the league--are not necessarily using them for the draft (or for coaching/advance scouting, or so on). So that's one factor.

Williams aside, I think most people (even those using the numbers) would say they're probably better at identifying busts than sleepers. There are plenty of productive college players who simply can't translate it to the NBA for whatever reason.

With Blair, you can't overlook his knees. I think teams mostly agreed he was going to be a productive NBA player but weren't willing to take the chance of getting nothing out of him. That's more of a risk-reward analysis than the stats themselves.

With Lawson, I think team needs were a factor. Teams at the top of the draft generally aren't looking for polished players but seeking long-term upside. Lawson fit best with a veteran team like the one he ultimately landed on, and one that certainly used the numbers to make that decision to select him.

Steve (North Dakota): With the Heat bringing in Rafer Alston, is this the end of Mario Chalmers's run there?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would suspect that Miami is thinking of Alston more as a replacement for Carlos Arroyo than Chambers, but having three capable point guards certainly muddies the waters. Whether Alston actually brings much of anything to the table at this point is up for debate, so he may ultimately end up the odd man out despite his coveted veteran presence.

Mike M (Bridgeport, CT): You guys recently noted that D'Antoni has shown some flexibility with his philosophy during the Knicks recent surge, but that he continues to run against running teams (Warriors, Pacers). If the assumption is he has the choice, wouldn't he prefer to establish his tempo against more plodding teams?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, the question is how much teams really "establish" tempo, and I'm not sure I have a good answer for that. Glancing at the game-by-game pace numbers as I did, they seem to be heavily influenced by oppponent, but I'm not sure whether that's more true for the Knicks than anyone else.

Jon Nichols (Cambridge, MA): I know you're an NBA guy, but any thoughts on the Cornell-Kansas game last night? Was it close because Kansas was playing poorly or is Cornell that good?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I only caught the tail end of the game, but glancing at the box score it's not really what I'd expect from a close game between Cornell and Kansas. Really, the Big Red seemed to thrive more on defense (Kansas was 11-of-34 on two-point shots) than hot shooting or efficient offense. Xavier Henry alone was 0-of-8 inside the arc. I'm not sure that's going to happen very often. So while I think Cornell is underrated, I suspect last night was a little more about Kansas having an off night.

Steve (North Dakota): I am on a (probably) one man crusade to get Russell Robinson into the NBA. Two questions: 1. What are his chances of getting a shot in the NBA? 2. Is he an NBA caliber player?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Continuing the Kansas-related portion of this chat ...

None of Robinson's D-League numbers particularly stand out to me as NBA ready, and he didn't come up as a sleeper in the draft. I'm not really seeing it. He has a chance depending on what teams are interested in, but I think other D-League PGs are ahead of him in scouting terms as well.

Steve (North Dakota): Semi a college question, but how do you see the pro careers of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich turning out?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Collins has got to be loving what Ty Lawson is doing this season, since he's got a similar skill set. As a change of pace off the bench, Collins could be very effective. Aldrich has taken a bit of a step back this year because he's playing a more limited role in the offense, but as a rebounder-shot blocker with the ability to score, I still like his chances.

brocsan (honolulu): A major theme of announcers on last night's Clippers game is how they're a decent bench away from being very dangerous. Shouldn't that be an easy fix for anyone?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That's the easiest fix, yes, but the West is also so deep that I'm not sure it's worth giving up something of value for a backup point guard to replace Sebastian Telfair. The Clippers will get a nice boost to their bench when Marcus Camby presumably moves there to make room for a healthy Blake Griffin in the starting lineup at some point.

Mike M (Bridgeport, CT): Should the Lakers make a decisive move to Jordan Farmar as their starting/finishing PG? While it doesn't quite approach his bizarre infatuation with Sasha Vujacic, Phil Jackson certainly seems hooked on Fish.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Fisher is certainly struggling, but I'm not sure Farmar has played well enough to really wrest the job away from him. So I don't think there's urgency to make the move.

Anonymous (Under a Rock): I like watching the NBA but I don't understand basketball very well, never having played on a team. Can you recommend a book/video to learn about strategy and how plays are designed?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I wish I had a good answer, but I'm not sure about a book. I would suggest reading Kevin Arnovitz at ClipperBlog and TrueHoop and NBAPlaybook.com.

hm (seoul): is this season the final year of DWade as heat? he looks so devastated after loss to celtics yesterday... and where do you think he will end up? celtics?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would say there is zero chance of Dwyane Wade playing for the Celtics. If he goes anywhere, it's most likely Chicago, but I suspect he'll wait to see if the Heat can lure any other free agents. On that note ...

jimbeau (Left Coast): Hi Kevin, thanks for the chat. Hope your Holidays were great! With all the talk of the FA pool next summer and teams trying to sign two max superstars, etc., let's think about what might really work - ie., all players will not match together as well on any given team. So, taking the known available next summer (LeBron, Wade, Bosh, etc.) and tossing in some of the other top players on the (unlikely) assumption that a team might trade for them (say D Howard, Chris Paul, Kobe, etc.), what pairs of players do you see as matching up the best on the same team? Which pairs might not work out all that well together? (Let's say use the top dozen players, headed by next summers FAs.) Thanks.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think out of the free agents Wade and Bosh are probably the best combination. That's a devestating pick-and-roll duo, which would certainly be true of James and Bosh as well. (It's hard not to like a Cleveland frontcourt of Bosh and Varejao). If I'm making an imaginary duo, I'd say Paul and Howard since their teams use relatively similar pick-and-roll philosophies. Did you think Paul and Tyson Chandler were good together? Imagine him throwing those lobs to Howard with three phenomenal shooters spacing the floor. Yikes.

krissbeth (watertown, ma): If the Knicks don't get LeBron or another big-ticket FA, have they wasted their time or is clearing cap room of the mistakes of the past itself a reward?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Completing the "summer 2010" portion of the chat ...

I would say clearing the cap would still be a positive for the Knicks. They had so many bad contracts, bad apples and just a bad mindset about long-term planning that even if they take more of a Portland or Detroit model and use the cap space on lesser free agents, trades or simply build from within it's better than some alternative where they dealt for more long-term contracts in an endless cycle.

paulbellows (Calgary): Who breaks out first? Tyrus Thomas or Anthony Randolph? Any hope for T.J. Ford this year?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, Thomas seems closer to freedom this summer as a free agent than Randolph, who has to wait for either a trade or a coaching change. Honestly, I'm not sure either of them will break out. Thomas has had his chance as a summer and Randolph doesn't seem to be progressing as a player very much right now. He's still making the mistakes he made last season, which is disconcerting. Still, there's only one way for him to learn, and here's a hint: It's not by sitting on the bench.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Should the Cavs get Shaq more involved in the offense? The game against Charlotte seemed like a great opportunity to have used his sized to their advantage a lot more.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Maybe in certain matchups, but the guy is shooting 51.0 percent from the field. I'm not seeing it overall.

krissbeth (watertown, ma): What the best way to quantify whether someone is a "glue guy"?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That's difficult to quantify, but I think it involves a combination of a low usage rate and a high plus-minus.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Alright, thanks to everybody for joining me today. Stay tuned for another chat later this week and be sure to keep checking out BasketballProspectus.com.


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