The New Jersey Nets in 2005-06

Posted on September 14, 2006 by


Prior to 2001, the history of the New Jersey Nets in the NBA was not very pretty. Entering the league in 1976, this former ABA champion suffered through 25 years of mostly losing campaigns. In eighteen seasons the team failed to win half their games. Their very best mark was a 49 win season, and this happened way back in 1982-83.

In the summer of 2001, Jason Kidd came to town. Kidd entered the league in 1994 and in his first seven seasons – with Dallas and Phoenix – produced nearly 98 wins. That would mean he was great. In the five seasons he played in New Jersey he accumulated 100 wins. That would mean he was really great.

And this past season was no exception. In 2005-06 only Kevin Garnett produced more wins than Kidd. Of course, as can be seen HERE, Kidd was the most productive player on the Nets last season.

Not only is Kidd great, he is consistently great. An average NBA player produced 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (WP48). In every year of his career, Kidd has been above average. Across his career his WP48 has been 0.292. To put that in perspective, only eight players who played at least 2,000 minutes last year bested Kidd’s career average WP48.

Although Kidd is the most productive player on the Nets, he is not the only above average performer. Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson were also well above average last season. Like Kidd, for these players above average levels of productivity is not surprising. Carter has produced nearly 70 wins since entering the league in 1999. Except for his last days in Toronto, when for some reason his performance declined dramatically, Carter has generally been well above average. His career WP48 stands at 0.163, a mark he bested last year when he produced 11.5 wins and had a WP48 of 0.190.

Jefferson has played five NBA seasons, producing 46 wins thus far in the regular season. His career WP48 is 0.180. Last season, though, was clearly his best. Jefferson produced 15.6 wins and had a WP48 of 0.244.

The numbers tell us that Kidd, Jefferson, and Carter have consistently been above average. Last year, though, each player bested their career averages while producing more than 50 wins combined.

But a glance at the standings reveals that the Nets as a team only won 49 games. If we took Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson away from New Jersey would this team post a negative win total?

Well, of course not. As we note in The Wages of Wins, the Law of Diminishing Returns applies to the NBA. In other words, as you add more productive players, the productivity of others will be reduced. The data suggests that having Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson on one team reduces the productivity of their teammates.

Although one has to emphasize, this does not appear to be a very large effect. Yes, without Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson, this team would win some games. But looking at the performances of the other New Jersey players across time suggests that without these three stars this would be a very bad team. Of the Nets who played more than 1,000 minutes last year not named Kidd, Carter, or Jefferson, none has ever been above average in their respective careers. In sum, without the stars this team would win very few games.

So what has the team done to help out the three stars? In the off-season the team added Eddie House and Mikki Moore. Unfortunately, neither of these players has been an above average performer in his career.

Given these additions, this team in 2006-07 will still be lead again almost exclusively by Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson. Looking at these three players, though, it is hard to believe that their productivity can increase dramatically over what was offered last season. Consequently, unless some other player offers substantially more than what we have seen in the past, the Nets look to be about the same team going forward.

Is that a problem? It depends on your reference point. If a team does not improve over last year, people might be disappointed. But if we shift the reference point to the first 25 years of Nets basketball in the NBA, then New Jersey fans should be pretty happy.

— DJ

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