Mr. Morrison Comes to LA

Posted on February 8, 2009 by

22


The Los Angeles Times has created the following web page: Best of the Web: Los Angeles Lakers.  The page links to various stories about the Lakers found around the web.  The stories seem to change frequently.  What doesn’t seem to change are the following six sites presented at the bottom. 

NBA.com: LA Lakers

OC Register Lakers Blog

Riverside Press-Enterprise NBA Blog

ESPN True Hoops

Inside Hoops

Wages of Wins Journal

Five of these websites have offered a comment on the Lakers trade of Vladimir Radmanovic for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown.  The one exception is the Wages of Wins Journal.  Hence, in an effort to fit in at the LA Times, here are some thoughts.

The 2006 Draft

This trade was completed in February of 2009.  Had it been completed in June of 2006 it would be as follows:

Lakers exchange Vladimir Radmanovic for the #3 and #25 pick in the 2006 draft.   Obviously those picks turned into Morrison and Brown. 

Here is how Chad Ford of ESPN.com described each pick in 2006:

Adam Morrison: ….Morrison has the star power and addresses the Bobcats’ biggest need: scoring. Morrison has the killer instinct and leadership that the Bobcats crave.

Shannon Brown: I love this pick for the Cavs. They have been keyed on Shannon Brown for a long time and thought there was no way he’d be there. Brown will give them a great penetrator and explosive athlete who can attack the basket or pull up for the 3-pointer. Put him on the floor with LeBron James and defenders are going to cower. Brown has the most potent combination of power and athleticism in the draft. I’m not sure he can play the point, but with Larry Hughes and LeBron James’ ball-handling skills, he’ll be fine.

So if this was 2006, the Lakers would be surrendering an NBA veteran who had come off the bench for most his career for a player with “star power” and “an explosive athlete who can attack the basket.”  In sum, this would be described as a steal by the Lakers.

Of course there are problems with this story.  Specifically, there are two reasons why this trade was not actually possible.  Radmanovic did not sign with the Lakers until a few days after the 2006 draft.  And even if he could have been traded by the Lakers, the two picks were held by two different teams. So unless the Cavs and Bobcats were willing to share Radmanovic, this trade couldn’t have happened. Still, just 32 months ago this move would have been celebrated in LA.

Losing Morrison and Brown

In 2009, though, it’s not clear how this move dramatically changes life for the Lakers.  And that’s because Morrison and Brown have not quite lived up to their draft-day hype.  Brown has only played 783 minutes in his NBA career and has produced -1.8 wins (yes that is a negative sign).  His career WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] currently stands at -0.108.  One is tempted to say this is the worst career mark in NBA history.  But then one turns to Adam Morrison. 

The third choice in the 2006 draft finished his first season as the second leading rookie scorer.  He was also named by the NBA coaches to the All-Rookie second team, finishing just shy of a first team selection. People who looked past scoring (and by people I mean John Hollinger and myself), though, noted that Morrison was extremely unproductive as a rookie.  His WP48 was -0.137 and he finished last in the league in Wins Produced.  After this less than auspicious debut, I made the following observation:

Given the voting record of the coaches, one wonders if Michael Jordan can take advantage of his fellow decision-makers. Although rookies tend to get better (and I should post on this in the future), Morrison is going to have to improve immensely just to become average. Perhaps it’s time for MJ to work the phones and move Morrison for a player who has already attained the status of “average NBA player.” Although average is “not good” it sure beats “very, very, bad.”  

It appears that MJ has actually followed this advice (not that MJ is reading the WoW Journal).  As Table One indicates, this trade allows the Bobcats to exchange two players who are well below average for a player who is quite average.  So if we ignore the salary issues for a moment (I will note this in a moment), the Bobcats are better off. 

Table One: Evaluating Small Forwards in LA

Helping the Lakers

What about the Lakers?  The coverage of this trade at the sites noted by the LA Times explains the Lakers’ motivation.  With Trevor Ariza and Luke Walton on the roster, Radmanovic had seen his playing time vanish.  Assuming this situation persists beyond 2008-09, the Lakers were scheduled to pay a player more than $13 million beyond this season who might not be able to get off the bench.  Brown’s contract expires at the end of this season and Morrison is only scheduled to be paid $5.3 million next year.  So LA has clearly saved on future salaries.

Whether this trade actually helps the Lakers on the court this season depends on who takes the few minutes given to Radmanovic.  Since departing the starting line-up, Radmanovic has received about 8 minutes per contest. Across the last 33 games, this would be about 264 minutes.  As one can see in Table One, if these minutes go to Ariza the Lakers are better off (by about 0.8 wins).  If they go to Walton, though, the Lakers are a bit worse off (by about -0.4 wins).  And if they go to Morrison…. yes, that won’t help (-1.1 wins less).

Of course, it’s possible the change in scenery will help Morrison and Brown. Currently I am reading “Sacred Hoops” by Phil Jackson.  In this book Jackson argues that the triangle offense can enhance a player’s productivity.  Although in general coaches don’t have much impact on performance, there is some evidence that Jackson is an exception.  So maybe the Zen Master can make a difference.

Of course, it’s going to have to be a substantial “difference” for Morrison to become a productive NBA player.  Barring such a transformation, it might be best for Morrison to stay on the Lakers bench.  And if that happens – and Ariza spends less time sitting – this trade could help the Lakers some.  In sum, it’s possible that this trade could help both parties.

Let me close by briefly noting that I have no idea how long the link to The Wages of Wins Journal at the LA Times will be operating.  Still, it’s nice to see this forum listed by the LA Times.

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.

Table One: Evaluating Small Forwards in LA

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