Trading Before the Draft

Posted on June 24, 2009 by


While NBA fans are intently focused on the NBA draft, the following trades were made.

San Antonio Spurs get Richard Jefferson [0.064 WP48 in 2,929 minutes]

Milwaukee Bucks get Kurt Thomas [0.183 WP48 in 1,404 minutes], Fabricio Oberto [0.033 WP48 in 677 minutes], and Bruce Bowen [-0.013 WP48 in 1,508 minutes]


Minnesota Timberwolves get Darius Songaila [-0.046 WP48 in 1,521 minutes], Etan Thomas [-0.047 WP48 in 306 minutes], Oleksiy Pecherov [0.025 WP48 in  277 minutes], and the 5th pick in the 2009 draft

Washington Wizards get Randy Foye [0.022 WP48 in 2,494 minutes] and Mike Miller [0.270 WP48 in 2,356 minutes]


Milwaukee Bucks get Amir Johnson [0.106 WP48 in 911 minutes]

Detroit Pistons get Fabricio Oberto, who they reportedly are going to let depart as a free agent.

RJ Helps?

The biggest name in these transactions is Richard Jefferson.   Here is what Jefferson has done across the past three seasons:

2006-07: 0.044 WP48, 1.8 Wins Produced

2007-08: 0.040 WP48, 2.6 Wins Produced

2008-09: 0.064 WP48, 3.9 Wins Produced

So across the past three seasons Jefferson has produced 8.5 wins.  To acquire his services the Spurs had to surrender the ancient Kurt Thomas, who produced 5.3 wins by himself in 2008-09.   Furthermore, this trade apparently puts the Spurs over the luxury tax threshold and takes San Antonio out of the 2010 free agent market.   And yet we are told this trade clearly helps the Spurs.

Once upon a time – as Table One reveals – Jefferson might have helped quite a bit.   

Table One: The Career of Richard Jefferson

But across the past three seasons, Jefferson has generally been below average with respect to everything not associated with scoring.  And when we look at scoring, we see a player that is only slightly above average.

When we compare Jefferson to his new teammates on the Spurs, RJ’s scoring prowess looks even worse.  Jefferson took 14.9 field goals per game last season and posted a 48.7% adjusted field goal percentage.  Here is what some of his teammates did last year with respect to field goal attempts per game and adjusted field goal percentage:

Tony Parker: 17.5, 51.3%

Tim Duncan: 14.8, 50.4%

Manu Ginobili: 11.2, 52.4%

Roger Mason: 10.0, 52.6%

Michael Finley: 8.5, 53.2%
Drew Gooden: 7.6, 49.0%

Matt Bonner: 6.6, 60.6%

As one can see, relative to all of his new teammates not married to Eva Longoria, Jefferson took more shots per game last season.  And his ability to get his shots to go in the basket falls below what many of his new teammates can do.  So the Spurs have acquired someone who likes to take shots but can’t get them to go in as well as San Antonio’s existing options.

Of course, someone might argue that Jefferson won’t need to take as many shots with the Spurs.  After all, as the above list demonstrates, the Spurs already have very good options on offense.  But if Jefferson isn’t going to score, what exactly is he going to do to help his teammates win games?  Once again, with respect to the non-scoring aspects of the game RJ is below average. Jefferson’s only redeeming quality – at this point in his career — is that he is a slightly above average scorer.

When we put the whole picture together, it appears the Spurs might have fallen victim to the Isiah Thomas fallacy, i.e. you can never have too many scorers.  This is a fallacy, because there really is only one ball.  It is not possible for all these players to get their shots.  And if Jefferson is not going to get his shots, then how does he help the Spurs close the gap between San Antonio and the LA Lakers?

The Other Trades

The other two trades are harder to comment on at the moment. The key for the Timberwolves is what they are going to do with the 5th pick.  For next year it seems unlikely that they will draft someone who is as productive as Mike Miller.  Miller, though, will be 30 next February and that is old for a basketball player.  So it’s possible that T-Wolves will be better off in the long-run with this trade. Then again, I suspect most of the players taken in the top 10 in this year’s draft will be below average NBA players.   But before we draw any conclusions, let’s see who the T-wolves select.

As for the Bucks and Pistons… once upon a time Amir Johnson looked like he would develop into a very productive NBA player.  Last year, though, he was just average.  Although average is… well, average; on the Bucks an average player might help.  Last year the Bucks gave 579 minutes to Malik Allen [-0.137 WP48] and only employed two big men – Andrew Bogut and Austin Croshere – who posted above average numbers.  And Croshere only played 77 minutes. So Amir will probably help Milwaukee.

As for the Pistons, it looks like they are doing everything they can to get under the salary cap this year.  And as a Pistons fan I am looking forward to seeing what they will do with all that cap space.

Let me close by noting that these are not the only potential trades before the draft.  It looks like Jamal Crawford might once again be packing his bags.  But I am going to hold off posting on any more trades until after the draft.  Right now the plan is to have the next post be an evaluation of the NBA draft, and that should appear on Friday morning (with the help of Erich Doerr).

– DJ

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Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at 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.