Should the Rookies be Favored to Defeat the Sophomores?

Posted on February 3, 2011 by

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Editor’s Note: The following was written by Andres Alvarez and originally posted at Nerd Numbers.  So some of you have already read Andres’ excellent analysis of the upcoming Rookie-Sophomore game.  For those who are not reading Andres on a daily basis, the following gives you an excellent idea of what you are missing. And let me also note that there are great stories being posted on a regular basis on many of the Wages of Wins Network of blogs.  The following blogs each has at least one story that has been posted in the just the past few days.  So click on over and check these out (and by the way, in the time it took me to re-post this from Andres, he has another post up on LeBron James).

In the 11 years the NBA has held a rookie-sophomore game the sophomores hold an 8-3 edge. This is not all that surprising. An NBA player’s peak age is around 24-26 and most rookies are closer to 19-20. That extra year definitely helps. None the less, three talented rookie squads have actually managed to best their elders. Here’s a quick trip down memory lane with a snap shot of how each team looked going into the challenge.

Player Minutes WP48 Wins
Adrian Griffin 1266 0.265 7.0
Elton Brand 1621 0.161 5.4
Lamar Odom 1786 0.135 5.0
Steve Francis 1584 0.132 4.4
James Posey 1042 0.165 3.6
Andre Miller 1093 0.153 3.5
Todd MacCulloch 453 0.230 2.2
Wally Szczerbiak 972 0.044 0.9
Total 9817 0.156 31.9

Table 1: The 2000 Rookie Squad. Numbers up to All-Star Break

Player Minutes WP48 Wins
Paul Pierce 1414 0.216 6.4
Mike Bibby 1763 0.143 5.3
Raef LaFrentz 1485 0.090 2.8
Dirk Nowitzki 1737 0.043 1.5
Cuttino Mobley 1545 0.033 1.1
Michael Dickerson 1774 0.024 0.9
Jason Williams 1637 0.014 0.5
Michael Olowokandi 1489 -0.004 -0.1
Total 12844 0.068 18.3

Table 2: The 2000 Sophomore Squad. Numbers up to All-Star Break

2000 was a good year for the rookies. Only Wally Szczerbiak was a below average player and the squad on the whole was 50% better than an average NBA team. Of course on the flip side the sophomore team was terrible! Only Paul Pierce and Mike Bibby were playing respectably. It wasn’t a surprise that the rookies took this game.

Player Minutes WP48 Wins
Andrei Kirilenko 1220 0.234 5.9
Pau Gasol 1823 0.133 5.1
Brendan Haywood 863 0.166 3.0
Jamaal Tinsley 1484 0.086 2.7
Jason Richardson 1369 0.033 0.9
Joe Johnson 987 0.106 2.2
Shane Battier 1784 0.080 3.0
Tony Parker 1213 0.025 0.6
Zeljko Rebraca 708 0.056 0.8
Total 11451 0.101 24.2

Table 3: 2002 Rookie Squad. Numbers up to All-Star Break

Player Minutes WP48 Wins
Darius Miles 1347 0.160 4.5
Quentin Richardson 1365 0.145 4.1
Mike Miller 1494 0.121 3.8
Hedo Turkoglu 1197 0.122 3.1
Desmond Mason 1274 0.058 1.5
Lee Nailon 1336 0.025 0.7
Marcus Fizer 1162 -0.003 -0.1
Kenyon Martin 1531 -0.036 -1.2
Chris Mihm 1267 -0.105 -2.8
Total 11973.0 0.055 13.7

Table 4: 2002 Sophomore Squad: Numbers up to All-Star Break

2002 was a little more interesting. Let’s give a little credit, the rookie squad was average. To be average as rookies though is actually impressive. Just like in 2000 the sophomore squad was downright terrible. Miles, Richardson, Miller and Turkoglu weren’t a bad starting core, but with Fizer, Martin and Mihm putting up negative numbers, this game was pretty lopsided. I’ve heard the 2000 draft listed in its entirety as a bust. It’s hard to disagree with that.

Player Minutes WP48 Wins
Tyreke Evans 1735 0.151 5.5
DeJuan Blair 934 0.232 4.5
Omri Casspi 1395 0.145 4.2
Stephen Curry 1760 0.113 4.1
Jonas Jerebko 1326 0.121 3.4
James Harden 1156 0.123 3.0
Brandon Jennings 1727 0.065 2.3
Taj Gibson 1255 0.052 1.3
Jonny Flynn 1550 -0.009 -0.3
Total 12839 0.105 28.0

Table 5: 2010 Rookie Squad, Numbers up to All-Star Break

Player Minutes WP48 Wins
Marc Gasol 1811 0.210 7.9
Kevin Love 980 0.343 7.0
Danilo Gallinari 1607 0.195 6.5
Brook Lopez 1910 0.129 5.1
Russell Westbrook 1784 0.134 5.0
O.J. Mayo 1952 0.069 2.8
Anthony Morrow 1166 0.114 2.8
Michael Beasley 1574 0.067 2.2
Eric Gordon 1410 0.049 1.4
Total 14194 0.138 40.8

Table 6: 2010 Sophomore Squad. Numbers up to All-Star Break

2010 is funny to look at. The numbers say the rookie squad should have lost. Let’s not take anything away from the rookies, they were quite talented. As I’ve mentioned having a bunch of first year players perform at an average NBA team level is impressive. The sophomore squad looked pretty good though. If I were to have advised the coach it would have gone something like this: “Your top three players are Love, Gasol and Gallinari. Play them together as your front court and you’ll do great. Also, you probably don’t want to give a lot of minutes to Gordon, Beasley or Mayo.” Turns out the coach of the sophomore squad did almost exactly the opposite. He played Lopez and Beasley in front of Love and Gasol and gave fewer minutes to Gallinari than Mayo. While the rookies should be happy with a win, the truth is that bad coaching lost this game.

Player MP WP48 Wins
Landry Fields 1510 0.320 10.1
Blake Griffin 1764 0.264 9.7
John Wall 1306 0.119 3.2
Greg Monroe 1089 0.132 3.0
Derrick Favors 928 0.121 2.3
Eric Bledsoe 1119 0.051 1.2
DeMarcus Cousins 1182 0.040 1.0
Gary Neal 916 0.046 0.9
Wesley Johnson 1255 0.028 0.7
Total 11069 0.139 32.1

Table 7: 2011 Rookie Squad. Numbers up to Feb 1st 2011

Player MP WP48 Wins
Stephen Curry 1315 0.230 6.3
Serge Ibaka 1199 0.188 4.7
DeJuan Blair 990 0.186 3.8
Jrue Holiday 1650 0.089 3.1
Tyreke Evans 1494 0.074 2.3
Wesley Matthews 1555 0.037 1.2
Taj Gibson 1019 0.047 1.0
Brandon Jennings 915 0.032 0.6
DeMar DeRozan 1653 0.012 0.4
Total 11790 0.095 23.4

Table 8: 2011 Sophomore Squad. Numbers up to February 1st 2011.

Tyreke Evans has taken a step back, in part because of an injury. Curry, Ibaka and Blair look strong. None of this matters because of a two-headed rookie beast named Blake Griffin and Landry Fields. Together these two have racked up almost as many wins as the entire sophomore squad. Throw in a talented John Wall, Greg Monroe and Derrick Favors and you’ve actually got a killer line-up for any team. This year should go to the rookies unless a terrible coach doesn’t realize that Blake Griffin and Landry Fields belong on the floor together.

-Dre

This article uses the Wins Produced and Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48) metrics. These use the player’s box score statistics, the team statistics, and league averages to estimate how the player contributes to winning. An average player has a WP48 of 0.100. For a regular starter this would generate around 6.0 wins for the team in a full season of play. By contrast a “superstar” player has a WP48 of 0.250 and in the same minutes would generate around 15.0 wins for the team.