Court Vision: Cutting ties with Andrew Bynum
By Rob Mahoney
• It will likely prove tempting for the Sixers to re-sign Andrew Bynum this summer due to all they’ve invested in him over the last year, but Tom Sunnergren of Hoop76 wonders if Philly’s front office turnover might allow the Sixers to approach the situation with a certain clarity:
… Not only do sunk costs often seem unbearably wasteful to decision makers (We gave up an All-Star and two good, cost controlled young players for Bynum! We can’t let him get away for nothing!), but cutting ties with an expensive asset like Bynum is tantamount to an admission of guilt on the part of those who acquired him. “I screwed up,” is a message few NBA front office are ego-less enough to deliver to a fan base.
But while sunk costs pose a thorny problem, they can be defused. The solution is often as simple as a fresh perspective.
“Taking the original decision-maker out of the picture and letting a fresh pair of eyes look at the pros and cons can help,” Hal Arkes, a psychologist at Ohio State University, told the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki in January while the latter was mulling the Jets’ handling of Mark Sanchez.
The Sixers, owing to the organizational changes that have been made since the Bynum deal was completed, may have the benefit of these fresh eyes. Director of Analytics Aaron Barzilai was brought on after the trade, as was GM Tony DiLeo (though DiLeo was a member of the organization this summer). And the most powerful figure in the organization, Doug Collins, might be gone by the time the team has to make a decision on Bynum.
• Over at Grantland, Zach Lowe takes us behind the curtain of the Raptors’ basketball analytics team to see some of the utterly fascinating work being done with the SportVU optical tracking data. What Toronto is working with is essentially a pragmatic melding of video and statistics — an archived index of actual defensive coverage evaluated against an optimal defensive model, predicated on shot probabilities and an exhaustive database of player tendencies.
• Ask Matt Bonner about his game, Game of Thrones, Watch the Throne, watches, watchtowers, All Along the Watchtower, or y’know, whatever.
• The Jazz are a good point guard away from being an awfully solid team, but what options will they have to improve at the position this summer?
• On a night otherwise filled with intrigue and highlights, Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie found a gem of a play — a no-look alley-oop from Marc Gasol to Tony Allen — to use as a launch pad for an exploration of Gasol’s role in Memphis’ offense:
Before the Gay trade, the Grizzlies ranked 22nd among 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency, a stat that measures how many points your offense scores per 100 possessions; Memphis was averaging 100.1 points-per-100, according to NBA.com’s stat tool. In 21 games since adding Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye to the lineup following the trade, they’ve moved up to 13th in the league at 104-per-100; over the course of the full season, that would rank just above the Brooklyn Nets as the NBA’s 10th-best offense. That’s a pretty significant improvement — over the course of the full season, four points-per-100 is the difference between the Nets’ No. 10 offense and the Chicago Bulls‘ 25th-ranked unit.
That’s not all due to Gasol, of course; Gay’s absence has meant a greater distribution of touches, opportunities and responsibility for other Grizzlies, too. While Gasol’s “usage rate” — the share of Memphis possessions that end with him attempting a field goal, getting free throws or turning the ball over — is up (as is his field-goal percentage and as are his per-game scoring, rebounding and assist numbers; he’s averaging just under five dimes a game after the trade, which is nuts for a center), the same is true for Conley, who is also “using” more Grizzlies trips, assisting on teammates’ buckets more often, turning it over less frequently, and shooting a higher percentage from the floor and the foul line. The upticks for Randolph aren’t quite as stark — his scoring’s up a half-point and his rebounding’s down a half-board per game, and his field-goal and free-throw percentages have dipped a bit — but he, too, is using more possessions, dishing more assists and turning the ball over less often.
• A welcome reminder for us NBA enthusiasts from HoopSpeak’s Danny Nowell: Stop ripping on the college game. It’s not just a different league — it’s a different world. That world may not be for me (or you, or other NBA nerds), personally, but that’s little reason to rain on the March Madness parade.
• Very interesting work from Neil Paine of ESPN Insider ($) on how the San Antonio Spurs — by measure of pythagorean record — have been this season’s luckiest team.
Typically 7-footers in their prime are in high demand, and historically they get paid more than anybody expects. But here’s why Blatche cares less about money in his next contract: he’s still getting paid by the Wizards through the 2014-15 season because he was waived via the amnesty clause. So, according to the rules of the CBA, most of the money he earns through then on his next contract will go to Washington, the team he feels abandoned him last season.
Blatche even said that gives him incentive to take less money.
“If I get a lot [in my next contract], yeah, it’s going to take pressure off the Wizards,” he said. “But that’s why I’m not going to do that.”
• Here lies the Brooklyn Nets’ quirky, self-aware PR account, which was shut down well before its time.
• I’ve seen plenty of NBA poetry written in Haiku and “Seuss-ameter” over the last few years, but check out this tribute to the Heat’s win streak written in the style of the wonderful Shel Silverstein.
• Take a trip down memory lane with Mark Deeks of Sham Sports, who has kept tabs on every recent fringe NBAer you could possibly have a lingering interest in.