Chat with Kevin Pelton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, NBA Insider Kevin Pelton stops by to chat about the latest news from the hardcourt.
Pelton is a co-author of the Pro Basketball Prospectus series and a former consultant for the Indiana Pacers. He developed the WARP rating and SCHOENE projection system.
Send your questions now and join Pelton Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Kevin Pelton (1:02 PM)
Hey everyone, again coming to you live from a hotel in Portland, where the Thunder will be trying to clinch a division championship against the host Blazers. Looking forward to your questions about the last week of the regular season, the playoffs, the draft and more.
Is there any player whose WARP seems completely out of line with your visual evaluation?
Kevin Pelton (1:04 PM)
There are lots! Of course, many players -- especially those who are extremely good or bad on defense -- are difficult to rate reliably from the box score. As far as guys whose ratings are fairly unique to WARP, I would say Tony Parker never rates as valuable as he clearly is to the Spurs based on plus-minus, his traditional stats and watching him play.
Kevin Pelton (1:08 PM)
Looks like my All-Defensive picks and Defensive Player of the Year are up for Insiders:http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/PerDiem-130412/nba-all-defensive-team-picks
gainesville, fl [via mobile]
Do you think john wall will be a top 5 point guard next year?
Kevin Pelton (1:09 PM)
I think he's been nearly at that level over the last two months, so it's possible. Although I wouldn't get hung up on top-5 vs. top-10 given the number of star PGs out there, especially when Rose returns.
Hey Kevin, what do you think of the play of Jimmy Butler and can he keep it up?
Kevin Pelton (1:10 PM)
I think I raved about Jimmy Butler this time a week ago and he's only impressed me all the more with his defensive effort on Carmelo Anthony last night. He made an extremely late run at an honorable mention spot on my All-D teams. I don't see anything fluky about what Butler is doing, so no reason in my mind he can't keep it up.
On a per minute basis is Tim Duncan the best Defender in the league this year? Larry Sanders maybe. Duncan has never even been 2nd place in DPOY despite being probably a top 3-5 defender of his generation.
Kevin Pelton (1:12 PM)
You know, I kind of forgot that Tim Duncan has never been Defensive Player of the Year. I was going to make reference to it in the column, and I looked it up, and was wondering where Basketball-Reference.com was hiding that information. I think you could make the case he's been the third-best defender on a per-minute basis; I wouldn't put him ahead of my top two choices.
Lebron has a very real chance to set the PER record this season. Is he aware of this and does he care? How much in general do players care about PER and other advanced stats?
Kevin Pelton (1:13 PM)
Depends if Tom Haberstroh told him! Tom could answer this better, but I doubt he really cares, and it's not like PER is something that is as easily controllable as, say, leading the league in scoring.
Kevin Pelton (1:14 PM)
There are players who are aware of and interested in advanced stats, but I think mostly in terms of scouting more than the overall metrics. Those tend to appeal more to fans and front offices.
Ryan (San Diego)
Who makes the playoofs, Lakers or Jazz?
Kevin Pelton (1:16 PM)
Right now, the numbers overwhelmingly favor the Lakers. They make it in more than 80% of my simulations. Playing the last three games at home is a huge deal -- I have Utah's trip to Minnesota rated nearly as challenging as San Antonio visiting the Staples Center. But really, at this point, the numbers are nothing more than a guess because we don't know how the opposition will treat those games.
Isn't OKC taking the #1 seed the best thing that could happen to the Spurs? Now they can tank (rest) against LA, and ensure an LA/OKC rd 1, all while having to play Houston who's right down the road, or a weak GS?
Kevin Pelton (1:18 PM)
I wrote about this earlier this week (http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/PerDiem-130410/nba-western-conference-playoff-matchups), but I don't think facing the Lakers in the first round is the challenge some people believe it to be. I wouldn't want to face the Rockets in the first round, even if the travel is light. Could help more in the second round, as the Spurs would want to avoid facing Memphis, I'd think.
Solomon Jones?? What do you know about him?
Kevin Pelton (1:19 PM)
The good news is he's tall. The bad news is he's tall and he's still available on April 12, which tells you what the league thinks about him. He's a warm body for the last few games of the regular season. If he plays in the playoffs, it's a problem for the Knicks.
In that POR/LAkers game did the Blazers have even one wing player worthy of an NBA roster spot? Claver, Babbitt, Will Barton, Pavlovic? Maybe they will develop into more, but currently looks like a D-league roster to me
Kevin Pelton (1:21 PM)
Claver definitely belongs in the NBA, though it may not be apparent from his individual stats. He's a nice role player who has developed strength and confidence over the course of the season. Barton has now had a couple of solid games in heavy minutes, and I think he's still got a shot to be a useful player. Babbitt is also probably an NBA player, though as a 4, not as a 3.
Your projections were high on Minnesota, but injuries decimated their lineup. How will injuries that teams like Cleveland and Minnesota have faced play into next season's projections?
Kevin Pelton (1:23 PM)
At this point, I strictly handle injuries on an individual basis, though at some point we may have enough team data to incorporate that in the model somehow. Based on research done by Ed Kupfer, who now works for the Houston Rockets, I deduct one game played for each 5 missed the previous season, and each 20 the year before that. So players like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will be docked some time/value, though the overwhelmingly likelihood is the Timberwolves' injuries in particular will regress to the mean next year. So much of it is good or bad fortune.
JJ (Bay Area)
Bullish or bearish on Greg Monroe going forward? I like him alot but somehow struggle to see how the pistons can use them within the framework of a modern nba offense. Does he need an 18 footer?
Kevin Pelton (1:24 PM)
Generally bullish. The 18-footer would be huge in the context of allowing him to play next to Andre Drummond. In general, it's getting harder to be very effective as a big man without having either the ability to shoot from the perimeter or being a rim protector on defense.
What's the best team you've seen that didn't have an all-star, Is this year's Nuggets team close?
Kevin Pelton (1:25 PM)
Good question. I don't have All-Stars in my database so I can't look this up, but it's hard to imagine there's been any better team than this year's Nuggets.
dee (irvine, CA)
HEY kevin! if the rockets lose the next three games, and the lakers win the next three games, they will tied with the same record, so who gets the 7th seed, (im a die hard lakers fan, and i really hope they get the 7th seed? thanks man!!!
Kevin Pelton (1:27 PM)
In that scenario, the tie would be broken by conference record, which would give the edge to the Lakers. There are actually still scenarios in play where the Lakers could finish sixth, though obviously those are extremely unlikely.
If not Sota, who is jonesing to land Nikola Pekovic this offseason?
Kevin Pelton (1:28 PM)
I've got a feeling that Atlanta may look at him if/when the Hawks get passed over by the biggest names on the market. But that's strictly a hunch.
Is win shares a good stat?
Kevin Pelton (1:29 PM)
The Basketball-Reference.com version? Yes, it's one of three box-score stats I tend to look at along with my own WARP and PER.
O/U for postseason wins for the nuggets?
Kevin Pelton (1:30 PM)
Well, it would probably have to be 3.5, because they're more likely than not to win a playoff series but if they do that they'll probably win at least 6 games or so. Tough to do playoff lines like that.
Does Ryan Kelly project to go in the draft? Would he be perfect fit in Miami?
Kevin Pelton (1:31 PM)
Has a chance to go in the second round. Miami would make sense, although I'm not certain Kelly is better than Josh Harrellson, who couldn't stick with the Heat, much to Tom Haberstroh's dismay.
do you think Trey Burke will be able to reliably get into the paint or defend in the NBA? i love everything else about him except these two things.
Kevin Pelton (1:33 PM)
I do think he'll be able to get into the paint. Burke might be the exception to the rule that most PGs find the NBA floor more friendly because it's so well spaced, since he played with such great shooters at Michigan, but I don't know that he'll find it harder to penetrate. The defense is a legit question and will probably determine his ceiling.
Do you think fans/columnists/etc. overrate the value of an assist?
Kevin Pelton (1:36 PM)
This question probably deserves a longer answer than chat can allow, and Tom Ziller took a run at it earlier this week: http://t.co/wflghKBeiUI would say people probably overrate the value of an offense based on assists, but not the value of an assist for an individual player. The plus-minus ratings for PGs, for example, suggest they're about appropriately rated.
have the warriors exceeded expectations this year?
Kevin Pelton (1:37 PM)
Yes, definitely. Only a handful of people had them in the playoffs, and SCHOENE was way down on their chances. Given Andrew Bogut's limited availability, making the playoffs is an impressive accomplishment.
Would you take OKC over the field to represent the West? I still think that's the best bet.
Kevin Pelton (1:38 PM)
I would, yes. For all the hand-wringing about Oklahoma City not beating elite opponents, all the most important developments in the last few weeks in terms of injuries have worked to the Thunder's benefit.
Mike (San Antonio)
Regarding All NBA defense. Doesn't the difference in Garnett and Duncan +/- on defense have more to do with the fact that Boston has a set of poor defenders in their big rotation while the spurs have Splitter is a good defender out there.
Kevin Pelton (1:39 PM)
I think that's part of it, though the Duncan-Splitter distribution isn't quite that clean now that they play so many minutes together. Not the only factor I considered, though.
Do you think Masai makes a run at resigning Iggy? In general, what do you see the Nuggets' plan next year/beyond?
Kevin Pelton (1:41 PM)
Unless the money gets really crazy, I think that's a no-brainer. Iguodala has done exactly what the Nuggets hoped in terms of upgrading the defense without costing them much on offense. I know part of Masai Ujiri's success can be traced to his willingness to make bold moves, but I'd love to see this group get a full, healthy season together given its youth and promise.
I want to love Marcus Smart; awesome defender and built like a tank. But how worried should we be about his perimeter shooting and turnovers?
Kevin Pelton (1:41 PM)
Concerned but not worried. He's young enough to develop quite a bit.
If you were running the Wolves and they don't end up in the top 3, do you keep the pick or trade for the best value they can get?
Kevin Pelton (1:42 PM)
In general, I don't think it's a very good idea for non-contending teams to trade draft picks. I'd have to see who was available and how that matches up with needs, but probably not.
Which team has a better chance to win the West in the coming years: Houston or Denver? If Houston can get one more piece, I'd definitely say them.
Kevin Pelton (1:44 PM)
I think Houston because the Rockets are even younger and have the opportunity to get one big piece, as you say. But both teams are positioned to capitalize if the Thunder slips.
Jay (Tacoma, WA)
Gotta think Portland will be in on Pekovic this year too. They tried to max Brook Lopez last year, and I bet they'd love to get back at Kahn for the whole Batum hullaballoo.
Kevin Pelton (1:46 PM)
I think they'll probably make an inquiry, but I don't know if they want to use all their cap space on one player, as Pekovic would almost certainly require.
Am I getting ahead of myself when I say that Tobias Harris reminds me of Carmelo a bit
Kevin Pelton (1:46 PM)
Yes. Yes, you are.
Kevin Pelton (1:46 PM)
He's off to a great start in Orlando, though. Love his promise.
I initially thought the loss of Gallinari was going to be terrible for the nuggets; however Wilson Chandler has filled in admirably. Do you think Gallo's loss isn't as bad as initially thought?
Kevin Pelton (1:48 PM)
I think we'll know more after tonight, depending on the Mavericks' motivation, because the Nuggets haven't had to go on the road without Gallo yet. But no question they've picked up for him well so far.
Has this Miami team hit its ceiling? I mean, Wade and Bosh have probably peaked, and it seems unlikely LeBron is going to improve much more. (Note I still think Miami can win the next few championships as constructed)
Kevin Pelton (1:49 PM)
Interesting to ponder. I think this might be the best Miami team we see, yes. Wade's aging is the biggest concern, and I don't think the Heat are likely to add much talent this offseason since the mini-MLE will probably have to go to re-signing Birdman.
What do you think of Ricky Rubio defensively?
Kevin Pelton (1:51 PM)
I had him on my All-Defensive Team last year. This year he wasn't quite the same coming back from the ACL, but he's got a chance at being the best defensive PG in the league next year if Avery Bradley is back at shooting guard.
Kevin - Where does Mike Woodson fall in the COY discussions? Who'd have thought you could have such a successful season putting together an all-star team from 2005?
Kevin Pelton (1:53 PM)
I have five coaches in the running on my ballot and Woodson is one of them. I give him a lot of credit for thinking outside the box this year, even if only by necessity. The two-PG lineups and some of the smallball we've seen lately has been very successful.
Sam (Troy, MI)
i had to laugh at dave from orlando's comment but really, the harris for redick trade is looking like one of the worst in recent history. what was john hammond's rationale in trading a young prospect for an expiring deal?
Kevin Pelton (1:56 PM)
Well, I think expiring deal makes it sound worse than it is because the Bucks clearly don't view Redick as a rental and intend to keep him. Having him on the roster now makes that easier than trying to sign him outright this summer. But I liked Harris enough to be skeptical of the trade at the time, and am more so now. I would guess the other part of the rationale was that Harris' defense was bad enough to keep him from being a rotation player in Milwaukee. But if they saw this from him in practice ...
does your projected WARP change if you change the position you project the prospect? like if Smart was projected as a SG instead of a PG
Kevin Pelton (1:58 PM)
No, that's not a factor. I do look at a player's projection compared to past prospects at the same position to identify strengths and weaknesses, but that's the only time I use position.
Hows the weather in my native city (Portland)?
Kevin Pelton (1:59 PM)
Overcast, but looking like it might be muggy this afternoon. Not bad for the springtime.
Thomas (Charlottesville, VA)
How far off is Okafor from your C honorable mentions? His impact on the Wizards' defense has been tremendous.
Kevin Pelton (2:00 PM)
He was just at the edge of consideration. As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, the Wizards are unique in that they have been strong on defense pretty much no matter who has been on the floor. The one exception is Nene, who has had a more consistent positive impact.
Ashley (Foxboro, MA)
Who do you blame more for the brawl in the Dodgers-Padres game?
Kevin Pelton (2:00 PM)
I'm afraid you're in the wrong place, but Carlos Quentin definitely seems to have overreacted.
Will another team offer Pek a max deal? How much does last year's results for centers offer what teams will offer him, considering there isn't the same depth of options (Roy, Lopezes, Asik)?
Kevin Pelton (2:01 PM)
I don't think he'll quite get max, but I do think his next contract will start north of $10 million.
In general, what do you think about reaching in the draft if the front office has done their homework and can't trust trading back to get their guy?
Kevin Pelton (2:03 PM)
I've gotten more positive about it over the years. One of my dear friends slagged the Blazers for overpaying to trade up twice in the 2006 Draft. The players they drafted? Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Moral of the story: Getting the right player is most important.
Is valuing a 33% 3 point-shot the same as a 50% 2 point-shot too simplistic? Are there stats that track how likely it is after a missed shot for the offensive team or defensive team and score after a rebound? I think accounting for those would make comparing the values of 2's vs. 3's more accurate.
Kevin Pelton (2:04 PM)
It's a little bit too simplistic. Obviously the less likely you are to make the shot, the better the chances of an offensive rebound. But those factors are dwarfed by the massive differences among various types of 2-point shots.
Do trades happen in the top five picks of an NBA draft? I can't recall one.
Kevin Pelton (2:06 PM)
Sure! It's been a while, though. Most recent example seems to be Love for Mayo in 2008.
Do your projections and simulations for playoffs account for injuries, changes in rotations, etc? For ex., Knicks and Lakers have missed a lot of players for big chunks, do their playoff projections assume everyone healthy and getting their likely minutes per game?
Kevin Pelton (2:09 PM)
I'll probably look at a few different factors, but in general overall performance tends to have the most predictive power unless it's a really huge difference, which I don't think is the case for either the Knicks (who have mostly been this good) and Lakers (who have been fairly consistently slightly better than average no matter who's available).
Chris (St. Louis)
Guessing Deng makes most all def lists. What was the driver for yours?
Kevin Pelton (2:10 PM)
He was in the discussion for the last honorable mention spot at small forward. Ultimately, he didn't stand out in any statistical category and I tend to view him more as good than great on defense.
Karl (Traverse City)
Historically is D12 overrated. Here are his career avg pts/rebs/blks 18.2/12.9/2.2 in the same 8 yr period Zo avg 20.8/10.1/3.1. Zo was the 5th best center of his era (Shaq, Dream, Robinson, and Ewing). Yet everyone looks at Howard as a HOF
Kevin Pelton (2:12 PM)
Can't look at per-game stats from different eras without accounting for the context of the game, particularly pace. Mourning had two seasons with 15+ WARP; Howard already has four.
Could Maurice Harkless develop into a Paul George type player in a few years? Wishful thinking? Thanks!
Kevin Pelton (2:14 PM)
I don't know that I see Harkless being that perimeter-oriented. George has worked hard to improve his ballhandling and shooting, but came into the league far more developed in those areas than Harkless.
Will the Clippers get a big boost in the postseason when CP3 and Blake start playing 40 minutes a night instead of 32?
Kevin Pelton (2:15 PM)
Bradford Doolittle wrote about this topic earlier this week and had the Clippers second on his list:http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/9146815/nba-which-teams-benefit-shorter-rotations-playoffs ... I tend to think Paul and Griffin probably won't, and shouldn't, play quite that many minutes but more CP3-Bledsoe lineups would be a good thing.
What's your opinion on Derrick Favors's development and do you think he's on schedule/behind schedule/ahead of schedule with it?
Kevin Pelton (2:19 PM)
I think we can get a little too tied to this mindset that there's a schedule for player development. I've written about this in the past, but development curves only seem smooth with the benefit of hindsight. In reality, there are all sorts of fits and starts along the path from potential to production, and Favors is following that. I think we'll know more if he gets a bigger role next season.
Charles (San Jose)
If you're the Suns, who other than Noel are you hoping for?
Kevin Pelton (2:22 PM)
Even though I'm not tremendously high on him overall, I think Ben McLemore would be a nice fit in Phoenix.
Steven [via mobile]
Do you think the worst thing for the Finals would it bring okc vs Miami? There is zero evidence okc can beat the Heat. They lost what six in a row to them?
Kevin Pelton (2:23 PM)
Take this with the proper grain of salt that I wrote earlier this week about how telling head-to-head matchups in the regular season can be for the playoffs, but ... I don't think that series would be a foregone conclusion going in.
Kelly Olynk at the next level. What are you expecting? Can he defend? Can he score?
Kevin Pelton (2:24 PM)
I think he can be a very good player at the NBA level. Will have to improve his core strength to deal with bigger players in the paint, but his offensive skills translate and give him an edge against centers. I thought he was underrated until the rest of the world caught up and put him in the middle of the first round.
Shouldn't McHale get some votes for COY considering the expectations for the Rockets this year, even after the Harden trade?
Kevin Pelton (2:25 PM)
I mentioned a list of five coaches earlier, and he's also on it along with Woodson, Frank Vogel, Lionel Hollins and George Karl. And that's leaving out Erik Spoelstra, Gregg Popovich and Scott Brooks. Coach of the Year is hard, you guys.
Any comments on Kobe's play this season? Especially after he made the playoff guarantee?
Kevin Pelton (2:26 PM)
He's had a tremendous offensive season, and submitted a remarkable game on Wednesday in Portland. Mike D'Antoni said afterwards that Kobe might be going so hard because of the playoff guarantee, and I'm not sure if he was joking or not.
How does Mitch McGary translate to the NBA? He has a lot of David Lee in his game.
Kevin Pelton (2:27 PM)
Totally understand that comparison, but I'm not sure I totally buy it because McGary is so much bulkier. I think he's a 5 and not a 4 in the NBA, where his skill in the high post will stand out all the more.
REgarding Trey Burke, is size for a point guard really that a big a deal anymore? We've seen so many productive little guys in the league (CP3, Conley, Lowry, Lawson, Isaiah Thomas, prime Jameer, etc) that the criticism on Burke seems lost to me.
Kevin Pelton (2:28 PM)
I would say there's a difference between "small" and "short." The guys on that list are generally built like bowling balls, which helps them a lot defensively. Burke doesn't quite have that frame -- I'm worried that he's more like D.J. Augustin or Darren Collison on defense.
zack stl [via mobile]
What would a team of all replacement level players do in a full season?
Kevin Pelton (2:31 PM)
The way the system is set up assumes that they would win 10 games. Last year's Charlotte Bobcats may provide evidence I ought to revise it downward, but there are a lot of examples of replacement players contributing around the league, most notably Chris Copeland.
Mo (Houston, TX)
Paul wasn't built like a bowling ball entering the NBA though.
Kevin Pelton (2:31 PM)
We'll have to compare the draft measurements, but I think he was much stronger than Burke at the same age.
CoCo (Gunnison, CO)
What are your thoughts on Fournier? I think Nuggets potentially got a steal.
Kevin Pelton (2:32 PM)
Like what he's doing so far. He's translated more quickly than I expected.
If Favors and Kanter start for the jazz next year, are they better or worse than this year record wise?
Kevin Pelton (2:32 PM)
Depends who is backing them up. That's potentially a bigger drop-off.
Steve (battle creek, mi)
Any disappointment in Anthony Davis this year?
Kevin Pelton (2:34 PM)
Mostly in terms of his ability to stay healthy. Since there have been a few top prospects who have dealt with injury woes at a young age lately (Irving and Beal, for two others), I'd like to study how much that's a red flag. He has not been quite as advanced defensively as I expected, in large part because he needs to add strength, but is ahead of schedule offensively. If not for Damian Lillard's great rookie season, I think Davis would look a lot better right now.
What is your opinion on JJ hickson? Should portland keep him? or is he about to be overpaid? Are his stats deceiving, or is he the real deal?
Kevin Pelton (2:36 PM)
I think his stats are deceiving to the extent that they describe his value. There's tons of evidence that Hickson is a poor defender, which undercuts what he provides as a rebounder and finisher. Ideally, I think he's a third big man. I probably wouldn't pay him more than the midlevel, which means Amin Elhassan and I are going to have to debate this one. (Amin's valuation of Hickson is here: http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/9109226/nba-top-30-free-agents-2013-ranked-average-annual-value)
What would you guess is Damien Lillard's ceiling? Chauncey Billups?
Kevin Pelton (2:36 PM)
That's a good guess. I got this question a lot today, but want to save it for a Per Diem some time in the postseason.
I may be misremembering, but I do think there was some research that showed teams have a better rebounding rate off 3 pointers...?
Kevin Pelton (2:37 PM)
This issue has been studied a few times. Here's one good example: http://www.countthebasket.com/blog/2008/03/29/rebounding-by-shot-location/ ... as that shows, shots in the paint are by far most likely to produce offensive rebounds, but 3-pointers are rebounded by the offense more than 2-point jumpers.
Big E (Pascagoula, MS)
Damian Lilliard is rather inefficient.
Kevin Pelton (2:38 PM)
Not when you account for how many 3s he takes, which makes him a lot like ... Chauncey Billups. (Callback!)
Kevin Pelton (2:39 PM)
Alrighty everyone, I've got to wrap up so I can check out of my hotel. I'll chat with you on Twitter from Blazers-Thunder later on tonight. Thanks for all your great questions and see you next week when we'll be preparing for the playoffs.