An Assessment - part 3

As mentioned in part 1, there are two different styles of play in the NBA. Many teams (most?) are moving to a version of small ball while some are determined to stick with the more traditional style we have known for years. Both styles feature a Center, but the type is slightly different. Small requires a deft passer who can stretch the floor, yet is quick and athletic enough to get back and protect the rim. The latter features a bruiser who sets up and "battles" down low. Regardless of style, you want a guy who does his job, puts more points on the board than he allows. Put another way, plays both sides of the ball.

So who are these guys? The criteria here is better than average offense and better than average defense, so .92 Oppp/.84 Dppp become the minimums. Below are the 19 that met the criteria in ascending order from best defense to worst (although still above average).

Anderson Verajao .93/ .71 (has played 81 games last three seasons combined)

Dwight Howard .95/ .74 unrestricted free agent - expected payday 20M+

Enes Kanter .95/ .74

Kevin Garnett .95/ .76 still got it!

Hasheem Thabeet .96/ .76 - 1.2M non-guaranteed

Marc Gasol .97/ .77

Cole Aldrich .96/ .78 - unrestricted free agent (after trade numbers - .83/ .94 with Houston)

Viacheslav Kravtsov 1.01/ .78 - seldom used behind Drummond and Monroe

Chris Bosh 1.05/ .81

Tyson Chandler 1.14/ .81

Robin Lopez 1.02/ .81 - 5.1M non-guaranteed

Andre Drummond 1.01/ .82 - impressive rookie

Nikola Pekovic 1.02/ .83 - 6M qualifying offer

Tiago Splitter 1.05/ .83 - 5.9M qualifying offer

Marcin Gortat .93/ .84

Al Horford .99/ .84

JaVale McGee 1.02/ .84

Larry Sanders .92/ .84 - defense fell off as season progressed

Nikola Vucevic .93/ .84 - rumored to "not be off limits"

And the "Top 100" (ranks in the top 100 in both offense and defense - note: the rankings are per Synergy and are against all players, not Centers only) Offensive rank/ defensive rank

Kravtsov 56/ 48 - Bosh 27/ 79 - Chandler 4/ 79 - R. Lopez 40/ 79 - Drummond 56/ 91

Small sample size alert! Kravtsov - 25 games/ 224 minutes (Could he be the next Vucevic?)

What we find are several names that are of no surprise such as Howard and Chandler. But there also several here that obviously just go about their craft and produce results with little fanfare. Also surprising are some that are not here, big names with big contracts. As they say, conspicuous by their absence. Age does not seem to factor in either as it ranges from Drummond - 19yo to Garnett - 37yo.

One might notice also that in general, as the offense goes up, the defense tends to weaken. That in itself may not be a totally bad thing since finding a proper balance is probably preferable to being all one way or the other. But what we also see is that to score big, a player does not have to ignore defense either. There is not room to list every player and all of those with average or below average defense were omitted. Let me use just one as an example - Al Jefferson. I am picking on him because he is a popular name being bandied about as wanted for a return. Big Al scores at .97 ppp but gives up .9 ppp. On the surface, that seems pretty good because he scores more than he allows. Yet there are nine players on this list that score at a better rate and the worst one defensively only allows .84 ppp. Quite a difference. And only one of the nine, Bosh, makes more than Big Al's current 15M per year.

I concluded several years ago that the PR department for the league goes out of its way to create a "face" for every franchise and promote them as a "star" even if the reality could not be further from the truth. Sometimes the image sticks in our minds and we believe that certain players are better than they are. The point of this exercise was to cut through the hype and try to identify who actually would add value and who would not. As fans, we all have personal favorites and as humans, we all have personal biases even if we don't realize it. Think for a moment how some are agonizing over whether Garnett should stay or go. By the metric used here, I think that can be laid to rest. He is still one of the best in the game.

So, should this be the only method for considering additions or trade targets? Certainly not. Things like rebounds, assists, blocks, passing ability, basketball IQ, personality, and many others are important too. But I think I would look at the other things among the players on this list first. After all, being good or at least decent at the other aspects is what helped them get on this list to begin with.

For what it worth, putting this together opened my eyes. I had actually began it to build support for some of my favorites, such as Big Al mentioned above. What I discovered is that a guy that wasn't even on my radar, Robin Lopez, would be a steal at 5M. And if Danny Ainge can find a way to pry Andre Drummond away from Detroit, that would be a major coup.

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