Ranking the 2016-17 Offseason Moves of All 30 NBA Teams Using Advanced Analytics
The offseason can be a little hard to follow.
Once the thrill and excitement of the NBA Finals has died down in mid-June, everyone's focus quickly shifts to the league's draft and free agency period. Within a matter of only a few weeks, most rosters go through so many changes that they often seem unrecognizable by the time training camp rolls around when compared to the previous year's versions.
If you stop paying attention for just a few days, you can miss a lot.
That's where this series comes in. Over the last few weeks, we have been rolling out articles recapping player movement in each of the NBA's six divisions, with the goal of providing our readers with a one-stop spot to catch up on all the action they may have missed this offseason. Here are the links to all six parts of the series:
Atlantic Division (the Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers, and Raptors)
Northwest Division (the Nuggets, Timberwolves, Thunder, Trail Blazers, and Jazz)
Central Division (the Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Pacers, and Bucks)
Pacific Division (the Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, and Kings)
Southeast Division (the Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, and Wizards)
Southwest Division (the Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Spurs)
Every one of those articles covers all five teams in each respective division, examining players in and out by way of trades, free agency, retirement, etc. (rookies and overseas imports were left out entirely because their lack of NBA experience makes them unknown commodities). In order to analyze each team and crown an unofficial offseason winner (of sorts) in each division, we looked at each team's Net nERD (nERD in versus nERD out).
What's nERD, you say? Well, it's our metric that combines several offensive, defensive, and usage factors to produce one number that is meant to project a player's overall value to his team. That final number is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with the player in question as one of its starters. It's comparable to win shares, but is meant to be predictive (projecting an 82-game season) as opposed to descriptive (how many wins the player has contributed to his team in the past).
Here are the offseasons of all 30 NBA teams, ranked by Net nERD. For further details on the moves that each team made, including analysis on which teams seem to have gotten better or worse, click on the links above.
For now, here's how everyone's offseasons stacked up.
|Team||nERD In||nERD Out||Net nERD|
|1||Golden State Warriors||28.4||8.6||19.8|
|2||Los Angeles Lakers||5.6||-11.5||17.1|
|14||Portland Trail Blazers||-1.4||-1.7||0.3|
|16||Los Angeles Clippers||-0.9||-0.3||-0.6|
|17||New Orleans Pelicans||-6.0||-5.1||-0.9|
|22||New York Knicks||-12.9||-8.7||-4.2|
|26||San Antonio Spurs||8.6||16.3||-7.7|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder||-1.1||9.8||-10.9|
Some stray observations:
- 5 of the 16 playoff teams from 2016 got better (had a positive Net nERD) this offseason: the Warriors, Grizzlies, Celtics, Mavericks, and Trail Blazers.
- 11 of the 16 playoff teams from 2016 got worse (had a negative Net nERD): the Pacers, Thunder, Hawks, Spurs, Hornets, Heat, Rockets, Pistons, Cavaliers, Raptors, and Clippers.
- The Warriors had the highest nERD intake (28.4), while the Kings had the worst incoming package of players (-16.5).
- The Spurs had the highest outgoing nERD (16.3), while the Nets shed the most dead weight (-16.3).
- The Warriors won an NBA record 73 games last year and won the offseason with a Net nERD of 19.8. That's right, a team that only lost 9 games in 2015-16 got approximately 20 wins better. Their addition of Kevin Durant might break math (although 82-0 is highly unlikely).
- The Lakers had one of the best offseasons in the Association, purely by shedding Kobe Bryant's -10.1 nERD. He's a living legend, but his final season was as inefficient as they come. With him retired, the Lakers can now shift their attention to their young core of Brandon Ingram, D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson. The solid additions of nERDy guys like Luol Deng (3.4 nERD) and Timofey Mozgov (2.3 nERD) shouldn't hurt either.
- The Pacers had an interesting offseason, bringing in name-brand talent like Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson, and Thaddeus Young. The problem is that our metric isn't super high on those guys, or at least not to the extent that it favors outgoing Pacers like Ian Mahinmi (5.2 nERD) and George Hill (2.3 nERD). The truth of the matter is that guys like Mahinmi and Hill excel in efficiency and defense, areas the Pacers could find themselves lacking in this year with the turnover.
- The moves made by the Magic this summer were largely criticized (namely the trading of Victor Oladipo, rookie Domantis Sabonis, and Ersan Ilyasova for one guaranteed year of Serge Ibaka), but our metric has them coming out as an improved team, at least for 2016-17. It'll be interesting to see if the accelerated rebuild pays dividends or if the Magic end up missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
- The Sixers are adding a lot of exciting, young talent to the fold in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric, while coming out with a Net nERD of 9.5 in free agency. Is this the year that fans in Philly finally get rewarded for trusting the process?
- The Mavericks continue to put interesting pieces around Dirk Nowitzki. Their Net nERD of 4.5 should keep them in the playoff mix, even if it leaves them short of contending for a title.
- The San Antonio Spurs will likely be fine, despite their -7.7 Net nERD. Their players tend to have high scores in our metric, so their outgoing nERD is typically pretty high. Losing Tim Duncan (4.0 nERD), Boris Diaw (2.0 nERD), David West (5.3 nERD), and nERD darling Boban Marjanovic (5.0 nERD) is obviously a pretty big blow, but it won't be long before Pau Gasol, David Lee, and Dewayne Dedmon are playing like Spurs and racking up high nERD scores themselves.
- There was a lot of player movement in Chicago (adding Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Robin Lopez) and New York (adding Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings, and Courtney Lee) this summer. They both would've been considered super teams roughly five years ago, but in 2016, who knows what to make of these ragtag groups of misfits? Our metric says the Bulls got better (3.1 Net nERD) and the Knicks got worse (-4.2 Net nERD). Let's see what actually happens.