NBA Roster Consistency Rankings: Which Teams Look Completely Different Heading Into the Season?
The NBA free agency period is unlike anything in sports. Of the major sports, the NBA has by far the most roster volatility on a year-to-year basis. Can you imagine Andrew Luck leaving the Colts in 2018 for, let’s say, the Dolphins, after several years of not winning a title? And then going back to the Colts after four years and a couple rings? Can you imagine a franchise player (whoever in the NFL would be a Dwight Howard equivalent) bouncing around to different franchises so much?
Roster volatility is part of the current NBA. The question is, can we analytically measure it?
Let’s try. To do this, I’m going to use basketball-reference.com's win share statistic. The reason I am doing this (as opposed to something else like ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, for example) is that win shares are cumulative. Each player accumulates win shares throughout the year and you can roughly add them up to sum for team wins.
This isn’t a perfect method, I know. As you’ll see, the 76ers are losing 12.4 win shares, which was 79% of their production last year. However, that would have only equated to about 21% of the Spurs production. But this is the best method I could think of since, again, win shares are cumulative, so this is how we’ll do it.
|Rank||Team||'13-'14 Win Shares||Outgoing WS||% Production Returning|
Teams With the Highest Consistency Ranking
A lot of the top-ranked teams here are playoff teams, which makes sense - the worst teams in the league are generally the worst because they have inferior players. Therefore, they would intrinsically be more apt to change up their roster for the upcoming season. Conversely, the best teams in the league will try to keep things stable. Don’t fix what’s not broken, in a sense.
The Spurs only losing 0.5 win shares from last year’s squad is pretty scary for the rest of the league. Because of the salary cap, teams often can't afford to keep such a high percentage of their production from year to year. A big part of what makes the Spurs great – Tim Duncan and Pop help, of course – is their chemistry. Returning 99.2% of your production from a championship season is good for just that.
The Pistons were remarkably steady with their roster this summer, despite all of the Greg Monroe free agency drama and Josh Smith trade buzz. Team chemistry is a good thing, but it remains to be seen if team chemistry between Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith fits into that category. If so – and new head coach Stan Van Gundy can adjust to his roster – then perhaps we see a jump up from their 29 wins a season ago.
The Least Consistent Teams
The 76ers are determined to be at the bottom of every NBA list ever. They are only returning a putrid 3.3 win shares from a season ago, which actually might not be a bad thing going forward. There are many available minutes for all of their talented young guys, and Nerlens Noel has a good chance to surpass Thaddeus Young's team high 3.5 win shares from last season.
The Mavericks are only returning half of their production from last year, and a lot of that came from the perimeter. Shawn Marion (4.3), Vince Carter (4.3), and Jose Calderon (6.3) are all gone from this roster, but Chandler Parsons (7.6 for the Rockets last year) will replace most of Marion and Carter’s production. The question will be at the point guard spot - can the combination of Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson, and Devin Harris replace Calderon?
Some teams, like the Pacers and Lakers for example, have their data affected by injuries. The Pacers 80.6% returning production includes Paul George and the Lakers 51.2% would obviously have been much higher if Kobe Bryant had played last season.
There was a ton of player movement this summer, like usual. Some teams completely revamped their roster. Other teams (like the Warriors) weren’t willing to make moves and disrupt team chemistry. It will be interesting to see if the teams at the top of this ranking can get off to a fast start once the season begins.