Projecting the NBA using xWARP: Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets had a no good, very bad offseason. They lost their very talented GM and fired their very good coach. They lost their best wing defender, and arguably their best overall player, to the team that ousted them from the postseason. They lost a couple other helpful players like Kosta Koufos and Corey Brewer. They added a number of players who simply shouldn’t be expected to be very helpful- like Randy Foye, Darell Arthur, and to a lesser extent, J.J. Hickson. How does it all add up?

After adjusting for the league-wide context (subtracting 1.112 from the .15 net rating shown above), the Nuggets total Net Rating is roughly -.96. That translates to a 38 win squad. Given that they have the strongest homecourt advantage in the league and the schedule they actually will play, the Nuggs project to be a 40 win team. Regardless of whether the first or the latter number proves to be more correct, the Nuggets appear to be in line for a staggering fall from their 57 win record of last year. The takeaway is that losing Andre Iguodala, Kosta Koufos, and Corey Brewer and replacing them with much worse players is going to really hurt the Nuggets this year. It should not shock anyone at all to see them fall all the way out of the playoffs. Hopefully for Denver’s fans they have a plan going forward to right the ship that’s seemingly lost its way.

Image from Keith Allison via Flickr.

Andre Iguodala is a Warrior, at a future cost

Dre doing what Dre does

Andre Iguodala, unofficially, became a Golden State Warrior today, when he agreed to a 4 year, $48 million deal with the Bay Area club. In order to sign Iguodala, the Warriors had to dump the sizable contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins, as well as Brandon Rush on the Utah Jazz.

In exchange for accepting those bloated contracts attached to relatively useless players, the Jazz extracted the price of a 2014 first rounder, a 2017 first rounder and multiple second round picks. The 2014 pick should be relatively late in the first round, as it is almost a certainty that the Warriors will be improved from the 6 seed they were this year with Iguodala in the fold. The location of the 2017 pick is much less certain as the only players on the Warriors’ books for that season are Stephen Curry and now Iguodala. This is the move of a team very much taking its chances at a Finals run this season. Iguodala is 29 years old and a player who relies heavily on his athletic gifts as the keys to his effectiveness. He’s not a terribly skilled player in the sense that he has tremendous offensive footwork or a reliable jump shot. He’s explosive and gets to the basket and can handle the ball fairly well. He’s also a very smart defensive player and knows what to do against just about anyone he’s matched against. He does, however, use his athleticism on the defensive side of the court quite a bit, as well.

As I’ve mentioned before, wing players (particularly the ones who are explosive athletes like Iguodala) tend to decline rather quickly after they hit 30 years old.  It’s worth considering that they have just committed $12 million a season for 4 years to a wing player who turns 30 next season. The salary is quite a bit and worth worrying over by itself but when combined with the picks surrendered to clear the cap space to sign Iguodala, this has the potential to be a bad overall transaction for the Warriors should they fail to win big in the next few years. More optimistically, the Warriors should be much improved for next season, which is really what this move is all about. With Iguodala and Klay Thompson manning the starting wing positions, Stephen Curry should be much more easily protected on defense so that he can go absolutely NOVA more often, like he did so often in the playoffs.  You remember, like this:

If the Dubs are able to improve on their second round ouster from last year and maybe even make a run all the way to the NBA Finals, this move will seem much more worth it. With the Clippers and Rockets also improving markedly it will be interesting to see if the Warriors can pull it off. At the very least, they have struck a significant blow to the Denver Nuggets, taking their best player for nothing at all in return. That has to be a bitter pill for Nuggets fans, especially after already watching these same Warriors defeat them in the first round of the playoffs.