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Can you see the future?

NBA Hot Take 1–10–18

What does the future hold for this young player?

I know every player is a tradable asset in basketball and fans find something to complain about in players from the ridiculous (this season’s NBA piñata #1 Lonzo Ball) to the sublime (career NBA piñata #1 Lebron James).

But the thing that makes basketball so interesting is how players fit together to make something more than the sum of their parts. Some players, like Draymond Green, may not have the gaudy stats of a Boogie Cousins, but he is just as valuable to his team, maybe more so because he is a fiery leader.

Secondly, with the salary cap, fans are forced to think like GMs and realize that there are opportunity costs. You can’t spend max money on someone who is not a superstar, but you also have to be willing to spend a lot of money on players who might serve as the foundation of the team.

Finally, a player’s age has to impact their current and future value. Most teams take a chance on a free agent All-Star and then suffer greatly during the last couple years of the contract. Or they overpay an aging superstar who is coming off an injury. In the case of Kobe, it destroyed the team for a few years. We’ll have to see what the Blake Griffin signing does to the Clippers.

Here are some interesting per 36 stats for some key players this season, along with their contract amounts:

A — Age, 31: 14.9 PTS, 8.7 REB, 5.8 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.1 BLK (.528 FG%, .422 3P%, .747 FT%) — $27,734,406 (Year 2, 4 year/ $113M contract)

B — Age, 32: 18.6 PTS, 7.5 REB, 3.6 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.5 BLK (.446 FG%, .345 3P%, .692 FT%) — $31,269,231 (Year 2, 2 year/$61M contract)

C — Age, 31: 24.1 PTS, 9.2 REB, 2.1 AST, 0.6 STL, 1.2 BLK (.496 FG%, .344 3P%, .833 FT%) — $21,461,010 (Year 3, 4 year/ $87M contract)

D — Age, 28: 22.8 PTS, 7.5 REB, 5.2 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.4 BLK (.432 FG%, .346 3P%, .788 FT%) — $29,512,900 (Year 1, 5 year/ $171M contract)

E — Age, 27: 12.2 PTS, 8.7 REB, 8.7 AST, 1.6 STL, 1.5 BLK (.467 FG%, .331 3P%, .759 FT%) — $16,400,000 (Year 3, 5 year/ $82M contract)

F — Age, 23: 21.1 PTS, 11.0 REB, 3.1 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.1 BLK (.554 FG%, .267 3P%, .672 FT%) — $4,149,242 (Last year of rookie contract)

Based on their age and contract, who would you build your team around? Whose contract spells disaster for their franchise going forward?

Allow me to add the following context to their stats:

A (2 teams), 4x All-Star, and is recognized as a glue guy for an elite playoff team, with increases in assists, blocks and 3P% compared to his career per 36 stats, but decreases in FT%, rebounding and steals. PER: 19.14

B (3 teams), 4x All-Star, and NBA All-Defense 2nd Team in 2016, with slight decrease in numbers compared to his career stats. PER: 17.75

C (2 teams), 5x All-Star, All-NBA Second Team (2015), 3x All-NBA Third Team (2011, 2014, 2016) and #2 option on an elite playoff team, with small increases in nearly every category. PER: 24.47

D (1 team), 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Second Team (2012–2014), All-NBA Third Team (2015), is now the #1 option on a possible playoff team, with increases in scoring, assists and 3P% compared to his career per 36 stats, but decreases in FG%, rebounding and defensive stats. PER: 20.83

E (1 team), 2x All-Star, All-NBA Second Team (2016), All-NBA Third Team (2016), NBA Defensive POY, 3x NBA All-Defensive 1st Team, and is recognized as a glue guy for an elite playoff team, with small increases in nearly statistical every category. PER: 17.41

Player F (1 team) was a 1st round draft pick in 2014, but many fans, coaches and front office people aren’t convinced he is even good enough to start on a lottery team. PER: 18.90

If we look at the value of a player’s contributions versus their contract, it’s pretty clear that “E” is the guy with the most gas left in the tank as a cornerstone of a franchise, right?

Why is player “F” not regarded as a foundational building block for a team with tons of young talent?

His team can’t decide what to do with him and it shows in his role this season.

The reason I used per 36 stats is because Player F’s playing time has fluctuated wildly throughout the season, playing 20% fewer minutes as a bench player than he did the last two years as a starter. With increases in scoring, FG%, and blocks compared to his career per 36 stats, and very slight decreases in rebounding, assists and FT%, this player has shown tremendous improvement defensively in small ball lineups and been the best two-way player on his team for the season.

But his numbers don’t look all that different from all these multi-year All-Stars.

He’s got the best FG%, but the worst FT%, and he doesn’t shoot 3-pointers (.267 3P% on 0.8 shots per game). With his young legs, it’s not surprising that he’s the best rebounder, but with youth comes inexperience, which explains why he turns the ball over more, especially when he forces his way driving to the basket.

UPDATE (1/15): Here are his per game averages, in the seven games he has played 30 minutes or more: 21.2 PTS, 9.8 REB, 3.5 AST, 0.1 STL, 0.7 BLK, (.617 FG%, .287 3P%, .657 FT%)

How much do you pay to keep the young guy for the next four or five years, or do you trade him?

With changes to the salary cap each year, teams can go crazy, paying ridiculous sums of money to guys who a year later are getting DNPs (hello Mozgov), even when they’re healthy.

Here are the per 36 stats for two of his teammates, along with their contracts:

G — Age, 29: 20.7 PTS, 6.7 REB, 2.8 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.9 BLK (.446 FG%, .326 3P%, .747 FT%) — $22,642,650 (Year 3, 3 year/ $63M contract) PER: 16.78

H — Age, 24: 13.4 PTS, 4.9 REB, 2.1 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.3 BLK (.407 FG%, .337 3P%, .767 FT%) — $17,745,894 (1 year contract) PER: 12.28

“F” gets an A in my book. I’d say the front office would be insane not to offer him a 4 or 5-year deal before he becomes an All-Star player for some other team.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comment section what to do with this young bull, and if you want to guess at the identities of the All-Stars listed above.

After a few days, I’ll post the identities of the players.

Thanks for reading!

Written by

Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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