Ranking the 2017-18 Offseason Moves of All 30 NBA Teams Using Advanced Analytics
If you stop paying attention to the NBA offseason for just a few days, you can miss a lot. That's never been more true than this year.
And 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 during the 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)
Each of the articles looks at players in and out by way of trades, free agency, retirement, and so on. Rookies, overseas imports, and G League players with two-way contracts were left out because their lack of NBA experience makes them unknown commodities.
In order to analyze each team -- and to crown an unofficial offseason winner (of sorts) in each division -- we looked at each team's Net nERD (nERD in versus nERD out).
If you're not familiar with nERD, it 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|
|3||Los Angeles Clippers||17.1||4.8||12.3|
|6||Oklahoma City Thunder||0.5||-7.9||8.4|
|7||New York Knicks||-0.8||-8.6||7.8|
|8||Los Angeles Lakers||-1.5||-7.5||6.0|
|19||Portland Trail Blazers||-0.9||1.3||-2.2|
|21||New Orleans Pelicans||-7.7||-5.0||-2.7|
|22||Golden State Warriors||-2.8||0.4||-3.2|
|25||San Antonio Spurs||-3.7||3.2||-6.9|
- The Clippers had the highest nERD intake (17.1), despite losing Chris Paul, while the Pacers had the worst incoming package of players (-13.3).
- The Celtics had the highest outgoing nERD (22.8), while the Kings shed the most deadweight (-18.8).
- A lot of teams added All-Star talent by way of trade or free agency this offseason. If you're wondering which teams are better off now that the dust has settled, we rank the splashy offseasons as such: Timberwolves (net nERD of 25.2 after adding Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague), Thunder (net nERD of 8.4 after adding Paul George), Cavaliers (net nERD of 2.1 after adding Isaiah Thomas), Rockets (net nERD of -0.3 after adding Chris Paul), Nuggets (net nERD of -5.6 after adding Paul Millsap), and Celtics (net nERD of -9.2 after adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward).
- Meanwhile, the basement of our rankings is occupied by the teams that lost big names this summer, like the Bulls (net nERD of -15.9 after losing Jimmy Butler), Pacers (-14.8 net nERD after losing Paul George), and Jazz (net nERD of -10.9 after losing Gordon Hayward).
- The Minnesota Timberwolves won the offseason with a net nERD of 25.2. They didn't even sniff the playoffs last year with a record of 31-51, but we've got them projected to finish sixth in a competitive Western Conference this season after adding Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford. After a league-high 13 seasons of missing the postseason, T'Wolves fans have a lot to look forward to with their totally revamped squad in 2017-18.
- The Kings had one of the best offseasons in the NBA, purely by shedding a total of eight players who posted a negative nERD last season, including particularly bad offenders like Ben McLemore (-4.5 nERD), Langston Galloway (-4.0 nERD), Arron Afflalo (-3.9 nERD), and Tyreke Evans (-1.9). Now, with solid veteran leadership from the likes of newly-acquired free agents George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter in tow, the Kings finally look properly set up to nurture young dudes like De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield.
- The Celtics arguably had the biggest offseason in the Association in signing Gordon Hayward and trading for Kyrie Irving. The problem is that our metric is super high on a lot of the players they lost, like Isaiah Thomas (16.3 nERD), Jae Crowder (4.3 nERD), Amir Johnson (3.2 nERD), and Kelly Olynyk (1.9 nERD). The Celtics will almost certainly be a bigger contender to win the Eastern Conference this year after bringing in two All-Stars, but they lost a lot of effective players to make it happen. Before you start discussing how they'll match up with the Warriors in the finals, don't sleep on the fact that they came in 27th in our net nERD rankings.
- The Clippers may have lost a very important piece in Chris Paul (13th in our NBA Player Power Rankings last year with a nERD of 12.8), but they made up for it by getting a slew of nERD-friendly players back in return, including Lou Williams (4.4 nERD), Patrick Beverley (1.8 nERD), Montrezl Harrell (4.2 nERD), and Sam Dekker (0.4 nERD). Toss in the acquisition of Danilo Gallinari (6.1 nERD) and the underrated signing of Willie Reed (3.0 nERD), and last year's four-seed in the Western Conference might be even better in 2017-18 with an offseason net nERD of 12.3.
- The Sixers might finally, finally be ready to see the process that we've all trusted (or tried to) for so long realized. They had a great offseason, adding some solidly efficient veterans like Amir Johnson (3.2 nERD) and J.J. Redick (1.2 nERD) to their delicious young core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Dario Saric. If health is on their side -- especially Embiid's -- they could finally be ready to contend for a playoff spot in a heavily-depleted Eastern Conference after five seasons of "processing."
- Our metric still likes the much-maligned Dwight Howard (7.8 nERD) quite a bit, so we're high on what the Charlotte Hornets did this summer. In fact, we've got them projected to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference after not making the playoffs just a season ago.