NBA

2011 NBA All-Star: Should Rookies be Favored to Beat Sophomores?

| by David Berri

Editor’s Note: The following was written by Andres Alvarez and originally posted at Nerd Numbers. So some of you have already read Andres’ excellent analysis of the upcoming Rookie-Sophomore game. 

For those who are not reading Andres on a daily basis, the following gives you an excellent idea of what you are missing. And let me also note that there are great stories being posted on a regular basis on many of the Wages of Wins Network of blogs. The following blogs each has at least one story that has been posted in the just the past few days. So click on over and check these out (and by the way, in the time it took me to re-post this from Andres, he has another post up on LeBron James).

In the 11 years the NBA has held a rookie-sophomore game the sophomores hold an 8-3 edge. This is not all that surprising. An NBA player’s peak age is around 24-26 and most rookies are closer to 19-20. That extra year definitely helps. None the less, three talented rookie squads have actually managed to best their elders. Here’s a quick trip down memory lane with a snap shot of how each team looked going into the challenge.

Player
Minutes
WP48
Wins

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Adrian Griffin
1266
0.265
7.0

Elton Brand
1621
0.161
5.4

Lamar Odom
1786
0.135
5.0

Steve Francis
1584
0.132
4.4

James Posey
1042
0.165
3.6

Andre Miller
1093
0.153
3.5

Todd MacCulloch
453
0.230
2.2

Wally Szczerbiak
972
0.044
0.9

Total
9817
0.156
31.9

Table 1: The 2000 Rookie Squad. Numbers up to All-Star Break

Player
Minutes
WP48
Wins

Paul Pierce
1414
0.216
6.4

Mike Bibby
1763
0.143
5.3

Raef LaFrentz
1485
0.090
2.8

Dirk Nowitzki
1737
0.043
1.5

Cuttino Mobley
1545
0.033
1.1

Michael Dickerson
1774
0.024
0.9

Jason Williams
1637
0.014
0.5

Michael Olowokandi
1489
-0.004
-0.1

Total
12844
0.068
18.3

Table 2: The 2000 Sophomore Squad. Numbers up to All-Star Break

2000 was a good year for the rookies. Only Wally Szczerbiak was a below average player and the squad on the whole was 50% better than an average NBA team. Of course on the flip side the sophomore team was terrible! Only Paul Pierce and Mike Bibby were playing respectably. It wasn’t a surprise that the rookies took this game.

Player
Minutes
WP48
Wins

Andrei Kirilenko
1220
0.234
5.9

Pau Gasol
1823
0.133
5.1

Brendan Haywood
863
0.166
3.0

Jamaal Tinsley
1484
0.086
2.7

Jason Richardson
1369
0.033
0.9

Joe Johnson
987
0.106
2.2

Shane Battier
1784
0.080
3.0

Tony Parker
1213
0.025
0.6

Zeljko Rebraca
708
0.056
0.8

Total
11451
0.101
24.2

Table 3: 2002 Rookie Squad. Numbers up to All-Star Break

Player
Minutes
WP48
Wins

Darius Miles
1347
0.160
4.5

Quentin Richardson
1365
0.145
4.1

Mike Miller
1494
0.121
3.8

Hedo Turkoglu
1197
0.122
3.1

Desmond Mason
1274
0.058
1.5

Lee Nailon
1336
0.025
0.7

Marcus Fizer
1162
-0.003
-0.1

Kenyon Martin
1531
-0.036
-1.2

Chris Mihm
1267
-0.105
-2.8

Total
11973.0
0.055
13.7

Table 4: 2002 Sophomore Squad: Numbers up to All-Star Break

2002 was a little more interesting. Let’s give a little credit, the rookie squad was average. To be average as rookies though is actually impressive. Just like in 2000 the sophomore squad was downright terrible. Miles, Richardson, Miller and Turkoglu weren’t a bad starting core, but with Fizer, Martin and Mihm putting up negative numbers, this game was pretty lopsided. I’ve heard the 2000 draft listed in its entirety as a bust. It’s hard to disagree with that.

Player
Minutes
WP48
Wins

Tyreke Evans
1735
0.151
5.5

DeJuan Blair
934
0.232
4.5

Omri Casspi
1395
0.145
4.2

Stephen Curry
1760
0.113
4.1

Jonas Jerebko
1326
0.121
3.4

James Harden
1156
0.123
3.0

Brandon Jennings
1727
0.065
2.3

Taj Gibson
1255
0.052
1.3

Jonny Flynn
1550
-0.009
-0.3

Total
12839
0.105
28.0

Table 5: 2010 Rookie Squad, Numbers up to All-Star Break

Player
Minutes
WP48
Wins

Marc Gasol
1811
0.210
7.9

Kevin Love
980
0.343
7.0

Danilo Gallinari
1607
0.195
6.5

Brook Lopez
1910
0.129
5.1

Russell Westbrook
1784
0.134
5.0

O.J. Mayo
1952
0.069
2.8

Anthony Morrow
1166
0.114
2.8

Michael Beasley
1574
0.067
2.2

Eric Gordon
1410
0.049
1.4

Total
14194
0.138
40.8

Table 6: 2010 Sophomore Squad. Numbers up to All-Star Break

2010 is funny to look at. The numbers say the rookie squad should have lost. Let’s not take anything away from the rookies, they were quite talented. As I’ve mentioned having a bunch of first year players perform at an average NBA team level is impressive. The sophomore squad looked pretty good though. If I were to have advised the coach it would have gone something like this: “Your top three players are Love, Gasol and Gallinari. Play them together as your front court and you’ll do great. Also, you probably don’t want to give a lot of minutes to Gordon, Beasley or Mayo.” Turns out the coach of the sophomore squad did almost exactly the opposite. He played Lopez and Beasley in front of Love and Gasol and gave fewer minutes to Gallinari than Mayo. While the rookies should be happy with a win, the truth is that bad coaching lost this game.

Player
MP
WP48
Wins

Landry Fields
1510
0.320
10.1

Blake Griffin
1764
0.264
9.7

John Wall
1306
0.119
3.2

Greg Monroe
1089
0.132
3.0

Derrick Favors
928
0.121
2.3

Eric Bledsoe
1119
0.051
1.2

DeMarcus Cousins
1182
0.040
1.0

Gary Neal
916
0.046
0.9

Wesley Johnson
1255
0.028
0.7

Total
11069
0.139
32.1

Table 7: 2011 Rookie Squad. Numbers up to Feb 1st 2011

Player
MP
WP48
Wins

Stephen Curry
1315
0.230
6.3

Serge Ibaka
1199
0.188
4.7

DeJuan Blair
990
0.186
3.8

Jrue Holiday
1650
0.089
3.1

Tyreke Evans
1494
0.074
2.3

Wesley Matthews
1555
0.037
1.2

Taj Gibson
1019
0.047
1.0

Brandon Jennings
915
0.032
0.6

DeMar DeRozan
1653
0.012
0.4

Total
11790
0.095
23.4

Table 8: 2011 Sophomore Squad. Numbers up to February 1st 2011.

Tyreke Evans has taken a step back, in part because of an injury. Curry, Ibaka and Blair look strong. None of this matters because of a two-headed rookie beast named Blake Griffin and Landry Fields. Together these two have racked up almost as many wins as the entire sophomore squad. Throw in a talented John Wall, Greg Monroe and Derrick Favors and you’ve actually got a killer line-up for any team. This year should go to the rookies unless a terrible coach doesn’t realize that Blake Griffin and Landry Fields belong on the floor together.

-Dre

This article uses the Wins Produced and Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48) metrics. These use the player’s box score statistics, the team statistics, and league averages to estimate how the player contributes to winning. An average player has a WP48 of 0.100. For a regular starter this would generate around 6.0 wins for the team in a full season of play. By contrast a “superstar” player has a WP48 of 0.250 and in the same minutes would generate around 15.0 wins for the team.