Should the Bobcats Let Go of Augustin for Devin Harris?

| by David Berri

The Charlotte Bobcats had their best season in team history in 2009-10. For a team that had never had a winning record – or made the playoffs – “best season ever” isn’t much of an accomplishment.  Nevertheless, with a record of 44-38, the Bobcats gave Charlotte fans their first taste of playoff basketball since 2002 (when P.J. Brown and Baron Davis led the Charlotte team). 

When we look at Charlotte’s roster last year – and what these players did on a per-minute basis in 2008-09 – we see that Charlotte could have expected to miss the playoffs again in 2010.  Improved production from Raymond Felton – with small improvements from Stephen Graham and Gerald Wallace – allowed this team to win enough games to secure the 7th seed in the playoffs.

Felton, though, signed with the Knicks in the offseason. And that means Felton’s 8.9 wins – and 0.162 WP48 [Win Produced per 48 minutes, Wins Produced explained HERE] — will need to be replaced.

One possibility was floated this past week. As part of the proposed Carmelo Anthony grade, Devin Harris of the New Jersey Nets was going to be sent to the Bobcats. In return, the Bobcats were going to send D.J. Augustin to the Nets and Boris Diaw to the Utah Jazz. One sticking point in the proposed deal, though, was Charlotte’s unwillingness to part with Augustin.

Charlotte doesn’t want to give up D.J. Augustin to the Nets, so New Jersey has begun exploring how to expand the trade to include more teams and more players in hopes of landing itself a point guard.

When we consider the productivity of the players involved, the Bobcats reluctance is not entirely clear.  Here is what Harris, Augustin, and Diaw has offered across the past two seasons.

  • Devin Harris [2008-09]: 8.0 Wins Produced, 0.154 WP48
  • Devin Harris [2009-10]: 2.7 Wins Produced, 0.058 WP48
  • D.J. Augustin [2008-09]: 3.0 Wins Produced, 0.075 WP48
  • D.J. Augustin [2009-10]: 0.5 Wins Produced, 0.016 WP48
  • Boris Diaw [2008-09]: 3.7 Wins Produced, 0.065 WP48
  • Boris Diaw [2009-10]: 1.1 Wins Produced, 0.019 WP48

Here is the story all these numbers tell.

  • All three players were below average last season (average WP48 is 0.100).
  • All three players played better in 2008-09. 
  • Only Devin Harris, though, was above average in 2008-09.

If we go back before 2008-09 we see that Harris was above average in each of the previous three seasons as well.  In fact, his rookie season was the last time he was below average. So if the Bobcats wanted an above average point guard to replace Felton, Harris seems like a player who could fill that role.

In contrast, Augustin has never been an above average player. That is true across the first two seasons of his career. And it was true in his last season in college (he was below average for a player selected out of college).  So it is not clear why the Bobcats would cling to Augustin.

Well, let me amend that statement. Augustin was a lottery pick by the Bobcats in 2008. The team passed on a number of players who have posted above average numbers in their NBA careers (Brook Lopez, Anthony Randolph, Ryan Anderson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are a few names that come to mind).  Since we cannot forecast perfectly from college to the pros (although we can forecast some), it is not unusual for teams to miss on a lottery pick.  But what you would like to see is a team admitting – after someone has played 152 NBA games – that a lottery pick is not quite as good as was thought on draft night.

Apparently, though, the Bobcats are having a hard time letting go.  Published research (across the past two decades) makes it clear that NBA teams have a problem with revising their evaluation of draft picks.  And if this story is true, it looks like this story is playing out again in Charlotte.

Two last notes on this story…

In sum, it looks like the Bobcats are going to replace Felton with Augustin.  And that means, 2009-10 might remain the Bobcats best season ever.

 - DJ