Sunday, 24 January 2010

2010 Reload or Rebuild - NBA Edition

As mentioned before I have started to follow the NBA. The ability to reshape a team, almost overnight, is pretty interesting stuff.

However, I also follow it, in part, because I believe that the NBA's management know-how, when it comes to Cap managing a team at least, is far ahead of that of most NHL general managers. There are lessons there to be learned.

What Matters in the NBA

What matters are these four things (in order):

1. Acquiring superior talent;
2. Having money and spending it wisely;
3. Well rounded roster; and
4. Coaching well-matched to the talent

Not much different from any sport really (shoulda known!).

The Salary Cap and Luxury Tax issues only matter on the way to, and at the close of, the accomplishment of those four things.

One area where the two sports differ, markedly, is the extent to which the possession of superior talent affects the record of a team. Because the NBA game is only 48 minutes long and most starters play 30+ mins a night a top-tier player will affect as much as (and sometimes more) two-thirds of a teams 'game'.

In the NHL, other than the goalie (who plays the entire game), only a handful of players will log more than 25 minutes a game over the course of a season. Given an NHL game is 60 minutes long the math says that no matter how good a player like Ovechkin is he will put less time in on the ice than a Kobe or Lebron.

Which means that in the NBA there are few things more important than acquiring superior talent. #1 with a bullet.

Now We Talk Money

Much like in the NHL superior talent will only show up in one of three ways:

1. Top-end draft picks
2. Lucky draft picks
3. Smart, aggressive management with money

As the first two options are pretty standard I will spare a few more moments to discuss the last - smart, aggressive management WITH money.

The NBA Salary Cap sits around $57.3 million while the Luxury Tax kicks in (dollar for dollar) at roughly $69.9 million. The Luxury Tax threshold comes with an extra kick however - teams under the Tax get as much as $4.5 million as part of a share of the taxes paid by those over the Tax.

i.e. Salaries totalling $69.9 million have an effective cost of $65.4 million while Salaries totalling $70 million have an effective cost of $70.1 million.

That last $100k is a killer.

However. The correlation between paying the Tax and being a play-off bound team is pretty strong (I use hoopshype). Check the link.

Excepting the Knicks and the Wizards almost all the teams listed (15 in all) as paying the Tax are either IN the play-offs or probable for it.

Excepting the Raptors, Bobcats, Hawks, Blazers and Grizzlies most teams listed (15 in all) as not paying the Tax are out of the play-offs.

To be fair, that Western Conference is nuts.


Go back to what I said about smart, aggressive management with money.

Sooner or later one of the teams that doesn't like to, or cannot, pay the Tax will HAVE to dump a good player. And that is where a team WITH money can come in and get said player.

That isn't always easy however. The NBA has a trade kicker (actually, there are several) wherein salaries have to, more or less, match up. So the trick is being able to match up.

Much easier to do that if you are already spending more than you need to. The key is having expiring contracts available.

Expiring contracts - contracts that end in the current year - can have a lot of value in the NBA. Houston, a team that is paying Tracy McGrady $23 million NOT to play may be able to improve their team by trading him to Philadelphia or Chicago - teams that want to dump NEXT year's salary.

Want to build a winner in the NBA - spend the cash.

Reload or Rebuild?

Okay, granted, while the margin for error is much higher in the NHL (larger rosters, well paid middle class and no skater plays 60%+ of the available ice-time), the NHL isn't all that different from the NBA.

Next post will be the final one of this series.


Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

2010 Reload or Rebuild - The Revisits - #1

As mentioned just previous, and as alluded to in the title, I am now re-visiting the topic of what I would (if it mattered and if you cared and even if you cared that it mattered I guess) do: reload or rebuild?

First, however, a quick post on luck and why it matters, to me, in this case.

If any of you recall there was a time when I was doing a series of Franchise 101 posts. For the purpose of this post the relevant post to reference is this one:

Franchise 101 - Part 05 - Objectivity


For those of you who don't want to take the link elsewhere (Too late for some. I know. Sorry) I will quote the relevant portion below:

A quick lesson on Objectivity and Subjectivity:


Yes. Halle Berry is better looking than my wife.


My wife is every good thing for me. She rocks my world in every way. Absolutely gorgeous. Get lost Halle.

The Goal

There is the rub. As long as the topic, or goal, is simply that of 'who is most attractive' then my example stands, if however, the issue is that of lifemate and compatibility then my example is stood on its head (pointed as it may be).

Does luck play a role? Of course. Is some subjectivity a good thing? Of course. Too much of either however is, typically, a bad thing.

The lesson - as important as it is to objectively classify the competitive standing of a team it is even more important to understand the goal at hand. Ostensibly this is to win the Stanley Cup.


In the NHL there are, really, only four categories needed to classify the competitive standing of each team: Play-off Longshot, Play-off Bubble Team, Play-off Probable and Cup Contender.

Play-off Longshot

The team, as currently constituted, won't be in the play-off chase. Too young, too injured, too dysfunctional, too short on talent in key spots and/or too much of any combination of the items already mentioned - it just isn't a play-off team.

Everything would have to break right for this team to make a run.

Play-off Bubble Team

The team, as currently constituted, has some issues but is strong enough in other areas to compensate. If the team can avoid the injury bug and/or long-term slumps from key players then they should be competitive most nights and right in the thick of it.

Throw in a career year from a key player and/or a rookie that blows the doors off and this team is in and may be making a run.

Play-off Probable

The team, as currently constituted, has few issues and a lot of strengths. Barring impairment caused by long-term injuries to, or unexplicable drops in performance from, key players or a total break-down in team chemistry this team will be 'in' the play-offs, not 'trying' to get in.

If a few things break right this team will be competing for a top-4 conference finish and can be considered a Cup contender.

Cup Contender

The team, as currently constituted, is a powerhouse that only total catastrophe can derail from a play-off berth. A solid team without any real weaknesses the roster will have players whose talent is undeniable, players whose performance is dependable, and players who know how to compete night after night. The team probably has a few players who have all three of those qualities.

These are strong teams that can survive the odd set-back quite easily and if players play like they should they will be in it to the end.


A GM who has an accurate gauge of the competitive standing of their team should have an advantage over the GM's who do not. I said 'should' because other factors may be in play; the most common being, of course, interference from higher management.


You will find this kind of talk in other posts of mine, in the recent past the most notable would be this one:

A Plan

So. That gives you a sense of my starting frame of reference as far as these sorts of things go.

What About 'Luck' Then?


1. Luck exists;

2. Luck exists on a micro level;

3. Luck exists on a macro level; and

4. Regardless of any mitigations undertaken, see also #1

So I think there is such a thing as luck. 'kay.

In terms of 'micro-level' I am talking about certain individual things that can be done, on a person by person basis, to mitigate the chance that bad things happen or increase the chance that good things happen.

i.e. an NHL-level shooter should be able to, fairly reliably, hit the net with a certain level of accuracy at a certain level of speed. Practicing a type of shot (wrist shot, slap shot, one timer, point shot, etc) should improve a players ability to maintain, and maybe even improve, their level of proficiency with that shot to an extent the 'un'lucky effects are minimized or eliminated in some cases.

In terms of 'macro-level' I am talking about all, or at least a large combination of all, the individual things that can be done, on a person by person basis, to mitigate the chance that bad things happen or good things happen.

i.e. not just practicing a shot but practicing many types of shots, practicing stick-handling and pass reception, studying goalie tendencies and increasing ice awareness, maintaining physical fitness levels and optimizing the mental and emotional approach to the game, etc.

And lest I haven't made the point clear enough before - sometimes 'luck' just 'happens'.

What Direction The Wind?

I also look at things in a reference or direction mode. Which is to say, when I add everything up do I (or 'you', or 'whomever' for that matter) need:

-- luck to work with me for me to succeed or
-- luck to work against for me NOT to succeed

Think about that for a second. If I am a NHL level shooter and I have:

-- maximized, to the best of my ability, every talent and skill I have; and
-- allowed for the talent of the opposing team to alter or block my shot

Then I know that I should be scoring some goals. If I am scoring less than I should then odds are good I am not getting lucky or I should review my mitigation efforts and if I am scoring more than I should then luck is with me.


If I am a NHL level shooter and I'm not practicing and doing all sorts of other good things then there comes a point in time where - just to maintain status quo - luck HAS to be working in my favor. Over time my ability to successfully do things, at a certain level of predictability, will decrease.

The Oilers

I would propose to you that the problem with the Oilers the last few years is that team management has, serially, constructed rosters that required luck to be working in their favor in order for the team to succeed:

- certain players HAD to stay healthy
- certain players could NOT have off years
- certain players HAD to improve their productivity a great deal (not just a bit)

And all that, obviously, hasn't happened.

Start To Put It Together

So, put it all together and you should, now, have an idea of what I think about the question of reload vs. rebuild.

It's all about competitive level and requirements for luck. Until the next post in this series, take care.


Have a great evening everyone.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

2010 Reload or Rebuild - To Be Revisited

I will post more on this on a later date but for the record my decision on whether or not to try for a 1 year reload versus a 3 to 5 year rebuild rests on three unknowns:

1. If Boston wants Penner;

2. If they would give up the Toronto 1st rounder for him and be willing to wait to the last hour of trade deadline day to do it; and

3. Where Toronto is in the standings

My reasoning revolves around the concept of 'luck' and whether or not your success or lack of success depends on it working for you or against you, respectively.

The dots aren't hard to connect.

Not that it matters.


Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Trades (and a little NBA stuff)

(just to prove I have it)


Has indicated he's okay if he sees a plane ticket he likes. West coast kind of guy.

- be shocked if Phoenix makes the move (too smart there)
- be surprised if Anaheim makes a move (team fit is poor - may be a replacement for Nieds?)
- be surprised if San Jose makes a move (team fit is poor and Blake is playing well)
- be expecting to see a low-ball bid from Los Angeles (Lombardi is pretty smart)
- be expecting to see a deal made with Dallas (best combo of need, talent to offer, Cap space and budget flex)

As I mentioned elsewhere I like the idea of:

Benn, Skrastins and 1st
Souray and ??


That NBA Stuff

Word is that Houston wants to make a big push for Bosh.

Okay. Fine.

Bosh (PF), Turkoglu (SF) and Calderon (PG)
McGrady (SG), Ariza (SF) and Scola (PF)

Salaries work per the trade machine but a trade like this never happens - trading Bosh means a rethink of the entire team and such a rethink means a restart. Hence the expiring contracts of McGrady and the now, not needed, contracts of Turkoglu and Calderon.

Next year the rotation is: Jack, DeRozan, Ariza, Scola (if re-signed) and Bargnani

Lottery - but not a bad place to start from. Drop in salary would be amazing.


Don't mind the talk on trading Calderon. Two best trades I see there:

Calderon and DeRozan (or Wright, if god blows sunshine up BC's ass)

Calderon and Wright
Morrison, Vujacic, Farmar, $3 million cash and a pick

This trade has been out there for a while and many serious pundits say LA wouldn't do it Vujacic was involved. Fair enough. Morrison is an expiring contract in 2010 while Vujacic's expires in 2011.

Vujacic's contract is costly, no way around it, but in 2011 the Raptors would have 3 expiring contracts (Vujacic, Evans and Banks) cumulatively worth just over $15 million - nice set of trade chips to have.

NBA... a pretty wild place to GM, even when stuck in the armchair.


Have a great evening everyone.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Yay! 2010!

(can't get the pic of my MAP jersey to load so I went this direction)

Next verse! Same as the first! A little bit louder and a little bit worse!

A few things with which to start the New Year:

Don't Second Guess

Look. IF Moreau, Staios, Nilsson or POS get traded (heck, include Brule and Cogliano in there if you want) DO NOT be surprised or, worse, second guess yourself IF they happen to do well in their new home.

Performance if a function of three things (I had four in my head when I started typing this section but I'll be damned as to where the fourth one went, so three is what you get):

1. Skills and ability (inherent or learned)
2. Use
3. Luck
4. ... heh ...

Where-ever those players go you can rest assured that #2 will most probably change and #3 may as well. Right here, right now, these guys (Brule excepted) aren't having any luck and their usage is debateable.

That is just the way it is.

Ad Nauseum

For the first time in a long time I was lost as to what to do with this team - either to improve it from what we have now or to rebuild it. Usually I have a pretty good idea of what can be done (sans actual inside knowledge) but now, right now, not so much.

In a macro sense the issue is that too many of the team contracts are too big and too long (hah!) to be easily tradeable in a Cap system where most of the other teams are maxed out or almost maxed out. Dealing in the smaller contracts won't yield much and the few value contracts that are there are tied to players you don't want to deal.

A reasonable man looks at the roster and sees that:

-- there are players that you keep (almost regardless): Gagner and .... Gagner

-- those you trade only if there is a clear upgrade possibility or you want to change the direction the team is headed: Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner and Gilbert;

-- a couple that you keep if they stay cheap enough: Potulny, Stone, Stortini and Smid;

-- and a few pick 'ems (keep one): Pouliot or Brule, Souray or Visnovsky and Deslauriers or Dubnyk.

That leaves:

-- Grebeshkov (RFA / 3.15 / 0 yr)
-- O'Sullivan (RFA / 2.95 / 1 yr)
-- Nilsson (RFA / 2.00 / 1 yr)
-- Cogliano (RFA / 1.13 / 0 yr)
-- Khabibulin (UFA / 3.75 / 3 yr)
-- Staios (UFA / 2.70 / 1 yr)
-- Moreau (UFA / 2.00 / 1 yr)
-- Comrie (UFA / 1.25 / 0 yr)
-- Strudwick (UFA / 0.70 / 0 yr)
-- one of Pouliot (RFA / 0.83 / 0 yr) or Brule (RFA / 0.80 / 0 yr)
-- one of Visnovsky (UFA / 5.60 / 3 yr) or Souray (UFA / 5.40 / 2 yr)
-- one of Deslauriers (RFA) or Dubnyk (RFA)

Myself, being less than reasonable, would trade four of the six pick 'ems but that's just me.

FTR: I keep Pouliot because a) Brule is a prime pump and dump candidate so I get more out of him and b) if I can't squeeze Pouliot into a supercheap contract after YET ONE MORE shyte year (his fault or not) then I just let him go (i.e. trade in the off-season).

Having been on the Pouliot bandwagon from the start you have to believe me when I say - that last bit hurt to say it.

Looking at a lot of roster turn-over there, but that's okay. As being good right now isn't an option, and neither is being good right away, we are left with being good one day much sooner than never but much later than now.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I am absolutely certain that many of those names are moveable THIS year.

Goaltender Interference

I wrote this pre-injury but the idea remains the same - there is always a way.

Khabibulin's contract will be almost impossible to move this... err... next year... err... ever. The term and the amount are just too long and too large (I flatter) to be easily absorbed. This leaves just two possibilities:

1. Send him to Russia for a year or so and hope he likes it

2. Find a GM that is either a) desperate b) stupid or c) both

Option 1 will probably be the easier solution to implement. Outlets for that contract are very few (in no particular order):

a. Chicago makes some sense, depending on whether or not they actually want Khabibulin back, as $2 million in Cap relief is significant;

b. Philadelphia isn't a bad bet if Emery/Boucher continue to struggle but the lack of salary fill, from Philly, makes this a hard trade to complete;

c. Ottawa isn't getting much from Leclaire or Elliot but, as managment isn't under the gun to 'win-now', only an 'outta-here' trade makes sense;

d. Los Angeles, as with Ottawa, isn't getting much out its goalies but the team does have a winning record and has played a lot of raod games early; and

e. Washington has the pressure to win so they might throw a look at him (using Theodore and Nylander) but Varlamov is just playing too well right now

For the record I think the Washington deal may have been the easiest (though it would have required Katz eat some salary).

For The Record: Boston

I have seen some suggestions about trading Visnovsky to the Bruins for the Leafs #1 pick. Trading to get that pick IS freaking brilliant if it can be pulled off.

Visnovsky won't make that happen. The Bruins have few REALLY bad contracts and the one they have they like (Lucic). Morris and Ference are both done after this year so that leaves Wideman, Krejci, Ryder and Sturm as the only decent sized contracts the Bruins would have to trade in order to take on a contract the size of Visnovsky's.

(Yes. They could trade Morris. But odds are good that space is already spoken for. Ference, I will admit, is a maybe/probable.)

Taking a look at boxcars and details I am thinking that if Visnovsky (if healthy) is going to Boston for that pick the trade looks a lot like:

Visnovsky & Brule/Cogliano
Wideman, Krejci & TO 1st?

Think about that for a second. A lot of noise in Boston. Krejci isn't having a great year but his boxcars are okay while Wideman is a fair bit younger than Visnovsky and was signed as one of that teams d-men of the future.

Which means that Visnovsky to Boston just isn't an easy trade to visualize happening. Visnovsky only works if Boston really wants to make a Cup run, wants to dump salary and can't find a cheaper offer elsewhere.

Hence my point - you want to talk the Toronto pick out of Boston... talk Penner. That'll make 'em cream their pants.

Krejci and the TO 1st

Would probably work. And I don't even like Krejci that much.

For The Record: Pittsburgh

Want to trade Visnovsky? Send a glance Pittsburgh's way. Gonchar is making noise about his payday and he will be 36 next year. Me? I say pay the man (and I do think he will stay). But if Pittsburgh is thinking different then they may take a look at Vis. Regardless of the play of Letang

The guy you want is, of course, Staal. If not Staal then target the best selection of Goligoski, Tangradi, Depres and picks you can get. I wanted Letang last year but... well... good luck with that now.

Full disclosure: Tangradi and Depres are listed only by virtue of the listing at HF, and I haven't spent any time scouting or watching Goligoski. I don't know any of their games at all. Sorry.

Of course... that means that none of the guys you actually WANT to trade are traded yet.


Be an interesting trade deadline to be sure.


Have a great evening everyone.