Tag Archives: Dream Team

Dream Team #3 within the salary cap, Part 2–Bench

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This is part 2 of my dream team series and now my most pointless off-season post. That is, until the next post is published, and then the one after that, and…(for part 1, click here)

It’s a two-part series dedicated to the bi-annual construction of a team that doesn’t even exist (you can view past ridiculous squads here and here). I try to mix talent with cap-friendliness since I can’t go over the salary cap for any reason. This year, that limit is $63.065 million. All contracts are fair game, save for rookie deals. From there, I try to make the best roster to my limited abilities. This post covers the reserves. Below is a quick look at the starters I selected. You can find more regarding them in part 1:

The starters combined for $49,397,823 which left $13,667,177 for the last seven players. That’s an average cap hit of $1,952,453 for each slot. Not great, not terrible. We can still splurge on a player who’s on a good, $5-9 million contract, and fill the rest of the bench with minimum deals.

So let’s get started. As a reminder, all cap hits are according to Spotrac.com. Shot charts are from Nylon Calculus.

#6: Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

  • Cap hit: $7,500,000

dragic 2014

I was lost on who to select. It felt mandatory to take Greg Monroe because of his qualifying offer, but I’m not sure a small ball center was best. Kyle Korver was another tempting player and I love his game, but he felt redundant with Dirk and Curry, Channing Frye would’ve made for some fun combos as a stretch-5, Wesley Matthews would’ve started but the extra few million impacted the options for this slot, and a few others were intriguing. For the sixth man I felt like I mashed buttons, clicked and prayed.

I settled with Goran Dragic. Mike Conley was another guard considered but, well, I don’t know.

Two words to describe Dragic, though, are electrifying and fearless, challenging behemoths at the rim even LeBron would shy from. Check out a couple of these moves against the Pacers:

Imagine the pick-and-roll with either Nowitzki or LeBron after being so good with Channing Frye. Dragic is also one of the best shooters in both pull-up and catch-and-shoot situations. Just look at his shot chart overall. It’s so nice and balanced. He finished 2014 with a true shooting percentage over 60%, a rarity for a 20+ points per game guard with above-average usage.

Is that all coming back in 2015? The threes concern me the most. In 2012 and 2013, Dragic shot a combined 32.6% off 478 three-point attempts, and the spike in 2014 was aided by a higher dose of attempts from the corners. Only 18 guards, 6’4″ or smaller, have finished two seasons shooting 40% from 3 with a usage rate over 20%, so that doesn’t help, but plenty of great point guards have cleared those arbitrary benchmarks only once. It’s not terrible to decline to, like, 37%.

As you can see, though, I’m still talking myself out of this selection, and it’s weird that Dragic is coming off the freakin’ bench. It’s possible he’d in crunch time lineups. In part 1, I projected how many points the starters would score per 100 possessions, but let’s see what could happen if we plug in Dragic.

dragic lineups1dragic lineups2

As explained in part 1, a study by Eli Witus years ago showed that a lineups’ offensive rating increases by .25 points/100 possessions when it has to decrease it’s usage 1%, and vice versa. Depending on the 5-man unit featuring Dragic, it made for projected ratings of 126.5 and 124.6. Both ratings are higher than the 122.9 points/100 possessions for the starting lineup.

Using Neil Paine’s model that combines not just Witus’ but Dean Oliver‘s work, let’s see how these lineups perform when adjusting for all the high-usage players (again, for further explanation, check out part 1). Here’s what they look like when shifting usage proportionally:

projected1 projected2

And now optimizing for the best projected points per 100 possessions:

optimized1 optimized2

Not quite the results expected from Witus’ study alone, but still 120+ points per 100, so, that’s okay. Danny Green’s offensive rating means he disappears when fiddling with usage, and hurts the bottom line of these units. I didn’t project numbers for any other 5-man combos.

Player #7: Shawn Marion, Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Cap hit: $915,243

marion 2014

I may or may not be depressed Marion is 36 years old. It makes this something of a gamble even on a minimum contract. I’m using a roster spot on him, after all.

Al-Farouq Aminu was available and offers rebounding, but on my imaginary team I’d rather take the guy proven to also make a corner 3 and fit in right away. Maybe that’s why Cleveland went with Marion too. Should his defense slide, that’s an issue, but this roster doesn’t need him to turn back the clock.

Player #8: Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets

  • Cap hit: $915,243

bevs 2014

A bit weird to select both Dragic and Beverley, but I’m not too confident Beverley can hound point guards for 31 minutes like last season, so he’s going to be turbo-charged for like 20, or something. He’ll be a pest off the bench during the season, playoffs, and even the pre-season. Remember this?

Like Green and LeBron, he’s a one-man wrecking crew versus fast breaks.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Houston Rockets, but Beverley alone makes them watchable. Below are two places, either games or eras, where I wish we’d see him play:

  • The ‘90s. Beverley may not be the tallest, strongest, or greatest point guard, but can you imagine him playing defense with the freedom defenders once had?
  • All-star games. If voted in, I could see Beverley sucking the the fun out of next year’s festivities.

Offensively, Beverley is all right. Low-usage, high-efficiency, league-average 3PT%, and below-average finishing but the mid-50% around the rim isn’t terrible. His defense certainly propels him into a rotation.

Player #9: Troy Daniels, Houston Rockets

  • Cap hit: $816,482

daniels 2014

Like Beverley, Daniels is a role player who should make the Rockets entertaining. I look forward to seeing what kind of looks Harden gives him with two seconds left on the shot clock.

Undrafted with only five NBA games (shot chart is from the D-League), Daniels is still a solid candidate to become one of the best shooters. In the D-League, he attempted 12.5 threes PER GAME and made 40% of them. Even the ‘meh’ areas in his chart look good. When he and Curry are on the floor, either on my fake team or against each other in real life, threes will be hoisted and fire will be made.

My backcourt is crowded. Finding minutes for Daniels will be tricky. Now to forwards and rim protectors:

Player #10: Cole Aldrich, New York Knicks

  • Cap hit: $915,243

Cole  Aldrich 2014

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’ll admit Aldrich wasn’t so terrible as a backup for the Knicks.

When looking at per-36 numbers, Aldrich cracks the top 20 in Seth Partnow’s rim protection stats. He also grabs defensive rebounds like crazy, snatching 33.8% of all missed field goals while on the floor, and he blocked 4.8 shots per 100 possessions all while not looking like the hack he was in previous seasons with Oklahoma City, Houston, and Sacramento. He finished 2014 with a PER of 19.1.

The problem is that he’s rarely played, only logging 1,033 minutes over four seasons. In 2014, a good load of it was in garbage time versus fringe-rotation players. 60% of his 330 total minutes came in the fourth quarter and 70% while up or behind by double-digits, per NBA.com. Hopefully the Knicks take a closer look at what they might have in Aldrich, but if he wants to converse with Jose Calderon about human ham, that’s fine too. I selected another potential rim protector in case that happens.

Player #11: Ed Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

  • Cap hit: $981,084

ed davis 2014

The Lakers and their pull when it comes to minimum deals continues, as Davis is a nice third big deserving of a larger check. Hopefully he doesn’t get buried behind Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, and Julius Randle. The Lakers’ frontline is quite crowded.

Like Aldrich, Davis was a lottery pick in the 2010 Draft and probably expected to be a larger contributor by now, but let’s not confuse the two. He has a career sample size 5x as large and just barely missed 1,000 minutes with an OREB% and DREB% of 10 and 20, respectively. He’s long and rangy, an active defender, though with more important minutes under his belt he doesn’t hold up well in the same rim protection stats as Aldrich. His build also means he gets pushed around, but it also helps him move well for someone in that 6’10”-6’11″ish range.

Playing Davis with LeBron, Beverley, and either Lopez or Marion would be interesting defensively.

Player #12: Jon Leuer-Durant-Chamberlain-Jordan***, Memphis Grizzlies

Cap hit: $967,500

Leuer 2014

Saving the best for last, Leuer is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. He’s Memphis’ Kevin Durant, only better. Unfortunately, Leuer took only 49 threes last season, and defensively he doesn’t look too hot in a few all-in-one metrics. Hopefully he’ll be more consistent next year. Up to this point he’s played just 123 games and 1,384 minutes. Leuer needs to stop screwing around and take over the league already.

***This was a lame attempt to get Jon Leuer a nickname on Basketball-Reference.

So there’s my 12-man squad. Below is a similar stat summary as in part 1, but with all the players. Click to enlarge because holy hell that looks blurry.

team overlay

Among other things, this is an efficient scoring bunch. Those that take more than a few mid-range shots (Curry, Nowitzki, LeBron) are either good to great at them. Also, look at Daniels’ secondary percentage. It’s from the D-League, sure, but that would flirt with the best marks in NBA history.

As for defensive metrics, they don’t look too bad for this team. It’s kind of embarrassing where Leuer ranks among the league, though, and all of my backup bigs are hacky. Walking fouls, literally.

Below is a breakdown of player salaries and how close I came to the cap:

team salary

The total salary of my roster left me with over $650,000. I spent $100,000 on a lifetime supply of waffles and used the rest to sign a 13th man. Like Leuer, the player I chose is a legend in the making:

Player #13: Sim Bhullar, Sacramento Kings

  • Cap hit: $507,336
embiid chart

Projected shot chart

This team would rule planet earth.

Honorable mentions:

Center: Pau Gasol, Omer Asik, and Channing Frye.

Power Forward: Nick Collison, Amir Johnson, Ryan Anderson, Greg Monroe, and Jeff Adrien.

Small Forward: Richard Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kyle Korver, and Vince Carter. 

Shooting Guard: Arron Afflalo, Leandro Barbosa, Francisco Garcia, Alan Anderson, Wes Matthews, and Jamal Crawford.

Point Guard: Jose Calderon, C.J. Watson, Pablo Prigioni, Mike Conley, Jameer Nelson, and Qualifying Offer Eric Bledsoe

And any others who flew over my head.

My dream team within the salary cap (all-star weekend edition)

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Dream big, but dream within the imaginative salary cap and bargain agreement.

Before the season started, I made my dream team within the salary cap, set at $58,679,000. The only other rule was to not use rookie contracts since allowing them would turn it into an 12-man under-25 roster. It’s just too easy to make a loaded team when choosing from at least (rough guess) 25 more players outplaying their contracts.

After those rules, though, it was a free for all. Looking back on the players I chose in October, I would’ve hit some huge snags along the way, ones I could’ve gotten away with if this team were in the Eastern Conference, but still.

Here was my roster going into the season:

Starters

Bench

  • SG: Ray Allen ($3,229,050)
  • PF: Al Harrington ($1,399,507)
  • PF: Dante Cunningham ($2,000,000)
  • PG: Devin Harris ($1,272,279)
  • PG: Beno Udrih ($1,272,279)
  • SF: Ronnie Brewer ($1,186,459)
  • PF/C: Andray Blatche ($1,375,604)

Lineup: $46,262,108

Bench: $11,637,078

Total salary: $57,899,186

Amount under the cap: $779,814

Killing time on a Friday night constructing a fake NBA team: Priceless (and possibly hopeless).

Green and Kirilenko each had injury woes, which were huge losses to this team. Not having Harrington also meant the loss of the stretch four. Meanwhile, Brewer’s logging what looks like mostly garbage time with the Houston Rockets.

Basically, the defense of this team took a huge hit along with some shooting. There’s still hope, obviously, with the Curry-James-Duncan trio going strong, but the pieces around them don’t quite fit anymore. (Also, a couple salaries were off by like $100,000 since I was looking at how much they made versus how big their cap hit is. Only the latter impacts the salary cap, which makes Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin‘s situations so unique.)

Four months later, only Curry and James remain from the first edition. 10 new players will hopefully make the dream team a contender to go undefeated from now until the end of time. Below are the starters before going into depth about the reserves:

Starters

  • PG: Stephen Curry ($9,887,642)
  • SG: P.J. Tucker ($884.293)
  • SF/PF: Kevin Durant ($17,832,627)
  • Utility: LeBron James ($19,067,500)
  • C: Robin Lopez ($5,904,261)

Curry at point guard was actually a tough choice. His salary is super-friendly, but so is Goran Dragic’s ($7.5 million) and Kyle Lowry’s ($6.2 million). Going super cheap with someone like Patty Mills was also an idea running through my head.

I couldn’t pass up taking the greatest shooter alive, though, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say he is. Curry’s able to provide the best possible spacing off the ball, allowing the rest of the team to basically play 4-on-4. That’s just not fair when James has the ball in his hands with Durant also providing maximum spacing. All three can carry mediocre second units, which is nice so one could be subbed out earlier than normal to play with the reserves.

Also, if Curry slips on defense I put together some players that allow him to hide, though there have been a few writers who’ve brought up that he might be less effective defending off the ball. Whatever the case, P.J. Tucker’s one of those defenders, an incredibly cheap 3-and-D guy to start at shooting guard and beating out the one I chose before the season in Danny Green. He also excels at shooting from the left corner, the preferable one since LeBron shoots well from just about anywhere on that side of the court.

The trio of Curry, Durant, and James took up 80 percent of available cap space which, at first, made quality rim protection an issue. Durant wasn’t on the first team mostly because of the $17+ million he’s owed, but he’s been way too good to leave off twice in a row. With that in mind, I could’ve danced around rim protection by constructing a strong second unit with cheap, productive players like Andrei Kirilenko, Patty Mills, and Andray Blatche while hoping a hyper-aggressive defense by the starters make up for not having someone to deter shots at the rim without fouling.

Robin Lopez’ cap hit this year was just low enough, though, to where a coherent second unit could be built with one of Curry, Durant, or LeBron leading them. Chris Andersen was a cheaper option as a starting center, but one that would be too taxing to play more than 25 minutes a night. Somewhere between him and Joakim Noah is RoLo’s salary, and he’s easily outplayed it this season.

Also, the bench doesn’t need to be incredible when Durant, James, or Curry could lead it. It still took a while to form, though, since I had to find seven players combining for nearly the mid-level exception, or $4 million less than Kendrick Perkins’ salary. Here they are:

Patrick Beverley ($788,872)

An irritating point guard with an outside shooting touch, Beverley could be a fun compliment to Curry or lineups that want to be as chaotic on defense as possible.

Like most Rockets, his mid-range game looks non-existent as he’s shooting just 9-for-29 from that area. Take that however you’d like. He also rarely turns the ball over, one of the lowest turnover percentages among all guards, minimum 1,000 minutes. It’s a nice improvement from last year, turning the ball over nearly seven percent less this time around. (There are also some surprises on that list I linked to such as Nick Young, Avery Bradley, and Kevin Martin.)

Jon Leuer ($900,000)

Part of the All High-PER-Off-The-Bench Team with one that’s 18.1, Leuer’s another nice complimentary piece while on a great contract. He rebounds well in limited time, grabbing nine per-36 minutes and is one of the better defensive rebounders, ranking in the top-50 among forwards who’ve logged over 500 minutes.

What could make him most fun to play alongside Durant or James, though is his three-point shooting. He’s not a sniper from the corners as he’s only taken three attempts from there so far, but he’s a combined 17-for-26 from the middle and left sections above the break. Leuer’s also a good finisher in both the paint and restricted area whether it’s in the post or off the dribble with a floater. His defense is worrisome, allowing 1.18 points per possession in post-ups, according to Synergy, but his shooting should be a decent tradeoff.

Alexis Ajinca ($635,880)

I’m not sure if it’s cheating to grab a player who signed a minimum contract during the season, so I only grabbed one in Alexis Ajinca. Before grabbing Lopez, he was also an option for starting center, though his foul rate of 6.8 per-36-minutes made him an underdog to stay on the court for a good chunk of time. He also turns the ball over a ton, 28.6 times per 100 plays, according to Basketball-Reference. He’s a solid rebounder and a big body, though, which for this current team is fine as a backup.

Ajinca also has a mid-range game that looks both good and bad, 15-for-31 from that area and for better or for worse is not afraid of taking contested ones. Maybe this is something he builds on in the future? Either way, I like him paired with Anthony Davis in real life and on my team as a backup big.

Wesley Johnson ($884,293)

Johnson was taken purely for the financial reasons. It says a lot about him that he’s currently recording his highest PER ever of 11.1, but to look on the bright side he could be a fun to play alongside James and Durant thanks to his freak athleticism.

Johnson’s offense is worrisome, though. He could be entertaining as a guy cutting to the rim, capitalizing off attention drawn from others, but everything else seems questionable. He’s an average shooter from the corners and his current hot spot from three, the right side of the break, was a weak spot coming into the season (45-for-150 from 2011 to 2013).

Still, it’s not like he’d log a ton of playing time with Curry, Durant, and James already logging nearly 40 minutes each and Tucker and Beverley taking up another good chunk of playing time.

That’s my nine-player rotation, though Johnson’s minutes would be squeezed. Here are the rest who will ride the pine, though be capable safety nets if it came down to them having to play.

Kenyon Martin ($884,293)

If only Shawn Marion were affordable. Both he and Martin need to be on the same team and beat opponents with their flick-like jump shots.

Gal Mekel ($490,180)

Nick Calathes (490,180)

If not for these tiny cap hits, Jon Leuer’s off this squad in exchange for a player roughly $100,000 cheaper.

In particular, Calathes hasn’t been half-bad since Mike Conley sprained his right ankle against Minnesota, averaging 14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.6 steals in his last seven games. He still doesn’t get to the line but the uptick in true shooting (.452 to .582), effective field goal shooting (.434 to .571), and turnovers (eight less per 100 plays) are all easy on the eyes for Grizzlies fans. Hopefully. All of those stats are according to Basketball-Reference.

But there you have it. As for the head coach I’m taking Gregg Popovich. Assistants are so hard to choose, but I like some combo of Erik Spoelstra, Tom Thibodeau, Brad Stevens, Mike D’Antoni, and Jeff Hornacek. I also prefer Hubie Brown and Marv Albert holding down the local broadcasting booth with the possibility of Grant Hill chiming in too. My sideline reporter is Craig Sager.

A look at the roster again before some added thoughts on lineups and minute allocation:

Starters

  • PG: Stephen Curry ($9,887,642)
  • SG: P.J. Tucker ($884.293)
  • SF/PF: Kevin Durant ($17,832,627)
  • Utility: LeBron James ($19,067,500)
  • C: Robin Lopez ($5,904,261)

Bench

  • PG: Patrick Beverley ($788,872)
  • PF: Jon Leuer ($900,000)
  • C: Alexis Ajinca ($635,880)
  • SF/SG: Wesley Johnson ($884,293)
  • C: Kenyon Martin ($884,293)
  • PG: Gal Mekel ($490,180
  • PG: Nick Calathes ($490,180)

Starting lineup salary: $53,576,323

Bench salary: $5,073,698

Total salary: $58,650,021

Amount under the cap: $28,979

Time spent doing this while jamming out to the music performers at the All-Star Game: Priceless (and the performances were amazing).

Crunch time lineup: James-Curry-Tucker-Durant-Lopez

My crunch time lineup is the same as the starters, though LeBron plays point guard and everyone else but Lopez moves up one position. Lots of shooting with potential for freaky defense.

Bench lineup: Beverley-Johnson-Durant-Leuer-Ajinca

The second unit was tough to form, simply because playing Johnson isn’t desirable. At the same time, he’s the only one off the bench who can play shooting guard and small forward. Sure, I could play both Durant and James 44 minutes in a Game 7 and squeeze Johnson’s minutes, but if he can make a corner three then everything’s fine.

Any one of Curry, James, and Durant could lead the bench lineup but I went with Durant. James and Leuer would be a fun pairing, but I wouldn’t want to tax LeBron since he plays point guard and power forward in other situations. Meanwhile, Curry playing point guard would put Beverley and him in awkward spots on defense.

Overall, not much of that lineup matters in a Game 7. Johnson becomes irrelevant and possibly Ajinca too.

Smallball lineup: Beverley-Tucker-Johnson-Durant-James

Chaos on defense while also having five guys who can make a three, though Tucker would have to sit in the left corner even if Durant could conceivably shoot 90 percent from there.

Curry and Johnson are interchangeable in this lineup.

Bigball lineup: James-Durant-Leuer-Ajinca-Lopez

I’m putting faith in Ajinca’s mid-range jumper here, otherwise the spacing gets thrown off. Leuer would also have to be a solid shooter from the corners, something I believe he has the potential to do but hasn’t shown it this season.

Threeball lineup: Curry-Tucker-Durant-Leuer-James

Every smallball-ish lineup featuring James and Durant just doesn’t feel like “small” because of the former being built like a train and Durant being closer to 7’0 than 6’9. With that said, this might be both a smallball and crunch time lineup along with a three-point heavy one.

Free throw lineup: Beverley-Curry-Durant-Leuer-Lopez

Curry and Durant are the main guys to have at the line. Leuer’s shooting nearly 85 percent this season, though his numbers in other years are sketchy. Meanwhile, Lopez and Beverley are 80 percent for the season. This team isn’t blowing a lead with 30 seconds left, hopefully.

I also dove into how I would allocate minutes: 38 for the trio, 30 each for Tucker and Lopez, and between 14-20 for each of the four cogs off the bench.

Hopefully this team is a little more difficult to exploit than the first. James and Durant rarely being in foul trouble makes it less risky to have only one wing off the bench, the trio should work fine off one another especially if James is driving and kicking, and Lopez-Ajinca-Martin should be enough for consistently decent rim protection.

But could this team beat one composed of aliens within the confines of another galaxy’s salary cap? That’s the real question.

Overall this was good, degenerate, maybe even idiotic fun during all-star festivities. I’d like to hope I’m not the only one who would kill a few hours by putting a salary-adjusted team together, but oh well.

Any thoughts on my roster (or even yours!) are welcome.

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