Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Bottom Three – For Love or Productivity?

According to Ira Winderman, the Miami Heat have gone from signing the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to signing the bottom three of Dexter Pittman, Shavlik Randolph and Kenny Hasbrouck.  While the Big Three have garnered all the hoopla, and deservedly so, some questions have arisen regarding the bottom three.  Ira Winderman’s readers asked why Randolph was signed and, on his radio show, Dan Le Batard questioned whether Pat Riley was choosing loyalty over talent by filling out the bottom of the roster with players who have previously been in the Heat’s system.  While it’s generally acknowledged (and evidenced) that the bottom three will have no impact on whether the Heat win the championship, Le Batard’s question was interesting.  He argued that if sports are a meritocracy, then Riley should sign the most productive players available to fill out the Heat roster.  Since Pittman, Randolph and Hasbrouck played for Miami in the Vegas summer league, the formulas for Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced can be used to answer Le Batard’s question – were the bottom three signed for love or productivity?

Productivity of the Bottom Three

The Miami Heat went 4-1 in the Vegas summer league.  Table 1 illustrates the production each player in Vegas contributed to those 4 wins.

[Click table to enlarge]

Based on the assumption that the Heat always planned to invite three players from summer league to training camp (a guard, forward and center), then signing Hasbrouck to a non-guaranteed contract makes some sense because he led all Heat guards in estimated wins produced this summer.  However, that is not the case for Randolph and Pittman.  Two forwards were more productive than Randolph and Pittman was the least productive Heat player in Vegas.  The question, “For love or productivity?” requires a closer look at each position before it can be answered.

Kenny Hasbrouck, For Love or Productivity?

Hasbrouck led the Heat guards in estimated wins produced because he played the most minutes.  Three guards were more productive than Hasbrouck on a per-minute basis – Jon Scheyer, Weyinmi Efejuku and D'Andre Bell.  Table 2 illustrates the differences in the performances of the four above average Heat guards in summer league.

[Click table to enlarge]

Scheyer was almost twice as productive as Hasbrouck in 36 minutes but was sent home with a lacerated eyelid.  Efejuku was better at getting to the free throw line and converting but Hasbrouck was a more efficient scorer.  Bell’s rebounding and steals created more possessions than Hasbrouck but he shot terribly and couldn’t stay out of foul trouble.  This position was Hasbrouck’s to lose before the Heat went to Vegas.  He was signed by the Heat on April 5th for the remainder of the 2010 season.  Michael Wallace of the Miami Herald only gave Hasbrouck a 10% chance of making the 2011 roster after the Heat became aware of a February DUI and wrote the following on April 24th, “Hasbrouck better have a hell of a summer in his quest for the third PG spot.”  An est. WP40 of .141 and .505 est. wins produced may not be “a hell of a summer” but it was good enough to be the most productive guard leaving Las Vegas.  While his status as the incumbent may have been the reason he received the most minutes, his play justified it.  Someone had to take this spot from Hasbrouck and whether it was bad luck or bad shooting for his competition, nobody was able to do it.  The Heat front office didn’t show Hasbrouck any love when they asked him to stay away from the team during the playoffs after his DUI charge was revealed, so they get the benefit of the doubt in this case.
Kenny Hasbrouck Verdict:    For Love or Productivity?  Productivity

Shavlik Randolph, For Love or Productivity?

Randolph did two things better than any other forward on the Heat’s summer league team – score.  The problem was that he was the worst shooting forward and yet he took the most shots.  Despite the poor shooting, Randolph’s rebounding kept his productivity well above average in Vegas but not as productive as two other forwards – Jarvis Varnardo and Davon Jefferson.  The table below illustrates the differences in the performances of the three above average Heat forwards in summer league.

[Click table to enlarge]
Davon Jefferson was the most productive forward on a per-minute basis but only played 56 minutes in the Heat’s last three summer league games.  He also signed with a French team, Asvel Basket, before joining the Heat in Vegas and perhaps was contractually prevented from signing with the Heat after summer league.  Varnardo was a more efficient shooter and better shot blocker than Randolph in Vegas but Randolph was a better scorer and passer.  Overall, Varnardo was more productive and appeared to justify being the Heat’s second round draft pick.  Randolph has NBA experience but that experience has been limited and not very productive.  In 53 minutes with the Heat last season, Randolph produced -.21 wins at a rate of -.190 wins per 48 minutes (according to Wages of Wins Journalist Arturo Galletti).  After 117 minutes in his NBA career, Randolph produced .04 wins at a rate of .013 wins per 48 minutes (an average PF produces .100 wins per 48 minutes).  With poor production in limited experience, are there any other advantages of signing Randolph?  Well, the Miami Herald’s Wallace reported that Randolph has some of the same intangible qualities as Heat mainstays Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony.  If Wallace is right, then the case is clear.
Shavlik Randolph Verdict:   For Love or Productivity?  Love

Dexter Pittman, For Love or Productivity?

Pittman only did one thing better than any other center on the Heat’s summer league roster – block shots.  He was the least productive player for the Heat in Vegas.  In fact, the Heat only had one above average center – Garrett Siler.  The table below illustrates the differences between Siler and Pittman’s summer league performance.

[Click table to enlarge]
Pittman missed two games with a left toe injury that may explain his poor production.  He struggled with turf toe five years ago, but no reports have indicated whether it was related to his summer league injury.  As an undrafted player in his second year of summer league, Siler was above average in nearly every category except free throw shooting and steals.  Outside of shot-blocking and free-throw shooting, Pittman’s only advantage over Siler was being drafted in the second round based on the potential he showed in college (where his production was above average).  Apparently, that potential was enough for the Heat when they decided to sign him to a three-year contract.
Dexter Pittman Verdict:     For Love or Productivity?  Love

Conclusion & Disclaimers

After 1700 words, it appears only one of the summer leaguers were chosen for their productivity but there is a caveat.  David Berri has posted a small study at the Wages of Wins Journal that illustrates there is no statistically-significant relationship between productivity in the summer league and productivity in the NBA, but there is a relationship between college production and NBA production.  Considering this evidence, the verdict for Dexter Pittman should be reversed from “Love” to “Productivity”.  The Randolph verdict stands because Varnardo was one of the most productive college players drafted.  In a 2-1 decision, it seems the Heat kept a meritocracy in place for the bottom three.  Whether this holds true for the rest of the roster will be evaluated in future posts.


  1. Love the post. Keep it up and welcome to the network.

  2. Thanks, Arturo. I don't know if I'll have 365 good ideas to post, but I'll do my best.

  3. I said i'd do 365 posts in 365 days, I never promised good :-)

  4. Lol - that's an important distinction! Dave joked about starting a pool betting when your streak will end... without the pressure of promising good posts, you could definitely clean everybody out! Alas, I think you've set the quality bar too high with your posts-to-date...