Wednesday, October 31, 2012

James Harden to the Rockets

James Harden made what was unquestionably the right business decision when he turned down Oklahoma City's offer. The offer included a hometown discount that would have cost Harden approximately $2 million per year AND OKC was not able to offer a 5th year on the deal because they already have a "Designated Player" in Russell Westbrook. Under the new collective bargaining agreement a team can have one player on a five year extension of their rookie deal at a time. Westbrook's extension runs through 2017 so the Thunder will not be able to designate a different player until then.

The interesting thing for me is that Houston was on the other end of the deal. Daryl Morey has made no secret of his desire to get a superstar and Daryl Morey tends to approach these things from a more quantitative perspective than most, so what did he see in Harden that convinced him that he could make the leap from 6th man to star? John Hollinger helpfully provides the answer:
"Thanks to's whiz-bang stats tool, we can see that Harden's per-minute scoring more than doubled when Durant was on the bench, from 14.9 points per 36 minutes to 31.2, and he did it with a higher shooting percentage and an absurdly high free throw rate. The same shift happened without Westbrook on the court, from 13.7 to 29.0, and again it was accompanied by a five-point jump in shooting percentage and a near-tripling of his free throw rate."
Of course, Harden and his beard went off tonight and he ran up 37 points and 12 assists so maybe this is all understood by now. Just don't be surprised if he keeps it up. Morey is probably feeling pretty good about the deal today between that domination and getting Harden extended at the maximum $80 million over five years.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Revisiting Replacement Officials in the NFL

The go-to story for sportswriters in the first few weeks of the season was the use of replacement officials in the NFL. In the first week, when things appeared to be going well, a few of them trotted out the “they’re not so bad” line. By week two, however, there was solid consensus around the fact that things needed to change. After some further shenanigans in week three the NFL came around and settled with the real officials.

A couple weeks ago I took a look at how the replacements did. The conclusion: they were pretty much as bad as people said. They didn’t call a ton of extra penalties, but the increase was concentrated in some high-impact calls: Offensive Holding, Defensive Pass Interference, Defensive Holding and Personal Fouls. What better way to return from vacation than to circle back on this now that we have several weeks each of the replacements and the real officials.