Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Good problems to have: Would you rather have Kevin Love or Andrew Wiggins?

The big NBA story of the past couple days involves the Cavaliers making Andrew Wiggins available to the Minnesota Timberwolves to entice them to trade Kevin Love.

Nate Silver has had some good analysis of what draft picks are worth based on the production of past players. That pretty much covers the Cavs’ side of the trade given that the rumored deal includes Wiggins (this year’s first overall pick), Anthony Bennett (last year’s first overall pick) and another one or two first round picks in the next few years.

Kevin Love, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be projected by his draft position as he already has six seasons of evidence of his performance. The invaluable basketball-reference.com provides similarity scores[1] that give us a reference point for the potential trajectory of players who were similar through this point in their careers. For Love that gives us the following set of players:

Not a bad group here, if you are a Cavs fan pushing for the trade. For all the talk of superstars needing a Scottie Pippen-type player to play alongside them and help elevate them, having the actual Scottie Pippen as one of the most similar players through six seasons is a good sign.

If you look at how these players performed following their first six seasons, the story gets a bit murkier.