In Part 2 of my interview with Stumbling on Wins author David Berri, the economics professor breaks down Amare Stoudemire’s previous and projected future values and analyzes whether the Phoenix Suns adequately replaced him this offseason. Be sure to also read Part 1, where Berri discusses advanced stats, chemistry and the value the Suns have gotten from their roster during the Nash era.
Michael Schwartz: We have fervently debated Amare Stoudemire’s value for years on this site, particularly in the lead up to this summer’s free agency period. What kind of value do you feel Stoudemire possesses and were the Suns smart in declining to match the Knicks’ max offer?
David Berri: The Suns were wise to let the Amare leave for New York. Here is why I think this was a good decision (much of this was said at The Wages of Wins Journal on July 2).
- Stoudemire is generally considered one of the very best players in the NBA. Stoudemire has been selected to five All-Star games and last year he ranked 10th in the NBA in points score per game. This suggests Stoudemire should be paid like one of the very best players in the league.
- When we look at Wins Produced — or when we look past scoring — we see a somewhat different story. Yes, Stoudemire is good. But his production of 10.1 wins in 2009-10 only ranks 29th in the league. That’s quite good. But relative to other top free agents (i.e. LeBron and Wade), Amare offers quite a bit less.
- Furthermore, Amare is relatively old. As the following table indicates, Amare produced 63.4 wins across his first eight seasons. Players, though, only generally improve up until their mid-twenties (Amare’s best season was at age 25). Given how player performance declines with age — and how minutes change with age — we can project what Amare’s production across the next five seasons might be.
- As one can see, Amare is only projected to produce 32.4 wins. Part of this is due to a decline in per-minute production. And part of this is due to the fact Amare has only played about 65 games per season.
- So the Knicks will be paying $100 million for an above average player, but not a player who is going to substantially change the team’s outcomes. And that means fans of the Knicks are probably going to be disappointed.
Schwartz: So it appears the Suns made a smart decision not to sign Amare to a long-term max deal, according to your models. But now the question is have the Suns adequately replaced him this offseason by acquiring, and ?
Berri: Although Stoudemire is not worth $100 million, he did produce 10 wins for Phoenix last season. And this production needs to be replaced.
This may come as a surprise to fans of the Suns, but it looks like Phoenix has come pretty close to accomplishing this objective.
So far the following players have departed the Suns this offseason:
- Amare Stoudemire: 10.1 Wins Produced
- Louis Amundson: 3.6 Wins Produced
- : 0.0 Wins Produced
- Alando Tucker: -0.1 Wins Produced
- Leandro Barbosa: -0.2 Wins Produced
- Jarron Collins: -0.9 Wins Produced
In sum, these players produced 12.4 wins last year.
The Suns then added these players:
- Josh Childress: 9.8 Wins Produced with the Atlanta Hawks in 2007-08
- Hedo Turkoglu: 4.2 Wins Produced
- Hakim Warrick: 1.4 Wins Produced
- Gani Lawai and Dwyane Collins in the second round of the draft. Both of these players were unexceptional in college last season, and neither should be expected to play much in 2010-11.
If you add up the wins added, you get more than 12.4 wins. This number, though, is deceptive since Childress is not likely to play as much with the Suns as he did with the Hawks. Still, I think one can make the case that Stoudemire has been mostly replaced.
To see this, consider the following depth chart (Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] is reported after each player’s name and these WP48 numbers are adjusted for the position where the player is listed).
- PG: [0.277]
- SG: [0.191]
- SF: [0.148]
- PF: Hedo Turkoglu [0.008]
- C: [0.075]
- PG: [0.088]
- SG: Josh Childress [0.261 at SG in 2007-08]
- SF: [0.120]
- PF: Hakim Warrick [0.043]
- C: [0.029]
An average player posts a WP48 of 0.100. So the Suns currently have five above average players, and two players — Nash and Childress — who are at least twice as good as average.
Player performance in the NBA — relative to what we see in football and baseball — is relatively consistent across time. That being said, age does impact performance and at some point (despite what happened last year) Nash and Hill have to decline. But if Nash and Hill can come close to what they did last year, and Childress actually gets to play some (and produces as he did for the Atlanta Hawks), it is possible the Suns are still a 50-win team. In other words, although Turkoglu and Warrick are not as productive as Stoudemire, I think it is conceivable that the Suns are still a 50-win team.
With what happened in Miami, the Suns are not likely to win a title next season. But I do think the Suns are still going to provide playoff basketball for the people of Phoenix. And they are going to do this without Stoudemire (who is probably not going to the playoffs in 2011).