Great Expectations: The Value of 2013 Free Agents

He could be ours... - Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday's game against the Nets crushed any real hope we still had of making the playoffs this season. I'm sure at some point we'll get our hopes up again only to have them crushed again. But, for now, I'm trying to remind myself that there's not really a shot. Hopefully we'll at least make it to .500 so I can shave my beard off.

At any rate, now more than ever we need to be looking to this offseason and the project of fixing this mess of a team. The problems are many: we don't have many realistic trade assets except for a couple of young players that we want to keep and develop (Crowder, Wright). That said, without another real asset, we wouldn't be able to pull anyone useful for just Crowder or Wright anyway. On top of that, next season's Free Agent pool is less than stellar. Other than Dwight and Chris Paul there are no really big names worth nabbing, and if you actually think we have the money or incentive to land Dwight or CP3, you're nuts. Unfortunately, since we can't trade and we're only likely to get one usable player out of the draft, to Free Agency we have to go.

We're obviously really desperate for PGs and Cs, and maybe a Hybrid Guard (someone who can play the 1 and 2) would be of interest for safe measure. Here's the list of realistically land-able and still interesting free agents next season who fit that bill:


Brandon Jennings, Jose Calderon, Jeff Teague, Jarrett Jack, Darren Collison, Roddy B, Gary Neal, Nate Robinson, O.J. Mayo, and Tony Allen


Andrew Bynum, Nikola Pekovic, Timofey Mozgov, Al Jefferson, Samuel Dalembert, Tiago Splitter, Robin Lopez, Zaza Pachulia, and Dejuan Blair

So here's what I decided to do: I came up with basically an altered version of PER that cranks out the probable expected value of the player. The reason I came up with my own equation is that I wanted to be able to weight stats and categories that the Mavs need in particular from a given position so that we don't just get an expected value number, but so that we get an expected value for us. So, I got an equation, did some stat crunching, and got some interesting results.

The Math

I figured it's probably relevant to explain what exactly my formula was and how and why I weighted the expected value for our team. This part is going to be a breakdown of all that, so if you're not too interested feel free to move on.

The idea of Expected Value in Probability is really simple: you multiply the odds of doing something by the value that doing that thing successfully produces, and get the value that you can expect to get by trying. For example, the expected value of an OJ Mayo 3-point attempt is 1.254 points, because a 3-pointer is worth three points and he'll make the shot 41.8% of the time (note: this is the same thing as point per weighted shot, in this case). So, every time Mayo shoots a 3, we can expect it to add about 1.254 points to our game.

So, a pure expected value formula for a free agent next season would look something like this:

E[x] = (3)(3PFG%) + (2)(2PFG%) + (FT%)(1) + (Rebound Rate, the odds of getting a rebound)(1) + (Assist Rate)(1) + (Block Rate)(1) - (Turnover Rate)(1)

That said, I didn't like this formula. It basically gives us the pure efficiency of a player. While efficiency is important, this formula would tell us that Jose Calderon is a better scorer than Brandon Jennings, which is just not true. Similarly, while it does account for blocks, it doesn't account for general defense. So: I included the players' attempts at each category along with the value of the shot, as the value that the player contributes in that category in a given game. I also tacked on net defensive efficiency (value above or below 100 points allowed per 100 possessions) for good measure.

The number that this formula cranks out would be extremely helpful if we were picking players in a void - starting a new team. But we're not, we're on the Mavs, and we know what our needs are. In our guards, we need floor spacing (efficient shot selection), good defense, and smart playing. So, to weight the formula to see what guards we really need, I doubled the value for 3 pointers attempted and squared 2PFG% to ensure efficient shot selection, I doubled assists, and I doubled net defense.

For the Centers, more than anything, we REALLY, REALLY need an intimidating inside defensive presence. So to weight for Centers, I doubled blocks, squared the block rate, and doubled net defense.

The Results

Here's what I came up with using the weighted values:


1) Tony Allen (15.932)

2) Brandon Jennings (13.756)

3) Jeff Teague (11.415)

4) Nate Robinson (9.109)

5) OJ Mayo (8.462)

6) Gary Neal (6.385)

7) Jarrett Jack (6.139)

8) Jose Calderon (5.102)

9) Collison (1.785, and I'm not even making that up)

10) Roddy B (-5.434. I'm serious here too. It was really negative).


1) Bynum (28.636)

2) Tiago Splitter (19.474)

3) Al Jefferson (19.113)

4) Samuel Dalembert (17.102)

5) Dejuan Blair (15.827)

6) Nikola Pekovic (13.259)

7) Zaza Pachulia (9.261)

8) Robin Lopez (1.526)

9) Timofey Mozgov (1.045)

So those are the raw numbers. But we're obviously not going to be able to look at this and say, "oh, yeah, ok, great!" and sign Jennings, Bynum, Allen, and Splitter. Between cap room, the Spur's adoration of Splitter, and the fact that Andrew Bynum is unreliable at best means that we have to look elsewhere. I have two major thoughts from looking at this list:

Firstly, Andrew Bynum, if he's healthy and motivated, apparently fixes all of our problems by himself. Not only was his raw score 9 points higher than anyone else's, but his weighted score increased his value for our team: so not only is he amazing, but he's amazing in the ways we'd want him to be amazing. The problem is, he'd sap pretty much all of our cap room. Even after this season's debacle, he's going to need to get around 16 mil from whoever offers it to him, which would leave us only about 5 million in cap space with which to operate. That buys us maybe two low level guards and a mid-level exception guy. To spend that kind of money, we'd need to be sure that Bynum is going to play at all, and then that he is going to play to the level we'd expect him too. I don't know that it's worth the risk. That said, everyone said Tike wasn't worth the risk, and we saw how that worked out. What are your thoughts on him?

Second, barring Bynum, I actually think we could build a really solid team around the other options that the list brings up. if we don't go for Bynum, Jennings and Allen are a must. Jennings will want a raise, but I doubt anyone other than us is going to offer him the max, so if we pull him in for about 12 mil we can still put together a team. Allen, aside from being a defensive monster, can play decent minutes as a reserve 1 for 3.5 mil, which helps. Snag Gary Neal (the next best PG that we can afford) and re-up with Anthony Morrow (for extra floor spacing) for only 1.5 mil and we have a really solid backcourt.

This leaves us with about 5 mil and a mid-level exception. There's no affording Al Jefferson then, and San Antonio is going to do everything they can to hold onto Splitter. Dalembert, however, is a brilliant option: when I weighted the formula for defense, Dalembert's score almost doubled. He might actually be the best guy for us out of the whole list. Dejuan Blair is a similar case. So: use the rest of the cap to pick up Blair and the exception on Dalembert. Voila. We have a team.

It may not be the sexiest team in the world, but it would probably be better than what we have. It's not the team we deserve, but it might just be the one we need right now.

Reader Submitted

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