ASU Gives Up on Local Talent

So apparently Tempe Normal coach Herb Sendek didn’t hear what he wanted after a quick meeting this past weekend with Phoenix North HS player Daniel Bejarano. Bejarano had decommitted from Texas last week and immediately was visited by University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

Sendek, instead of trying to meet immediately and possibly getting to Bejarano first, decided to wait until after Miller’s meeting and met with Bejarano over the weekend with a scholarship offer.

Yesterday, Tempe Normal announced it was no longer pursuing Bejarano and rescinded its offer. Miller’s assistants met with Bejarano last night after the announcement.

Bejarano is a highly regarded recruit – ranked as high as #43 in some recruiting circles – and a local talent in Tempe Normal’s backyard.

The Tempe Normal fans immediately got on the internet spouting off on how Miller is picking up “sloppy seconds” and that Bejarano won’t even academically qualify anyway. They claim that Sendek is simply moving on to better prospects and that there’s still a 5-0 streak going on.

Funny that.

Miller doesn’t have a history of recruiting kids who don’t qualify, and I’m not sure Sendek had anything really to offer Bejarano since Sendek’s style of play is not a fast-paced up-and-down like Miller’s. Bejarano wants to run, and Miller’s style of play suits him.

Miller, in the span of a summer, has done what Sendek in two years hasn’t – recruit top talent locally and nationally.

Tempe Normal does have one thing right – they are still riding a 5-0 win streak over Arizona. However, their fan base doesn’t want to face facts. The fact is that they were pwned for the previous 25 years and have a win streak only because they faced interim coaches in the last two seasons. And even then, Arizona still went on to the Big Dance both years. Tempe Normal, one appearance (last year) and one first-round flameout (last year).

Lastly, how does Sendek “move on” to “better prospects” if the local talent is already ranked in the top 50? Do the Tempe Normal fans truly believe that Sendek is going to land someone ranked higher than Bejarano for 2010? Meaning, that some kid out there with a top 50 talent is going to actually choose Sendek’s slow-it-down style of play over a top school like Duke, North Carolina, or Kentucky? Some kid is going to choose Tempe Normal and its woeful NBA draft history (4 players in the last ten years) over Arizona and its rich tradition (15 players in the same timespan)?

If the goal of a kid is to get to the NBA, the path clearly does not go through Tempe Normal. Perhaps Bejarano realized this and that’s why he didn’t give a committment to Sendek right there and then this past weekend. And perhaps that’s why Sendek pulled the offer Monday morning.

Or maybe Tempe Normal realized it wasn’t going to win that recruiting battle against Arizona after all. Just another win for Miller even before the season starts.

Suns’ 13th man

The preseason rumors are starting to heat up for the Phoenix Suns as to whom the 13th man should be – whether it’s someone like 2nd round pick Taylor Griffin who would come cheap or a veteran who might be waived before the season starts.

My idea is actually both of those – sign Taylor Griffin for the minimum and he can be inactive for as much or as little as necessary, and then trade Alando Tucker for a veteran rebounder. Tucker has done absolutely nada during his tenure with the Suns – he’s a tweener and has demonstrated that he’s only good in the NBDL. His jump shot and driving focus deserts him when he’s on the big stage against better players. We saw a lot of him during blowouts near the end of last season, and he would routinely go 1-14, 2-10, 1-11, etc. Not only can he not finish, he can’t even seem to pass – he’s a black hole when you pass him the ball. Nope, better to trade him for a veteran banger who’ll average 4 points and 8 boards a game and play good defense.

Steve Kerr, I hope you’re reading!

Wildcat Player Impacts

[UPDATE 7/3/09: After some discussion with some readers from wildaboutazcats.com, I revisited the formula to account for positions played by players. While the numbers are different overall, and the order in which players are listed has changed, the results are basically still the same.]

Yesterday, I wrote about a comparison between Arizona NBA players and UConn players.

Today, let’s compare some other schools – UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky. All of these schools are “basketball blue-bloods”, so one would think that they all should have their share of shining stars and impact players.

The criteria was simple, top 7 players from a specific school that have played in the NBA a minimum of 2 seasons. Rookies were left off because it’s too early to tell if their careers are boom or bust. After two full seasons, one should have a good idea of where the player is headed.

All stats listed are career stats. PERs listed are John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating. These are not counted in the calculation of the Player Impact Rating (PIR) but are listed to satisfy curiosity and as points of reference.

The PIR is a metric I created to summarize a player’s impact to the game based on the person’s stats over time – this takes into account the number of minutes played, so the career stats aren’t skewed by the longer careers of people like Mike Bibby, for example. Team PIRs are calculated two ways – one with 7 players, since empirical evidence suggest that the average school has at most 7 players in the NBA at any one point in time, and the other with 5 players, since you can only have 5 players on the court at any time. Obviously, the 5 player team PIR is calculated using the best five players.

Again, for comparison, I also did four other player PIRs. Unsurprisingly, none of the players calculated are even close to these four (one of which is a Hall of Famer, the other three will definitely be joining him).

[TABLE=1]

As a reminder, here’s Arizona’s players and their individual PIR’s
[TABLE=2]

Now, let’s start with the UCLA Bruins. Nothing like a conference rivalry to get things started. Plus, with the history of UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, one might think that there are a plethora of former Bruins in the NBA that are major players…

[TABLE=3]

Hmm… Ok, let’s go cross-country to another tradition-laden school in Kentucky. Those Wildcats have a pedigree in basketball, dontcha know! They MUST have some pretty good players that are lighting up scoreboards, right?

[TABLE=4]

OOPS! There are only 5 players from Kentucky currently in the NBA with more than 2 seasons under their belts. So, I guess Kentucky wasn’t as good a comparison after all, it seems. How about … North Carolina? Surely that would be a better comparison.

[TABLE=5]

Wow… now there’s some heavy hitters in this group. But still, something seems not quite right. Maybe a midwestern school holds the solution? Let’s look at Kansas.

[TABLE=6]

Uh oh… only 6 players here. That’s not really good either. I guess it’s up to Duke.

Now, before I did this calculation, I fully expected the results to be similar to everything else I’ve been seeing so far. However, Duke actually has 8 players in the NBA currently right now that qualify, so I had to use their top 7. How scary is that??

[TABLE=7]

Notably, Shane Battier is NOT listed here for Duke. He was the 8th player and has a PIR of 43.62. If you include him and do a team PIR of 8 players, Duke would drop to a team PIR of 61.87. Ouch.

So what’s the verdict? Are any teams going to beat Arizona? Actually, the answer is “yes.”

[TABLE=8]

How about just top 5’s?

[TABLE=9]

As a side note, players with top 250 career PERs have been noted in the tables above and counted. Final tally: Arizona 5, North Carolina 4, Duke 3, UCLA 1, Kansas 1, Kentucky 0.

If any team was combined with Arizona players, Arizona players would outnumber the other team players except for Duke. Duke would have Hill, Boozer, and Brand, while Arizona would have Arenas and Bibby.

So, using this information, what have we learned? We already know that Arizona has the most draft picks of any school since the Lottery Era began. We know that of all the current NBA players, Arizona has more career PER players than any other school. We know that as a group, Arizona players have higher Player Impacts than any other school except Duke. And in head-to-heads against the “blue-blood” of college basketball, Arizona beats them all, again except for Duke.

For one last comparison, I’ll calculate the Arizona State’s NBA players’ individual PIRs (This one wasn’t even worth doing a table for – that’s how bad it is):

Ike Diogu 55.76
Eddie House 52.25

If combined with Arizona, Diogu makes the 6th spot out of top 7. I couldn’t calculate a team rating for ASU because they don’t have enough players in the NBA, and they won’t for next two years either with only 4 (add Pendergraph and Harden to the list).

Does Arizona belong now in the annals of college basketball as one of the “blue-bloods”? With 25 straight NCAA appearances, several Final Fours and a National Championship, the last measuring stick of “Players In The NBA” is still in review, but based on this evidence, I would argue that Arizona belongs now to that upper echelon of blue-bloods, the college basketball elite.

East-West Comparison

[UPDATE 7/3/09: After some discussion with some readers from wildaboutazcats.com, I revisited the formula to account for positions played by players. While the numbers are different overall, and the order in which players are listed has changed, the results are basically still the same.]

When it comes to NCAA basketball, no one can deny the fact that since the NBA shortened the draft to only two rounds in 1985, Arizona has had the most draft picks of any university (31) – more than Duke (29), UCLA (28), North Carolina (25), or Connecticut (23).

Some of those picks have been superstars (Gilbert Arenas), while others… not so much (Marcus Williams).

What would happen, then, if you had an all-Arizona NBA team vs. say an all-UConn NBA team?

Let’s take a look – for Arizona (all stats are career stats):
PG – Gilbert Arenas (22.8 PPG, 4.2 REB, 5.5 AST, 1.8 STL, 20.74 PER)
PG – Mike Bibby (16.4 PPG, 3.3 REB, 6.1 AST, 1.3 STL, 16.91 PER)
C – Channing Frye (8.2 PPG, 4.6 REB, 0.5 BLK, 0.4 STL)
SG – Andre Iguodala (15.6 PPG, 5.7 REB, 4.4 AST, 1.8 STL, 16.89 PER)
SF – Richard Jefferson (17.7 PPG, 5.3 REB, 3.0 AST, 0.9 STL, 16.56 PER)
PG – Jason Terry (16.2 PPG, 2.9 REB, 4.9 AST, 1.3 STL, 17.86 PER)
SF – Luke Walton (5.6 PPG, 3.2 REB, 2.5 AST, 0.6 STL)

for UConn (all stats are career stats):

SG – Ray Allen (20.9 PPG, 4.4 REB, 3.8 AST, 1.2 STL, 19.72 PER)
SF – Caron Butler (16.7 PPG, 6.0 REB, 3.0 AST, 1.7 STL, 16.72 PER)
SF – Rudy Gay (16.7 PPG, 5.4 REB, 1.7 AST, 1.2 STL)
SG – Ben Gordon (18.5 PPG, 3.0 REB, 3.0 AST, 0.8 STL)
SG – Richard Hamilton (17.9 PPG, 3.3 REB, 3.4 AST, 0.8 STL, 16.96 PER)
C – Emeka Okafor (14.0 PPG, 10.7 REB, 1.9 BLK, 0.8 STL)
PF – Charlie Villanueva (13.4 PPG, 6.3 REB, 1.2 AST, 0.6 STL)

If one went purely on PPG, UConn has the decided advantage at 118.1 PPG to Arizona’s 102.5. How about PER? Arizona has five career leaders versus UConn’s three.

However, I created another metric to summarize a player’s impact (PIR) based on the person’s stats over time – this takes into account the number of minutes played, so the career stats aren’t skewed by the longer careers of people like Bibby and Allen.

For comparison, I also did four other player PIRs. Unsurprisingly, none of the UConn or Arizona alums are even close to these four (one of which is a Hall of Famer, the other three will definitely be joining him).

Michael Jordan 96.87
LeBron James 89.92
Shaquille O’Neal 88.41
Steve Nash 79.03

Where do the UConn players rank?
Ray Allen 65.49
Emeka Okafor 61.28
Charlie Villanueva 61.16
Ben Gordon 60.42
Rip Hamilton 58.98
Caron Butler 58.87
Rudy Gay 54.46

Arizona … much, much better:
Gilbert Arenas 72.65
Mike Bibby 64.46
Jason Terry 62.48
Andre Iguodala 60.46
Richard Jefferson 58.88
Luke Walton 52.73
Channing Frye 50.24

Now, you have Arizona with three highly rated players along with Ray Allen and Emeka Okafor.

Also, if we drop all players who have not played 10000 minutes (which actually is 2 players from each side) and sum the PIRs, you get an average team (5 players) total of:

UConn: 61.01
Arizona: 63.79

(Even if you keep all 7 players and do the average PIRs, UConn ends up with 60.10, Arizona slightly higher with 60.27.)

In summary, UConn players may score more, but Arizona players have a little more impact in and on games than UConn players do. This is one of the many reasons why Arizona has more players drafted than any other school in the country.

2009 Recruiting is Complete

Arizona’s much-maligned recruiting class, prior to Sean Miller taking the reins, is now complete with the addition of Derrick Williams.

Lance Stephenson and Jarrid Famous, we hardly knew ya.

With the committment of Jones and Williams, Miller rounds out a now-top 10 class for 2009 that includes:

Kyryl Natyazhko (C/PF)
Solomon Hill (SF/SG)
Kevin Parrom (PF/SF)
Lamont Jones (SG/PG)
Derrick Williams (PF/SF)

Every position is deep now. There are two options for PG after returner and All-American candidate Nic Wise in Garland Judkins and Jones. SG goes three deep with Kyle Fogg, then Brandon Lavender and Hill or Jones. SF has multiple options, starting with Hill, and then going through Parrom, Williams, and DJ Shumpert. PF is rock steady with Jamelle Horne, followed by Natyazhko, Parrom, and Williams, and the C position is anchored by Natyazhko and Alex Jacobson, with Horne being able to run the C if Miller goes small.

Miller will run, and run a lot, and his players will all see significant minutes – almost 20+ a game for everyone except Wise, who you can count on being around 30+ a game. This team will create matchup problems for everyone in the Pac-10 except UCLA, and even then the Bruins must be a little worried that this young Wildcat team somehow, some way, is now loaded and deep with talent at every position.

Wise and Horne will be the leaders on this team, and you know that these Wildcats will be a huge threat to win the conference now – a 26th straight run to the NCAA Tourney is almost a given, since a top-3 finish in the conference literally guarantees a berth.

Down at Tempe Normal, Herb Sendek and the rest of Sun Devil Nation must be wondering “How on earth could this have possibly happened?” They had four straight wins over Arizona – granted, they were over non-Lute Olson-coached teams – and it looked like they were going to become the new king of the hill in the state. Instead, Arizona turned the tables and now has not only the upper hand coaching-wise, but the talent to go with it. It’s a proven fact that Sendek is simply not an elite coach. He’s a good coach, maybe borderline great, but he’s not elite. Miller, however, has already proven he’s elite. In fact, Miller is already mentioned in several pundits’ top 30 coaching lists in the country.

All that’s left is now to look forward to the start of the basketball season. Jarrid Famous can stay at South Florida – hope he’s happy to be a bottom feeder for the remaining two years of his college career, because South Florida isn’t going to do anything in the Big East anytime soon. Lance Stephenson? Well, if he doesn’t sign with Memphis (and Josh Pastner could really use the help), then he will most likely end up in Europe. Good luck with that.

Either way, the 2009 Wildcats are complete!