Numbers Game: Are They Who We Thought They Were?
Numbers Game: Are They Who We Thought They Were?

This article is part of our Numbers Game series.

Then-NFL coach Dennis Green famously declared: "They are who we thought they were." After last week's trade deadline, I wonder, does his wisdom apply to traded players?

One of my favorite fantasy analysts argues that, fundamentally, a player is who he is. He claims that on a per-possession basis, players are more or less predictable. Sure, he says, young guys improve and old guys decline, roles and teams change, but the per-possession numbers remain relatively stable.

The NBA trade deadline gives us an opportunity to investigate this idea, and with immediate fantasy implications. When players changed teams midseason, regardless of their role, has their per-possession production remained stable?

What are we looking at and why do we care?

This idea – that a player "is who he is" on a per-possession basis – is most relevant before the draft or after a trade. Thirty-six players were traded in February, and a few more changed teams through the NBA's waivers system. Beyond that, traded players provide a rare statistical opportunity to study our basic assumption. I'll address those in reverse order.

Players traded midseason can be a statistical goldmine. The player is the same age and in roughly the same state of overall mental and physical health while playing for both teams. The player has not had an offseason to –- insert trite offseason storyline here (develop his three-point shot; gain 20 pounds of pure muscle; become vegan; host sleepovers for the point guard's children; become rusty, fat, old and

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.
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