Hometown Heroes, Hometown Zeroes
|June 28, 2012||Posted by ReubenFB under Quick Map|
The soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, desperate to retain Deron Williams, recently surprised him on his 28th with a massive birthday truck . It must have helped, as the free agent recently stated that he had narrowed down his choices to the Nets and his hometown team , the Mavericks. Likely high first-rounder Thomas Robinson announced he would be happy to play for his hometown Wizards if they took him at 3rd overall (they did not), and fellow draftee Royce White said he hoped he would fall to his hometown Timberwolves with their 18th pick (he went 16th). With all this talk, how common is it for NBA players to actually play for their hometowns?
Not very. In the 2011-2012 season, 478 players logged time in the NBA. Of these players, only 15 ( 3.1% ) played at some point for their hometown squad. 251 players grew up in metropolitan areas that currently have NBA teams, and 42 of these players grew up in Los Angeles, which has two teams, so we can calculate that if these 478 players were randomly distributed throughout the NBA, around 2.0% would be playing in their hometowns, pretty close to the actual amount.
While it looks like there isn’t much push (from players or owners) to get NBA players back to their roots, it is interesting to see what types of players end up at home. Looking at the stat minutes per game (MPG), we can see that the NBA’s 478 players breakdown into a roughly normal distribution, with a small number of star starters racking up major minutes, a slightly larger number of replacement-level players stuck on the bench, and most average players somewhere in between. However, the hometown players are not equally distributed. As you can see from the chart below, they either suck, or they rock:
35 players averaged over 34 MPG in 2011-2012, and three of these players – or 8.6% - were what we will now call “Hometown Heroes.” On the opposite end, 130 players averaged less than 14 MPG, and nine – 6.9% - were affectionately “Hometown Zeroes.” The 313 players that made up the remainder of the league, averaging 14-34 MPG, had only three hometown players, just 1.0% .
Here are your Hometown Heroes:
Looking back, I’d completely forgotten that a.) Chicago only had a 1.7% chance of winning the 1st overall pick in 2008 and b.) some considered the Bulls inevitable selection of Derrick Rose to be a gamble . If I different team had won the pick it’s likely that the disappointing Michael Beaseley would have gone first, Chicago was betting that Rose would pan out as a solid player and thus be a lock as a local fan favorite. The Hawks took a similar risk on Josh Smith, who was only just 19 on draft day and fell out of the top 10 to 17th thanks to concerns about his inexperience. While these sorts of young players are often lauded for representing their hometowns, it’s easy to forget that they aren’t exactly there by choice, and they aren’t always too happy about it .
Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, basically traded himself to New York. The Knicks had gone 279-459 (.378) in the previous nine seasons, giving Anthony opportunity to play the franchise-saving hero. In cases where the team is already strong, sometimes stars return home to try to hitch a ride to a ring (see: Clyde Drexler to Houston, Tracy McGrady to Orlando).
Here are your (still affectionately) Hometown Zeroes:
In this group, we have some long-time journeymen passing through home (Mason, Kapono, Magliore), some local D-League lifers (Dawson, Russell, Johnson), two draft gambles that don’t look so good (Balkman and Morris), and James Jones.
It turns out the Heat were the team that really figured out how to use their hometown players, packing a roster with limited salary space with locals willing to work for less. James Jones, born in Miami and alum of the U, made $1.1 million in 2011-2012, the veteran minimum. The Heat also had one of the three “Hometown Middles” in Udonis Haslem (24.8 MPG), who earned $3.8 million, a 47% cut from two years ago (the other two “Middles” were George Hill and Channing Frye, FYI). If the Heat “Super-team” model catches on, expect to see more cheap, local favorites filling in the roster gaps.