Tuesday, January 20, 2009
What does the future hold for #23?
Tamera Young's first season in the WNBA was sort of a work in progress. Her Player Efficiency Rating (PER) was 9.309 in 2008, a rating that suggested that if Young were anything other than a first round draft pick, she'd be suffering the fate of Kristen Mann, playing the "have-team-will-travel" game that lower echelon WNBA players play.
So how well will Tamera Young be doing in 2009? Normally, you could use a system like the Simple Projection System, the system I used for Chamique Holdsclaw and Nikki Teasley. However, we have a problem - Tamera Young has only played one year, so we can't predict Tamera's future by looking at Tamera's past. So what do we look at?
We could look at similarity scores - find players which are similar to Tamera Young, and then see how those players developed in their second year. However, similiary scores have normally been used to compare careers - the most similar player to Tamera Young careerwise is Crystal Kelly, a forward who is also in her first year of play.
Let's look at parts of careers. We'll compare Tamera Young, who was about 21 in 2008, and see how similar she has been to other players in history who were also 21.
One problem we've had in similarity scores is that it doesn't consider height, which should be very important. I added the rule:
* Subtract one point for each difference of 1" in height
...and looked at the players similar to Tamera Young when they were age 21:
This list ought to raise some questions: Ruth Riley? Sandrine Gruda? How similar is a forward to a center, or a guard-forward?
I therefore further adjusted the similarity score depending on what position the player played.
For players of different positions, one subtracts a value equivalent to the difference in the positions listed: Comparing a forward (100) to a guard (20) subtracts a difference of 80 points in similarity - quite a bit - whereas when comparing a forward to a forward-center or guard-forward subtracts a difference of 40 points of similarity.
The values, now adjusted for position:
The great thing about the list is that in the list above all players except for Crystal Kelly have played more than one year. We can therefore compare how well they performed in Year One vs. Year Two. We'll average the percentage changes to see what kind of values we get:
The drop in eight percent is roughly similar to the median value, which would be a drop in slightly more than three percent. The only players on the list that had significant better years in their second year than they did in their first are Asjha Jones and Brooke Wyckoff. Most of the time, players similar to Tamera Young did worse in their second year than they did in their first.
Is this something specific to Tamera Young, or would this be true of any player? I suspect that players as a whole do worse in their second WNBA year than they do in their first. Baseball calls it the "sophomore jinx". When a player is performing in her first year, she's an unknown quantity - a coach can tell you all the stuff in the world about how she players, but her opponents have never experienced her play. In the player's second year, the opponent has practical knowledge and puts it to use. The newness has also worn off of a WNBA career, and enthusiasm flags once you come to terms with facing the same old drag all over again.
So what will Tamera Young's PER probably be in 2009? Somewhere around 8.561, probably still scrounging for minutes. Tamera didn't have to fight for minutes last year because we didn't have anyone better to give minutes to. But with a lineup with maybe Sancho Lyttle or Chamique Holdsclaw or Angel McCoughtry? Tamera Young's learning curve has just become that much tougher.