Leonard's Value Add Showed NBA Potential

Leonard's Value Add Showed NBA Potential

The San Antonio Spurs continue to get the most wins per salary dollar spent because they identify players such as Kawhi Leonard with high Senior Value Adds. A look at the top three young players for each team in this year’s Finals shows that Leonard had by far the most potential as a sophomore coming out of San Diego State, ahead of Mario Chalmers (Kansas) and Norris Cole (Cleveland State), as shown here.

Player Height Class College Year NBA Value Add Sr. Value Add
Leonard, Kawhi 6-foot-7 2 So San Diego St. 2011 Spurs 7.52 16.62
Chalmers, Mario 6-foot-1 3 Jr Kansas 2008 Heat 9.7 12.71
Cole, Norris 6-foot-2 4 Sr Cleveland St. 2011 Heat 9.81 9.81
Green, Danny 6-foot-6 4 Sr North Carolina 2009 Spurs 6.61 6.61
Neal, Gary 6-foot-4 4 Sr Towson 2007 Spurs 5.19 5.19
Anthony, Joel 6-foot-9 4 Sr Nevada Las Vegas 2007 Heat 3.55 3.55

A look at www.valueaddbasketball.com shows that Cole had the best season of any of these six players, having a Value Add of 9.81 as a senior – meaning he improved Cleveland State’s scores by more than nine percent, which indicates an All-American level player. However, in a piece on Cracked Sidewalks I pointed out that seniors are already at their “Senior Value Add,” while players who leave early for the NBA Draft would have typically improved dramatically if they had played through their senior season.

In the draft calculations I prepared for five NBA teams last year, I factored in that a junior will likely improve by 31 percent, a sophomore by 121 percent and a freshman by at least 200 percent, where the adjustment is capped, over a senior who is already closer to his peak. Therefore, Chalmers’ junior season of 9.7 shows he had the potential to hit 12.71 as a senior (though he did not improve that much), while Leonard’s 7.52 as a sophomore showed he had the potential to reach 16.62 as a senior.

No one has ever achived a 14 percent Value Add, and that is because if a player like Leonard is going to be that good, then he is ready for the NBA and goes there. 

Remember, Leonard would be a senior at San Diego State THIS YEAR if everyone stayed four years to play. After last season, Gregg Popovich said he will “be the face of the Spurs”

A look at the rest of the top young trios for both teams shows that Green also had strong numbers at UNC as the 42nd best of almost 4000 players. Neal was in the top four percent of all players despite having to leave and then come back to college basketball due to criminal charges that were later dismissed. His freshman of the year season at LaSalle occurred just before Value Add begins (the 2005-06 season). Heat center Joel Anthony barely made the top 10 percent (top 400) of all college players, though he has played some minutes as a defensive role player in the NBA.