Late Season Kaizen Report

“Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen“- Ohno Taiichi

Kaizen. It is an important concept in my life. Japanese for “change for the better”, it is the one word term for the philosophy of continuous improvement that true lean manufacturing organizations make their way of life.

In the simplest term, the idea is that when a team sees or finds a problem they stop and they correct it and put in process in place to prevent that problem from happening again. The quote above refers to the powerful idea that there must be a framework for evaluation to detect that problem. The first step in any improvement process is to define the desired state for success and then to work toward achieving that.

I’ve been very quiet this week but with good reason. I have a job and that job calls for innovation.

I’ve spent the week participating in a focused Kaizen event at my place of work . In it we pulled the manufacturing team from a particular product together with personnel from other facilities and focused on effecting a complete transformation of that manufacturing process.

The team completely redefined the process. We sawed a manufacturing line in half with an acetylene torch. We re-designed every single workstation. We built frames, covers, fixtures and tools. We wrote procedures. We spent 16 hours a day at the plant.We made a product a lot of you use in your home easier to make, which means higher quality and lower costs.

And I made some cool visual management tools (but that’s kinda expected from me).

It was great fun (even if it was exhausting and I missed my wife greatly).

We bring good things to life, don't you know

While all of this was going on in my own life a similar ritual was taking place in the world of the NBA. The trade deadline came and went and teams in the NBA attempted to effect their own Kaizens. They attempted to quickly change their circumstances and improve their lot and their chances.

50 Players. 20 Teams and of course, not everyone achieved Kaizen.

Nice table but a bit too simplistic. We can build on it of course. Before we get to that though, We need to do some pre-work because as Mr. Ohno said before improvements we need standards.

The goal in the NBA is Wins of course. The standard we use is Wins Produced (courtesy of Dr. Berri, explained here in the Basics and powered by Nerdnumbers).

Lets look at all the transactions:


Some notes: Table version (for your enjoyment is here). I used numbers from the 2007-08 season to now. Player levels are:

  • Elite (>.400 WP48) which I used previously here
  • Superstar (>.300 WP48 & <.400 WP48)
  • Star (>.200 WP48 & <.300 WP48)
  • Starter (>.100 WP48 & <.200 WP48)
  • Bench (>.000 WP48 & <.100 WP48)
  • Scrub (<.000 WP48)

Now let’s rank the players who moved by levels:

Of the 50 Players that moved, no elite or superstars moved and only 4 Stars moved (Murphy,Deron, Pryz and Chauncey), and 16 Starters (again my definition of star and starter is for a championship contender). So only 40% of the players traded matter to the possible outcome of the season. Of the stars traded, 2 have significant issues (Murphy on D which downgrades him to a starter in my book, and Pryz has physical and offensive issues which do the same), Billups is older and Deron just might be a rental.

Is this a typical breakdown?

Not Traded Traded Not Traded Traded Not Traded Traded
Year Wins Wins MP MP WP48 WP48
2008 92.6% 7.4% 89.7% 10.3% 0.102 0.071
2009 93.5% 6.5% 88.6% 11.4% 0.105 0.057
2010 93.5% 6.5% 89.5% 10.5% 0.103 0.062
Grand Total 93.2% 6.8% 89.3% 10.7% 0.103 0.063

Yes. Typically traded players are significantly worse than players who are not traded.

The trade deadline is not about drastic change then, it’s about small improvements.

Let’s try to summarize again.

And let’s go team by team.

  1. Charlotte: Got an aging and brittle star center in Pryz and gave up two starters in Wallace and Nazr. Pryz probably will not play for them enough to make an impact (if at all). So on the court, bad for the Bobcats but in terms of MJ wager fund good. Grade: F for friendly wager
  2. Golden State: Gave up a starter in Wright and got back a Star Big in Murphy with deficiencies on D (sound a bit familiar). However Murphy may be on the way out. I’m hoping vey much that’s the case. Grade: B for go ahead and take a guess
  3. Nets: I bow before the greatness that is Mikhail Prokhorov. He played the Knicks and got a young star point guard (Deron) and a young quality big (Wright) while giving up a surplus asset in Murphy an asset (Favors) and a defensive sieve (Harris). Theyre not quite where they want to be but I have full confidence that they’ll get there. Grade: B for Brooklyn
  4. New York: Ah the Knicks. They got a star (Chauncey, remember those six straight conference finals?) and three starters (Melo, Balkman and Carter) plus a quality big body for their bench in Shelden while giving up three starters in Felton, Gallo and Randolph (although he wasn’t playing). This trade makes them frisky and a tough out in the playoffs (just not a contender) in the short run. In the long run, that Melo deal will be very bad news and Chauncey is old. Remember folks no one ever praised Melo for his defense, leadership or intangibles. Final Grade : C for Close but no cigar Knick fans
  5. Cleveland and the Clippers swapping deck chairs on the Titanic. Good for Mo bad for Baron. Grade: C for Curses
  6. Denver: The Nuggets moved on from a bad situation. They got 2 starters (Felton and Gallo) and a lot of assets for  the future. They get to turn their team over to the rest of the roster and it’s a good roster. So good that losing Melo, Chauncey and Shelden should not affect their standings.  The only negative is that they failed to pry Fields from the Knicks and thus the quest for a true superstar continues in the Mile High city. Final grade: B for Best case scenario thanks to the Russian
  7. Memphis: The Grizzlies are serious about a playoff push. Picking up Battier is inspired (basically for nothing). Had they managed to move Mayo as well? Wow. The only big problem is the health of Gay (and the addition of Battier mitigates the hell out of that problem). Grade: A for Actually a contender
  8. Minnesota: The T-wolves trade some of their ridiculous collection of D-leaguers for a possible star in Randolph and Salary relief in Curry. I can’t find fault with this one. Damn you Khan! Final Grade: A (if Curry even sniffs a court this goes to an F immediately though)
  9. New Orleans: The Hornets pick up a Starter (Landry) for a Bench player (Thorton) for their big playoff push. I’ll let Phil Jackson and Mark Cuban take this one. Grade: C for Collusion is such a dirty word David but if the shoe fits.
  10. OKC: Sam Presti killed it. Two Starting Bigs (Perk and Nazr) and a bench PG (Nate) for his worst two players (Green and Kristic) and MJ skins tab. I’ll second Dave’s take on this. This is now the favorite in the West. Grade: A+++++ for Awesome job.
  11. Portland: Traded Pryz (who might just wind up back with them when all is said and done) for a starting swingman in Wallace who’s a bordeline star. Portland is once again back in the hunt. Let’s hope no one tells Eduardo the knee destroying leprechaun of the Rose Garden. Grade: A for Amazing determination
  12. Utah: The Jazz were in a rough spot and made the best of it. They were not keeping Deron. Getting Favors and Harris back for him was a good deal. Sadly, it’s time for rebuilding in Mormon country. Grade B for Making the best of it
  13. Boston: Dammit Danny! I’m not thrilled but I understand it. They thought 30 million for Perk was a high price. I didn’t but I don’t have access to his medical records. You pay starting bigs if you want to win.  What they got back was not good (but Ainge drafted Green so in a way that’s one of his). If they get Murphy (which is the rumor), then it makes sense. If not ughhhhhh!!!! Final Grade:  I for incomplete (as is it’s an F)
  14. Houston: Daryl Morey is apparently not a good GM. He gave up a starter to bail out his main competition for a playoff slot (see Memphis entry). Good job kid. Enjoy your time as a TV analyst. Grade: F for Fail
  15. The rest (Bulls,Suns,Wizards,Kings and Hawks):  Not much there. Hinrich makes the Hawks younger but other than that whatever. Grade D for Doubt it’ll make a difference.

So who achieved Kaizen? The Thunder,Nets,Blazers, Knicks, Nuggets (yes they both won it was a good deal) and Grizzlies

For Boston and Golden State the jury is still out.

Everyone else?


  1. Shawn Ryan
    February 27

    I’m kind of surprised to see you so down on what Morey did at the deadline this year. Hasheem Thabeet is a 24 year old 7’3″ center, who was good in college, and had a good rookie season. This season, he’s been stuck behind an older, more experienced, and more polished center in Marc Gasol, so he’s played only 8 minutes a game this season. I think that this accounts pretty well for the productivity swan dive he’s taken this season.

    The other thing to consider is that Yao is probably done. That leaves Shane Battier, at 32 1/2 years old, as the teams best player. Everyone knows that while Shane is a solid player and a nice edition to a good team, you just aren’t going to win much if Shane is your best player. The window for Rockets short-term success closed with Yao’s last injury, and that meant that Shane needed to be moved as soon as possible, especially given the likelihood of a lockout next season.

    Also, the two late first round draft picks that Morey just picked up increased their total to 6 1st round picks over the next 3 years.

    Moving Brooks, who was going to be a free agent at the end of the season, gets rid of a negative producer while making room for Kyle Lowry, the much better player to start. Dragic is a negative producer, but he’s another young player, 24, who has a fairly high perceived value in the league, though Ish Smith would have probably been better to have as a backup PG.

    Also, Budinger, in terms of WP isn’t all that far away from Battier, but is much younger. I’ve had the feeling that they’ve wanted to give him the starting position for a while, but just couldn’t justify it with Battier ther. He’s obviously a big drop-off defensively from Battier, but this is a team who’s been starting a 6′ 6″ player at Center, so I don’t think that Budinger is their biggest weakness on the Defensive end of the floor. Thabeet though, can play defense. Even with his decline in productivity this season, he’s still averaging 3.0 blocks, 0.7 steals, and 9.1 Rebounds per 36 minutes over his career (he has also averaged 6.8 fouls per 36 min, but he’s only played 1250 minutes in the NBA, and most defensive centers seem to spend their first couple seasons getting a ton of fouls.)

    I don’t think that these moves were amazing by any means, but it shows that Morey realizes that the team, as currently constructed, has seen it’s best days. He’s gotten most of the crap off of the Rocket’s books, according to Hoopshype, they only have 45.65M on their books next season, and a lot of high value per dollar players. And let’s face it, in light of the upcoming CBA, it’s probably not bad strategy to trim all of the fat off of your roster, and restrict yourself to carrying young players who are cheap and/or have growth potential, and a ton of picks. The Rockets should be one of the teams best situated to take advantage of any opportunities that come about after the chaos of the CBA transition, and given the situation that the team has been put in with Yao and McGrady over the last few years, I think that that is about as well as Morey could have done.

  2. some dude
    February 27

    You really think OKC are the favorites out West? They’ve obviously improved and I love the trade from their end, but I still think they’re a year and 1 more piece away. They still don’t have a low post scoring option, not sure how they will win close games in the playoffs. I can’t recall the last team to win a title without a low post option besides MJ’s Bulls and this ain’t MJ’s bulls. And Perk’s knee is still an issue right now.

    Definitely a tough team to defeat. Still think the Spurs and Lakers are a bit better, however.

    Word out of Golden State is Murphy is not going to be bought out, now. They need the bigs. Lee-Murphy frontcourt defense? Now that’s a sight I’d love to see.

    I like what the Clips did from a financial perspective. The pick is useless to them and it’s a pick in a terrible draft.

    Morey looks exposed as an “advanced stat” GM. Not sure what analysis he’s possibly using because his moves have looked terrible.

    Still surprised Boston made that move. If they think Green can be Posey, they’re going to find out real soon the truth. I can’t imagine another team couldn’t have done a better deal. And Green is going to demand $30 million too. I’d be shocked if some GM doesn’t see him as a MLE player like Perk.

  3. Shawn Ryan
    February 27


    >Morey looks exposed as an “advanced stat” GM. Not sure what analysis he’s possibly using because >his moves have looked terrible.

    Not sure how this batch of moves shows that, because I really think that these moves were about increasing the Rockets exposure to a potential unlikely windfall. Basically they have 3 more shots at a great player, Thabeet (could end up being great, could end up being a bum), and two late first round picks (either could turn in to a great player, but any one of them, has only a small chance of that outcome). In fact, this is why I was surprised that Arturo was so negative on it, because given the fact that the Rockets don’t have any elite players that will allow them to compete for a championship, they seem to be going with Arturo’s strategy of hording ping-pong balls.

    • some dude
      February 27

      sorry, thabeet sucks and always will. Thought so in college, thought so in his short time in the NBA, think so now. His picked screamed Adam Morrison all over again. 80% of the b-ball world saw it coming (please don’t ask me to back that number up).

      The late 1st round picks could be simply bought. Finding a great late 1st rounder is luck. This isn’t the NFL, you don’t build via lots of draft picks unless they’re high lottery picks.

      I feel like Battier could have gotten more from a contender. Something like Asik from the Bulls, who is worlds better than Thabust. brooks for Dragic is probably a lateral move. I understand they weren’t paying Brooks anyway, but the move doesn’t do much either way.

      Houston is stuck in purgatory right now. Bad team, but not bad enough. Morey missed a chance to strip the team completely and he’s still trying to keep role player talent around and hope he strikes gold somewhere. That’s a failed strategy in the long run.

      Scola could have brought in something big if they played it right.

  4. Shawn Ryan
    February 27

    I think that his moves before the season looked bad from an advanced stats perspective though. But one pattern I’ve noticed in all of these Rockets moves is trying to hit a home run, and then moving on quickly when it doesn’t work out, while maintaining maximum future flexibility. I think Morey’s strategy is more like that of a savvy venture capitalist firm than that of a guy who is making decision primarily off of advanced basketball metrics.

    • February 27

      I’m judging it from an in-season perspective. He bailed out Memphis. I do think in terms of assets they made out ok. I don’t buy Thabeet at all though. He wasn’t good in college and hasn’t been good now. If he was making a bet why incur the high cost of putting Memphis in the catbird seat for the playoffs? He could have gotten a better young asset for Battier from another team.

  5. Shawn Ryan
    February 27


    >He could have gotten a better young asset for Battier from another team.

    I’m really not a big Morey fan anymore, at one point, when there were articles about him and everything, I was excited, but the moves he’s made in the last couple years have changed my overall opinion of him. That being said, I don’t believe that the comment above is true. Before the deadline, he said that he only had two deals in the works (both of which he apparently completed), but said that he wished that he’d had 6-7. I think that the fact is that nobody was buying, and that Shane HAD to be moved. I mean, for some reason, 33 seems to looks a lot worse than 32 when it comes to trade value, and after the likely lockout, Battier will be 33. This was kind of a desperation trade, but was also probably the right move.

    As far as handing over the 8th seed to Memphis, my only comment is that there’s probably nowhere in the NBA where the fans are more ambivalent about an exit in the first round of the playoffs than Houston.

  6. Shawn Ryan
    February 27

    Also, for the record, I don’t think that the Rockets are in a good position. I just think that the strategy of keeping a team full of young value players that are slightly above average is legitimate given their situation and the timing w/ the CBA.

  7. Baytown Ryan
    February 28

    Let me guess Arturo = Jack Donaghy with your latest Kaizen approach to the GE Microwave Division. As far as Houston goes Asik was apparently not being made available by the Bulls. Both Battier and Brooks were expiring contracts that would not net anything but financial flexibility in a year with a horrible class of free agents therefore they had to be moved. Houston’s assets which appeared to be on the up track last season, for the most part, tanked this season which limited their potential trade opportunities. Making the playoffs this year, which appears to be a long shot anyway, would be more running in place for a team that has been doing a little too much of that over the last couple of years. Like Shawn said, It’s hard for me to believe that you don’t like these moves considering he’s just stockpiling picks which lines up with your “How to build a winner” strategy. As far as Thabeet goes, it’s the price of doing business. Anything you get from him is just a plus. It works out for salary matching, you get a first rounder outa Memphis and he at the very least has the assets that the Rockets are seriously lacking right now, size and defense. Plus none of these moves cripples them cap wise either. Oh and SD I’m sure they’ll also try to add a couple of late round picks with cash this offseason too.

    • February 28

      Upon reflection, I see the move for the pick and the off chance that you get something from Hasheem. I just don’t think its a good poker move in the short term. I would have probably passed and tried to find a better partner or done nothing. I don’t think there’s any real chance of getting something from Thabeet (and I may just write a piece on that).

  8. Nithenz
    March 3

    Excelent read. Very good article. I would love to call the Hornets a borderline Kaisen, but watching them play lately is hurting my eyes, with or without Landry…

  9. Nithenz
    March 3


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