Jeremy Lin could easily play the protagonist in any Moneyball-type feature movie made on the NBA.
As is general knowledge now in the sportsworld, the Oscar-nominated Moneyball became a movie based on a book written about how Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane went against industry-standard practice and put together a roster to replace superstar players by lumping together average players who could reasonably compile the same kind of production numbers.
His strategy tries to capture players who are peaking in a specific skill or area of the game that is undervalued by the market so that they may compliment each other’s abilities to form a competitive team with a much smaller payroll.
If Moneyball was made about the NBA now, the New Orleans Hornets would be first in line to try and take the place of the Oakland A’s.
Without any real owners, the NBA has taken ownership of the Hornets franchise and has tried to put a quality team on the floor each night. It is a huge challenge making this team competitive because of the payroll restraints and unpredictable prospects for a new ownership and location. The NBA can’t just sign any player and bring the team more notoriety because things are in such limbo.
Reaching the playoffs would be practically a miracle in the short-term future of the Hornets.
They have one marquee player in Emeka Okafor and a bunch of role players to play alongside of him. But, Moneyball theory holds that there is a way to get it done and perhaps help get the team to the playoffs by next season. Figuring out how to apply the theory is the tough part.
One team the Hornets could look to from the past is the Detroit Pistons of 2004. This was a team with no real superstars, yet they gelled and brought home the hardware. They did it with attitude and players knowing their roles. The chemistry came together because of planning by its architect, GM Joe Dumars, and the coaching of Larry Brown.
The players made it happen because the point guard, Chauncey Billups, the center Ben Wallace, power forward Rasheed Wallace, shooting guard Rip Hamilton, small forward Tayshaun Prince, and a solid bench were able to work together on a common goal to beat any other team with whichever superstars were playing against them. In the NBA Finals, the Pistons beat down the LA Lakers with Kobe and Shaq 4 games to 1.
During their run, Ben Wallace was at the peak of his career as a specialty defensive rebounder and shot-blocker. Billups was playing his best ever and revolutionizing his position with his size and ability as a driver, disher, and three-point specialist while winning the Finals MVP. Each of the other players was peaking as well in their respective positions.
Jeremy Lin would have been a great pick-up for any team. But, in regards to Moneyball, he is a steal.
Gary Neal, the shooting guard who hung around Europe and finally made it stable with the San Antonio Spurs is a perfect Moneyball catch.
Also, Steve Novak, the teammate of Lin’s for the New York Knicks, is another guy hanging around the League trying to get his big break as a Moneyball reserve.
Serge Ibaka from the OKC Thunder and Ian Mahinmi of the Dallas Mavericks as the big men would round out the Moneyball NBA starting five.
All together, this Moneyball starting five makes less than 5 million dollars this year for all of their salaries combined. Only Ibaka is making over one million dollars at $1.2 million.
There are many guys out there waiting for their roster spot on a Moneyball team. Perhaps they specialize in one skill more heavily than another or they don’t turn the ball over as much as some other superstar might.
According to the schedule makers in a typical season, fans get their chance to see all the NBA superstar players at least one time as the visitors. Seeing their team take on the superstars night in and night out and achieving a better than average win/loss record would inspire the public just as it did on the big screen and for the real-life A’s.
An overachieving payroll-strapped team is always going to be an underdog worth rooting for. Fans will always get behind them if they sniff there’s a chance for something special.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com