CARMELO is a fun toy. But he’s really chosen to put his finger on the scale in a major way.
Firstly, I’m not going to get up in arms about Hayward’s number — the model is clearly concerned about his injury. It felt Hayward was a borderline All-Star for its 5-year forecast entering this year, but missing a year with injury in his late 20s clearly gives Hayward a lot of unfavorable comparables. We can be more optimistic because we know that Hayward had a bone injury, which, while terrible, is less likely to recur and more likely to fully heal than ligament and tendon injuries, which are going to be the predominant source of lost seasons in the database.
That said, the way in which he’s put his finger on the scale is to use a different kind of projection, which he’s called his “upside projection”. This favors young players — and the younger and less experienced the better. CARMELO comes up with its projection by looking at past players and assigning a level for how much they correlate with players, and then weighting the future production of similar players by how more or less similar they are to the player being forecast. This is perfectly reasonable — it’s probabilistic, and will have it’s misses, but in the aggregate it’s sound data science. However, for his upside projection, used specially for this article, he excludes from the pool of similar players all those that had a zero or negative value. For an in-his-prime star like Kyrie, this means virtually no one is excluded. So we keep a lot of the players who ultimately had a worse performance than we expect Kyrie to have, and they bring down his average. Ball, of course, has a lot of players as comparables who had a negative value and were out of the league. Those players are excluded, meaning we’re seeing a weighted projection of only positive outcomes, and not all outcomes. As a #2 overall draft pick with good measurables, there will be a lot of stars and superstars in this group, including some of their top seasons. This is why Bam Adebayo is also at a similar tier to Kyrie.
I don’t know if Neil Paine, who’s normally quite good, didn’t think about the bias he was introducing into his calculations, or if the editors at ESPN said “write an article showing that the Lakers can make the best offer for Kawhi.” I’m disappointed, and he should have been a little more open with the fact that his methodology would clearly favor those with the least experience.