Late Season Kaizen Report

Posted on 02/26/2011 by


“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?

Posted in: Uncategorized