The John Bryant Error

Some of my readers may remember that I once wrote about the Ryan Anderson Fallacy, which refers to the phenomonon whereby a fan/coach/gm/journalist/etc erroneously refers to a very good contract as being a bad or bloated or even "big" contract (by contrast, the Brook Lopez Fallacy is when someone refers to a terrible contract as a "fair" one).

Today I would like to introduce a similar concept: It's the John Bryant Error™. The John Bryant Error™ is when a team chooses to give a roster spot to a washed-up veteran who will never win (or lose) an NBA game instead of using that spot to take a flyer on an undrafted player or 2nd round pick, who may have the potential to develop into an underpaid rotation player or even a star. It is named after John Bryant, who's never played a minute in the NBA.

Who the **** is John Bryant?

John Bryant was a 4-year player at Santa Clara university. He's 6'11" tall. He currently plays in the German Bundesliga, and he's won lots of awards in that league. Here's a look at the top rebounders in the NCAA during Bryant's senior year:

1 504 Blake Griffin So 6-10 251 35 Oklahoma
2 468 Kenneth Faried So 6-8 215 36 Morehead State
3 467 John Bryant Sr 6-10 305 33 Santa Clara
4 432 DeJuan Blair So 6-7 265 35 Pittsburgh
5 401 Luke Harangody Jr 6-8 255 34 Notre Dame
6 391 Jon Brockman Sr 6-7 255 34 Washington
7 388 Hasheem Thabeet Jr 7-3 263 36 Connecticut
8 387 Cole Aldrich So 6-11 245 35 Kansas
9 378 Ahmad Nivins Sr 6-9 242 32 St. Joseph's (PA)
10 376 Diamon Simpson Sr 6-7 240 35 Saint Mary's

If you sort by RP40, Bryant goes to the top, in a virtual tie with DeJuanBlair, with 18.3 RP40, which is a full rebound per 40 minutes ahead of Faried. That is a spectacularly good rebound rate. It's frankly amazing. For reference, Kevin Love, who's pretty good at this kind of thing, averaged 14.4 RP40 in his season at UCLA. Here are two interesting facts about rebounding:

  • rebounding in college correlates highly and positively with rebounding in the pros -- if you are good at it in college, you will likely be good at it in the pros
  • rebounding is an essential skill to being a productive big man in the NBA.

Note that these facts are likely not lost on NBA GMs; after all, Bryant and Simpson are the only two players on this list that have never been drafted, and Simpson's undrafted status is likely related to the fact that he is only 6'7".

So Bryant, who is both tall and good at rebounding (a rare and valuable combination), was not drafted. While I am sure that his weight played a part in this, one suspects that the real reason is that he played for a little-known school in a weak conference. As players like Kenneth Faried have proven, the adjustment that GMs tend to make when evaluating players from weak conferences is far too big (i.e. they downgrade their evaluations far too much). It's very likely that Bryant would have grabbed a similar number of rebounds if he'd played in the Big Ten or the ACC or some other tougher conference. Even if you were to cut his rebounds by some ridiculous number like 25%, he'd still be an above-average rebounder. And once again, the fact that rebounding translates well from the NCAA to the NBA (a huge talent gap) would seem to indicate that rebounding would translate well when moving from a weaker NCAA division to a tougher one. In other words, the difference in competition between the NCAA and the NBA is probably much bigger than the difference between the WCC and the ACC, yet rebounding still seems to carry over well.

Frankly, it's criminal that no NBA team thought that Bryant was worth the league minimum in 2009-10 (or any year since). It's laughable that teams continue to sign washed up veteran big men such as Juwan Howard, Jermain O'Neal, or Jason Collins, using roster spots on players that will never be the difference in an NBA game because a) they're terrible so they won't win any games and b) they won't get enough minutes to lose a game either.

So today, when I read that the Dallas Mavericks claimed Eddy Curry off waivers, my first thought was "Really!?". Sure, they're going to release West. Yes, they may as well fill that 15th roster spot. But we all know that Curry isn't going to play more than 5 minutes every once in a while. Why wouldn't the Mavs just use that roster spot on some D-League all-star, or an undrafted player who could turn out to be the next Greg Stiemsma? And then I remembered John Bryant. For ****'s sake, somebody give John Bryant a whirl.

From now on, whenever a team signs a corpse like Eddy Curry, try to work it into a conversation with your sports buddies that they are commiting the infamous John Bryant Error™.

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