In this series, I’m taking a look at modern superstars and examining how their clubs’ wins and losses rose and fell over time with the presence and absence of their aces. As much as I love comparing and discussing players’ individual statistics and their advanced impact stats, the only reason I do so is to try to figure out which players affect their teams’ fortunes in the most significant and positive ways. What I’ve decided to do with It’s All About The W’s is stop looking too closely at superstars’ stats and start looking closely at their teams’ records with and without them in the lineups. Michael Jordan won 6 titles in the 90’s, but in the middle two seasons during his first retirement the Bulls never reached 57 wins (their least amount during his 6 title runs) or even the third round of the playoffs; that’s significant. Bill Russell won 11 titles in 13 seasons, yet the Celtics couldn’t make the playoffs the year before or after his career, plus he was injured during one of those two non-title playoffs; that’s significant.
I’ll be using that same logic to examine today’s stars and how their clubs improved (or didn’t) with their presence. The stats are great, but if they don’t correspond with more wins, then what’s their value? Obviously I’ll have to consider the sample size of games missed, injuries to fellow teammates, and the context of the games, so those facts will be noted and considered.
Without further ado, here’s It’s All About The W’s: Jason Kidd.
First Stint With Dallas (‘94-95 to ’96-97)
Kidd joined the monumentally terrible Mavericks after his sophomore season at Cal in 1994 as the second pick in the draft. In the two seasons before Kidd’s arrival as a 21-year-old rookie, Dallas won 13 and 11 games, going 24-140 (.146) overall. Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn were the scoring stars before JKidd showed up and while he was there, but it was Kidd’s multi-faceted game that carried the team out of the doldrums. He was the full-time PG his first season and immediately the team jumped to 36-46, their best showing in five years. Although Kidd only missed 4 games in his first 2.5 seasons in Dallas, not giving us much to judge how well the team did with and without him—but for the record they went 59-113 (.343) with him and 1-3 (.250) without—the fact that a) they sucked horrendously before his arrival and improved significantly with his presence, b) he was an All-Star as a 22-year-old and considered their best player by the time he left, and c) what happened to the Mavs after he was traded 22 games into his third season says a lot about his impact. The day after Christmas, 1996, Kidd was sent to Phoenix for Sam Cassell, Michael Finley, and A.C. Green. All three of those players became regular starters during the remainder of the season, but the Mavs went 16-44 (.267) without Kidd.
Kidd’s impact on W-L’s: Again, it’s tough to figure exactly what Kidd’s impact on Dallas’ W-L records was considering how few games he missed in his first go around in Texas, but the fact they were much more terrible before he arrived and after he was traded lets us take a good guess that it was significantly positive.
Phoenix Suns (’96-97 to ’00-01)
Kidd joined the Suns after the trade that netted Dallas three starters. He was injured in his first contest as a Sun, a team that was 8-19 (.296) before his arrival. Despite the Suns team being a bad one that made massive roster changes mid-season, Kidd had them purring smoothly by the time he was full force again in late-February. The club went 10-17 (.370) in his absence and during the first four games he eased himself back into playing shape after sitting for nearly two months, then they went on to go 22-7 (.759) with Kidd in the lineup at 100%.
The next four years in Phoenix went rather similarly. He didn’t miss any games in the next two seasons as the Suns went 83-49 (.629). Facing injuries and numerous personal issues in his last two years in the desert, Kidd missed 20 games, during which the club went 10-10 (.500), yet they were 94-50 (.653) with him. The talent around Kidd in Phoenix was bad, yet he almost singularly made a sub-.500 club into one that won two-thirds of its games with him in the lineup.
Kidd’s impact on W-L’s: As much as fans started to notice Kidd’s importance while he was on the Mavericks, Dallas was still a bad team that couldn’t win even with him in the lineup. His time in Phoenix made him a true superstar as people saw that a 19-23 (.452) club could go 200-109 (.647) with Kidd plugged in. It is clear that his impact as the team’s obvious best player was extremely significant to their success.
New Jersey Nets (’01-02 to ’07-08)
Kidd landed on a Nets’ squad that had finished 26-56 in ’00-01, chiefly due to a lot of injuries and a roster full of young, unproven talent that had cohesion problems. Kidd fixed those quickly. The Nets were immediately the newest hot young team everyone talked about as they went to the Finals in each of the next two seasons under his leadedership. In what would have been a first, Kidd nearly earned the “triple crown” for a Finals club in '01-02. During that season, his 14.7 ppg were just behind Kenyon Martin’s 14.9, his 7.3 rpg were just behind Keith Van Horn’s 7.5, and his 9.9 apg paced the team by quite a bit; he actually accomplished the feat for the club in the playoffs, leading them in scoring at 19.6 ppg, rebounding at 8.2 rpg, and assists at 9.1apg. Two years and another Finals appearance later, he only played 9 of the team’s final 22 games in '03-04 and went into the playoffs still gimpy. Despite that, they took the soon-to-be-Champion Pistons to Game Seven in Round Two. He missed the first 16 games of the next year with a knee injury, during which the team went 4-12, then 2-4 in his first six games back, but a very decent 36-24 the rest of the way. All in all, his impact on the Nets, a club whose talent never came close to matching Kidd’s, was huge. They went 292-214 (.577) with him in the lineup, even while returning from crippling injuries, and an abysmal 11-27 (.289) without.
Kidd’s impact on W-L’s: Obviously his impact was extremely significant to the highest magnitude. Look at how bad the team was before he arrived, how bad they were in his absence, and the fact they had no other All Stars in the two years they made it to the Finals (definitely not a coincidence their dominance of the East ended with Vince Carter’s arrival in ’04-05), and it’s clear Jason Kidd was doing some great things for that club before they took a dive in ’07-08, when he was traded again.
Second Stint With Dallas (’07-08 to ’10-11)
There isn’t a lot to go on here since a) he finally played on a club with a player who could reasonably be considered better than Kidd, b) the club was already good and stayed good, c) he was in his mid-30's playing the position that requires the most athleticism, and d) he only missed 5 games in his 3.5 seasons with Dallas. For the record, the Mavs have been 175-95 (.648) when he plays and 3-2 (.600) without him this time around. That means virtually nothing, but what he’s done to help them win the Championship this past June means a lot. He’s become a deadeye 3-point shooter for the club, hitting 39% since his arrival, plus his Assist-Turnover rate has remained fantastic with his new cast (8.8 to 2.4). Not only that, he’s still one of the top rebounding guards in the league, which is very important next to a jumpshooting PF like Dirk Nowitzki. Throw in his smart and versatile defense even as he approaches 40, and it’s hard to name any guards, not just point guards, who could have replaced Kidd on this Championship club and still allowed them from both a physical talent and team chemistry standpoint to win a title (Chris Paul…end of list).
Kidd’s impact on W-L’s: He’s not as important to his club’s success as he was in the past, but he continues to demonstrate how to control a game offensively without scoring. His defense has stayed great and pretty much no one could have filled his role on the Mavs’ championship team, so that means a lot. I’d say his impact has been very significant in this most recent stretch with the club.
Before being paired up with Dirk, Kidd has always been his club’s top player, and when you look at the crap he was walking into in most cases, it’s amazing his teams had any success before he joined Dallas in 2007, let alone a lot of it. He’s always played with clubs that were big-time losers without him in the lineup, yet he had teams winning well over half their games and advancing far in the playoffs as he carried very weak groups of talent. All that being considered, we’re probably talking about Kidd as a top-3 or 4 point guard all-time if he had played with a decent cast (or even an average one) and had more legitimate opportunities to win titles – he was that impactful.