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Cooks, Muscala, and Gill: A three-for-one tumble in the Doppelgänger Machine

2023 NBA Summer League - Washington Wizards v San Antonio Spurs
Wizards player Xavier Cooks
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

We’ve been putting the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine to work over the past month, and today is it’s biggest test of the year. Can the fraying duct tape and shredding twine keep things held together while running the numbers on three (3) players who will potentially be on the roster for some of the 2023-24 season? Let’s find out.

Quick note: the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine factors age and an array of pace-neutral statistical categories like minutes played, usage, preferred shot types, offensive and defensive rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, fouls, scoring, and an overall measure of the player’s production relative to era.

Since I’m running three guys, I’m capping the comps at top five.

Xavier Cooks

Xavier Cooks joined the Wizards later than usual because he was busy in Australia’s NBL winning MVP and leading the Sydney Kings to a second championship in as many years. It was an odd acquisition because he was already 27 years old, and while he’s a very good basketball player in broad terms, that’s not quite the same as being a good NBA player. He has the game of an NBA center, but at 6-8 and 183 pounds, he’s built more like a wing or a big guard.

To the comps:

  1. Andrew DeClercq, 2000-01, Orlando Magic — DeClercq was a 6-10 backup center type who didn’t block shots or defend well. He got 10 seasons in the NBA, two or three of which were kinda decent.
  2. Jerome Moiso, 2003-04, Toronto Raptors — French big man, who somehow became the 11th overall pick in the draft. He played seldom and badly — 1,392 total career minutes spread over five seasons.
  3. Joel Kramer, 1980-81, Phoenix Suns — Throwback alert! Sometimes I think the Doppelgänger Machine just makes up players, but he was apparently a 6-7, 203 pound power forward and center. In the late 70s and early 80s. He was a third round pick in the 1978 draft (63rd overall), and he lasted five seasons. This comp year was his best.
  4. Cristiano Felicio, 2018-19, Chicago Bulls — Massive big man from Brazil, Felicio was below average for six seasons (all of them with the Bulls). His last season in the NBA was 2020-21.
  5. Kurt Rambis, 1987-88, Los Angeles Lakers — The white guy who wore Poindexter glasses while on the court for the Showtime Lakers. In the modern game, he’d almost certainly be a center, or he’d have to learn to shoot threes, or both. Basically an average PF for his era. Interestingly, I have his best season as 1989-90 when he went to the expansion Charlotte Hornets.

Other notable comps for Cooks: Derek Strong, 1995-96; James Singleton, 2005-06 (yes, that James Singleton, but this was a season with the Clippers); Trevor Booker, 2017-18 (with the Sixers); Edjuardo Najera, 2003-04. Interesting that the doppelgänger machine’s comps for Cooks are mostly from previous decades.

Anthony Gill

By all accounts, Anthony Gill is a mensch and an all-time elite teammate. Overseas, he shot well. In the NBA, his shooting drooped, and he seems reluctant to pull the trigger. He’s likely to be on the roster for a third season because he’s that good as a supportive teammate, leader, and quasi-assistant coach.

  1. Donald Royal, 1997-98, Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic — Royal was a decent rebounder who didn’t shoot threes or do any playmaking. He played a bunch of seasons but never cracked average.
  2. Damien Wilkins, 2010-11, Atlanta Hawks — Domonique’s nephew didn’t make it to the NBA until age 25, and he still played in 10 seasons — the last coming in 2017-18 after four seasons playing in China, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the D-League. Truth be told, he was more flash than substance — he kept getting chances, but he just wasn’t much good.
  3. Troy Murphy, 2010-11, Boston Celtics and New Jersey Nets — Murphy had some good years with the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers. This was the season he hurt his back and was never the same again.
  4. Chucky Brown, 1996-97, Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns — A second round pick in 1989, Brown played 13 seasons without much ability to shoot. I have him approaching average in one season — 1995-96, the year before the comp season.
  5. Tod Murphy, 1993-94, Detroit Pistons — A third round pick in 1986, Murphy had appearances in five NBA seasons. His second season (with Minnesota) was decent, but I’m guessing he suffered injuries that limited availability after that.

A few other comps for Gill that seem in the “about right” category: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Ben Poquette, Michael Curry, Major Jones, Larry Stewart.

Mike Muscala

A journeyman big who shoots well, and...that’s kinda it. Another good guy and good teammate, who’s liked by everyone who gets to work with him. Muscala was a second round pick in 2013 and has 10 seasons and five teams (not counting the Wizards yet) on the odometer. He’s been basically not bad for a backup center. At 31 last season, his production slipped in both Boston and Oklahoma City.

  1. Jonas Jerebko, 2017-18, Utah Jazz — Big guy, decent shooter, decent rebounder. Played eight seasons as a below average backup.
  2. Patrick Patterson, 2019-20, Los Angeles Clippers — The 14th overall pick in 2010, Patterson seemed to have potential to become a good player. When healthy, he was reasonably productive, but he missed huge chunks of multiple seasons with injuries. When he finally became reliably available, his performance sagged — perhaps because of the toll from all the injuries. He still played 11 seasons.
  3. Davis Bertans, 2021-22, Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards — Should I have included a trigger warning? Bertans was a terrific shooter who the Wizards acquired for basically nothing. He had the best season of his career (the only one that reached even average in my analysis) in 2019-20. Which happened to be at age 27. In a contract year. Washington gave him the contract, he didn’t put in the work during the COVID hiatus, and his production cratered.
  4. Rashard Lewis, 2012-13, Miami Heat — Lewis had been the prototypical stretch-four, and he likely would have thrived in the modern game. He was an outstanding player on some good teams. Naturally the Wizards got him in the expensive decline portion of his career. (He came aboard in the deal to dump Gilbert Arenas and move on from Gun Gate.)
  5. Kris Humphries, 2015-16, Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns — A pretty decent player who had a handful of good years in New Jersey and Boston. The Wizards got him after those seasons when his performance was dropping. One reason this season shows up as a comp for Muscala: after shooting 2-26 from three-point range over his first 11 NBA seasons, Humphries abruptly shot 23-67 in just 28 games with the Wizards that season. Who says Randy Wittman wasn’t an offensive innovator?