Is Scully really worth that much?

For the second consecutive trade period, a former number one draft pick born in 1991 and originally selected by Melbourne has been traded interstate. Tom Scully, this year’s former Melbourne number one draft pick, has managed to find his way to his third club, for a lot less than his switch to GWS saw his old club receiving as compensation.

HPN may be one of the only sources who doesn’t think the trade involving GWS sending Tom Scully to Hawthorn is entirely unreasonable. We’ve got a couple of reasons for that assessment, so hear us out.

The first is that GWS clearly don’t want to be paying Scully any more, and salary cap share is the hidden currency of trade week. If a club is planning its list and needs to fit in higher profile players over its forward-year planning, it’s sometimes going to have to look to shift committed players off its books to fit them in. Many “unders” trades in future value terms are actually balanced out by this need. The GWS original crop of players hit free agency in 2019, and they’ve already been busy prioritizing who they lock in and who’s expendable over the last year or two. Scully, on a rumoured $500,000 a year until 2021, may mean that they can’t afford to keep another promising player – especially with his lengthy injury history.

This ties nicely into the second reason – that he will be 28 next year and has significant injury question marks hanging over his shorn skull. The sydesmosis ankle injury ruined his year, and he wasn’t able to make it back in the year after originally being reported as a three month setback. Scully had a late start to the season after having knee soreness during the offseason. Scully has had long lasting knee issues, including having bone removed from the knee cap as a junior.

That’s a lot of risk that Hawthorn is assuming – especially over a four year deal – although they were taking on the risk for at least three years. His lack of 2018 output builds a lot of uncertainty into his future projection, as is apparent here:

Ignore the “Pure Forward” position rating – as Scully got hurt very early in his only game last year, PAPLEY has extraordinarily little on which to discern his position. He will likely return to being a pure midfielder at Hawthorn, or perhaps used as a rebounding defender at a pinch.

This gap in his different seasons’ output points to the third reason to be a bit skeptical of Scully: he’s mostly been a literally average best 22 player. Scully had two really good years in 2016 and 2017, making the All Australian squads in both years. He was roughly GWS’ sixth most valuable best player in those years. Before that, he was a more anonymous best 22 footsoldier. Here’s his mPAV for each year so far (we’re excluding 2018 because he played roughly one quarter):

As a zero sum system, the average mPAV for each game is 0.00. The average mPAV for a player who plays at least one senior game varies slightly year by year, but is usually around -0.06 mPAV – because lots of below-average players play relatively few games. The “replacement level” player (the 23rd best player of a team) is usually around -0.13 mPAV. Since 2013, Scully has been above this mark, but he has seldom been a star. His best year prior to 2016 saw him max out at about 0.06 mPAV, inside the top 200 players in the league but probably not the top 150.

This is not a player you prioritise strongly to keep if he reverts to his pre-2016 form, considering the young options that GWS have at the club. The Giants have players such as Whitfield, Taranto, Shipley, Perryman and Bonar that can either fill that role, or a role enabling someone else to shift in, but as a younger player for less money. For Hawthorn, Scully probably slots in higher up the midfield pecking order (when fit) but GWS have bigger names to pay first.

The trade, using his current injury hampered future projection, looks like roughly around the mark on expected future value, reflecting GWS’ desire to shed Scully but also the actual risk about the future output he produces.The upside for GWS is they get a better handle on their future cap planning, and they probably don’t lose too much at the Scully role, given the younger options and the running power they’ve got already contributing. It’s also worth noting that GWS have five list spots open this year, and already five draft picks before the Hawks first “reasonable” trading option this year (pick 53). As Hawthorn likely need to keep 2018 and 2019 picks open to satisfy the Wingard (and any other) deal, the Gold Coast ontraded future fourth rounder likely represents the most valuable trade piece that Hawthorn can give GWS – perhaps to be used as academy matching points. A player probably was of no interest to GWS as well, given the likely financial considerations behind the deal.

For Hawthorn, they get a player who will be best 22 at the club if he rehabilitates successfully. It’s a gamble in terms of whatever salary they’ve committed, but the hit is pretty limited in terms of draft position.

Verdict: Fair trade.

Note: This post is part of a series of posts using a valuation method called Player Approximate Value (PAV) to evaluate trades for fairness and balance. Elsewhere, you can read much more about the method and theory behind PAV and also about PAPLEY, the projection method used to derive expected future PAVs. This method expresses both picks and players in terms of expected future value allowing them to be compared on this common basis.

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