Tag Archives: NBA

Trade Grade: Morris to Washington

Yesterday, news broke that Phoenix had traded Markieff Morris to Washington for Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, and a top-9 protected 2016 first round pick.

Phoenix Suns

Morris had to go. After his twin, Marcus, was traded to the Pistons before the season, Markieff turned into a malcontent. Just last week, he and Archie Goodwin got into a fight on Phoenix’s bench during a game against the Warriors:

Well, actually, that’s not quite accurate. Morris was already awful with regards to discipline. Last season, even with his brother on the team, he was second in the NBA with fifteen technical fouls. He had so many that some YouTuber was inspired to make this video:

For obvious reasons, that’s not the sort of player that the Suns, or really any NBA team, would want to have in their locker room. However, Morris is a solid stretch four, the kind of player than any team would be happy to have on their team. That duality, of both being a desirable player and an undesirable locker room presence, is a big factor in the confusion over Morris’ value around the league.

Nabbing a first round pick for Morris is great. They get rid of a locker-room cancer who, at twenty-six years old, is unlikely to become much more than he currently is. Kudos to Ryan McDonough for a very good trade.

Grade: A-

Washington Wizards

It’s a big commitment to take on Morris, who, as we just discussed, isn’t exactly a positive locker room influence. Morris is under contract for three more seasons after this one, so if he turns out to be a mistake, the Wizards will have a hard time extricating themselves from him.

However, those three years are part of what makes Morris so valuable. He’s signed through his age-29 season at a dirt-cheap contract that averages $8 million per season. Yeah, that’s a lot of money, but under the rising cap, $8 million for a solid starter is nothing.

The Wizards are gambling that Morris manages to put his immaturity behind him so that his talent can shine through unhindered. However, it remains to be seen if he’s capable of doing so.

Morris could potentially be a useful player for the Wizards, but he’s risky and at the price of a first round pick, it’s not a risk I would have taken. This trade will turn out poorly if Morris bombs in Washington, but if he can turn his career around, this trade could very well lead to a…

Grade: C+

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Trade Grade: Motiejunas to Detroit

Earlier today, news broke that Houston had traded Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to Detroit for Joel Anthony and a top-8 protected 2016 first round pick. Houston then sent Anthony along with Denver’s 2017 second round pick to Philadelphia for the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons should have just stopped while they were ahead. After ripping Orlando off in Tuesday’s trade for Tobias Harris, Detroit had long-term starters at all five positions and adding in Motiejunas only creates a logjam in the frontcourt.

Furthermore, Motiejunas is coming off a serious back injury and is a restricted free agent after this season. At that point, after only two months of playing for them, the Pistons will have to decide whether or not to shell out a significant amount of cash to keep Motiejunas around for years to come.

It’s not like Motiejunas is a bad player. The seven-footer is capable of shooting threes, having shot nearly 37% from downtown last season on 1.9 attempts per game. He’s a useful player to have around as he provides flexibility as a stretch big man.

The problem isn’t Motiejunas; it’s the price the Pistons had to pay for him (and also Thornton, who was a throw-in, even though he had some nice moments early in the season).

That first rounder would have been another cheap player to add to their core, but instead, they’ll likely be forced to pay a ton of money to keep Motiejunas in restricted free agency after the season.

It wasn’t an awful idea for Detroit to acquire someone like Motiejunas, but there were certainly cheaper ways to do so.

Grade: C-

Philadelphia 76ers

Sam Hinkie has done it again. Hinkie managed to insert himself into yet another trade, allowing him to acquire his one-hundredth second round pick, an important milestone for him.

Maduabum isn’t an NBA prospect, so the trade is really just Philadelphia taking on Anthony’s salary in return for that second round pick. Even better, the Sixers save about $1.5 million because they’re now over the salary floor thanks to Anthony.

The best thing of all is that Anthony’s $2.5 million salary in 2016-17 is fully unguaranteed, giving Hinkie flexibility that will allow him to make advantageous trades in the offseason.

This deal isn’t important enough to warrant effusive praise for Philadelphia, but it did a good job in using its excess cap space to scoop up extra assets.

Grade: A

Houston Rockets

This trade was a coup from Daryl Morey. He managed to turn a couple of unused players he was unwilling to pay into a first round pick. Sure, it’s not going to be a high pick, but even a pick in the teens is plenty valuable, especially since the draftee will be on a dirt cheap rookie contract.

The Rockets also managed to escape paying the luxury tax by giving the Sixers a second rounder, saving them millions of dollars.

Foisting a couple of unwanted players onto Detroit and receiving a first round pick and millions of dollars in savings in return is a job well done by Houston.

Grade: A+

The Blockbuster Trade That Needs to Happen

As fans, blockbusters are fun to think about. It’s great to imagine stars flying around willy-nilly, the landscape of the league changing every other minute.

The problem with blockbusters is that they almost never occur. The reason why blockbusters so rarely happen can be easily explained by Newton’s first law: An object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (thanks 8th grade science!). GMs are unwilling to gamble their jobs on one big move, so rather than taking a chance, they’re content to just sit back and do nothing.

There are a couple of stars rumored to be available: Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard. However, it’s unlikely that a team overcomes its inertia to pull off a blockbuster trade for either of them, because Doc Rivers’ asking price for Griffin is sky-high and teams have little interest in trading for Howard, who’s on an expiring contract, is declining, has dealt with nagging injuries, and will expect a max contract in free agency, one that starts at $30 million per season. In addition, the team that has the most assets available in a trade and is looking for a star, the Celtics, “have recoiled at paying a price Houston would find acceptable,” according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Speaking of those Celtics, although they won’t be going after Howard, there are still plenty of other options. And that’s the impetus for the blockbuster trade that absolutely needs to happen:

New York trades Carmelo Anthony to Cleveland 

Cleveland trades Kevin Love to Boston

Boston trades David Lee, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, James Young, unprotected Brooklyn 2016 1st round pick, top-7 protected Dallas 2016 first round pick to New York

I absolutely love this trade. It works for every single team involved.

As we were just saying, the Celtics are in the hunt for a star, and Danny Ainge has long been an admirer of Love’s game. The two make a perfect fit.

Personally, I’m not so high on Love, as to me, he’s just a more famous version of Olynyk, but if Ainge wants him, this is a reasonable price to pay. Even better, unlike Howard, Love is signed long-term; he won’t reach free agency until 2020.

Losing five good young players will hurt, but as we discussed a few days ago, the Celtics might have too many good players (if that’s possible) and are therefore unable to play them all. The same logic in trading three good players for a very good player like Al Horford applies here as well.

This trade would make Anthony happy. Melo said last Friday: “I think everybody always kind of dreams and hopes that they can play with another great player, another star player,” adding “It’s a star players’ league. I think that’s what we all talk about every time we get together.”

We can infer from that quote that Anthony is hoping to play with a star and doesn’t want to wait for Kristaps Porzingis to blossom into one. And what better a way to do it than to join his friend LeBron in Cleveland for a title run?

Every couple of years, we see Melo on Team USA, enjoying himself, just swishing three-pointers whenever someone passes to him. On the Knicks, he can’t be a complimentary player; on the Cavaliers, he can. Even better, if Tyronn Lue decided to stagger his three stars’ minutes, two of LeBron James, Melo, and Kyrie Irving would be out on the floor at the same time. All three of those guys can create shots for themselves and others, meaning that Cleveland’s offense wouldn’t miss a beat when LeBron takes a breather.

Speaking of LeBron, this trade would make him happy too. James has historically wanted to play with his friends, and Melo would make basketball sense for the Cavs as well.

Love is shooting 36.8% from three-point range, while Anthony is shooting 32.7%. However, Anthony is attempting far more challenging shots than Love; 61% of his three point attempts have come on catch-and-shoots, compared to 91% of Love’s. As you can see, unlike Love, Anthony is capable of creating his own shot. And, as more of a complimentary player, Anthony will be playing off the ball more, leading to more catch-and-shoot attempts. That’ll raise his 3FG% much closer to Love’s.

Defensively, Anthony is far superior to Love. A good way to measure defensive prowess is by defensive field goal percentage. Comparing the player’s defensive FG% to the usual FG% of the player being defended allows us to find out how the defender is playing when compared to an average defender. To illustrate this point, holding Stephen Curry to 45% shooting is considered a success, while allowing Lance Stephenson to shoot 45%, well, isn’t.

Anyways, in this regard, Anthony is a big winner. He ranks sixth in the NBA among the players who have played in at least forty games, holding his opponents to a FG% 6.3 percentage points lower than their norm, while Love ranks 229th out of the 250 players, with a mark of +4.3.

As we can see, Anthony is a clear upgrade over Love. Naturally, that leads to the question: Why wouldn’t the Celtics just trade for Melo instead? Well, Anthony has a no-trade clause, and although he’ll likely waive it if he’s sent to Cleveland to play with LeBron, he’s unlikely to allow the Knicks to trade him to Boston. On top of that, Love is 27, four years younger than the 31-year old Melo, which makes him a better fit for the up-and-coming Celtics team.

Now that we’ve established why both the Cavaliers and the Celtics would make this trade, it’s time to figure out why the Knicks would too.

Well, it’s really not that hard to figure out. Anthony is nearly twelve years older than Porzingis, and by the time the latter enters his prime, the former will be way past his. Accordingly, the Knicks would be wise to build around Porzingis and this trade would allow them to do so.

Porzingis is 20, Rozier is 21, Olynyk is 24, and Young is 20. The two 2016 first rounders will be similarly aged. Add in the 23-year old Jerian Grant and the 24-year old Langston Galloway, and that’s the start of a damn good roster.

The Knicks will also have control of all of those players for years to come, allowing them to develop chemistry through continuity.

The last guy New York would acquire is Lee. He’s an unimportant part of this deal, as he’s on an expiring contract and would be included just to make the salaries work.

Again, I’m doubtful that this blockbuster will ever occur, but if ever there were a time for NBA teams to overcome their inertia to actually make a trade, this is definitely the trade with which to do it.

Trade Grade: Harris to Detroit

Earlier today, news broke that Orlando had traded Tobias Harris to Detroit in exchange for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova.

Detroit Pistons

This trade immediately turns the Pistons into long-term Eastern Conference contenders. No, they’re nowhere near even an NBA Finals run, but this trade gives them a great shot at a playoff series victory or two if they can vault up past the eighth seed to avoid Cleveland in the first round.

It’s not like what happens this season matters that much. If Detroit wins a playoff series, great! If it wins two, even better! The best thing about this trade is that it’s not some insane win-now move for a team that won’t win anything; it’ll help the Pistons a ton in the future.

Ilyasova and Jennings, 28 and 26 respectively, are veterans. Ilyasova is signed for the rest of this year and has an unguaranteed salary in 2016-17 while Jennings is on an expiring contract. Neither of those two guys will be around for very long.

Harris, on the other hand, is in the first season of a four year, sixty-four million dollar contract. It seems like a lot of money, and it is, but thanks to the rapidly rising salary cap, sixteen million dollars a year isn’t much to spend on a player like Harris.

Best of all, Harris is 23 years old. The other players worth keeping the Pistons have are all at similar ages: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is 22, Stanley Johnson is 19, Andre Drummond is 22, and at 25, Reggie Jackson is the elder statesman of the bunch. Together, these five players form a rapidly improving core and will be in their primes at roughly the same time.

Harris is a tweener, and toggles between each forward position. When he plays power forward, the other four members of the core are able to play as well; when he plays small forward, Marcus Morris can play at the four. Either way, there should be plenty of minutes freed up for him, especially with Ilyasova’s 27.6 minutes at power forward now gone.

Detroit has acquired a 23-year old player who’s already a solid starter and is locked into a cap-friendly deal for the next three seasons. All it had to give up to get him were a couple of veterans who didn’t fit the team’s timeline for contention. Overall, this was a coup for the Pistons.

Grade: A

Orlando Magic

It’s tough to see what Rob Hennigan was thinking here.

As we discussed above, Ilyasova and Jennings are veterans without upside and with no guaranteed money beyond this season. Harris, on the other hand, is a twenty-three year old oozing with upside, and is signed for three more seasons.

Remember what we said earlier about Harris fitting in with Detroit’s core age-wise? Yeah, he fits even better with Orlando’s: Victor Oladipo is 23, Elfrid Payton turns 22 next week, Mario Hezonja is 20, Evan Fournier is 23, Nikola Vucevic is 25, and Aaron Gordon is 20.

Harris could have grown and matured alongside a core that is under Orlando’s control for at least another season and a half. In the NBA, continuity is priceless, as we’ve seen with elite teams like the Warriors and Spurs. In the present day climate, with increasingly short contracts, continuity is elusive, and the Magic, for some strange reason, decided to give up a big part of theirs.

And what did they give him up for? Almost nothing! At best, Jennings and Ilyasova are “veteran mentors” who can “show the youngsters how to win”. The only problem with that explanation is that Jennings and Ilyasova have been on winning teams only once apiece, on the 2009-10 Bucks team that won a grand total of forty-six games.

Speaking of that team, interestingly enough, it was coached by none other than Scott Skiles, who also happens to currently coach the Magic.

Anyways, if Ilyasova and Jennings aren’t particularly good, and if they don’t have much experience winning, and if they won’t be around long-term, then why in the world would Orlando trade for them?

This deal seems a lot like a win-now move, except that Orlando is worsening its future while worsening its current team too. One other problem with this win-now move? The Magic currently sit in eleventh place in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 23-29. To make the playoffs, they’d have to vault over three teams, including the Pistons, just to get the eighth seed, where they’ll promptly be slaughtered by Cleveland in the first round.

The single possible benefit for the Magic in this trade is acquiring Ilyasova’s unguaranteed contract for 2016-17. In the offseason, they’ll be able to trade Ilyasova to a cap-starved team and pick up an asset for their help as a cap-declogger. However, the asset that they receive in return for Ilyasova is unlikely to be anywhere near as valuable as Harris is.

Again, there’s little upside to this deal, and a ton of downside. The Magic aren’t winning now, but this trade hurts their chances at winning in the future.

Unless there’s something about Harris that the public doesn’t know, this trade was a grave mistake for the Magic.

Grade: D

Should Boston Trade for Horford?

Lately, rumors have been rampant that the Hawks intend to blow up their team. I don’t really understand why they would, as they’re currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and eighth in the NBA in point differential at +2.7.

Yeah, three of their five starters are hitting free agency this offseason, and yeah, they don’t have a chance at winning the championship, but as of right now, they’re locks to win between six and ten playoff games.

Perhaps the Hawks are done settling for mediocrity and have decided that they either want a really good team or a really bad team. It makes sense, but it’s too bad that the NBA’s rules make being a run-of-the-mill good team something undesirable.

Anyways, what’s more interesting is that the Celtics have been rumored to be interested in trading for Al Horford. Does it make sense for them to do so?

Horford isn’t a superstar, but he’s definitely an elite player, and besides, unlike many players, his skill set allows him to fit into almost any team. Horford is something of a stretch-center, in that he’s capable of defending centers while being able to shoot threes on offense.

Naturally, that malleability is appealing to the Celtics, but what would they have to give up to get him?

Despite reports of Atlanta’s asking price for Horford being “borderline ridiculous,” as the trade deadline nears, it will likely drop to more reasonable levels. For Boston, that’ll mean an offer along the lines of the Dallas top-7 protected first rounder and a couple of rotation players.

Giving up two rotation players, such as Jonas Jerebko and Jared Sullinger, along with the Dallas pick will hurt, but a three-for-one will benefit the Celtics in another way. With all their picks and their current roster, the Celtics will soon have so many good players that they won’t be able to play them all. In fact, that’s a problem they face now, as solid players such as Jerebko and David Lee play less than sixteen minutes a game.

Trading for Horford means trading away three solid players for one very good one. For many teams, that wouldn’t be a good idea, but for the Celtics, it’s another bonus to the deal.

Some may say that it makes no sense for Boston to trade for Horford because it’s foolish to go all-in when they don’t have a chance at the championship. However, would it really be all-in?

If the deal we discussed earlier comes to fruition, the Celtics won’t come close to being “all-in”. They’ll keep their best long-term asset in the unprotected Nets first rounder, and their core of Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder will remain untouched.

The main roadblock to a Horford-to-Boston trade is Horford’s impending free agency. Still, that’s not a deal-breaker. The Celtics may trade for Horford anyways if they’re confident in that their team and culture will appeal to him and entice him to resign. Alternatively, similarly to the Goran Dragic trade last season, the Celtics can extract an unspoken promise from Horford that he’ll return in free agency.

Overall, it would make sense for Boston to trade for Horford, assuming that they don’t have to give up the Nets pick or part of their core, and if they know they’ll be able to keep him long-term. Otherwise, it’s too high a price to pay for three months of a very good center and a better shot at a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

 

A Critical Review of ESPN’s Virtual Three-Point Line

Just before January 30th’s Cavs-Spurs game, Heather Cox, an ESPN sideline reporter, had an exciting announcement: ESPN would now be using a “new technology”, a virtual three-point line.

Cox later mentioned that the supposedly “new technology” was based off of the 1st and 10 technology in football, a blatant contradiction.

Anyways, Cox explained that the virtual-three point line would light up after every three-point attempt and remain lit up until the next possession if the shot was made.

To further explain this innovative technology, here’s a GIF so you can see it in action:

ESPN Virtual-Three Point Line GIF

This “cool technology” (as Cox put it) is such low-hanging fruit that I almost feel guilty for making fun of it. Almost.

I’ve gotta wonder whose brainchild this one was. Perhaps some random executive’s seven-year old kid pressed a few random buttons during “take-your-child-to-work day”; after all, what other explanation could there be?

Perhaps I’m judging a little hastily. Maybe I’m wrong about this technology. Let’s talk about why it’s useful.

One of the best things about it is that it caters directly to one specific subset of the population: the people who can’t see a player taking a jump shot but who can see a red line lighting up right next to the shooter. That demographic is obviously a huge part of the sports-watching population and ESPN did well to creatively cater to its needs.

Another demographic that this technology helps is the one consisting of people who can’t see the basketball going through the net or hear the announcers telling the audience what just occurred but who somehow are able to see the three-point line up. Yet another wise business decision by ESPN.

For those of us who don’t belong to either of those groups, this technology is still useful. After a three-pointer, the line lights up for a few seconds. In the meantime, many teams try to get fast-break points against opponents who have fallen asleep. They’ll quickly inbound the ball and push up the floor as fast as possible. For much of the time the three-point line is lit up, the viewer can’t see it as action occurs on the other side of the court. I, for one, still think that the technology is useful because, somehow, I find it reassuring to know that the three-point line is lit up, even though I can’t see it.

I know that this technology is based off of the 1st-and-10 technology, but I wonder how ESPN implements it during the game. My best guess: Some poor intern at a computer has to press control-b every time a three-pointer is attempted.

Cox added at the end of her explanation: “I certainly hope you enjoy this new toy as much as we do.” Yeah, Heather, I’m definitely enjoying this “new toy”, but probably not for the reasons you intended.

Is Thompson the Best Catch-and-Shooter in the NBA?

Just over a week ago, on NBA Countdown, Jalen Rose was discussing the upcoming game between the Warriors and Bulls. While doing so, he asserted that Klay Thompson is the best catch-and-shooter in the NBA. Is he right?

Before we can answer that question, first we need to determine exactly what a catch-and-shooter is.

The NBA defines a catch-and-shoot attempt as “any jump shot outside of ten feet where a player possessed the ball for two seconds or less and took no dribbles”. That’s a reasonable definition. To ensure that only real catch-and-shooters showed up in the rankings, I tweaked the requirements; this list is limited to players who play at least twenty-four minutes a game while attempting at least three threes per game. This leaves us with fifty-eight players in the NBA who qualify as true catch-and-shooters.

How does Thompson rank under those parameters?

The answer? Very well, but not the best.

He’s eleventh in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) with 61.4%. He’s behind superstars such as Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and Kawhi Leonard, well-known three-point specialists including J.J. Redick, Khris Middleton, and J.R. Smith, and guys who you wouldn’t expect to be there like Jerryd Bayless and Patrick Beverley.

Thompson is tenth in catch-and-shoot three point percentage, again behind Curry, Leonard, and others. Again, he’s in the top fifth of the league, but he’s not quite the best.

However, Thompson is able to maintain his efficiency over far more three-point attempts than others. He leads the league with 6.3 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, 0.9 more than his closest competitor, Wesley Matthews. Matthews is closer to ninth place Curry than he is to first, showing how efficient Thompson is.

Similarly, Thompson leads the league in catch-and-shoot three-pointers made per game, with 2.8. This time, second place Curry is closer to eleventh place than he is to first.

Although we can’t say that Thompson is the most efficient catch-and-shooter in the NBA, his ability to maintain a relatively high level of efficiency over so many attempts speaks to his immense proficiency at catch-and-shooting.

In the end, while it’s not cut-and-dried, it’s a reasonable assertion to make that Klay Thompson is the best catch-and-shooter in the NBA.