Tag Archives: Zach Lowe

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.

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Warriors vs. Spurs: Who’s Better?

Tonight, the Spurs and Warriors will meet for the first time this season, in Oracle Arena. Not only are these teams the two best in the NBA this season, they’re also two of the best in NBA history. In fact, here’s a list of every single team that has ever posted a point differential above plus-12 like the Spurs and Warriors have so far this season:

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So yeah, that’s ridiculous. Even better, the three other teams on that list all went on to win the championship. The problem is that the Spurs and Warriors can’t both win the championship. In fact, as both teams play in the Western Conference, only one team can even make it to the Finals. Accordingly, the Western Conference Finals (assuming both the Spurs and Warriors make it) will be the de facto NBA Finals, as the winner of that series will go on to the real NBA Finals to demolish whichever flawed team emerges from the East.

Tonight’s game is truly a clash of titans, one that is quite possibly the greatest regular season matchup in the history of the NBA.

In honor of tonight’s game, it’s time to figure out which team is better and should be considered the favorite to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.

Offense

The Warriors lead the NBA significantly in points per game. They score 114.7 points per game, 6.2 more than the second place Thunder. The gap between the Warriors and the Thunder is the same as the gap between the Thunder and the ninth place Pelicans. To illustrate this point, here’s a graph of the points per game totals among NBA teams:

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That star in the upper right hand corner is the Warriors. Look at how far they are away from everyone else. In fact, they’re 3.27 standard deviations above the mean, meaning that, assuming a normal distribution, one would expect an offense to score as many points per game as them .05% of the time. That’s about once every sixty-seven seasons. Wow.

However, that point total is skewed somewhat by Golden State’s pace. They play at the second fastest pace in the league, averaging 101.75 possessions per game, behind only Sacramento. Meanwhile, the Spurs play far slower, at the sixth slowest pace in the league, averaging 95.91 possessions per game. That’s a difference of nearly six possessions per game, allowing the Warriors to average more points than the Spurs.

If, instead of points per game, we use points per hundred possessions, the gap between the Warriors and the rest of the league shrinks significantly:

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Here, the Warriors still lead the pack at 112.7 points per hundred possessions, but the Thunder (second at 109.2) and the Spurs (third at 108.8) follow close behind them.

Although Golden State’s offense is clearly the best in the game, the San Antonio’s isn’t all that far behind.

Edge: Warriors

Defense

The Spurs, similarly to the Warriors on offense, lead the NBA in points allowed per game by a significant margin, allowing a stingy 89.8 points per game. In fact, San Antonio’s defense (the star in the lower left corner) is nearly as far away from the rest of the league as Golden State’s offense:

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Golden State, on the other hand, ranks a mere eighteenth in points allowed per game, giving up 102.6 points per contest.

However, in addition to offensive numbers being skewed by pace, defensive numbers are skewed too. After all, it’s a lot easier to give up fewer points when you don’t have to face as many shot attempts.

To combat this, like we did with offense, let’s use points per hundred possessions:

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This change actually doesn’t affect the Spurs at all; in fact, it might even increase the gap between them and the rest of the league. However, the Warriors vault from eighteenth all the way up to third, a sizable jump.

Similarly to offense, while San Antonio’s defense is clearly the best in the NBA, Golden State’s isn’t too far behind.

Edge: Spurs

Chemistry

Golden State leads the NBA in assist percentage, as 68.5% of its field goals are assisted. San Antonio isn’t far behind, sitting in sixth place with an assist percentage of 61.7%. In addition, the Warriors are the proud owners of six of the eleven games this season in which a team accumulated thirty-five or more assists.

There are plenty of stats that I can use to show how great the Warriors’ chemistry is, but they can’t compete with the Spurs. No one can. A couple of years ago, San Antonio had this video made about them:

Sure, plenty of other teams pass, but have any of them had videos like this one made about them? I actually looked; there are none.

If you want something more recent, here are the Spurs earlier this season, destroying the Timberwolves:

I mean, just look at how disconsolate the Timberwolves are after the Spurs finally decided to score:

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That’s what the Spurs’ passing can do to a team.

Last of all, and best of all, who can forget the famous Spursgasm from a couple of years ago?

Good lord.

Big Edge: Spurs

Coaching

This might be the tightest category yet. Steve Kerr took over a Warriors team and, with largely the same roster, turned a 51-31 sixth seed into a 67-15 juggernaut. This season, with Kerr sidelined, Luke Walton has led the Warriors to a 39-4 start.

The Spurs have Gregg Popovich, the best coach in the league hands-down, and one of the best coaches of all-time.

No matter how good Kerr and Walton have been while helming Golden State, no one can equal Pop, but at least they’ve been able to come close.

Slight Edge: Spurs

Star Power

You’d think that this category would be an easy Warriors victory, but it’s a lot closer than you’d think. Each team has a superduperstar, Stephen Curry for the Warriors and Kawhi Leonard for the Spurs. Each team has a superstar, Draymond Green for the Warriors and LaMarcus Aldridge for the Spurs. The intrigue comes in the various supporting players.

San Antonio has so many good, solid players, from Tony Parker to Manu Ginobili to Tim Duncan to Boris Diaw to Danny Green. Even players buried a little deeper on the bench are still capable, like David West and Patty Mills.

On the other hand, Golden State has a far top-heavier rotation. Andrew Bogut is a solid center, Shaun Livingston is a good back-up point guard, and Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala are very good small forwards. Deeper on the bench are players such as Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, and Marreese Speights, three players who are all decent, if unspectacular.

In the end, the Spurs’ superior depth doesn’t matter as the Warriors have a third star in Klay Thompson, giving Golden State the advantage in the final category.

Edge: Warriors

Verdict

No matter which team is better, the Warriors should be expected to win tonight due to their immense home court advantage, but, in the end, by the tiniest of margins, the Spurs are the superior team.

Final Edge: Spurs