A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The NBA Trade Value Power Rankings – February 2011

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A couple months ago, I wrote this column hypothesizing in short that NBA teams could best have their positions in the league going forward evaluated by total trade value. Trade value encompasses all types of players and assets, just as an entrepreneur’s net worth encompasses alternate types of companies. Because types of assets are tradeable or one another if equally valued, it is the value that matters. The teams with the most net value will always be in the strongest position, as if they have the most money in their bank.

Now is a good time to rank the 30 teams in the league. For one, I plan to update the list once every 6 months – one mid-season in February and one mid-offseason in July after the draft is ideal. The former is after players have made their changes to the list, the latter after GMs have.

Secondly, the trade deadline is this week. Trade value is on the mind.

Thirdly, last week Bill Simmons published his annual “Top 50 trade value” column here ranking the top 50 players in their league by their trade value. Simmons is not science, but it’s a nice visual grounding for this list and greatly helped me sort it out. When listing players, I thus put a “BS:” parenthesis to show if they are ranked on Simmons’ list.

The noteable assets for teams are listed through positive assets, negative assets, and draft picks in 2011 and 2012, often among the most valuable trade assets.

Without further ado, the first Trade Value Power Rankings as of February 2011:

1.       Miami Heat

Noteable assets: SF Lebron James (BS: #1), SG Dwyane Wade (BS: #7), PF Chris Bosh (BS: #30), 2011 Mia 1st owed (negative), 2012 Mia 1st owed (negative)

Let’s face it, nobody touches the Heat on this list. Lebron alone has more trade value than the majority of teams, add Wade and Bosh and the Heat have a top 3 in trade value not seen since Magic, Kareem and Worthy or Bird, McHale and Parish in the 80s.

2.      Oklahoma City Thunder

Noteable assets: SF Kevin Durant (BS: #3), PG Russell Westbrook (BS: #12), PF Serge Ibaka (BS: #37), SF Jeff Green, SG James Harden, C Cole Aldrich, PG Eric Maynor, SG Thabo Sefolosha, 2011 OKC 1st, 2012 OKC 1st, 2012 LA Clippers 1st

The Thunder’s strength is in two areas. First, the combination of Durant and Westbrook give OKC a top 2 in trade value unmatched by anyone but the Heat. Secondly, they are loaded with complimentary young assets. Not only are these players good long term supporting cast options, but can act as a trade bank to help the Thunder trade for better players to step up to contention, if they wish. The Thunder are a suitable #1, it’s only a testament to the Heat’s trade value strength they are just 2nd.

3.       Chicago Bulls

Noteable assets: PG Derrick Rose (BS: #4), C Joakim Noah (BS: #21), PF Carlos Boozer (BS: #29), SF Luol Deng, PF Taj Gibson, 2011 Chi 1st, 2012 Chi 1st

The Bulls have an MVP frontrunner in Rose who’s still on his rookie contract, as well as two all-star bigs in Noah and Boozer. Deng and Gibson have value as defensive glue players. A lack of complimentary chips and more salary commitment holds the Bulls from the Thunder, but nevertheless Chicago is set for years.

4.       Los Angeles Lakers

Noteable assets: SG Kobe Bryant (BS: #6), PF Pau Gasol (BS: #9), PF Lamar Odom (BS: #31), C Andrew Bynum (BS: #38), SF Ron Artest (negative), 2011 LA 1st owed (negative), 2012 LA 1st

Despite their older age, the Lakers incredible talent level gets them this high. Bryant’s MVP caliber play holds value, as does Gasol with years as a perenniel all-star left, and Odom as a borderline all-star on a great contract. Simmons’ ranking for Bynum seems too high with his injury history but nevertheless his upside has value. By his rankings alone the Lakers appear more potent than the Bulls – but I believe the difference between Rose and Kobe’s value is much larger than 2 numerical spots indicates and #6 is questionably high for Kobe in the first place.

5.       Los Angeles Clippers

Noteable assets: PF Blake Griffin (BS: #5), SG Eric Gordon (BS: #27), C Deandre Jordan (BS: Honorable Mention/HM), PG Eric Bledsoe, SF Al-Farouq Aminu, C Chris Kaman, 2011 LAC 1st, 2012 Min 1st, 2012 LAC 1st owed (negative), PG Baron Davis (negative)

The most tortured franchise in sports history in the top 5? Yessir. Griffin is an MVP talent, add Gordon who is an all-star caliber guard and they have an impressive top 2. Beside them the Clips have value chips in Jordan, Bledsoe, Aminu, the LAC 2011 1st and finally perhaps most importantly – Minnesota’s 2012 unprotected pick. In all, the Clippers start to look like an embryonic Oklahoma City and a deserving 5th by trade value.

6.       Boston Celtics

Noteable assets: PG Rajon Rondo (BS: #13), SF Paul Pierce (#17), PF Kevin Garnett (#28), C Kendrick Perkins (BS: HM), SG Ray Allen, C Shaquille O’Neal, 2011 Bos 1st, 2012 Bos 1st

Boston doesn’t have a top 10 ranked player, but make it for it with excellent quantity. Rondo is a young perenniel all-star on an incredible contract, whereas Pierce, Garnett, Allen are championship caliber all-stars who combine for immense value despite their age. Perkins’ value as a defensive center is also solid. The Celtics will fall down this list within a few years, but for now they hold strong.

7.       San Antonio Spurs

Noteable assets: PF Tim Duncan (BS: #18), SG Manu Ginobili (BS: #19), G Tony Parker (BS: #32) PF Dejaun Blair (BS: #50), SF Richard Jefferson, SG Gary Neal, 2011 SAS 1st, 2012 SAS 1st

Similar to the LA Lakers and Boston, just slightly lesser in trade value. The Spurs have no top 15 ranked players, but the combined value of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker is huge, while Blair is a great bang for your buck piece, at least until having no ACLs catches up to him. Like LA and Boston, the Spurs are on their way down the list sooner than later. It’s been a good run. If the Trade Value Power Rankings existed in the past, the Spurs would likely be going on 20 straight years in the top 10 with David Robinson carrying them to a high rank in the era preceding Duncan’s. That’s impressive.

8.       Orlando Magic

Noteable assets: C Dwight Howard (BS: #2), PF Ryan Anderson (BS: HM), G Jameer Nelson, PF Brandon Bass, SG Gilbert Arenas (negative), SF Hedo Turkoglu (negative),2011 Orl 1st owed (negative), 2012 Orl 1st

The Magic are the benchmark of how high a superstar can carry a team. Outside of Dwight the Magic have nearly no trade value, with the Arenas and Turkoglu albatross contracts outweighing the little trade value of Nelson, Anderson and Bass. This lack of a trade value bank is ominously reminscent of the Cavaliers around Lebron. Nevertheless, if extended past 2012 Dwight alone may be enough to take the Magic to top 5. He’s that valuable.

9.       New Orleans Hornets

Noteable assets: PG Chris Paul (BS: #10), PF David West (BS: #33), C Emeka Okafor, SF Trevor Ariza (negative), 2011 NOH 1st owed (negative), 2012 NOH 1st

Chris Paul is still a superstar, but 2012 free agency questions and last year’s knee surgery taking some of his burst has slightly lowered his value. West has nice trade value, while Okafor has redeemed his. The Hornets’ financial problems have led them to be more likely to shed trade assets rather than add them over the years. As a result the Paul and West era has been stuck in mud in both team record and trade value.

10.   Utah Jazz

Noteable assets: PG Deron Williams (BS: #11), PF Paul Millsap (BS: #45), C Al Jefferson, SF Gordon Hayward, 2011 Uta 1st owed (negative), 2012 Uta 1st

Very similar to the Hornets prognosis, fittingly. I’d argue the Jazz have slight trade value inferiors at PG, PF and C – enough to drop them a spot below. Like the Hornets, they’ve been prone to letting salary cap issues rob them of trade value over the years, thanks in no small part to Andrei Kirilenko’s massive albatross contract.

11.   Dallas Mavericks

Noteable assets: PF Dirk Nowitzki (BS: #8), C Tyson Chandler (BS: HM), PG Rodrigue Beaubois, PG Jason Kidd, SF Shawn Marion, C Brendan Haywood (negative), 2011 Dal 1st, 2012 Dal 1st

Analogous to the Magic situation, with an older star in Dirk. Chandler, Marion, Kidd have respectable value around the league. Beaubois is a talent with value. Overall, the Mavericks need more trade value around Dirk and their time is running out with his rising odometer. Losing Josh Howard’s value due to injuries was a killer.

12.   New York Knicks

Noteable assets: PF Amare Stoudemire (BS: #20), PG Raymond Felton, SG Wilson Chandler, SF Danillo Gallinari, PF Anthony Randolph, 2011 NY 1st pick swap option owed to Hou (negative), 2012 NY 1st owed (negative)

Amare’s bad knees and eye is certainly worrisome. The Knicks have decent expendable chips however in Felton, Chandler, Gallinari, Randolph. More importantly, I’m putting them a couple spots higher than their assets alone would otherwise place them because I put extra value on their capspace with stars interest to play in New York. Specifically, it appears inevitable Carmelo Anthony will be a Knick.

13.   Golden State Warriors

Noteable assets: PG Stephen Curry (BS: #23), SG Monta Ellis (BS: #24), PF David Lee, SF Dorrell Wright, C Ekpe Udoh, 2011 GS 1st , 2012 GS 1st owed (negative)

The Warriors have two high value pieces in Curry and Ellis, a good player on a value negating contract in Lee, and some decent pieces in Wright and Udoh. The lack of a 2012 pick hurts, but it didn’t project as top 10. Still, they need to make good of the 2011 pick if they want any chance at sniffing the top 10 the next 2 years. #13 is still a respectable ranking for a franchise inept essentially all of the last two decades.

14.   Atlanta Hawks

Noteable assets: C Al Horford (BS: #22), PF Josh Smith (BS: #25), SG Joe Johnson, PG Jeff Teague, 2011 Atl 1st, 2012 Atl 1st

Atlanta breaks down similarly to Golden State, with Horford and Smith ranking similar to Curry and Ellis and Johnson matching Lee as a good player on a large contract. The Warriors complimentary assets and financial situation is slightly better. The Hawks are without top 20 picks or capspace in the future, so they will be in tough to add trade value to get higher than they are now.

15.   Memphis Grizzlies

Noteable assets: SF Rudy Gay (BS: #26), PF Zach Randolph (BS: #36), C Marc Gasol (BS: HM), SG OJ Mayo, PG Mike Conley, Jr., SG Xavier Henry, SG Tony Allen, 2011 Mem 1st owed (negative), 2012 Mem 1st

The Grizzlies get this high on quantity of talent. Zbo is an all-star caliber big, despite his UFA status he holds value. Gay likewise holds value despite a large contract. Gasol will soon be overpaid but is a good center. Conley and Mayo are guards with value. Like the Hawks, a lack of high picks or capspace from this point will make adding trade value and rising above this point difficult for the Grizzlies. This is where turning a #2 pick into Hasheem Thabeet absolutely murders them going forward.

16.   Minnesota Timberwolves

Noteable assets: PF Kevin Love (BS: #14), SF Michael Beasley (BS: HM), PG Ricky Rubio, SG Wesley Johnson, PG Jonny Flynn, 2011 Min 1st, 2011 Uta 1st, 2011 Mem 1st , 2012 Min 1st owed (negative)

Kevin Love has broken out as an all-star and trade value stud. A lack of another ranked chip hurts the Timberwolves, however. The Wolves need either Ricky Rubio or their 2011 Min pick to be that second ranked player, as the lack of their pick in 2012 is a big hit to their trade value

17.   Washington Wizards

Noteable assets: PG John Wall (BS: #16), C Javale McGee, PF Andray Blatche, SG Nick Young, PF Rashard Lewis (negative), Was 2011 1st, Was 2012 1st

Washington breaks down similar to Minnesota. Wall is a trade value stud, but they lack value beside him – the 2011 and 2012 Was picks are their strongest other assets. Washington has top 10 upside on this list if they turn those picks into ranked players. Slightly lesser complimentary pieces and the comically bad Lewis contract puts Washington behind Minnesota

18.   Portland Trailblazers

Noteable assets: PF Lamarcus Aldridge (BS: #15), SF Nic Batum (BS: HM) SG Wes Matthews, C Greg Oden, PG Andre Miller, C Marcus Camby, 2011 Por 1st, 2011 NOH 1st, 2012 Por 1st, SG Brandon Roy (negative).

Once a belle of the trade value balle, no more. All that’s left of Roy and Oden’s once immense trade values is the blood stains on the floor. Aldridge’s value blowing up is the only thing keeping them afloat, giving them a similar breakdown to Minnesota and Washington but without the high pick this year. Trade value wise, the best move for the Blazers long is likely trading  Miller and Camby and raising the value of their next two draft picks, even if it costs them playoff trips.

19.   Sacramento Kings

Noteable assets: SG Tyreke Evans (BS: #39), PF Demarcus Cousins (BS: #46), C Hassan Whiteside, SF Omri Casspi, PG Beno Udrih (negative), Sac 2011 1st, Sac 2012 1st

Evans and Cousins are an enormously talented combination, but questions of the former being a black hole and the second a headcase lowers their trade value. Nevertheless, their combined talent combined with more high picks coming is enough to get Sacramento in the top 20. Sacramento has the upside to move up this list quickly if Cousins meets his potential.

20.   New Jersey Nets

Noteable assets: PF Derrick Favors (BS: #48), C Brook Lopez (BS: #49), PG Devin Harris, 2011 NJ 1st, 2011 LA 1st, 2012 NJ 1st, 2012 Hou 1st, 2012 GS 1st , SF Travis Outlaw (negative), C Johan Petro (negative)

The Nets have two ranked players in Favors and Lopez, neither who you want as your highest value chip. Just as important is 5 1sts in the next two years. Especially the two high NJ 1sts, which puts them above the four teams below them who project to have worse picks.

21.   Denver Nuggets

Noteable assets: SF Carmelo Anthony (BS: #34), C Nene (#42), PG Ty Lawson (BS: HM), SG Aaron Afflalo (BS: HM), PG Chauncey Billups, Den 2011 1st, Den 2012 1st, C Chris Anderson (negative)

Carmelo’s apparant desire to leave Denver has lowered his value, albeit it’s reported the Knicks are still offering Felton, Gallinari, Chandler and a 1st for him – justifying a top 35 ranking by Simmons. Beside him, the Nuggets still have trade value in ranked Nene, Lawson, Afflalo and Billups. The 2012 pick looks undoubtably high, regardless of the 2011 pick likely falling out of the top 10.

22.   Milwaukee Bucks

Noteable assets: C Andrew Bogut (BS: #40), PG Brandon Jennings (BS: HM), PF Larry Sanders, PF Drew Gooden (negative), SF Corey Maggette (negative), SG John Salmons (negative), 2011 Mil 1st, 2012 Mil 1st

I’m stepping in and making a revision to Simmons’ list. Bogut should be near the 25-30 range, not #40. The 2nd best defensive center in the league has that value. Jennings still has trade value as the league’s pre-eminent “That guy has perenniel all-star tools, I don’t care if he’s shooting 35%, I’d take him for the chance he gets it one day” enigma. The Bucks have 3 of the worst contracts in the league in Salmons, Maggette and Gooden, all acquired by John Hammond last summer. Yikes. Guess who’s the reigning Executive of the Year?

23.   Houston Rockets

Noteable assets: PF Luis Scola (#41), SG Kevin Martin (#43), PG Aaron Brooks (BS: HM), PG Kyle Lowry, SF Terrence Williams, SF Chase Budinger, PF Jordan Hill, PF Patrick Patterson, 2011 NY pick swap option, 2012 NY 1st , 2012 Hou 1st owed (negative)

The Rockets have two excellent veterans in Martin and Scola and a handful of good complimentary pieces, but desperately need a ranked player in the top 30 or 40. With a pick out of the top 10 coming, they are in a poor position to get one. The best way to move up this list is likely trading Martin and Scola for equal value youth and thus increasing the value of their next two draft picks, as well as making sure they get their 2012 pick which is top 14 protected.

24.   Indiana Pacers

Noteable assets: SF Danny Granger (BS: #44), PG Darren Collision (BS: HM), C Roy Hibbert (BS: HM), SG Paul George (BS: HM) PF Tyler Hansbrough, SG Brandon Rush, 2011 Ind 1st, 2012 Ind 1st

The inverse of Sacramento. Great character players, but lacking star talent. Their next two picks project out of the top 10, which doesn’t help their trade value. The Pacers need one of Collision, Hibbert or George to make the leap from HM to top 30 or 40 ranked player to move up this list. Paul George may have the best chance at doing so.

25.   Toronto Raptors

Noteable assets: C Andrea Bargnani (BS: HM), SG Demar Derozan (BS: HM), PF Amir Johnson, PF Ed Davis, PG Jerryd Bayless, 2011 Tor 1st, 2012 Tor 1st, 2011 Mia 1st, PG Jose Calderon (negative), SF Linas Kleiza (negative)

Our first team with no player making Simmons’ top 50. The Raptors have a handful of intriguing talents, but no studs or ranked players. The Tor 2011 and 2012 1sts are their best assets as they project to pick very highly in both drafts. Derozan has the talent to be a ranked player as well.

26.   Philadelphia 76ers

Noteable assets: PG Jrue Holliday (BS: HM), SG Evan Turner (BS: HM), SG Lou Williams, SG Andre Iguodala, SF Thad Young, 2011 Phi 1st , 2012 Phi 1st, PF Elton Brand (negative)

Similarly to the Raptors, the Sixers are not without intriguing small pieces, but lacking any stars or top 50 ranked players – albeit I’d strongly object to Simmons put Dejaun Blair at #50 ahead of Jrue Holliday. Worse upcoming picks and the Brand contract put the Sixers below the Raptors. Similar to Indiana, their best hope is Evan Turner or Jrue Holliday moving from HM to ranked status to move up this list.

27.   Detroit Pistons

Noteable assets: C Greg Monroe (BS: #47), SG Rodney Stuckey, SG Ben Gordon, PF Charlie Villaneuva, SF Tayshawn Prince, SF Jonas Jerebko, SG Tracy McGrady, 2011 Det 1st, 2012 Det 1st, SG Rip Hamilton (negative)

Greg Monroe is a good prospect, however the rest of the Pistons are completley lacking in even intriguing trade value. Bad contracts have restricted cap flexibility for the Pistons and spending on veterans like Gordon, Hamilton, Villaneuva, McGrady bring them to a pick closer to 8 than 1. They will hope for another steal like Monroe to make up ground, but overall the Pistons have a long way to go.

28.   Cleveland Cavaliers

Noteable assets: PG Mo Williams, PG Ramon Sessions, C Anderson Varejao, PF JJ Hickson, 2011 Cle 1st, 2012 Cle 1st, 2012 Mia 1st, PF Antawn Jamison (negative)

In a massive upset, two teams rank below the Cavaliers. How? Well, the Cle 2011 1st and Cle 2012 1st are arguably the two most valuable chips anyone in the bottom 3 or even bottom 5 has. Secondly, Mo and Varejao have some value around the league. Third, Cleveland’s has less salary commitment going forward than the other bottom 5 teams. Frankly, the combination of the the two 1sts’ high value and less salary means Cleveland even has an argument to rank above Philadelphia and Detroit. So while Cleveland’s prognosis is bleak – it’s more typical bottom 5 bleak, as opposed to ‘leagues more bleak than for everyone else’. If that brings any comfort, Ohio.

29.   Phoenix Suns

Noteable assets: PG Steve Nash (BS: #35), PG Goran Dragic, C Marcin Gortat, C Robin Lopez, SF Jared Dudley, 2011 Phx 1st, 2012 Phx 1st, 2011 Orl 1st, PF Channing Frye (negative), SF Josh Childress (negative)

Nash has value, but it’s dampened by a lack of demand for a 37 year old win now PG. Many win now teams both have PGs and don’t have the young assets Phoenix wants. The young teams aren’t interested for obvious reasons. Thus I’d rank Nash’s value lower than Simmons does. The rest of the Suns are empty of trade value. Trading Nash for youth now is the right move. Not only would that cash in on Nash’s ranked value before age eliminates it, but it’d also increase the value of their next two picks. Keeping Nash is only delaying the inevitable and building a greater trade value hole to climb out of after this season or next.

30.   Charlotte Bobcats

Noteable assets: SF Gerald Wallace, SG Stephen Jackson, PG DJ Augustin, PF Tyrus Thomas, SG Gerald Henderson, 2011 Cha 1st, 2012 Cha 1st, C Desagana Diop (negative)

The Bobcats are not without trade value, they simply have less than everyone else. Wallace and Jackson are good players, but old and expensive. Augustin, Tyrus, Henderson are mildly intriguing young mediocrity. Compounding the Bobcats problem is their next two picks project out of the top 10 and they have no cap flexibility, leaving them in a hole without a shovel for trade value. Years of terrible draft decisions and spending on expensive veterans have left them in this spot.

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One Response

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  1. Very cool stuff Julien. Some quick thoughts:

    -Your reasoning is sound, but it’s so hard for me to think so highly about the Clippers at anything. Here’s hoping Blake continues to break tradition.

    -Not sold on Ellis as a high value trade guy. If the Warriors can get someone that excited about him, I’d pull the trigger on a trade in a heartbeat. Give me Curry as their foundation.

    -Denver so low is interesting. If the Nuggets get any kind of decent fit back from trading Melo, I expect them to remain well above average as a team.

    -Hate to say it but 28 for Cleveland seems optimistic.

    Matt Johnson

    February 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm


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