A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Archive for October 2013

How the Marcin Gortat trade shows once again the Wizards don’t get it

leave a comment »

English: Gorat, 2011

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wizards and Suns made a fun trade this week, the Suns sending Marcin Gortat to Washington for injured Emeka Okafor and a top 12 protected first round pick. The Suns also sent Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee to Washington, but they are expected to be waived.

Gortat is a good center despite his off season last year. He’s 7 foot, athletic, can rebound and can hit the midrange shot. With Okafor’s injury, the Wizards were left shallow at the C position. With Gortat they undoubtedly have a better chance at making the playoffs.

The problem for the Wizards isn’t Gortat’s caliber of play, it’s that he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer. Therefore as soon as this season is over, the Wizards will have nothing in return for the first round pick they gave up. They traded a long term asset for a short term asset.

Now you may say, if they re-sign Gortat, doesn’t that give them long term value for the 1st round pick? Not entirely. The Wizards were already set to have over 15 million in capspace next summer, meaning they already had the capspace to sign Gortat. Even if having Gortat now increases their chance of re-signing him if he likes the team situation, there is not necessarily value in this. Signing Gortat for a presumed over 10 million a year contract, comes with an opportunity cost of other free agents signings for the same amount. The only way having this “dibs” on re-signing a 30 year old Gortat becomes valuable, is if for the presumable over 10 million a year long term contract he produces at a level that can’t be replicated on the free agent market. If re-signing Gortat doesn’t have any more value than the next best option for their capspace, that eliminates the value of securing him early.

In my opinion, there’s no reason to believe that Gortat’s UFA contract will provide a better bang for your buck than the alternatives for the same price. This is especially true considering that with Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Rudy Gay if he opts out, the Wizards may prefer any of these FAs to Gortat. The Wizards may find themselves having reserved a table in the middle of the restaurant at the cost of a 1st round pick, only to walk-in and find the window seat is free, making their reservation unused.

For the most part, the value of the trade for the Wizards will be felt in 2013-2014 and no later. By next summer they will have one less positive value asset than if they kept the pick. The Wizards under Ernie Grunfield have proven to me they don’t understand asset strategy and why increasing asset value over time, not decreasing it is how you win. It’s not as much about the chance of the 2014 draft pick turning into a core player for the Wizards, it’s that the pick is a trade asset. For example if all went well, without this trade the Wizards may have spent their capspace on a Gortat or a free agent like Deng, Gasol, Randolph – then in addition, been able to trade the 2014 pick for an upgrade on Gortat’s level. In other words, you may get two Gortat caliber starters for the price of one by waiting. Or another example, perhaps if shopping both Otto Porter and the 2014 pick by next summer, the opportunity to trade both for an all-star comes. But by not having the pick and only offering Porter, they can’t make the deal.

By trading away the 2014 pick for a short term asset, the team will have less trading opportunities heading into the 2014-2015 season. This is of course all in addition to potential value of hitting on the 2014 draft pick. For example when the Toronto Raptors traded away a late teens pick in a short-sighted move for Jermaine O’Neal, they lost an opportunity to draft Roy Hibbert or other eventual starters available like Nicolas Batum or Serge Ibaka. In that same draft the Wizards made a successful pick in taking Javale McGee, eventually having enough trade value to be dealt for Nene when he was a strong asset.

With moves like a 1st for a rental Gortat, franchises like the Wizards live paycheque to paycheque. They buy short term gratification like chasing after a playoff spot they may not even get, but sacrificing assets hurts their potential in the long term. The two moves perennially struggling franchises make in all four major sports, is overpaying players and trading first round picks for short term veteran contracts. Unfortunately for the Wizards fanbase, only half a decade after disastrously giving a post surgery Gilbert Arenas 6 years, 111 million and trading a 5th overall pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye in a calendar year, they’ve once again made similar mistakes by giving John Wall a maximum contract and trading a 1st for half a season of Gortat. I guess when you keep the GM that gave the Arenas deal and made the Miller/Foye trade, you’re inviting the losing into your house and giving it a glass of wine.

Advertisements

Written by jr.

October 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Why Steve Novak may be more talented than Andrea Bargnani

leave a comment »

English: Basketball player Steve Novak during ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Knicks traded for Andrea Bargnani, clearly they anticipated an upgrade, or the chance at one. Bargnani is both much more expensive than Novak and it cost New York a 1st and two 2nds to make the swap, thus by logic they prefer Bargnani.

Regardless of how they feel about Novak’s production the last 2 seasons vs a standard Bargnani year, it seems obvious they prefer Andrea’s talent. Bargnani is a former #1 pick and is more physically gifted, thanks to both a 7’1 height in shoes and greater athleticism.

However I’ve made the point repeatedly on this blog, that treating physical tools as the near end all of talent is dangerous. What Novak lacks physically compared to Bargnani, he may make up elsewhere:

First consider that Novak is a better pure shooter than Bargnani. Aside from his career 43.3% 3P to Bargnani’s 36.1%, Novak has a career FT% of 88.6% to Bargnani’s 82.5%. Novak shoots free throws at a rate reserved for the NBA’s shooting greats. In addition to this, Novak had an incredible shooting career at Marquette, hitting 46.1% from 3 and 93.1% from the FT line over 4 years. While Novak has only taken 105 free throws in his entire NBA career putting his FT% in small sample size dispute, that he took 261 FTAs in college at an even better rate, helps confirm his ability. The evidence suggests that for pure shooting, Novak is among the best of the best along with NBA players like Steve Nash, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, etc. Whereas Bargnani is an above average shooter for a big man, but not as freakishly gifted at it.

However the biggest difference may be in mental talent. Bargnani has awareness issues, the root of falling behind so often in help defense. Even on offense, Bargnani has never struck me as a natural or fluid basketball player. He’s not a player who surveys plays or feels his opponents out. Very few of his plays could be described as crafty. Bargnani to me, has a similar affliction that athletes like Javale McGee and Anthony Randolph do. Despite obvious talents they do not read the game well. Chris Kaman is another big man who has standout skills with size and mobility, but can’t pick up plays fast enough in a read and react dominated game. What separates Brook Lopez and Chris Kaman has everything to do with this feel and instincts.

Novak on the other hand, knows positioning, recognizes space when shooting and in the few times he needs to move shows a degree of smoothness and fluidity. Overall I would argue Novak has a better feel for the game than Bargnani does.

That’s not to say Novak is for sure more talented than Bargnani. Bargnani’s athleticism does give him more versatility attacking the basket or creating midrange jumpers off the dribble. Bargnani’s height and strength allows him to defend the post more than Novak. While defensively he may lose plays mentally more than Novak, if he’s in the area his physical tools allow him to contest shots better. It’s hard to pin down just how much value Bargnani’s physical talents could have, if it’s accepted he’s an enigma who doesn’t use all of it.

Nevertheless, to me calling Steve Novak more talented than Andrea Bargnani is perfectly reasonable. For while Bargnani may have the edge in physical gifts, I see Novak’s special talent as a shooter and his feel potentially making up the difference.

Written by jr.

October 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Plato and Aristotle rank the top 20 players in the NBA

leave a comment »

PLATO

Aristotle, are you prepared to rank the top 50 players in the NBA?

ARISTOTLE

I am, Plato. I suggest this strategy. We pick players as if drafting them to a team. But one pick does not affect the rest, in other words there is no information about the team the player is added to. Therefore the players are only picked according to who is best.

PLATO

That is fair, Aristotle. We will make the picks together. To start, do we have any disagreement about the top 2 picks? Lebron James first and Kevin Durant second.

ARISTOTLE

They are close. For the amount of possessions both use, both have incredible efficiency. Both are excellent defenders and rebounders. However Lebron averages more assists and less turnovers for the possessions he uses, making him more efficient.

PLATO

In addition to the passing and defense, I feel Lebron has to be ranked first after winning the last two titles. He now has championship experience and a mental superiority in clutch moments that will be hard to beat.

I do feel Chris Paul is near them offensively, with master awareness and skill. I trust nobody more than Paul at the end of games.

ARISTOTLE

Paul is as efficient, but does not use the volume of possessions James and Durant do. Furthermore I feel James and Durant’s elite defense in comparison make it a non-question.

PLATO

Agreed. But Paul is ranked 3rd, correct?

ARISTOTLE

No argument from me. Lebron James 1st, Kevin Durant 2nd, Chris Paul 3rd.

PLATO

Now it gets more tricky, Aristotle. Who should we pick 4th?

ARISTOTLE

I am leaning towards Tyson Chandler 4th. He had an elite offensive season last year by posting an all time most efficient season by Dean Oliver’s Individual ORTG at 133, while anchoring the Knicks defense. My only concern is whether going into his 13th season, he’s a candidate to decline.

PLATO

What! Tyson Chandler? He is valuable and underrated, but he does not face the defensive attention of other offensive stars. He is the best role player in the league, but not as talented as these other candidates. You can’t go-to Chandler in the post. I strongly disagree about Chandler ranking anywhere near this high, Aristotle.

Furthermore, you have Chandler ahead of Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard at C? Gasol is more skilled and Howard more physically dynamic. I would draft Gasol or Howard before Chandler.

ARISTOTLE

I can only judge effectiveness, not talent. Who are we to say what makes talent? Chandler’s physical gifts and head are no less rare than other centers’ post moves.

Marc Gasol is efficient, but still nowhere near Chandler’s efficiency. Chandler’s athleticism makes up the skill difference. Howard is turnover prone and misses too many free throws, making his efficiency average and offensive production empty.

Because of concerns about Chandler’s age, I am willing to pick another player, though neither Gasol or Howard.

PLATO

Dwight is also a big baby, while Gasol and Chandler are leaders. I am fine ranking him behind those centers.

James Harden looks to be a great candidate. He averaged nearly 26 points and 6 assists per game, because of how much he draws fouls.  He is a great outside shooter, elite at driving the basket and an elite passer. A true offensive star. Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade are other candidates on my mind.

ARISTOTLE

Harden 4th is fine by me. His .60 TS at that volume, is only a step behind Lebron and Durant. Albeit he needs to cut down his turnovers which is why his individual ORTG is lower than theirs.

PLATO

I am leaning towards Dwyane Wade 5th. Despite declining from his prime, he still had an elite offensive season and in the playoffs becomes dangerous for his experience. He is also a tremendous help defender.

ARISTOTLE

Fair points Plato. When comparing him to offensive stars like Curry and Parker, if they put up superior offensive numbers to Wade, the defense may make up the difference. Let’s rank Dwyane 5th.

PLATO

Are we sure Harden should be ahead of Wade? Wade is the better defender and more experienced…

ARISTOTLE

Harden’s offensive stats were a lot better in the regular season. Wade was inconsistent in the playoffs so it’s not fair to rank him ahead because of that. His jumpshot has also gotten poor lately. Harden is the best 2 guard in the league.

PLATO

Fair point about Wade’s shooting problems. Our top 5 is complete then: 1. SF/PF Lebron James, 2. SF Kevin Durant, 3. PG Chris Paul, 4. SG James Harden, 5. SG Dwyane Wade.

There is a number of offensive players I would like to be ranked soon, like Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol and Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love despite coming back from injury are also candidates.

ARISTOTLE

Deron Williams may have the best statistics on the board. He is both a high volume player and very efficient at using possessions. Deron’s 118 ORTG is higher than Curry (115) or Parker (116) and he’s underrated defensively because of his size. Of course, I’d have ranked Tyson Chandler by now.

PLATO

I just don’t like his attitude. He seems to sulk. I would rather go to war with Stephen Curry and Tony Parker.

I can support rating Chandler this high, with my apprehension about Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony’s leadership and Stephen Curry, Tony Parker and Kevin Love’s defense.

ARISTOTLE

Chandler 6th it is, then.

PLATO

Why not rank Marc Gasol directly after Chandler? Like him, the value of a franchise center is high. He’s both the defensive player of the year and a great offensive weapon to his skill and IQ.  He is a great post option and outside shooter and a great passer. He’s the best player on a contending Grizzlies team.

ARISTOTLE

Fair points, Plato. Marc Gasol 7th for his efficiency and defense. I would rate Deron Williams over Stephen Curry and Tony Parker next. I am not willing to judge his attitude, his team’s results have been fair in both Utah and Brooklyn.

PLATO

If Parker and Curry are next, I prefer Prefer for his championship experience and defense. Arguably the best finisher in the paint in the league and he led the Spurs to a shot or rebound of the title.

ARISTOTLE

Parker’s efficiency last year was absolutely elite, I agree. Like Chandler I’m concerned about him heading into a 13th season, but 9th is fair for Parker.

PLATO

Do we have Curry next?

ARISTOTLE

I do. He is a high volume player with strong efficiency.

PLATO

Curry’s IQ and ballhandling is underrated, to go with his all time great shooting. A terrific offensive force. Curry 10th.

PLATO

Carmelo Anthony stands out for me next. Yes he’s been overrated most of his career, but he led the league in scoring last year. I still believe you can win a title with Carmelo as your best player.

ARISTOTLE

Carmelo had been more efficient at power forward, will he keep playing there? Bargnani and Amare playing PF may move him back to SF.

PLATO

Yes, he doesn’t appear to have the speed advantage at SF, causing more midrange shots.

ARISTOTLE

I prefer Kevin Love to Carmelo despite his injury last year. Love’s efficiency, volume and rebounding make him one of the game’s best.

PLATO

I want to see Love on a winning team, or one where he’s required to play defense. He hasn’t even made the playoffs yet. What about Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard if you’re not a Carmelo fan?

ARISTOTLE

Losing is excused when Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, Darko Milicic and Anthony Randolph are all involved

PLATO

Agreed

Aristotle

I do not trust Kobe’s health or age. We’ve covered Dwight’s flaws. Derrick Rose is an elite player and I’d rank him over Russell Westbrook, who he’s usually been more efficient than.

PLATO

Rose’s statistics are underrated because the defense is able to load up on him. He is dynamic attacking the basket. Great word coming out of training camp on his health and shooting.

ARISTOTLE

I still think Love is the better player statistically than either Rose or Carmelo.

PLATO

Since we went my way ranking Chandler out of the top 4, I will give this one to you. That makes Kevin Love 11th after 1. SF/PF Lebron James, 2. SF Kevin Durant 3. PG Chris Paul 4. SG James Harden 5. SG Dwyane Wade 6. C Tyson Chandler 7. C Marc Gasol 8. PG Deron Williams 9. PG Tony Parker 10. PG Stephen Curry

I feel Carmelo Anthony should be ranked 12th. Such great skill on the block and an elite first step, makes him near impossible to guard. His stats were better last year than usual.

ARISTOTLE

I am willing to throw you a bone. Carmelo may be closer to the end of his prime than it seems going into his 11th season, but he did have strong offensive production last year.

PLATO

Derrick Rose 13th, Aristotle? Or do you have your eye on someone else?

ARISTOTLE

Tim Duncan can be picked soon, he’s still an elite defender and good offensive player.

PLATO

I’d pick him over Dwight Howard almost for leadership reasons alone. However I feel Rose is likely to have the more dynamic season. He won MVP just a few seasons ago.

ARISTOTLE

13th is fine for Rose.

PLATO

Then let’s put Tim Duncan 14th.

ARISTOTLE

Agreed.

PLATO

Time to get Kobe, Westbrook or Dwight out of the way? I’d rather have Kobe if I’m trying to win a title and now his health is hardly more of a risk. Kobe can still be dominant in a playoff series. His skill is still off the charts.

ARISTOTLE

Socrates will be mad enough that we ranked him this low. Kobe first of those three makes sense to me. I’m not the biggest Westbrook fan but his efficiency was well above average last year at a high volume, so I’m fine with him after too.

PLATO

Agreed with putting Dwight lower than them. Dwight is a borderline cancer right now, plus he couldn’t help the Lakers win much last year. That makes Kobe 15th, Westbrook 16th and Dwight 17th?

ARISTOTLE

Yes, Dwight 17th is about as low as I can go. He remains an elite defender and rebounder.

PLATO

Let’s move on. Aristotle, is Dirk Nowitzki still better than Blake Griffin, Brook Lopez and Chris Bosh?

ARISTOTLE

No. Dirk has aged. At the least I’d rank Brook ahead of Dirk. Brook had a superb offensive season statistically. Bosh’s production is declining and I don’t trust him this year.

PLATO

I’d trust Brook’s skill in the playoffs more than Blake’s athleticism. Easier to gameplan against the latter. Blake has become underrated in a way, just because he wasn’t as good as we thought after his rookie season. He’s still a star. Bosh is the best defender of this group.

Is Kyrie Irving this high fair?

ARISTOTLE

Irving hasn’t proven he can be efficient yet, just uses a lot of possessions. Could jump to the top 10 this year, but until he does it I prefer the proven Lopez and Griffin.

PLATO

Lopez and Griffin 18th and 19th sound good, then.

ARISTOTLE

Agreed.

PLATO

I still think Irving is better than present Dirk and Bosh. He faces a lot of defensive attention on that Cavaliers team, but is an elite shooter, fluid as it gets and can drive and finish.

ARISTOTLE

Aside from Dirk I’d definitely rank Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson over Irving for their efficiency, in addition to volume. Gallinari’s 116 ORTG at his volume plus being arguably the league’s most underrated defender, makes him a fantastic player.

PLATO

Gallinari, really? He’s a good wing but in the top 20? If we’re leaving out Irving, what about Lamarcus Aldridge, Paul George, in addition to Bosh? Aldridge is a great post scorer and an underrated defender. George’s defense is elite and he’s coming into his own as an all around driving and shooting scoring threat.

ARISTOTLE

While talented, neither were efficient last year therefore I am not a fan. I like Gallinari here. High efficiency, respectable volume and the league’s underrated defender. However he is coming off injury.

PLATO

Ok, but Dirk and Bosh have championship experience, including one of the most clutch runs of all time in 2011 by Dirk and big plays by Bosh the last 2 years.

ARISTOTLE

I love Dirk so I won’t mind putting him 20th. Keep in mind he may age this year. I am fine with Bosh this high but it wouldn’t surprise me if he declined a lot this year. With that said, Gallinari also is coming back from injury.

PLATO

Let’s go Bosh 20th, then.

Ok Aristotle, here is our top 20:

1. SF/PF Lebron James
2. SF Kevin Durant
3. PG Chris Paul
4. SG James Harden
5. SG Dwyane Wade
6. C Tyson Chandler
7. C Marc Gasol
8. PG Deron Williams
9. PG Tony Parker
10. PG Stephen Curry
11. PF Kevin Love
12. SF/PF Carmelo Anthony
13. PG Derrick Rose
14. C Tim Duncan
15. SG Kobe Bryant
16. PG Russell Westbrook
17. C Dwight Howard
18. C Brook Lopez
19. PF Blake Griffin
20. PF/C Chris Bosh

PLATO

Let’s pick this up another time, Aristotle.

 

Written by jr.

October 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Basketball

Tagged with , ,

Decline watch: Tony Parker and Tyson Chandler are hearing footsteps

with 2 comments

עברית: טוני פארקר, שזכה בפרס בשנת 2007. Hrvats...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tyson Chandler and Tony Parker both had incredible seasons last year. Chandler helped lead an elite Knicks offense by setting the all time individual ORTG mark with 133 and anchoring the team’s defense and rebounding. Tony Parker was the Spurs clear-cut star for the 2nd straight season, leading the team in scoring, assists per game and having his most efficient season. They were two of the league’s true stars.

They’re also 1 and 2 on my “decline watch” list for this season. Why? Consider that they’re from the 2001 draft, thus are entering their 13th season in the league. A 13th season is late as it gets for an NBA player’s primes – only rare cases like 1998 Karl Malone, 2011 Dirk Nowitzki, 2009 Kobe Bryant have neared statistical peak that late. For players who are less than MVP talents, it’s even more rare.

Furthermore, let’s look at other players from the 2001 draft. Here are the top 10 players in career WS from the draft, who aren’t Parker or Chandler: Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Mehmet Okur, Gilbert Arenas, Troy Murphy. The group varies from recently past their prime, to totally washed up, but none were in their prime like Chandler and Parker. Even more jarring, here’s the top 10 in career WS from the 2002 draft: Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Yao Ming, Tayshaun Prince, Nene, Caron Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Drew Gooden, Luis Scola, John Salmons. Not only were 2012-2013 Parker and Chandler big enough exceptions to outlast their own draft class, but nobody’s in their prime in the next draft class either, despite a year less of experience.

In Chandler’s case, averaging 28.5 minutes per game and missing the equivalent of multiple seasons to injury, helps explain his longevity. Parker’s is incredibly impressive considering he’s played 173 playoff games in addition to his regular season miles. For both it’s a testament to their basketball IQ and work ethic they maintain this effective. But it’s more likely that their time will finally come this year, rather than be an exception one more year compared to their peers.

And of course the impact of this would be significant for the league. Parker led the team that came within a shot or rebound of the title this year, if a step less effective, they’d need a huge leap forward by Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter to make up for it. The Knicks are unlikely to complete with the Heat, Nets, Pacers and Bulls is Chandler isn’t at his best. The franchise is simply in a dangerous position. Their 2 stars Carmelo Anthony and Chandler are headed into their 11th and 13th seasons, making both threats to pass their prime at any moment. Anthony is a free agent after this offseason. Whether it’s even a good idea to pay him a huge contract after playing 11 seasons is as big a question, as whether he’ll want to stay if he sees Chandler’s time as a star is limited. They owe multiple future 1sts and have little young infrastructure other than Iman Shumpert. Sorry Spike and Woody, but things aren’t looking good.

 

Written by jr.

October 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm