A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Jameer Nelson

The Orlando Panic

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Yesterday was one heck of a day for the Orlando Magic.  Not one but two blockbuster trades.  Away go two of the team’s starters (Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis) plus two more rotation players (Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus).  In come Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu & change.  Stunning, I cannot remember a team so drastically remaking itself so quickly after so much success.

My initial thought was that this wasn’t wise.  Typically when we see teams that almost win the whole shebang do violent changes to themselves in the name of “we’re still not good enough!”, it doesn’t work.  A great team that functions a particular way isn’t likely to be able to re-made with a very different set of talent and become significantly better, and it has a very good chance of getting worse.  If the franchise really believes that the team’s current slide signifies that the team’s better days are behind it, then I get why they’d make the change – but why would you react so dramatically after such a small sample size?

More likely is that the team had simply been unhappy with Lewis and Carter because of their poor play in last year’s playoffs and they just wanted them gone for comparable talent.  I get that, but if I were running the franchise I’d try to look at very specific weaknesses and address them with as minimal disruption as possible.

The most interesting part of the trade to me is the acquisition of Arenas.  To be honest, when I watched the Magic struggle against the Celtics last year, the thing I kept thinking about was not Lewis or Carter, but Jameer Nelson.  Nelson was playing better than Lewis and Carter at the time, but Nelson’s issues to me seemed more systematic.  The best thing you can do for Dwight Howard is get him guy’s with great court vision.  If Howard had a Rajon Rondo (or obviously a Nash, a Kidd, a Paul, etc), I think he has those super-dominant games we see him have against every team much more consistently.  Do that, and the Magic probably win some titles.

So what do the Magic do?  They keep the mediocre-passer, great-scorer Nelson, and acquire another mediocre-passer, great-scorer in Arenas.  Yikes.  It’s as if they read in the manual that it’s good to have a great combo guard scorer 6th man, without considering that that really only makes sense when your starting point guard isn’t also a combo guard.

Sigh.  Well, I’m certainly not going to guarantee this won’t work.  The team is going to end up looking significantly different, and there’s always the chance that it settles into a functioning system that is superior to what was before, but I really doubt I’ll ever come to the conclusion that these trades were the result of a master plan.

As far as the other teams involved.  Washington clearly made a smart trade – the goal was to reduce their long term cap hit from Arenas who couldn’t possibly fit into the Wizards’ future.  Phoenix, unlike Orlando, is far enough away from contending that a big shake up makes sense presuming they want to become contenders again – it may or may not work, but with Nash at the helm, at this point it seems a lock that the offense will always be good, and Gortat may give major help to the defense.

2010-11 NBA Predictions: The Championship

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Since this blog starting out pretty much at the beginning of the basketball season, I’ll spare the world an exhaustive look at each team in the league, and just answer the big question:  Whose left standing at the end?

We’re largely seeing a debate between Miami and the Lakers, with the occasional shout out to the CelticsThe GM’s took gave a strong majority to the Lakers.  The ESPN writers had the Lakers and Heat in a dead, well, heat.  The debate between those two teams itself is drawing people to meta-analysis, which if you know me, you know I can’t stay out of.

Silver Screen and Roll wrote an article essentially saying that this difference of opinion is about the war over advanced stats.  Stat geeks vs old school guys.  He points out that the GMs are mostly old school, and then breaks down the ESPN writers based on their affiliation with modern stats.  He then caps it all of preparing us for a potential Armageddon where we can definitively say who was right or wrong because now LeBron doesn’t have weak teammates as an excuse for losing out to Kobe’s Lakers.

Alright so, I’ve got a variety of problems  with this but he does have some interesting thinking here that isn’t entirely wrong.  The correlation between stat geeks and picking the Heat is real.  The big problem is though, that I don’t think the correlation is due to stat geeks simply assuming that you can combine great players and automatically have a good team.  Rather, I’d say that this is more about how the two sides think generally. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

October 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm