A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Utah Jazz

Why I don’t like the Andre Iguodala move for the Warriors

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Andre Iguodala

Andre Iguodala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Warriors swooped in at the last minute to sign Andre Iguodala to a 4 year, 48 million contract, one of the summer’s biggest free agent fishes. To do so of course, they used 2 1sts, 3 2nds and Brandon Rush to trade Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins’ contracts to Utah in what ended up a 3 way S&T with Denver.

The more I think over this move, the more awful it looks for the Warriors.

My first concern is that the Warriors essentially paid a tax for a cash advance. Jefferson and Biedrins were set to expire next summer, giving the Warriors tons of capspace. The Warriors essentially said “We want to spend that capspace a year early” – and paying the 2 1sts, 3 2nds and Rush, was the tax for immediacy.

Do the Warriors need to be paying for immediacy? Stephen Curry’s youth gives them a long window of relevance, while Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes are years from their prime. While a team like the Timberwolves are desperate to end a playoff drought and appease the fans, the Warriors magical 2nd round season last year, should’ve given them a grace period to take a step back next season. The Warriors fans have supported far, far worse. Patience was a luxury the Warriors had. There was nothing wrong with barely holding onto a playoff spot next year, then using capspace and draft picks next summer, to try and best 2012-2013.

The motive for improving in 2013-2014, is if it gave them a chance at the championship next year. But with San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston, Memphis and Los Angeles Clippers potentially all challenging 55 wins or more next season, the Warriors may a longshot to even finish higher than their 6th seed this season. In fact it may be as likely that they fall back to 7th or 8th due to a team like Dallas or Minnesota, then move up. It does not appear that the Warriors are a true title contender. If the Warriors believe this move can make them a 2013-2014 Finals or title contender, it is a deep, hail mary throw that’s likely to be batted down.

One of the reasons why, is that they didn’t add Iguodala to the team who ended last season. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry’s expected departure, counteracts part of the value of adding Iguodala. Iguodala should improve the Warriors defensively, but he is worse than either Jack or Landry are offensively, let alone both of them combined. They are more efficient scorers than Iguodala and Iguodala’s lack of spacing on the wing, may hurt the Warriors offense. I would argue the impact of the Iguodala acquisition is it prevents the Warriors from taking a big step back next season, not that it moves them upwards in the Western ranks. And is that worth the price they paid to Utah?

A counter to the “cash advance” criticism of the Iguodala trade, may be that the advanced-metrics heavy Warriors management really, REALLY wanted him, to the point of figuring if they let the opportunity to sign him now pass, as good of one wouldn’t be there when the capspace came in 2014. But this is dangerous. Iguodala is a good player, but how good? They spent 12 million a year on him. For them to feel “Iguodala is so good that we have to get him now”, it would imply that the 12 million spent next summer wouldn’t match up to him in value, or that essentially, Iguodala for 12 million a year is a must have bargain. Even for the most advanced-metrics heavy teams, is Iguodala with his offensive flaws, really the caliber of player that 12 million a year is a bargain? He would have to be a maximum caliber player if not and then some, for that to be true.

Especially considering my other major concern with signing Iguodala, is that he’s 30 next January. The history of free agents getting paid huge to produce in their 30s, is dicey. Iguodala also relies on athleticism far more than skill, meaning he may be a player who ages less than gracefully. When a somewhat comparable SF in Gerald Wallace was traded from Charlotte to Portland in 2011, he was 5 months younger than Iguodala is now. Wallace played like a star his first half season in Portland, slipped a bit but maintained a above average caliber of play in 2011-2012 split between Portland and Brooklyn, then totally fell apart in 2012-2013. Scarily, Iguodala has actually played more total minutes in the NBA than Gerald Wallace – not the Wallace at the time of the 2011 trade, but Wallace as of today, 2 and a half years later. Iguodala is not necessarily Wallace – he’s arguably a more cerebral player and has a closer to respectable jumpshot, but Iguodala is a major risk to decline at some point during this contract. He’ll turn 32 halfway through his 3rd season and 33 halfway through his 4th. Iguodala may be a contract where the value is in the 1st or 2nd year of his contract, while living with the last few years are a price paid for that value provided early. This isn’t a huge problem, but it further disputes the idea of Iguodala on this contract being such a valuable get that they had to pay the steep cash advance-tax just to sign him now.

The Warriors having 12.3 million of capspace to spend in the summer of 2014, would’ve given them a fair chance of replicating Iguodala’s production in 2014-2015, whatever it ends up being. Or if there’s any difference, certainly not one worth the cost of losing 2 1sts, 3 2nds and Brandon Rush. Thus you have a case where the return on investment of the package they sent to Utah, is almost solely in improving their team in 2013-2014. Unless the Warriors seriously surprise by becoming a contender next season, I just don’t see how supercharging next season, is at all worth it for them.

There are times when sacrificing long term assets for wins in the short term makes sense – such as arguably what Brooklyn did this summer, arguably giving them a real chance at the NBA title. But at least by my reading of their roster qulity, I don’t see next season as the right year for Golden State to sacrifice their assets for. In a few years losing that cap and asset flexibility to do so just so they could further guarantee themselves a playoff knockout season this year, could hurt them and be regrettable. To use a poker analogy cliche, the Warriors pushed a lot of chips in the pot while holding a decent, but not great hand. If they folded their cards this season, they may have left themselves more chips to bet on better hands. A key to NBA success is knowing what seasons to spend your chips on and what seasons to be conservative. The assets the Warriors spent now could’ve been saved for a more realistic title window when their young players hit their late 20s. While the season remains to be played and Iguodala has his fans, I don’t like this move for the Warriors whatsoever.

Written by jr.

August 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

33pt Thursday: Why I see Gordon Hayward breaking out as an all-star this year

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I originally planned to post how I use the 33pt method to rank teams and my predictions for this season, but I will save that for next week and polish it up until then

Of the players I have tried to evaluate with the 33pt method, a player who’s score jumped out to me was Gordon Hayward.

To many NBA fans, Hayward is seen as a decent starting wing in the NBA. But it is presumed his upside is inconsequential. I have him ranked as an all-star talent. Here’s my 33pt breakdown

Physical tools: Hayward might be the most underrated athlete in the league. Many of us seem to have a block when it comes to associating the aesthetic look of a scrawny white guy who fathers everywhere would want to date their daughter as superior athletically, however he is legitimately explosive. I like this video to show some of his explosiveness: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

September 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm

NBA Mock Draft Version 2.5 – With pre draft grades and comparisons

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Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving looks like the 1st overall pick (Image by Chamber of Fear via Flickr)

This will be my final mock draft unless a game changing trade occurs. The picks are based on what I have heard through the usual suspects on the internet – Chad Ford (ESPN.com), Jonathan Givony (Draftexpress.com), Ryan Feldman (thehoopsreport.com), Ken Berger (CBS.com), Adrian Wojnarowski (Yahoo.com) with a big scoop of my own instincts. Truthfully they did most of the leg work for the actual order. I added grades for each pick and comparisons. Consider that my contribution. Here is the Mock Draft 2.0:

EDIT – Why  not. Here’s the Mock Draft 2.5, edited the morning before the draft with all the latest information. For optimal accuracy.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – PG Kyrie Irving

There’s been talk lately of Cleveland switching to Derrick Williams #1 to pair him with Brandon Knight, perhaps a better pair together than Irving and a non PG at 4. The problem I see with that is the chance Knight doesn’t make it to #4 with Utah’s interest in him at #3. I say they take Irving.

My Grade: A. The correct choice, Irving is not only one of the best bets for all-star production in the draft, but gives the Cavaliers a badly needed leader for the post Lebron era. No need to overthink it, take Irving.

NBA Comparison: Mark Price

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Jazz Improvisation and the Association in Chaos

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Image by StuSeeger via Flickr

10 thoughts after a whirlwind of a trade deadline:

1. I really wish I had more to say on the Deron Williams trade. I had a whole slew of points immediately on the tips of my fingers when Carmelo Anthony was traded barely more than a day before, and I consider Williams the superior players. Ideally I’d have more to say about it – heck, ideally *everyone* would have more to say about, but they may be suffering from a bit of the same thing I am. It’s just clear that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of the decision making in Salt Lake City. I’m generally one not to bothered by the prospect of venturing forth with theories in the wake of incomplete knowledge because complete knowledge is never assured, but here there’s just too much uncertainty.

2. That said, odds still seem pretty dang good that the Jazz don’t trade Williams unless they think he’s not going to be happy there in the long term. So yes, anyone not willing to include this happening amongst the trend of stars leaving well run small market teams, is being unreasonably cautious.

3. Good trade for the Jazz? They lost Deron Freaking Williams, and traded him for players you certainly can’t expect to be his equal. The most you can say is that given the macro trends of stars in the NBA right now, it’s hasty to call Jazz management incompetent for what when down.

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Jerry Sloan and His Point Guards

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Jerry and Phil

Image by kris247 via Flickr

The news of Jerry Sloan resigning mid-season, essentially immediately after a game, is something so surprising I can’t even think of the last time something in sports surprised me more. Almost a quarter century of tenure and a relationship with ownership perceived to be the most stable in the league – gone over night. And of course, as an analyst, I feel mostly just excitement about seeing something new.

Of course part of that is because of how I view Sloan. I respect the hell out of the man’s ability to consistently achieve success, but the man is also clearly stubborn as hell. John Amaechi said Sloan was “a cruel man” and made clear he thought the man was a homophobe – and it just rings too true for me to dismiss as being entirely without merit. When someone like that quits all of a sudden, he’s doing it because he’s tired of compromise, not because he’s a victim of some great unjustice.

Although with that said, remember that the Jazz drafted Deron over Chris Paul, when pretty much everyone considered Paul the clearly superior prospect, and that undoubtedly had everything to do with Sloan believing in Deron. Rough to put yourself on the line for someone, and then for that person to drive you out.

Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams

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Written by Matt Johnson

February 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Defending the Atlanta Hawks and the Joe Johnson contract

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Atlanta Hawks logo

Image via Wikipedia

No move this summer attracted more jokes than the Atlanta Hawks giving Joe Johnson 6 years/126 million which stands as the largest NBA contract to date. Yes, Joe Johnson’s worth is closer to 80 million and once he begins declining in his early 30s while making 22-26 million a year, he could be untradeable. I don’t deny the Hawks overpaid.

But the way to judge this deal is against the alternative: Letting Johnson walk. Which I believe would hurt them just as much as Johnson’s bad contract.

The Hawks won 53 games last season and are pace for a similar record this year. Like the Hornets and Jazz, they’re on the plateau right below contention and looking for a way to make “the leap”.

Regardless of the disbelief in the team’s upside to contend for a title (which I will address later), it’s really, really hard to even get to this spot as a low 50 win team. The droughts between 50 win seasons for franchises can span decades as fans of the Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors, Raptors and plenty other teams will tell you.

If the Hawks have come this far with the Johnson, Smith and Horford combination, why turn back? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Why I Love Sports: Paul Millsap

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Last night’s performance by Paul Millsap pretty much embodies everything about what makes sports great.  You want a drama where the plucky hard-working underdog comes from behind against all odds  to grab victory by the slimmest of margins?  A great game can tell this story better than the best literature.

46 points in as clutch a performance as you’ll ever see.  Here’s the fantastic rally to tie the game in regulation where Millsap miraculously scores 11 points in 30 seconds with three 3-pointers, which people are now comparing with Tracy McGrady’s 13 point outburst a few years back:

People are debating about degree of difficulty here, and they shouldn’t – what McGrady did was harder, the defense was completely focused on him and he still pulled it off.  The focused on him of course because he was an established superstar – and that’s exactly what makes it so much less captivating.

Millsap came into this league a lightly regarded 2nd round pick from Louisiana Tech (ironically the same college Karl Malone came out of), and had to beat the odds to even have an NBA career.  For his first 4 years, the man worked hard and impressed with every opportunity he was given, but he was limited because the Utah Jazz already had star power forward Carlos Boozer.

This off season, Boozer left to join the Chicago Bulls, and I was initially hopeful that this would become Millsap’s break out year.  I was prepared to champion the guy as a candidate for Most Improved Player (and I’ll mention the irony again of ‘improvement’ in the NBA being more about opportunity than actual improvement), but then the Jazz swindled the often-swindled Minnesota Timberwolves out of Al Jefferson.  At that point, my expectation was that Jerry Sloan simply didn’t see Millsap as star material, and I was disappointed but figured he knew better than me.

Of course, he does know better than me, but clearly his opinion of Millsap isn’t what I feared.  Millsap’s getting his greatest opportunity and he’s killing it.  Lead scorer on his team, with ridiculous efficiency, even before this last game.  Now he’s in the top 3 in the league in both PER and Win Shares, and you have to start thinking about him for the accolades reserved for stars.  This isn’t a guy getting great efficiency off of limited usage and small sample size, this is a guy capable of taking over a game.

Now on the other side of things, The Heat have to be concerned.  The worry from the inception of Miami Thrice was that they didn’t really have a big man, which could be a huge problem on defense.  The Heat have proven to be very effective on defense against most teams, but now both Emeka Okafor and Millsap have torn them up.  Both fundamentally sound big men, and neither really considered a star.  I have no qualms about singing Millsap’s praises because his performance was so amazing it doesn’t matter that issues with Miami’s defense helped it happen, but in the long run the most informative part of this game might have been the realization that the Heat have a huge problem right where we feared they’d have one.  They need to make some adjustments ASAP, and if they can acquire a solid defensive big like Erick Dampier, they need to do it.

Written by Matt Johnson

November 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Some thoughts on the first week

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It’s only one week.  I’m trying hard not to rush to any judgments, because I know it can often take teams a good dozen games or so to really show their true colors, but that doesn’t mean what I see isn’t weighing on my mind.  So here’s some thoughts on a few different teams so far…

Miami Heat

Personally, when LeBron announced he was moving to Miami, my main reaction was excitement.  Not because of any fandom bias, but simply because we rarely get to see this kind of “What If?” experiment.  Will the team of dreams actually be a Dream Team?  Will it happen right away?  How will the team grow over time?

What we’re seeing so far is mediocre offense and absolute lock-down defense, which is about the least discussed result possible.

Take 3 offense-first stars put them on a team, the thing you’d most expect is that the offense would improve.Instead, we see an offense full of guys who don’t really know how to multiply their games together.  It’s either the LeBron show, the Wade show, or the Bosh show.  Funny how that works.  Certainly it speaks to the team aspect of the game, but let’s remember that offenses don’t always take time to work together.  Steve Nash went to Phoenix, and the offense went to GOAT levels overnight.  Does Miami’s struggles say something damning about the Thrices ability to really play team basketball?  Eh, let’s give them more time before saying that.

Meanwhile the defense has been extraordinary, something along the lines of the Garnett-infused Celtics of ’07-08.  Now, there’s things we can point to to fit this in with a larger pattern.  While Kevin Garnett is a fantastic defender, he wasn’t capable of creating a defense like that on his own – the bigger factors were probably the extremely hyped up motivation of the Celtic crew (of which Garnett was a big part) and the fantastic team-oriented defensive scheme that guru Tom Thibodeau drew up.    Well the Heat already had a strong defense last year (much better than their offense), and I think we can all agree now:  The members of the Heat, led by the 3 stars, are hyped to within an inch of their life.

Los Angeles Lakers Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

November 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

2010-11 NBA Predictions: Coach of the Year

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Given that I’ve lumped this in with the previous two awards, and what you know about the history of this award, you might be expecting another rant here, but I’ll spare you.  It’s true that the list of COY winners doesn’t correlate much at all with the how coaches are actually rated as extraordinary, and that’s a problem for the award’s credibility and importance, but the issue here lies in the difficulty of evaluating coaches in a one year time span.

No one doubts that Phil Jackson’s a great coach, but if he retired tomorrow, I doubt many would expect the Lakers to suffer greatly.  That’s not a problem with Phil’s coaching, but just the nature of coaching in general.  While coaches can have day to day impact with discipline, chemistry, and adjustments, the big impact is in building the great system not maintaining it.

Voters recognize this, and thus are always seeking to credit a coach for a great positive change that isn’t due to obvious new advantages in player talent on the team.  In other words, the COY in any given year is probably the guy whose team was considered least likely to achieve the success they did.  This makes predicting the COY winner about the most brutal prediction you can try to do because the ideal COY candidate is someone whose candidacy was completely unpredictable.

I’m going to split the difference here with my prediction.  I’m expecting a strong year from the Utah Jazz despite the loss of Boozer, and I think that turnover will be enough to shine some light on the job done by Jerry Sloan.  Also working into Sloan’s favor will be the fact that he’s already considered a legend, he has more tenure than any other coach in the league by a country mile, and he’s never won the award before.  It won’t work out if for him if a true ideal candidate really emerges, but here’s hoping he finally get this recognition we all know he deserves.

Written by Matt Johnson

October 26, 2010 at 8:48 pm