Like the Thunder trading James Harden, Memphis found that the new CBA luxury tax penalties cost prohibitive and they therefore decide to unload Rudy Gay. The calculus is more complex than just luxury tax considerations. I imagine the Grizz had to ask themselves several questions before reaching this conclusion. Let’s run though the analysis and see if we agree with logic train:
(a) What would the outcome be of just leaving the Grizz roster intact?
Memphis had a tougher call than most teams. Usually, the team making such a decision is clearly a contender or an also-ran. Memphis is exactly on the cusp between good team and potential title contender, which makes the call even more difficult (in the case of OKC, the Thunder felt that Harden was a cherry on the contention sundae and not absolutely necessary to go back to the Finals). Memphis probably had an outside shot at making the Conference Finals if everything broke right with Gay on the roster. Of course, it is also quite possible (but not likely) that the Grizz would lose in the first round. Depending on how much financial flexibility the franchise had, it wouldn’t have been crazy to let the season ride and see how far the team could go with the same core as the last few years. The fact that Memphis already was pretty set on giving away Mareese Speights and still traded Gay tells us that the Grizz have little to no wiggle room on finances and someone had to be traded.
(b) If you are going to trade someone, is Gay the guy?
This depends on how good you think Gay is and what the market is for the players who might be traded. Well, let’s look at the Grizz expensive players and look at the options:
-Rudy Gay, age 26, 17.2 ppg, .438 eFG%, 5.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 14.3 PER (contract: two more years at $37.1 million)
-Zach Randolph, age 31, 15.8 ppg, .483 eFG%, 11.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 18.7 PER (contract: two more years at $34.3 million)
-Marc Gasol, age 28, 13.7 ppg, ,489 eFG%, 7.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, 19.6 PER (contract: two more years at $30.6 million)
All are talented but have weaknesses. Gay’s are most evident: he is mostly a scorer, his efficiency is way down this year, and is the most expensive of the three. His shooting this year, however, may be an anomaly as he his career eFG% is right in line with Randolph and Gasol of 2012-13. Randolph is the oldest of the three and, while still good, he is down from his pre-2011-12 numbers and it is possible he might never be the dominant force he was before. As for Gasol, he continues to be a mini-Arvydas Sabonis (minus the rebounding) and is going nowhere. As between Gay and Randolph, trading Gay makes sense given his down numbers, bigger money, and the fact that his core skill (scoring in volumes) isn’t that hard to replace.
(c) What about the return for Gay?
Ed Davis is a very nice young prospect at age-23 and a nice potential eventual replacemet for Randolph (per-36 min: 14.5 pts, .549 eFG%, 9.9 rebs, 18.1 PER). For now, Davis will make a nice third big man for the Grizz and is better than the recently departed Speights. Losing Gay’s ability to create shots, though, is a gaping hole that isn’t filled by role players like Tayshaun Prince or Tony Allen. The Grizz already have the second rated defense in the NBA already, so Prince will at least keep the team at the same level but there isn’t much room for improvement in that area. Conversely, offensively, the Grizz are slightly below average with Gay (17th) and swapping Gay out for Prince could really hurt. The Grizz will have to find some sort of scorer cheaply somewhere and/or Mike Conley’s shots are going to have to go way up because there are no other perimeter players on the roster who can create shot. On the plus side, losing Gay won’t hurt the Grizz from three. The Grizz have made (and taken) the fewest threes in the NBA and are not that good percentage wise either (.344%, which ranks 24th). Gay was a big part of the problem (.310% from three so far). The more efficient Prince (.434% this year) will help but he’ll have to step up his frequency (only 53 attempts from three this year versus 129 for Gay). In all, it is fair to say that the Grizz didn’t gut their team but the Davis/Prince probably makes them a bit worse than they were before. This isn’t a bad deal considering it was forced by circumstance. The Grizz are still a playoff team and could still be a four seed after this deal if Prince can step up his scoring.
(d) What is Toronto doing?
I know Bryan Colangelo is under pressure to show improvement but this deal won’t quite get it done. Currently the Raptors are 16-30 and 12th in offense and 26th in defense. So, they traded their best young big man prospect to pair Gay, another a low efficiency scorer, with DeMar Derozan? The problem here is defensive sieves like Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon and not getting a high volume scorer. Gay won’t hurt the defense and he’s much better than Landry Fields/Mickael Pietrus types but it doesn’t fix the core problem and I’m not sure I’d blow cap room for a minor upgrade to a non-playoff team when there are much bigger fish to fry. I probably would have stood pat with Davis and tried to move Bargnani. Not a terrible move but it seems more like trying to make a splash without much thought put into whether it will fix the core issues.
7/11 Traded Joe Johnson to Brooklyn for Jordan Farmar, DeShawn Stevenson, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams, Johan Petro, a first-round pick in 2013, and a second-round pick in 2017; waived Jordan Farmar
7/11 Traded Marvin Williams to Utah for Devin Harris
7/12 Signed Louis Williams
In all, a very nice start for Danny Ferry. The Johnson contract was sure to hamper the team long-term and it had to be dumped, even if it would downgrade the team for the next season. Similarly, Harris is a perfectly useful point guard and had a shorter contract than Marvin Williams to boot. I’m not sure that Harris will still start since Jeff Teague looks pretty good and is younger but the two of them will make a very nice defensive point guard platoon.
As for the signing of Louis Williams, he won’t totally replace JJ but he is quite cheap and will be a reasonable facsimile of a young Jamal Crawford as a player. Williams will get tons of shots in this offense, even if it won’t be with the discipline that Johnson usually showed. In all, the Hawks should remain in the same place they were the last few years (a decent playoff team without much upside) but saved millions of dollars and are on the position to land that elusive star needed to push them into the next level. Whether they can catch that fish remains to be seen.
7/14 Re-signed Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass and signed Chris Wilcox
7/19 Signed Jason Terry
7/20 Houston re-signed Courtney Lee and traded him to Boston for E-Twuan Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Sean Williams, a 2013 second-round pick, and the draft rights to Jon Diebler from Portland for Sasha Pavlovic from Boston
From afar, it seems so clear that pushing for another title run with an older squad can make a rebuild harder but what are you supposed to do? KG and Paul Pierce are still quite good and Rajon Rondo is young and good. It’s not like the Celts didn’t look into trading Pierce and Ray Allen during the season but they stood pat were rewarded with a nice playoff run (though it was helped by Derrick Rose’s knee injury). Tall athletes like Garnett tend to age well and squeezing another few years out of him is a perfectly rational decision, as he is the prototype of the player that lasts forever.
Boston also seemed high on keeping Ray Allen but couldn’t keep him and nabbed Terry for three years and $15.6 million. Allen was a classy local product but this loss is not a tragedy. Terry is two years younger than Allen and brings similar skills to the table (shooting). While Allen was much better as a younger player, there isn’t too much difference between them at this point. Allen on a one or two year deal might be a better contract because of the shorter commitment but I don’t think they will see much drop off here. Continue reading Transactions: 7/1-7/21 (Part I)…
6/25 Named Danny Ferry general manager
Ferry’s first go around in Cleveland was a mixed bag. He was perfectly competent in bringing in pieces to fill holes around LeBron James but struggled in making the big deal to push the Cavs over the top. Ferry’s biggest free agent signing was Larry Hughes, who looked pretty good in D.C. but couldn’t shoot well enough to mesh with LBJ. The other big move was getting Antawn Jamison for LeBron’s last run. Jamison was perfectly good scorer but some wondered if Ferry could’ve nabbed Amare Stoudemire and gone all in for a title shot. Ferry rarely had a shot to draft in Cleveland but found a few decent late picks in J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson, and Shannon Brown. But Atlanta will be a very different situation for Ferry. He has to turn over a good but stagnant core. If he is able to trade Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams as has been report, he’s off to a very good start.
6/20 Named Mike Dunlap head coach
6/26 Traded a Corey Maggette to Detroit for Ben Gordon and a future first-round pick
6/30 Waived Jamario Moon
Despite the losses and dysfunction of the 2011-12 season, I am less down on the Bobcats then some. The Bobcats’ situation is not great but Rich Cho appears competent so far and the cap room is there if Charlotte ever decides to spend. Still, the process by which Dunlap was hired was weird. The Bobcats interviewed everyone and decided that the assistant coach at a mid-major college was the best guy for the job. This sounds much more like the Bobcats didn’t want to pay a big name coach and/or couldn’t convince one to take their job. In addition, Michael Jordan has a history of hiring rookie coaches and bailing on them very quickly (see Leonard Hamilton and Sam Vincent). This doesn’t mean Dunlap can’t coach but the questions remain.
Has there ever been a more unlikely coaching hire in the NBA than Dunalp? I can’t thnk of one. There have been some random college coaches hired before (Leonard Hamilton, Lon Kruger, P.J. Carlesimo, Mike Montgomery, Jerry Tarkanian, and Tim Floyd) and a random broadcaster (Quinn Buckner) but never someone so low on the radar as Dunlap.
The Maggette trade is only interesting in the sense that the Bobcats have switched tactics and actually made a trade where they take on money. The yearly money is pretty even but Maggette’s contract ends after 2012-13, while Gordon has a player option for $13.2 million for 2013-14 that will certainly be exercised. On talent, Gordon is younger but both players were not great last year. Gordon, at age-28, would seem to have more of a chance to bounce back but he’s been ineffective for three years now and the Cats are likely looking at a shooting specialist and not a pure scorer he used to be. Swallowing $13.2 million won’t actually hurt the Cats either, as they are so far under the cap that they can live with one more year of Gordon. The real value is the first-rounder that is lottery protected next year but becomes more valuable if rolled over (top 8 protected if used in 2014, top 1 protected if used in 2015, and no protection at all 2016). The hope is that Detroit doesn’t rebuild and, in a few years, Charlotte has a great pick. It’s not clear if Detroit will be good in a year or two (they could go either way), so you have to applaud Cho for getting a potentially valuable piece for absorbing the back end of Gordon’s deal. Continue reading Transactions: 6/4-6/30…
3/14 Signed Mike James to a 10-day contract
With Derrick Rose’s injury issues, Mike James has gotten another look in the NBA, long after his career seemed over. The Bulls signed him and cut him early in the year but he was surprisingly effective, primarily because he has hit 57% of his threes (he was less impressive 12-31 inside the line). One would think there are better alternatives than a 36-yeard old fringe player, who hasn’t been really been in the NBA since 2008-09, though he was good in the cameo earlier in the year.
3/14 Traded Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga to L.A. Lakers for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, and a protected first-round pick and other considerations
3/15 Signed Donald Sloan to a 10-day contract
It is pretty clear that the Cavs lost the talent portion of this trade, as Sessions is a bona fide NBA starter, while Walton looks done and Kapono hasn’t hit the three, which is the only reason he is in the NBA. The salary exchange is fairly neutral too. So why give up the talent? The Cavs didn’t need Sessions with Kyrie Irving playing so well but the haul here is only a first-rounder (reported to be the Lakers’ own pick in 2012) and “other considerations”, which I assume means some cash. A first-rounder isn’t a bad haul for Sessions but you have to wonder what else might’ve been available considering how many teams could use a solid point right now.
3/15 In a three-team traded, Washington traded Ronny Turiaf and JaVale McGee to Denver and Nick Young to L.A. Clippers for Nene from Denver and Brian Cook and a 2015 second-round pick from the L.A. Clippers
Talk about a fascinating out of the blue move. Only a few months ago, Nene was the centerpiece of the post-Carmelo Nuggets and now he’s gone for McGee. How did this happen? Hard to say exactly. Nene’s flaws are clear: he doesn’t rebound and shot block well for a big and he has not shot as well as usual around the rim (.509% from the field versus .560% for his career). At 29, Nene would be good the next few years but probably not as good as in his 20s. McGee, on the other hand, offers youth, shot blocking, and incredible hops, but with tons of mental mistakes thrown in the max. Also, McGee is a potential free agent. Despite all this, McGee’s advanced stats are really impressive (19.7 PER, 3.2 blocks per 36 minutes, and 11.6 rebs per 36 minutes).
It seems that the Nuggets have decided that the effective team from last year was not a true title contender and they would rather re-boot with McGee than have Nene be the cornerstone of the team for the next five years. If McGee plays great over the rest of the season, they have a free agent that they will have to pay. If McGee does stupid things, Denver can walk away and try to find another big. It isn’t a foolproof plan, as a Nene-led team could certainly get to the second-round of the playoffs but I like that Denver is shooting for higher upside, even if there is some risk involved.
2/20 Signed Erick Dampier to a second 10-day contract
3/1 Signed Erick Dampier for the remainder of the season
With Jason Collins having injury problems and a general lack of big bodies in Atlanta, the Hawks have decided to try to squeeze a little value out of Dampier. Dampier looks close to done as an NBA player, unless you want to use him for short spurts. Atlanta seems to recognize this and he doesn’t get more than 6 mpg so far. Just for fun, here’s is Dampier’s per/36 minute production versus the similarly talented Collins this season:
-Collins: 3.4 pts, 1.3 FGM/4.2 FGA (.313 FG%), 5.5 rebs, 0.8 assts, 0.8 stls, 0.3 blks, 1.6 TOs, 3.7 fls, 2.3 PER
-Dampier: 1.7 pts, 0.9 FGM/5.1 FGA (.167 FG%), 12.9 rebs, 2.6 assts, 0.9 stls, 0.9 blks, 0.9 TOs, 2.6 fls, 8.5 PER
There you have it, Dampier, even shooting 17% from the field, does a bit more on the court than Collins. Neither player is asked to do much more than muscle big men and stay in the way on defense. Collins does get some extra credit for his work on Dwight Howard, though you’ d be hard pressed to see his work actually help stat-wise. Collins’ plus/minus is a team low -11.8 this year and Dampier is a respectable +7.8 (both in limited minutes obviously). Continue reading Transactions: 2/21-3/5…