1. Good Player, Bad Team: Pretty much the only news in the NBA these days is the perpetually pending trade of Carmelo Anthony to the Nets. There are compelling reasons for both the Nets and Nuggets to get this trade done but some have questioned why Anthony would want to go to a lottery bound Nets team when Denver is a pretty good team already. The speculation has surrounded the fact that Anthony wants to return to the East Coast where he grew up and where his wife can pursue a recording career. Also, Anthony wants to lock in a contract extension before the lockout might change the ceilings on max contracts.
All this makes some sense but still does not explain why he is so desperate to get to Jersey, other than the fact that he wants to get near New York and the Nets are the only team with the assets to get a deal done before the inevitable lockout of 2012. As with the LeBron move last summer, there may be more here than meets the eye. We’ll wait for the actual deal to happen before teasing out all the angles but, in the meantime, I thought we could look at other big trades of young stars who forced trades and how it turned out since 1990 and whether they regretted it. While plenty of lottery draft picks were traded, I could only find two who were big stars who forced their team to deal them:
–Chris Webber, 1994: I won’t review the circumstances of this deal for the millionth time but most remember that Webber was able to force a trade from Golden State after his rookie year. The team Webber preferred was the old Washington Bullets. This made little sense from a talent stand point. The Bullets were not a good team or well run by management, which had not been to the playoffs since the 1980s at that time. What they did have was Webber’s old buddy from Michigan, Juwan Howard. Webber obviously thought that the two young forwards would make a contending team. There were a few problems with this: Webber and Howard weren’t nearly enough to make a good team when the rest of the starting line up was Scott Skiles, Calbert Cheaney and Gheorghe Muresan. The Bullets did add a little more talent but Webber couldn’t stay healthy and rest of the team just wasn’t that good. It’s not clear that Webber would’ve been better off staying in Golden State, which had talent but was poorly run. The lesson here was if Webber wanted a trade, he should’ve chosen a better destination.
–Alonzo Mourning, 1995: Zo was the Hornets anchor and he wanted a huge money extension. The Hornets balked at paying too much after Larry Johnson’s back injury left them on the hook for millions that were not well spent. Mourning and his agent David Falk brokered a trade to the Heat. In this case, the Heat weren’t a great team but offered a chic city, a Pat Riley-led team, and promise that they would spend money. The Heat lived up to their bargain and Miami acquired Tim Hardaway, Dan Majerle, Jamal Mashburn, and PJ Brown and formed a serious contender. They never won a title with Mourning in Miami (until Shaq and Wade came to town) but Mourning chose well. (It should be noted that the Hornets were no slouches after Zo left town and he would’ve contended with him).
Without knowing the precise motivation/goals of Anthony, it’s hard to speculate why he wants the Nets but he should look at the Webber situation carefully. CWebb wasted four years of his prime before moving on to Sacramento and contending. Going to the Nets isn’t as bad as the old Bullets. Jersey appears to have a real front office, some talent, and a sharper owner. Indeed, there is some indication that another star may be on the way at some point but, for the moment, Anthony-to-the-Nets does not seem like an ideal solution for Carmelo at least.
2. Return of Ason: When he first came up with the Mavs years ago, Jason Kidd was known as the best player without a jump shot in the game. Kidd shot .385% as a rookie and .272% from three. He improved his threes to .336% his second year but still struggled from the field. Kidd’s three-point shot varied wildly in Phoenix (37% his first year and floundered around 31-32% in other seasons) but his two-point shooting began creeping up above 40%. The net effect was to push Kidd’s true shooting percentage above 50% most years and make him one of the most valuable points in the NBA in Phoenix and later in Jersey.
When the Mavs re-acquired Kidd from the Nets in 2007-08, Kidd re-made his shooting strategy. Kidd usage rating, which had peaked up at 26% with the Nets immediately fell down to 13.5% in 2008-09 with Dallas. Kidd essentially turned into a spot up shooter. His last two years in Jersey, Kidd shot took 11 shots per 36 minutes and 4.6 of them were threes. In Dallas, he got off about eight shots per 36 minutes but but still took the same amount of threes. Somehow, Kidd was able to hit 42% of his threes, which was a bit above his career average.
This year, the bottom has fallen out. Kidd is shooting .343% from the field and .329% from three, despite the fact that he is still averaging about the same amount of shots per-minute. Moreover, Kidd has stopped getting to the line, averaging only one free throw per 36 minutes, a career low. The other parts of Kidd’s game (passing, boarding, and stealing) are intact but the question is whether this huge drop in shooting prowess is a random cold streak or a permanent drop. Kidd has had cold three-point seasons before (2003-04, 2001-02, and 2000-01) but back then he could score other ways. Moreover, the track record of point guards in their late 30s and shooting slumps are not good. Virtually every single guard who started to lose his three-point shot (or his regular shooting stroke) after age-35 did not recover. Kidd is cut from a different cloth than most players but it is more likely than not that he Kidd won’t see 40% shooting in his career.