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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

First Impressions of the Rudy Gay Trade

There are many ways to evaluate an NBA trade but--contrary to the popular trend of providing "analysis" that is instant, not very deep and focused on the short term--I prefer to take a deliberate, in depth and long term approach. The Memphis Grizzlies, a legitimate championship contender, shipped leading scorer Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Toronto's Ed Davis, Detroit's Austin Daye and Detroit's Tayshaun Prince, with Detroit receiving Jose Calderon from Toronto and Hamed Haddadi from Memphis to complete the deal. Memphis also received Detroit's 2013 second round draft pick.

It is very unusual for a contender to trade their leading scorer in the middle of the season and it is even more unusual for a contender to make such a deal without receiving in exchange even the second best player involved in the transaction; Tayshaun Prince made the All-Defensive Team four straight years but his last appearance on the squad was in 2008, Austin Daye was the 10th man on a bad Detroit team and Ed Davis is a solid young big man but his career arc thus far hardly screams superstar in the making: Jose Calderon is clearly the second best player involved in this three team deal but Memphis gave up Gay without even getting Calderon. Everyone understands that Memphis' primary motivation was to save money by avoiding future luxury tax payments and no one disputes that Gay is overpaid but Memphis players and fans are understandably discouraged that management broke up a potential championship team purely for financial reasons.

The "stat gurus" have always hated Gay's game and now that "stat guru" John Hollinger is a member of Memphis' front office it is not surprising that Memphis made this deal; Hollinger's PER statistic ranks Gay just 26th out of 70 qualifying small forwards and just 152nd overall out of 334 qualifying players. By Hollinger's reckoning, Gay is roughly as valuable as Kyle Korver or Shannon Brown--but one of the major limitations of "advanced basketball statistics" is that most such formulas do not take into account the value of being able to create one's own shot and/or draw a double team. Gay's field goal percentage has been hovering in career-low territory all season but his presence still created space for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and he ranked third on the team in rebounds, steals and blocked shots; Gay provided a lot of value that is not captured by "advanced basketball statistics." It also is not good for team morale if the coaching staff and players believe that management is more interested in cutting costs than in producing a champion. Considering the paltry returns that the Grizzlies received for Gay, they should have let this season play out and then dealt Gay during the summer, if necessary; critics hammered the Grizzlies for the Pau Gasol deal but that trade made much more sense than this one: Pau Gasol was clearly not a franchise player and the Grizzlies needed to completely reboot their roster, which that deal facilitated not only directly (by bringing Marc Gasol aboard) but also by making it possible for the Grizzlies to later acquire Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Tony Allen (among others). It is extremely unlikely that the Gay deal will have a positive impact for Memphis even remotely approaching that level; the Gay deal weakened Memphis in the short run and, other than saving some money, it is not at all clear that it will strengthen Memphis in the long run.

Memphis saved a ton of cash and acquired some spare parts but Gay will likely be a 20-plus ppg scorer for several years for the Raptors while Calderon--who ranks eighth in the league in assists and has finished in the top five in that category four of the past five seasons--solidifies the point guard position for the Pistons, perhaps indicating that Joe Dumars has overcome his peculiar fascination with Rodney Stuckey; Dumars got rid of three perennial All-Stars (Chauncey Billups, Allen Iverson and Richard Hamilton) to create playing time for Stuckey, who has yet to prove that he is more than an average player. Unless Davis develops into a significant member of the Memphis rotation and/or Prince provides some flashbacks of his former defensive prowess the Grizzlies will get less value out of this deal than both the Raptors and the Pistons.

How is Memphis' cost-cutting different from what the Oklahoma City Thunder did with James Harden? The two huge differences are that the Thunder have two players who are much more valuable than Harden and the Thunder replaced Harden with a player (Kevin Martin) who can more than adequately fill Harden's role; in contrast, Gay was Memphis' leading scorer--which is significant regardless of how much the "stat gurus" carp about Gay's efficiency--and the Grizzlies did not come close to acquiring a player who can adequately fill Gay's role (which, it must be emphasized again, involved not just leading the team in scoring but also creating floor spacing while being versatile enough to rank third on the team in rebounds, steals and blocked shots). Strip away all of the hype about Harden's individual numbers and look at Houston's bottom line: a .515 winning percentage in 2011-12 without Harden and a .531 winning percentage in 2012-13 with  Harden, which over 82 games roughly translates into the difference between being a 42 win team and being a 44 win team. Meanwhile, the Thunder not only improved their financial situation by dealing Harden but they actually increased their winning percentage from .712 in 2011-12 to .745 in 2012-13. It is worth remembering that Houston has a 9-10 playoff record and three Lottery appearances during Daryl Morey's five year reign--and the Rockets (who are currently clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West) may very well be heading for their fourth Lottery appearance by the end of Morey's sixth season. As Mike Lupica once said in a different context, it is time for the guru to start "guruing." The Grizzlies built a very strong playoff team after trading away "stat guru" favorite Pau Gasol--a player who Morey has openly coveted for quite some time--so it will be interesting to see if Memphis' "stat guru" fares any better in the next five years than Houston's "stat guru" has fared in the previous five years.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:33 AM

13 comments

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13 Comments:

At Tuesday, February 05, 2013 7:21:00 AM, Blogger Kion Stephen said...

Actually, Memphis's logic for trading Gay is almost exactly the same as the Thunder's for trading Harden.

In both cases, keeping 4 'stars' (yes, the quotes are intentional) who make a lot of money is just not conducive to building a sustainable team. In fact, in OKC's case, their position was even less justifiable - OKC was on the verge of a championship - not in the vague sense that we call most good teams championship contenders, but in the real sense that they just came from a trip to the NBA finals. Harden was their primary crunchtime playmaker, and they traded him away for someone who did not have Harden's playmaking ability. The fact was, OKC made a calculated decision that they could not afford to keep a team together with 4 players making more than the salary cap and still build a team around them, so they decided to trade away one of their core pieces to ensure future flexibility.

It was a calculated gamble that is seeming to pay off, but it was still a gamble that they could reproduce harden's playmaking from the internal development of Westbrook and Durant. In hindsight, that seems like a simple gamble to make, but the reality was that in the past, Westbrook seemed to be very unreliable and Durant, although a deadly scorer, was not much of a playmaker. Their gamble seemed to have paid off though.

Memphis was in a similar situation - their current team has 4 players making up to the salary cap, which is untenable - you can't build any sort of team around them long term when 4 players make so much. And Memphis is definitely a lower-tier championship contender i.e. they would be rather lucky to make it to the Finals.

In fact, Memphis's best season came without Rudy Gay - when they focused their offense around their bigs, and this trade was made with the intention to head back in that direction. There have also been rumors that Gay and Randolph don't quite get along, so there may have even been chemistry concerns being addressed as well.

I think the final judgement of this trade doesn't come now, but next year and the year after - Memphis was not winning the title this year, so lets see what happens with their greater flexibility and their renewed focus on offense on their bigs. Rushing to judgement after a week seems foolhardy to me.

 
At Tuesday, February 05, 2013 4:21:00 PM, Blogger Jordan Ikeda said...

I am in agreement with most of your assessment, especially your mistrust of purely statistics-based decision making. As always, you have laid out your analysis clearly, concisely and intelligently. You continue to put out the most consistent, well written, and engaging work on the NBA that is currently available. And that’s why I continue to come back here whenever a new article appears.

A couple points I’d like to quibble with you on. For one thing, while you did mention the money that the Grizzlies will be saving, you didn’t address the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the severe penalties that it will begin to inflict on tax-paying teams coming up next season. While I realize Memphis made a trade a couple of weeks ago that got the team under the salary cap and out of taxpayer territory the luxury tax is a very real and significant deterrent (ironically) to small market teams.

The larger question at hand is whether this team with Rudy Gay had a legitimate shot at not just making the second round, but of actually winning it all. It’s not like Memphis broke up a championship squad like Dallas two seasons ago. We are talking about a team that made a surprising run to the second round two seasons ago and lost in the first round last year. Certainly not the progress the Thunder showed over a similar growth cycle. While anything is possible, the Grizz had been wildly up-and-down (in terms of winning) over the weeks leading up to the trade.

In that light, trading away a grossly overpaid player at the height of his trade value (well, as high as it was going to be in light of how he was playing this year), seems like a smart move regardless of what advanced stats may or may not say.

My other quibble is in the talent the team got back. While there is no question that Gay is a better player than any of the pieces Memphis received, I believe he was a less than ideal fit. His uneven performance the past two years is evidence of this belief as will his improved play in the coming months in a Raptors uniform.

Gay will excel in Toronto and be a 20-plus ppg scorer like you indicated mainly because the style of play will be different and he’ll have the ball a lot more. He was a blossoming scorer back in 2010 averaging 20 ppg on 47 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from three. But that was without Zach Randolph. Since Randolph’s addition to the team, Gay has taken backwards steps (yes, his injuries have played a part) and is currently averaging 17 points on 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.

On the other hand, Tayshaun Prince is shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc, is a far better spot-up shooter, and is arguably a better defender. Fit-wise, he’ll do more to open up the lanes for Gasol and Randolph. Same with Daye, who is shooting an-impossible-to-sustain 55 percent from beyond the arc. I agree that shot-making ability is vital to a team’s success and is often undervalued by stat gurus. That said, Gay’s shot-making ability really amounts to the difference between a first round exit and a second round exit and wasn’t going to carry the team to the NBA finals.

As for Ed Davis, he is a nice piece that could be a building block next to Gasol if the team decides to move Randolph, or a trade piece that could net the Grizz what the team really needs—an outside deadeye shooter.

If the Grizzlies trade Davis (or someone else like Leuer) and acquire someone like Courtney Lee or JJ Redick, would your opinion on the trade change?

Thanks for the terrific commentary. Your pieces are always appreciated.

 
At Tuesday, February 05, 2013 5:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Kion:

I did not "rush to judgment"--far from it. I offered my logical, reasoned take about why this trade is a mistake for Memphis from both the short term and long term perspectives. It will be interesting to see what happens both this season and in the seasons to come.

While most "experts" agreed with your take that OKC took a big risk by trading Harden, I said from the start that I did not think that OKC would miss a beat and I explained why--and in this article I explained why I do not think that the same considerations apply to the Memphis trade. OKC is as good or better now without Harden but the same cannot be said of Memphis sans Gay.

 
At Tuesday, February 05, 2013 5:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jordan:

While it is true that Memphis did not break up a team that had already won a title, Memphis broke up a team that certainly was a strong contender to come out of the West. It is unusual for a top four team in a conference to trade their leading scorer in the middle of the season in exchange for role players and a second round draft pick.

I understand the points you are making with your analysis of the skill sets of the various players involved in the trade but I still think that Memphis will miss Gay's ability to create his own shot and to create shots for others. Prince cannot do either of those things (except for occasionally making a jump hook in the post over a smaller defender in a mismatch situation). Davis is young, so he is the wild card in the deal and if he develops into a very good player then of course this deal will look great for Memphis but he is already in his third season so I am skeptical that he will suddenly break out.

If the Grizzlies parlay their two recent deals into further deals that improve their roster (much like the Grizzlies did after trading Pau Gasol) then of course I am open to amending my analysis but I just don't think that the Grizzlies got very much in return for trading their leading scorer so I am skeptical that they will be able to significantly upgrade their roster in the near future.

 
At Wednesday, February 06, 2013 12:12:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

David, I agree with most of your points about Harden and such, and I'm sure Hollinger had something to do with this trade, but the grizzlies are a small-market team and they made a bad decision giving Gay 80mil over 5 years. He's probably only their 3rd best player this year, so this is very similar to what OKC did with Harden, except OKC's decision makes even less sense since they are actually a legit contender.

Even with trading away Harden, OKC is still the team to beat in the west because they have 2 of the top 6-7 players in the league while being a deep and talented team overall. And westbrook/durant and the rest of the thunder are all a year older with more experience, which should benefit them greatly this year. However, the whole sentiment around the league after OKC traded Harden was great relief. Even Kobe was very happy about it, that should tell us something. OKC is my favorite, but they would certainly be better with Harden instead of Martin. And while I think Harden is highly overrated by the stat gurus, OKC is certainly worse without him.

And you've told us before that you don't pay a 3rd-wheel max or near-max money, so obviously trading away Gay is the right move. Also, you've told us before that there's only 5-7 franchise players in the league, and the title will be from one of these teams, and memphis certainly doesn't have any of these players. If I was a memphis fan, I wouldn't be happy, but they got some nice role players in the trade and now they have some cap relief, and while they have a fighter's chance with or without Gay, that's about it, and may not even make it out of the first round, and like Kion said, they had their best playoff push without Gay.

The problem about this trade isn't that Memphis traded Gay, it's that they didn't get back enough for Gay. Calderon wouldn't help so much since they have Conley already. They needed more, and it's not like memphis got back much with the Pau trade other than striking gold with Marc. What Memphis did after each of these trades shouldn't be justification for a bad or a good decision. Maybe they were dumb to trade Pau, and got a little lucky.

I understand your beefs with the stat gurus, as I am very similar, but I think you're going too far in the other direction. Memphis actually got less back in the Pau trade initially. Marc turning out to be a very good player was kind of lucky. The lakers weren't even using him and didn't want him really, and he was just a throw in. And Pau was better then than Gay is now. If it was clear that Pau wasn't a franchise player 4-5 years ago, then it should be even clearer that Gay isn't a franchise player either. It's going to be hard enough for memphis to even make it through the first round.

 
At Wednesday, February 06, 2013 4:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

Harden is not that much better than Martin, which can be seen both by their individual production (both as first options and with OKC as the sixth man) and by the win/loss records of the teams before/after the trade. Maybe if OKC falls short of the Western Conference Finals you can make a case that OKC is worse without Harden but up to this point there is no evidence to support that claim.

I stated very clearly that Gay is overpaid and that the problem with the deal is that Memphis did not get enough back for him. I don't understand your tendency to post a seemingly contrarian comment that actually simply reiterates what has already been said. It's almost as if you want to argue or promote some kind of controversy.

Whether or not Gay was Memphis' third best player, he was their leading scorer and he created shots both for himself and for teammates. Memphis will miss his skill set. He also rebounded and made his presence felt with steals/blocked shots.

Marc Gasol was a young, promising player who was a bit out of shape but had a lot of potential. He was not a throw-in to that deal from Memphis' perspective. Getting rid of Pau gave Memphis the financial flexibility to make the moves that built the current roster and that was all part of the plan. Also, it was clear that Memphis was going nowhere with Pau as the main guy but it is not clear that Memphis was going nowhere with a Randolph-Gasol-Gay nucleus. I was one of the few people who said, at that time, that Memphis had the right idea to trade Pau and that the Grizzlies did not lose out in that deal. In contrast, there is little reason to believe that the Gay deal provided any short term or long term benefit other than saving money; they did not acquire any assets (players or draft picks) that will improve their team this season and/or that can be used to acquire assets in the future.

 
At Wednesday, February 06, 2013 4:28:00 PM, Blogger Jordan Ikeda said...

@Boyer

Marc Gasol was the reigning ACB MVP when the Lakers traded him (other ACB MVPs include Luis Scola, Tiago Splitter, and Arvydas Sabonis). Marc also had a history of basketball success in his family blood...So, to say that Memphis got "lucky" with him is incorrect.

Furthermore, the Grizzlies used one of the picks they received in that trade to draft Darrel Arthur--an athletic beast defensively and a pick and pop four that can stretch defenses with his 17-foot jumper.

Finally, the Grizzlies also used Kwame Brown's trade exception to partially fund the signing of Zach Randolph.

So, in the end, Memphis basically traded away an all-star (Pau) to field their formidable frontline that includes two all-stars and a starter-caliber bench player.

The very same frontline that earlier this season had them in the contender conversation.

 
At Wednesday, February 06, 2013 5:40:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

I'm not that high on Harden, but he's clearly better than Martin, that much is evident. The only thing Martin can do is shoot, and his career FG pct. as a #1 option is pretty bad and his teams have never been good with him as the main man. You cannot even remotely build a team around Martin, not that I think you can build a title team around with Harden though still a very very good team, but Harden is clearly better than any player on Memphis, and they're doing pretty decent. And Harden is easily an AS this year.

I mean look at Kobe this year. If we both agree that Kobe is clearly better than Harden, and the Lakers have the best center in the league along with several other good role players, then how are the rockets doing better? I know there's other variables involved, but there's also a lot more to look at than just this season's record vs. last season's record. If that's the case, then we have to say Harden is clearly better than Kobe. Harden as a 1st option is only shooting 1 pct. point worse than Martin as a 3rd or 4th option, and Martin is playing against the opps' 2nd unit more than Harden is. It's fair to say that Martin somewhat fills the void of Harden's role; however, it's not fair to say that OKC is as good now than if they had Harden. If they Harden instead of Martin, they'd be much better. But, since they don't have a gazillion bucks, then the trade they made makes sense; however, the rest of the league just let out a huge sigh of relief when that trade was made. Everyone knows it, that OKC would've been much more formidable with Harden instead of Martin. Are you really trying to tell me that a frail guy who brings pretty much nothing else other than spot-up shooting is going to help OKC as much as a clearcut AS in Harden would. I guess that's your opinion, though it doesn't make sense to me. OKC is still the top team in the west as last year, with or without Harden, and maybe the best team in the entire NBA. Miami doesn't look as good as last year. And the rest of the thunder as a whole look better than last year, so just because OKC is doing about the same as last year so far doesn't mean that they're worse off with Martin instead of Harden.

I wasn't contradicting that Gay is overpaid. The problem with this trade, as I stated before is not that Memphis traded Gay, it's that they didn't get much back for him, as you stated as well. Because of that, the trade doesn't make any sense. I just take exception with what you're saying about Gay. Yes, I would rather have Gay than Prince and Daye, but it's clear this memphis roster isn't a legit contender, much like Pau's grizzlies, so while dumping Gay isn't necessarily a great move, it very well could be, and at the very least was somewhat necessary, though I'd rather keep Gay than Randolph probably since he's younger and more versatile. I'm not sure why Memphis decided to not get much back in return. But trading Gay much like trading Pau certainly hurt each of their respective teams at the time. Gay is in his 7th year, and he has yet to win 1 playoff series, much like Pau, and I don't see many if any, playoff appearances for Gay's new team in the near future.

 
At Wednesday, February 06, 2013 11:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

When Martin was the number one option in Houston in 2010-11 (he only played in 40 of 66 games last season), he averaged 23.5 ppg in 80 games (all starts). His shooting percentages (FG, 3FG, FT respectively) were .436, .383, .888. He also averaged 3.2 rpg, 2.5 apg and 2.3 tpg. Houston went 43-39 and missed the playoffs by three games. This season as OKC's sixth man, Martin is averaging 15.1 ppg with shooting percentages of .453, .438 (fifth in the NBA) and .904 (first in the NBA). He is averaging 2.3 rpg, 1.3 apg and 1.4 tpg. Harden averaged 16.8 ppg while shooting .491, .390 and .846 as OKC's sixth man last season. He averaged 4.1 rpg, 3.7 apg and 2.2 tpg. This season in Houston, Harden is averaging 25.6 ppg while shooting .440, .337 and .853. He is averaging 4.5 rpg, 5.6 apg and 3.8 tpg. As mentioned before, Houston's winning percentage is worse and OKC's winning percentage is better. Martin's numbers as the top option in Houston are comparable to Harden's and Martin's numbers as the sixth man in OKC are comparable to Harden's. In both cases, Martin's teams have been slightly more successful (in terms of winning percentage) than Harden's. There is no statistical and/or "eye test" evidence that Harden is "clearly better" than Martin.

You answered your own leading question about the Lakers and Kobe Bryant. There are obviously many other factors involved, including injuries to several key players plus two coaching changes (Brown to Bickerstaff and then Bickerstaff to D'Antoni). Bryant in his prime carried Smush Parker and Kwame Brown to the playoffs in the tough Western Conference, something that neither Harden nor Martin could have done.

Trading Pau Gasol enabled the Grizzlies to become a markedly better team within three years with a completely rebuilt roster featuring Marc Gasol and other players acquired directly or indirectly as a result of the Pau Gasol deal. We will see if Memphis is markedly better in three seasons as a result of the Gay deal but I highly doubt it.

 
At Thursday, February 07, 2013 5:57:00 AM, Blogger Kion Stephen said...

David,
I have a hard time believing that you really believe Martin and Harden are comparable.
I am not a Harden fan. At all. I hate how he just stands at the top, near the half court line when he doesn't have the ball, doing absolutely nothing. I dislike how he just barrels into the lane throwing his arms up looking for the bailout foul. I honestly thought he would get a rude awakening this year as Houston's number one option.

But even me, who dislikes Harden's game immensely has to admit there is very little comparison between Martin and Harden as number one options.
Harden runs Houston's offense, while being their number one scorer. He is the lifeblood of the majority of their sets (and does absolutely nothing when he isn't, but i digress...)

Harden and Martin are not comparable as players. It's amusing how you mock those 'stats guys' when they use numbers only to make their arguments, but then turn around and use the same logic in your own arguments.

The argument that Harden is not much better than Martin just does not pass the eye test. Harden is clearly much better than Martin is, and it's not really close.

OKC is better this year because Westbrook is slightly more consistent and Durant has improved his playmaking ability. They are not better because of Martin. Martin helps ease the loss of Harden. He doesn't improve them beyond what Harden would have given them.

I just don't get why we have to declare at this point that the trade was wrong. Memphis was not winning the west. After their great start, they were a pretty average team. Unless significant injuries happened, they were not coming out of the West. The team was too expensive to maintain if it wasn't winning the championship. And next year, Gay's salary jumps up to 19 million, which just makes the problem worse.

In any NBA trade, you have to take back salaries to make the trade work (unless you're lucky to have a trade partner who is under the cap or has a big trade exception). The fact that Gay's salary will just go up next year was probably part of the reasoning of trading him this year, so they don't have to take back more money. With that in mind, Prince was a decent candidate to replace - he can do a reasonable impersonation of Gay's 3 point shooting, and is better on defense, at half the price. In addition, they got Ed Davis who will shore up their big man rotation. He is not AllStar, but he is a very decent big. He's also still on his rookie deal, which is generally the biggest bargain in the NBA.

The easiest position to replace in the NBA is the scoring wing. You keep mentioning that Gay is their leading scorer, but he wasn't exactly lighting up the scoreboards. He was averaging around 17, with Randolph near 16. They weren't exactly giving up Carmelo Anthony here.
I won't be surprised to see them pick up an energetic wing scorer in the JR Smith mold who can come in and give them some scoring off the bench.

Let's give the trade some time before declaring it a complete failure.

 
At Thursday, February 07, 2013 7:23:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Kion:

Again, I did not "rush to judgment" or declare the trade a "complete failure." I offered a logical, reasoned take explaining why I believe that the trade is a mistake both from the short term and long term perspectives. The Grizzlies were a top four team in the West prior to making this deal. We will see where they end up by the end of the season and we will also see where they end up three seasons from now.

Boyer contended that Harden is "clearly better" than Martin but, as I noted, there is no statistical or "eye test" evidence to support that assertion. One could make the case that Harden is better than Martin but one could also make a reasonable case that Martin is at least comparable to Harden. I am not saying who I think is a better player; I am simply pointing out that the evidence does not support Boyer's extreme contention.

You can speak hypothetically about what you think Harden may have done for OKC this season but what has essentially happened is that Harden took over Martin's role in Houston and Martin took over Harden's role in OKC; the individual player statistics in their respective roles are similar and in both cases Martin's teams have a higher winning percentage. I am not saying that this is a closed case but I am saying that anyone who wants to say that Harden is "clearly better" than Martin has his work cut out for him.

My position regarding "advanced basketball statistics" and statistics in general is frequently misunderstood. I have nothing against using statistics to evaluate basketball players and, indeed, statistics are an important evaluation tool that I use. I have nothing against the theory/concept of creating "advanced basketball statistics" that are more precise than traditional statistics--but I strongly object to the idea that a player can be definitively evaluated by one number (whether that number comes from Berri, Hollinger or anyone else) and I strongly object to the idea that "advanced basketball statistics" are a finished product. Some of the five man adjusted plus/minus data can be useful if the sample size is large enough but the notion that there is an effective formula that can definitively rank individual players is farfetched.

I did not rely on one number to compare Harden and Martin. I simply noted that their overall production as both first option players and as sixth men is quite similar and that in both cases Martin's squads had better winning percentages than Harden's squads. I realize that Harden is bigger than Martin and that Harden can do more things--but Martin is very, very good at the things he does well, namely spot-up shooting, drawing fouls and making free throws. Martin is so good at those things that his weaknesses do not seem to impact his team's success as much as some people predict/expect. That is why I was confident in saying that Martin could replace Harden even though their skill sets are different.

Swinging the discussion back to the main topic, the Grizzlies did not replace the scoring, shot creation, rebounding, blocked shots and steals that Gay provided (they replaced some of those things but not all of them and they certainly did not bring in one player who can do all of those things). That is why this was a bad deal for Memphis and that is why I expect Memphis to drop in the standings. Will Memphis be able to make future acquisitions to become stronger in the long run? That remains to be seen but if Memphis' primary motivation is to cut costs then it is hard to believe that the roster is going to be upgraded any time soon.

 
At Friday, February 08, 2013 12:29:00 AM, Anonymous bigweeze said...

David, I did not see this addressed in your commentary:
Memphis began the season 14-3 and has gone 16-15 since, dropping from #1 to #5.

My suspicion is that the realization of the team's true talent level was a factor in the trade.

Mark Cuban's has mentioned a 5% theory which is - if your odds reach that threshold, you should set your sights on the championship.

Whatever Memphis' internal tolerance is, they didn't feel that they were in a strong enough position to continue forward.

The unfair part about the month before the trade was the cloud created by the lingering rumours. Gay's days were numbered given Hollinger's appointment. Once you know that someone's expectations are fixed, the player/team are put in an unwinnable situation.

 
At Friday, February 08, 2013 8:10:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bigweeze:

I don't believe that a team's "true talent level" can be determined by a small sample size of games, whether that sample consists of the start of the season, the subsequent games or even the first few games after the trade. I provided my analysis and now it will be interesting to see what happens this season and in the next few seasons.

 

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