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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Commentators Lose the Thread When Analyzing the Memphis-Oklahoma City Series

Bill Simmons thinks that the Memphis-Oklahoma City series validates the Rudy Gay trade and Jon Barry thinks that P.J. Carlesimo deserves credit for Kevin Durant's ballhanding skills because Carlesimo played Durant at shooting guard during Durant's rookie season. Paraphrasing Casey Stengel, "Can't anybody here analyze this game?"

The Memphis Grizzlies finished fifth in the Western Conference, defeated an overrated/flawed L.A. Clippers team in the first round and currently hold a 2-1 lead over the number one seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals--but the Grizzlies are poised to advance to the Western Conference Finals not because they traded their leading scorer for spare parts but because one of the top five players in the NBA suffered a season-ending knee injury. The most valuable player for the Grizzlies so far has been Houston's Patrick Beverley, the rookie guard who clipped Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and shredded Westbrook's knee. Westbrook played in all 82 games and ranked sixth in the league in scoring, seventh in the league in assists and ninth in the league in steals as the Thunder went 60-22 in the regular season. Oklahoma City ranked third in the NBA in scoring (105.7 ppg) and second in the NBA in defensive field goal percentage (.425). The Thunder routed Houston 120-91 in the first game of the playoffs and they beat Houston 105-102 in the second game, with a hobbled Westbrook playing in the second half despite suffering the knee injury that would end his season. Since Westbrook exited the lineup, the Thunder have posted a 3-4 record, splitting four games with the eighth seeded Rockets before falling behind 2-1 to the Grizzlies; the Thunder averaged 96.7 ppg in those seven games. The Thunder miss Westbrook's scoring, playmaking, defense and energy. Kevin Durant is putting up monster numbers sans Westbrook but the team is playing worse overall--and Durant is showing signs of wearing down: in Oklahoma City's 87-81 loss on Sunday, Durant shot just 3-11 from the field in the second half, he only scored two fourth quarter points and he missed two free throws when the Thunder trailed 85-81 with :39 remaining. Perhaps next season we will hear less about Westbrook supposedly shooting too often; it should be obvious that the Thunder need Westbrook to create scoring opportunities for himself and for his teammates. Meanwhile, as Durant runs himself ragged just to keep the games close, Memphis point guard Mike Conley is wearing out Oklahoma City's point guards--something that would not have happened if Conley had to check Westbrook at one end of the court and then deal with Westbrook checking him at the other end of the court.

Westbrook's injury is the number one story of this series. Secondary stories include whatever astronomical numbers Durant ends up with in defeat and the effectiveness of Memphis' Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph duo. What about the Gay trade? Fortunately for Memphis, the absence of Westbrook is so important that it negates the fact that the Grizzlies are getting almost no production in this series from the players who they acquired in that deal: starting small forward Tayshaun Prince (who has taken Gay's spot in the rotation) is averaging 5.0 ppg on .292 field goal shooting and he is getting torched by Durant, Austin Daye has scored three points in 4:52 and Ed Davis has scored two points in 3:08--but, despite these facts, Bill Simmons tells a national television audience that he has to restrain himself from taking a "victory lap" around the ESPN set for supposedly being vindicated about the Gay trade. Simmons apparently thinks that ESPN viewers are stupid enough to believe that trading a 26 year old 18.2 ppg scorer who can create his own shot for a 33 year old player averaging 5.0 ppg and two young guys who are not even in the rotation qualifies as some kind of brilliant move. I hope and expect that the readers of this article are not that dumb. Maybe the Grizzlies will find good use for the money that they saved by getting rid of Gay's contract, maybe Davis and/or Daye will develop into rotation players--but does anyone in his right mind believe that if Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins were given a lie detector test he would say that this trade improved Memphis' chances to win a championship this season? Simmons loves the "stat gurus" and the "stat gurus" hate Gay's game but trying to pretend that the Grizzlies are beating the Thunder because of this bad trade hardly lends credence to the "stat guru" point of view; it just shows that "stat gurus" can be every bit as biased/tendentious as anyone else who is blindly loyal to a particular point of view regardless of contradictory facts.

The Gay trade did not make basketball sense and even if the Westbrook injury lets the Grizzlies off the hook in this round--which it probably will--the Grizzlies will miss Gay in the next round. The Grizziles ranked 27th in the league in scoring (93.4 ppg) and 21st in field goal percentage (.444)--and they are struggling to match those numbers against the Thunder but the Thunder are so offensively challenged sans Westbrook that the Grizzlies are able to keep the upper hand.

Not only is Simmons wrong about the Gay trade--something that will become even more clear next round and in the years to come--but he was also wrong about the deal that actually turned the Grizzlies into a contender; when the Grizzlies wisely traded Pau Gasol to the L.A. Lakers for Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and two first round draft picks, Simmons scoffed, "How was the Gasol trade legal? If I kill my mailman and no one ever finds out, does that make it legal? Jerry West's old team (Memphis) gift-wrapped its best player for the team that once employed West for 40 years, taking back a pupu platter (Kwame Brown, a third-string guard and two crappy picks)." Even if all the Grizzlies had received was Marc Gasol, the deal still would have been good--Marc Gasol is an All-Star and he won the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year award--but one of those first round picks became Greivis Vasquez, who the Grizzlies traded for Quincy Pondexter; Pondexter is averaging 9.0 ppg versus the Thunder while leading Memphis in three point field goals made, which means that he literally is almost twice as productive as anyone who the Grizzlies received in the Gay trade! The larger point is that the Grizzlies figured out that a Pau Gasol-led team would never win a championship, so they started over and put together a deep, flexible roster; shedding Pau Gasol's contract provided the necessary financial flexibility to acquire Zach Randolph and make other moves as well. I was one of the few commentators who did not blast Memphis for trading Pau Gasol; I wrote, "Obviously, the Grizzlies have hit the reset button and are rebuilding from the ground up. To do that in the NBA, you need draft picks, salary cap room and young players. This deal provides all of those things to the Grizzlies. That does not mean that it will work, though; there are too many uncertainties: to name just a few, (1) has Brown peaked or can he still improve, (2) how good will Crittenton become, (3) how good will Marc Gasol be when he comes to the NBA, (4) who will Memphis choose with the newly acquired draft picks? All that can be said at the moment is that this is the right kind of move for Memphis to make, because there was no future for the team the way it was composed prior to this deal. In an odd way, there is a slight similarity between what Memphis is doing now and what the Lakers did with Shaq several years ago; the Grizzlies are getting rid of their best player and taking a short term step backwards with the hope of being better off long term, while the Lakers are shedding some youth in order to make a championship run now." I did not know if Memphis' plan would work--no one has that kind of crystal ball--but I knew that Memphis had made the best possible choice after realizing that Pau Gasol is not a franchise player. The critical difference between the Gasol trade and the Gay trade is that the former broke up a non-contending team with the long term plan of building a contender while the latter weakened the roster of a team that could realistically contend for the Western Conference crown right now.

"Stat gurus" love Pau Gasol's game and they hate Rudy Gay's game, so Simmons will mock the Pau Gasol trade until the end of time and he will tout the brilliance of the Gay trade even when Memphis is struggling to score 80-85 points next round versus San Antonio (I realize that I worked a few assumptions into that sentence but if the Grizzlies eliminate the Thunder then they will struggle to score against whoever they face in the Western Conference Finals). Real science is based on stating a testable hypothesis and then experimentally testing that hypothesis. We have seen Pau Gasol-led Memphis teams go 0-12 in the playoffs. We have seen Pau Gasol be a solid second option on two Laker championship teams. We have seen Marc Gasol become a better, more physical player than his younger brother. We have seen Memphis become a better team than the Lakers in no small part because of the Gasol-Gasol trade. We have seen Memphis get virtually no production from the small forward position since the Gay trade and yet survive so far in the playoffs due to favorable matchups (overrated Clippers in the first round, injury-depleted Thunder in the second round). Any scientifically-inclined "stat guru" or "stat guru" acolyte should concede that Pau Gasol is not as valuable as the "stat gurus" thought he was in 2008 and that--at the very least--it is too soon to say that Memphis benefited from trading Gay; only if the Grizzlies can win a playoff series against a full strength championship contender can it be said that the Gay trade worked (and if that happens--without extenuating circumstances such as injuries or suspensions--then I will revise my hypothesis, because I actually adhere to scientific reasoning, unlike the "stat gurus" who are blindly married to their personal biases).

Barry's comment is ridiculous, too. Kevin Durant's game blossomed right after the Thunder fired Carlesimo and replaced him with Scott Brooks; the first thing that Brooks did is move Durant back to his comfort zone at small forward. Yes, Durant is now a multifaceted veteran who can operate from all over the court but the last thing that Durant needed as a rookie and as a second year player was to learn a new position when he was just trying to become adjusted to playing in the NBA. Brooks, a former player, understood that even though Carlesimo did not; I had good reason to predict prior to the 2013 playoffs that Carlesimo would be outcoached by Tom Thibodeau and that Carlesimo's Nets would lose most of the close games in their series versus the Bulls (the Bulls went 4-1 in games decided by eight points or less and the Nets fired Carlesimo after the injury-depleted Bulls won the seventh game in Brooklyn).

Most former players--including Jon's brother Brent--provide interesting insights based on their experiences in the league but this is not the first time that Jon has said something that made no sense: last year he ranked Paul Millsap and Ryan Anderson as top five power forwards and a few years ago he teamed up with Mike Wilbon to declare that the Lakers are better off when Kobe Bryant shoots less frequently. There are many refutations of that nonsensical assertion, including footage from the Lakers' 4-0 loss to the Spurs in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Bryant did not shoot at all during that series--he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury after carrying the Lakers into the playoffs--and the Lakers endured their worst playoff defeat in franchise history.

One of the best things about the competitive chess world is that, as former U.S. Champion Stuart Rachels put it, "...there is no issue about determining who the experts are. In chess, the experts are the ones who win. In other artistic areas, experts are harder to discern, and so claims about perception and beauty are harder to verify." Sadly, this is not the case in the writing business or the television business; anyone who knows the "right" people can get hired and be presented to the world as an "expert," even if what he writes/says makes no sense. Dr. Emanuel Lasker, the World Chess Champion from 1894-1921, stated this truth even more directly: "On the chess board lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite."

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:16 AM



At Sunday, May 12, 2013 7:02:00 AM, Anonymous AW said...

I read up on the situation with the Nets. The gm Billy King supposingly stated the decision to not retain Carlesimo wasn't based on the loss to the Bulls in the playoffs. He says he looked at an evaluation from the whole season.

Even though the Bulls were shorthanded in that series, they were still a competitive team. The Nets realistically should have won the series maybe. The Nets have a nice team. Guys they're paying big bucks for. They got Lopez, who is now talked about as the best center in the league.

We both know the decision to let PJ Carlesimo go was because the outcome of game seven vs Bulls. I remember David stating a coach shouldn't get fired based on the outcome one game. But I think this situation was different. Caelesimos history as a coach isn't so great. I didn't really agree with the firing of Avery Johnson earlier in the season.

As for Memphis, I agree they should have waited until the after the playoffs to see how well they did to deal Gay. They should have just took their time and tried to get back quality guys instead of getting back non factors.

Whether The Clippers are overrated or not, it seemed as if people were not giving them a chance to win the series after they fell behind 2-0. Because of the absence of Gay. Memphis more than likely will get past OKC. Maybe their weakness will be exposed vs the spurs or warriors like it supposingly was vs the Clippers.

In a sense part of being a title team is having unfortunate circumstances for the opposing teams go in a team's favor. Westbrooks injury will pretty much guarantee Memphis moves on, but OKC lost some winnable games in the series already. Memphis could win the title if the other teams are not at full strength, but if that does happen their success shouldnt really be demeaned. There's a few examples in history where injuries to certain teams can affect the outcome of the playoffs.

At Sunday, May 12, 2013 9:58:00 AM, Blogger Kion Stephen said...

You can't pay your third best player $17 million a year.

That's the whole logic of the Rudy Gay trade. Yes, it's a step back basketball-wise to trade him for Prince (who is a more consistent defender than him, even at this age) and two other players who aren't currently playing, but financially, you just can't afford to be paying your third best player as if he was your best player.

With the new luxury tax penalties in place, going over the tax threshold hurts a lot more financially - you generally have to pay much more tax, and you also miss out on the benefits of receiving greater payments from the other tax-paying teams.

Yes, the NBA is about basketball. But finances do come into play as well. And financially, they had nowhere to go paying their top 4 players (Gasol, Randolph, Gay and Conley) about $54 million, when those 4 players alone aren't good enough to win alone. They need help. They need depth behind them. So, you sacrifice a bit by trading the most overpaid of them to get some more flexibility. Yes, you take a step back now. But the intention is to give yourself flexibility to reload around the core 3.

Bill Simmons declaring this trade a success at this point is stupid. They haven't benefited from the trade... not yet. But similarly, declaring this trade a failure before the year is even over is also short sighted.

Yes, the Grizzlies are a fringe contender. But, judging from the landscape of the league around the season's midpoint, a lot had to go right for them to truly win it all with the players they had in place at the start of the year. So, they made a calculated gamble mid-season to reload a bit by trading their most overpaid player to gain some flexibility in future years.

The same way that we can all look back 5 years later and judge that trading Pau for Marc was a successful move, we can, at the very least, wait for the summer of next year before judging the success or failure of this trade.

At Sunday, May 12, 2013 3:03:00 PM, Anonymous Charliegone said...

Dave you are very right about the Grizz and Rudy Gay. I swear I have ran across many a Grizzly fan that thinks that was a good trade even suggesting that Prince is a better player for their needs. I just faced palm. I can't believe people actually believe that. I really think they have little chance if they face a healthy Spurs team in the next round. In regards to the Thunder, they are really hurting without Westbrook. The guy makes the Thunder much much better and it shows in their offense how much they miss him.

At Sunday, May 12, 2013 7:56:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

I see the Gay trade as an addition by subtraction:

Gay was an athletic forward who was a bad shooter that could not take advantage of mis-matches on defenses. He is a bad shooter from the perimeter and from the 3 point field, yet attempts 10 shots per game from that area.

More importantly, the trade shifted responsibility to Gasol on offense, and he's a much better option that shares the ball.

At Monday, May 13, 2013 6:19:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

"We have seen Marc Gasol become a better, more physical player than his older brother"

Good article!

At Monday, May 13, 2013 8:51:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


On paper, the Nets' available players were superior to the Bulls' available players but--as I predicted--that series involved a coaching mismatch. The Bulls played better defense and displayed better attention to detail.

I am not demeaning whatever success Memphis has had/will have; I am just expressing my opinion/evaluation that trading Gay for spare parts did not make any sense from a talent evaluation standpoint and the deal made it less likely that Memphis would win the title. Since the trade, injuries to Westbrook and other players may have improved Memphis' chances but those injuries do not change my opinion/evaluation of the merits of the Gay trade.

At Monday, May 13, 2013 8:56:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Memphis could have waited until the season ended and either let Gay leave (thus ending the salary cap problem) or else do a sign and trade that likely would have yielded more than just spare parts.

The Gay trade made no sense considering the timing and considering what Memphis received in return. If Prince wins the 2013 Finals MVP--or if he even averages 15 ppg in the Finals as the Grizzlies win the title--then we can declare the trade a success. So far, Memphis' success has had nothing to do with the trade and has in fact happened in spite of the trade; the Grizzlies are winning despite receiving scant contributions from their three new players.

As I explained in the article, the Gasol-Gasol trade was necessary and logical at the time--which was my initial take, not 20-20 hindsight after Marc became an All-Star. The Gay trade was unnecessary and counterproductive.

At Monday, May 13, 2013 9:00:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Spurs and Warriors have been evenly matched so far, though I still expect the Spurs to win the series. I don't think that the Grizzlies would win a seven game series against either team, though I would like their chances better against the Warriors.

It is amusing that "stat gurus" claim to be objective and then they try to say that a guy averaging 5 ppg while getting torched on defense is somehow more valuable than a guy who not only scores 18 ppg but who also draws double teams and thus creates offensive opportunities for his teammates. Gay may not be a great defender but he would have put more pressure on Durant and the Thunder at the other end of the court. The Grizzlies could have even put Gay on Sefolosha at times and shifted Tony Allen over to Durant; in that case their defense would be no worse than it is now and their offense would be much better.

At Monday, May 13, 2013 9:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You should look beyond Gay's field goal percentage (which is actually better than Prince's anyway); Gay can create shots for himself and his teammates, a skill set that Prince does not have (except for the rare occasion when he has the chance to post up a smaller defender). Gay is not a great three point shooter but he has to be guarded out there, which spreads the court for Conley to drive and for the bigs to post up.

I don't buy the idea that bringing in a worse player somehow makes other players better. Prince is not as good as Gay, period. The Grizzlies could have fed the ball to Gasol with Gay spacing the court even better than they can feed the ball to Gasol now with Prince firing bricks at the rim.

If you don't like Gay's field goal percentage then why do you think that Prince's .292 field goal percentage in this series is somehow "addition by subtraction"? The only thing that the Grizzlies added is more misses and the main thing that they subtracted is 18-5, the difference between Gay's scoring and Prince's scoring. Yes, other players can pick up some of that slack--Memphis' scoring average did not drop by 13 ppg after the trade--but getting rid of Gay did not make Memphis better.

Try to picture this series with Westbrook outplaying Conley and the Thunder racing up and down the court with Westbrook at the helm; over a seven game series the Grizzlies would not have been able to score enough points to keep up with the Thunder. The Grizzlies are barely getting by even with Westbrook out of the lineup.

At Monday, May 13, 2013 9:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you. Yes, it is true that youth has been served in the Gasol family and young Marc has surpassed Pau.

At Monday, May 13, 2013 1:39:00 PM, Blogger Kion Stephen said...

Rudy Gay is making 16 million this year. Next year, it jumps to almost 18 (17.8). The final year it's at 20 million.

They can't "let him walk". He is on the books for 3 more years (including this one.).

Yes, they could wait til the end of the year to trade him, but at that point, he's making almost 2 million more, and there's a half season more evidence that he's grossly overpaid (he was not having a good season while in Memphis). At that point, a trade becomes even more difficult to make.

Again, as i mentioned before, the trade was not made with the intention that Prince was an adequate replacement for Gay. The trade was made because Gay was grossly overpaid for his role on Memphis. The hope was that Prince could do a half-decent job of replacing his defence, while allowing the team to improve itself in the coming years.

Prince has served his role. He is a decent defender, especially in comparison to Gay, and they will try to make use of the financial flexibility in the coming summers to retool their roster.

From a basketball only perspective, i can understand your point of view of the trade. But, finances play a huge role in building an NBA roster, and you can't be paying your 3rd best player a max contract if the team is still not good enough to win it all without significant bench help.

It's the exact, same reason why Harden was traded - not willing to pay your 3rd best guy max money. That's not about just basketball. It's about financial reality when you only have x amount of dollars to spend on your entire roster.

At Monday, May 13, 2013 4:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Gay actually made $16.4 million in 2012-13 and will make $17.9 million in 2013-14 but you are of course correct that the Grizzlies could not have simply "let him walk" after this season. I should have confirmed his contract details before I wrote that sentence but I stand by my larger point: the Grizzlies did not have to accept spare parts for him in the middle of the season; there still would have been a market for him in the summer of 2013 and the market would have been even better if Gay played a major role on a team that made it to the WCF or the Finals.

I fully understand that financial matters are an important aspect of building an NBA roster and I still think that the Gay trade was a bad move because the Grizzlies had better options. The market for Gay was not going to collapse between February and the summer.

Prince has not "served his role"; he is a much less productive player at this stage of his career than Gay is but the Grizzlies have survived so far in the playoffs because they have received favorable matchups (overrated Clippers, Thunder sans Westbrook). I don't believe that a team can trade their leading scorer for spare parts and then beat a full strength contender in a seven game playoff series.

The Thunder traded Harden for a player who is just as productive as Harden is. Plus, Harden did not even start for the Thunder and the Thunder have--or had, prior to Westbrook's injury--two All-NBA players. The Grizzlies gave up their leading scorer for two players who hardly play and one veteran who is nearing the end of the line. They do not have enough scoring punch to make up for Gay's absence.

At Monday, May 13, 2013 11:30:00 PM, Blogger Kion Stephen said...


Again, you're focusing on the here and now.

Prince has served his role. There's no way anyone could have realistically expected Prince to replace Gay's offense - even at his best, Prince was never a 18+ ppg scorer. Therefore one can only assume that his role was to be a decent defender on this team, and to that, he has been quite effective. (Durant torching him means nothing - Durant torches everyone). Gay's absence has lead to an increased offensive role for Conley and Gasol, which has not resulted in a dramatic offensive drop off. (Their team ppg actually increased from Feb to March).

However, all of those things undermine the main point - the trade was never about this season. It was about long term flexibility. When the trade was made, San Antonio and OKC were clearly at the top of the Western Conference hierarchy, and no one could have reasonably assumed that that was going to change any time this season.

As for the market for Gay being better - that is not really true. Gay was not happy with his role there and was not playing well. He was not getting better over the course of the season, he was getting worse. His market value was diminishing with each passing month.

I'm not saying that they could not have gotten something a bit better, but at the same time, a trade works both ways. Which teams would have been willing to take on Gay's contract with his level of production? How big is the market really for a 17 ppg scorer who shoots 40% from the field yet makes 17 million? (his ppg was also dropping, so who knows where it might have ended up at season's end).

So, they found a way to unload his contract without taking back any horrible contracts in return, and took it. They decided to take a step back this season to improve in the coming years.

Memphis's trade was a lot more understandable than OKC's. Memphis was a fringe contender at best, whose top 4 players were making a ton of money and were still not good enough to win a championship.

OKC had a team that made it to the Finals and gave Miami a hell of a run. They knew their core was good enough to win a championship, and yet they replaced Harden with Martin.

And you cannot say Martin is just as productive as Harden is. Martin is a shooter only. Harden is a playmaking 2 guard. Harden was responsible for running their second unit and crunch time offenses. Martin never had that ability. OKC did not get back a playmaker to take over Harden's role as the primary playmaker of the second units and crunch time. However, OKC made the judgement call that they could replace Harden's playmaking through the growth of Durant and Westbrook, which was an acceptable gamble that paid off until Westbrook got hurt.

If OKC had Harden in the place of Martin now, Durant wouldn't be working so hard now to be both playmaker and scorer. Martin cannot fulfil Harden's previous role in OKC.

At Tuesday, May 14, 2013 6:16:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I have supported my contentions with plenty of evidence and I am not interested in engaging in a protracted back and forth discussion about things that are obvious but I will make a few closing points.

My philosophy is that a team that is going to win at least 45 games should focus on making deals that improve their chances of winning a title in the short run; such a team may only be one player or one good deal away from winning it all. A team that is going to win less than 45 games should be making deals that will help the team join the 45-plus win club within the next two-three years at the most.

The Grizzlies were clearly going to win at least 45 games--and probably more than 50--prior to the Gay trade. If they had added talent instead of subtracting talent then they would have had a chance to go all the way. Instead, they subtracted talent but--due to a fortunate first round pairing plus the Westbrook injury--they are likely headed to the WCF.

Yes, Durant torches everyone but anyone can be worn down; guarding Gay would have forced him to expend energy. Instead, what has happened is that the Westbrook injury has greatly increased Durant's workload and so Durant is running out of gas in the fourth quarters versus Memphis. Memphis' most valuable player in this series is Patrick Beverley; if Westbrook were playing then OKC would be winning this series. Two years ago in game four, Westbrook erupted for 40 points versus Memphis; we all saw what happened last night sans Westbrook.

You act like I don't understand why Memphis made the trade. I understand it perfectly. I just disagree with the reasoning. I also disagree with Mark Cuban blowing up a championship team because he was thinking long term. How has that worked out for Dallas?

The Grizzlies traded their leading scorer for a minimally productive, older player plus two young players who the coach will not even put on the court. How do you think that Coach Lionel Hollins honestly feels about the trade?

The Grizzlies are prospering in spite of the trade, not because of it.

The Thunder traded Harden for a comparably productive player and the Thunder improved their regular season record. Martin easily filled Harden's role during the regular season. Martin has been inconsistent during the playoffs but so was Harden last year (and this year for that matter).

A team cannot plan for injuries, particularly a freak injury to a young, durable player. Overpaying Harden because Westbrook might get hurt would have been stupid. In any case, there is no reason to believe that Harden would be doing any more for OKC than Martin is doing now; the bigger Harden's role and the bigger the stage, the worse he performs (go back and look at Harden in the 2012 Finals and in the 2013 first round if you disagree).

Martin is not just a shooter; he slashes to the hoop and he draws fouls. He has been a 20-plus ppg scorer several times in his career. I don't know where people get the idea that Harden is so much better than Martin either as a first option or as a sixth man.


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