Monday, December 20, 2010

Analyzing the Magic Trades with the Suns and Wizards

The Magic pulled the trigger on two huge trades that will alter the foundation of one of the top contenders for the Eastern Conference title.  Orlando had lost five of their last six games and there was a lot of talk about major chemistry issues.  So Magic president Otis Smith decided it was time to really do something about it.

Photo source: Ttodaizzm

Orlando shipped Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas.  They then traded Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a 2011 first round pick and cash to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark.

There's a lot of speculation about what the trade will mean for each team involved.  As you might expect, I want to take a look at some advanced stats to see what they may tell us.  I'll refer to a few different advanced statistics:
  • John Hollinger of ESPN's PER, or Player Efficiency Rating.  In short, a player's PER is a rating of their per minute productivity.  The average PER in the NBA is always 15.0.
  • The Simple Rating of  This rating factors in a player's PER, the PER of the player they are guarding, the player's plus-minus rating when they are in the game and the plus-minus rating of their team when they are not in the game.
  • The Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating on  The Offensive Rating is how many points the player scores per 100 possessions and the Defensive Rating is how many points the player allows per 100 possessions.
I first want to compare the individual statistics of the players involved and then the impact on each of the teams.  Here are the statistics for the two players involved in the Wizards and Magic deal:

Rashard Lewis
Games: 25
PER: 11.4
Simple: -4.4
Offensive Rating: 103
Defensive Rating: 103

Gilbert Arenas
Games: 21
PER: 14.1
Simple: -3.4
Offensive Rating: 98
Defensive Rating: 112

While it's not necessarily an apples to apples comparison, Arenas has a better PER and a better Simple Rating than Lewis.  The advantage goes the other way when it comes to Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating.  The important point about the Offensive and Defensive Ratings is that they are more heavily influenced by the team around the player.  So in a very simple evaluation of who has been the more productive player so far in 2010, the needle leans from even to slight advantage Arenas.

Now, for the six players involved in the Magic-Suns trade:

Vince Carter
Games: 22
PER: 16.7
Simple: +8.5
Offensive Rating: 111
Defensive Rating: 102

Marcin Gortat
Games: 25
PER: 14.1
Simple: -1.6
Offensive Rating: 114
Defensive Rating: 98

Mickael Pietrus
Games: 19
PER: 8.6
Simple: -4.9
Offensive Rating: 103
Defensive Rating: 103

Jason Richardson
Games: 25
PER: 19.6
Simple: +1.7
Offensive Rating: 115
Defensive Rating: 114

Hedo Turkoglu
Games: 25
PER: 13.4
Simple: -4.2
Offensive Rating: 112
Defensive Rating: 113

Earl Clark
Games: 9
PER: 11.6
Simple: -1.5
Offensive Rating: 92
Defensive Rating: 112

Carter and Richardson are as close to a direct match as we'll get.  Richardson has a nearly three point advantage on Carter in PER but Carter makes that up with a nearly seven point advantage in the Simple Rating.  Richardson has a slight advantage in Offensive Rating while Carter has a larger advantage in Defensive Rating.  By numbers only this is pretty close to a push.

It's harder to compare the other four players because they are not really close to matches.  But if you take their raw stats, Gortat has the advantage over Turkoglu, while the Pietrus-Clark comparison is basically a push.

Now let's take a look at how each team will be specifically affected on the floor.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards are just glad to have been able to dump the contract of Arenas.  Beyond that Lewis should fit in nicely at the small forward position alongside John Wall, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee.  He'll be challenged to guard the quicker threes in the NBA but his ability to stroke it from behind the arc (36.7% this season and 39.1% for his career) will be a nice addition to a team that is currently 28th in three-point shooting.

Phoenix Suns

This is a very interesting trade for the Suns from an on-the-court perspective.  When I recently analyzed the Suns first quarter of the season, it was their challenges with defense that really stuck out.  They have now shed two of their three worst defenders by opponent's PER (Richardson and Turkoglu) and replaced them with two perimeter players with respectable defensive skills (Carter and Pietrus), while adding a low post player that they desperately needed to help Robin Lopez and Channing Frye on the block.  Carter also gives them another player who can create his own shot while Pietrus could be deadly from three-point range playing off Steve Nash, if he's in the rotation.

Gortat's rebounding skill should also greatly help Phoenix.  The Suns are currently 28th in the NBA in defensive rebounding rate, pulling down only 69.8% of all defensive rebounds available to them.  Gortat is grabbing 23.5% of all defensive rebounds available to him, a number that places him 17th in the NBA among centers and first among the Suns.

Orlando Magic

The Magic are placing all of their chips in the middle of the table and playing for keeps.  To really analyze the effect of these trades you have to look at how the Magic rotation will change.  In essence they are swapping:
  • Richardson for Carter at the starting two guard
  • Turkoglu for Quentin Richardson as their starting small forward
  • Brandon Bass for Lewis as the starter at power forward
  • Arenas for Chris Duhon as the backup point guard
  • Q. Richardson for Pietrus as a backup swing man
  • Ryan Anderson for Bass as the backup four
  • Bass for Gortat as the backup center
From a strict numbers analysis the J. Richardson for Carter swap is a push, but from the standpoint of how the Magic like to play I think Richardson will fit in very nicely, in large part because of his 41.9% three-point shooting compared to Carter's 34.6%.

Quentin Richardson's numbers are 10.8 PER, -1.2 Simple, 105 Offensive Rating and 102 Defensive Rating.  So again, when compared to Turkoglu in numbers only it is close to even.  But, Turkoglu's ability to create off the dribble can be a huge asset for Orlando and Richardson is probably better playing the backup wing spot that Pietrus manned.  Q is definitely an upgrade in that position for the Magic.

The numbers for Bass are outstanding - 18.2 PER, +8.9 Simple, 112 Offensive Rating and 103 Defensive Rating.  He's a much more productive player at the four than Lewis.  His minutes as the backup to Dwight Howard should be at least equal in productivity to those turned in by Gortat, if not better.

Duhon has struggled in Orlando.  His numbers look like this - 6.3 PER, -5.8 Simple, 90 Offensive Rating and 106 Defensive Rating.  Arenas is a huge improvement and obviously, if he can recapture some of the deadliness of his past, he'll be a great asset.  The question will be whether he will be willing to embrace a smaller role in Orlando.

Anderson has played limited minutes so far this season.  He should be able to provide the three point threat at the power forward position that Lewis has been in good times.

I think these two trades will end up benefitting all three teams.  The Suns have added some defense and rebounding, which they critically needed.  The Magic have added some pieces that raise the ceiling of their team potential to a higher level.  Will it be enough to make them better than the Celtics and Heat?

What are your thoughts on these deals?

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