Taking a Closer Look: Amir Johnson

Posted on November 28, 2013 | 3 Comments

This article also appears on Raptor’s Republic. To view more articles written by me on Raptor’s Republic, please click here.

When Amir Johnson decided to re-sign with the Raptors, back in 2010, and agreed to the 5 year, $30 million contract, many pundits and fans around the NBA quickly condemned the deal, feeling it was a massive overpayment. Although Amir had always been a productive and efficient player who worked hard on both ends of the court, he’d only played one season where he averaged more than 17 minutes per game, and foul trouble always seemed to prevent him from averaging more than 25 minutes a game.

Fast forward three-plus years, and Amir has become one of the most consistent players on the team and quite possibly the team’s most valuable player since Chris Bosh left for Miami. He’s been as productive as a starter as he has been a reserve, and his production has been, for the most part, the same as his minutes has increased.

Since he signed his current contract, he’s had the sixth highest True Shooting Percentage, the 13th highest Offensive Rebounding Percentage, and the 28th highest Win Share in the league over the last three-plus years.

Despite all this, a lot of fans still seem to think the Raptors would be better off with him coming off the bench and with a bigger offensive threat as the starting power forward.

That perplexes me.

Now, Amir Johnson is never going to make an All Star game. He’s never going to come close to be a 20-10 guy. But he makes the game easier for everyone around him. He doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He will set screens, move without the ball, dive for loose balls and grab missed shots. And he play above average defense, as well.

Mike Prada, over at SB Nation, wrote a fantastic article that looked into just how effective Amir’s screen setting is in making his teammates better.

And yet, his presence on the court makes a staggering difference for the Raptors. Last season, Toronto outscored opponents by 4.1 points per 100 possessions with Johnson in the game … and were outscored by 9.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench. That’s a 14-point swing. It’s also the fourth straight year where the difference of Johnson being in and out of the game was more than seven points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. This is not an anomaly.

It makes sense to me that you’d want a player like that playing with your starters as much as possible because he just makes it easier for them to score AND he’s going to help them defensively.

I recently had a discussion with someone about what Amir Johnson’s trade value would be. He suggested the Raptors should be happy getting a late first round pick for him. I thought that was ridiculously low value for a 26 year old big man who scores efficiently, plays defense, rebounds and works hard on both ends of the court.

It occurred to me that Amir is very similar to another former beloved Raptor who cost the Raptors the fifth pick in the 1999 draft.

Antonio Davis came to the Raptors as a 30 year old energy player who had played the vast majority of his games, up to that point, off the bench. In Zander Hollander’s 1997 Complete Book of Pro Basketball, Davis was described this way:

…has a decent face up jumper and is developing some post moves….Explosive leaper…Forced to split minutes at center where he’s often overmatched, but never outworked…

Sound like someone else you know?

Both players are/were 6’9 athletic big men who hustle, work hard on both ends of the court, but have/had limited offensive games. Both were second round picks originally from California who didn’t make an immediate impact in the league and had to develop their game.

Even their stats are pretty similar.

These are Antonio Davis’ stats the season before he was traded to Toronto (lockout shortened season):

Season Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK PTS
1998-99 PF 49 1 25.9 3.3 7.1 .471 .703 2.4 4.7 7.0 0.7 0.4 0.9 9.4

And these were Amir Johnson’s last season:

Season Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK PTS
2012-13 PF 81 38 28.7 4.1 7.5 .554 .727 2.8 4.7 7.5 1.5 1.0 1.4 10.0

Now, obviously these basic stats don’t tell the whole story, but it’s interesting how similar they are. If anything, Amir is slightly more productive, and definitely more efficient, offensively.

Even their advanced stats are similar:

PER TS% ORB% DRB% TRB% BLK% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
16.7 .535 11.0 20.9 16.1 2.4 18.2 112 102 2.7 1.3 4.0 .151
PER TS% ORB% DRB% TRB% BLK% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
17.3 .591 11.4 20.0 15.6 3.8 16.1 116 104 4.4 2.9 7.3 .151

The first table is Davis’ and the second one is Amir’s. It’s almost eerie.

Now, I’m not going to argue that Amir is worth a fifth pick in the draft. Would YOU trade a fifth pick for Amir? I certainly wouldn’t. And considering that the Raptors could have ended up with Shawn Marion1, who ironically was taken by Bryan Colangelo for Phoenix, it could definitely be argued that the trade was not a great one for the Raptors.

Davis’ addition, however, was a key to the team’s immediate success the next season (the team made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history) and their march to the second round of the playoffs the season after.

So while I don’t think Amir is untradeable, I think if you want to upgrade the roster, the starting power forward position is probably the least of your worries. Adding a scoring big man isn’t necessarily going to help your team score more, or more efficiently. In fact, the evidence supports the argument that Amir, despite his offensive limitations, already helps the team score, just not by his own doing.

And with Jonas Valanciunas needing touches and shots in order to develop his blossoming offensive game, the last thing the Raptors need is to acquire a frontcourt partner who will take shots away from Valanciunas.

Amir is the type of player that every team needs. But he’s also the type of player that doesn’t stick out of the casual fan, because he doesn’t fill up the stat sheet.

He’s the Raptor’s no-stat All Star.

1. While Indiana took Jonathan Bender with Toronto’s 5th pick, it’s doubtful the Raptors, who wanted a player who could make more of an immediate impact, would have drafted the painfully thin high school player who everyone knew would take time to develop.

You could also argue they wouldn’t have taken either Wally Szczerbiak or Richard Hamilton, who would have been duplicates on a roster that already had Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. The Raptors could have also taken Andre Miller, who, while not an All Star, has had a VERY good career and would have helped the Raptors for much longer than the 30 year old Davis.

Shawn Marion would have probably made the most sense, as a team with Vince, McGrady and Marion at the 2,3 and 4 would have been spectacularly athletic and a force to be reckoned with for the next decade. 

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Why It’s Worse Than You Might Think

Posted on November 28, 2013 | No Comments

Editor’s Note: This article also appears on Raptor’s Republic

After winning against the Washington Wizards on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors sit with a 6-7 record atop the Atlantic Division. They have the sixth best record in the East and if the playoffs started today, they would be the fourth seed. Great news, right? Well, it depends on how you look at it.

Sure, there are a lot of Raptor fans that just want to enjoy the team’s success and hope for the best. But ignoring the realities of the situation is only going to lead to disappointment down the line.

Back before the start of the season, all the writers at Raptors Republic were asked to make a bold prediction. Mine was that the Raptors would start the season 6-14. Considering they’ve already reached the 6 win mark, it’s safe to say my prediction is going to be a little off.

CONFERENCE IMBALANCE

Making predictions is always a tricky game because there are always so many variables. And there was one variable that I completely miscalculated. And that’s just how bad the rest of the Eastern Conference was going to be.

- Currently, there are only five teams at or above .500 in the East (and one of them is Charlotte!!!), as compared to twelve in the West.

- The Bulls, who have the fourth best record in the East would just sneak into the playoffs in the West, as an 8th seed, if they were held today. And that’s just because Minnesota lost against Houston last night.

- The Raptors would have the third WORST record in the West, as opposed to having the sixth best record in the East.

The reason for this disparity would take up an entire column.

So what does all this really mean?

The East may look bad, with their poor records, but they’re actually even worse than they appear. Why? Because their records are inflated due to playing one another.

Let’s look how the all the Eastern Conference teams did against their own conference and against the West.

Record against East vs West

Indiana: 10-1 / 2-0
Miami: 8-3 / 2-0
Atlanta: 7-3 / 1-3
Toronto: 4-5 / 2-2
Chicago: 5-3 / 1-2
Charlotte: 6-4 / 0-3
Philadelphia: 5-5 / 1-4
Orlando: 2-6 / 2-2
Detroit: 3-3 / 1-5
Washington: 4-5 / 1-3
Cleveland: 3-7 / 1-4
Boston: 4-5 / 1-5
New York: 3-6 / 0-3
Brooklyn: 1-5 / 2-4
Milwaukee: 2-6 / 0-3

Totals: 67-67 / 17-41

Against their own Conference, the East teams were .500, which is basically what you should expect. Against the West, though, the East’s winning percentage is .293. Over the course of an 82 game season, that’s equivalent to just 24 wins.

And, conversely, the West is feasting on the bad teams in the East. Portland is playing well, yes, but their 12-2 record is definitely helped by having played more games against Eastern teams than anyone else in the West. While their record is a very good 6-2 against their own Conference, they’ve gone 6-0 against the East.

Dallas is a .500 team against their own conference, but 5-1 against the East.

Six teams in the West have a perfect record against the East, so far. Only two in the East have a perfect record against the West. Try and guess which ones they are.

So while the Raptors have a 6-7 record, they also haven’t beaten a team that has been above .500 (Memphis went on a winning streak after losing against Toronto). In the East, though, they won’t have to face a whole lot of teams above .500. The Raptors aren’t a bad team, but they’re also not a good one, either. And they’re not even as good as their mediocre record (or their place in the Atlantic Division) might indicate.

SCORING

Of course, team records aren’t everything. What is happening on the floor is more important, right?

Well, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Raptor’s offense has been pretty poor. Much has been made about the Raptors being last in the league in assists per game (now 29th, slightly ahead of Boston). There are only three teams in the bottom 15 in assists that are above .500. And obviously, only three teams in the top 15 in assists are below .500. That kind of highlights the importance of passing.

Of course, if they weren’t such poor shooters, the team might get more assists. The Raptors are 26th in the league in effective field goal percentage. Among the bottom 15 teams in effective field goal percentage, again, only three are above .500.

And the problem with the Raptors is they seem to be equally bad from everywhere. They have the 6th worst shooting percentage within five feet (although take the 6th most shots from that range), the 11th worst from five to nine feet, the 6th worst from 10-14 feet, the 9th worst fifteen to nineteen feet and the 10th worst beyond that. Basically, they suck shooting from everywhere.

You want to know one of the only stats they actually do well in? Offensive rebounding.

So while Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan get most of the attention for their scoring, if it wasn’t for Tyler Hansbrough, Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson grabbing all the offensive boards, the Raptors wouldn’t have near the record they do.

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

Much has been said about DeMar DeRozan’s improvement this year, scoring a career high 21.2 points per game and being a more dangerous scorer. But, again, looking more closely gives you a bit of a different view. While DeRozan’s scoring has improved, he’s only scoring efficiently when comparing him to his teammate, Rudy Gay. He’s still taking most of his shots from the 15-19 foot range, and shooting poorly from that distance. In fact, he takes more shots from beyond 15 feet than from inside 15 feet.

The main reason DeRozan is able to score as much as he does is because he he takes the 6th most shots in the entire league (Rudy is 3rd). Yet he’s 16th in the league in scoring. Ten more players in the league score more than DeRozan while taking fewer shots.

Not only is his offense not as good as it seems, he’s also still below average rebounding and passing the ball, and his defense is still below average. Clearly, the idea that DeRozan has taken a major step towards stardom is being overstated.

To make matters worse, the player who most hoped would make the biggest developmental leap, and who many pinned the hopes for the future of the franchise on, Jonas Valanciunas, has not only not improved over last season, but actually regressed. He’s scoring at a lower rate and much less efficiently than last year. His assist percentage has declined as has his block percentage. The only area he seems to improved in is rebounding.

And Valanciunas is still struggling defensively, which is one of the reasons he’s playing as little as he is.

Even Amir Johnson is having an off year, with a career low rebounding percentage.

Too few of the high usage players on this team actually make their teammates better. And it’s hurting the development of many of the young players.

DEFENSE

Of course, the defense, which saw so much improvement two years ago, seems to be back to acceptable levels. They have the 8th best Defensive Rating in the league, and are 7th best in Points Against.

The problem, however, is that a lot of the improvement has been caused by simply slowing the pace down to a crawl (26th in the league), instead of actually being good defensively. There have been many teams that have hidden their lack of talent by slowing games down, which limits possessions and gives the less talented teams more of a chance to win.

Most Raptor fans will remember the Kevin O’Neal days. He did the same thing.

It’s not that the Raptors are bad defensively, but they’re not as good as they appear.

THE FUTURE

It’s not just the present that the team is not quite in as good a position as it initially appears. I’ve always felt that Rudy Gay opting out next summer is a likely scenario, despite the fact that it’s unlikely he’ll make what he’s scheduled to make next year if he doesn’t opt out. There are simply too many teams scheduled to have cap room next summer, and too few top tier free agents. They’ll be so many teams with cap room desperate to make a splash, that Gay will probably be overpaid (again) despite his inability to fulfill his potential.

What’s worse, losing Gay for nothing or re-signing him for $14 million a season, for the next five years?

But Gay not opting out might be an even worse scenario. If Gay doesn’t opt out, then that might make re-signing Lowry a difficult proposition. In a sellers market, Lowry is sure to get 8 digit offers, which, after the draft, would put the Raptors perilously close to the luxury tax, if not into it. Would ownership really want to pay the luxury tax on a team that’s as mediocre as the Raptors?

Would you? For this team?

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Where Will Rudy Spend Christmas?

Posted on October 26, 2013 | No Comments

No, this isn’t a way-too-early puff piece about Rudy Gay showing up on Christmas morning at some lucky fan’s house.

When Grantland’s Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose previewed the Raptor’s season, one of the things they agreed on was that Gay’s days in Toronto were numbered. Now this wasn’t exactly a revolutionary thought. Numerous publications, both in Canada and the US, had already wondered aloud whether Gay would make it to the trade deadline without changing his address.

This also isn’t a column about whether or not the Raptors should trade Rudy Gay. Either they will or they won’t, and, in the end, the decision rests with Masai Ujiri. If Ujiri does end up trading Gay, then it’s likely it will be before Christmas. And if he is traded, then it’s not going to be so they can make a run for the playoffs and waiting too long to trade him might give the team too many wins, a problem if you’re trying to get a high pick.

So when Rudy Gay wakes up on Christmas morning, where are the likely places that will be?

Quick Links:
Toronto
Cleveland
Detroit
Charlotte
Milwaukee
Washington
Sacramento
Minnesota
New Orleans

TORONTO

When the Raptors traded for Rudy Gay, the hope was that he would be able to bring the Raptors the respectability the franchise has lacked for most of it’s 18 year existence. While he didn’t live up to many’s expectations, he is still one of the best small forwards the franchise has ever had and one of the best players on the current roster.

Right now, the Raptors are at a crossroads and no one, possibly not even Ujiri, knows where they will be going. Keeping Gay would be a signal that the team wants to compete right now and make a push for the playoffs. Trading him would most likely signal a full rebuild and a move to try and get a high pick in the vaunted 2014 draft.

WHY TORONTO WILL KEEP HIM

There are two reasons that Ujiri might keep Gay. The first is if the Raptors make it through their tough early schedule  with their head above water. The second is if he can’t actually find anyone who will take him.

In the twenty six games before Christmas, the Raptors will face the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls twice, as well as the Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors. That’s nearly half their games against contending teams, seven of which are on the road. And many of the rest of the games are against teams that will most likely be in the playoff hunt at the end of the season, such as the Dallas Mavericks (away), Atlanta Hawks (away), Portland Trailblazers, Washington Wizards, and Milwaukee Bucks (away).

And while they do have a few games against teams that are tanking or might as well be (Philadelphia, Phoenix, Charlotte and Boston), the majority of those games are on the road.

If the Raptors are at or above .500 by Christmas, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gay still in a Raptor uniform when Toronto heads on the road to New York to play the Knicks in their first post-Christmas game.

Even without a great start, no one really knows how much trade value Gay has or even if any team wants to take on his massive contract. It’s possible no one will, and Ujiri may have to keep Gay and figure out how to rebuild without trading him.

WHY TORONTO WILL TRADE HIM

Take another look at the schedule of the Raptors in their first twenty six games? It’s brutal. Whether or not they trade Gay, the team will be lucky to have double digit wins by Christmas, and a 7-19 start is very plausible. That would be the same record after 26 games as last season, and no one wants a repeat of last season. Tim Lieweke didn’t get rid of Bryan Colangelo and hire Ujiri just to see more of the same. Even if the Raptors win a few more games, that’s a deep hole to be digging yourself out of, and a poor start might just be the cover Ujiri needs to blow the team up, starting with Gay.

More importantly, it’s not a secret that a lot of fans would love the idea of the Raptors drafting Andrew Wiggins. Even just the possibility of it should allow Ujiri some breathing room for a rebuild.

PROBABILITY RUDY GAY WILL SPEND CHRISTMAS IN TORONTO: 15%*

CLEVELAND

When LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami, their owner, Dan Gilbert, famously predicted that the Cavs would win a Championship before the Heat would. That obviously didn’t happen, but after three years of top 5 picks (4 in three years) the last thing they want is to return to the lottery. They have their franchise player in Kyrie Irving, and a lot of young talent around him, so this could be the year the Cavs return to prominence.

WHY THEY WILL TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

They have Kyrie Irving at PG, Dion Waiters at SG, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett at PF, Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum at center and Earl Clark at SF. Notice a dropoff there? Cleveland’s biggest weak link right now is their SF position and Gay would be a massive upgrade.

While there are some that still think that LeBron James may return to Cleveland, that’s looking more and more like a pipe dream. Gay Isn’t LeBron, but he’s probably as close as they can get and he’ll make them a better team. Plus, if Cleveland has some success in the playoffs, it’s likely they can entice Gay to re-sign with them.

WHAT ASSETS THEY HAVE

- Anderson Varejao and his $9.1 salary with only a team option next season.

- Tristan Thompson and his rookie contract.

- Anthony Bennett and his rookie contract.

- Cleveland has all their own first round picks, as well as Sacramento’s protected pick (top 12 in 2014, top 10 in 2015 and 2016 and then it becomes a second round picks, 56-60 protected ??).

- Andrew Bynum and his $12 million salary which is only partially guaranteed will become available on December 15th.

AN EXAMPLE OF A RUDY GAY TO CLEVELAND TRADE

Because a player such as Varejao or Bynum would have to be included in order to match salaries, a third team will most likely be have to brought in since it would make little sense for the Raptors to take back either of those players.

Rudy Gay and Kenneth Faried to Cleveland Anderson Varejao and DeMar DeRozan to Denver and  Anthony Bennett, Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller, Evan Fournier, as well as Cleveland’s 2014 pick and Sacramento’s pick (via Cleveland) to Toronto.
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=mgbxc7w

This deal gives Toronto a couple of prospects, including hometown hero, Anthony Bennett, as well as a couple of first round picks. They also receive a couple of veterans who could be moved later, in Chandler and Miller.

Cleveland becomes a sure-fire playoff team, with depth and talent at every position.

Denver gets some interior defense, in Varejao, which they sorely lack, as well as a replacement for the departed Andre Iguodala, in DeMar DeRozan. Denver may need more in order to agree to the deal.

WHY THEY WON’T TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

Right now, Cleveland is projected to have major cap room next summer, should they wish it (they would have to waive Bynum and not pick up Varejao’s team option), and risking that to trade for Gay and his huge salary might not be the smartest move. Plugging the hole at small forward might also not be necessary if Bennett is able to play that position.

PROBABILITY RUDY GAY WILL SPEND CHRISTMAS IN CLEVELAND: 20%*

Detroit

When Joe Dumars signed Josh Smith and sign-and-traded for Brandon Jennings, he was signalling to the world that Detroit is done being a lottery team. The fact that their 2014 first round pick (top 8 protected) is owed to Charlotte in exchange for taking on a year of Ben Gordon‘s contract, only made their quest for the playoffs all that more necessary.

WHY THEY WILL TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

When Joe Dumars famously offered the expiring contracts of Charlie Villaneuva and Rodney Stuckey for Gay, Raptor fans were outraged with the offer (even most tanking proponents thought this was a bad offer), but it did show Dumars had an interest in Gay.

While it’s possible that signing Josh Smith has quenched Dumars’ thirst for dynamic, high-flying forwards with a propensity for taking way too many long jumpers, it’s also quite possible that he might see teaming Smith and Gay up as an enticing prospect.

Right now, Detroit looks like it will have Smith playing out of position, at small forward, most of the time, which likely means more outside shots and fewer inside shots, where he’s FAR more deadly. Adding Gay would allow Smith to move to power forward, where he can take more efficient shots.

And while most expect Detroit to be in the hunt of a playoff spot, they’re by no means a shoe-in. And considering the Piston’s 2014 pick will probably end up going to Charlotte next June (it’s top 8 protected), trading for Gay would increase the chance that pick  isn’t a lottery one.

WHAT ASSETS THEY HAVE

- Greg Monroe and his rookie contract of $4.1 million this season. While it might have seemed unthinkable a year ago to trade Monroe, who was the sole bright spot on the roster, he’s become replaceable with the drafting and play of Andre Drummond, and the signing of Josh Smith. The fact that they don’t appear to be able to reach a contract extension agreement might be an indication that Monroe’s day’s in Detroit are numbered.

- The $17 million in expiring contracts for Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva, because that is their sole value.

- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the 9th pick in last June’s draft.

AN EXAMPLE OF A RUDY GAY TO DETROIT TRADE

While a straight up deal could definitely be worked out between the two teams, I like the idea of bringing in a third team…

Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Quincy Acy and Kirk Hinrich to Detroit. Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villaneuva, Jonas Jerebko, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Chicago’s rights to Nikola Mirotic and possibly Charlotte’s protected first round draft pick to Toronto. Greg Monroe to Chicago.
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=lfpn3gt

There are various versions you could do, including possibly sending Steve Novak to Detroit, and even taking Carlos Boozer and his massive contract back.

The big prize for Toronto is Mirotic, a player with star potential earning MVP awards in Europe, but they would also get a good, young prospect in Caldwell-Jones and, possibly, a fairly high draft pick in either 2014 or 2015. Again, this is a trade with an eye towards the 2014 draft and rebuilding, but acquiring a couple of pieces like Mirotic and Caldwell-Jones would put them way ahead of schedule.

Detroit gets two dynamic, athletic scorers and possibly the most athletic starting five in the entire league, as well as a  good, veteran guard off the bench.

Chicago would be loathe to give up a potential star in Mirotic (and Charlotte’s pick), but might do it for one of the best young big men in the league. A front line of Monroe and Joakim Noah, along with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler would surely be the league’s best chance of unseating the Miami Heat, and I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to do it.

WHY THEY WON’T TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

Right now, the Detroit Pistons have three of the least efficient scorers at their positions, in Monroe, Smith and Jennings. Gay (or DeRozan) won’t exactly improve that situation. Also, both Smith and Jennings take far too many of the 16-23 foot shoots, while connecting at a well below average rate from there. Again, Gay (or DeRozan) is equally guilty in this area.

And let’s not even get into the whole decision-making discussion.

And Monroe looks like one of the bright young big men in the league. Even if they decide they can’t keep him (there are real questions about how well Monroe, Drummond and Smith can play together), Joe Dumars might want to wait and see what deals he can get at the trade deadline, when teams are a little more desperate.

PROBABILITY RUDY GAY WILL SPEND CHRISTMAS IN DETROIT: 20%*

CHARLOTTE

Michael Jordan‘s team is so bad they have become a cautionary tale for other teams. Basically a guidebook for how not to run a franchise. But that’s not to say that fans shouldn’t have any hope. Sure, they’ve drafted poorly, overpaid the wrong free agents and made bad trades, but at least they’ll get their old name back next year!

WHY THEY WILL TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

Michael Jordan hates to lose. He positively hates it. And you know all this losing is driving him crazy. Charlotte could have pulled off a trade like Utah (grabbing a couple of draft picks from Golden State in exchange for taking on Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson) in order to get to the minimum salary, but instead they made a splashy free agent signing and grabbed one of the best low post scorers in the league, in Al Jefferson.

While the original plan, under GM Rich Cho, was to be patient and build through the draft, Jordan is not known for his patience, and if he’s presented with a deal that could help the team immediately, he might take it.

WHAT ASSETS THEY HAVE

- Ben Gordon and his $13.2 million expiring contract.

- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and his rookie contract. The second pick in the 2013 draft may have fallen out of favour in Charlotte after struggling all season with his jumpshot and so far hasn’t hit a three in preseason.

- While their own protected pick is promised to Detroit, they have protected picks from Portland (top 12 in 2014 and 2015, unprotected in 2016), and Detroit (top 8 in 2014, 1 in 2015 and unprotected in 2016), and those could end up being quite valuable.

- Ramon Sessions and his $5 million expiring contract.

AN EXAMPLE OF A RUDY GAY TO CHARLOTTE TRADE

Rudy Gay and Terrence Ross for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ben Gordon and Bismack Biyombo
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=nsgxqkj

Kidd-Gilchrist is the perfect type of prospect for a rebuilding team to acquiring. His stock is low, right now, but he’s just a second year player and could payoff big. He’s a born leader, is tough as nails, has a high basketball IQ and could end up being one of the best wing defenders in the league. Gordon is taken for his expiring contract and Biyombo is some size on the bench who won’t ever become the player some hoped, he’s still got a lot of defensive potential.

Adding Gay would make Charlotte a contender for one of the last playoff spots. And while he can opt out after this season, also trading for Ross minimizes the risk.

If Charlotte is not ready to give up on Kidd-Gilchrist, one (or both) of the picks Charlotte is owed from Portland and Detroit could be substituted.

WHY THEY WON’T TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

When Rich Cho was hired, he said this:

“One of the worst things you can do in this league is be a middle-of-the-road team – in the playoffs one year, out the next. One of the tough things about a middle-of-the-road team is you never get really good draft picks. That makes it hard to have sustained success. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward.”
Real GM

Making a trade for Rudy Gay just to get better this year goes against everything he seemed to be preaching. And why trade any future assets for a player who could walk away this season? Just to create a middle of the road team? And why do it the one year they SHOULD be tanking?

PROBABILITY RUDY GAY WILL SPEND CHRISTMAS IN CHARLOTTE: 15%*

MILWAUKEE

There are some teams that simply don’t have the option of rebuilding. The Milwaukee Bucks owner, former senator Herb Kohl, is 78 years old and has gone on record that he doesn’t want the team to rebuild. That means that the Bucks are always in win-now mode, for better or for worse.

Normally losing your two leading scorers might signal a rebuild, but Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis neither scored efficiently or had much, if any, impact on the defensive end, so management wasn’t in a rush to bring them back.

WHY THEY WILL TRADE FOR GAY

Per Kohl’s directive, the Bucks are aiming for the playoffs, but don’t have the talent to be a lock, and lack talent at a couple of positions, one of them small forward. The start of the season will be a big test for them, as they face Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit (twice) and Washington (twice), all teams that they will be competing with for one of the final playoff spots. If they struggle out of the gate, they might be willing to make a big trade.

WHAT ASSETS THEY HAVE

- Caron Butler and his $8 million expiring contract. He was traded for this summer and while he has Wisconsin roots, it’s hard to imagine the Bucks are all that attached to a 33 player whose best days are behind him.

Ersan Ilyasova is being paid $7.9 million next season and signed a 5 year extension before the start of last season. After starting off last season poorly, he improved his play every month and looked great by the end, but there is a feeling that the Bucks don’t know quite what to do with him, and he might be available if the right offer was made.

- Brandon Knight and his $2.8 million rookie contract, and his option was just recently picked up for next season. He has been disappointing so far, and while he’s shot well, there are still questions about whether he can run a team.

- Ekpe Udoh and his $4.5 million expiring contract. He’s 6’10.

- Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was the Bucks’ 15th pick in last June’s draft. He’s 18, has massive hands and an unpronounceable name. What’s not to like?

- The Bucks own all their future first round draft picks.

- $7 milli0n in cap room that means they could take on a bigger contract without having to send out one.

I don’t see anyone else on this team being available.

AN EXAMPLE OF A RUDY GAY TO MILWAUKEE TRADE

Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry for Caron Butler, Ekpe Udoh, Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee’s top 10 protected 2014 first round pick.
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=n5s8nfu

This isn’t a huge haul for two of the Raptor’s best players, but considering both have expiring contracts, not a lot of teams are going to want to give up a whole lot of players who could leave for nothing at the end of the season.

The Raptors do keep their financial flexibility and get two young prospects and a draft pick, which helps their long term rebuilding goal. If the team is going to tank and go after a top pick in 2014, this is exactly the type of trade they need to do.

The Bucks become a legit play team with this trade, plugging their two biggest holes.

WHY THEY WON’T TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

While the Buck might seem like a perfect target, because of their desire to be a playoff team, their cap room and the pieces the have, I just have one name for you: J.J. Redick.

Last year, the Bucks, hoping to make a push for the playoffs, traded promising young prospect, Tobias Harris, for sharp-shooting veteran, J.J. Redick. There were two teams that benefitted from that deal, and none of them were the Bucks. Harris looks like a rising talent, and Redick has taken his talents to Los Angeles, playing for the contending Clippers.

Are the Bucks going to want to give up young assets again for a player who might be gone next summer?

PROBABILITY RUDY GAY WILL SPEND CHRISTMAS IN MILWAUKEE: 10%*

WASHINGTON

The Wizards are another team that has been directed by the owner to make the playoffs. They have one of the most promising young backcourts in the league, in John Wall and Bradley Beal, and when those two are teamed with Nene, the Wizards are a good team. Not one of those players, though, was able to make it through even 50 games last season, so the playoffs are not a sure thing.

WHY THEY WILL TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

Right now, they have four small forwards and their best one is probably Martell Webster, who as a starter is a good backup. Needless to say they could use an upgrade at the position. What would make Gay more attractive to the Wizards is that he can play the power forward position, in a small ball lineup, something the they will probably be doing a lot of this year.

Last season, Washington had the lowest scoring offense in the entire league, and Gay would definitely help them improve on that. A team with John Wall and Bradley Beal should run a lot and Gay would be the perfect addition.

WHAT ASSETS THEY HAVE 

- Emeka Okafor and his $14.5 million expiring contract. Under normal circumstances, Okafor would be a trade chip, but with a neck injury that could cause him to miss the entire season, you can bet Ernie Grunfeld will be shopping him hard.

- Otto Porter and his rookie contract. The third pick in the 2013 draft.

- Trevor Ariza and his $7.7 million expiring contract.

- The Wizards own all their own first round picks.

AN EXAMPLE OF A RUDY GAY TO WASHINGTON TRADE

Rudy Gay for Emeka Okafor, Jan Vesley and Washington’s 2014 first round pick.
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ljqqxbt

The Raptors could also include Amir Johnson in the deal, who Washington would love to replace Okafor on the front line, but that deal would include something substantial going back to the Raptors, like Otto Porter.

The prize in this deal would be Washington’s first round pick, which would probably have to be protected. Quite frankly, that would be the best case scenario for a player who will most likely opt out of his contract at the end of the season.

WHY THEY WON’T TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

With Okafor most likely out for the season, Nene is the only legit big man on the roster. How desperate is their front court situation? The Wizards have actually brought back Pops Mensah-Bonsu to the NBA. The Wizards really only have two valuable assets (my belief is expiring contracts are only valuable as trade ballast in the new NBA climate) in Porter and their draft pick, and there’s no way they will move either of them without getting a talented big man in return.

Plus, with Wall’s limited perimeter game (I’m being kind here) if they do pick up a small forward he had better be able to hit from three more consistently than Gay has lately. And are they really going to want to give up such a valuable asset for someone who could end up leaving after the season?

PROBABILITY RUDY GAY WILL SPEND CHRISTMAS IN WASHINGTON: 10%*

SACRAMENTO

Sacramento has a new owner, coach, GM, a new arena on the horizon (maybe) and a newfound optimism. The environment is perfect for a big trade to show the fans this is a different team. The Kings now have the longest current playoff drought in the league, which I’m sure they would like to change.

WHY THEY WILL TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

They have two real small forwards on the roster right now. John Salmons and Travis Outlaw. That pretty much says it all right there.

WHAT ASSETS THEY HAVE

Not a whole lot…

- Ben McLemore and his rookie contract.

- John Salmons could be considered an expiring contract ($7.6 million) as he’s got a team option for next season.

- Jimmer Fredette is a good outside shooter who might do well with a change of environment.

- They owe their first round pick to Cleveland (with protections), so have little in the way of draft picks.

AN EXAMPLE OF A RUDY GAY TO SACRAMENTO TRADE

While the Raptors might be able to pull a player like Fredette from the Kings in exchange for Gay, in order to get anything of value back, they would probably have to include another player…

Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry for Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and Ben McLemore.
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=m7q3325

That’s a lot of crap to take back for the privilege of getting McLemore, but he has one of the higher ceilings of any player in last June’s draft, so it might be worth it. Thornton could be replaced with Jason Thompson, in the deal, which would be better for the Raptors.

This deal might actually favour the Kings more, simply because they get rid of a couple of bad contracts, as well as a player who is likely to miss half the season (Chuck Hayes) and end up with a ton of cap room next summer.

WHY THEY WON’T TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

If they could, they very well might, but the Kings have so few decent assets, I don’t know if the two teams could agree upon a deal.

PROBABILITY RUDY GAY WILL SPEND CHRISTMAS IN SACRAMENTO: 5%*

MINNESOTA

Kahn is gone, and Minnesota is poised to get back into the playoffs for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era. While they have a decent chance to make the playoffs, Minnesota’s biggest concern is preventing Kevin Love from leaving. The best way to do that is to surround him with so much talent that he can’t leave.

WHY THEY WILL TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

Right now they’re a borderline playoff team and their weakest position is small forward. Gay would probably ensure a playoff spot for the TImberwolves (barring injury) and give them one of the most potent offenses in the league.

WHAT ASSETS THEY HAVE

- Derrick Williams and his rookie contract.

- Shabazz Muhammad and his rookie contract.

- Their first round pick (top 13 protected in 2014, top 12 in 2015 and 2016) goes to Phoenix.

AN EXAMPLE OF A RUDY GAY TO MINNESOTA TRADE

It’s unlikely the two teams would even be able to complete a trade before December 15th, when several of Minnesota’s newly signed players are available for trade, so any trade would have to happen at that time.

Rudy Gay for Derrick Williams, Chase Budinger or Corey Brewer and J.J. Barea.

The Raptors are able to get a prospect who has not fulfilled his lofty expectations, in Williams, and a couple of serviceable veterans. The hope is that, in a new environment, Williams would become close to the player many expected when he was drafted 2nd, in 2011.

Minnesota becomes a playoff team.

WHY THEY WON’T TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

Timberwolves management know that players don’t generally choose to play in Minneapolis. Even keeping their own players can be difficult, and trading for such an important player who could end up walking after a year is a major risk for a franchise that is always in a tenuous position. More so with Love’s future so much in doubt.

Plus, they don’t have a whole lot of attractive assets and no big expiring contracts, so even agreeing upon a trade would prove difficult.

PROBABILITY OF RUDY GAY SPENDING CHRISTMAS IN MINNESOTA: 5%

NEW ORLEANS

Everyone knows the Pelicans want to win now, after trading a lottery pick and probable future lottery pick for Jrue Holiday and then breaking the bank for Tyreke Evans. They have what they hope is their future franchise player, in Anthony Davis, and some talent, but it’s doubtful they’ll take one of the last playoff spots in the West.

WHY THEY WILL TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

It’s going to prove quite difficult for the Pelicans to actually make the playoffs when Al-Farouq Aminu is their starting small forward. He’s not a bad small forward, but he’s also not very good, either. Gay would be a MASSIVE upgrade.

WHAT ASSETS THEY HAVE

- Ryan Anderson and his $8.3 million salary for this season.

- I don’t think anyone would consider Eric Gordon and the $45 million left on his contract, over 3 years, an asset, but they have that.

- Is Austin Rivers one?  I doubt it.

- Their pick (top 5 protected) is going to Philadelphia next June.

AN EXAMPLE OF A RUDY GAY TO NEW ORLEANS TRADE

Trading for Anderson makes little sense for the Raptors, and any teams that want him could just trade for him directly (Houston, with Asik), so what we’re left with is…

Rudy Gay for Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers (and they would have to throw in a first round pick of some kind).
http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=lh8rutw

Toronto throws the dice on both Gordon and Rivers, but Gordon’s contract is worse than Gay’s, considering how much time he’s missed due to injury and how many years are left.

New Orleans would probably do this in a second.

WHY THEY WON’T TRADE FOR RUDY GAY

Outside of Ryan Anderson, they have very little anyone wants. And they need a center far more than a small forward, and everyone is waiting for the inevitable Ryan Anderson-Omer Asik trade that just makes too much sense for both teams. And that leaves the Pelicans with virtually nothing else to trade.

PROBABILITY RUDY GAY WILLL SPEND CHRISTMAS IN NEW ORLEANS: 2%

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Ranking the Centers/Centres

Posted on October 21, 2013 | No Comments

Note: This article also appears on Raptors Republic.

After a bit of a break, here is the long overdue rankings for the centre/center position. You can read the point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward rankings.

Now to be honest, I’m a little flummoxed about this ranking. No, it’s not because I have difficulty with the rankings, but with how to actually spell centre/center. See, I’ve always been very insistent on using the Canadian spelling and pronunciation of words, going so far as banning the alphabet song on one of my kid’s CDs, when they were younger, because the singer sang “zee” instead of “zed”.

But when it came to this particular position, I’ve always used the American spelling as if it were somehow a word unto itself. I’m sure it was because that was always how I read it in all the basketball books and on TV. So what do YOU think about the centre/center issue?

As for the actual rankings, this was one of the easier positions to not only narrow down, but rank. There were a few that I left out, most notably Samuel Dalembert, who looks to be the starting center/centre for the Mavericks this year, and Andrew Bynum, who I really have no clue whether to expect him to even play this year. If healthy, he’s a top 5 centre/center, but he also could end up being another cautionary tale about investing too heavily in often injured big men without a strong work ethic.

As with the previous rankings, I looked at a number of advanced statistics for each player and tried to get a good snapshot of where each player stood in comparison to one another.

Player
Rt Rank
PER
Rank
WS
Rank
WS48
Rank
WP48
Rank
WP
Rank
Tyson Chandler
3.8
19.10
12
9.3
2
0.207
1
0.294
3
13.3
1
Marc Gasol
5
19.58
10
11.5
1
0.197
2
0.176
9
10.2
3
Andre Drummond
7.6
21.51
3
4.5
19
0.172
6
0.313
1
8.1
9
Tiago Splitter
8.2
18.61
15
8.2
5
0.197
2
0.187
8
7.8
11
Joakim Noah
8.6
18.19
16
7.3
8
0.145
13
0.225
4
11.4
2
Brook Lopez
8.8
24.77
1
9.0
3
0.191
4
0.117
19
5.5
17
Al Horford
9
19.96
8
8.8
4
0.153
10
0.143
16
8.2
7
Dwight Howard
9.2
19.79
9
7.6
7
0.134
15
0.164
11
9.3
4
Larry Sanders
9.8
18.92
14
6.0
13
0.149
11
0.208
5
8.4
6
Anderson Varejao
10
21.63
2
3.3
26
0.173
5
0.312
2
5.9
15
Nikola Pekovic
10.4
20.24
6
6.7
9
0.163
8
0.149
15
6.1
14
Kosta Koufos
11.4
17.29
20
6.5
10
0.171
7
0.188
7
7.1
13
DeAndre Jordan
11.4
17.24
21
6.2
11
0.148
12
0.197
6
8.2
7
JaVale McGee
12.6
20.75
5
4.9
18
0.163
8
0.158
12
4.7
20
Al Jefferson
14.2
20.90
4
7.7
6
0.143
14
0.082
26
4.4
21
Greg Monroe
15.2
19.44
11
5.9
14
0.105
23
0.140
17
7.8
11
Nikola Vucevic
15.2
17.74
17
5.7
15
0.106
21
0.152
14
8.1
9
Omer Asik
16
14.84
28
5.5
17
0.108
20
0.169
10
8.7
5
Robin Lopez
17.2
18.98
13
5.6
16
0.126
18
0.113
21
5.0
18
Roy Hibbert
17.8
17.50
19
6.1
12
0.129
16
0.103
23
4.9
19
Emeka Okafor
20.4
15.70
25
4.5
19
0.104
24
0.134
18
5.7
16
DeMarcus Cousins
21.6
20.20
7
4.4
22
0.092
27
0.056
27
2.7
25
Nene
21.8
16.92
22
4.0
23
0.116
19
0.107
22
3.7
23
Jonas Valanciunas
22.2
15.49
26
3.9
24
0.127
17
0.116
20
3.6
24
Andrew Bogut
23.6
13.87
29
1.7
29
0.106
21
0.153
13
2.5
26
Enes Kanter
24.8
17.70
18
2.3
28
0.101
25
0.100
25
2.2
28
Spencer Hawes
24.8
15.95
24
4.5
19
0.096
26
0.049
28
2.3
27
Marcin Gortat
25.2
15.37
27
3.4
25
0.086
28
0.102
24
4.0
22
Chris Kaman
28.6
16.48
23
1.6
30
0.058
30
-0.018
30
-0.5
30
Kendrick Perkins
28.8
8.41
30
2.5
27
0.062
29
0.012
29
0.8
29

A few things jump out right away. Immediately, this appears to add more fuel to the fire that Bryan Colangelo made a huge blunder not selecting Andre Drummond. Bear in mind that Drummond played the fourth fewest minutes of any centre/center on the list, barely ahead of just Enes Kanter, Chris Kaman and JaVale McGee, so it will be interesting to see whether he can keep up that production with more minutes.

On the down side, the Raptor’s own Jonas Valanciunas doesn’t fare all that well which is a little surprising since he had such a promising rookie season. The thing to remember is that these ratings don’t take into consideration potential, of which Valanciunas has plenty of. Still, it will hopefully give a little perspective to those who might expect to much from the young Lithuanian this season.

Raptor fans can take consolation that they aren’t Oklahoma Thunder fans (or maybe not), since Perkins looks horrible, yet still has two more years on his rather large contract.

Player
TS%
Rank
OR%
Rank
DRR%
Rank
TRB%
Rank
Stl Rate
Rank
Blk Rate
Rank
Tyson Chandler
67.4
1
14.1
5
24.3
10
17.0
13
1
24
3
17
Jonas Valanciunas
61.3
2
9.6
21
20.5
21
15.0
20
0.6
29
4.2
12
Tiago Splitter
60.7
3
8.8
22
20.3
22
14.9
24
1.6
7
2.3
23
DeAndre Jordan
60.6
4
12.7
9
22.4
16
17.7
9
1.3
14
4.7
9
JaVale McGee
58.9
5
12.6
10
17.1
28
14.9
24
1.1
18
8.5
1
Enes Kanter
58.9
5
14.5
4
18.6
26
16.5
16
1.4
12
2.3
23
Kosta Koufos
58.6
7
13.3
6
21.2
19
17.4
10
1.2
16
4.4
10
Andre Drummond
58.0
8
15.4
2
27.2
5
21.1
3
2.5
1
6.1
4
Dwight Howard
57.4
9
10.4
18
27.4
4
19.2
5
1.6
7
4.9
8
Robin Lopez
57.3
10
12.4
11
13.4
30
12.9
30
0.8
27
5
7
Nikola Pekovic
57.0
11
13.0
7
19.0
24
16.1
18
1.1
18
2
26
Brook Lopez
56.7
12
10.8
16
16.1
29
13.4
28
0.8
27
5.2
6
Al Horford
56.2
13
8.2
24
23.0
14
15.0
20
1.5
11
2.2
25
Marc Gasol
55.9
14
7.6
26
18.9
25
13.2
29
1.6
7
4.1
13
Omer Asik
55.8
15
12.8
8
31.0
1
22.0
2
0.9
25
2.7
20
Marcin Gortat
54.3
16
7.6
26
24.0
12
15.6
19
1.1
18
3.9
14
Nene
53.6
17
6.7
30
20.6
20
13.7
26
1.7
5
1.8
28
Joakim Noah
53.4
18
12.2
12
22.6
15
17.4
10
1.7
5
4.4
10
Nikola Vucevic
53.3
19
12.0
13
28.4
3
20.2
4
1.2
16
2.4
22
Chris Kaman
53.1
20
8.1
25
22.1
17
15.0
20
1.1
18
3
17
Anderson Varejao
52.9
21
16.9
1
30.1
2
23.2
1
2.1
3
1.3
30
Greg Monroe
52.8
22
9.9
19
23.6
13
16.6
15
2.1
3
1.6
29
Larry Sanders
52.6
23
12.0
13
25.8
9
18.6
8
1.4
12
7.6
2
DeMarcus Cousins
52.4
24
10.9
15
27.0
6
18.8
6
2.4
2
1.9
27
Al Jefferson
52.1
25
7.0
28
25.9
8
16.4
17
1.6
7
2.7
20
Spencer Hawes
51.4
26
8.5
23
21.7
18
15.0
20
0.6
29
3.9
14
Emeka Okafor
49.2
27
10.7
17
26.8
7
18.7
7
1.1
18
3
17
Roy Hibbert
49.0
28
14.8
3
17.4
27
17.0
13
0.9
25
6.7
3
Kendrick Perkins
48.1
29
7.0
28
19.5
23
13.7
26
1.1
18
3.2
16
Andrew Bogut
46.0
30
9.8
20
24.1
11
17.3
12
1.3
14
5.5
5

In terms of True Shooting Percentage, most of the players that finished in the top 10 are defensive players who rarely took a shot more than two feet away from the rim and are not known for the offense. Also in the top 10, though, are Valanciunas and Enes, two young players with plenty of offensive skills. In fact, both players were below the median in shots coming from assists, which tells you they create their own shots more than most of their contemporaries.

This highlights the promise both these players have on the offensive end.

On the other end of the scale are Greg Monroe and DeMarcus Cousins, who both came out of the 2010 draft and who are both primarily offensive players with advanced post moves and finished near the bottom in True Shooting Percentage, highlighting that they still have a long way to go in that area. Both also not surprisingly finished near the bottom in block percentage, but in the top five in steal percentage, thanks to their quick hands. That doesn’t necessarily mean either one is a good defender, though.

Valanciunas still needs to show a lot of improvement on the boards, as he is near the bottom in this area, despite the physical skills and attitude.

Player
DWS
Rank
DRating
Rank
PPP
Rank
Iso
Rank
Post up
Rank
P&R
Rank
Spot up
Rank
Marc Gasol
5.4
1
98
2
0.76
5
0.62
3
0.66
6
0.77
8
0.94
17
Roy Hibbert
4.9
2
97
1
0.86
19
0.8
22
0.79
18
0.92
21
0.92
15
Dwight Howard
4.8
3
100
7
0.74
2
0.84
24
0.58
1
0.76
7
0.8
5
Joakim Noah
4.7
4
99
3
0.81
6
0.78
19
0.73
9
0.91
19
0.82
7
Al Horford
4.1
5
102
12
0.84
13
0.73
12
0.79
18
0.78
10
1.03
25
Larry Sanders
3.7
6
99
3
0.84
13
0.62
3
0.7
7
0.81
15
1.1
28
Emeka Okafor
3.7
6
99
3
0.81
6
0.66
6
0.76
14
0.88
17
0.87
9
Tiago Splitter
3.5
8
100
7
0.81
6
0.79
21
0.64
3
1
28
0.94
17
Omer Asik
3.5
8
103
15
0.87
23
0.74
14
0.74
11
0.97
26
0.9
11
Al Jefferson
3.3
10
104
17
0.9
29
0.98
27
0.79
18
0.94
23
1.01
24
DeAndre Jordan
3.2
11
101
10
0.86
19
0.8
22
0.85
25
0.72
6
0.91
13
Greg Monroe
3.2
11
105
21
0.87
23
0.74
14
0.93
30
0.77
8
0.88
10
Kendrick Perkins
3.0
13
102
12
0.75
4
0.64
5
0.83
21
0.78
10
0.78
4
Nikola Vucevic
2.9
14
105
21
0.84
13
0.75
17
0.89
28
0.66
5
0.91
13
Spencer Hawes
2.8
15
104
17
0.89
28
0.73
12
0.9
29
0.81
15
0.95
19
Nene
2.7
16
101
10
0.84
13
0.74
14
0.63
2
0.9
18
0.98
21
Tyson Chandler
2.6
17
104
17
0.81
6
0.78
19
0.64
3
1.11
30
0.9
11
Brook Lopez
2.6
17
105
21
0.86
19
0.7
8
0.88
27
0.98
27
0.86
8
Kosta Koufos
2.5
19
103
15
0.87
23
1.06
28
0.78
16
0.61
3
1.05
26
Andre Drummond
2.3
20
99
3
0.82
11
0.86
25
0.77
15
0.78
10
0.92
15
DeMarcus Cousins
2.3
20
106
26
0.86
19
0.86
25
0.74
11
0.93
22
1
22
JaVale McGee
2.2
22
102
12
0.84
13
0.71
10
0.75
13
0.8
14
1
22
Nikola Pekovic
2.1
23
106
26
0.83
12
0.71
10
0.72
8
0.91
19
0.97
20
Marcin Gortat
2.1
23
105
21
0.84
13
0.68
7
0.65
5
0.96
25
1.17
29
Chris Kaman
1.6
25
105
21
0.87
23
1.15
29
0.78
16
1.05
29
0.71
2
Jonas Valanciunas
1.5
26
106
26
0.9
29
1.18
30
0.84
24
0.95
24
0.81
6
Andrew Bogut
1.4
27
100
7
0.88
27
0.58
1
0.83
21
0.79
13
1.21
30
Robin Lopez
1.2
28
110
30
0.81
6
0.75
17
0.73
9
0.58
1
1.08
27
Anderson Varejao
1.1
29
104
17
0.71
1
0.58
1
0.83
21
0.64
4
0.61
1
Enes Kanter
1.0
30
107
29
0.74
2
0.7
8
0.87
26
0.58
1
0.73
3

As I’ve previously discussed, defensive advanced stats are fraught with problems. Players on good defensive teams have inflated defensive stats and the reverse is true. While Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert are undeniably good defensive players, and are rated accordingly in Defensive Win Share and Defensive Rating, Hibbert is average at best in the individual ratings. Of course, that might be due to his responsibilities he has on the Pacers Defense.

On the other hand, Anderson Varejao is considerd a very good defensive player and does well in the individual stats, but not the team stats, Defensive Win Share and Defensive Rating. This is probably due to the poor defensive players Varejao has been stuck with in Cleveland, though.

With some players, the difference between the difference ratings is interesting. Andrew Bogut has a low Defensive Win Share, but a high Defensive Rating, which is the case with Andre Drummond, as well.

Valanciunasdoesn’t seem to do well in any of these categories, save defending spot up shooters. Kanter doesn’t do well in the ratings, but in the individual stats he excels in everything but defending post ups.

Now for the average rankings for all the stats above:

Player
Rank Avg
Dwight Howard
6.78
Andre Drummond
7.50
Joakim Noah
8.94
Tyson Chandler
9.61
Marc Gasol
9.89
Anderson Varejao
10.06
Larry Sanders
10.44
DeAndre Jordan
11.22
Tiago Splitter
11.72
Kosta Koufos
12.61
Al Horford
13.06
Omer Asik
13.61
JaVale McGee
13.61
Nikola Vucevic
13.72
Emeka Okafor
13.89
Roy Hibbert
14.67
Nikola Pekovic
14.67
Greg Monroe
15.56
Brook Lopez
15.61
Al Jefferson
16.50
Enes Kanter
16.72
Robin Lopez
16.78
DeMarcus Cousins
17.11
Nene
17.50
Andrew Bogut
18.61
Marcin Gortat
19.28
Kendrick Perkins
19.33
Jonas Valanciunas
19.50
Chris Kaman
20.89
Spencer Hawes
20.94

If you’re a Raptor fan, I’ve got one word for you: Ouch!

Of course, as I stated earlier, these stats don’t take into consideration potential, and let’s not pretend the above is the least bit conclusive. Valanciunas improved vastly from the beginning of the season, so his stats from the second half of the season might look very different. Let’s not pretend he still doesn’t have a lot of work to do, though, and he’s probably another year or two from really being an impact player in the league unless he makes a massive leap, which is certainly possible.

For Pistons fans who wonder why they haven’t reached an agreement about an extension with Greg Monroe, where Andre Drummond finishes here might explain a few things. Right now, he’s an advanced stat darling and probably who Joe Dumars is looking at to be the future cornerstone of the franchise.

One interesting tidbit is that Kosta Koufos, who was basically given away by the Denver Nuggets, finishes ahead of JaVale McGee, who he started ahead of all year and who George Karl mostly stapled to the bench. Denver might very well see a dropoff at the center position this year and regret handing McGee the starting position.

1 Marc Gasol
2 Dwight Howard
3 Joakim Noah
4 Al Horford
5 Roy Hibbert
6 Brook Lopez
7 Tyson Chandler
8 Nikola Pekovic
9 Greg Monroe
10 Larry Sanders
11 DeMarcus Cousins
12 Al Jefferson
13 Anderson Varejao
14 Tiago Splitter
15 Andre Drummond
16 Andrew Bogut
17 Omer Asik
18 Nikola Vucevic
19 Enes Kanter
20 Jonas Valanciunas
21 Nene
22 Kosta Koufos
23 Marcin Gortat
24 Robin Lopez
25 Emeka Okafor
26 JaVale McGee
27 DeAndre Jordan
28 Spencer Hawes
29 Kendrick Perkins
30 Chris Kaman

Right off the bat, I have to say that the centre/center position seems to be in better shape than I first thought. That’s not to say we’re in an era similar to what we had in the 90′s, when there were half a dozen Hall of Fame centers, but there look to be some decent players at the position, now. More importantly, there is a lot of youth at the position.

One that is important to note is that injuries have a big impact on these ratings. As I mentioned, Andrew Bynum might be a top ten centre/center, if healthy, but who knows when and if that will ever be. A healthy and motivated Dwight Howard should be the best centre/center in the league, but not the one we saw in Los Angeles.

A healthy Anderson Varejao would rank much higher. The same goes for Andrew Bogut, who has the ability to be the second most important player on the Warriors and be a top ten centre/center when healthy.

While Tiago Splitter finished high in all the stats, I didn’t rank him nearly as high in my final rankings. The two main reasons are that Splitter only finished as high as he did in the stats because of the system he played on and his role, but more importantly, his limitations were exposed in the playoffs when the Spurs had to continue to sit him because his inability to score hurt the Spurs. While a lot of readers took issue with ranking Danny Green as high as I did in the Shooting Guard rankings, he actually averaged MORE minutes in the playoffs than in the regular season, showing his value to the team, whereas Splitter played fewer minutes in the playoffs where his lack of offensive proved too big a weakness.

Lastly, I will admit that I ended up ranking Valanciunas lower than I had anticipated, and that was difficult. As most know, I am a big Valanciunas fan, but at this point in his career, I didn’t think it made sense rank him higher than any of the players above him. I do believe, however, that will change this season.

While a lot of Raptor fans are anxious to see a rivalry between Valanciunas and Drummond, I would add Enes Kanter to that group. Those three big men, all from very different backgrounds, show the NBA isn’t quite ready to give up on the centre/center position just yet. I think we have some very good days ahead of us.

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Ranking the Power Forwards

Posted on September 27, 2013 | No Comments

After ranking the point guards, shooting guards and small forwards, we’re now on to the power forwards. Following a rather controversial ranking of the shooting guards, there was a lot less debate about the rankings of the small forwards.

I had a conversation with some friends a while back, bemoaning the lack of quality, two-way power forwards in the NBA. In fact, I challenged them to name one very good two-way center under the age of 30 (they had to be very good on both ends of the court). They couldn’t. The power forward position seems to have been separated into those who score, but don’t defend much, and those who defend, but don’t score much.

Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and even Pau Gasol seem to be the last of a dying breed of power forwards who are game changers on both ends of the floor.

Now, Al Horford probably would have fit that description if he played his natural position of power forward, but he’s been the Hawks starting center since he was drafted, so he wasn’t included in either that argument or my rankings.

The two young power forwards of the future, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, both leave defense to their teammates, which is probably okay because when they do play it they aren’t very good.

For the rankings, I included some players who have played center last season, but have been considered power forwards for most of their careers, like Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett.

I have included Kevin Love’s stats from 2012 (other than his individual defensive stats, which I don’t have access to) since he only played 18 games last season.

Player
PER
Rank
WS
Rank
WS48
Rank
WP48
Rank
WP
Rank
Kevin Love*
25.4
1
10.0
2
0.223
1
0.226
3
10.1
4
Tim Duncan
24.4
2
8.3
7
0.191
3
0.230
1
10.0
5
Blake Griffin
22.4
3
10.6
1
0.196
2
0.178
8
9.7
6
Amare Stoudemire
22.1
4
2.7
30
0.191
3
0.108
19
1.5
29
Anthony Davis
21.7
5
6.1
17
0.167
8
0.174
9
6.7
15
LaMarcus Aldridge
20.4
6
7.2
13
0.124
21
0.081
24
4.7
19
David West
20.1
7
9.1
4
0.179
6
0.154
15
7.8
12
Chris Bosh
20.0
8
9.0
6
0.175
7
0.104
21
5.3
18
Dirk Nowitzki
19.8
9
5.0
22
0.145
16
0.108
19
3.7
22
Paul Millsap
19.8
9
7.6
9
0.154
13
0.150
16
7.4
13
Serge Ibaka
19.4
11
9.4
3
0.181
5
0.222
4
11.5
1
Kevin Garnett
19.2
12
5.6
19
0.133
19
0.090
22
3.8
20
David Lee
19.2
12
9.1
4
0.150
15
0.156
13
9.4
7
Kenneth Faried
18.5
14
7.8
9
0.167
8
0.228
2
10.7
2
Ersan Ilyasova
18.3
15
6.7
14
0.159
10
0.216
6
9.1
8
Thaddeus Young
18.2
16
7.4
11
0.136
18
0.149
17
8.1
11
Ryan Anderson
18.1
17
6.5
15
0.125
20
0.065
28
3.4
24
Zach Randolph
17.9
18
7.9
8
0.145
16
0.161
11
8.8
9
Ed Davis
17.8
19
5.4
20
0.159
10
0.217
5
7.3
14
Josh Smith
17.7
20
4.2
25
0.075
29
0.053
29
2.9
26
Carl Landry
17.6
21
6.2
16
0.159
10
0.162
10
6.3
16
Derrick Favors
17.5
22
4.4
23
0.117
22
0.155
14
5.8
17
Amir Johnson
17.3
23
7.3
12
0.151
14
0.216
6
10.5
3
Carlos Boozer
17.1
24
5.7
18
0.108
24
0.067
26
3.6
23
Pau Gasol
16.7
25
3.7
26
0.107
25
0.111
18
3.8
20
Luis Scola
16.7
25
4.4
23
0.096
28
0.007
30
0.3
30
Tristan Thompson
16.1
27
5.2
21
0.098
27
0.159
12
8.5
10
Elton Brand
15.2
28
3.4
28
0.107
25
0.084
23
2.7
27
Jason Thompson
14.6
29
3.6
27
0.075
29
0.067
26
3.2
25
Taj Gibson
14.4
30
3.3
29
0.109
23
0.072
25
2.2
28

For the most part, there probably aren’t a whole lost of surprises here, but there might be a few.

Kenneth Faried does well in WS, but is absolutely LOVED by WP, in large part because it favours defensive rebounding so much. To me this is an example of the flaws of this system, as WP considers Faried an elite player. In fact, he has the 6th highest WP in the entire league. I like Faried. But he’s not that good.

Pau Gasol had a horrible year, last season, and while it’s likely won’t be as bad this season, there’s a good chance last year wasn’t a blip but rather an indication of a dropoff in play.

Raptor fans might look longingly at Ed Davis’ numbers, since, per 48 minutes, he did well in both WS and WP, as did Amir Johnson.

Player
TS%
Rank
TRB%
Rank
OR%
Rank
DRR%
Rank
Stl Rate
Rank
Blk Rate
Rank
Amare Stoudemire
63.7
1
12.4
27
10
11
15.1
30
0.8
28
2.7
12
Serge Ibaka
61.2
2
14.2
15
11.1
7
17
28
0.6
30
7.4
1
Carl Landry
60.5
3
14.2
15
10.9
8
17.3
26
0.9
26
1.3
24
Chris Bosh
59.2
4
12.6
26
7
26
17.6
24
1.4
14
3.4
10
Amir Johnson
58.7
5
15.6
12
11.4
6
20
20
1.8
7
3.8
9
Kenneth Faried
57.3
6
18.3
4
13.2
2
23.2
9
1.8
7
2.9
11
Blake Griffin
57.2
7
15.2
14
8.7
15
21.5
12
2
4
1.6
22
Kevin Love*
56.8
8
19.0
3
11.6
5
26.4
3
1.1
23
0.9
28
Dirk Nowitzki
56.5
9
12.2
30
2.5
30
21.5
12
1.2
17
1.7
20
David Lee
56.1
10
16.8
8
8.5
17
24.5
6
1.2
17
0.6
30
Ed Davis
56.1
10
16.7
10
10.9
8
22.8
10
1.2
17
4.2
7
Anthony Davis
55.6
12
16.8
8
10.5
10
23.5
8
2.2
3
5.1
4
Tim Duncan
55.5
13
19.3
2
7.3
24
29.6
1
1.2
17
6.4
2
Ersan Ilyasova
55.2
14
13.9
19
7.9
20
20.3
18
1.7
10
1.3
24
Ryan Anderson
55.1
15
12.4
27
8.9
14
15.9
29
0.9
26
1
27
Paul Millsap
54.9
16
13.6
21
8.6
16
18.8
22
2.3
2
2.7
12
David West
54.4
17
13.0
25
6.8
27
18.8
22
1.6
12
2.1
18
Thaddeus Young
53.9
18
12.3
29
7.6
22
17.2
27
2.7
1
1.6
21
Kevin Garnett
53.5
19
15.5
13
4.5
29
25.8
4
2
4
2.4
16
Jason Thompson
53.3
20
13.6
21
8.4
18
19.5
21
1.1
23
2.1
18
Derrick Favors
53.2
21
17.8
5
11.9
4
24
7
2
4
5.7
3
LaMarcus Aldridge
52.7
22
13.9
19
7.2
25
20.9
16
1.2
17
2.5
15
Taj Gibson
51.8
23
13.6
21
9.7
12
17.5
25
1
25
4.7
5
Luis Scola
51.6
24
14.1
17
8.1
19
20.4
17
1.6
12
1.2
26
Carlos Boozer
51.2
25
17.4
6
7.8
21
27.2
2
1.4
14
0.8
29
Tristan Thompson
51.2
25
17.3
7
13.2
2
22.1
11
1.2
17
2.2
17
Pau Gasol
51.0
27
14.0
18
7.6
22
20.1
19
0.7
29
2.7
12
Zach Randolph
50.7
28
19.5
1
13.8
1
25.1
5
1.3
16
1
27
Josh Smith
50.1
29
13.6
21
5.8
28
21.3
15
1.8
7
3.9
8
Elton Brand
49.9
30
15.7
10
9.7
12
21.5
12
1.7
10
4.6
6

What’s important to note here is that no one in the top 6 were either the first or second option on the team, and in many cases not even the third or fourth one. It’s easier to shoot a higher percentage when you the defenses aren’t keyed on you. Of course, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki took more shots than anyone else on their team, and they all finished in the top 10 in True Shooting Percentage, thanks to a lot of foul shots and close shots for Griffin and a combination of  a lot of three point shots and foul shots for Love and Nowitzki.

Clearly, you can shoot efficiently while still being your team’s main scorer, something players like Josh Smith and Zach Randolph should take note of.

While Stoudemire was an efficient scorer, off the bench last season, he was awful in the other above categories.

Like Stoudemire, some of the older power forwards, like Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol and Nowitzki struggled on the boards, probably caused by a lack of mobility that seems to happen when you get older (something I can attest to). Rebounds they would have gotten five years ago are out of range today.

While Amir is an efficient scorer, and good on the offensive boards, he is only average overall, partially because he is a below average defensive rebounder at his position.

Player
PPP
Rank
Post up
Rank
P&R
Rank
Spot up
Rank
DRating
Rank
DWS
Rank
 xRAPM
Rank
Zach Randolph
0.75
1
0.76
8
0.83
13
0.83
6
99
2
4.7
2
1.0
23
Kevin Garnett
0.76
2
0.64
1
0.81
10
0.88
10
99
2
3.8
8
5.9
2
Taj Gibson
0.76
2
0.75
5
0.96
23
0.84
7
101
6
2.3
19
2.6
8
Dirk Nowitzki
0.8
4
0.73
4
0.8
7
0.79
2
106
22
1.8
26
1.3
17
David Lee
0.81
5
0.84
15
0.6
1
0.82
4
104
16
3.7
9
1.1
19
Josh Smith
0.81
5
0.71
2
0.92
20
0.93
15
101
6
4.5
4
3.3
6
David West
0.81
5
0.89
21
0.97
24
0.81
3
99
2
4.7
2
2.3
10
Pau Gasol
0.82
8
0.75
5
0.87
15
0.88
10
106
22
1.7
27
1.6
14
Chris Bosh
0.82
8
0.81
13
0.72
4
0.85
8
103
14
3.4
11
2.0
12
Blake Griffin
0.83
10
0.88
20
0.61
2
0.95
18
102
10
3.9
7
1.4
16
Carlos Boozer
0.84
11
0.9
24
0.95
21
0.72
1
100
5
4.3
5
1.1
19
Tristan Thompson
0.84
11
0.79
9
0.91
18
1.01
24
108
27
2.0
23
1.0
23
Derrick Favors
0.86
13
0.92
26
0.81
10
0.87
9
101
6
2.9
13
3.1
7
LaMarcus Aldridge
0.86
13
0.71
2
0.98
25
0.91
14
107
25
2.3
29
2.1
11
Thaddeus Young
0.86
13
0.89
21
0.68
3
0.94
16
103
14
3.7
9
1.7
13
Elton Brand
0.87
16
0.8
11
0.88
16
0.96
21
102
10
2.2
22
2.6
8
Paul Millsap
0.87
16
0.8
11
0.8
7
1.01
24
104
16
2.9
13
3.4
5
Tim Duncan
0.88
18
0.75
5
1.12
30
0.95
18
95
1
4.9
1
6.3
1
Amir Johnson
0.88
18
0.84
15
0.73
5
0.94
16
104
16
2.9
13
3.6
3
Luis Scola
0.88
18
0.83
14
1.04
28
0.82
4
107
25
1.9
24
0.7
25
Jason Thompson
0.88
18
0.79
9
0.98
25
0.9
13
111
29
0.9
28
0.6
26
Serge Ibaka
0.89
22
0.84
15
0.91
18
1.03
26
101
6
4.1
6
3.5
4
Ryan Anderson
0.9
23
0.86
18
0.81
10
0.99
22
112
30
0.8
29
-2.9
30
Ersan Ilyasova
0.94
24
1.02
28
0.76
6
0.99
22
104
16
2.5
16
0.1
27
Kenneth Faried
0.95
25
0.89
21
0.95
21
1.15
29
102
10
3.4
11
1.1
19
Ed Davis
0.95
25
0.96
27
0.9
17
0.95
18
102
10
2.4
17
1.2
18
Anthony Davis
0.97
27
0.9
24
1
27
1.11
27
104
16
2.4
17
1.1
19
Amare Stoudemire
0.97
27
1.08
30
1.06
29
1.11
27
108
27
0.6
30
-1.3
29
Carl Landry
0.98
29
0.86
18
0.85
14
1.26
30
106
22
1.9
24
-1.2
28
Kevin Love*
1.03
30
1.03
29
0.8
7
0.88
10
104
16
2.3
29
1.5
15

As I’ve said previously, all of these defensive ratings are fairly flawed. Zach Randolph is NOT a very good defender, but because he plays beside one of the best in the league, and because Memphis is a very good defensive team, he does very well in all but the XRAPM rating.

Serge Ibaka, one of the better defenders in the league, at the power forward position, fairs poorly in the situational defensive stats, but not in the ratings.

And then there is Stoudemire, who is probably very appropriately ranked in all but the XRAPM rating.

Amir does pretty well across the board, which is probably where he should be. Amir has shown to be a good, but not great, overall defender.

Faried, despite his favourable WS and WP rankings, doesn’t not fair well in most of the defensive categories.

Player
Rank Avg
Tim Duncan
7.95
Blake Griffin
9.32
Zach Randolph
10.26
Amir Johnson
10.68
Serge Ibaka
10.74
David Lee
10.95
Kenneth Faried
11.05
Kevin Garnett
11.16
Kevin Love*
11.42
Derrick Favors
11.89
David West
12.21
Chris Bosh
12.32
Paul Millsap
12.68
Anthony Davis
13.47
Ed Davis
13.79
Thaddeus Young
14.74
Dirk Nowitzki
15.16
Josh Smith
15.53
Ersan Ilyasova
15.63
Carlos Boozer
15.68
Tristan Thompson
16.37
Elton Brand
16.58
Taj Gibson
16.63
LaMarcus Aldridge
16.63
Carl Landry
17.89
Pau Gasol
18.00
Luis Scola
20.47
Amare Stoudemire
20.68
Ryan Anderson
21.26
Jason Thompson
21.32

If you’re a Raptor fan, you have to like the ranking average for all the power forwards, which favours Amir’s overall positive finish in most categories.

On the other hand, one of the best young power forwards in the league, LaMarcus Aldridge, finishes horribly close to the bottom, maybe hinting he might be a tad overrated.

Rank
Player
1
Tim Duncan
2
Kevin Love*
3
Blake Griffin
4
LaMarcus Aldridge
5
Serge Ibaka
6
Chris Bosh
7
Kevin Garnett
8
Dirk Nowitzki
9
David West
10
David Lee
11
Paul Millsap
12
Ersan Ilyasova
13
Zach Randolph
14
Amir Johnson
15
Kenneth Faried
16
Thaddeus Young
17
Josh Smith
18
Pau Gasol
19
Anthony Davis
20
Derrick Favors
21
Carlos Boozer
22
Tristan Thompson
23
Ed Davis
24
Ryan Anderson
25
Carl Landry
26
Amare Stoudemire
27
Taj Gibson
28
Luis Scola
29
Elton Brand
30
Jason Thompson

While he can’t play 35 minutes per game, anymore, I had to put Tim Duncan at the top. There isn’t another power forward in the league who can play at both ends as well as Duncan, even at his advanced age.

While Love and Griffin are not good defensive player, they both are so productive, they almost make up for their weakness on the defensive end. I say almost because their respective teams will probably struggle with those two should they go deep into the playoffs.

Those who believe the Hawks are worse because Josh Smith is no longer with the team might want to take a closer look at Paul Millsap, who seems to be a better player than Smith.

Ersan Ilyasova played a lot of small forward last season, which probably negatively affected his stats, but he might be one of the most underrated power forwards in the league, right now. He scores efficiently from inside and out, is a very good rebounder and a decent defender. And he probably he one of the better contracts in the league, right now.

While Faried is loved by some advanced stats, the fact that he’s undersized, and thus struggles on defense, makes it difficult to rank him very high.

While Amir Johnson will never make an All Star team, Raptor fans should be very pleased to have such a good, all around power forward. I would say that position is the least of their worries, especially considering how few good two-way power forwards there are in the league.

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