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Nets Get Smart And Back Away From Carmelo

No thanksAs anyone who follows the NBA knows, the Nets have spent this whole season looking to trade the farm for Carmelo Anthony. They wanted a big-name to draw fans (especially as their 2012 move to Brooklyn approaches) and a big-time player to help achieve new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s goal of winning a championship in the next five years. As the potential trade took on a life of its own—at one time or another involving nearly every Net, first round draft picks past any tenure Anthony would serve with his new club, and a variety of third teams—the price to pick up ‘Melo for a few years became astronomical. Thankfully Prokhorov realized it was becoming too much and ended the courting of Anthony last night.

Most pundits have said that the Nets were simply saving face with the owner’s press conference yesterday, basically showing they have power and are the ones not interested in the deal anymore when in reality they were unable to sell NJ to a player who wants NY. Regardless of what the “real” reason for the Nets walking away from this deal is, it was without question the best thing to do. Carmelo is not the caliber of player who will turn a team into a contender, and trading away the future for him was an unwise proposition from the beginning.

For starters, Anthony isn’t the box office draw New Jersey is looking for with this type of transaction. You can easily name 10 other players you’d rather see play in person (quickly: LeBron, DWade, Chris Paul, Dwight, Blake, DRose, Dirk, Kobe, Durant, Nash), and another 5-10 who you at least want to see as much or nearly as much as Anthony (Amar’e, KG, some combination of Spurs’ stars, Tyreke Evans, Josh Smith, John Wall, Deron Williams, Westbrook, Rondo, Kevin Love, don’t forget Monta Ellis, etc.). In fact, the Nuggets’ attendance numbers right now aren’t even that good. They currently average 16,659 fans per game at home, only 16th best in the NBA. Not only that, their average road attendance is 17,277 per game, 12th in the league, tied with the ho-hum Rockets and behind the horrendous Timberwolves. What’s going to draw fans to the arena in Jersey/Brooklyn is a good team (will take a while to get there) or an exciting style of play (e.g. the Warriors go-go offense draws more home fans than the Thunder, Spurs, or Blake Griffin’s Clippers – an up-and-coming young team everyone loves, the most consistently great team, and the best highlight maker in the league). Long story short, there is no way Carmelo will be a massive draw for NJ unless the team starts playing up-tempo (nope) or gets really good in a hurry (nope).

More importantly, Anthony is not going to be any sort of catalyst that turns the Nets into contenders. Remember the big knock against Tracy McGrady being he never got out of the first round of the playoffs? Well Carmelo has done it only once in seven seasons (unlikely again this year considering the top of their conference), while playing alongside better point guards, better front lines, and better overall team talent. When the Nuggets got to the Western Finals in 2009, it had much less to do with Anthony than you might think. He scored points, but his shooting percentages were nothing special, his rebounding was hit or miss (had as many games with 4 or less boards than with 8 or more), he nearly fouled out of a majority of the games in rounds 2 and 3, and his part in the team’s phenomenal defense was minimal at best. If you’ll remember correctly, the true stories of that team’s run into late-May were Chris Andersen (earned a 250% pay increase because of his performance in the 2009 playoffs), Chauncey Billups’ resurrection as Mr. Playoffs, and the inside “thuggery” provided by Andersen, Kenyon Martin, and Nene that got the ire of Mark Cuban.

Considering Anthony does virtually nothing to help a club win beyond scoring (with a subpar career eFG% of 48%, at that), it’s no wonder his teams haven’t done better in the post-season and his advanced stats have been average for years. Denver has done well in the regular season for a while, which makes it all the more odd that his advanced stats have never looked good. His Offensive Ratings and Defensive Ratings have always been close to dead even (career 107-107, what you’d expect out of an average player on an average team), his Adjusted Plus/Minus has never wavered far from zero (league average), and he got blasted in an article over the summer for ranking below nearly everyone in Wins Produced. These matrices can be tainted somewhat by who someone plays beside, so it’s puzzling and troubling to see the guy who’s usually referred to as the best player on a good team never doing well in any of these calculations. But again, he’s not much of a defender, a rebounder, or a team-offense initiator, so no one should be shocked to hear he’s not positively affecting a club like his PPG would lead you to believe.

What the Nets were being asked to give up was ludicrous. They would have had to part with one of the best young PF’s in Derrick Favors (he’s rebounding well, defending well, making 55% of his shots, and getting to the free throw line at a good rate considering his limited role in the offense), the NBA’s top long-range shooter in Anthony Morrow (career 45% from deep), PG Devin Harris (who would have been replaced by the declining, 34-year-old Billups who likely would have only lasted the remainder of the season, then it would be another search for another PG), plus the $12 million expiring contract of Troy Murphy. And three first-round draft picks, which would have been quite good considering the team would have been missing tons of young talent and been lead by a player who does nothing but shoot. This would have been a crippling blow to a franchise that’s had enough of them over the past two seasons.

So congratulations to the Nets for getting out of the Melo’ situation and putting an end to the proposed madness. Now get back to taking one step out of the cellar at a time.

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Reader Comments (7)

Good points. Quick question. You write:

But again, he’s not much of a defender, a rebounder, or a team-offense initiator, so no one should be shocked to hear he’s not positively affecting a club like his PPG would lead you to believe.

If the clubtrades him evryone would say this is the start of "rebuilding". If Carmelo isn't positively affecting wins, why is trading him the start of the "rebuilding phase?

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames D

For two reasons. First everyone is so caught up in who a team's leading scorer is, they see them as the backbone of a franchise no matter what. There are plenty of high scorers on terrible teams, so the logic is faulty and can easily be sidestepped by good GM's. See also: the Rockets over the past few years (and some team called the Spurs). Also, the trade would send Billups away. A PG makes the offense go, and losing him and starting with another (plus a bunch of young guys and draft picks) restarts the whole effort of putting together a system. That's the thing, so many players were involved in the trade, the Nuggets' core (especially in a season with so many injuries to their bigs) would be completely different and the group would be starting from near zero.

Just for quick reference, he missed 13 games last year, during which the team went 8-5, including wins over the Lakers and Cavs (and multiple other playoff teams). Even if they had done a little worse than that, keep in mind that a player having a high Usage Percentage makes his teammates less likely to work toward being an active part of the offense. No matter how good they are, by taking so many shots they're making their teammates less likely to do so confidently. Wilt's teammates never knew what to do with the ball because he didn't let them shoot, so they stopped looking to run the offense or trust their own skills (which he then expected them to do in crunch time since he knew he'd be fouled and miss the FT's). It actually hurts the player's efficiency and the team's overall understanding of running an actual offense. If only we had a mathematical model for optimizing this...which we do.


January 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

I don't know if the logic is faulty. Respectfully, you only win games by having more points than your opponent when time runs out. That suggests scoring is a premium. Your argument also assumes winning regular season games is the ultimate goal of any team. I think profit and championships are the ultimate goal.

January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames D

I typically read your postings and take them w/ a grain of salt but I totally disagree w/ this one. Ever since the Melo trade rumors took off like wild fire, number analysts such as yourself have been quick to highlight his inefficiencies and cast him off as not an elite talent. Your posting does the same but what really made me take a step back was when you stated : "Carmelo is not the caliber of player who will turn a team into a contender." That right there is laughable.

If you look back on when he came to Denver, he took a team that won 17 games to a playoff team winning 43 games. Since he's been in the league, he's averaged 48 wins per year (including this yr so far). Through 7 seasons, if we don't include this year, he's averaged 48.8 (49) wins per season. If that's not a player that can carry a team into contention, I don't know what is. In reference to a player you love, LeBron James took his Cavs team from 17 wins to 35 wins in a weaker conference. He's averaged 49.8 (50) wins per season during his 7 year run w/ the Cavs. Not too shabby in Melo's case, IMO.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRon

"A PG makes the offense go, and losing him and starting with another (plus a bunch of young guys and draft picks) restarts the whole effort of putting together a system."

Not necessarily. The system just needs proper personel, because positions are just labels attached to players. They would've gotten a drive and kick point guard in Harris, who may not be as good as Billups at shooting/efficiency, but his penetration and passing could replicate (and even surpass! His assist rate is miles away from Billups, despite a much worse team) what Billups does, just without the threat of either terrible, contested shots or crazy efficiency.

And a system would be useless when the player you build it around is aging and looks to have maybe 2 or at most 3 good to decent years left in him.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBenjamin

Thanks for the comment, and good point if those two teams were in any way similar, but they weren't.

Please go back and look at 02-03 Denver's players and injuries and then 03-04's. WAY more than adding Camelo was done in between. 02-03 had 3 players start over half the team's games, and only one of them started more than 53. Those players were an already past-his-prime Juwan Howard (77 starts), 20-year-old rookie Nene (53), and 22-year-old rookie Junior Harrington (51 starts, only 15 more past that season in an unremarkable career). Camby was hurt big-time. There was no PG. Melo came in the next year and they had 5 starters with 70+ starts, Camby was back in full force, they added Andre Miller who knows how to run the show with any group of players, and Nene took a big step toward becoming the player he is today (which is the best one on the Nuggets). Plus they added two decent-ish role players who weren't there the year before in Earl Boykins and Jon Barry. Carmelo's Wins Produced in his rookie season were a DISTANT 5th on the team (3.6 vs. Camby's 14.1 vs. Miller's 12.3 vs. Chris Andersen's 4.2 vs. Barry's 4.1, and they only topped Nene's 3.5 because he played more minutes) and his ORating-DRating pair was way behind most of his teammates (102-105 vs. Miller's 110-104 vs. Camby's 108-95 vs. Nene's 106-102 vs. Barry's 111-103 vs. Andersen's 100-96 vs. Boykins' 107-108 vs. VLenard's 105-107 -- that's everyone with over 1000 minutes). Please compare two comparable things next time because those two teams were VASTLY different in their make-up, and Melo's impact on that squad gets crushed by any statistical measure.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

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