We know Houston’s trade deadline deal was very, very good. Few would argue that Carl Landry is a better fit than Kevin Martin and it’s not hard to understand the value of a 22-year-old big man with potential and future first-round picks, especially considering the track record of the man who has the power to use them.
It’s important to note, though, that Daryl Morey would have done the Landry-Martin swap even if he had not received all those goodies from the Knicks. If we’re to believe the reports that surfaced late last Tuesday night, the Rockets were prepared to receive Sergio Rodriguez and Kenny Thomas (and their expiring deals) from Sacramento to complete the trade if New York was not going to be involved.
Noam Schiller analyzed this version of the deal and came to the same conclusion as I did: it’s good for the Rockets. Martin is a better player than Landry and he fits better with their other core pieces. But here’s the thing: Martin makes way more money than Landry, at least until the end of next season. And while I prefer Martin overall, I wouldn’t argue he’s THAT much better than Landry. In fact, I agree with Tom Ziller when he says that Carl Landry is essentially the power forward version of Kevin Martin. They’re both extremely efficient scorers who play below-average D and don’t create for others often.
Here’s where it gets tricky. If you’re a GM, should you prefer the power forward version of Kevin Martin or the shooting guard version? Conventional wisdom in the NBA dictates that you never trade big for small. Yet the most revered GM around has done just that, with players who have similar strengths and weaknesses, and he reportedly would have done it even without getting other assets as sweetener.
Morey, as a guest on The B.S. Report, said the following about the deal: “We lost a lot with Carl, but we felt like between Jordan Hill, draft picks, and a good trading situation that we could address that situation a little bit easier than picking up a 2-guard like Kevin Martin.”
As I heard this, my mind immediately jumped to the scarcity of excellent 2’s in the NBA. I’d very briefly brought this up in a previous post, as a reason why Marco Belinelli’s below-average defense off the bench might not hurt the Raptors too much. This blockbuster trade just gives me an excuse to think about it again. To get an idea, here’s a table of the players who have a PER above 17.0 and play at least 20 minutes per game (sorry, DeJuan), sorted by position.
PER By Position
|Ty Lawson (17.12)||Andre Iguodala (17.77)||Luol Deng (17.04)||Luis Scola (17.05)||Emeka Okafor (17.14)|
|Tony Parker (17.12)||Jamal Crawford (18.78)||Stephen Jackson (17.13)||Al Harrington (17.17)||Joakim Noah (17.54)|
|Russell Westbrook (17.31)||Joe Johnson (19.40)||Paul Pierce (17.62)||Elton Brand (17.19)||Shaquille O'Neal (18.10)|
|Jose Calderon (17.46)||Manu Ginobili (20.24)||Andrei Kirilenko (18.63)||Michael Beasley (17.30)||Jermaine O'Neal (18.30)|
|Baron Davis (17.56)||Brandon Roy (22.08)||Gerald Wallace (18.63)||Troy Murphy (17.56)||Nene (18.49)|
|Andre Miller (17.63)||Kobe Bryant (23.08)||Danny Granger (18.92)||David West (17.72)||Marcus Camby (18.54)|
|Jason Kidd (17.64)||Dwyane Wade (27.73)||Corey Maggette (21.13)||Antawn Jamison (17.51)||Al Horford (18.75)|
|Nate Robinson (17.82)||Carmelo Anthony (23.99)||LaMarcus Aldridge (17.98)||Al Jefferson (19.23)|
|Luke Ridnour (17.86)||Kevin Durant (25.05)||Anthony Randolph (18.90)||Marc Gasol (19.79)|
|Derrick Rose (17.89)||LeBron James (31.82)||Kevin Garnett (19.21)||Andrew Bynum (19.98)|
|Lou Williams (18.36)||Carlos Boozer (20.37)||Andrew Bogut (20.10)|
|Tyreke Evans (18.49)||Amar'e Stoudemire (20.60)||Brook Lopez (21.18)|
|Gilbert Arenas (19.04)||Zach Randolph (21.01)||Greg Oden (23.45)|
|Rajon Rondo (19.95)||Carl Landry (21.58)||Dwight Howard (23.93)|
|Deron Williams (20.16)||Josh Smith (22.03)||Tim Duncan (26.08)|
|Chauncey Billups (21.68)||Pau Gasol (22.25)|
|Steve Nash (22.64)||Kevin Love (22.40)|
|David Lee (22.47)|
|Dirk Nowitzki (22.60)|
|Chris Bosh (26.36)|
- First glance: Wow. That’s unbalanced, right? You have your mega-stars in Wade, Kobe, and Roy, and then there’s a drop-off. Only 7 shooting guards are in the table, compared to 20 power forwards and 18 point guards. We always hear about the lack of good centers, but they outnumber the SG’s. And as for the other wing position? Only 10 make the cut.
- Let’s get this out of the way, though: PER isn’t perfect. I think it overrates big men a little bit, it doesn’t account for defense (which is why you don’t see Varejao or Perk here), and it’s not meant to be a substitute for watching basketball games. It’s pretty good, though, as far as catch-all stats go. I’d go on, but I’d prefer to direct you to Matt Moore’s post from this morning.
- Kevin Martin, part of the inspiration for this post, doesn’t even make it. You should treat him as if he did, though, as he’s right there at 16.9. Martin is generally a standout in this metric – in the three seasons previous to this one, his PER sat at 19.2, 21.0, and 20.1, respectively. This season, he’s regressed in his free throw attempts and his shooting from distance. I expect his numbers will start to climb back up soon.
- I expect a similar improvement from Monta Ellis down the line, who is also at 16.9. He undoubtedly is a quality player, but is having one of the strangest seasons in recent memory. His inefficiency is dragging her PER down, but we know that he is capable of being an efficient scorer because we saw it in 2007-2008.
- I should mention that SG’s also suffer here because of down years from Vince Carter, Ray Allen, Ben Gordon, Jason Terry, and Rip Hamilton. At Ben Gordon’s age and considering the injury-plagued season he’s had, there’s a good chance he eventually gets back to the 17.0 mark he had last year in Chicago, but the others are questionable. We’ve seen very good and very bad performances from those veteran SG’s, so we can’t be sure if they are going to return to that 17+ mark. Also, it’s worth noting that there are good players at other positions who don’t make the cut: Lamar Odom, Rashard Lewis, Chris Kaman, Stephen Curry, Rudy Gay, Caron Butler, Jameer Nelson, Paul Millsap, Kenyon Martin, Andrea Bargnani, and Mehmet Okur come to mind.
- You can quibble with the positions if you like. I used the ones listed at hoopdata.com (which is also where I got the stats). The only player I switched was Marcus Camby, who is listed at power forward but is playing center now for the Blazers. You can argue that Tyreke Evans and Nate Robinson should be shooting guards, but I can just as easily argue that Andre Iguodala and Joe Johnson are small forwards. Positions are blurry now. Even though LeBron is listed as a SF, it’s obvious that his true position is simply “LeBron.”
With all those caveats, I think that the PER table does a pretty good job showing the scarcity of quality two guards in the NBA. To further illustrate this, take a look at who Kelly Dwyer would have chosen for the All-Star game this season.
The wild cards for the East reserves: Al Horford and Josh Smith. The snubs: David Lee and Paul Pierce. Oh, and he would have had Rajon Rondo starting in place of Allen Iverson. For the West’s wildcards, he chose Deron Williams and Zach Randolph. The snubs? The Gasols and Nene. He also mentions Greg Oden, Kevin Love, Carl Landry, and Carlos Boozer as playing All-Star quality basketball. None of these players are shooting guards.
Here’s the point: the league doesn’t have many two-guards who do two-guardy things at an All-Star level. If I’m a GM, I ideally want my starting 2 to be able to shoot, slash, and get to the line at a very high rate. Hopefully, he’d play good defense as well. There just aren’t a lot of players like that right now. I’m not arguing that a good two-guard is more important on the basketball court than a low-post scorer and I’m not saying Minnesota should dump Al Jefferson this summer for a wing.1 I’m not arguing, either, that this is particularly different from other eras.2 What I’m saying, though, is that because of the dearth of quality shooting guards around, they have more value. We should start thinking about overpaying good shooting guards the same way that we think about overpaying good centers.
All of this means that if your favourite team employs O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, or DeMar DeRozan, you should be rooting extra hard for him to become a star if only to make your GM’s job easier. It also means I’d happily take the shooting guard version of Kevin Martin over the power forward version of Kevin Martin.