Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pacers Warriors trade, Take One

If you hadn't realized, there's a fairly heavy Yay Area slant here on MFF. Every one of us either lives there, has lived there or will be living there in the near future (and the latter two categories pretty much apply only to Rosco, who's a bit of a globe-trotter). This means that at least two of (myself and Bop City) are Warriors fans, which in terms of self-hatred, is a little bit below self-flagellation and above eating ash.

So, this might explain that when news of the recent 8-player trade between the Warriors and Pacers was announced, I wandered around the office in a daze, muttering "That's actually a good trade." That trade being: Mike Dunleavy Jr., Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod for Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell.

Of course, it's natural for a fan of a team to talk themselves into a trade being "good". I've done a little browsing and certainly there are enough Pacer fans who think that they seriously got over on this trade.

Well, let's try and break it down. First, we'll look at the basketball side of things. From this perspective, this trade makes sense for both teams, with one possible exception. Murphy and Dunleavy were both bench players for the Warriors, and never really fit into the up-tempo running game favored by Nelson and by the team's best players. Harrington and Jackson never really fit into the specialized, role-playing half-court set favored by Carlisle. All of the major players in this deal should be more comfortable in their new roles, at the expense of making each team even more uncomfortable when taken outside of their comfort zone.

That is, the Warriors will be even more lost in a half-court set and the amount of brutally bad shots being taken will rise approximately 300%. On the other hand, the Pacers will now have two reasonable jump-shooters who can pass and get their fair share of defensive rebounds and charging calls. They'll also have a lot more trouble defending the break, defending period and getting offensive rebounds.

The exception mentioned above is Diogu. Essentially, I view this trade as something good for both teams on the court, with the Pacers essentially gambling that Diogu will pan out. There's a chance he will. Everybody was enamored with him intially, comparing him to Elton Brand, another under-sized PF with good post moves and a decent mid-range jumper. The problem so far is that Ike hasn't shown much as a rebounder, which he was supposed to be, and as a defender, where taller cats can take serious advantage of him.

If Diogu can work on his rebounding and positioning and stay healthy, this will be a win for the Pacers on the court. If he doesn't, I can't see this being any better than a wash, with both teams skewing closer to the philosophical styles derived from their coaches.

Of course, the modern sports world is dominated by finance just as much as it is by athletic performance. Let's look at the contracts involved, using the Salary Ratio from RealGM:

Lil' Duns: 32.1 million over 4 years
Murphy: 35.8 over 4 years
I Like Ike: 9.2 over 2 years
Highlander: 5.8, expiring

Harrington: 32.9 over 3 years
Chris Mills Returns: 26.4 over 3 years
Vicious: 17.3 over 1 year
Josh Powell: 3.2, expiring

In the short term, advantage goes to the Pacers, simply because the big contracts are relatively even and Vicious is getting paid far more than Ike, who's a better "piece" on top of that, plus McLeod's expiring contract is larger than Powell's. However, I'm convinced that the real reason that the Warriors made this trade is the long term. Combined, Murph + Duns is 67.9 million over the next 4 years. Jackson + Harrington is 59.3 over the next 3 years. When you're dealing with players who aren't the centerpiece of your team, Mullin seems to feel that it's better to get those players off of your cap sooner rather than later.

And that's because he's got young players to think about. Monta Ellis, Andrins Biedrins and Mickael Pitreus all have contracts that expire after this year or next year. With Matt Barnes also looking like he might be worth some cheddar, Mully has to think about how to or whether to retain these players, as they appear to be the real promise of the squad. The real key to this trade is if it allows the Warriors to hang onto Ellis and Biedrins. If it does, then this trade can be nothing but a win for the Warriors.