Friday, December 21, 2007

365 days later (or so)

Apparently, the one year anniversary of the Iverson trade was the signal for the pundits to come out of the woodwork and make snide comments about the Sixers. Two recent comments in particular rankled me a bit because they seemed to reflect a real lack of research.

First, over at, Marc Stein slammed what the Sixers got in return for Iverson. What made it even more bizarre to me was that he recognized that the Nuggets haven't had an amazing record with Iverson, but still talked as if the Nuggets had robbed the Sixers.

Then, over at, Jack McMallum describes the Sixers as a team "playing over its head" in his Christmas list column.

It seems to me that both comments reflect the same basic bias-- that Iverson is a superstar and that the Sixers must be terrible and must have gotten fleeced in the trade because they didn't get a superstar in return. It seems to me that the way to evaluate a trade is to see which team got better as a result of the trade, not comparing the "names" that each team got in the trade. And on that basis, I think its pretty clear that the Sixers at least broke even (and maybe even got the better end of the trade).

Let's take a look at how the trade impacted the performance of both teams.

First, the Sixers. In the 2005-06 season with Iverson, the Sixers were 38-44 (.463). In 2006-07 after the Iverson trade (he was suspended before the trade, so those games aren't particularly informative), the Sixers were 30-29. After Iverson was traded and after Webber was bought out (two weeks later), the Sixers went 26-21. This season through 25 games the Sixers were 10-15 (.400). All told, the Sixers are 40-44 (.476) since the Iverson trade (or 36-36 (.500) since getting rid of both Iverson and Webber).

Next, the Nuggets. In the 2005-06 season, the Nuggets were 44-38 (.537). In 2006-07, before the trade, the Nuggets were 14-9 (.609). The trade happened one game into Carmelo Anthony's 15 game suspension. Excluding those 14 games (in which the Nuggets went 6-8), the Nuggets went 25-20 (.556) after the Iverson trade. This season through 25 games the Nuggets were 15-10 (.600). All told, the Nuggets are 40-30 (.571) since the Iverson trade (excluding the games for which Carmelo was suspended).

To recap: Before the trade, the Sixers were a slightly below average team (.463). After the trade, the Sixers have been a slightly below average team (.476). Before the trade, the Nuggets were an above average, but not great, team (.552). After the trade, the Nuggets have been an above average, but not great, team (.571).

Once you account for the fact that the Nuggets supporting cast has also improved, notably Marcus Camby has been healthy and was named Defensive Player of the Year last season, and the salary cap space that the Sixers will gain after this season as a result of the trade, then I don't see how you can say the Nuggets made out better than the Sixers in this deal. Even without accounting for these things, I still don't see how the Sixers got fleeced.

I also don't see how the Sixers can still be considered to be playing over their heads after playing at this level for the equivalent of an entire season. But I'm not holding my breath for the pundits to actually notice.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sometimes you need to recognize how good you are

In the offseason, Kobe's videotaped rant (and the surrounding drama) was based on the premise that the Lakers weren't in a position to compete for a championship. Even during the season, I've read a number of comments where Kobe (or someone else) talks about how the Lakers are "still growing" or some such comment.

Well, they might be still growing, but I think it's time for Kobe (and the rest of the Lakers) to realize that they are competing for a championship this season. We're more than a quarter of the way through the season and the Lakers have the second best per game point differential in the Western Conference. San Antonio is better (+7.0), but the Lakers (+5.4) are ahead of Phoenix (+5.0), Utah (+5.0), Dallas (+3.5), and Denver (+3.7)-- all teams normally considered better than the Lakers. (In the Eastern Conference, only Boston and Detroit have better per game point differentials) According to John Hollinger's power rankings, the Lakers are actually the best team in the Western Conference (and third overall- again behind Boston and Detroit).

As far as I'm concerned, these numbers make the Lakers legitimate title contenders-- not at some undefined point in the future, but right now.

[note: I would have preferred to have looked at efficiency differential rather than per game differential, but I couldn't find an easily sortable list anywhere.]