Political campaigns are prone to what is called “the uninspired voter”, a condition in which a person is irked by their lack of a good option for candidate selection.
General managers and team presidents around the NBA have to relate to this when looking for trade pieces, as the first tag you could put on this class of trade candidates would be “uninspiring”.
While the names in the market might be fun to an NBA 2K17 video game, the human aspect of these candidates is deterring them from finding a new home.
Six days from today sits the trade deadline and in all likelihood, biggest move came two days ago; the Toronto Raptors sent a middling Terrance Ross and a late-first round selection in the 2017 NBA draft to the Orlando Magic in exchange for a talented power forward Serge Ibaka.
My takeaways from this trade are the following: 1) the Raptors are a tough contender, 2) the Orlando Magic are a hot mess and 3) the NBA trade market it pretty weak.
It’s NBA All-Star Weekend, which makes it a few weeks passed the midpoint of the season. The gap between the exact midpoint of the season and the break allows a team to decide if they have what they need to make a final push towards a championship, if it’s time to tear down the walls upon which their roster is structured, or make a move that might put them in contention.
Normally, there’s a lot of legitimate big names being floated as trade pieces; Serge Ibaka was one of those pieces, but he’s probably the only one teams would’ve been willing to distribute assets to acquire.
The other big names on the market are legitimate superstars: Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls, SG/SF), Carmelo Anthony (SF), and Brook Lopez (Brooklyn Nets, C) make up that pool.
Now, Brook Lopez is in a different category than Melo and Butler; he’s a quiet leader who doesn’t call superstar attention.
Lopez averages 20.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per contest, stands at 7-feet tall, while shooting 47% from the field. He’s solid, but most contenders have a big man (maybe we could talk about Washington, but I’m not willing to go there for now).
Meanwhile, the two big trade chips in Melo and Butler have some character concerns.
Let’s look at numbers alone:
Carmelo Anthony: 23.4 points/6.1 rebounds/2.9 assists | 44.3% FG%, 37.8% 3P%, 82.4% FT%
Jimmy Butler: 24.5 points/6.3 rebounds/5.0 assists | 45.2% FG%, 33.7% 3P%, 86.8% FT%
Compare those to guys around the league and they’re at the very least in the top 30, maybe even top 20 players in the league.
What do they both have in common?
As the marquee players on their respective franchises, Butler in Chicago and Melo in Denver/New York, they have failed to lead their teams into the finals.
I give credit to Butler for being young, but he was on a Bulls team with Derrick Rose. I won’t credit Carmelo Anthony, because he’s been around a long time and has had multiple chances to knock on the doors of the league’s annual biggest series of games.
Let’s look at these guys and explain why teams aren’t willing to move assets to pick them up, despite their blatant talent.
Jimmy Butler is on a roster with Dwyane Wade and was on a roster with Derrick Rose; those guys have overshadowed what he’s capable of doing with his skill set.
While some may look at Butler and note he’s not a ball hogger and doesn’t call celebrity attention, I think it’s crazy that he’s yet to prove leadership ability.
Earlier in the year, Bulls’ point guard (for now) Rajon Rondo called out the team’s weak leadership, which would immediately scare me if I was working as management with a team in contention.
Case study, let’s look at the Celtics situation:
In order to pick up Jimmy Butler, who has a proven lack of leadership and was called out by a guy who was a part of a championship run with our organization, we have to give up our potential first overall pick for one. This is the deepest draft in a decade and we have a shot at the #1 pick, as well as a few of the guys that have helped put this team at the number two seed in the East. That said, Butler is a great talent… but if his history of postseason success is wildly limited. It’s hard to justify the risk.
That line of thinking is going to stifle the Butler trade market.
Moving on to Carmelo Anthony.
With Anthony, you’re getting a 32-year-old guy who isn’t aging well with the league.
The only reason I could justify for acquiring Anthony for anything sufficient would be his ability to go get a shot when his team needs one; he’s got that unique edge that only a handful of players have in today’s league.
Speaking of today’s league, Carmelo doesn’t fit the structure.
Gone are the days of isolation; the NBA is turning into a league of great ball movement. In any offense Melo would have to integrate himself with, he would have to learn how to keep an offense moving with or without the basketball.
The problem with that is a team acquiring Carmelo will likely command superstar luxuries, like an offense that moves through him, which isn’t going to work.
You’d be farfetched to find a contender who’s willing to change what they are now for what they would be with Anthony.
Ultimately, the reason this trade market is so flat lies in the fact that the bottoming teams either have a superstar who doesn’t perform in May and June (see above), or they have a stud who’s too important to the franchise to dish.
Look to DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, Anthony Davis in New Orleans, or even a guy like Devin Booker in Phoenix; they’re young talents, but would fetch a healthy return in prospects and draft selections.
That said, the draft is just the problem for these younger superstars trapped on crummy teams. The 2017 NBA Draft Class is incredibly deep. If some of these bottom-feeding teams are willing to push their hand in the draft and see what kind of spark might ignite from one of these college players.