Though word had leaked well ahead of time that the Sixers wouldn’t be players at the trade deadline, and the current roster is playing so brilliantly right now and so completely annihilating expectations it requires some serious mental gymnastics to hold a pessimistic thought about them for too long, it was still kind of maddening to sit back last week and watch other squads make team-improving moves the Sixers (probably) had the pieces to make but didn’t.
Take Kendrick Perkins. It’s a matter of fact that the most gaping hole on the 7-6 is a good center who preferably doubles as a strong defensive presence. Which is exactly what Perkins is. And to acquire Perkins, the Thunder moved only Nenad Kristic and Jeff Green, the latter of whose game was described like so by polymath blogger Matt Yglesias:
You might think a starter on a good team like Oklahoma City could be the extra athletic wing player Boston needs, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny once you realize that . . . Jeff Green is a bad basketball player. His three point shooting (.304) is bad, and he’s a poor rebounder. His field goal percentage (.437) is also bad. He’s bad. He’s a young guy, and was a starter on a quality young team, so he gives the superficial appearance of being one of the good young players of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But he’s not. He’s a bad player, and it’s just a coincidence that he had some good teammates
So that was the main piece Sam Presti and OKC surrendered to get an above average, battle-tested center whose departure from Boston was so painful for his teammates it caused a near mutiny.
Yglesias’ wasn’t alone in his analysis. Numbers whisperer Dave Berri thought the trade so ludicrously one-sided, he imagined it happening thusly:
“Hi Danny, this is Sam Presti calling”
“Hi Sam. What can I do for you?”
“Remember a few years ago when I gave you Ray Allen”
“Well, you didn’t give me Ray…
“Hold on, let me finish. Remember when I gave you Ray Allen. And you then were able to trade for Kevin Garnett; which then allowed you to win an NBA title. Remember all that?”
“Not sure I would say you gave me Ray Allen. But I did appreciate doing business with you.”
“That’s great. How about you do something to show your appreciation?”
“Again Sam, what can I do for you?”
“How about you take the two worst players on my team? And in return give me a big man that can help me contend for a title?”
“If I do this, can we say we’re even?”
“Sure Danny. Great doing business with you. And maybe we will see each other again in June.”
This begs the question: if it was a young wing the Celtics wanted, or felt they needed to hang with the Miamis of the world, ie Miami, then why not build a Perkins trade around Thaddeus Young? who is decidedly not bad, and at worst, better than Jeff Green. The Sixers could have thrown in Spence Hawes to meet the Celtics terrible white center requirement.
I understand Danny Ainge might have been loathe to trade intra-division, especially to a team they could see in the first round of the playoffs, but given the scope of the Celts ambition this season, I doubt they’re worried about the possibility of losing to the Sixers in a first round playoff matchup. (Which isn’t to say they shouldn’t be)
So I don’t think the fact this trade never happened is Boston-attributable: I think the Sixers could have swung it and didn’t. My sense is we just overrated our players and decided to sit out this one. I heard Ed Stefanski say to Mike Missanelli last week something to the effect of “We really feel like we had good players all along, and now they’re finally coming together under Doug Collins” which is about 30 percent true and 70 percent the wishful thinking of the guy who hand selected those players and is simultaneously trying to convince us, and himself, that they’re better than they are as a way of vindicating his pre-Thorn GM/President tenure. He’s evidently succeeded in convincing himself of this, and it seems Thorn too. As for the fan base, I think we see through it: we mostly, correctly, understand the reason the Sixers are suddenly within shouting distance of good is they’re benefiting from the caliber of coaching job people write books about. And that’s the beginning and end of the story. The players are fungible.
But while we didn’t hit on Perkins (or Gerald Wallace or Gregg Oden or Marcus Camby –and yeah, the last two were rumored to be available) we still have one more chance to tighten up the roster: veteran buyout season.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t look too promising either. What seemed a couple weeks ago to be a decent crop, has, through players not actually being bought out (Pryzbilla, Rip Hamilton, Renaldo Balkman) and potentially helpful bought-out guys getting snatched up faster than you can say “Yep Miami, Mike Bibby is the answer for you” by contenders (Mike Bibby, Troy Murphy), transmogrified into a poo poo platter of has beens, never weres , and who’s he’s. The kind of guys who a team would pay to stop showing up.
One name stands out above the rest of what’s around though. A former Celtic. A guy who’s averaged 7 and 5 for an NBA champion. A guy who’s 27 years old and has only 3,179 regular season minutes on the odometer. A guy who’s pretty much average.
A guy named Leon Powe
The case for Powe is pretty simple. If acquired, the guys he’s likely to take minutes from are Spencer Hawes and Mo Speights. And he’s better than them.
OK, that might be understating his case. Though Mr. Powe hasn’t had a healthy season in two years, he put together a quietly terrific little run from ’07-08 to ’08-09. He was roughly twice as productive as an average four over that period (.212 WP48 in ’07-08 and a .187 WP48 in ’08-09) and produced 8.4 wins in reserve minutes those two years. This is more than Speights and Hawes have produced in their careers. Combined.
Projecting reserve minutes over 36 minutes is a dangerous game, but what the hell. I’m feelin’ lucky. Here’s LP’s numbers from those two seasons spread over 36 minutes.
’07-08: 19.8 points/10.1 rebounds/.629 TS%
’08-09: 15.8 points/ 10.1 rebounds/ .591 TS%
And he plays defense. And he’s 27. And his presence will allow us to play Hawes and Speights less. And give Brand’s old legs some rest before the postseason.
If we want to give the two seed a run for their money, we need some more interior muscle. And what’s fallen in our lap, but a Powe man’s Elton Brand. It’s a slam dunk move.
(OK, OK. He tore his left ACL and meniscus two years ago, never came all the way back from it, then tore his right meniscus in January. Nobody’s perfect. Glass houses, man.)