Thursday, June 08, 2006

Trade Value

Fans of every NBA team on the planet suffer from a common affliction: regarding their own players as more valuable on the open market than their worth actually indicates. Every time a rumor hits the dirt sheets that Star Player X might be available, groups of fans in several cities start offering scenarios, most of which make the fans in Player X’s city laugh. “Can you believe they think we’d take THAT?” I don’t think people intentionally offer lowball scenarios, rather emotional investment in a team causes them to overestimate its players. In my observation this is especially true of Portland fans (of which I am assuredly one) as we have an ingrained tendency to regard our players not just as stars, but as near heroes. This tradition comes from deep in the team’s history, and the shock of having multiple players not live up to that expectation has caused outrage, but has not erased the instinct.

Having read through 62,000 various trade propositions since the season ended, I wanted to offer my view on what I think our players would bring. Obviously this is going to be subjective, as any such attempt would be. Maybe my subjective isn’t any more accurate than anyone else’s. But I’m trying to approach the subject from a reasonable, maybe even slightly pessimistic, view to counter my own tendency to think too much of our player’s value.

I’m going to use a 1-10 scale, differentiated so:

10—Highest value player…a superstar who would not be traded even if the whole league were offered. (LeBron, Dwayne Wade)
9—Legitimate star value (or superstar rumored to be on the block). (KG, Paul Pierce)
8—Good player, high value
7—Above average value
5-6—Average value
4—Below average value
3—Low value
2—Value so low that a team would have to be enticed to take this player. No better than a throw-in.
1—Basically untradeable (injured with expensive, long term contract or something like that)

I will give two ratings for each of our players. The first is based on talent alone—where a guy should be rated if all other things were equal. The second will be adjusted for things like contract, reputation, how opposing commentators talk about them, and the like. A huge, long-term contract might bring an average player’s trade value down while an expiring contract would raise it. It’s also adjusted for position. All other things being equal a good center will be rarer, and thus more valuable, than a good small forward. I will explain the factors that go into each adjusted rating.

Keep in mind that this is hardly an exact science. Needs will vary from team to team. One team might have Darius valued at a 7 while another team wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole. Chicago needs a power forward and might consider Zach. San Antonio wouldn’t. I’m trying to cut down the middle here. You can adjust on your own for specific team needs.

Also keep in mind also that potential trades can’t be plotted strictly mathematically. In other words, two threes does not equal one six! In fact four sevens probably wouldn’t be enough to get you one player at the nine level. No team will trade laterally, let alone down, unless they’re dumping contracts or problem players. You’ve got to give them something they think is clearly better in order to do a deal.

Zach Randolph Talent Rating: 8-8.5
Plusses: Good stats, great scoring ability, well-known around league, young, has only played for one team (“change of scenery” theory)
Minuses: Not well-rounded, expensive, long-term contract, questionable attitude, coming off surgery.
Adjusted Value: 6.5-7

Theo Ratliff Talent: 6
Plusses: Great shot blocker/potential game-changer, sterling reputation, veteran center, shorter-term contract
Minuses: One dimensional, older, injury-prone, the contract is expensive for potential return.
Adjusted Value: 6

Darius Miles Talent: 7
Plusses: Athletic, multi-faceted, young, per-year on contract isn’t awful, coming off best statistical season
Minuses: Uncoachable, sporadic play, horrible league-wide reputation (“Cheeks incident”), was injured this year, contract runs through 2010.
Adjusted Value: 3.5-4

Brian Skinner Talent: 3.5
Plusses: Solid veteran, improved with playing time, contract could expire after this season at team’s option.
Minuses: Journeyman, seven teams in eight years.
Adjusted Value: 4.5-5

Martell Webster Talent: 6
Plusses: Young, heralded as potential star of the future, improved over season, recent high draft pick, big for his position, rookie contract, looks like a legitimate outside shooter.
Minuses: As yet unproven, some questions about defense.
Adjusted value: 7.5

Juan Dixon Talent: 4
Plusses: Improved with playing time, best statistical season ever, developed a good reputation league-wide during middle of year, solid citizen, small contract.
Minuses: Short for his position, not a defender, no better than a backup long-term.
Adjusted Value: 4.5

Steve Blake Talent: 3
Plusses: Best statistical season ever, very inexpensive contract, showed ability to run team, shoot a little, and play some defense
Minuses: Low upside
Adjusted Value: 4

Sebastian Telfair Talent: 5
Plusses: Young, famous, seen as having huge upside, amazing speed, played extremely well in spurts
Minuses: Short, sporadic, questionable shot, uncertain defense.
Adjusted Value: 5

Viktor Khryapa Talent: 3
Plusses: Hard worker, young, rookie contract, good production for money, does little things.
Minuses: Not well known, limited upside, poor stats.
Adjusted Value: 3.5

Jarrett Jack Talent: 4.5
Plusses: Well regarded by coaches, decent rookie season, strong body, poise, possible multi-position player, young, upside, rookie contract
Minuses: Not well-known, defensive questions.
Adjusted Value: 5

Travis Outlaw Talent: 5
Plusses: Young, raw talent, unique leaping ability, upside, hasn’t gotten enough playing time to show full potential, low contract.
Minuses: Slow learner, poor stats, hasn’t earned about playing time to show full potential.
Adjusted Value: 5.5-6

Ha Seung-Jin Talent: 3
Plusses: Young, very big center, cheap.
Minuses: Big-time project, so far more of a joke than a player.
Adjusted value: 2

(Joel Przybilla and Voshon Lenard are free agents and thus not available to trade.)

The question will arise, “What about draft picks?” You cannot rate the value of picks in the abstract because GM’s don’t trade for uncertain picks. The #4 pick is exactly as valuable as the players available there, which at this point is impossible to tell. (This is why almost all trades involving picks are done on draft day and most come after players have already been selected with those picks.) If I had to guess I’d say this year’s #1 pick would rate about an 8 while next years will probably be a 9 or 10, but even that is speculative. It all depends which players individual GM’s value and where they end up going.

As you can see, we don't have a ton of attractive trading chips. This is to be expected from the worst team in the league. Our best hope would be finding teams that, for whatever reason, overvalue Zach, Darius, or Theo. The odds are still long against us getting much back for them though. This is why I've been a champion for cap space.

Agree? Disagree? Players higher or lower than expected? Comment below or to



Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

The only one I would disagree with is Darius. I think perhaps you've bought into the local media bashing of him too much. While I will agree his attitude builds up and then lets loose, so to speak, he's really a pretty good person. He can be an all-star given the right enviroment, and I think there are more than just a few teams that provide that. All that considered, his contract is not all that much of a deterent.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Oneill said...

I dont know what enviornment would suit Darius. He gets into it with a "Players Coach" in Cheeks and he clearly has a problem with the authority that Nate has brought so i think he is running out of cards if hes not careful. I'm / was a Darius fan(Still trying to figure out how i really feel about him right now) and I would really like to see him have success, preferably here in Portland. But it's obvious that keeping him is not an option.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

It's true that the media has not been overly flattering to Mr. Miles. But there's some non-media-oriented justification for considering his worth far less than his talent would indicate. (I had him as the second most talented guy on the team behind Zach.) We got him for Jeff McInnis and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje...hardly the creme de la creme of the league. His value has not increased appreciably since then. If anything the whole Cheeks thing, coupled with the fact that the worst team in the league (the team who would need his talent most) is looking to dump him despite his talent, will make his value worse. Also he got zero offers on the free agent market a couple years ago. Granted some of that was because he was a restricted free agent, but even so there should have been at least a murmur. This doesn't inspire confidence in his value.

I wouldn't be surprised if there were still one or two teams in the league who were willing to take a chance on him. At least I hope there are. But if you're looking at the league overall, I am guessing his trade value is very low (compared to his talent anyway).

I think you're dead on about the contract not being horrible. I also think he's probably a nice person in many ways. He hasn't embarrassed the team off the court anyway.


7:24 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I love the name, by the way.

7:27 PM  
Blogger jojack said...

yo dave: i think you have pretty much nailed the ratings, although i think our point guards, especially jj and bassy, may rate another point or two. reason: both are young and have tremendous "upside". when i spoke with you via email about the toronto idea, you seemed to be inclined to believe that they did not think as highly of our young ones as we did. however, the hand checking rules in the nba have placed a premium on perimeter players, particularly super quick ones like bassy (see tony parker) or solid body, combo style guards like jack (see ben gordon). believe me, even if that columnist from the toronto paper was bashing the blazer points, the team has scouted both of them (as well as every other player in the league) thoroughly. i don't know about you, but i try to keep my evaluations as objective as possible, and webster, telfair, jack, and to a lesser degree, steve blake, were the only even remotely bright spots i saw on this year's roster. oh yea, khryapa is underrated, but is no more than a solid role player at best. anyway, thanks as always for the good stuff.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Agreed on the potential and talent of our point guards. Our backcourt is definitely the bright spot (and the hope for the future) of this team right now. I just don't think they'll be valuable enough to be major cogs in a deal in their own rights for another year or two. Well, Martell may be just on potential alone, but we probably aren't trading him.


9:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Another way to put it is that yes, I think other teams would love to have one of our young point guards as part of a trade, but I don't think they'd give us enough in return to make up for us losing them. Finished products are worth more than raw materials, as long as those finished products are good quality. Because I believe that the PGs are going to develop into fine finished products, just as you do, I'd prefer to wait a year or two and try to get more for them if we trade them.

Even more, I hope that one or both of them will develop into star players for us. Trading them for a higher pick would be like recycling them and I'm not ready for that yet.

Now if you could convince me that Toronto would go for Blake and our pick for next year's, I think I might do that...


9:27 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Darius needs a mentor, not a task master. Even Cheeks agreed he handled the situation wrong from the beginning. The fact of the matter is Miles is a deeply sensitive person. He needs to be on a team dedicated to winning and he needs to have a clearly defined role on that team. Given that enviroment, we'd see a different person/player. Also, maybe KFXX & Canzano will get off his back, but I'm not holding my breath.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Davey said...

Zach not well-rounded?......LOL.
Another nice piece, Dave.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous ralphie said...

again you blazer hillbillies
continuing to overrate your
talent their is a reason why
this team was 21-61 and still
lost the lottery i get the
feeling at the end of the day
this team will be in 3 places
in 08-09 sillicon valley,
van,b.c. or anaheim and my
question is will you people
still support this franchise
if they leave portland !!!!

1:44 PM  
Anonymous knuckleheads said...

No-one will take DMiles or ZBo straight-up; we will have to let go of some of our young upside talent to move either of them.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

I agree about Darius, Knuck, though I am still hoping that Zach will provide enough potential talent to make somebody account him to the positive.


8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At this point we should just put Zach out on the curb with a "FREE" sign, though i doubt anyone would take him. He is just going to weight down this young, ambitious and enthused team we have. Hopefully Nate will remember his courage from the very end of last season, and leave Zach on the bench as much as he deserves.

11:40 PM  

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