In case you haven’t heard, earlier this week the Blazers traded away Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw to the Clippers for Marcus Camby, a defensive-minded center. Without going into the stats yet, I think Kevin Pritchard had two main things in mind making this move. First off, the Blazers have a plethora of two things: point guards and small forwards. If anyone is going get enough playing time to get into a rhythm and adjust to his unit, some guys had to go. Blake and Outlaw have played a combined 1630 minutes this season, good for just over 29 minutes a game. That time can now be split up and given to Miller, Bayless, Webster, Batum and Cunningham. The second reason for the trade was to bring in a defensive center with an expiring contract. Camby is off the books at season’s end, and it seems fairly obvious that his job is to help the Blazers make a run at the playoffs this season, and this season only. I think with Roy in the lineup, this move could have been the one to get the Blazers at least into the second round and maybe further, but with Roy possibly out for the year, just making the playoffs would be peachy.
What the Blazers got:
Marcus Camby is a perennial all-league defender, averaging 3.0 blocks and 11.7 rebounds per 36 minutes during his career. While his offensive savvy is lacking (less career points than rebounds, 47% FG and 68% FT shooting), by-possession statistics indicate that Portland is sorely missing its two defensive centers. Since Oden and Przybilla’s injuries, the Blazers have gone from allowing the fewest points per possession across the league, to allowing the most. Camby is the perfect player to remedy this 180-degree turn on the defensive end, and his offensive skills are still slightly better than Przybilla’s. One extremely impressive aspect of Camby’s game, especially this season, is his passing ability. His career mark of 1.3 assists to every turnover is a respectable figure for posts, and this season that has improved to 2.4.
What the Blazers gave up:
Steve Blake is a pass-first point guard with the ability to hit the three (39% career) and limit turnovers (2:1 A/TO ratio). I have always liked Blake’s solid play, but Andre Miller has proven that a point guard with the ability to score a little on his own can really help this team. While Blake’s adjusted field goal percentage (AFG%)** is slightly higher—50.1% versus Miller’s 46.6%–Miller’s ability to create his own shot and get to the line (where he shoots 80%) more than makes up for his limited range and lower percentages. In addition, Miller actually has better career and season A/TO ratios at 2.5:1 and 2.7:1, respectively.
Travis Outlaw is an athletic freak. My dad would say he’s one of those players you just wind up, let go and hope you get something good out of. I know a lot of Blazer fans really like Outlaw. He tends to be the second unit’s main scorer, and he definitely has the ability to fill it up from time to time. But the stats don’t lie. Throughout his career, Outlaw has averaged more than one turnover per assist, and in no season has he ever finished with more assists than turnovers. His career AFG% is a mere 47%, worse than Webster (50.5%), Batum (55.4%), and Cunningham (51.6%), though last season his improved range from deep vaulted his percentage to about 50.5%. While parts of his game have improved, it seems to me that there are three other at least equally capable small forwards, two of which come with lower price tags.
I think it was a fantastic trade, both in the short term and the long term. The Blazers get a center that will give them a chance at a playoff run, and the point and small forward positions undergo some spring cleaning so that the remaining players can continue to grow and get more playing time.
**Adjusted field goal percentage simply takes into account the extra value of three pointers, weighing them 1.5 times as much as 2-point field goals. So if Oden goes 3/5 from the paint, and Martell goes 2/5 from deep, they both scored 6 points on 5 shots, and their AFG% should thus be equal.