As the trade deadline was passing, Portland got a deal done sending Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, and two future picks to the Bobcats for Gerald Wallace. Apparently the two picks are first round picks, and that’s a lot to give up, but for now let’s look at the players involved.
The Blazers picked Dante Cunningham with the 33rd overall pick in 2009. Listed at 6’8”, 220 pounds, Cunningham is more suited for the 3-spot, though injuries have forced him to play bigger for Portland. His strength is a mid-range jumper from 12-18 feet. However, with range contained inside the arc, his shooting efficiency is relatively low.
I once considered Joel Przybilla the best backup center in the league. His defensive awareness was Camby-like, and despite being a non-factor offensively, he did little to hurt the team. Since coming back from his shower incident, though, he hasn’t impressed like he used to. When coming off the bench this year, the Thrilla has averaged just 11.7 minutes, and has more turnovers than blocks.
If the two future picks really are both first-rounders, that’s a lot of potential young talent to be giving away. The chances that a late first-round pick blossoms into even a solid starter is probably much less than fifty percent, but stockpiling picks and talent is the best way to catch the Tony Parker of the group that does outperform his draft pick (yes, I realize he was a second-rounder…point still intact).
Oh, and I guess we lost Sean Marks. Celebration can commence on that one…
Gerald Wallace is Cunningham-sized at 6’7”, 220 pounds, and also more suited for the small forward. His ability to rebound well makes him a viable option for minutes at the power forward, giving McMillan the flexibility to slide Aldridge to center spot with Wallace in the lineup. But don’t worry about Wallace getting in Aldridge’s way; he plays more like a three man offensively, displaying a little touch from deep (34% from 3 the last two seasons).
Wallace will make a combined $20M+ over the next 1.5 seasons with a player option for 2012-2013 campaign for more than $11M. This ties up a significant chunk of money into one player, as he is the now the third highest paid player on the team behind Roy and Aldridge. The three contracts that the Blazers dumped were all expiring and would have come off the books for next season anyway. But GM Rich Cho does have some flexibility this off season, as Miller has a team option and Oden has a qualifying option. The Blazers can choose to drop Miller at season’s end to open up cap room and pave the way for a new point guard (Mills? Free agent?). There’s also no way they give Oden his $8.8M qualifying offer, so they can either choose to part ways, or renegotiate with him as a free agent. The next three—and hopefully four—months will be an important test of how Wallace fits into this team, and it may very well dictate what we do with Miller and Oden this summer.
Without further ado, here are some efficiency statistics. (These are career numbers. TS% takes threes and free throws into account, and PER is an overall player efficiency rating with a league average of 15.0).
Yay! Wallace is infinitely better than Cunningham, and the Blazers got a sweet deal, right!?. Hold up. Check out these numbers.
This is what you get when you look only at Wallace’s first three years with the Sacramento Kings. Remarkably similar numbers, no? It’s obviously better right now to have a player who has already realized his potential for this playoff push. But down the road, there’s reason to believe that Cunningham could develop into a similar player.
For example, while Wallace is currently an above-average rebounder for a 3-man, as a young King his 7.8 rebounds per 36 minutes isn’t all that much higher than Dante’s 6.9. But total rebounds are an obsolete tool for looking at rebounding ability when better stats are available. Basketball-Reference’s “Rebound %” estimates the percentage of team rebounds a player collected when he was on the floor. In his first three seasons, Wallace grabbed 11.8% of all potential rebounds versus Dante’s—wait for it!—11.8%.
Yes, Wallace is better than Cunningham now, and the team should be better now, and maybe Cunningham never develops into a player of Wallace’s value. But when you throw in the two picks, the Blazers sacrificed a lot of tomorrow’s potential for a shot today. I’m not convinced that a small chance at a deep playoff run now was worth the future potential we gave up.