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28 February 2005

The Chris Webber Trade

Note: I started this entry on Thursday... the Malik Rose trade hit while I was writing this, forcing the Webber trade to the back burner.

If you've been reading this blog since its inception, you know my feelings on Chris Webber (scroll down to "Rick Adelman..."). You also know that I'm doing a study to determine his ineptitude. Lastly, you know that I was hoping he would get traded to the Knicks. So, when he got traded last night to Philly, I felt obligated to write something.

The components of the trade:

Philly gets

Chris Webber
Michael Bradley
Matt Barnes

Sacramento gets

Corliss Williamson
Brian Skinner
Kenny Thomas

I first want to address why the Kings would want to trade Webber. The first two reasons are obvious and known to most fans:

1. He will make 62.16 million dollars over the next three seasons.
2. He has a very bad knee; to the point he cannot run full speed or move laterally with any sort of quickness.

The third reason is less obvious; in fact, 98% of NBA fans will scoff at it, and some of those will get offended by the notion that:

3. The Kings are a better team without Chris Webber.

How is this possible? Chris Webber is a five time All Star who is averaging 21 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG and 5.5 APG! He's gotten 3 or 4 triple doubles in his last 5 or 6 games!

Let me first address the above stats. The main problem with traditional stats is that they basically entirely ignore defense. Rebounds, steals and block are all parts of a larger picture. Small parts, at that. Steals do not describe how many open looks or easy baskets given up when an attempted steal goes awry. Blocks do no include the number of goal tends or fouls committed when going for the blocked shot. Rebounds are largely a function of your position and how many minutes you play a game.

The traditional offensive stats are better but still lacking. A player's PPG does not give a good picture of how good an offensive player he is. Allow a simple illustration:

Let's say Sammy Sosa gets five plate appearances in a game, and that for each plate appearance the bases are loaded. If he ends the game with five RBIs, how do you rate his performance? Not knowing the circumstances you might think he had a great game, but given the context it is clear he had an average one at best.

Last night a headline on ESPN.com stated that Antoine Walker had 33 points to lead the Celtics to victory. Woah, that's a lot of points. But, see, he had to take 32 shots to get those points. 33 points on 32 shots is fucking awful. It gets even worse when you consider he had 10 free throws attempts. Basically, it took him 36 possessions to get 33 points. Whore end us.

Back to Webber. He's a volume scorer. Always has been. He produces about 1.04 (ignoring TOs, S and OFFREB) points per possession. He's still a good passer for a big man and a slightly above average rebounder. But, in the context of the Kings, he was a huge drag. Don't believe me? Check it. What you see there are plus/minus stats. They're real simple. Let's say Webber plays the entire first half. The half time score is Webber's team 50 other team 45. Let's say he get's a labial cramp and sits the entire second half and the final score for the game is Webber's team 100 and 85. Webber's +/- for the game is -5. 82games.com keeps track of that for the entire season. +/- is a very good way to see how important a player is to a team. As you can see, the Kings are a better team when Webber is on the bench. It's not surprising to me at all. When he's on the bench he can't force up 20 footers-- those shots go to better offensive players like Bibby, Stojakovic or Miller.

Like many, I was surprised that the Kings didn't go after some expiring contracts for Webber. However, I think a lot of people are generalizing too much when they say the Kings aren't benefitting from a salary perspective.

First off, all three contracts are much more tradeable than Webber's (though they're all "bad"). Secondly, the Kings are paying roughly the same amount for three players instead of one. That's an obvious point, but one that still needs to be made. The Kings did add depth. Let's look at the Kings' salary gains/losses due to the trade in a year by year format:

05/06 -$2.08 million
06/07 -$2.10 million
07/08 -$15 million
08/09 +$7.9 million
09/10 +$8.6 million

Those are the raw numbers. Sacramento basically spread out their salary woes-- sorta like getting a home equity loan. A year from now, when Webber is still limping around and Philly is still a .500 team this trade is going to look a lot better from the Kings perspective.

I do think Philly is a little better after this trade. For this season, anyway. Unlike Sacto, Philly doesn't have a lot of good offensive options. However, this trade doesn't make Philly contenders. They won't make it out of the first round. If anything, it ensures their mediocrity for years to come.

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All content copyright Matthew Powell 2005.