Monday, March 17, 2008

NBA Monday: Team Performances after the Trading Deadline

UPDATE: Please see new information at the bottom of this post.

How have teams that made a deal soon before or on the trading deadline been performing since that date? After all, one would think that a few teams would show instantaneous improvement after acquiring such good players for so little. It's only been about 10-12 games since the deadline, but that should be enough to show improvement, right?

Let's compare team records before and after the Trading Deadline of February 22nd. To adjust records for when the acquired players had actually arrived, I'll be using games from February 24th until today. I labeled the results as being mixed if the winning percentage before 2/24 was within 5% of the winning percentage after 2/24.

Lakers acquire Pau Gasol:
Memphis Grizzlies:
Record before February 24th: 14-41
Record on/after February 24th: 1-9
Improvement? NO

LA Lakers:
Record before February 24th: 38-17
Record on/after February 24th: 7-4
Improvement? MIXED (69% Win vs. 64% Win)

Heat acquire Shawn Marion, Suns acquire Shaquille O'Neal:
Miami Heat:
Record before February 24th: 9-45
Record on/after February 24th: 2-9
Improvement? MIXED (17% Win vs. 18% Win)

Phoenix Suns:
Record before February 24th: 38-17
Record on/after February 24th: 6-5
Improvement? NO

Nets acquire Devin Harris, Mavericks acquire Jason Kidd:
New Jersey Nets:
Record before February 24th: 25-31
Record on/after February 24th: 3-7
Improvement? NO (45% Win vs. 30% Win)

Dallas Mavericks:
Record before February 24th: 36-19
Record on/after February 24th: 8-4
Improvement? MIXED (65% Win vs. 67% Win)

Cavs acquire Ben Wallace from Bulls, Wally Szerbiak from Sonics, Bulls acquire Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden from Cavs:
Cleveland Cavaliers:
Record before February 24th: 31-24
Record on/after February 24th: 7-5
Improvement? MIXED (67% Win vs. 65% Win)

Chicago Bulls:
Record before February 24th: 22-32
Record on/after February 24th: 4-7
Improvement? MIXED (41% Win vs. 36% Win)

Seattle Supersonics:
Record before February 24th: 15-39
Record on/after February 24th: 1-12
Improvement? NO

Spurs acquire Kurt Thomas from Sonics:
San Antonio Spurs:
Record before February 24th: 37-17
Record on/after February 24th: 7-5
Improvement? NO

Seattle Supersonics:
Record before February 24th: 15-39
Record on/after February 24th: 1-12
Improvement? NO

The results? 5 teams showed mixed improvement since 2/24, and 5 teams showed a definite slump in record since 2/24. The best improvement in record was the 2% increase in winning percentage from the Dallas Mavericks. The results indicate that teams should be careful of expecting instant improvement from deadline deals, as it is clearly not happening. Even the Lakers, Spurs, and Mavericks, who were definitely perceived as having won their deals in the short-term, have not shown clear improvement. And in the ultra-competitive West, where seeding is everything, making any deal at all near the deadline may be a huge mistake. Those teams fighting for play-off seeding will now have to play excellent basketball over the remaining 15 games or so just to break even on the deal. Sure, trades may be worthwhile for play-off matchups; but trades hurt your seeding for those match-ups.

UPDATE: I decided to update the post with the details of what I said in the comments, so I don't get the same comments over and over again from readers invited to "feel free to poke holes" in my argument. The Lakers fans have been at their passionate best to ask me to consider the wonders of Pau, and run the numbers for 10 games immediately after the trade was consummated, rather than after the trading deadline. I defend my original choice of using the same timeline for all teams. The reasons were so that I could be absolutely sure that all traded players were now on their new teams, and (ironically enough) to defend myself against charges of having picked favorable timelines. But since the Pau trade happened 3 weeks before the deadline, the Lakers fans have a fair point in asking for a new timeline. I re-ran the numbers based on 10 games after the trade.

The Lakers went 9-1 during the 10 games in which Pau played for the Lakers immediately after the trade. (For the record, during that streak they only beat (and played) two teams with winning records: Phoenix on the night they debuted Shaq, and Orlando. But, the games were mostly on the road.) Thus, the Laker record definitely shows strong improvement immediately after trading for Pau Gasol. That means that 1 of the 10 teams I surveyed, the team (Lakers) that supposedly ripped off the other trading partner the most (Grizzlies), was the only one that showed improvement. Does that invalidate my main result, which was "The results indicate that teams should be careful of expecting instant improvement from deadline deals, as it is clearly not happening"? I think not. I'll take 9 out of 10 odds of success any day of the week. But the Lakers fans made a good point that deserved to be heard, and so I updated this post. Whatever this blog's many, many faults are, I hope intentionally suppressing the truth will never be one of them.

And for the record, commenter Boney jokingly asked me to run the Pistons numbers after acquiring Juan Dixon. It's 40-15 without him, 8-3 with him, for identical 73% Win percentages. Believe it or not, I think that acquiring Juan Dixon was a great move to bolster a traditionally thin Pistons backcourt. He's been giving them 10 mpg and shooting at a 47.2% clip from the field. If he can play well enough to stay in the shortened play-off rotation, maybe Chauncey, Tay, and Rip won't be as tired in the play-offs this year. It is my opinion that this is an overlooked reason why the Pistons fell to the Cavs last year.


  1. Implicitly, you are attempting to extract the value that the traded-for player has given to his new team, weighed of course against the value which the team lost through the players given up.

    So, calling the Laker's trade results mixed is not especially helpful. In terms of *current* talent, they gave up little (Kwame + Crittenton). In terms of what they received--Gasol--you have to consider that he's been out the past two games. They're 7-2 with him, which is 78%. There's nothing mixed about that.

  2. Why use February 24th as a set cutoff point? The Gasol deal was made in early February. Using even the most severe criteria since then (excluding the first game after the trade which the Lakers won, and including the losses since he's been out), the Lakers are 16-4 since Gasol went to LA. Looks pretty good to me.

  3. Yeah no offense dude, but your assessment of these trades is highly flawed. You can't use February 24th as the date to run the stats before and after the trades if the trades were made before February 24th.

    Not only that, but you forgot to look at Utah Getting Kyle Korver. It wasn't as close to the deadline as the others were, but it made Utah vastly more difficult to defend.

  4. Whoa, good point. I didn't even notice that he used an arbitrary cutoff date--that's just ridiculous. A case of a guy skewing evidence to "prove" a point.

  5. Ok, let me respond to the good and bad of what you all said. By the way, thanks for commenting, even if we disagree. Your points help the readers see a more complete picture than they would if just my post was up.

    Good: You all are right that it would have been best if I had gone to the exact date of the deal and then counted 10 games from there. If I did that, the Lakers would have looked better. Still, that's 9 teams that look worse or the same since the trading deadline, and 1 that looks better. My main point (that most teams are not showing progress since the deadline) still holds.

    For the record, my original reason for using the 24th is I wanted to look at one time frame (February 24th through March 16th) for all teams instead of constantly switching the timelines I looked at. I knew that all teams that made trades in February had a completed trade by 2/24, and thus I chose that date. But I forgot just how far before the trading deadline the Lakers made their deal--thus their results look skewed.

    Bad: You can't claim that Pau Gasol's injury can't be counted as part of the trade's net impact. Pau missed at least 20 games in two of the last three seasons. Pau was injury-prone when the Lakers traded for him, and he's continued to be injury-prone since the Lakers signed him.

    Irrelevant: I specifically said I was looking at trades that teams made at/close to the deadline. Thus, I didn't include the Utah trade, or the Celtics trades in the preseason, because those teams had plenty of time to work the new acquisitions into the starting line-ups. The problem is, if you make a deal near the deadline, then it's harder to integrate those players into your line-up before the play-offs start. That was my main point--if you're going to make a deal, don't wait until there are only 25 games left in the season. Be smart like the Jazz or Celtics and get your deals in early.

  6. Can't fathom why Truehoop linked to this.

    Lakers are 15-5 after receiving Gasol and 15-3 with Gasol in the lineup. That's .750 or .833 respectively.

    You must also note that after losing Bynum and before having Gasol in the lineup, the Lakers were 5-5. That's .500.

    Come on.

  7. McBias, what about the winning percentage of the Pistons after trading for Juan Dixon!?!?! sheesh