I’m going to open with a small message. Thank you to my cohort Alex for covering the crazy trade deadline while I couldn’t earlier today. This is my first article on the subject today and I must just say…WOW! That was fun to follow! The trade deadline should be expected to be slow and Zach Lowe should be otherwise occupied every year so that it is, in fact, amazing.
This was the big one folks. Three teams. Two quality starters. A lot of pieces that range from good to scrap. And picks. I’ll try to lay out the trade first.
Oklahoma City received Enes Kanter, Steve Novak, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin, and a second-round pick. Detroit received Reggie Jackson. Utah received Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett, rights to Tibor Pleiss, a first-round draft pick, and a second-round draft pick.
The least exciting part of this is the Utah Jazz. They are buying out/have bought out Kendrick Perkins; Grant Jerrett has played 25 minutes in his career; Tibor Pleiss is a 2010 draftee that plays for FC Barcelona; the first-rounder is likely to be in the middle of the first round at best; and the second-rounder isn’t until 2017. Their haul for Kanter is…ok, but they didn’t have a lot of leverage and the pick is nice. So, let’s move on.
The Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder GM Sam Presti was in the market for a front court starter or depth of some form. He set his sights on Brook Lopez or Enes Kanter, eventually pump faking the Nets and making a deal with the Jazz for Kanter. Neither of these players is seen as a true rim protector so if Kanter starts, Serge Ibaka will probably be the de facto center on the defensive end of the floor.
Blocks aren’t everything, but it gets us started in analyzing him. Kanter is 202nd in the league in blocks per game at 0.3. When he is on the court for the Jazz, they average 4.7 blocks but jump up to 7.1 when he sits. That’s mostly because Kanter gives way to the giant block machine that is Rudy Gobert.1 Finally, opposing field goal percentage falls from 47.9% with Kanter on to 43.5% without him. Again, Gobert. But, with all of this combined, especially Kanter’s individual block numbers, it shows that Kanter is not a rim protector and Presti knows that.
On the other side of the ball though, Kanter has some legitimate skills to supplant Perkins and Steven Adams.
The amount of red and yellow2 looks worrisome, but the yellow areas at the basket and from left of the lane are above average. With the amount of his shots he takes around the hoop (60.8%), the 59.9% is good if unspectacular. The on/off splits support this too with a 104.2/101.6 offensive rating difference. Kanter will not help to relieve any spacing issues in replacing Perkins and possibly supplanting Adams, but he will be more successful while he’s clogging the lane.
Finally, the rebounding is allegedly improved with the addition of Kanter. The big man sits at 16.9% in TRB%3 while Perkins and Adams are at 15.4% and 15.5% respectively.
All of this is coming from a 22-year-old center that can play in a rotation with another 21-year-old big in Adams. The center position is settled in OKC for the season at the very least. Especially with Ibaka being able to cover up the rim protection woes of Kanter.
To go along with getting Kanter, OKC also fortified their bench with Augustin and Singler. They lose a little defensively from Jackson to Augustin, but that doesn’t matter as much if Augustin is going to run the second unit. I think in present value, Jackson and Augustin are almost equivalent when coming off the bench. Jackson has more future upside, but for OKC’s purposes, both players will give similar output.
OKC sits in eighth after a win on Thursday night with a record of 29-25, identical to the Phoenix Suns in ninth. This may settle the Western Conference playoff race and make the end of the season very uninteresting in the West.
The Detroit Pistons
In a move that surprised many, the Pistons got Reggie Jackson in this three-team deal. While they had a need with the loss of Brandon Jennings, the Pistons are looking to continue to compete for the eight seed (seventh was likely locked up by the Heat – if they don’t get even higher) and find a future long-term starter.
When Jennings is healthy, they may need to get creative as I don’t think that Detroit will be pushing to start Jennings and Jackson together for a lot of minutes. In the meantime, the Pistons have a tenacious defender at the point now that has some scoring ability, though not great shooting.
The fit seems awkward at first with Stan Van Gundy’s penchant for surrounding big man with three-point shooters. Jackson is shooting just 27.8% from three this season, but Augustin was only at 32.7%. Jackson is a quality finisher with a few zones around the court that you want him to take his shot.
Jackson takes a few too many shots that are long-range two’s and three pointers, but he has to keep the defense honest. Much has been made of Jackson’s increased scoring and counting stats when he is a starter vs. coming off the bench. But, he isn’t any more efficient when he starts, he is simply getting more shots. His shot chart looks almost identical as a starter, but he gets 17.9 field goal attempts compared to 9.3 off the bench.
Even if he isn’t the most efficient player, being able to score 20 points per game is a valuable player, it just depends if the spacing can avoid getting cramped again with Jackson. Tayshaun Prince, acquired in a separate deal for Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko, will likely provide some spacing and may need to start at small forward because Van Gundy traded his wing depth entirely.
Detroit likely made this move for future depth/upside but still giving them a chance at the eight seed in the Eastern Conference. Currently, Miami is in eighth and has probably given themselves a stranglehold on a playoff position with the acquisition of Goran Dragic. But, they’re tied with seventh place Charlotte, who didn’t make a move.
Charlotte, Brooklyn, Detroit, and surprisingly Boston with Isaiah Thomas, will be fighting it out for the final playoff spot and this could be the only interesting race as the season winds down. Despite a lack of true quality at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, I am very intrigued by the race in general.