Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why the Lakers absolutely NEED to dump Kobe on the Knicks

Kobe isn't good enough to carry a team on his own.  No one is or ever was (even Jordan).

This Laker team is lousy and is rebuilding.  They have Kobe Bryant, Carlos Boozer, and a very young roster with little talent.  They need more young talent.

The Knicks are equally bad.  Phil Jackson has ripped up what little was there that worked last year (Tyson Chandler) to rebuild the team in his image, but the team is abysmal and Carmelo is far too immature to patiently wait for the picks to come in.   In-fighting abounds.

Both teams are on a path to a crappy draft pick, which might be conceptually OK to the team leaderships, but represent the wrong moves.

If you are going to rebuild you need mentally stable people especially your stars.  Dirk Nowitzki for example.  You cannot rebuild with a win at all cost hothead like Kobe Bryant or an immature crybaby like Carmelo.

But none of that is required.  The Knicks have the pieces the Lakers to radically speed up the Laker's improvement and the Lakers have the pieces to save Phil Jackson's New York effort from crumbling under Carmelo's immaturity.

The forces behind a deal

In business Win-Win deals often get done.  This is exactly that kind of situation.

Phil Jackson is floundering badly in NY.  Phil Jackson's girlfriend is Jeanie Buss, President of the Lakers.
Carmelo wants to play in New York, he both wants to win without doing much heavy lifting or working on his game, while dominating the ball due to a disdain for his teammates' talent level.  He can be a top 5-10 player when his head is right, but he is more a cancer than anything else today.  More than any other big time player in the NBA, Carmelo can use Kobe's constant badgering.

Kobe wouldn't mind playing in New York, but he wants talent around him.  Kobe realizes how important Phil Jackson was to his career.

Most NBA teams are not desperate enough to trade for a caustic Kobe Bryant with 18 seasons on his legs and a $30M contract.  Nobody is trading lottery picks for Kobe and the market for him is probably surprisingly sparse as teams wrest with the question of whether Kobe is locker room Kryptonite at this point in his career.

Laker fans are ready to rebuild.  Most, if they were honest, are a little tired of Kobe.  New York fans, as always, want to win now.

Kobe has lead the Lakers to a 5-7 record in the last 12 games.  They team is not talented enough to make the playoffs in a stacked west, but if they play at this level for the rest of they year, the Lakers would finish 27-55.  If the Lakers end up with a pick higher than 5th in the 2015 draft, the pick goes to Phoenix.  Kobe is literally playing the Lakers out of a much needed lottery pick.

Based on his moves, Lakers Executive VP Jim Buss seems to want to build his own legacy.  He has been in the center of most of the moves to rid the team of old Phil Jackson pieces.

Moving Kobe to New York satisfies almost every criteria.

What assets are on the Lakers

Kobe is still an all-star caliber shooting guard.  Carlos Boozer is a decent starting power forward on a good team.  Ronnie Price is a useful, underrated backup PG, but is in his eighth season.  His Laker career probably needs to be sacrificed to the god of rebuilding.  All three of them are too old for LA.

Everyone else is young.  Jordan Hill has been dumped by two teams, but looks like he is developing into a very solid minute eating 4/5.  Nick Young is a decent young 3, but more what you would have pulling 25 minutes on a bad NBA team.  Jeremy Lin is a guy whose game would be much, much better in a more up tempo system with a green light to score instead of deferring.  He showed leadership early in his career but has deferred to others lately.  He is probably worth holding on to in the post-Kobe world.

Wayne Ellington has a shot to be a solid pro in the right situation and might do well without minute eater Kobe.  Ellington is too physically limited to be great in the NBA.  He is an average athlete with a poor handle.  He is a good shooter and passer and plays within himself though, so he has a real shot to eventually make a niche for himself.  He could help space the floor next to Lin.

Ed Davis is a nice young prospect worth holding on to.  He can rebound and block shots, but his offense is very limited and his defense is a work in progress.  Robert Sacre is a physical big at the center spot, but is more of a good "banger" third center than anything else.   The rest look like NBDL guys.

What assets are on the Knicks

Carmelo can play like an elite player, but IMO is and always has been an immature little punk.  Although he has flashed shut down ability on defense, it isn't something he wants to do.  He dominates the ball despite being capable of being a strong passer.  He likes living in New York.  He knew the situation in NY was bad but still took the best financial deal.  He isn't a Kobe-type. IMO, he may actually tap out at some point if he feels that will get Phil Jackson and the triangle gone.

If Carmelo isn't heading to LA, that means no old guys are likely to be desired back by the Lakers. Lets start with the Knicks who would not interest a rebuilding team.  Sam Dalembert and JR Smith are too old with too many warts to interest LA.  Both are useful cogs on a playoff-caliber team as is heady vet Jose Calderon.

Andrea Bargnani the former #1 overall pick has always been a bad fit for the Knicks (and really every NBA team he has played for).  He was a Dirk Nowitzki starter kit who has been horribly coached and utilized.  This is a guy who's main value is being a #1 scorer on a team that has somewhat limited offensive talent.  This is a guy who can close, but unless you are arguably better than Carmelo, you can't have that role with Carmelo on the floor.  The lack of opportunity to fill that role has messed him up a bit.  Andrea can play at the 3,4, or 5 spots, but lack of plus strength or lateral quickness  makes him a liability defensively wherever he plays.   Probably, given his lack of an internal desire to rebound, his best role is as a 3 on offense and trying to match him on the least threatening opposing front court player on defense.   He has had a series of injuries over the last few years.  He is probably ready to move on and truth be told his teammates are probably ready to see him move on.  He isn't playing right now due to lingering injuries.  He is almost as old as the others, but salary-wise he would have to be included to get Kobe moved.

Jason Smith is kind of a backup 5/4 type. He is useful. SG Imam Shumpert is an athlete with an unrefined game. He excels when the pace picks up.  Tim Hardaway Jr. is a solid backup SG at least.  He is a winner with a solid shot, but the rest of his game is pretty average.  Still he could be a starter and a leader on a young team. Shane Larkin looks like a guy who will have a long and productive career as a solid NBA backup point. He also exudes some leadership.  Cole Aldrich is the kind of center who eventually becomes an NBA starter and teams realize he isn't half bad.

Mechanics of the deal

I used Real GM's NBA trade checker to confirm the viability of the deal.  It is Trade ID #6534478.

Kobe would need to sign off and the inclusion of a couple guys dictates it would need to occur after Christmas.

Kobe, Boozer, Sacre, and Price go to New York and a flood of middling young players come back. Los Angeles gets Bargnani, Jason Smith, Shumphert, Hardaway, Larkin, Aldrich and PG Pablo Prigioni (for cap reasons), who is cut on arrival.

The lineups

New York can roll out:

5- Stoudemire, Dalembert, Sacre
4- Boozer, Acy
3- Anthony, Wear, Early
2- Bryant, JR Smith
1- Calederon, Price, and Prigioni (if resigned)

That's a strong starting lineup with some bench issues that could be solved by some NBDL scoring help.  It should be a playoff caliber lineup in the east (to appease fans) and more importantly should keep Carmelo in line and working to fit into the triangle.

New York is 4-20.  At this rate, by Christmas they would be 5-26.  if they finished the season 31-20 they would probably be in the race for a playoff spot in the east.  I have to think that roster could do that.

Los Angeles can roll out:

5- Smith, Aldrich,
4- Hill, Davis,
3- Bargnani (injured), Hardaway, Young
2- Ellington,  Shumpert
1- Lin, Larkin

Certainly that is not a roster to write home about, but it is a serious-minded young roster with a lot of mid-to late first round types.  There would be a lot of good roster players --- guys who would be 3rd to 9th off the bench in a good rotation --- but few potential stars.  In the brutal west, wins would be hard come by for this group this year, but that is exactly what LA needs.  LA needs a top 5 lottery pick to give this roster a feature player.

How would this roster look with a star center in the middle next year? Pretty decent actually...

LA is 6-16 now, going 5-7 after a 1-9 start. By Christmas they might be 9-20 at this rate. If no trade happens 22-31 over the last 53 games may be possible for a season record of 31-51.  That is mid to late lottery range.  That would have been the 9th worst record in the NBA last year.  Kobe might very well cost the Lakers their lottery pick. 

With this kind of trade LA would lack the top closer to win in the west.  It wouldn't be hard to see them going say 10-43 the rest of the way out.  19-63 is a much better position to be in if you want a top 5 pick. That would have tied you for 2nd worst in the league.

It would be easy to imagine the team learning to play together even if they have to wait a year for Bargnani.  Although Young and Hardaway can both score a little, Bargnani is a lot more talented scorer at the 3 spot than anyone else on the roster.

The team would be athletic enough to run more.  Lin and Hill could take on a lot more of the scoring load with Ellington and Hardaway providing space creating shooting and leadership. Aldrich and Smith are good backup center types, with Smith able to help create space in the middle for Lin's drives and Hill in the paint.  Their depth would be quite solid and could help dig the Lakers out of holes their outclassed starting lineup would face.

It wouldn't be difficult to see Lin, Ellington, Hardaway, and Bargnani evolve into pretty clutch crunch time shooters complimenting a lottery talent at center.

Isn't that much better than letting Kobe play the team out of next year's lottery pick?

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