Joe-Pinions: Sports

8 Feb 2011 – History Shows You NEVER Trade a Good Big Man Away

Posted in Basketball by txtmstrjoe on 08/02/2011

Lakerland is afflicted with a high trade fever today, and the team’s fans are dizzy and delusional.

Almost annually, Lakers center Andrew Bynum’s name is tossed around as part of a hot trade rumor.  The last couple of years, it was Bynum for tough-as-wet-tissue-paper Chris Bosh.  This year, the hot rumor is for a Bynum for Carmelo Anthony trade, straight-up.

Like most Bynum-related trades, this one is, in my opinion, stupid at the core.

And I don’t say that just because Bynum is a favorite of mine (I say that in the interest of transparency).

As a sports fan, I have some deeply-ingrained beliefs about how to succeed in sports.  These beliefs help define certain philosophies that I have and depend on when it comes to understanding the things that happen in sports.

When it comes to basketball, one of my key philosophies is that you never ever trade or lose good big men who can really play the game, especially effective bona fide centers.  Why?  It’s very simple.  Big men with true ability are the hardest players to find.

You can even argue that a good big man is the most valuable commodity in basketball.

Now this last point might not sound logical or reasonable to people who admire transcendent players like Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade; some people might even say that pure scorers such as Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant are themselves more valuable than a good big man.

Consider this irrefutable fact:  You simply cannot teach or develop height.  You’re either a big man, or you aren’t.

You can improve your ball-handling skills; you can develop your shooting, improve your effective range, or learn new low post moves.  You can acquire better and more effective defensive techniques.  The point is, you can improve how you play the game.

But size and length?  You either have that, or you don’t.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:  Bynum is often mentioned when other teams want a trading partner because he  is a valuable asset to a team.  He is long, he is tall, he is big yet mobile, he has good defensive instincts and a very good interior offensive game.  He can even shoot free throws reasonably well.  About the only complaint I will make about his game is that he could improve on his rebounding.

I won’t even comment about his history of being injured.  Unlike most people, I haven’t forgotten how he got hurt the first two times in his career.  Both of his first two major knee injuries happened as a result of accidents with teammates; in consecutive years, both Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant crashed into Bynum’s legs and directly caused his knee injuries.

If those weren’t clear-cut cases of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, I don’t know what else could be.  If you blame Bynum for being in the paint, being ready to rebound a teammate’s miss, then getting hurt in the process, then I have absolutely nothing to say to you.  I can’t reason with people who simply don’t want to acknowledge the hand of simple fate being the reason why Bynum got hurt those two first two times.

(And who’s to say definitively that the subsequent problems with the meniscus tear and the achilles tendon inflammation weren’t somehow caused or related to those first two injuries?)

While Bynum has indeed been afflicted with various injuries throughout his career, are those incidents of being injured more significant than his positive contribution whenever he is able to play?

The only argument that makes some sense when you look at things through these particular lenses is that Bynum is relatively poor value money-wise.  The return for investment is arguably not large enough (yet).

But consider the penalties for cutting Bynum out:

NBA history shows that whenever teams lose a good, effective big man, whether by trade or through free agency, most of the time it results in a disaster.  In the 1970s, the Milwaukee Bucks traded Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for six players from the Lakers, and the Bucks were definitely the big losers in that trade.  The San Francisco Warriors lost out when they dealt Wilt Chamberlain away to the Lakers in the 1960s, and in the 1990s the Orlando Magic were thrust into mediocrity when Shaquille O’Neal left through free agency and signed with the Lakers.  The Lakers themselves felt the sting of losing Shaq when they traded him to the Miami Heat in 2004.  The 1980s Houston Rockets once boasted the fabled “Twin Towers,” Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, dominating the Magic Johnson-led Lakers in the 1986 Western Conference Championship; a couple of years later, when Sampson was traded away due to mounting injuries, Houston found itself lost in the wilderness.  Moses Malone, considered by some to be a great big man, was traded several times in his career, and each time the team he left was worse off afterwards.

The precedent is clear:  If your team has a good big man and you lose him, your team will suffer for it.

Carmelo Anthony may be one of the NBA’s premier scorers, but is he enough to compensate for the loss of interior power and size and Bynum’s sheer defensive presence?  Can the points he could potentially score offset the dramatic drop-off in defense?

I guarantee you his numbers will slip if he joins Kobe; there is only one basketball, and with three scorers who need to handle the ball – Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Carmelo – to score, imagine the potential for destruction to the Lakers’ chemistry.

‘Melo to the Lakers for Bynum will hurt the Lakers another way as well:  If Bynum goes to Denver, he will certainly become that team’s offensive focus in the low post.  With Nene and Chris Anderson as his low-post tag team partners and great shooters surrounding them, do you think the Lakers would look forward to facing the Nuggets with their former center leading the low post attack?  Do you think Pau Gasol has the muscle to stop a bigger, stronger, longer Bynum in the paint?

You strengthen the Nuggets whilst losing out on the most important element in your own game, namely, defense.

That makes for an intelligent trade, doesn’t it?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joe Dionisio, Joe Dionisio. Joe Dionisio said: 8 February 2011 – History Shows You NEVER Trade a Good Big Man Away http://wp.me/pYxra-a3 […]


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