Trading Allen Iverson

Posted on December 9, 2006 by

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Both the Knicks and 76ers failed to meet the expectations of their fans in 2005-06. Although 05-06 season was not a success for either team, both teams still made very few changes to their rosters this past summer. So far in 2006-07 this strategy – which ignored the general consistency we see in player performance in the NBA — hasn’t paid off. Both the Knicks and 76ers have failed to change their fortunes dramatically from what each team saw last season.

The latest rumor coming out of Philadelphia suggests that the 76ers are going to finally make some changes. Yesterday it was announced that Philadelphia was going to try and trade Allen Iverson. It is clear the 76ers need to make a change. Is trading “the Answer”, though, the right change?

It seems like much more has been said about Allen Iverson in this forum than was ever said about him in The Wages of Wins. Although Iverson has been mentioned in numerous posts, the comment offered last July was the most detailed. Of course, when the post runs more than 2,000 words you are probably offering more more details than is really necessary. After all these words the Iverson comment concluded by arguing that trading Iverson was probably not the best move Philadelphia could make.

For those who do not with to wade through the post from last July, here are a few of the relevant points:

So does all this mean the 76ers should trade Iverson? Actually, there is not a simple answer to that question. Here are some things to consider.

1. Iverson’s obvious star appeal does not appear to be important to Philadelphia. As we note in The Wages of Wins, star power attracts fans on the road. It does not attract many fans at home. And it is the home gate that matters to the team who pays Iverson.

2. So Iverson’s production on the court is what matters. Despite his shortcomings, Iverson has been an above average NBA player over the past two seasons. So he can be a “good” player. So he should not traded if the other team in the trade is not willing to part with a “good” player or two.

3. Iverson is also an old player. He will be 31 when the season starts, so he is closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning.

4. Given his age, it is not likely that teams will give up much to acquire Iverson.

Put it all together, and Phildelphia has a problem. They currently have a player who will probably help them win some games next year. But given that player’s age, it is unlikely another team will part with much to acquire Iverson’s services.

The assessment offered last July still holds true today. Iverson can be good, although he has not been so far this season. Still, he is old and it seems unlikely anyone would give up much to acquire his services.

Still, given the statement from Ed Snider (the chairman of the Philadelphia 76ers), it seems likely that Iverson will be traded. Ultimately when we see what Philadelphia gets for Iverson we will know whether that was a good move or not.

At this point, though, it is clear that the 76ers problems go far beyond Iverson. Here is what this team looks like after 18 games. Currently Philadelphia has seven players who play at least 20 minutes a night. Of these, only Andres Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert are above average players. Every other regular performer, including Iverson, has been below average.

Iverson was above average the last two seasons, but this year his Wins Produced per 48 minutes has fallen below 0.100. The key difference is that Iverson’s shooting efficiency, which is typically below average, is especially poor this year.

Although Iverson has not been great, other members of the regular rotation have been much worse. Iverson’s backcourt mates – Kevin Ollie and Willie Green – have offered a level of productivity far below what the Answer is offering. Chris Webber, the player who is supposed to be the number two scorer on this team, has been a very inefficient scorer. Consequently, even Webber is offering less than Iverson.

And Rodney Carney, the team’s first round draft pick, is doing little more than taking up space. He does generally hit the few shots he takes. But he doesn’t often take shots and he can’t rebound. The 76ers passed on Renaldo Balkman, Paul Millsap, and Craig Smith to take Carney. Okay, Philadelphia has only played 18 games. But so far, taking Carney does not look like a great decision.

If we go past the performance of several players we see another problem. Who exactly is playing power forward and center on this roster? The minutes of the team’s big men — Dalembert, Webber, Alan Henderson, Shavlik Randolph, and Steven Hunter — sum to 1,375. At the power forward and center position, though, the team has had 1,738 minutes to allocate. The difference is 363 minutes. This means that nearly 20 minutes per game the team is playing someone out of position.

Is it any wonder that this team is getting out-rebounded by five per game? The 76ers are basically trying to bake a cake without all the key ingredients. And this is one reason why Philadelphia does not find the product to be very tasty.

So the 76ers can trade Iverson. But given the ingredients that will remain on the roster it does not appear trading the Answer will solve this team’s problems. The good news is that Philadelphia is still only two games out of the playoffs. So it is possible for this team to improve slightly and still have playoff tickets to sell. It will probably be for just two home games, but that is two more home playoff games than the team had last year.

– DJ

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