“Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel
Was just a freight train coming your way”-Metallica- No Leaf Clover
Chicago Bulls fans had to be feeling good this NBA off-season. They had good young players at the most critical positions (PG and Center). They didn’t quite hit their targets in the Free Agent Market but they did really well. They lost Pargo and Miller (a combined 2.5 losses in 2010) and brought in Boozer,Brewer, Thomas, Bogans, Watson and Kover ( who averaged 31.6 wins over the last three years). By my numbers their current lineup projects to 63 wins in 2011:
This is a very good team that will contend for a championship for many years to come. Then the freight train hit. The rumor that is leading the ESPN ticker. Carmelo for Noah & Deng . For the casual fan this seems like a no-brainer. Take Carmelo right? The spin is that Chicago needs Melo to contend with the Heat and Denver needs to salvage something for Melo before he leaves. But for the truly informed (which apparently includes the Nuggets front office) this trade destroys the Bulls chances and could completely alter the balance of power in the Western Conference.
Let’s switch tacks for a minute. Four leaf clover are a rare and prized variety of the more common three leaf clover. Estimates say that there’s one four leaf clover for every 10,000 three leaf clover. I’ve touched before on how good NBA Big men are like four leaf clovers (see here). Well, Joakim Noah is a very good big man. As a fun exercise I looked up and ranked every player drafted who’s played center a significant amount of minutes (>1500 MP as center in one of their first three years) using a methodology similar to that in my draft post (here). The list follows:
Of 114 players who classified, Noah came in tenth. Of all active centers through three years only Shaq and Howard were better. Let me repeat that, Shaq and Howard are the only two active centers who were better than Noah after three years. For the Bulls to consider this trade borders on the insane. For them to throw in Loul Deng, borders on the criminal.
Just for grins let’s project the results of the following transactions. Bulls trade Noah and Deng to Denver for Carmelo Anthony (see here – PER likes this trade for the Bulls, god bless PER). Let’s also do what the Bleacher Report article I referenced before suggested and give them one of the available centers via free agency. I’m giving them Josh Boone or Brezec who’re healthy and available , Joel Przybilla is neither. Chicago then looks like this:
So from a projected 63 wins to 54 or 49 wins (depending on the new center) a loss of between 9 to 14 wins. And they’d add a guy who would get and not deserve max money in Carmelo. And this assumes Kurt Thomas’ performance doesn’t fall off a cliff and that Taj Gibson is nowhere near this deal.
As for the Nuggets?:
From about 51 wins to about 63. Quality size in every direction and to my estimation the number one seed in the West. This team would so good that it would take something massive to derail their postseason success.