Does Carmelo turn the Cavs into the 2012-13 Lakers
Does a potential Carmelo Anthony trade turn the Cleveland Cavaliers more into the 2016-17 Warriors or 2012-13 Lakers?
Once upon a time, a four-headed super team came into creation. It was early August, 2012, and the Los Angeles Lakers just completed a crazy four-team trade for Dwight Howard that cost them Andrew Bynum (and led to Andre Iguodala going to the Warriors, but that’s another story for another time). About a month earlier, the Lakers did a sign-and-trade for aging (but still effective) former All-star point guard Steve Nash. What a four-headed monster! The Lakers could roll out a lineup of Nash/Bryant/World Peace/Gasol/Howard. They had a limited bench, but who needs a bench when you have that start-studded top four?
The Cleveland Cavaliers should avoid the pitfalls of that Laker super team and not trade for Carmelo Anthony.
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Howard was 26, but Gasol, Bryant, World Peace, and Nash were all…old. Gasol and World Peace were 32, Bryant 34, and Nash was 38. They had some veterans on the bench in a 32-year old Steve Blake and a 36-year old Antawn Jamison, as well as a plethora of unproven, young guys like Earl Clark, Jodie Meeks, and Jordan Hill. The Lakers ended that season with a record of 45-37, earned a 7-seed, got swept out of the playoffs, and then dismantled, resulting in what you see today. Where did they go wrong? Did a lot of people think that putting four all-stars and a really solid role player together with a nice looking bench would result in disaster? Not really.
The problem was not that they had four all-stars. The problem was that the Lakers had four all-stars who did not know how to play together. Bryant got injured. Nash had injuries often. Howard could not handle Hollywood and being in Bryant’s shadow. Gasol was the bright spot, but isn’t he always a bright spot? The reason that I am going into this diatribe about the 2012-13 Lakers is because the Cavs might be headed down a similar (ish) path if they gut their roster for Carmelo Anthony.
The Trade and Ramifications
A Love for Anthony and a back of the bench guy like Ron Baker, on its face, is a MUCH better trade than a Shumpert/Frye or Shumpert/Smith trade for Anthony.
The Cavs, thankfully, are hell-bent on not giving up Love, which makes sense considering he is a true power forward, averaging 11 rebounds and 2 assists per game this year to go with almost 20 points. He also has close to a 22 player efficiency rating.
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Not to knock Carmelo, who’s an all-time great and absolute stud offensively, but do we really want someone who averages less rebounds, does not play a true power forward, and who has his lowest player efficiency rating since 2008-09?
Oh, and there’s one other thing, Carmelo has almost a 30% usage rating, while Love has closer to 19%. Carmelo’s lowest usage rating of his career is just under 29, in his rookie season. You know who else has a high usage rating? Lebron James, who has close to a 30% usage rating this season and a career average of 31.6%. Kyrie Irving, who has close to a 30% usage rating and a career average of 28.5%. What does that mean practically? The other two guys on the floor would never see the ball.
This is why the Love for Anthony trade is actually better than the alternative. If we keep Love and get rid of a shooting guard and Frye or two shooting guards, that’s well over 100% usage rating (which does not work). What’s the rotation going to look like? Irving, James, Anthony, Love, Thompson? James playing and guarding shooting guards? Or Irving, Korver, James, Anthony, Love? Is that better?
Love gets destroyed by big guys. How about Irving, Korver, James, Love, Thompson with a bench of (we will assume Shumpert/Frye get traded) Smith, Anthony, Jefferson. That might work, but in what universe does Carmelo Anthony come off the bench? Not one that we live in.
Getting to the Point
The point is, the Cavs trading for Carmelo Anthony is putting a square peg in a round hole, similar to how the Lakers concocted its 2012-13 super team, as opposed to more natural-fitting pieces like the Warriors have built with the Durant addition. Curry and Thompson are much more willing to play second and third fiddle to Durant than Carmelo would be to James and Irving. And I’m not even bringing up the defensive nightmare that would be on the floor if Anthony, Irving, and Love are sharing the floor together.
You cannot hide three guys. A super lineup of Irving/Smith/James/Anthony/Love does not matchup very well with Curry/Thompson/Durant/Iguodala/Green.
Instead of trying to hit a home run with Anthony, the Cavs should think about what propelled them last year, trading a worthless veteran for a big man who fit a need. Frye was not playing well and came with a sizable commitment, but he fit. What do the Cavs need this year? First, they need health. Smith and Love returning will help.
Second, they need a strong-shooting backup for James. Is that not what JR Smith is? Smith has turned into a decent defender, increasing his defensive plus/minus from the negative 1 range to over 0 (which means he was bad, and now he is average). Carmelo? You guessed it, really bad defensive plus/minus at -2.2, with a career average of -1.2.
You know who is cheap, plays small forward, and has a career average of almost 1 in defensive plus/minus? Lance Stephenson. Lance Stephenson might be a basket case, but he is 26, would basically be free, and he can offer that Channing Frye-like need off the bench. He plays defense, does not need the ball a lot (19% career usage), and is super athletic.
I really do not think that the Cavs are going to sign him because the perceived need is at point guard, but he is an interesting option.
Fixing the Problem
Speaking of point guard, do the Cavs really need this “true backup point guard?” Oh but the Warriors have Shaun Livingston. Good joke. He averages 3.3 assists per game for his career.
Do not get hung up on traditional team construction models. Creating a super team with Anthony is not the answer. Signing a true back up point guard when Lebron is the true backup point guard, is not the answer. The answer is to find a piece that fits; someone who can play defense, guard 2s, 3s, and 4s, and has a low usage rate. If that person shot above 35% from 3, that would be helpful, but we should not get too greedy.
To summarize, Carmelo for Love is a bad trade. Carmelo for Shumpert/Frye is a worse trade. Signing anyone who has above a 20% usage rate is a bad idea, unless that person is comfortable and confident coming off of the bench and leading a second unit. The Cavs probably do not need a true backup point guard who averages 6 assists a night.
Unfortunately, I do not have the answer of the true need, but I do believe that it resembles Lance Stephenson more than Carmelo Anthony or Jordan Farmar.
What do you think? Are the Cavs trying to recreate a failed super team?