Making Sense of the Dalembert Trade

There have been rumors of Dalembert's departure for years, and I vaguely remember the Kings mentioned a time or two as possible destinations, but I was shocked when the news broke. My first reaction was "YES! The Sixers made a trade!" After digesting the trade I asked myself, "Wait, is this good or bad?" Hours later my mind was still scrambled. The trade is so simple, yet complicated. 

"Basketball Sense"

There's no doubt in my mind that this trade makes the Sixers a worse basketball team. Sam was the anchor of their defense, an elite rebounder, and the second best player on the team last season. Trading away the anchor of your defense and an elite rebounder for Nocioni and Hawes does not make "basketball sense" for the Sixers, despite what Ed Stefanski says.

We just witnessed how important rebounding is in the NBA Finals. The team who won the rebounding battle won all seven games. After the Dalembert trade, the Sixers currently have zero players who ranked in the top 88 in DREB% last season. FYI: The Lakers and Celtics both had three in the top 88.

Deadline Deal

Could Stefanski have gotten more in return for Dalembert at the trade deadline? Maybe, but here's two trades made in the past two years involving players similar to Dalembert.

Marcus Camby for Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw

Tyson Chandler for Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith (rescinded) 

Contracts, age, etc. were obviously taken into account when these deals were made, but looking at the deals simply, the market for shot-blocking/rebounding big men isn't exactly booming. Also, Dalembert is the same player who the Sixers couldn't give away at back-to-back deadlines. 'Tis true that Stefanski might have been able to obtain slightly more value at this year's deadline, but it's no forgone conclusion.

Spencer's Gifts

Hawes is obviously the centerpiece of the deal for the Sixers. He's 22 years old and on the last year of his rookie contract. I've only seen Spencer play a few times, so I'm not going to pretend I know a lot about him, but there's reason to believe he could turn into a valuable NBA player.

According to Aykis16 from Sactown Royalty, he has some skills on the offensive end:

Spencer is not your typical center. He's definitely in the mold of Brad Miller and Vlade Divac (and soon to be NBA player Greg Monroe), in that he likes to play in the high post and pass the ball, as well as shoot jumpers. He actually has a pretty advanced post-game down low, but his lack of strength and explosiveness causes him to get his shot blocked quite a bit. Additional strength is a must for Spencer to end up succeeding.

Spencer definitely has range on his shot, although his percentages aren't that great, but he can hit the mid-range jumper at a dependable rate, and his 3 is good enough to keep defenses honest.

Having a big man who can pass, post, and stretch the defense is a valuable piece to have -- ask every team who faced Pau Gasol this post-season. The big knocks on Hawes are his rebounding and defense. Last year he grabbed just 17.7% of the defensive rebound available to him, making him one of the worst rebounding centers in the league. However; in the two previous seasons he grabbed 20.5%, which would've made him the Sixers second best defensive rebounder last year, and placed him between Andrew Bynum and Marc Gasol in terms of statistics. Since he tallied pretty good DREB% numbers his first two seasons, I'll chalk this past season's ugly number up as an aberration -- for now.

Defense isn't as easy to evaluate with numbers, but not for nothing, here's how Spencer rated in my favorite defensive statistic, (provided by Basketball Prospectus) dMULT. Spencer's dMULT last season was 1.036, meaning Hawes allowed his counterparts to achieve 103.6% of their normal production on a per possession basis. To put that in perspective Sam Dalembert, Marcus Camby, Brook Lopez, and Chris Kaman's dMULT last year were 0.946, 0.933, 1.121, and 1.103 respectively. According to the dMULT stat, Hawes is a below average defensive center, ranking somewhere between 18-20.

Overall, if he can improve his defense just a little, revert back to his rookie-sophomore season rebounding, and make better decisions offensively he could be a nice piece for the Sixers. The problem is, his rookie contract expires after the upcoming season, so he has one year to prove himself, and the Sixers have one year to make a potentially crucial decision. 

Andres "Toughness" Nocioni

Not only does Nocioni bring his large following to Liberty Ballers, he also brings much-needed three point range and defensive rebounding to the Sixers, and arguably becomes the Sixers best small forward not named Iguodala (sad, I know). 

Like Hawes, Nocioni saw a significant drop-off in his numbers last year. A normally great defensive rebounder (18.4% career) grabbed only 14.9%. He also went from a field goal percentage of 43 the year before to 40, and even dropped from an 80 percent free throw percentage (career) to 72 percent. Whether it was injuries, him being a diva, work ethic, or the beginning of the end remains to be seen, but even last year's Nocioni was better than Thad and Kapono.

Noce also gives the Sixers lineup versatility, since he's the best option to play at power forward when Collins decides to go small. Unlike Thad and Kapono, he won't get murdered on the glass. As a matter of fact, his career 18.4 DREB% is the 10th best DREB% for a player 6'7'' or taller, since he entered the league.

Andres is 30 years old, has two years left on his current contract (team-option for the third), owed around 13 million, and I have no idea what the Sixers plan to do with him. Will he be traded again? Do they plan on playing him more than Thad? Is he part of their long-term plans? Or will he be treated like a throw-in? 

Re-Building?

Was this step one of the re-building process? Are there more moves on the way? This is the aspect of the deal that confuses me the most. Does Stefanski really believe this deal made his team better? I hope not. If this move was step one to a re-building phase, the Sixers accomplished a few things. First, they made their team worse for next season -- giving them a better chance at a lottery pick. Second, they avoided letting Samuel Dalembert walk for nothing. Last, they acquired another young player to work with. If this trade had nothing to do with re-building, and was more of an attempt at a quick fix, than I don't know what to tell you.

Conclusion

Ed Stefanski's motives for making this deal were probably as follows: 

  1. Get under the luxury tax.
  2. Don't allow Dalembert to walk for nothing a la Andre Miller.
  3. Give Spencer Hawes a one year try out.
  4. Acquire Nocioni's moderately-bad contract to accomplish first three.
  5. Make a deal he could spin as making "basketball sense".
Grade: Incomplete -- I will reserve judgment on the effectiveness of this deal until the off-season is over.


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