5 Ways to Look at the Harris/Williams Trade - The Downbeat - #786

Marvin Williams: Our new best friend.

Oh, hello there. By now, you may have heard that the Jazz traded our starting PG, Devin Harris, to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Marvin Williams, the 6'9'' SF drafted #2 way back in 2005. This represents quite a large change to the roster, and so it is our duty as Utah Jazz fans to analyze the impacts of said trade on the Utah Jazz organization. This Downbeat, then, will be very simple in spirit: analyze 5 ways the Harris/Williams trade affects the team.

(This may be the longest Downbeat ever. When I finished writing it, it contained 3150 words. Amar suggested that each beat of the daily Downbeat to be around 150 words, a total I have exceeded by 420%, because I get really excited about basketball. Sorry. As such, there will actually be two, 5 note stanzas in this Downbeat: the summary, abstract version on the home page, and the actual research and writing once you click through to the post itself. True basketball nerds will want to just immediately skip to the break and read from the second stanza.)

First, let's analyze the value part of the deal: How does Marvin Williams compare to Devin Harris? Who is the better player?

Well, Harris is probably a slightly better offensive player than Marvin Williams due to shooting more 3s and free throws, while Williams is probably a better player defensively. The +/- system shows Harris as the better player, while Win Shares and ORTG/DRTG, and Synergy prefer Williams. Despite different positions and roles, they are remarkably similar in many respects. Given the Jazz backlog at PG, and lack of depth on the wings, that probably makes this a good trade, talent-wise.

Okay! Now that we've established that, let's look at it another way: does this trade improve our starting PG position? Is Mo Williams better than Devin Harris?


We'll look at this fairly similarly to the way we did with the other Williams/Harris comparison.

Basically, Mo's better shooting and perhaps slightly better defense lead him to be a better overall player than Harris. Those looking for better ball distribution from the PG spot will be disappointed, though, as Harris' AST% was actually higher than Mo's (and has been throughout his career). That will again have to be addressed from other positions.

Of course, this trade from PG to SF is designed, primarily, to make the team better on the wings, where the Jazz were pretty abysmal last year. So let's do a look at Marvin Williams' performance compared to our various wing players last season.

Marvin Williams' slightly above average efforts on offense and defense put him in a head-to-head battle with Hayward as the best wing on the team. Barring big improvements from either player, it will be interesting to see how this positional battle goes down: will Corbin play both together on the starting lineup, or will he play Millsap at the 3, allowing only one of Hayward and Williams to start? I'm excited to find out.

That being said... it's a big, big improvement for the team to have two above average wing players, not just one. The wing situation held Utah back enormously last year, and this move takes gigantic steps to rectify that.

The other angle that is of critical importance is the salaries in the deal. The Jazz, as you probably know, have bunches and bunches of cap space for the summer of 2013. Devin Harris was scheduled to receive 8.5 million dollars this upcoming season, Marvin Williams is scheduled to receive 8.29 million. In short, there's not much change for the 2012-13 season.

Where it does get interesting is for the 2013-14 season, in which Marvin Williams has the option to receive 7.5 million dollars for his services (Technically, he actually has an early termination option to not receive 7.5 million, but the two are largely equivalent in this scenario). What Williams does with this option changes the significance of the deal quite a bit: if he keeps the money, he become the Jazz' first non-rookie contract on the books past next summer, reducing the possible cap space the Jazz would have. On the other hand, if he eschews the 7.5 million, he becomes just another expiring contract, allowing the Jazz to improve in the short term without losing the long term flexibility. Which will he do?

7 players in similar situations stayed with their teams for the final year, 5 players left for free agency. It seems to be roughly split evenly! To me, Mo Williams, Gerald Wallace, and Jameer Nelson are probably the most comparable to Marvin Williams. Mo liked his situations, Wallace probably got word from the Nets that he was going to get more money, and we'll have to see whether or not Nelson's free agency will work out for him. I'd put the chances of Marvin opting out at about 50/50 at this point in time. Of course, it all then depends how good of a season he has for the Jazz this year.

Okay, let's talk about that dastardly other side of being a fan: emotionally rooting for players.

I don't think Devin Harris ever got a super fair shake here. Both intentionally and not, we compared him to Deron Williams and Stockton before that, and Devin's style just doesn't fit into that model they carved: he's a completely different kind of player. Ironically, his last 1.5 month resurgence came when he adapted parts of their game. Devin started to pick up Deron's insistence on getting to the basket when he wanted, though strangely only in the first quarter of games. He then picked up Stockton's pull up 3 in transition, and added his own goofy leg kick to it. He just didn't work here before that: not enough court presence to matter, really, offensively or defensively.

Off the court, he had the strange media-friendly yet unreal approach that Boozer did, sans the obvious mistakes that Boozer detractors always pointed to: Goofy grin, incredibly stock positive answers to every question, supportive of teammates. Just like Boozer, we probably underestimate just how good he was, and are probably a little bit too excited to see how the new guy can do better. But that's also the nature of fandom.

In the mean time, though, let's settle down a bit, and watch this highlight video, and remember what it was like to have Devin Harris.

If you're curious why I said all the things I said, and you should be, click through to read the whole post.

First, let's analyze the value part of the deal: How does Marvin Williams compare to Devin Harris? Who is the better player?

Here are the basic per game stats for Harris and Marvin for their 2011-12 seasons:

Rk Player Age G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1 Devin Harris 28 63 27.6 3.8 8.6 .445 1.2 3.4 .362 2.5 3.3 .746 1.8 5.0 1.0 0.2 1.9 2.2 11.3
2 Marvin Williams 25 57 26.3 3.6 8.2 .432 1.0 2.6 .389 2.0 2.6 .788 5.2 1.2 0.8 0.3 0.7 1.5 10.2

They're actually impressively similar. Similar minutes, similar FG%, similar steals, blocks, and points. Given the positional difference, their assist/rebounding totals are actually pretty similar too, though Marvin Williams' rebounding numbers are probably slightly better for a SF than Harris' assist totals are for a PG. Williams is a better 3 point shooter, but Harris shoots slightly more of them. Ditto with free throw totals. Really, their impact seems to be surprisingly identical, something you wouldn't expect from a trade between a PG and a SF. Let's see if the advanced stats can tease out more differences in impact:

Player Age G MP PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
Devin Harris 28 63 1741 16.0 .564 .516 3.7 28.3 1.9 0.6 16.1 19.5 112 109 3.3 0.8 4.2 .115
Marvin Williams 25 57 1500 15.8 .542 .494 11.5 7.7 1.7 0.9 6.8 18.0 113 101 2.7 2.1 4.9 .156

Harris' tendency to take a slightly more free throws and 3 point shots, which are high percentage looks, mean that his TS% and eFG% are higher than Marvin Williams'. This results in a slightly higher PER and OWS(offensive win share) numbers. As we'd expect, Harris' PG status means he gets more assists and turnovers, and Williams gets more rebounds and blocks. The advantage Marvin Williams has is on defense: his DRTG of 101 is fully 8 points lower than Devin's 109. Overall, the win shares system picks up Williams' defensive advantage as more valuable than Harris' offensive advantage, and rates Williams as the better player in fewer minutes.


Production
On Court/Off Court
Simple
Player
Min
Own
Opp
Net
On
Off
Net
Rating
Harris___
54%
16.0
16.9
-0.9
+2.6
-1.7
+4.4
+0.8

Williams
46%
16.0
15.1
+0.9
+2.2
+4.4
-2.2
-0.2

The 82games.com data also shows Marvin Williams' defense in a mixed light. He allowed an average 15.1 PER against his opponents while playing defense, and the Hawks were net 2.2 points better per 100 possessions while he was out of the game. That's not great. Harris, while worse on individual defense, allowing a 16.9 PER, seemed to have a greater affect on the team overall, making the Jazz a net 4.4 points better while he was on the floor.

Interestingly, which position Williams plays at seems to make a big difference in terms of his overall impact:

Marvin_williams_by_position_medium

When he was at small forward, he was a full 2.9 points in PER better than his opponents, a trend that reversed each time he played at other positions. He's very likely not going to be playing PF or C for the Jazz... we just have enough players at those positions already. Our team's strength may be to Williams' advantage.

One other thing, just to be thorough: Synergy also says Williams' defense is better than Harris'. Harris allows 0.95 points per defensive posession, good for 399th in the league, whereas Williams allows 0.86 PPP, good for 239th. This is also a profoundly unfair comparison: the Jazz and Hawks are obviously very different teams, and PG and SF have very different defensive duties. Nevertheless, there it is.

So what do we conclude? Well, Harris is probably a slightly better offensive player than Williams due to shooting more 3s and free throws, while Williams is probably a better player defensively. The +/- system shows Harris as the better player, while Win Shares and ORTG/DRTG, and Synergy prefer Williams. Despite different positions and roles, they are remarkably similar in many respects. Given the Jazz backlog at PG, and lack of depth on the wings, that probably makes this a good trade, talent-wise.

Okay! Now that we've established that, let's look at it another way: does this trade improve our starting PG position? Is Mo Williams better than Devin Harris?

We'll look at this fairly similarly to the way we did with the other Williams/Harris comparison, though I promise it will be slightly shorter this time; we've already looked at Harris' skillset. Here's the B-Ref comparison for Harris and Mo, looking at the last season in which Mo was a full time PG (2009-10). This was two years ago, and so it's possible Mo's skillset has changed, but I thought the role of PG was important to look at.

Player Season Age G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Devin Harris 2011-12 28 63 27.6 3.8 8.6 .445 1.2 3.4 .362 2.5 3.3 .746 1.8 5.0 1.0 0.2 1.9 2.2 11.3
Mo Williams 2009-10 27 69 34.2 5.5 12.4 .442 2.3 5.4 .429 2.6 2.9 .894 3.0 5.3 1.0 0.3 2.5 2.5 15.8

At Cleveland, Mo was taking a great deal more shots than Harris does now. While their FG% is equal, Mo's shooting stroke seems to be better: a higher 3P% and FT%, leading to a higher point total. Their passing, steals, and blocks are roughly equal.. Interestingly, Williams seems to be a substantially better rebounder. Advanced stats time!

Player Season Age G MP PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS
Devin Harris 2011-12 28 63 1741 16.0 .564 .516 3.7 28.3 1.9 0.6 16.1 19.5 112 109 3.3 0.8 4.2
Mo Williams 2009-10 27 69 2359 16.1 .580 .535 5.2 25.0 1.6 0.7 15.5 22.0 112 107 4.0 2.7 6.7

Again, we see the story of substantially similar players: Harris and Williams have nearly or exactly identical PER, STL%, BLK%, and ORTGs. Williams is a slightly better shooter and rebounder, Harris is a slightly better passer. Again, DRTG and DWS feels that Williams is a better defender. Let's see what other sources say:

Production
On Court/Off Court
Simple
Player
Min
Own
Opp
Net
On
Off
Net
Rating
M.Williams
60%
18.2
17.6
+0.6
+5.3
+8.3
-3.1
-0.9

Harris___
54%
16.0
16.9
-0.9
+2.6
-1.7
+4.4
+0.8

82games.com again feels differently: the players Williams guarded at PG in 2009 garnered a 17.6 PER, while Harris allowed only a 16.9 PER this season. These are not substantial differences, truthfully, but they do tell differing stories. What is a substantial difference is the Jazz' improvement while Harris was on the floor (+4.4), while Williams was a net negative for the Cavs (-3.1). I suspect that this has to do significantly with the quality of the backup PGs for each team.

Once again, we'll have Synergy have its say. Back in 2009-10, Mo allowed a 0.92 PPP on defense, good for 282nd in the league. Remember, Harris allowed a 0.95 PPP, 399th in the league this year. Again, this can depend some on team defense: Mo had the advantage of Lebron and Varejao behind him when he had mistakes, Harris, for the most part, had no such luxury. In general, I suspect that Mo may be a slightly better individual defender than Harris, but neither of them are good.

So, in conclusion, Mo's better shooting and perhaps slightly better defense lead him to be a better overall player than Harris. Those looking for better ball distribution from the PG spot will be disappointed, though, as Harris' AST% was actually higher than Mo's (and has been throughout his career). That will again have to be addressed from other positions.

Of course, this trade from PG to SF is designed, primarily, to make the team better on the wings, where the Jazz were pretty abysmal last year. So let's do a look at Marvin Williams' performance compared to our various wing players last season. This time, because there are so many different amounts of minutes played, I'll simply show the advanced stats and percentages:

Player Age G MP PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
Marvin Williams 25 57 1500 15.8 .542 .494 11.5 7.7 1.7 0.9 6.8 18.0 113 101 2.7 2.1 4.9 .156
Gordon Hayward 21 66 2015 15.5 .568 .503 6.6 15.9 1.4 1.6 13.7 17.8 113 109 3.8 1.0 4.9 .116
Alec Burks 20 59 939 14.0 .506 .450 8.1 9.5 1.5 0.4 10.8 22.5 105 109 1.1 0.4 1.5 .076
C.J. Miles 24 56 1145 12.4 .484 .430 5.8 9.6 2.1 1.3 9.2 22.7 101 108 0.7 0.8 1.5 .063
Josh Howard 31 43 991 10.5 .461 .411 9.2 7.9 1.7 0.8 11.6 20.7 95 107 -0.2 0.7 0.5 .025
Raja Bell 35 34 796 8.3 .586 .563 3.5 7.0 0.9 0.2 10.2 11.6 115 112 1.0 0.1 1.1 .069

By PER, Marvin Williams would have been our best wing player last year, even ahead of The Precious, Gordon Hayward. Why? Well, he's simply the most well-rounded: he's a good shooter, good rebounder, and good defender. Importantly, he doesn't turnover the ball on his possessions. Hayward is the best passer of the group. Burks is as aggressive as C.J. Miles, but without the low efficiency. Howard's a decentish rebounder, I guess, but his eFG% is dreadful, leading to a frightening 95 ORTG. He literally contributed less than nothing on offense last year. Awesome. Raja's reluctance to ever, ever, ever shoot, as well as his inability to pass, or rebound, or steal, or block shots, or anything else useful, means that even his good percentages can't save him.

Again, the question becomes defense. As we've been pointing out a lot recently at SLCDunk, our problem last year was largely defensive. It's going to be difficult for Marvin Williams to sustain that DRTG on the Jazz. Let's take a look at the other defensive measures for our wing players:

Player DRTG OPER Net +/- PPP Against
Williams 101 15.1 -2.2 0.86
Hayward 109 10.1 1.7 0.97
Burks 109 14 -2.7 0.81
Miles 108 13.9 0.4 0.86
Howard 107 16 -1.9 0.88
Bell 112 14.1 -2 0.94
Carroll 109 18.4 -2.3 1.07

I put together this handy table with the defensive stats we've used in the article. This is why it is so important to look at multiple statistics when considering a player's defense: there are so many contradictions that it's hard to get a definitive view of the situation. If all of the stats tell the same story, then you can really learn something. If most of them do, and a plausible explanation exists for why one differs, then you can make cautious conclusions. This is also when scouting can help us: as an additional point to add to our knowledge of players.

The table shows exactly one thing very definitively: DeMarre Carroll is a very bad defensive player. As for the others:

  • Williams OPER and PPP against are pretty average. His team defensive numbers are great, and his team is overall slightly better when he's off the floor. To me, this indicates a pretty average defender on a good defensive team, with a good bench.
  • Hayward: limits his opponent to a terrible, Josh Howard-esque PER, but allows them to get an excellent points per possession average against him. What? It's not that he's preventing opponents from taking shots against him, either: he defended 40% more plays than Marvin Williams did last year. So what gives? My only guess: Hayward forces turnovers, which equal a missed shot in PPP but are worth more in PER. I'm really stumped on this one, though. I need help.
  • Burks: Slightly better than average in both OPER and PPPA, his team defense stats aren't great. Probably because he plays with the Jazz. This makes sense.
  • Miles: Pretty average stats across the board. Cool.
  • Josh Howard: Best DRTG of the Jazz group, but slightly below average in the other stats. I'm willing to call Howard an average defensive player.
  • Bell: It's sad, really. We signed him to be the defensive leader of the team, the Kobe stopper. Instead, he has the worst DRTG on the team, pretty bad PPPA, and average OPER. Oh, Raja.
So, in conclusion, Williams' slightly above average efforts on offense and defense put him in a head-to-head battle with Hayward as the best wing on the team. Barring big improvements from either player, it will be interesting to see how this positional battle goes down: will Corbin play both together on the starting lineup, or will he play Millsap at the 3, allowing only one of Hayward and Williams to start? I'm excited to find out.

That being said... it's a big, big improvement for the team to have two above average wing players, not just one. The wing situation held Utah back enormously last year, and this move takes gigantic steps to rectify that.

The other angle that is of critical importance is the salaries in the deal. The Jazz, as you probably know, have bunches and bunches of cap space for the summer of 2013. Devin Harris was scheduled to receive 8.5 million dollars this upcoming season, Marvin Williams is scheduled to receive 8.29 million. In short, there's not much change for the 2012-13 season.

Where it does get interesting is for the 2013-14 season, in which Marvin Williams has the option to receive 7.5 million dollars for his services (Technically, he actually has an early termination option to not receive 7.5 million, but the two are largely equivalent in this scenario). What Williams does with this option changes the significance of the deal quite a bit: if he keeps the money, he become the Jazz' first non-rookie contract on the books past next summer, reducing the possible cap space the Jazz would have. On the other hand, if he eschews the 7.5 million, he becomes just another expiring contract, allowing the Jazz to improve in the short term without losing the long term flexibility. Which will he do?

Let's take a look at what other players have done in the same scenario: have 1 year left of an option, with a mid-range of money left:

  • Gerald Wallace: had the option to keep playing with New Jersey for 9.5 million dollars, but instead opted out, despite what many thought would happen. He got 4/$40 from the Nets, so that went well for him.
  • Jameer Nelson has a 8.6 million dollar player option to play with the Magic next season, but he has also decided to eschew the money and test free agency. We'll see how this goes.
  • Mo Williams had a 8.5 million player option, he decided to use it so that he could play this season with the Jazz. That was nice of him.
  • Desagna Diop has a 7.3 million dollar player option this summer. He averaged 1.1 PPG this season. He'll probably keep the money.
  • Beno Udrih had a 7.3 million dollar player option this summer, he decided to keep that money as well, and stay with Milwaukee.
  • Lou Williams had a 5.3 million dollar player option, and he decided to opt out and test free agency.
And last year:
  • Ray Allen had a $10 million player option, which he decided to use. He probably shouldn't have, he probably would have made much more money last offseason. Although, it's not always about the Benjamins.
  • Boris Diaw opted in to his $9 million player option, which was a smart move.
  • Nene had a 11.6 million dollar ETO, which he exercised to become a free agent. It paid off, getting him a $13million per season contract.
  • Mo Williams actually had the option to end his contract before last season as well. He didn't do it then either.
  • David West had a 7.5 million dollar ETO which he exercised to become a free agent. He did better, and got 2/$20 per.
  • Leandro Barbosa had 7.6 million dollar player option, which he exercised to stay with the Raptors.
So what did we learn? 7 players stayed with their teams for the final year, 5 left for free agency. It seems to be roughly split evenly! To me, Mo Williams, Gerald Wallace, and Jameer Nelson are probably the most comparable to Marvin Williams. Mo liked his situations, Wallace probably got word from the Nets that he was going to get more money, and we'll have to see whether or not Nelson's free agency will work out for him. I'd put the chances of Marvin opting out at about 50/50 at this point in time. Of course, it all then depends how good of a season he has for the Jazz this year.

Okay, let's talk about that dastardly other side of being a fan: emotionally rooting for players.

I don't think Devin Harris ever got a super fair shake here. Both intentionally and not, we compared him to Deron Williams and Stockton before that, and Devin's style just doesn't fit into that model they carved: he's a completely different kind of player. Ironically, his last 1.5 month resurgence came when he adapted parts of their game. Devin started to pick up Deron's insistence on getting to the basket when he wanted, though strangely only in the first quarter of games. He then picked up Stockton's pull up 3 in transition, and added his own goofy leg kick to it. He just didn't work here before that: not enough court presence to matter, really, offensively or defensively.

Off the court, he had the strange media-friendly yet unreal approach that Boozer did, sans the obvious mistakes that Boozer detractors always pointed to: Goofy grin, incredibly stock positive answers to every question, supportive of teammates. Just like Boozer, we probably underestimate just how good he was, and are probably a little bit too excited to see how the new guy can do better. But that's also the nature of fandom.

In the mean time, though, let's settle down a bit, and watch this highlight video, and remember what it was like to have Devin Harris.


It will also be interesting to see how the fans treat Marvin. Atlanta fans are thrilled that he's gone, but he doesn't have the attachment of the #2 pick in Utah; to us, he's exactly the guy we covered in this post: a bunch of stats. We don't really know his style. But as with every new player, we're excited to give him a chance.

Congratulations! You finished the most awkward Downbeat ever. Still, what do you think about the trade?
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