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Analyzing the Dwight Howard Trade For Each Team + Utah

The Dwight Howard trade has finally occurred, it appears. Impressively, the trade was expanded into a four-team move, allowing it to have a bigger impact on Utah than trades with the Lakers, Nets, or Rockets alone would have. How does this trade affect each team involved? The picks and cash moving around in this deal are unclear at this point, and will make an impact on the value each team receives. Nevertheless, for next year's season, the players are what matters. Let's do a breakdown below; an in-depth statistical look at the upgrade for the Jazz's Western Conference foes, and a more basic analysis about how this affects the Eastern teams:

Los Angeles Lakers:

Out: Andrew Bynum

In: Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon

The headline move of the trade. How much, quantifiably, is the upgrade? One problem involved in doing this analysis is both players' injury woes: Howard had back issues for much of this season, and Bynum's knee problems have been well documented.

That being said, when both players did play this season, they played extremely well and impressively similarly. Let's look at their basic per game stats first:

Andrew Bynum 35.2 7.4 13.3 .558 3.9 5.6 .692 3.2 8.6 11.8 1.4 0.5 1.9 2.5 1.7 18.7
Dwight Howard 38.3 7.7 13.4 .573 5.2 10.6 .491 3.7 10.8 14.5 1.9 1.5 2.1 3.2 2.9 20.6

Howard played 3 minutes more per game than Bynum, albeit in 6 fewer games, adding up to very similar minutes totals. They shot nearly exactly the same number of FGs from the floor. The big differences: Howard gives up a lot of points from the line, but makes it up by being more athletic. This means he can get higher for defensive rebounds, is quicker in the passing lane for steals (1.5 per game is very impressive for a big man his size), and of course, more blocks. This approach likely gets him more fouls as well.

Looking at their BRef advanced stats, we see what that story means for impact in winning games:

(way more analysis after the jump)

Player PER TS% eFG% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
Andrew Bynum 22.9 .594 .558 23.8 112 100 4.8 3.3 8.0 .183
Dwight Howard 24.2 .569 .573 26.1 106 96 3.3 4.4 7.7 .179

Basically, they have very similar impacts according to these statistics. PER likes Howard's assists, rebounds, and steals advantages, whereas Win Shares prefers Bynum's greater efficiency, though in the end, the difference is not great. It would probably be fair to say that Bynum is a more effective offensive player at this point.

What about defensively? As you can see, Howard has the better numerical defensive stats(blocks and steals), reflected in both Howard's better DRtg and DWS. This defensive advantage is confirmed and even magnified as we start to analyze other advanced statistics:

  1. Both Howard and Bynum have excellent defensive numbers according to Synergy Sports. Howard, though, ranks slightly better, allowing his opponents to only 0.75 Points Per Possession against, compared to Bynum's 0.77 PPPA. The difference, again, comes to the down to forcing turnovers: While they each allow a nearly identical 37% FGA against them, Howard forces a turnover 8.5% of the time compared to Bynum's 6.2%.
  2. They also both have excellent 82games defensive stats: Bynum's center opponents are limited to only a 13.7 PER against. Dwight again has Bynum beat with a 12.5 PER.
  3. The difference becomes larger when looking at On Court/Off Court defensive statistics, which favor Howard significantly. Bynum's team was 1.63 points per 100 possessions worse defensively when on the floor, while Howard's team were a full 7.08 points per 100 possessions better. This is a little bit tricky, because the Lakers are able to absorb much of the time Bynum is out of the game by playing Gasol at center, while the Magic had no such option last year. However, when directly comparing when they were both in the game for their teams, the Magic were again better defensively, allowing only 101.52 points per 100 possessions compared to LAL's 103.24.
I feel pretty confident writing off Chris Duhon's impact in the deal, other than the Lakers having to take on Duhon's salary. Orlando deservedly soured on him, as he put up a 5.6 and an 8.4 PER in the last two seasons. If he ends up playing for the Lakers, he doesn't really help them other than as a passable 3rd stringer to play behind Steve Blake in the case of injury.

So what's the net impact? Well, the Lakers probably get better, though only on the defensive end. By how much? DWS pegged it as a 1.1 win difference over the course of last season, a longer season plus covering for the defensive woes of Bryant and Nash probably raise that a little. Additionally, Howard basically coasted through about half of last year. A 3-4 win estimate seems fairly reasonable, splitting the difference between the measured impact of PPPA and +/- statistics. The Lakers do, though, give some of that back on offense. While the Lakers received much, they gave up an excellent player as well.

Denver Nuggets:

Out: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington

In: Andre Iguodala

Iguodala is an obviously better player than either Afflalo or Harrington, but what are the impacts of giving both away for the better player? Let's start by taking a look at the advanced stats from Basketball Reference for all three players:

Arron Afflalo 2086 14.7 .584 8.5 5.5 11.1 0.9 0.5 9.5 19.1 116 111 4.7 0.6 5.3 .121
Al Harrington 1761 15.3 .535 20.4 12.9 8.2 1.7 0.5 11.6 24.4 103 105 1.6 1.6 3.2 .088
Andre Iguodala 2209 17.6 .537 16.4 9.6 23.7 2.6 1.0 13.8 17.7 108 98 3.1 4.2 7.3 .158

The statistics verify that Iguodala is the best player in the Nuggets side of this trade, but they also assert Afflalo and Harrington were also quite good last year. These are three extremely different wing players, though: Afflalo is the best and most efficient scorer of the three, Harrington the best rebounder and possession user (an important skill for a leading bench man, as Harrington started only 1 game last year), and Iguodala the better assist man (a 23.7% assist percentage is excellent for a player at his position), low usage, and of course his hallmark of incredible defense.

Offensively, the Nuggets seem to be losing quite a bit of firepower. Harrington wasn't especially efficient, but he managed similar shooting percentages as Iguodala at higher usage rates. Afflalo, on the other hand, used his possessions very effectivelylargely through a quite good FG% and a much better FT% than Iguodala, who shot only 61.7% last year from the line.

Defensively, Afflalo's reputation as a stopper seems to be highly overblown, and Iguodala's vast improvement in this area is a good bet to overhaul the Nuggets defensively. Besides Iguodala's ridiculous DRTG and DWS statistics shown above, he's also an improvement in every other defensive statistic. The Synergy stats, to begin with, rank Afflalo and Iguodala drastically differently: Iguodala giving up only 0.8 PPP for possessions where he is the primary defender, Afflalo, giving up drastically more at 0.98. At about 13 possessions primarily defended per game, he ranks 2.34 points better. Of course, that doesn't count many help defense opportunities either.'s +/- stats tell a similar story: the Sixers were 5.05 points per 100 possessions defensively better while Iguodala was on the floor, when Afflalo was on the floor, the Nuggets were 2.47 points worse on D. Likewise, 82games showed that Afflalo allowed a pedestrian 14.9 PER against, Iguodala a ridiculous 9.2 PER against. Harrington actually rates out as a better defender than Afflalo in many statistics, though opposition needs to be taken into account. In the shut-down stopper role, Iguodala easily takes the cake; he's arguably the league's best wing defender.

So what's the full story? Iguodala's presence drastically helps Denver on defense, and makes their presumed starting lineup an intriguing defensive unit. They will, though, lose something on offense, as they turn more shots to Gallinari and co. on the offensive end. In the end, the Win Shares analysis tells a reasonable tale: the Nuggets lose 1.2 wins, but gain about 1500 minutes (about 24 MPG) to give to another player (Wilson Chandler?). So long as that replacement performs adequately, it will be a net positive for the team in wins in the regular season, plus give them a better starting five for the postseason. From a financial standpoint, the team also frees up significant cap space two years from now, about $15 million.

Philadelphia 76ers:

Out: Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless

In: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson

For the Sixers, this dramatically changes the outlook and style of the team. The trade is a risk that depends on Bynum's willingness to stay in Philadelphia. If Bynum walks, the 76ers gave up two decent young players for a 1 year upgrade from Iggy to Bynum (probably worth a couple of wins with their roster depth), and taking on Jason Richardson's contract (while possibly saving $15 million next year if Iggy doesn't exercise his ETO). Honestly, that's probably a reasonable deal on its own.

If Bynum does stay, though, Philadelphia has the potential to be a relative force in the East. Bynum is suddenly easily the best center amongst a weak Eastern crop, and he's young too, just 25. The team would also be set up pretty nicely to potentially sign a big FA with Bynum in the summer of 2013, having about 30-35 million dollars in cap space to re-up Bynum and then do what they please with the rest. This places the Sixers in direct competition with the Jazz in the free agency summer of 2013, competing to spend their cap space in the best way. The Sixers, too, have a young lineup coalescing around their new star, as Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, and Evan Turner improve to fulfill their potential. It's actually a pretty impressive setup they have.

Orlando Magic:

Out: Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson

In: Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless

On the other hand, what are the Magic doing? I understand the desire to start over and rebuild, but this move leaves the team with very little going for them. For every benefit this trade delivers to them, there's a clear and significant downside directly diminishing its impact:

  • Pro: They get rid of Dwight Howard, a legitimate team cancer at this point.
  • Con: They lose an excellent coach in SVG in the process.
  • Pro: It dumps Jason Richardson's salary effectively (about $6 million per year for the next 3 years)
  • Con: It still leaves them with Hedo Turkoglu's salary(about $12 million per year for the next 2 years). Additionally, they gain Afflalo's and Harrington's contracts, also significant money for the next 3 years. This means they're really unlikely to be a player in either of the next 2 FA summers. Not much flexibility to take on contracts to get assets either.
  • Pro: It adds two young, cost controlled, decent prospects.
  • Con: But they have very little high end potential. Harkless' best case DraftExpress comparison is Trevor Ariza. Vucevic's best case DX comparison is Mehmet Okur.
  • Pro: The trade adds either 3 or 4 first round picks.
  • Con: Those picks are all going to be from either Denver, Philadelphia, or LAL, who all look to be good, non-lottery teams going forward. Denver could give up their NYK picks, but the same problem exists there. Again, this will load the team with decentish prospects, but no one likely to break out.
The plan, then, hinges on Orlando being really bad this year, collecting an excellent lottery pick, and then doing the same the next year as well. Unfortunately, luck at the lottery doesn't always play out: the Bobcats can tell you all about being a terrible NBA team with no #1 prize to show for it. This plan worked out well for the Hornets, but consider that they also received Eric Gordon, an excellent young player, as well as Minnesota's #1 pick, which is very possibly worth as much as all 3 picks the Magic stand to receive right now. The Magic get none of that. The slash-and-burn strategy has worked for teams, but they always got value back for the marquee players they sent. That really doesn't happen here.

In conclusion, both the Lakers and Nuggets got better, though probably not by the vast margins doomsayers are currently exclaiming. In the East, the Magic are no longer a credible threat for several years, but Philadelphia has set themselves up well as a competitor to Utah in the free agency class of 2013.

For the Jazz, the road just got harder.