The Nuggets-Celtics Trade and What It Can Mean for the NBA Playoffs
The Denver Nuggets aren't afraid of change.
After going 57-25 during the 2012-13 season, the Denver Nuggets let go of their coach, George Karl. Incoming coach Brian Shaw managed to go 36-46 the following season, a staggering 21-game difference. This season, the Nuggets are 17-20 in a tough Western Conference.
Denver has already traded Timofey Mozgov to the Cavaliers, which may not have helped the Cavs a great deal. Now, Denver is rumored to be taking calls for Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo , which could mean that the Nuggets are in a rebuilding process for the future. On Tuesday, they made another trade, swapping Nate Robinson to the Celtics for Jameer Nelson .
According to our power rankings, the Celtics are just the 17th-best team in the NBA, and the Nuggets are 20th. But could this deal really affect the playoff race for either the Celtics, Nuggets, or anyone else?
The Deal by the Numbers
After he spent his first 10 NBA seasons with the Orlando Magic, Nelson has been traded twice in three weeks. When he plays for the Nuggets, it will be the third team he plays for just this season (including the Mavericks and Celtics). In games with Dallas and Boston, he averaged 6.8 points and 4.4 assists in 24.3 minutes per game. His nERD score (our metric for measuring efficiency) of -3.6, means that with him in the starting line-up, his team would lose 3.6 games over the course of the season. That number sure doesn't indicate that he will push the Nuggets to a playoff spot.
On the other side, Robinson has produced similar numbers while playing for the Nuggets. He is posting a career-low 5.8 points and 2.3 assists in 14.1 minutes per game. His nERD score is -2.7.
As for our nF efficiency metric, which indicates point differential for a player if he were in the starting lineup for a team, Nelson is also better -- but not by much. Nelson's nF efficiency score is -2.0. Robinson's is -2.2.
While many of their numbers are relatively similar, one significant difference exists -- Real Plus-Minus, which is a metric used to estimate how many points a specific player adds or subtracts from his team while on the court. Nelson's RPM is -1.47, meaning his team gets outscored by an average of 1.47 points while he is on the court. Robinson's is significantly worse at -4.66. In close games, this can prove to be the difference between winning and losing.
After analyzing the numbers, this seems to be a small trade that has low impact as both players are averaging career-lows in field-goal percentage, Nelson with 34.3% and Robinson with 34.8%.
The trade can become interesting if reports involving a Robinson buyout are correct. The Celtics would use this to ensure cap space for next year as part of the rebuilding process. This would enable Robinson to move to a contender in time for the playoffs.
If a playoff contender is interested in signing Robinson, it'll be in hopes that his 2012-13 version returns. That year, Robinson enjoyed his best season with the Bulls as he averaged 16.3 points and 4.4 assists per game while filling in for Derrick Rose during the Bulls' playoff run. This trade might have implications on the playoffs for a yet-to-be-determined team, but as for the Celtics and Nuggets, it doesn't appear to matter much for the playoff push this year, as both players are playing below replacement level.
Teams Who May be Interested in Robinson
So, after examining his (underwhelming) statistics, who would be interested in Nate Robinson? According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the Cavaliers and the Clippers could want his services. Both of those teams, of course, have established point guards, so Robinson would not be asked to do too much as Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul would continue to be the key ballhandlers.
However, when we look at the back-up options for both the Cavs and Clippers, we see Robinson can come in and have a prominent role on a team who needs depth for the playoffs.
Currently, the Cavs' back-up options are -- while J.R. Smith starts and Iman Shumpert misses time with his shoulder injury -- Matthew Dellavedova and Joe Harris. Dellavedova is averaging 22.4 minutes per and 4.5 points 3.2 assists while shooting 32.2% from the field while Harris is averaging 11.8 minutes and 3.0 points on 39.5% shooting. Harris' nF efficiency rating is -2.2, same as Robinson's, and Dellavedova's is -2.7.
Robinson's numbers, although career-lows are still better than these two options for the Cavs.
Although the Clippers' back-up, Jordan Farmar, is more experienced than the Cavs' options, acquiring Robinson can still make sense for Los Angeles, who has a great shooting guard combination. When comparing numbers, Farmar, whose nERD is -2.2 and nF efficiency is -1.6, has actually been similar to Robinson in terms of on-court numbers as he is averaging 4.6 points on 38.6% shooting and averaging 14.7 minutes per game. However, if an injury occurs, the Clippers would like to have some insurance at the back court and that can come by acquiring Robinson.