Pierce/KG Wouldn't Make Brooklyn a Top Team
One of the favorite parts of the NBA offseason for me is the trade rumors. Those aren't just Draft Day trades (although tonight is going to be one of the highlights of my summer... no, I'm not that sad of a human being), but all of the rumors surrounding teams buying and selling. So when I saw this, I had to run around my apartment few times half-screaming, "Wow!"
Y! Sources: Brooklyn, Boston discussing Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce blockbuster deal. http://t.co/5AcKbFUcIXâ€” Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 27, 2013
Don't lie: a starting five of Deron "Coach killer" Williams, Paul "There are places outside of Boston?" Pierce, Joe "Yes I get paid that much" Johnson, Kevin "Possibly legitimately insane" Pierce, and Brook "What's rebounding?" Lopez with Jason Kidd at head coach may be the most entertaining starting five of all-time. And I say that with zero hint of irony and not forgetting what's happening down in south Florida.
But as entertaining as that starting five would be, would it be efficient? Unfortunately for the Brooklyn faithful, the answer is not completely. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would help the Nets somewhat, but they wouldn't change anything in the power of balance in the Eastern Conference.
Brooklyn Nets: +3.78 Wins
Here's a dirty little secret: Pierce and Garnett were good, but they weren't great last season. In fact, both of their relative efficiencies have been on the downturn over the past couple of seasons.
Our favorite metric for determining a player's efficiency in a given season is his nERD score. For basketball, this is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a team would be with that player as a starter alongside a league-average team. For example, LeBron had a ridiculous 27.3 nERD this past season, meaning that if the Heat started LeBron and four average players, they would still be expected to go 55-27. Norris Cole, meanwhile, would lead an average team to a 39-43 record with his inefficient play thanks to his -5.3 nERD.
2012 and 2011 Paul Pierce had a lot in common: both had decent offensive ratings around 108, both had great defensive ratings around 102, and both finished with an nERD score at 6.7. However, 2013 Pierce started to slip a bit. His rebounding percentage increased by 2.2 percent over the previous season, but his blocks, steals, and usage rate all decreased while his defensive rating went up three points (0.03 more points allowed per possession). He finished with an nERD score at 4.1, 39th-most efficient among NBA players.
The KG steep decline was even worse. After posting an exceptional 8.9 nERD score in 2012 thanks to a NBA-best 94 defensive rating, KG saw his true rebound rate, assist rate, and offensive rating all slightly slip, while his previously league-best defensive rating rose all the way to 99. While Boston's team defense is slightly to blame, going from the best DRtg in the NBA in '11-12 to seventh in '12-13, so is Garnett's .511 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) allowed to opposing centers per 82games.com. His final nERD score was just 3.1, behind even Chris Wilcox on the Celtics.
Even if Pierce and Garnett maintain last season's overall efficiencies - which, remember, is not a guarantee given their age - they still aren't the players they once were. Sure, replacing Reggie Evans' 0.7 nERD and Gerald Wallace's -1.8 nERD in the starting lineup is helpful, but with 3.8 more projected wins given last year's schedule, Brooklyn still is not quite to the Knicks and Pacers of the world, let alone the Heat.
Boston Celtics: -3.78 Wins
It makes sense that Boston wouldn't be pained too much by letting KG and Pierce go given the efficiency problems I wrote about above. In fact, if tanking and going the Oklahoma City rebuilding route is truly their plan, I would argue that moving Pierce and Garnett wouldn't do enough to ensure that Boston won't make the playoffs next season.
They still have Chris Wilcox to replace KG; as I said earlier, Wilcox actually was more efficient than the superstar last season with a 3.3 nERD score. They also have Jared Sullinger up front who posted a surprisingly solid 1.8 nERD (and performed miles better than some more highly-touted rookies. We saw what Jeff Green could do down the stretch, and while he obviously won't replace Paul Pierce's full efficiency, his 0.3 nERD means he's better than replacement level. And also don't forget about that Rondo guy returning.
I've read a few people bemoaning Gerald Wallace's cap hit, and with his -1.8 nERD score, I'm not going to argue. But remember, Boston does still hold amnesty, and they would be a more efficient team overall in using it to get rid of the Wallace dead weight. Humphries and Shengaila's roles would also be negligible on the new team, given that neither one was above or below +/-1 nERD all last season.