Would Corey Maggette help?
Posted by disappointmentzone on 17 January 2007
Reports have surfaced that the LA Clippers are actively seeking a trade for G/F Corey Maggette. As of Monday one columnist thinks that the Spurs, who were considered to be one of the few teams interested in Maggette, are likely out of the running to acquire the former Duke player since other teams — such as Golden State — are in better positions to offer the Clippers more. One report speculates that Cleveland is interested in Maggette and might be one of the few teams engaged in talks with the Clippers’ front office.
I cannot speak to the validity of any of these reports. The former doesn’t mention the Cavs and the later suggests that a package of Wesley, Pavlovic, and a future first-round draft pick could be enough to win over the Clippers (the article says the LAC is seeking a veteran, a young star, and a first round pick). As any of you who’ve either watched a few Cavs games this season or read this blog know, Wesley and Pavlovic are not very enticing trade prospects. Wesley hasn’t played much; when he has he’s been unproductive; and that he hasn’t played much given the utter lack of productivity from the back court is a glaring signal of his ability to contribute meaningful minutes in the NBA. Pavlovic is stuck behind LBJ, which for the moment might be a good thing because the Cavs could always spin Pavlovic as an “unproven talent with a high upside” instead of something more closely related to what he’s done as a Cavalier, which would probably read “disinterested player with a knack for being on the wrong end of highlight films” (visions of a Wade-to-Shaq by way of a behind-Sasha’s back-dribble dance in one’s head). Also, the Cavs don’t have a first round draft pick for the 2007 draft, which is a major problem for this deal because future first round draft picks are not as sought after given that a) the 2007 draft class is rich in talent and b) the Cavs are a really good team that should keep improving. Undermining the report about the Cavs acquiring Maggette, then, is the idiotic package the report cites as the sort of package that would allow the Cavs to land Maggette.
No matter. It’s fun to speculate. Let’s do so now.
Suppose the Cavs could acquire Maggette without giving up any of the starters. Would such a move help the team?
Maggette has been an above-average G/F for most of his time in the NBA; in each of the last four seasons (2004-2007) Maggette has been above-average, his below-average seasons coming in 2000, 2002-3. For his career Maggette has a Win Score per minute average of .166. This season Maggette’s Win Score per minute is .180 (average for a shooting guard is .125; for a small forward, .152) and a WP48 of .135 (average is .100), so Maggette has clearly been a productive player this season.
A weakness of his on offense is inefficient shooting — his career average of .95 points per shot is slightly below league average, mostly attributable to his unjustifiable propensity for attempting three pointers (31% career shooter from downtown) — but he makes up for his shooting from the field with excellent shooting from the line — he’s a career 82% FT shooter who routinely averages more than 10 FTA per 48 minutes. This season he’s averaging a staggering 13.1 FTA per 48 minutes. Although he’s averaging only 15.6 points per game this season, he’s averaged as many as 22 ppg in the past. So he can score.
The Cavs do not need help in the front court. Again, for anyone who’s followed this blog or the team this much should be clear. LBJ will forever be holding down the 3-spot. Gooden/Marshall/Varejao/Ilgauskas hold down the 4-5 spots. The front court is beyond solid.
The problem with the Cavs is that the team does not have a back court. I mean, there are players — Snow, Jones, Hughes, Gibson — who are put on the court with the express purpose of playing, say, shooting guard. But there is a gap between “playing shooting guard” and “playing shooting guard well”; a gap that has yet to be covered with anything approaching regularity by any of these players. As the season wears on the chasm between “play” and “play well” is bound to expand, what with Eric Snow aging like Robin Williams in Jack and the compound buildup of bumps and bruises on the fragile body of Larry Hughes posing an increasingly greater threat of missed games due to injury.
The point being that Corey Maggette would best be used — and this is the only way the trade would would make sense — as a shooting guard. An added benefit is that Maggette is big enough to spell LBJ. But any notion of Maggette as a 3 while LBJ plays the 4 and someone else (Varejao or Ilgauskas most likely) plays the 5 is questionable at best. No, Maggette would only function as a shooting guard, which means that the odd man out is Larry Hughes, presuming Hughes is still unwilling to play PG.
Corey Maggette is a better player than Larry Hughes, so if adding Corey Maggette means less Larry Hughes then it is reasonable to think that Maggette would help the Cavs.
But then what becomes of Larry Hughes? The only way Hughes will have any trade value is if he plays. Of course, if he plays he has a greater risk of injury and injured players usually don’t have much trade value. Such is the conundrum of Larry Hughes. Maggette could also become a free agent after the season (he has a player option for ’08; this is a reason why trading Gooden for Maggette would be a very dumb move), and if the Cavs are unable to trade Hughes during this season then signing Maggette would be next to impossible and also a really bad basketball move — you just don’t employ two highly-paid shooting guards on one team. If the Cavs trade for Maggette they must think they’d be able to move Hughes. “Leasing” Maggette for a season — paying him this season and then hoping he walks — would undermine any faith Hughes would feel the team has in him. If his ego is as delicate as his body, this spells disaster. So Hughes would have to go. But who would take Hughes’s big contract? Even Isiah Thomas isn’t that bad of a GM and Danny Ferry has yet to show that he possesses the sort of ability of finesse the string of deals necessary to both bring Maggette in and ship Hughes out. But this is exactly the sort of thing that would need to happen.
The chain of cause and effect with a trade such as this is more complex and requires more time than I’m willing to give it. Suffice it to say that: a) Maggette is a better guard than any other guard on the roster, so employing Maggette would improve the team, but b) to employ Maggette would require the sort of basketball management moves the Cavs are not in a position to make, so c) I do not think Maggette will be a Cav this season.