Mike Dunleavy is definitely no longer a Pacer; Andray Blatche is barely a Wizard; But, I still love this pic… Andray kicking it with Tyler Hansbrough’s chin.
[photo: K. Weidie, Truth About It.net]
The trade deadline came and went one week ago today, and even though they didn’t land Dwight Howard, the Wizards and the Pacers made moves to get better — and those moves coincidentally involved two members of the Brazilian National Team. Pacers team president Larry Bird said the addition of Leandro Barbosa, “added depth and scoring off the bench and will help us as we make our run to the playoffs,” while Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld said Nene is a “versatile player who will bring experience and a physical presence to our frontcourt … a strong rebounder, tough defender and a fierce competitor.” Barbosa had 12 points in 18 minutes in his first game as an Indiana Pacer on Tuesday night, while Nene scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in just 31 minutes in his first game as a Wizard last night. The two Brazilians will go head-to-head (presumably not against each other) tonight at the Verizon Center, but before they do Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh) from the SB Nation Pacers blog Indy Cornrows, Jared Wade (@jared_wade) from the ESPN True Hoop Blog Eight points, Nine seconds, and yours truly, TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@rashad20), will give three answers to three questions…
#1) Frank Vogel has altered his rotation so that Darren Collison starts at PG, George Hill is the backup PG, newly acquired Leandro Barbosa is the backup shooting guard, and AJ Price has the relatively insignificant title of third PG. If you were the head coach, how would you alter the lineup, given the embarrassment of riches at the guard position? And does Barbosa’s arrival make this team better?
IAN LEVY: I wrote a 1,900 word post Wednesday afternoon arguing that Barbosa was superfluous, and that there was no way Hill should be moved to point guard full-time. Two hours later the Pacers went out and thrashed the Clippers. Leading the charge were George Hill and Leandro Barbosa. I was thrilled to be wrong, and in the short-term it looks like Barbosa has filled a hole and jump started the offense.
JARED WADE: Leandro dropped 9 points in his first 9 minutes as a Pacer. Between that and moving Hill to the backup point, the second unit looked better than it has in, I dunno, a month or so as the team beat down the Clippers on Tuesday. Because I’m not into self-mutilation, I honestly haven’t seen a ton of Raptors games so I was unsure how much of Barbosa’s speed and quickness remained. But he looked like his old Phoenix self the other night. If he can continue to provide a scoring punch off the bench, he will make this team much more dynamic. His ability to create for himself is something this team sorely lacks. It will free up space for Hill to continue his often-torrid scoring streaks and for Tyler Hansbrough to regain his ability to contribute — something that we really haven’t seen much of this season.
RASHAD MOBLEY: The depth of the Chicago Bulls, in the absence of Derrick Rose, has caused many NBA experts to give them a slight edge in the East over the Miami Heat. Bench players like John Lucas III, Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson have all demonstrated that they can hold their own, and more. So even though Barbosa and Hill may out-play starters Darren Collison and Paul George on any given night, the boost they give the Pacers off the bench could easily be the difference in the playoff. Frank Vogel is absolutely making the right move, and assuming Barbosa has muscle memory from his days in Phoenix, Indiana will be better.
#2) David West is 6-foot-9, 240 lbs and Trevor Booker is 6-foot-7 and also 240 lbs. West has been a 15-20 points per game scorer for the majority of his career (mostly in New Orleans), but in this his inaugural year in Indiana, he’s just averaging 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds. Booker is averaging 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, but since the All-Star break those numbers have increased a bit to 13.3 points and 8.5 rebounds. He’s also been a physical presence on the defensive end of the floor, despite being undersized against the likes of Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Josh Smith and Pau Gasol, to name of few. Who gets the upper hand in this West/Booker matchup, and which player is better right now?
LEVY: West is not the same player he was in New Orleans and has been trying to settle into a niche as the Pacers’ rubber cement, holding things together with grit and veteran savvy. He’s still got more to offer in this pairing, but he can absolutely be exploited by an athletic, physical player like Booker.
WADE: I mean, it has to be David West. You could certainly argue that Booker is playing better right now, but I don’t think you can argue he is a better player. Sure, West is 4-for-14 (28.6%) over his last three games — a number as troubling for its low FGA total as the percentage — and he is only shooting 75-for-174 (42.9%) over his last 17 outings. But mixed in there are some excellent nights (8-for-12 with 18 points in a recent win over Philly, 10-for-13 with 24 points in a loss to Atlanta). Moreover, he is rebounding over his career averages per 36 minutes (and in terms of rebound rate), while being a key facilitator for the team’s “ball movement is the key to victory” philosophy while taking fewer shots than ever. And whenever the team really needs a bucket down the stretch, the play is usually a pick-and-roll involving West, which can get a bucket for him, the ball-handler or a shooter on the weak side. Numbers are cool and all, but they’re just that. West makes few mistakes and his presence alone on the court makes this team better, even when he isn’t filling up a box score.
MOBLEY: I give the slight edge to David West. The Wizards can count on Trevor Booker to give 100-percent effort every game, which means at some point in the game, he’ll block a shot, he’ll get a steal, he’ll use his physicality to force his man out of position, or he’ll get an amazing follow-up dunk. But Booker’s youth will still lead him to be out of position on defense, or unsure of his jumper and/or post moves on offense. West is dealing with the customary post-surgery hangover, so it is difficult to know whether age has caught up to him, or he’s just having a down year. But he can be counted on to make the correct play out of the pick-and-roll, which empowers Frank Vogel to consistently run the offense through him — Booker isn’t there yet. Booker will have the better numbers, but West’s performance will lead the Pacers to victory.
#3) In his weekly column, David Aldridge indicated that the Wizards balked on a trade that would have brought Chris Kaman to D.C. (and sent JaVale McGee to New Orleans), because they preferred Nene. Would you have done that trade? And as a bonus, rank Kaman, McGee, Nene and Pacers center Roy Hibbert from best to worst.
LEVY: I probably would have preferred Kaman’s summer cap relief to Nene’s superior production in the present, but it’s a tough call. Like a lot of people, I was surprised the Wizards brought in Nene, particularly because of the length and size of his deal. Of the four centers I think Hibbert, Nene, McGee and Kaman would be my order of importance.
WADE: I know Nene was way down from an efficiency standpoint, despite having a career-high usage in Denver. Maybe that was problem? Regardless, he wasn’t performing as you would expect from his career norms, nor as you would hope if you were the one who backed up that Brinks truck of guaranteed money to his bank vault. I doubt we see any major production uptick this season despite the change of scenery, but I think it was a fine move for Washington. It was a good move to grab an asset that was devalued in the short-term in exchange for a guy who, in my eyes, is about to be way overpaid in JaVale McGee. As far as ranking these dudes, I’m going to go with: Nene, Hibbert, McGee, Kaman. Although, this is more the full career of Nene being better than Roy’s; I’m not sure he is right now. Roy has definitely been the best of these centers this season.
MOBLEY: As Jeremy Wagner indicated in his scouting report on TAI, Nene is a quick center with a wide array of post moves, but physicality and rebounding aren’t his strong points. Chris Kaman is also an adept scorer, he’s more willing to be physical, and if I’m the Wizards front office, a front line that included Trevor Booker and Kaman has much more attitude, than one including Nene. Both players have a history of injuries, so why not go with Kaman, since his contract is more favorable? My ranking would be Hibbert first, because he seems to improve every year; then McGee, because I’m a sucker for immature, talented players; Kaman, because he does everything that Nene does, and he blocks shots; and then Nene.