Bill Simmons wrote extensively about the NBA trading deadline in his weekly column. In his most recent podcast, Simmons gives further impression on the trades, this time with the emphasis on what it means for the immediate prospects of both the Celtics and the Thunder.
You can listen to the entire podcast here. Simmons also goes into other various trades that impacted the NBA landscape, so be sure to give it a listen.
Below I have excerpted the passages that speak specifically to the players the Thunder gave up and to the players the Thunder acquired.
The Celtic perspective:
The key to this [Jeff Green] trade is that we have no idea how good Jeff Green is [for the Celtics], because he's been playing out of position just about his entire career. And you just forget this.
Let's say Wilson Chandler is playing power forward for the Knicks for the last two years. There are enough Knick fans and writers who would have made that point repeatedly, Wilson Chandler is actually a small forward. He's been playing out of position, you gotta hand it to that guy. That guy has sacrificed his stats and his game to play a position that we needed because we didn't have anybody else.
But Jeff Green, who does he have to make that case? He's got the guy from the Daily Thunder blog, and the Oklahoman beat reporter. Nobody knew that Jeff Green was doing that.
I wrote that he was an elite defender for small forwards in the column. I got some feedback saying that he's actually a terrible defender, but, he was a terrible defender when he was defending power forwards. You don't want him guarding Zach Randolph! But I think against LeBron, Carmelo, maybe even Dirk, guys [who are] bigger small forwards that can score, the thing you have to remember with the Celtics team, even yesterday last night against Denver, Pierce got two fouls in the first six minutes. They had nobody else.
So, you're going into a playoff series and I think Danny [Ainge] just looked at this and was like, "I'd rather fill this hole than the hole I had at center because maybe I can patch together a center with Shaq, with Troy Murphy, with Jermaine O'Neal, with...KG plays a lot of center now anyway…
The real fundamental reason the trade was made was because they couldn't play Rondo and Perkins together at the ends of games. That's it. And they weren't. Perkins didn't play crunch time this whole season. It was something that was happening last year too. This was the fundamental flaw with this team, was that they were three on five in the last five minutes against good teams. You saw it the other night with the Lakers. When they played that second game in Boston, once the game slows down, teams know it's just Pierce, Allen, and Ray (sic) that are gonna shoot. Rondo's not gonna shoot. You need that fourth guy.
So now, they can go a little small with Green if they want, they can play Baby.
I think [Green] can play the four against smaller teams. Against the Lakers, you couldn't do it. But against Miami, I think you could do it.
You're losing someone the fans loved. This is a really, really tough trade. I was shocked, and I wrote this in the column, but my dad said he would have rather lost the 2011 title with Perkins than try and win it without him. That's how much the guy meant. He was one of the guys, you know? From that standpoint it was tough. And you could see it last night, I mean if there was ever a great game to lay a bet it was Denver laying however many points they had to lay last night…the Celtics were shell-shocked and pissed off.
The Thunder Perspective:
Can [Oklahoma City] beat the Lakers with what they have?
Now we know that they can throw four big guys at the Lakers' two big guys. They have 24 fouls to play with: Perkins, Ibaka, Collison, and Nazr Mohammed. That's 24 fouls to bang on Bynum and Gasol with. Now you can move Durant to the three entirely. He never has to play the four. I guess you could do it if you wanted to go small with them. And I guess crunch time you go: Ibaka, Perkins, Durant, James Harden and Westbrook.
Guess what OKC's title odds are right now…20-1. Daddy might have to put some coinage…those OKC odds are way too high. They should be 7-1 or 8-1. They could be anybody in the West now. I don't know if they will, but they could. Perkins is exactly what they needed. Not only did they need a center who could guard other teams' big dudes, but he's tough. That team wasn't tough enough. You could push that team around. You could knock guys down.
The other thing with them is, you can play Perkins with them in crunch time because you have four other guys who can score. Although I must admit Ibaka isn't really a scorer…let me rephrase - they have three guys who can score, but one of those guys is Kevin Durant.
Maybe that's the key for OKC. If they can figure out a way to play Ibaka and Perkins at the same time and play three on five offensively…[Although] you could argue that you bump Ibaka completely and move Durant at the four, you play Harden at the three and Sefolosha at the two for defense…you could do it against smaller teams.
I'm excited to root for them now. It's weird that my team made a trade that involved my League Pass team, the OKC Zombies, and the team I have season tickets for, the LA Clippers. It's all my worlds colliding.
- Simmons is right to point out that Green had been playing out of position for the Thunder ever since Kevin Durant had arrived. The team didn't have anybody else to fill the role, so they gave it to Green. Now, with Serge Ibaka coming on as of late, they finally do have that power forward that they had always wanted to fill that spot, but that of course means that the team no longer had as big a role for Green. He simply got squeezed out of the situation. I still think he could have played a valuable role in leading the second unit, and perhaps that is what Green will do in Boston. The way the Thunder are structured now though, they simply could not maximize Green's talents.
- It is unfortunate that most of the discussion has revolved around Green's shortcomings; much less has gotten written about his offensive talent. And Green is talented; he can play a huge role in floor spacing and creating mis-matches around the rim. Just don't match him up against Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer. As long as Green is protected defensively, his real talent should be able to shine through.
- Simmons crunch time line-up is probably the correct one, and what happens is that Durant protects Perkins' offensive ineptness, and Perkins will protect Durant's shaky defense.
- Ibaka isn't a scorer in the normal sense, but he isn't incompetent either. We've been watching him stroke that 15 footer with regularity for four months now. He does need to improve his hands when receiving passes though; I think Serge probably loses four points per game simply because he can't handle the pass.
- Simmons also has commented that this type of situation (addition by subtraction) will finally allow the Thunder to see what they have with Harden. What we've seen in the past couple games should make everyone happy. When Harden is engaged in the game, he is an all-around force. He can drive hard to the rim (though his finishing is still suspect), he can pass the ball, he runs great pick and rolls, and he is proving to be a solid defender. James' problem isn't that he's a floater, it's that he is a teammate who is willing to defer too often. With Green gone now, the hierarchy has lost a layer. Now, the offense will be all about Durant, Westbrook, and Harden.
- One last point that I did not excerpt above - one of the things that has plagued the Thunder is the inability to get rebounds in the final moments of the game. It knocked them out of the playoffs last year, it cost them the game against the Heat, and enabled the Warriors to rack up a win a few weeks ago. I don't think there's anything more demoralizing for a team than to commit to playing 24 seconds of hard defense, get the stop, and then have the opposing team secure the offensive rebound. It's kind of like giving up a 3rd and long in football; defensive effort evaporates into thin air. Let's hope that these trades remove the sting of such shortcomings.