Revisiting Orlando’s trade for Gilbert Arenas

Often times with trades, you need to let a bit of clear blue water emerge between the transaction date and a date of serious analysis.  Immediately after a trade, teams will be energized and/or confused by their new circumstances and will perform differently in that short interim than they perform after the change becomes “normalized”.

Its been two months and a few days since the Orlando Magic tried to remake their team by trading the productive SG Vince Carter and the very productive backup C Marcin Gortat, along with Mickael Pietrus and F Rashard Lewis, in a three way deal that sent the first three to the Phoenix Suns and Lewis to the Washington Wizards in exchange for PG Gilbert Arenas, SG Jason Richardson, and F Hedu Turkoglu. 

At the time of the deal I thought Orlando had made an awful move.  I reasoned then that Carter and Gortat were productive players for the Magic, whereas Arenas has been awful for three seasons, Turkoglu showed signs that he was fading, and Richardson, while good, was simply a lesser version of Carter.

Here is how Marginal Win Score “scores” the trade so far.  Remember, Marginal Win Score attributes wins and losses to players according to the “margin” between the production of the player and the average production of the opponent players playing the same position at the same time.  The last column is the player’s “Wins Above 0.500%” which is essentially the amount of “winning team” wins you can attribute to the player.

Orlando/Phoenix/Washington Trade (two months on)

  WS oppWS MWS W% W__L W>0.5%
Turkoglu 7.79 9.05 -0.63 0.395 1.8__2.7 -0.4
Richardson 6.74 6.42 0.16 0.529 2.4__2.1 0.1
Arenas 1.62 4.72 -1.55 0.239 0.6__2.2 -0.8
Clark 7.25 9.53 -1.14 0.309 0.3__0.6 -0.1
        0.368 5.1__7.6 -1.2
Carter 6.88 8.92 -1.02 0.329 1.0__2.1 -0.6
Gortat 16.69 11.93 2.38 0.906 3.2__0.3 1.4
Pietrus 4.38 5.56 -0.59 0.402 0.7__1.1 -0.2
        0.545 4.9__3.5 0.7
Rlewis 9.49 9.72 -0.11 0.483 1.8__2.0 -0.1
        0.483 1.8__2.0 -0.1

Orlando better, not because of the trade

The Orlando Magic have been a slightly better team since the trade.  I don’t believe it has anything to do with the three players they received from Phoenix.   It is mainly attributable to the play of Dwight Howard, along with the increased minutes for Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass.  Howard has increased his scoring efficiency by an incredible 12 percentage points, and the combination of Anderson and Bass at the power forward is a much more productive option than the underperforming Rashard Lewis.

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, have only gotten a bit better since the trade.  Vince Carter has forgotten how to play defense (his opponent FG% allowed has skyrocketed) and he might have nothing left offensively. 

On the other hand, Gortat has been a very productive player with one caveat.  Gortat, I believe, is one of those players whose rebounding numbers may be inflated as a result of grabbing an inordinate share of defensive rebounds.  I write that only because he is a very weak offensive rebounder, especially for a big man who has absolutely no perimeter game.  That is the tell-tale sign of a freebie hog.  But, I have to slightly hedge that observation because Gortat has made a substantial impact on the overall team defensive rebounding percentage, a very valuable contribution.  Any way you cut it though, he has been a very productive addition to the Suns. 

Mickael Pietrus is what he is — an above average defender and a below average statistical producer.

Orlando’s end

As you can see, Gilbert Arenas, whom so many analysts cited as the “key” to the trade for Orlando, has been an unmitigated disaster, both on and off the floor.  He’s just a weird guy, and now he’s a weird guy with very little productive capacity.

Hedu Turkoglu is playing better than he played in Phoenix, but he is still below average.  Perhaps, though, his playmaking has had something to do with Howard’s improved shooting.  But I can’t say that for sure.

Finally, Jason Richardson has been a good player.  But he has not been as productive in Orlando as Vince Carter had been, so the impact of his “good” play has been muted.

Earl Clark is a waste of time.


The addition of Rashard Lewis has really done nothing for Washington’s fortunes.  But at least he is playing better there than he had played for the Magic.  He is basically playing at the “3 year average” I provided in my original analysis of this deal.  His 3 year average was a Marginal Win Score of (-0.13).  With the Wizards he has posted an MWS of (-0.11).  That is a substantial improvement over the (-2.11) he had been posting for the Magic.  But still, given his ludicrous contract, he has to be one of the biggest rip-offs in the history of sports.

Oh wait, I forgot about Gilbert Arenas!


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