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Winner of big trade? Numbers suggest Cavs come out on top

POSTED: Jan 7, 2015 6:34 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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GameTime: Three-team Trade

Dennis and Brent discuss the three-team trade involving the Cavaliers, Knicks and Thunder.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder apparently broke twitter Monday night by including J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters in the same trade.

Here are the details of the deal...

Cleveland received: Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, OKC's (protected) first round pick this year

New York received: Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, Lance Thomas and Cleveland's second-round pick in 2019

Oklahoma City received: Dion Waiters

The pick

The Starters: Analyzing The Deal

The Starters discuss the three-team deal between the Thunder, Cavs and Knicks. Who won? Who lost? Who messed up?

The Thunder pick sent to Cleveland is protected 1-18 in 2015 and 1-15 in both 2016 and 2017. If the Cavs don't get it by 2017, they would get OKC's second-round picks in 2018 and 2019.

The 1-18 protection is interesting, because if the Thunder finish eighth in the Western Conference, they would likely get the 18th pick (with seven West teams and five East teams finishing ahead of them in the standings). If they finish higher than eighth in the West, then the pick is lower in the Draft and probably goes to the Cavs this year.

If Cleveland doesn't get the pick this year, they'll likely get it next year, unless the Thunder are dealing with more injuries to their stars, and we don't want to think about that.

The Knicks

For the Knicks, the trade is all about money. The three guys they got all have non-guaranteed contracts, so they could waive them (by Saturday), shed their salaries completely, and save a lot on luxury tax. New York also waived Samuel Dalembert to save $2 million of his $3.8 million salary (and even more luxury tax).

By trading Smith, they created an additional $6.4 million of cap space next summer, assuming he would have exercised his player option for 2015-16. Shumpert would have been a restricted free agent at the end of this year. The two trade exceptions that the Knicks got with the deal give them some added flexibility.

GameTime: Aldridge On Carmelo

David Aldridge gives his take on whether Carmelo Anthony should sit and nurse his injuries, amidst a dismal Knicks season.

Getting no rotation players in return for two, the Knicks have officially punted on the 2014-15 season. Appropriately, they fell behind the Sixers in the standings on the same night that they made this trade. And it wouldn't be surprising if Carmelo Anthony's season is over.

But here's the question: If the Knicks' are bottoming out, why did they just sign a 30 year old to a five-year, $124 million contract? And if they're embracing the idea of having a top-five pick, which timeline becomes the priority, the timeline of a 31-year-old star or the timeline of a 19-year-old future star?

New York can hope for some free agency fortune next summer, but they don't exactly look like a desirable destination, especially with Anthony facing knee surgery. You could say that getting Smith off the books is a plus and that you have to take a step back to take two steps forward, but we don't know what those next two steps are.

The Thunder

OKC is taking the biggest risk in this trade. They gave up a first round pick for a guy who could hurt them as much as he helps them. Waiters had his nights, but has yet to show that he can contribute consistently on either end of the floor.

When LeBron James decided to come back home, there was promise for Waiters as an off-the-ball shooter. According to SportVU, he shot much better on catch-and-shoot jumpers than on pull-up jumpers last season. And the best offensive complement for star players who handle the ball a lot are guys who can shoot off the pass.

But Waiters has regressed a lot on catch-and-shoot opportunities this season...

Dion Waiters catch-and-shoot jumpers
Season FGM FGA FG% eFG%
2013-14
99 235 42.1% 57.4%
2014-15
22 81 27.2% 37.7%
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
via SportVU

Waiters has a slightly better field goal percentage on pull-up jumpers (34.3 percent), but because more of those have been 2-point shots, his effective field goal percentage has been lower (36.1 percent). And because he doesn't get to the free-throw line much, Waiters ranks 182nd in true shooting percentage among 192 players who have attempted at least 200 shots this season.

True shooting percentage = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44 * FTA)))

So the Thunder have to hope that a change of scenery will help Waiters find his form. But it's clear that he's had a tough time adjusting to playing with two stars that handle the ball a lot, and he'll be doing the same thing in Oklahoma City. In fact, Russell Westbrook (39.5 percent) and Kevin Durant (31.5 percent) both have higher usage rates than James (30.9 percent) and Kyrie Irving (24.5 percent).

The Cavs have staggered James' and Irving's minutes, so that at least one of their two primary ball-handlers is almost always on the floor. In the 26 games that James, Irving and Waiters all played, Waiters was on the floor for just 63 minutes (2.4 per game) without either James or Irving. That's not much time for him to shine.

The Thunder have never staggered Durant's and Westbrook's minutes much. So Waiters might have more time to himself in Oklahoma City, though Reggie Jackson will probably have something to say about that.

Speaking of Jackson, the Waiters trade might be OKC preparing for the departure of their back-up point guard, who will be a restricted free agent next summer.

The Cavs

Smith's $6.4 million player option for next season isn't that much more than the Cavs would have paid Waiters ($5.1 million) in the fourth year of his rookie contract. Even when you take the rookie contract of the draft pick they acquired from Oklahoma City into account, Cleveland didn't take on much future salary in this deal. So, unless Smith decides to start untying shoelaces again, there really isn't much downside.

Trading Waiters was addition by subtraction for the Cavs, especially when you consider his regression on catch-and-shoot jumpers. Both Smith (37.3 percent FG%, 51.2 percent eFG%) and Shumpert (40.5 percent, 52.4 percent) have been better on catch-and-shoot opportunities than Waiters.

The Beat: Hanging on Without LeBron

The guys discuss the drama surrounding the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers.

But even in the Triangle offense, Smith has increased the percentage of his jumpers that have been off the dribble, from 51 percent last season to 58 percent this year. You would think that number would go down with Cleveland with Smith playing off of James and Irving, but Waiters was at 57 percent.

Though both guys the Cavs are getting have lower usage rates than Waiters, they both have higher assist rates. Shumpert and Smith have assisted on 22 and 21 percent of their possessions respectively, while Waiters has assisted on only 15 percent of his. And that's with Cleveland having a higher assist rate than New York.

Of course, Cleveland needs more help on defense than offense. The Cavs ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency through Monday, having allowed 105.4 points per 100 possessions.

Opponents have shot 47.7 percent overall and 38.3 percent from 15 feet and out with Waiters defending them. On a Knicks team that has been worse defensively than the Cavs, both Shumpert (45.0 percent, 36.2 percent) and Smith (42.7 percent, 32.3 percent) have better shot-contesting numbers. Both have been much better defensive rebounders than Waiters as well.

But the Cavs' biggest defensive issue is rim protection. Only the Timberwolves and Kings have allowed their opponents to shoot a higher percentage in the restricted area. If Shumpert and Smith can stay in front of their man better than Waiters did, that will help. But the primary problem remains.

While the Cavs got the best of this three-team trade, they're still far from looking like a championship contender, or even a top three team in the Eastern Conference.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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