With the trade deadline just a week away, we’re officially in the calm before the storm.
Things are quiet at the moment, which isn’t surprising since NBA GMs procrastinate as much as university students who should be finishing assignments instead of blogging (not speaking from experience, of course).
Regardless, we all know that a frenzy will pick up as we get closer to 3 pm Eastern on February 9th, so it’s time to discuss a few of the biggest names who might be available.
The perfect complimentary player, OG has been mentioned in trades for months now, and it seems like the Raptors are looking for multiple first-round picks back in any potential deal.
Is he worth that?
If I’m a contender who truly thinks that my team is one piece away, then the answer is an emphatic yes. OG is arguably the best wing defender in the league and has shot 37% from three for his career while also being able to score in the mid-teens on league-average efficiency. To label him as a simple 3&D role player would be a disservice.
This season, opposing players are shooting -3.7% worse than their usual average with OG as the closest defender, which is the 16th-best mark in the league among players who contest 10 or more shots per game (most players ahead of him are bigs too). His 1.2% block percentage and 2.5% steals percentage are also in the 96th and 97th percentile among all wings, respectively, with the steals being particularly important: Toronto has consistently run more in transition with OG on the floor, indicating that his steals help generate offense too.
His individual offense, though, is still quite limited. The Raptors have provided OG with opportunities to self-create, which has largely been a failed experiment. Last season, Toronto ran two isolation possessions for him per game and he averaged an abysmal 0.61 points (11th percentile) on those plays. It isn’t surprising to see that he’s only isolating once a game this year while scoring at a nearly identical rate.
With that said, OG’s 1.126 points per shot attempt is actually in the 49th percentile among all wings, which is largely due to him making 39.2% of his catch-and-shoot threes on 4.5 attempts per game. So, if he’s dealt to a contender with a much better offensive environment, it’s easy to imagine OG becoming more efficient while still being one of the best lockdown wings in the league (see Gordon, Aaron).
Who knows? Maybe he’ll end up being the final piece for a championship team.
Best landing spots: Denver, Memphis.
Another Raptor, FVV had a porous start to the year but has begun to look like his All-Star self recently: in January, he averaged 20.6 points, 7.3 assists, and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 36.1% from three.
The biggest criticism of FVV usually centers around his lacklustre efficiency, which makes sense since he’s a career 40% shooter from the field and 43% from two. However, he’s also played on a Raptors team that’s devoid of creators outside of Siakam, forcing him to take inefficient shots since there aren’t better options.
One encouraging stat is that Toronto has an offensive rating of 115.1 (59th percentile) when FVV plays without Siakam, proving that the guard is able to lead and generate an efficient offense as the primary initiator. On the other hand, those lineups only score 89.7 points per 100 possessions in the half-court (9th percentile), so FVV might not be the best fit for teams who don’t run that much.
Even with his poor field goal percentage, it’s worth noting that FVV has actually been above average in terms of points per shot attempt for most of his career. His propensity to draw fouls (9% of his attempts end up in fouls, which is in the 57th percentile among point guards) and hit free throws (90.2%) makes him a more reliable scorer than the traditional numbers indicate, and FVV’s also an underrated playmaker who consistently finds teammates for easy shots.
fred vanvleet takes over in the fourth quarter. raptors lead trummed from 23 to 5, all the momentum favoring the blazers. fred scores, assists, or hockey assists on 23 of the next 27 points. pic.twitter.com/ckESe19aMd— William Lou (@william_lou) January 29, 2023
Ultimately, FVV seems like the perfect third banana and offensive connector on teams that already have two go-to scorers. Like OG, his efficiency will naturally improve in a better environment and a lighter workload also means that he’ll be able to focus more on defense, which was a previous strength that has declined recently due to the heavy minutes that he plays.
Best landing spots: either L.A. team.
At the ripe age of 33, Bogdanovic is somehow having the best season of his career. He’s averaging a career-high in points (21.4) on the best efficiency (62.8% true shooting) while doing this on a Detroit team without Cade Cunningham.
Bogdanovic has played at a near All-Star level and the Pistons should rightfully be asking for a ton from interested teams. Consider this: Detroit has a respectable 113.3 offensive rating with him playing (only slightly below the league average), which plummets to 109.1 when he sits. That former number is especially impressive considering that the team’s trying to tank and their second-best creator is... Saddiq Bey?
Bogdanovic isn’t just a shooter scorer, either. He can drive past defenders and finish efficiently around the rim, as his 68% shooting within four feet of the basket ranks in the 61st percentile among forwards. Just take a look at the clip below where he gets by both Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis.
Bojan isn't just a shooter; he's able to drive by defenders and finish efficiently from anywhere, including the rim (shooting 68% within four ft of the basket) pic.twitter.com/IItp9hRjY8— Bill Huan (@bill_huan) February 3, 2023
Moreover, Bogdanovic’s 13.7% assist percentage (80th percentile among all forwards) indicates that he can reliably move the ball, although such plays might be a bit adventurous given his high 12.3% turnover percentage (34th percentile). Even without an elite playmaking game, Bogdanovic is still one of the absolute best shooters in the league and among the most efficient scorers too, and any team with a stagnant offense (especially in the halfcourt) should try and acquire him.
Best landing spots: Memphis, Milwaukee, and Brooklyn.
Long known as an elite rim-protector, Poeltl’s defensive numbers this year have taken a precipitous dip. Opponents are shooting 60.7% around the basket with Poeltl defending the shot, which ranks 42nd out of 71 players who contest five or more such shots. To put things into perspective, opponents shot 55.5% on those same attempts last year, and 52.8% in 2020-21.
Could Poeltl’s declining numbers be caused by his environment? It’s certainly a factor, considering the Spurs literally have the worst defense in NBA history statistically (#brickforVic). Even so, it doesn’t explain the fact that San Antonio’s defensive rating is only 1.7 points better with him playing, and the teams he played on for the last two seasons weren’t exactly world-beaters either.
Regardless, I still think that Poeltl can be a useful piece for a contender, especially if he comes off the bench. Matching him against opposing second units could help the big man rediscover his defensive mojo, and being on a better team would give him some added motivation that should translate positively to the court.
Offensively, Poeltl has also continued to improve. Even though all hopes of him developing a shot outside of the paint are gone, he still manages to become a better playmaker every year, which is highlighted by a 16.3% assist percentage that ranks in the 90th percentile among all bigs. Poeltl has the vision to reliably run some offense through — akin to a very poor man’s version of Sabonis and Bam — and his finishing around the rim is very good (76% within four feet), even among centers (81st percentile).
In the end, any interested team will be taking a risk and hoping for Poeltl’s rim protection to bounce back. Given his track record, though, I’d say it’s a good bet to make.
This week, please check out Professor Pittsley’s breakdown of the 2022 rookie class! As always, the prof broke down stats in a very digestible manner, and the Professor’s Corner is among the best columns running today.
As always, thanks for reading! And let’s all hope for a bonkers trade deadline.