Last June, in an effort to gain multiple assets to assist in his eventual post-Boogie rebuild, Vlade Divac signed off on draft-night trades with the Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Hornets. It’s now been a full season since those deals were made last June and it’s time to evaluate how those transactions have held up over the past year.
Trade 1: Marco for Malachi
The Charlotte Hornets were coming off an unexpected playoff run in the 2016 season in which they managed to snag the 6th seed, but they were also losing some key shooters to free agency. Troy Daniels (48% 3P) and Courtney Lee (39% 3P) were both important backup wings who could knock down the long-ball to stretch the floor for Kemba Walker, and both players were set to walk in the summer. Rich Cho decided to take a gamble and swing the 22nd pick in a weak draft to Sacramento for a career bench contributor in Marco Belinelli.
Meanwhile, the former Spur had struggled mightily to fit into the George Karl offense. The career 38% three point shooter dropped to a miserable 31% in his time with the Kings and never found a rhythm. Management was happy to send Marco to the Hornets for a late first rounder.
|#22 (Malachi Richardson)||Marco Belinelli|
Unsurprisingly, Belinelli was the more effective player in every relevant category during the 2016-2017 season. He was a 30 year old, 10-year veteran as opposed to a 21 year old rookie and that gap in experience displayed itself on a nightly basis. Marco played in 74 games and averaged 24 minutes per game, while Richardson struggled to crack the rotation, spent a majority of the season in Reno, and just started to find a rhythm before tearing his hamstring.
Marco vs Malachi
Although the Italian sharpshooter statistically outplayed Malachi, and Richardson was only featured in 22 games, this trade was an absolute win for Vlade Divac. Marco would have been playing behind Garrett Temple, possibly behind Arron Afflalo, and certainly behind Buddy Hield after the trade; whereas the Kings rookie was able to slowly become comfortable in Reno before making the jump to the bench.
His late-season injury was an absolute bummer and cost him valuable time on the court, but trading an ineffective veteran for several years of control over a young asset was clearly the right choice. To put it in another light, if the Kings could go back in time, they would still happily make the deal. Conversely, Charlotte probably regrets the decision as Marco wasn’t enough a difference-maker for the Hornets.
Trade 2: Moving Back for More
Going into the 2016 Draft, the Phoenix Suns were rumored to be salivating over two front court players, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. The Suns were armed with their own pick at #4 as well as the Wizards selection at #13 from the Markieff Morris trade, but had little hope of acquiring both of their top prospects without moving up.
Meanwhile, Sacramento ended up with the eighth overall pick and were wishing that one of Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, or Kris Dunn would fall their way. When all of the lottery guards were snatched before their selection, and Marquese Chriss slid past the Nuggets and ended up in the Kings’ lap, a Phoenix-Sacramento trade was almost inevitable.
|#13 (Georgios Papagiannis)||#8 (Marquese Chriss)|
|#28 (Skal Labissiere)|
|2020 DET 2nd rounder|
Evaluating this transaction becomes much more difficult because of the complexities involved. Two of the four assets that the Kings acquired still haven’t made an impact either way, so we’re forced to simply compare the three players that actually spent time on the court and assess whether the additional goodies that Sacramento received puts them over the top.
Per 100 Possessions
While Chriss and Labissiere had similar overall stats, they were two wholly different players on the court. On offense, the Suns rookie impacted the game at the rim or from outside the arc, while Skal was more deadly from midrange. 76% (41% from 0-3 feet, 35% from 3P) of Chriss’ shots were dunks, layups, or three points shots while only 29% of Labissiere’s attempts came from 0-3 feet and 50% were jumpers from 3-16 feet away. Another indicator of the differences in their scoring abilities is their regularity of dunks. Marquese, the high flyer, threw down 103 dunks on the year, which made up 49% of his made 2-pointers while the Hatian Sensation dunked 30 times, for just 25% of his makes.
The advanced metrics also show the differences between the two players’ contributions as Skal won the battle of points, rebounds, and assists per100, as well as posting a higher offensive rating, player efficiency rating, rebounding percentage, and assist percentage. Meanwhile, Chriss was the better long-distance shooter, shot blocker and beat Labissiere in win shares.
It seems as though Marquese Chriss had the largest overall affect on his team, playing in 82 games, including 75 starts, while the Haitian Sensation played at a higher level when given the opportunity as he played in only 33 total contests.
Another oddly shaped piece in the puzzle that is this trade is the factor of when these two players were putting up solid numbers. The Suns first year man was facing every team, multiple times, while each organization was still trying their best to win, while Labissiere did his damage in the middle of a grand tank-off. The timing of Skal's minutes increase was directly affected by the DeMarcus Cousins trade, so his numbers cannot simply be discounted, but they must be taken with a grain of salt when comparing his numbers to Chriss.
Of course, there's still Georgios Papagiannis. Further behind in both his development and playing time, Papa G played in just 22 games, all at the end of the year, but still managed to have a few decent outings despite all of the question marks surrounding him. Among the drafted rookies who played at least 10 games, the Greek Peak was 15th in PPG, 6th in RPG, 3rd in BPG, 3rd in FG%, and 4th in FT%. He wasn't great most of the time, but for a draft yield as poor as 2016, the Kings walked away with what looks to be a serviceable role player in the future.
Rookies also have some awful performances and their night-to-night impact can vary wildly. These are the three best performances from each of the three young guns.
These numbers once again show us a similar story. Marquese and Skal are battling for the best overall games while Papagiannis is simply trying to stay relevant in his forays onto the court.
One final tool that can be used to determine the success or failure of this trade is to look at the head-to-head matchups between the two power forwards. Labissiere and Chriss faced off twice late in the season, with the Kings taking both victories.
Head to Head Averages
Both players put up great numbers in each game, but Labissiere had the better numbers overall, and even more so when put in a per36 context. While this probably has little to do with their overall career projections, it does show that Skal can handle his own when paired against Chriss.
One final item that might influence the debate of Chriss vs Labissiere is their demeanor and composure on the hardwood. Unsurprisingly, with his limited playing time Skal did not receive a single technical foul, flagrant foul, or ejection during the season. On the other hand, the Suns rookie was assessed 2 flagrants, received 11 technicals, and was thrown out of one game. To put his frequent technicals in another light, Chriss averaged one technical foul per 158.45 minutes played, second only to (drum roll please), DeMarcus Cousins, who racked them up once every 136.94 minutes played. In case your curious, Boogie received three more techs in his rookie season than Chriss, but accrued them at a lower rate, one per 164.93 minutes played. To put that in another context, if Chriss received technical fouls at the same rate, and averaged 36 minutes per game, he would accrue 18 of them in the regular season, good for a couple of suspensions. For a fan base just starting to recover from a similar technical foul magnet, Chriss’ inability to control his temper on the court may not be so welcome in Sacramento.
For me, the success of the Malachi Richardson trade is obvious and Vlade deserves kudos for that heist. Belinelli wasn’t going to make a difference either way and Richardson is a developing player who could become a solid defensive presence.
The Suns trade is a little bit tougher to decipher as Chriss was the most consistent contributor, Skal showed an almost limitless ceiling, and Papagiannis displayed some signs of life late in the season. This may be the rare case of a win-win trade. I don’t believe the Suns would trade Chriss back to the Kings for Labissiere, Papagiannis, Bogdanovic, and the pick and I don’t think Kings management would reverse it either.
The Suns were able to acquire the player they really wanted, and he played decently, while the Kings received a possible starter and several other pieces for their rebuild. The Phoenix deal could have been a bust for the Kings if they hadn’t selected the former lottery projection in Labissiere, but his massive potential, combined with the development of the Greek Peak, along with the hopeful transition of Bogdan Bogdanovic and whatever that 2nd round may bring, is evidence that Vlade Divac had two very successful trades on draft night.
What do you think?