So the Cavs missed out on Ron Artest, Trevor Ariza, and Charlie Villanueva. Well, so buttons. Let's take a look at what the team's (Boston and Orlando) the Cavs should be competing with for the East have done. There are many variables to be considered in evaluating how these off-season moves are going to affect the teams involved (playing time given to new players, playing time taken away from established players, adaptability to offense and defensive schemes, etc.), I'm not going to claim this to be an exhaustive cumulative end all be all of evaluation. The measure I'm going to use is Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP). I'm going to include the players Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Offensive and Defensive Ratings from basketball-reference.com, which estimates how many points scored and allowed would a team made up of five starting versions of x player would score in 100 possessions, to add more depth, but it's the WARP that I'm going to fall back on in comparing what these teams really accomplished thus far.
What I want to bring to attention to is the end results, the net gain/loss for these teams thus far. The Lakers for example have made the headlines in bringing in Ron Artest, a big name in the free agent market for sure, but the cost of bringing him in was the loss of Trevor Ariza, who then signed with Artest's former team the Houston Rockets. So what will this mean if Artest now is replacing Ariza's minutes next season? Does this end up as an improvement or a loss in production and even more importantly (because it is too often lost in the media hype) how much of an improvement or loss will this be?
The Boston Celtics
Received: Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace: 3.9 WARP, 14.9 PER, 107 ORtg 103 DRtg.
If the core of the team remains and is healthy (not a given) this is, in my opinion, the top competition in the East for the Cavs. (Orlando is right there next to them though). Adding Wallace and not losing a player yet (Glen Davis may go) has the Celtics looking pretty good so far.
3.9 WARP value gained.
Vince Carter: 9.0 WARP, 19.3 PER, 112 ORtg 112 DRtg.
Ryan Anderson: 1.9 WARP, 13.6 PER, 108 ORtg 109 DRtg.
Brandon Bass: 3.1 WARP, 16.4 PER 113 ORtg 108 DRtg.
Anderson is a non-factor here as far as next season goes, he's a young (20 yrs old last season) forward who is at least above replacement level, but his PER is below average and his defense isn't that good yet. Vince Carter is a very valuable player, but all of his value rests in his offense as his 112 DRtg is bad. Bass effectively replaces Gortat's production although he's a more traditional power forward rather than center.
Rafer Alston: 4.3 WARP, 13.8 PER, 105 ORtg 104 DRtg.
Tony Battie: 0.3 WARP, 11.9 PER, 106 ORtg 102 DRtg.
Courtney Lee: 0.9 WARP, 10.8 PER, 107 ORtg 104 DRtg.
Hedo Turkoglu: 5.0 WARP, 14.8 PER, 107 ORtg 104 DRtg.
Marcin Gortat: 3.1 WARP, 17.2 PER, 121 ORtg 97 DRtg.
Alston's loss is mitigated by the return of a healthy Jameer Nelson (5.8 WARP last season) to run the point. The big loss of course is Turkoglu, who's defense (which has a lot to do with his size for his position) is simply not going to be replaced by Carter, but a point earned is about as valuable as a point allowed, so I'd expect to see more offense out of this team with a full season of Nelson and Carter. This won't be the top defensive team in the league (which Orlando was in team DRtg.) again. Each of the players they lost contributed on the defensive end, Battie and Lee are both good defenders, and although Alston gives a step to Nelson on the offensive end, he is his equal defensively.
Gortat is simply not going to be replaced, he was a very good back up last season that will see his role expand in Dallas this year. Well that was a little unexpected the Magic reportedly matched the offer sheet for Gortat, this is going to give the Magic a formidable frontcourt, but is going to cost the team lots and lots of $$$ in the short term due to the salary cap and luxary tax.
14.0 WARP - 10.5 WARP= 3.5 WARP value gained
I'd like to point out here another reason why I chose to use WARP, a replacement level player (a player that is easily available to acquire but isn't all that good) is a 0.0 rated player in WARP, so even though Orlando is losing four players and only gained two thus far, this allows us to still compare the gains/losses by simply plugging in two replacement players in the roster and not having to worry about it effecting the results. The point isn't to argue over who the Magic eventually fill those roster spots with because we simply don't know for sure and I'm not interested in opinions or guesses here. All we know is if those spots need to be filled by the beginning of the year they will be filled with replacement players at the least.
Received: Shaquille O'Neal by trade, Anthony Parker by free agency
Shaquille O'Neal: 10.7 WARP, 22.3 PER, 117 ORtg, 109 DRtg.
Anthony Parker: 0.7 WARP, 12.1 PER, 105 ORtg, 111 DRtg.
Shaquille is a major upgrade on the offensive end over the players he was traded for. His defensive rating last season was the highest he's had in his career; this could either be a fluke season or quick regression of his defensive skills because of his age. In terms of WARP he's the most valuable player acquired thus far this offseason. I think the Cavs think higher of Parker's ability to defend in their defensive system than his numbers indicate about his defense from last season. Well he's going to be better than Pavlovic and Szczerbiak, which isn't saying much but is an improvement.
Ben Wallace: 3.4 WARP, 12.2 PER, 111 ORtg 98 DRtg.
Sasha Pavlovic: -1.4 WARP, 8.6 PER, 102 ORtg 105 DRtg.
Ben Wallace was very productive on the defensive end despite being unable to show much in the Orlando series in this regard. But he's a very limited player at this point in his career and offers almost nothing on offense. Pavlovic was just a disappointment in that he never developed his game despite having the size to really solve the Cavs' need for a tall perimeter defender. He actually performed under replacement level on the year.
What happens to Andy Varejao (5.5 WARP) will impact the team's end results for the offseason, but picking up a guy like Antonio Mcdyess (5.3 WARP) would mitigate that loss. Keeping Varejao helps limit the team's free agent losses to minimal value lost. Joe Smith figures to be the player with most value (1.7 WARP) that may not rejoin the team, but I wouldn't rule him out just yet, depending on what they think of Hickson's return from an injury they may need to bolster the PF position.
11.4 WARP - 2.0 WARP = 9.4 WARP value gained.
So we have Cleveland with a substantial gain thus far, Boston with its recent acquisition of Rasheed Wallace improve as well, and Orlando's move for Vince Carter and signing of Brandon Bass helps them come out about as good as Boston. I'll try to update this as the offseason progresses. At this point the Cavs are looking strong to repeat with the best record in the Eastern Conference, which I want to point out should be the goal result for this team from a roster composition standpoint, a lot of things can happen between now and the playoffs next season, the best accomplishment for the regular season is to secure home court advantage through the playoffs.