[Reader Mail]: Introducing the 2021 NBA Addition by Subtraction Team

@stebettheo writes: What teams do you think would actually improve by getting rid of some of their current rotation players?

Eric/HoopsDistillery: Great question! Some teams are less than the sum of their parts due to a player or two who seem to drag themdown. This can sometimes be intentional in the case of James Harden’s tantrum to be traded out of Houston, and other times unintentional, like in the case of Nicolas Batum in Charlotte, where he was lulled to sleep by the ‘white-noise machine’ of constant losing, roster turnover, with huge paychecks rolling in.

So without further ado, my 2021 NBA Addition by Subtraction team:

  • Eric Bledsoe, New Orleans Pelicans- *This years 2021 Jeff Green ‘Fooled You Once, and I’ll Fool You AgainTM‘ Award Winner*
  • Will Barton, Denver Nuggets
  • Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
  • Marvin Bagley, Sacramento Kings
  • Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Devonte Graham, Charlotte Hornets
(photo courtesy of https://www.thebirdwrites.com/)

When thinking about why some players would help their teams by getting out of town, I would break it into these categories:

  1. Team cancer/Team Distraction/Chemistry Disruptor (the Dwight Howard category): Marvin Bagley’s Dad
  2. Irrational confidence causing them to avoid deferring to the actual stars on the team: Will Barton
  3. Needs a Change of Scenery (due to lack of PT, bad chemistry with team or maybe bad luck with never-ending injuries): Kevin Love, Marvin Bagley, Aaron Gordon
  4. A logjam at one position makes them expendable and if you don’t trade them, they can turn into a Category 1 player: Devonte Graham
  5. Something may be wrong mentally, after failing so many times that the player lost their mojo and can no longer contribute consistently: Eric Bledsoe

Jeff Green ‘Fooled You Once, and I’ll Fool You Again’ Award WinnerTM: Eric Bledsoe

Will Barton – Will Barton scores. Will Barton seems like a good teammate. Will Barton tries. But in the end, he may be too confident for his own good, always very happy to take more shots in a game than Michael Porter Jr., Nikola Jokic, or Jamal Murray–each of whom are capable of scoring 40-50 points on a given night-and at a high percentage. And to his credit, the Nug’s Biggish 3 seem totally fine with him taking on the load on offense at times, maybe out of respect for his veteran presence and Coach Mike Malone’s democratic offense. Whatever the reason, its not good and takes its toll on the Nuggets because the result on some nights is losing. Yet, due to their lack of depth this year they’ve had to go with it even though they’re clearly better when a stingy defender who is complimentary on offense, like Gary Harris plays SG. When he scores 25 on a high shooting percentage, everyone is happy, but then there are all the games where he takes too many shots, but just keeps on chucking and they lose. Note: This may be called the Lou Will award in the future. Barton, at least, was better coming off the bench as an offensive sparkplug, but even then, I’m not sure I consider him a 16-game player due to his very average defense and irrational confidence that blocks his on-court awareness. He would look better on a losing team, firing away, and putting up big stats like Houston or Detroit in my opinion.

Aaron Gordon – Gordon has now asked for a trade, after getting fed up with the carousel of roster moves and coaches in Orlando–not to mention the never-ending trade rumors. He still views himself as one of the top players in the league. He’s not, of course, but he is certainly valuable with his decent shooting and versatility on offense and defense which teams drool over as they think about building up their roster up to withstand the eventual wars that will be fought against LeBron, Kawhi, KD, and Giannis. His game should jump up a level with a change of scenery a la Gordon Hayward in Charlotte this year, and Portland, Miami, and Dallas should probably take a hard look. But assuming he does play well at his next destination, it seems almost inevitable that he’ll be asking for a near max contract which may scare off some teams. At least he’s not a Klutch client…yet.

Kevin Love – As one of the last remaining Cavalier from the 2016 championship run, Love has had a never-ending flow of injuries, frustration with the youth movement (see over-shooting of SexLand), and complaints about his inflated contract. Yet, he has much more to contribute than being a glorified cheerleader, with his high percentage shooting stroke and his elite rebounding gene. His game could come back alive for a Toronto, Dallas, or Boston.

Devonte Graham – Sadly, Mr. Graham happened to be on a team with LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, both of which are better than he is and fit better together as a starting due in the Hornets backcourt. He has a great contract, but will be a restricted free agent this offseason and we’ve all seen this type of situation before where a surplus of solid players at one position put them in a tough position where they either have to pay up in order to keep the asset, then figure out what to do with them later or trade them away immediately to avoid any chance of them becoming a team cancer when they become bitter due to the lack of playing time. In the Hornets case, needing help at center, now is the perfect time to package Graham with a veteran (and/or draft pick) to grab a Myles Turner type player.

Marvin Bagley – What seems like a never-ending streak of bad luck with injuries seems to be the one of the few consistent things in Bagley’s career, along with the ongoing dysfunction, roster and front-office turnover of the Kings. And now all his the love from the fans (and Sacramento car dealership endorsements) are going to De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. He desperately needs a change of scenery to get a fresh start and be in a place where the front office, team, and fans believe in him enough to pump up his confidence once again, so he can fully utilize the advanced skill set he showed at Duke, and in small blips during his time in Sacto. Charlotte, OKC and Cleveland all seem like interesting options where he can stay out of the spotlight and get a lot of reps.

Do you have questions that need to be answered? Feel free to send them to hoopsdistillery@gmail.com