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Just The Sports: Devin Harris, Jason Kidd, and Defense

Just The Sports

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Devin Harris, Jason Kidd, and Defense

Trading Devin Harris to the New Jersey Nets for Jason Kidd was a colossal mistake for the Dallas Mavericks and the criticisms for the trade when it happened were as true then as they are now when the results of the trade are there for anyone to see. In making this trade, the Mavericks mortgaged the future for a point guard that is entering the twilight of his career and does not possess the capability to push the Mavericks into the elite of the Western Conference. If the Mavericks had kept Harris, they would have been keeping a player who had a better start to his career than Kidd and was only going to get better. Both Harris and Kidd entered the NBA at the age of twenty-one and Harris in his first four seasons has already shown that he is a much more offensively efficient player than Kidd ever was. Although Harris does not have the gaudy assist totals of Kidd, he is a much better shooter, which makes up for that deficiency.

One criticism of the trade, though, that was undeserved was to state that due to Kidd's age and having lost a step, he could no longer defend the younger, quicker point guards in the NBA. If the Mavericks defense did indeed suffer, then we could expect to see the starting point guards faced by the Mavericks to have an increase in their shooting percentages and assist rate and a decrease in their turnover rate as they experienced fewer obstacles in running their teams' offenses. Although this method is not as accurate as some defensive metrics since in some games the back-up point guard played more than the starter, or in a couple of cases where teams did not start a point guard I used the statistics of the starting player who most resembled a point guard, it does a good job of answering the question I posed.

Devin Harris played thirty-nine games for the Mavericks, but one of those games was an injury-shortened one so I discarded it and used only the thirty-eight. In those games, the starting point guards amassed a 51.0 true shooting percentage, 25.4 assist rate to 10.4 turnover rate, and 5.5 rebound rate. When Jason Kidd was in the starting line-up for his twenty-nine contests wearing the Mavericks uniform, opposing point guards had a 47.9 true shooting percentage, 25.3 assist rate to 9.8 turnover rate, and 5.6 rebound rate so point guards actually had slightly worse offensive numbers when playing against Kidd than they did against Harris.

It should also be understood that the two players, Harris and Kidd, faced almost identically offensive-minded point guards. When Harris was playing, starting point guards took 12.4 field goal attempts per game and when Kidd was playing for the Mavericks, they attempted 12.6 field goals per game. Therefore, the decline in shooting numbers against Kidd is not due to the starting point guards taking an exorbitant number of shots and clanking most of them. The point guards also played a similar amount of time whether Harris or Kidd was in the starting line-up; they played 32.9 minutes per game against a Harris-led Mavericks team and 32.7 minutes per game against a Kidd-led Mavericks team.

Whether or not Kidd and Harris actually played man-to-man defense against the starting point guards for all thirty-three minutes per game does not change the fact the point guards were not significantly better against Kidd. Therefore, a lack of defensive prowess on Kidd's part is certainly not a reason to lambaste this trade. Then again, it is not as if there are not a lot of other criticisms to choose from.



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