The trade that shocked the NBA world last season occured almost nine months ago on Feburary 19th, 2015. This is, of course the trade that sent Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Phoenix, Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, and Miles Plumlee to Milwaukee, and a Los Angeles Lakers first round pick via Phoenix that is top-3 protected in 2016 and 2017 to Philadelphia. This trade was very surprising when it occured, and since has been equally head scratching.
Of course for Phoenix the trade makes perfect sense, Knight is a high quality guard with even more potential, and Phoenix is a team on the verge of the NBA playoffs. Sacrificing a draft pick as protected as it was (the pick was also top five protected in 2015) was a no-brainer.
Phoenix this year, Knight’s first full year with Phoenix, has them at the four seed in the historically tougher Western Conference. Knight himself has done amazing things individually.
Besides terrific per game numbers this season like 20.2 points, 5.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game on 44.8% shooting, Knight also has a very good PER for a guard of 19.6, and an indicative .160 win shares per 48 minutes. Knight has been that great off guard for Eric Bledsoe that Goran Dragic was too selfish to be. Knight has been better than Dragic in this role as well.
Perhaps most important is that Knight has stepped up when it counts, scoring 37 and 30 against division rivals Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, and he had 27 against a Portland team similarly structured to Phoenix. Knight’s scoring, shooting, intellect, and leadership has been essential to the Suns making it out in the West.
Knight was doing similar things in Milwaukee before they traded him in 2014 – 2015. He led the team in scoring and to a 30 – 23 record (the Bucks went 11-18 without him.) There was no reason for Milwaukee, who this year is 5-5, to give up on Knight for a player with no where near the potential and production in Michael Carter-Williams.
Carter-Williams has regressed since his rookie season when he won rookie of the year. He won the award by putting up empty stats for the Philadelphia 76ers, and his lack of production on the Bucks proved just that: that they were empty. Carter-Williams has clearly not been working on his three point shot which desperately needs improvement, but with his stats getting worse across the board, it is fair to ask if has been working on anything at all.
He has been outscored by his opponent by 5 points per 100 possessions, he has below average win shares per 48 minutes, and has the 10th most turnovers per game despite playing on one of the slowest paced teams in the league. One would say Carter-Williams has been a glorified Shaun Livingston because of their height and playing style, but Livingston is a winner, a champion, and he knows how to take care of the ball. Carter-Williams can say none of those things about himself.
Admittedly, Carter-Williams did have a nice performance in Milwaukee’s win over Cleveland with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks on 50% shooting, but what was Carter-Williams’ best performance would be an average performance for the Brandon Knight we have seen through 10 games.
Among the other players involved in the trades, no one has really been memorable in any way. Marshall was waived upon his arrival in Phoenix. Ennis started four games for Milwaukee in Carter-Williams’ absense, but has only averaged 5.2 points and 1.4 assists in 16.2 minutes per game, while Plumlee has gotten even less playing time (6.7 minutes per game.)
Philadelphia might come away as a winner of this trade as well. They shed themselves of the inefficient Michael Carter-Williams and now have what will likely end up being a high lottery pick (but not top three.)
The results of this trade haven’t been surprising. Michael Carter-Williams has not changed into a winner with his new team, Brandon Knight has continued to be one of the league’s underrated guards, and the add-ons to the trade have yet to out-live their status as add-ons.