Phoenix Suns Are Better Since The Big Trade, The Numbers Don't Lie

Seth is probably fuming at the sight of this picture. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SB Nation AZ posted a story last week stating that the Suns are worse since the "big trade" with Orlando on December 18 that netted Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter and Mikael Pietrus to replace Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark.

Seth directly compared the Suns' pre-trade record to their post-trade record, including some important stats. He concluded that the post-trade Suns were an inferior product. He intimated that the Suns would have been a better team this season had they not traded Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu away so quickly. 

Here's what doesn't ring 100% true on that comparison: the pre-trade Suns had the benefit of a training camp AND 8 preseason games to get their act together, while the post-trade Suns had no safety net. So to be fair, it seems you must either include preseason data in the comparison, or give the post-trade Suns a pass on their first few games together. 

Let's run those numbers again.

Here's the first bone of contention. Seth wrote:

While the records might be similar, let's not forget the incredibly difficult schedule the Suns had at the beginning of the season compared to the relatively light stretch since the deal. Five of the Suns' 10 losses during the Era of Vinsanity have come against teams with sub-.500 records. By contrast, only three out of the Suns' first 13 losses were to sub-par teams.

Overall, the Suns' record since the trade with Orlando is 10-11, compared to 12-13 pre-trade.

  • Pre-trade, the Suns went 2-6 in their first 8 games together (preseason), then 6-7 over their first 13 regular-season games, then 6-6 in their final 12.
  • Post-trade, the Suns went 2-6 in their first 8 games together (regular season), then 8-5 over their next 13 games to date.

Oh yeah, then there's the difference in schedule mentioned above.

  • Pre-trade, the Suns had 4 quality wins in 25 games (at Utah and LA Lakers, home against Atlanta and Denver), 4-10 overall against teams currently over .500
  • Post-trade, the Suns have 5 quality wins in 21 games (at OKC and New York, home against Portland, Boson and New Orleans). 5-5 overall against teams currently over .500

By this measure, it looks like the post-trade Suns are at least as well-equipped to beat tougher teams. Sure the pre-trade Suns had a more difficult schedule in terms of opponent winning percentage. They played 14 such games against team currently over .500 in 25 games, while the post-trade Suns have only played 10 toughies in 21 games.

Next bone of contention, or at least an update with more games played since the trade:

...the most important stat of all (outside win/loss) is point differential. Suns were -1.64 before Lon Babby pulled the trigger and -2.33 since.

Again, this is a puritan comparison of total regular-season games before and after the trade. I contend that you must consider the adjustment period inherent in any team. The pre-trade Suns had the benefit of training camp and preseason to put together a winning formula.

Let's re-compare the teams:

  • Pre-trade, the Suns point differential in 25 total regular-season games was -1.64. In their first 13, it was -3.46.
  • Post-trade, the Suns' point differential in 21 total games is now -1.46. In the last 13 games however (not including the 2-6 start that mirrored pre-trade's preseason), the Suns' point differential is still negative (-.23 points per game) but getting much closer to the median. 

This last comparison factors in the quality of opponents much more than wins and losses, because you would expect the Suns to give up more points to better competition. So I wouldn't read too much into this one, but thought I'd throw it out there since I took the time to analyze it.

 

Summary

The post-trade team could totally tank, or they could ride a wave of goodness into the playoffs.

But you have to recognize that the post-trade Suns are on an upward trend. They are 8-4 in their last 12 games and their number of quality wins is higher since the trade than before it (including their last 4 consecutive games against winning teams).

Seth had a lot more numbers in his original post, most of which I didn't take the time to re-compare. But one other number I will throw out there is that, in the last 12 games since the embarassing Knicks loss at home, the Suns' are slightly outrebounding their opponents (43.1 to 43). This can be attributed to Gortat and, to a lesser extent, a healthier Lopez.

But all of this is just talk-fodder. Two or three more games could skew the numbers in a completely different direction.

A proper pre-trade/post-trade comparison can better be done after 4 more games (25 total since the trade). Or, you could even say that it can't properly be done until 33 games have passed (8 "preseason" games + 25 regular-season games). I'll keep you posted.

But at least the post-trade Suns are heading in the right direction. 

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