Reason No. 3 to go all-in: Daryl Morey’s “five percent theory”
Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey has a “five percent theory.”
"“If you’ve got even a 5 percent chance to win the title, and that group includes a very small number of teams every year, you’ve gotta be focused all on winning the title.” – Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets at the time"
2011 Dallas Mavericks defeat Miami Heat super team
Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote an article in 2012 entitled, “The 5 Percent Theory.”
The year before, in 2011, the third-seeded Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to win the NBA Championship.
Lowe quotes Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who agrees with Morey’s five percent theory.
"“One sprained toe or two, and the competitive landscape changes. You don’t want to miss that opportunity. You should always put the best team you can on the floor within the parameters you have set for yourself.” – Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner"
The Toronto Raptors’ 2019 NBA Finals run
Another excellent example of a team that more recently won the finals is the 2019 Toronto Raptors. That offseason, they traded for what ended up being a short-term rental of superstar Kawhi Leonard.
However, the risk paid off, as the second-seeded Raptors were able to defeat a Golden State Warriors team coming off of back-to-back titles. The Warriors were heavy favorites and likely would’ve won had it not been for unfortunate injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
But there aren’t asterisks in the NBA, only titles. Cuban’s point remains – credit has to be given to the Raptors and Team President Masai Ujiri for being prepared and taking advantage of their opportunity.
These two examples are of underdog teams that went on runs and had the right timing to take down super teams.
However, there’s much more parity in today’s NBA. The league has shifted more toward superstar duos than trios, resulting in more uncertainty. Take a look at this year’s playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated in the first round, but the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers and eighth-seeded Miami Heat are still alive in the second round.
The combination of Morey’s five percent theory and the amount of parity currently in the league are excellent reasons why the Blazers should go for it with Lillard. You never know what will happen in the playoffs, and Portland needs to be prepared to give themselves the best opportunity to take advantage.
Reason No. 3 to tear it down: Risk setting the franchise behind
Several other teams have gone all-in and their aggressiveness returns to haunt them. Recently, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded five players and five picks for Rudy Gobert, only to finish 42-40 with a first-round playoff exit this season.
Nets trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce
Another example is when the Nets went all-in during the 2013 offseason and made a deal with the Boston Celtics. It has gone down in history as one of the most lopsided deals in NBA history.
The trade was:
Celtics receive: Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, three first-round draft picks, two pick swaps
Nets receive: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, DJ White, Jason Terry, and a 2017 first-round pick
Hoops Habit’s Yossi Gozlan wrote an article diving into the most one-sided NBA deals of the past decade, with the Nets-Celtics swap mentioned. In the article, Gozlan writes:
"“At the time, no such comparable trade involving that many future unprotected picks had been consummated since the implementation of the Stepien rule. The Nets arguably experienced the worst-case scenario in this deal having given up a 1st overall, 3rd overall (swapped for 27th overall), 8th overall, and 17th overall selections while only winning one playoff series.” – Yossi Gozlan, Hoops Habit"
The Celtics essentially drafted Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with picks from that Nets trade.
Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls
Another trade in Gozlan’s article is the Orlando Magic’s deal to trade Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls in 2021. That deal was:
Bulls receive: Nikola Vucevic and Al Farouq-Aminu
Magic receive: Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and two lightly protected first-round picks
A player the Magic selected using one of the Bulls’ first-round picks was Franz Wagner, taken eighth overall.
A common theme in these one-sided deals is that the team going all-in ends up with a quick playoff exit. Also, the team that acquires the young assets and picks uses those selections to propel the franchise as they become cornerstone pieces (Tatum, Brown, and Wagner in these examples).
If the Blazers send out their first-round pick with the fifth-best odds this year, they could easily risk losing out on a franchise-type player. In addition to the high pick, Sharpe is another rising star with All-Star potential that the Blazers could regret getting rid of.
If the Blazers do make a significant move for a co-star, they need to be confident that the team they’re putting together is more talented than these teams that ended up with early playoff exits. Otherwise, they’re going to be sacrificing their future for no reason.