According to sources (most annoying phrase ever), Carter and Hawes were two of the first names linked to PDX. With a team loaded with shooting and needing to improve defensively, that could come as a surprise. What might we expect defensively if Olshey got those two guys?
Now, evaluating defense statistically is kinda a crap shoot. I think individual Defensive Rating is basically meaningless. On/Off numbers are maybe a little better but I like to look at full line-up data and think about how a player fits in.
It's convenient that Carter played for the Dallas Mavericks last year because the context around Carter was fairly similar to what it would be if he played for the Blazers. Similar system and comparable level of defensive ability across the roster. In other words, Lillard and Mo are of the same defensive caliber as Calderon and Harris. We$ and Batum are on the same level as Marion and Crowder, and the front-court rotations would be roughly, emphasis on roughly, similar (defensively speaking)
- Aldridge = Dirk, TRob = Blair, Lopez = Dalembert, Hawes = Wright
The Hawes-Wright comparison is probably the most suspect. In '11-'12 and '13-'14, the Mavericks were ~2.5 points worse in Def Rtg when Wright was on the floor (82games.com). In those years he was backing up Haywood and Dalembert. In '12-'13, the Mavs were 2.0 better and he was backing up Kaman (gotta give Dirk some credit for staying loyal to the Mavs during those years - jeez).
I refuse to look at statistics from Philly this year. In my opinion, they weren't an NBA team so their statistics don't count as NBA statistics. In the three years prior, Philly was always a little worse defensively with Hawes on the floor. 1.8 worse in '10-'11, backed up by Brand/Speights. 2.4 worse in '11-'12, backed up by Brand/Vucevic (Hawes played ~half of the shortened season). 0.7 worse in '12-'13, when backed up by Allen/Brown (only started half the games).
So those numbers are a little worse, but remember Hawes started the majority of those games and the '10-'11 and '11-12 Sixers were top-10 defensively (7th and 3rd respectively). And Wright only had a positive effect when compared to the atrocious Kaman. I could look at line-up data but the teams are so different, I'm not sure it would tell me anything (and it's a lot of work).
With all that said, and considering the other three players in the Blazers front court are probably a little better defensively than their Dallas counterparts, I feel comfortable saying the players that surrounded Carter last season are comparable defensively to the players that would surround him on the Blazers.
That's important because it means Carter's line-ups with Dallas would be a decent proxy for his line-ups with Portland. So the question becomes:
Were Carter's line-ups with Dallas last season successful defensively?
I'm only looking at line-ups that played with two bigs. I don't think you pay that much for Hawes unless he's getting 24+ minutes/game. Throw in 10min for TRob and I would expect to see small ball really sparingly. Plus it limits the number of different line-ups to a manageable amount.
So the answer is pretty clearly a resounding yes. Those are straight averages in the tables. If you do a weighted average according to how many minutes each lineup played:
- W/ Big Front Line: DRtg of 100.1; Net Rtg of 9.1
- W/ Big Front Line & Capable Wing Defender: DRtg of 93.6; Net Rtg of 13.8
Since Carter would almost always be playing with either We$ or Batum, the second set of numbers are most representative and would have ranked best in the league ahead of Indiana. Obviously, the Pacers are a ridiculous comparison and there are still lots of problems with line-up data (namely who is the line-up playing against?), but I think these numbers show Carter and Hawes could be a part of the Blazers' defensive improvement.
Also, consider that the Mavericks most used line-up had by far the worst Net Rtg when compared to the most used line-ups of other Western Conference playoff teams. The Mav's starters had a Net Rtg of 1.6 and the next lowest was OKC at 5.8. That team was really carried by their bench which some metrics show was the second best in the league. Imagine what the Blazers (who's most used line-up had the 4th highest Net Rtg at +8.5) could do with a bench like Dallas'. And Harris/Carter/Crowder/Blair/Wright looks a lot like Mo/Barton/Carter/TRob/Hawes to me.
TLDR: By playing legit size at the wing and two bigs at all times, the Blazers would likely improve defensively with Carter and Hawes.
Kinda like Memphis-light with wayyyyyyy more offensive talent. Here's hoping.