Home > Uncategorized > A big pile of M’eh… Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the NBA Trade Deadline…

A big pile of M’eh… Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the NBA Trade Deadline…

So, it was a blustery storm and yes, a branch or two were relocated, but in the end… m’eh.  The big, capital B, capital I, capital G, BIG winner was Cleveland, because they’re the only title contender that improved. However, beyond that for the second season in a row, the deadline felt a little flat. That multiple teams could have improved their playoff chances by making a move, was mitigated by many of those same teams being hamstrung by the luxury tax, so as it always does in the NBA, money ruled the day and talent was a distant, distant second. Whatever, lets break it down:

Winners:

Cleveland – This was an easy slam dunk for the Cavs. They acquired Antawn Jamison and the corpse of the prospect known as Sebastian Telfair, for a month without Zydrunas Ilgauskas (It’s a guarantee that Washington will buy him out), a guy who will never play in the NBA (Emir Preldzic), and the last pick in this year’s first round… Jamison isn’t as good as Pau Gasol, so this wont be looked at in quite the same light, but the Cavs stole Jamison the way the Lakers stole Gasol two years ago. They didn’t even have to include J.J. Hickson to make the deal.

Some believed that the Cavs should have been targeting Amare Stoudemire over Jamison, but as you know, I felt Jamison was a better fit. We already know that the Shaq-Amare frontcourt partnership was a dubious one. Plus, Amare needs the ball in his hands more than Jamison, and when you have LeBron you want the ball is his hands as much as possible. Also, Jamison is a better shooter, which allows the Cavs to have better spacing. Finally, Amare, for all his prodigious gifts, operates in the lane where LeBron needs to get, and where Shaq already clogs.

Those in favor of Amare pointed to his age as a reason to target him over Jamison. Amare is 27, Jamison 33, so the theory goes that acquiring Amare gave the Cavs a second banana to pair with James long term. The problem with that is that while Jamison is older, he also hasn’t suffered the same major injuries that Amare has. Last year Stoudemire suffered a detached retina, which would seem like a fluke one off, but he has also had microfracture surgery and that’s definitely not a one off. So, I think the age argument isn’t as straight forward as it seems.

There are only two downsides to this deal for the Cavs. The first is that it will cost owner Dan Gilbert something like fifty million after the luxury tax, but if he doesn’t care, we certainly shouldn’t care. The second is that it colossally screws Cleveland if LeBron were to leave this summer, but of course Cleveland will be colossally screwed anyhow, so that’s hardly an issue created by this deal.

Dallas – I think the Mavs cleaned up. They improved at two positions, with Brendan Haywood a strong defensive presence and big body at center and Caron Butler taking over for Josh Howard, who was finding that basketball was getting in the way of his hangovers.

All season Butler has been playing like someone pooped in his shoe, but he’s a talented youngster and getting out of that toxic situation in the Capital will rejuvenate his play. My only concern with the Mavs right now, would be their defense at the two, where Butler and Shawn Marion will have to cover mobile shooters. Still, I think this puts them firmly in the conversation for the two seed in the West.

Houston – This is why I love the NBA deadline, because strange things happen. We knew that the Rockets were going to move McGrady and we knew that Kevin Martin was in play, but we never knew that those two could come together like they did. This deal is quite similar to the one I proposed last week in which New York used a third team to entice Houston to take Jared Jeffries, but Kevin Martin is better for Houston than Jamison. In Martin they get a shooter and scorer who should help them make the playoffs this year and pair perfectly with Yao next year.

Jeffries is grossly overpaid, but if you aren’t concerned with the money, then his length makes him a useful enough defender, especially if the playoff path in the West involves traveling through the Lakers. Plus, he’s an expiring deal next year, so that has value. Giving up Landry’s a bit of a wrench, but overall the Rockets are a much better team this morning than they were yesterday morning.

Portland – A simple move, that cost them nothing off next year’s team. Marcus Camby should help them make the playoffs and keep the franchise momentum they’re trying to build, although if Brandon Roy can’t get healthy then it will hardly matter.

Losers:

Boston and Orlando – I guess you could include Atlanta in here as well, but I don’t think they were knocking off the Cavs anyway. So, neither Eastern Conference contender did anything to get stronger (and no, I haven’t forgotten that the Celtics picked up Nate Robinson), while the Cavs added a significant piece. As I wrote last week, I think Boston is primed for a first round upset, so it’s really only Orlando who could still knock off the Cavs. They have the talent, but their chances today look worse than their chances yesterday.

Miami – Two days ago I pegged the Heat’s odds of signing LeBron James at 14.5%, but after yesterday’s action I’d drop that under five. I think they’re effectively done in the LeBron-stakes. Worse, I think they might end up in a real dog fight just to keep their own guy. The math:

– Chicago is Wade’s hometown.

– Wade is the player whose game most resembles a certain former Bulls’ player.

– Chicago cleared enough space to add Wade.

– Miami has put various poo-poo platters around Wade for three years now.

– Wade has seemed outwardly frustrated with Heat management all season.

– Miami couldn’t draw a crowd to watch Lindsey Vonn ski naked.

Add it all up and I say the Heat are in hot water.

Phoenix – The Suns are in a dog fight for the playoffs and while two of their competitors got better, they just spent two weeks dragging their second best player’s name through the mud. Bravo, guys. Brav-O.

Indifferent:

Chicago – The Bulls cleared enough space to go after a big name, but not enough for a second piece. This is a victory for them, but I think they’d have finagled the extra room without much trouble this summer and in doing so now they might have hurt their playoff chances. Both of their moves arguably made their opponents for the last two playoff spots stronger, so it was a weird deadline for the Bulls.

Charlotte – A protected one gives Larry Brown the chance to work with the talented, but enigmatic, Tyrus Thomas. It could backfire and he could leave this summer, but that’s why the pick’s protected. It’s a good gamble, but hardly boner inducing.

Milwaukee – They acquired John Salmons from Chicago to shore up their two guard spot. I like the initiative to push for that eighth playoff spot, but… Salmons? Really? Him?

Sacramento – I like that they picked up the underrated Carl Landry, but why didn’t they take on Jeffries’ contract and get pieces like Hill and the 2012 Knicks’ pick? I’m not sure what they’re doing with the space this season.

LA Clippers – The Clips made a couple moves to clear some extra space for this summer, which is great, because now they have enough cap room to go get LeBron. And on an unrelated note, next week I’m asking Natalie Portman out…

Inconclusive:

New York – Wow, we all knew that the Knicks were desperate to move Jeffries and I think including Hill was the right move, but… Hill, swapping picks in 2011 and giving up your pick in 2012… Yikes, that’s a lot. For me to make them winners here it’s going to have to translate into a serious free agent bonanza. Say for instance, that the Knicks strike out on the LeBron gang and instead, desperate to have something to show for two years of misery, re-sign David Lee to a near max deal, and then sign Rudy Gay to a max deal. Then, after the inevitable mediocre seasons of fighting for the eighth spot in the playoffs, they very well could be giving Houston their lottery pick from last year, Utah their lottery pick this year, Houston a lottery pick next year, and just for good measure, Houston a lottery pick in 2012. Again… Yikes.

On the other hand if they are able to sign the King and Chris Bosh and those two guys whet the championship appetite of some others, then I’ll be singing a different tune (more cats being tortured, than say nails on a blackboard). So, with LeBron and Bosh onboard, say Marcus Camby wants to play for a title and wants the opportunity to play in New York again (which he loved the first time around). Then say, Ray Allen looks at his bank account and goes, yeah, I’ve made enough, why not… And lets assume they round out the roster with seasoned vets like Joe Smith, Raja Bell, Steve Blake, and Ben Wallace. Now, look at what they have.

PG – S. Rodriguez, S. Blake
SG – R. Allen, R. Bell, B. Walker
SF – L. James, D. Gallinari, W. Chandler
PF – C. Bosh, J. Smith
C – M. Camby, B. Wallace, (and E. Curry – not actually with the team, lest he eat LeBron)

The roster’s maybe a little old, perhaps they’d want to find some younger legs to fill the spots of Smith and Wallace, but overall I think we can agree that the Knicks are favorites in the East and giving the Lakers a run for the title. And, the most important name on that list, besides James and Bosh, is actually Eddy Curry, who despite being too fat to actually fit through the door of the arena, becomes valuable this summer as an expiring contract (at which point I’d start the “Free Steve Nash” campaign).

So, suddenly those picks the Knicks sent to Houston wouldn’t seem so bad. There would be no swap in 2011, because the Knicks would have the better record and they’d be sending the 30th pick Houston’s way in 2012.

So, you can see how this grade has to be inconclusive, right?

Washington – Bill Simmons has been tweeting like mad about how with his two trades Ernie Grunfeld got pansed while looking the other way, but I have a question for Bill: what else was Ernie supposed to do? My only real complaint about Grunfeld’s work here is that he should have received J.J. Hickson in the Jamison deal, but for all the talk of Hickson, it’s not as if he’s the re-incarnation of Moses Malone.

As I asked the other day, why would the Wizards have kept the Butler-Jamison duo? That’s the same core that lead them to 19 wins last year. They should pay luxury tax for a 19 win team? And Bill, what exactly were they supposed to get for those two? Again, they’re the best players on a team that won NINETEEN games last year. You can make all the excuses you want, but nobody was giving anything of value for either guy. Grunfeld’s mistake, besides of course giving out those contracts in the first place, was not moving Butler at last year’s deadline when the Trailblazers would have given them some talent for him.

So why inconclusive? Well, clearing the crap from the shoe is only the first step in cleaning the mess. The real question, is what one does with the empty shoe. Bill has mocked Washington creating cap space, because nobody’s going to want to join Arenas, which is true, but there are two things to consider here. First, moving Arenas is impossible now, but it might be possible this summer when the free agent dust has settled. Again, I’m not saying I’d trade for him, I’m just saying that when Miami loses Wade, strikes out on Joe Johnson and has a half empty building and nobody on their payroll, well… as Bill well knows teams often need to be saved from themselves.

Second, as the Zombie Sonics have shown, cap space can be used without signing free agents. So, Washington can use that space to take free players from team’s trying to avoid the luxury tax. A high draft pick this year and next year, and some savvy use of the cap, and the Wizards can rebound faster than people think. Now, whether Grunfeld is the right man to make those moves is an entirely different, and legitimate, question.

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