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

February 20, 2010 1 comment

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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Drops of Rain on the NBA…

February 14, 2010 Leave a comment

(Is there anything worse than writing 2000 words on the NBA trade deadline, predicated on how no trades have happened, not quite being able to finish it, going to work and while flipping burgers finding out that a trade happened? Well, probably, but I still am not re-writing this, so there…).

The NBA trade deadline is less than a week away and thus far it has been all quiet on the Western front (and the Eastern front as well). Rumors are flying around faster than brand new Toyotas, with names like Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Andre Igoudala, Marcus Camby, Antwan Jamison, Caron Butler, Michael Beasley, everybody on Detroit and everybody not named Rose or Noah on Chicago, being mentioned in speculation.

In many respects, this season is almost a perfect storm for potential trades. There are six or seven teams who believe that they have a legitimate shot at a title and thus would be willing to pick up a piece that puts them over the top. There are another 15 teams who think they might be able to make the playoffs, including franchises like Charlotte, Milwaukee, and Memphis for whom a playoff appearance would warrant making a deadline move. There’s also this little matter known as the pending Summer of LeBron (more on this next week), which has some franchises searching for that extra little cap room, like I search for change in the couch cushions. And, perhaps worst of all, there’s the pending economic doom, which has most of the teams trying their best to get under the luxury tax line.

And yet, until now there has been nothing. The quiet before the storm, just waiting for that first drop of rain. All of the NBA executives are together as the NBA celebrates itself this weekend in Dallas, so hopefully before Sunday night we will see some precipitation.

Or maybe all this storm potential is just that, potential and nothing will come to pass… but that’s just not as much fun to think about. So, lets do a little breakdown of the major players and maybe even a couple trades I’d like to see.

Five teams who have to buy:

1) Cleveland – What the Cavs need is to acquire a 25 year old allstar whom they can use to entice LeBron to re-sign, but assuming that New Orleans isn’t going to sending Chris Paul Cleveland’s way, then what the Cavs need is a stretch four to give LeBron (and too a much lesser degree Shaq) space. What they don’t need is Amare Stoudemire who has already shown to be a bad fit beside Shaq, but I’m just a fry cook for McDonalds, what the heck do I know.

2) Boston – The Celtics came in to this season thinking they’d shorn up their problems from last year, but Rasheed Wallace is twice the player he used to be (not in the good way) and the Big Three are beginning to look a little more like the golden girls. As rumor has it, the kids are acting like petulant teenagers by creating tension in the locker room, so despite championship aspirations, Boston is looking susceptible to a first round upset.

3) Dallas – Say what you want about Mark Cuban, but you know that if he can improve the Mavs, it will not matter what it costs to the bottom line. Look for Dallas to try to move Josh Howard who has become more interested in herbal supplements than basketball.

4) Portland – After losing both Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla in the span of a week, the Blazers have been looking to add a big man to match up with the Lakers’ size in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they have no interest in giving away any of their young pieces, so they will hope to entice a team looking to shed salary.

5) Orlando – The Magic made their big move in the Summer and while Vince has looked uncomfortable until this past week, I think they intend to forge ahead with this team, unless the Cavs were to add a piece, then you’d better believe that the Magic will match.

Five teams who have to sell:

1) Washington – This team is junk, honestly the stuff you dig out of the back of the garage junk. Over the last two years, they’ve paid close to a hundred and fifty million dollars to be the worst team in basketball. Seriously, the Nets are on the verge of becoming the worst single season team ever, but because they won 34 games last year, they still have more wins over the last two years than the Wizards. Obviously Gilbert Arenas isn’t going anywhere just now, but if they don’t move every other desirable player on their roster then the entire management team should be fired. No, I mean it, canned like tuna. What’s that? They want to keep Antawn Jamison? You mean the 33 year old who will make 28 million over the next two years? Seriously? You think he’s part of the rebuilding effort? Send him to Cleveland for the cap space, JJ Hickson, and a freakin’ draft pick. A 20 win team does not need a player like Jamison making the money he’s making. If management seriously thinks they should keep him, then whoever is owning this team when the late Abe Pollin’s estate is settled should come wielding dynamite and a hoover.

2) New York – It’s no secret that the Knicks are doing everything they can to move either Jared Jeffries or Eddy Curry, but of course those two are ridiculously overpaid (and in the case of Curry useless), so… if Donnie Walsh can move either of them, then Obama should have him come and work out a deal for health care…

3) Chicago – Unlike the Knicks, the Bulls have a legitimate chance to add two pieces this summer, but to do so, they need to first move Kirk Hinrich’s contract. Despite three years of mediocre performance and a nine million yearly salary, Hinrich is still desired by teams for his defense and the belief that he can shoot. The Lakers have been mentioned for weeks, but the defending champs’ management might need Cleveland to make a big move before they decide to tinker with what’s working.

4) Philadelphia – The 76ers were so desperate for attendance, that they brought Allen Iverson back in hopes that the former star would bring some butts to the arena, unfortunately it just made them the butt of the joke (ughhh…). Now, they are so desperate to clear salary that they are willing to move Andre Igoudala if someone will take Samuel Dalembert with him.

5) Indiana – Their payroll is 66 million and they’re in last place in their division. They have Troy Murphy, other teams want Troy Murphy… Yaaaaaaaawn… You get the picture.

Five teams who are sitting on the fence:

1) San Antonio – The Spurs made their big move this summer, by acquiring Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee. Thus far, that’s worked about as well as the hair plugs I’ve been using. Worse Manu Ginobili is a shell of his former self, and Tony Parker looks sluggish. So the Spurs need to decide whether they think they can rediscover their swagger, gel and compete for everything, or whether they want to back off and move some pieces to retool for the future.

2) Phoenix – The Suns are a strange case. On the one hand they’re cheaper than my Scottish uncle Murray, but on the other they occasionally do things like trading for the Big (Idea Stealing) Cactus. Thus, if they move Amare, we can’t be sure what that will mean. Will they move him for nothing (ie what Cleveland’s offering), for young guys (Miami’s Michael Beasley), or for an intriguing package of win-now talent (Philly’s Igoudala and Dalembert)?

3) Utah – The belief was that the Jazz wanted to move Carlos Boozer to get under the luxury tax, but they’ve maneuvered themselves close enough to the line that if they move Boozer, they might be looking for talent more than tax relief.

4) Detroit – After trading Chauncey Billups last year to get a bundle of cap space, this summer the Pistons used that room on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva… Yeah, only Joe Dumars is surprised that it hasn’t worked out. We know that they are trying to move Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, but are they looking to add significant pieces, or retool for the future?

5) Houston – Daryl Morey might be the best GM in the game, or maybe I just read too much Simmons. Either way, Morey might be looking to add the right guys to make a playoff run this year, or he might be looking to clear cap space for this summer. What we do know is that Tracy McGrady is very much available, which brings us to…

Five players that will move:

1) T. McGrady, Rockets – McGrady’s time with Houston is done. He has stopped traveling with the club and is just sitting at home wondering what’s next. Will New York convince Houston to take young pieces in a package that includes Jeffries? Will Philly give up Igoudala? Will American Idol survive without Simon? Who knows, only time will tell.

2) A. Stoudemire, Suns – There’s so much smoke surrounding Stoudemire that it’s beginning to seem that the Suns will move him. While the rumored Cleveland deal doesn’t make any sense to me, a trade with Miami for Michael Beasley and change benefits both teams.

3) M. Camby, Clippers – Now that Mike Dunleavy has fired himself, I can’t imagine he cares whether his interim successor has a defensive ace at his disposal. So look for the much in demand Camby to be moved for future help.

4) C. Butler, Wizards – Word around the league is that the Wizards are much more likely to move Butler than Jamison, but as I might have mentioned above, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t move both of them.

5) K. Hinrich, Bulls – This is Hinrich’s PER from three years ago: 13.41. Outlier? Bad year? Battling an injury? What about last year? 13.97. Ok, well his defense brings some value, so as long as he’s close to that mark then he has value, so what is it this year? 10.47. Really? And still teams have interest in him? Ughhh…

Five deals I’d like to see:

Heat Get: A. Stoudemire (Suns).
Clippers Get: U. Haslem (Heat), E. Clark (Suns), D. Wright (Heat) and Miami’s 1st round draft pick.
Suns Get: M. Beasley (Heat), M. Camby (Clippers).

Nuts and Bolts: The Suns obviously want to move Stoudemire, so this deal allows them to give him up while possibly improving the team. Camby provides the shot blocking defensive presence they’ve never had, while Beasley gives them youth and helps replace some of the scoring they lose. The move is cost effective and provides flexibility this summer. For Miami, this is the stud they’ve been looking to pair with DWade, plus they shed a little more payroll for the summer. Finally, the Clippers keep the salary cap relief from Camby’s expiring deal, while also picking up a pick and a young forward with marginal potential.

Spurs Get: C. Maggette, V. Radmanovic, A. Randolph
Warriors Get: R. Jefferson

Nuts and Bolts: This trade is a no-brainer for the Spurs. They move Jefferson who just hasn’t managed to fit in, and in return they receive Randolph and Maggette, who is slightly overpaid, but is an underrated scorer. Randolph is the real prize. He might drive Popovich mad, but he’d also flourish into a potential allstar. Why would the Warriors do this deal? No idea. Who knows why the Warriors do anything…

Rockets Get: A. Jamison (Wizards), J. Jeffries (Knicks).
Wizards Get: C. Mobley (Knicks), J. Hill (Knicks).
Knicks Get: T. McGrady (Rockets).

Nuts and Bolts: This is the deal the Wizards should be making. Mobley’s contract is being paid by insurance and Hill is a rookie with some upside. The Knicks obviously are paying a steep price for cap space this summer, but that’s just the way it works. For the Rockets, they add a scorer and a multi purpose defender. It costs them space this summer, but with Jamison they probably make the playoffs this year, and his shooting makes him a perfect forward to have beside Yao next year.

Lakers Get: J. Calderon (Raptors)
Raptors Get: A. Igoudala (76ers)
76ers Get: D. DeRozan (Raptors), A. Wright (Raptors), J. Farmar (Lakers), A. Morrison (Lakers).

Nuts and Bolts: Calderon is a point guard who can actually hit an open jumper and while my grandma could drop 40 points on him, the Lakers have the defenders to compensate for that. For the Raptors it’s a bit of a gamble, as they give up a tremendously talented youngster in DeRozan, but Igoudala gives them a massive upgrade in the backcourt for these playoffs, and he also makes their case stronger this summer when they try to keep Bosh. Finally, while it doesn’t get rid of Dalembert, it’s a good deal for the Sixers, as it clears over 40 million from their payroll, and returns a young player who might one day be better than Iggy.

Suns Get: L. James (Cavaliers), K. Durant (Thunder), C. Bosh (Raptors).
Raptors Get: A. Stoudemire (Suns).
Cavs Get: J. Richardson (Suns).
Raptors Get: L. Barbosa (Suns).

Nuts and Bolts: What? You never dream of what you’d do with mind control powers?

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