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Paul to the Clippers, Too Much? Too Little? Too Soon?

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I think, maybe, just maybe, that Chris Paul has finally been traded. The news broke Wednesday, it hasn’t yet been rescinded, so perhpas we can assume it’s good. Although, you know, at this point I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to wait until July 1st before making any firm proclamations.

Oddly enough, the hold up stopping this deal from going through earlier in the week was Eric Bledsoe… uhmmm… ok. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bledsoe, I think he’s got some real upside potential, but he’s a backup point guard. Still, I guess that was the breaking point for the Clips, so the league backed off forcing him to be in the deal and accepted a package of Eric Gordon, Chris “About to be Flipped Somewhere Else” Kaman, Al Farouq Aminu, and an unprotected Minnesota T-Wolves draft pick.

Now, first of all, I like this trade for the Hornets. I like it, I don’t love it. There are still a couple variables in play before I can give it the all important “blogger thousands of miles, that nobody’s ever heard of,” nod of approval. First, what’s Stu Jacks, er… I mean Dell Demps going to do with Kaman? The Cro-Magnon center is a free agent after this year, which means if they aren’t flipping him, then it’s really a two player plus pick deal. Second, where’s that Minnsota pick end up?  The last first round pick the Clippers traded away ended up being the first pick in the draft (more on this in a second), and of course the Wolves have a propensity for picking at the top end of the draft – from 1989 through last year the Wolves drafted in the top five nine times. Twenty-three drafts nine top five picks and, oh yeah, they lost three #1s at the start of the millennium because of Kevin McHale’s free agent subterfuge – so, that’s a pretty good chip in a loaded draft, except…

I’m not convinced the Wolves will be so horrible this year. Despite David Kahn’s desire to stock his team with 37 point guards, there’s actually a solid chance the Wolves are respectable. They fired the overmatched Kurt Rambis and replaced him with Rick Adleman, who is a seasoned, professional coach. They have the makings of a decent roster, and they have a slim-fit Kevin Love. Lets be clear, I’m not suggesting they’re a playoff team, but I wouldn’t be horribly shocked to see them finish .500 and provide the Hornets with a 11-14 pick, instead of a top five pick.

If the Hornets don’t flip Kaman for anything, then a year from now their package for Chris Paul could be the 13th pick in the draft, Aminu, and Eric Gordon (more on this too).  At that point, I’m not sure its a win for the Hornets. Of course, if they flip Kaman to Sacramento for a pick and Minnesota sucks, then it’s a different story.

I’m not sure I love it for the Clippers either. Well, no, that’s not true.  This is a major win for the Clippers. They’re bringing one of the top five players in the game to the Staples Center. They basically snatched him out of the Lakers finger tips, and he’s a player who will work perfectly with their current star Blake Griffin. So, it’s a big, BIG win, but… did they really have to give up Gordon?

Now, lets not make Gordon out to be the second coming of Pete Maravich. He’s good. He might even, as Bill Simmons keeps saying, be the best shooting guard  in the league under the age of 25, but that statement says more about the dearth of great young two guards than it does about Gordon. He’s a borderline all-star who’s never sniffed the playoffs. Great players take their team to the playoffs, even if they don’t go far after that (see Paul, Chris). Like I said, Gordon’s good and he’s young enough to get better, but his upside is more Joe Johnson than Kobe Bryant.

That said, I’m not sure that the Clippers had to give Gordon up for Paul – and if they don’t lose him in the deal, well… damn.  The Hornets had to deal Paul, and since the league had already sabotaged one good trade, there just weren’t a lot of other deals out there for the Hornets.  First of all, PG might be the deepest position right now. Second, most teams are afraid of putting themselves in the same position the Hornets were in.  So, you basically had the Clips deal, the Warriors offering pieces that weren’t Steph Curry, and…?!? I mean, if Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Lamar Odom wasn’t enough, then the Knicks weren’t getting Paul with Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, and James Dolan’s band.

It seems like the Clippers could have told the NBA’s negotiating team that the deal was the T-Wolves pick, Aminu, Bledsoe, Kaman another Clippers 1st and take it or suck our left… That’s how it seemed the Clippers were going to play it earlier in the week when they balked at the league’s asking price and then put in a bid for Chauncey Billups.  Billups wasn’t going to be a long term replacement for Paul, but LA certainly could have gone into the season with a backcourt rotation of Chauncey, Eric Gordon, Mo Williams and waited for the Hornets’ panicked calls around the trade deadline.

And, speaking of Williams, doesn’t this deal make the Clippers’ trade for Williams last year even worse?  I know it was a long, long time ago, but LA gave up their first rounder to Cleveland in exchange for a league average PG.  That pick of course ended up beating the lottery odds to become the top ping pong ball.  It was a bad pick when they made it, a worse pick on lottery day, and an even worse pick now.  Don’t you think that the Clippers package for Paul could have used that #1 pick (Kyrie Irving)?

With Gordon going to the Hornets, the deal is still a win for the Clippers and it does set them up for a nice little run, but I think they could have waited and kept Gordon. A Clippers starting lineup of Paul, Gordon, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, with Billups a super sixth man, would have pushed the Clips to challenging for the Conference title.  Instead, I’d put them behind (in no particular order) the Mavs, Zombie Sonics, Grizzlies, and – for at least one more year – the Lakers and Spurs.  So, a win for LA, but in typical Clipper fashion, a bumbled victory.

The Trade Deadline Created Headlines, But Did it Create a Title Contender…?

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Breathe… and… Exhale.  Wow, what a 72 hours of trade deadline zaniness we just experienced.  There were two superstars moved, the surprising deal of a franchise lynchpin, and Mark Cuban finally found his… oh no wait, for the first time in deadline history, the Mavs stayed pat.  Weird.

But, for all the headlines and WOW moments, what really happened over the last 72 hours as it relates to THIS season?  I mean, no doubt that New York and New Jersey helped themselves long term, while Denver and Utah went into rebuild on the fly mode, but even with Williams, the Nets aren’t sniffing the playoffs and Anthony wont help the Knicks win it all this season. So… yeah.  Of the five or six teams capable of winning a title in 2011 (Boston, San Antonio, LA Lakers, Miami Heat, Chicago and maybe – MAYBE – Orlando), only the Celtics made a move and frankly, I’m not convinced it’s a good one.  The others, like Cuban’s Mavs, stayed pat.

Oklahoma made a pair of inspired trades to upgrade their center position.  They shipped the overrated Jeff Green to Boston for Kendrick Perkins and swapped flotsam for the slightly underrated Nazr Mohammed.  I doubt either move makes the Zombies a title contender this year, but I also wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs.  The Zombies now have a defensive force in the middle.  A nuts and bolts, grab rebounds, set screens, guard Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan kind of guy.  It’s the piece they’ve been looking for since Tyson Chandler’s toe torpedoed a 2008 deal.

Personally I love the symmetry of Sam Presti completing this deal with the Celtics, since it was the 2007 trade of Ray Allen that brought the Zombies the Green pick in the first place.  I’ve long maintained that an overlooked mistake of Presti’s generally superb run, was picking Green fifth while Joakim Noah was still on the board, but this move at least addresses that error.  Perkins obviously isn’t as good as Noah, but he’s a fair proximally and should be cheaper.  Between him and Mohammed, the Zombies have a real center rotation that can bang with the bigs in the West.  They also, as John Hollinger pointed out last night, will get a major push simply by replacing Green’s minutes in their front-court with Serge Ibaka.  If Oklahoma can re-sign Perkins, this deal’s a huge win for the Zombies and even if they can’t, Green was miscast as a four and probably wasn’t going to be re-signed anyhow.

Still, Oklahoma remains the closest thing to a contending team upgrading.  Boston thinks they upgraded and maybe they did, but they did so by opening a huge hole in the middle.  By all accounts, they intend to fill Perkins shoes with Troy Murphy and possibly Leon Powe…. Uhm, yeah… lets just say I’m not holding my breath to see how those moves work out.  I’ve never been a Green fan, but he may blossom in Boston’s system.  I just think that the Celtics have put an excessive amount of pressure on the tenuous O’Neil center rotation.  There’s a lot of sentiment out there that Danny Ainge can’t be doubted, but I guess I remember a time not too long ago where he was known for championing the signing of Brian Scalabrine based on his head size…

As for the other contenders, bupkiss… Miami had no pieces to move; the Lakers didn’t have any pieces that they wanted to move,  at least not ones that interested anyone else (Ron Artest, uhm gee, let me think… How ’bout NO!); San Antonio’s never really been a deadline deal kind of team; and Orlando already made their big move.  Chicago obviously desperately needed a two-guard and I’m a little surprised they didn’t acquire Courtney Lee, but they also had no interest in giving up young center Omer Asik, which is perhaps understandable, but left them devoid of any desirable assets.  The Bulls will be happy seeing what this team can achieve this June as is, and then they’ll be aggressive this summer trying to upgrade the black hole at shooting guard.

Other Rapid Fire Thoughts that Don’t Entirely Suck…

– I feel a little sad for Suns fans this morning (of which, I’m nominally one), as the Aaron Brooks trade probably paves the way for a Steve Nash trade this summer.  That in and of itself is fine, because – while he’s the face of the franchise and they love him – Suns fans seem content to see Steve traded because a) it gives the team its best possibility for rebuilding and b) it allows the loyal Nash to pursue the championship Robert Sarver’s incompetence has denied him.  What strikes me as particularly heinous for Suns fans, is the idea that the Suns made this deal because they think Brooks might be a realistic successor… Ugh… Goran Dragic might actually be a better player than Brooks.  At the very least, they’re comparable, but Dragic seems to have a better understanding of his role.  Brooks, who’s a free agent looking for a big deal, will cost the Suns more money and – compounding the mistake – once again, the Sarver-era Suns are throwing away draft picks.

– Sometimes an easy narrative comes along that columnists love to glom onto.  It provides a pre-carved out perch from which they stand on high ground and shout to their hearts content, but really it’s lazy and usually its wrong.  This week’s easy narrative is that superstars are forcing their way to a couple of super teams and because of that, the league is in trouble.  That’s the sort of moralizing that blindly castigates baseball’s steroid users, while idolizing past players, conveniently forgetting that those old timers used amphetamines, drank excessively, were racists, etc.  Superstar players have forced trades before, it wasn’t the end of the world then and it wont be the end of the world now.  As Simmons writes,

What a lazy argument. Over the past six decades, the following players pushed their way from a worse situation to a (seemingly) better one either by trade or free agency: Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Rick Barry, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Bill Walton, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Gary Payton, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Clyde Drexler … should I keep going? Now this “phenomenon” is endangering the game???

This isn’t a pandemic that’s going to ruin basketball.  It just isn’t.  Plus, as often as players get to control their destiny, far more often they’re Baron Davis, going from LA to Cleveland… so, lets not create mountains out of mole hills here.  Ok?  Good.

– Kirk Hinrich will take the Hawks from being a one and done, to being a… one and done.  Whoop-dee-do!

– Finally, while I think he’s being a bit of a cry baby, I also think that Cuban has a point.  If a team is owned by the league, it basically should go without saying that any moves made by that team should not cost extra money.  Yes, it’s a pittance, and yes, Cuban wouldn’t be complaining if New Orleans was in the Eastern Conference, but it is kind of silly that he’s going to pay money to improve a team that he could face in the playoffs.  Much has been written about how Detroit GM Joe Dumars’ hands are tied right now, because he cannot take on any money while the team is being sold, well, the same should be true of the Hornets.

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The Cost of Hedo…

December 19, 2010 Leave a comment

After Friday night’s loss, the Suns are once again on the wrong side of .500 and on the outside looking in on the playoffs. They’ve lost four of their last five, two of those to the team that they’re battling for eighth, and they seem incapable of rebounding against a team of grade eight girls. While it’s never a good idea to make declarative statements about teams 30 games into the season (see the hyperbole that surrounded the Miami Heat’s demise three weeks ago), I think we could have definitively said that these Suns are at best a first round sweep and at worst a 14th pick in the first round – which is basically the worst pick to have. Too late in the process to get a great player, but just early enough to mean you missed the playoffs. Honestly, who could have seen this coming… Actually, everyone. Everyone, except, apparently, Robert Sarver.

I think that I’ve made this point a couple of times: I’m less than impressed with some of the moves the Suns made this offseason. With Amare tearing up New York, it’s hard not to think the Suns erred in not bringing him back. Worse though, is that the money they could have spent on Amare they instead spread amongst Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Channing Frye, and Hakim Warrick. That’s like saying, hey waiter, can I trade this fillet mignon for a corn dog, a moldy banana, three cheerios, and some processed cheese. You could make the case that given his injury history, the Suns were smart not to bring Amare back, and that’s fine, but… After the Turk’s pathetic performance last year, you just cannot trade for Hedo Turkoglu. You can’t.

Yesterday, that boneheaded move ended up costing the Suns Jason Richardson. So, if you’re counting at home, after making the Western Conference finals last year, Robert Sarver’s cheapness has now cost the Suns GM Steve Kerr, star Amare Stoudemire, star Jason Richardson, and two bench players (Leandro Barbosa and the surprisingly useful Louis Amundson). Ouch. Of course, ultimately the player that all these maneuvers will possibly cost Phoenix is Steve Nash. Just don’t expect that to happen this year.

Sadly, I actually like the trade for the Suns. I say sadly, because I hate that they had to trade Richardson (and not just because he had such a great given name). Still, once they’d made that boneheaded Hedo acquisition, they were always going to have to give up something valuable to get rid of the smoking Turk. No doubt, Vince Carter has his flaws, and he’s also four years older than JRich, but there’s a good chance that playing next to Nash helps Vince recover enough to at least resemble what Richardson did for them. On top of that, they add a good defensive wing in Mikael Pietrus and an actual real, live, center.

Marcin Gortat is the reason that the Suns might be better off after this trade. Assuming that Vince can replace most of Richardson’s value – which given the success he had playing next to Jason Kidd in New Jersey is a reasonable expectation – and that Pietrus wont (can’t?) be any worse offensively than Hedo was, then the Suns come out neutral before considering the addition of Gortat. Once you factor in that the Big Pole brings some of the rebounding, shot blocking and post defense that the Suns sorely needed, it’s hard to conclude that they are any worse than they were yesterday morning. Now, between Gortat and Robin Lopez the Suns actually have a real center rotation. It’s not quite Bill Walton backing up Robert Parish, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the famed Earl Barron – Channing Frye combo that the Suns were using last week.

So, the Suns are better today than yesterday, even without Richardson. Of course, there’s no reason that they should have had Hedo and his bloated contract in the first place, so while I like this trade, the Suns are worse now than they were at this time last year.

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