Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Doris Diaw - Why & How the Suns Should Have Traded Her

Over the past couple of weeks since the Shaq trade, I've begun to see more and more that the play of Boris Diaw (who will henceforth be referred to by me in all contexts as Doris) has become especially painful for me to watch. To anyone who actually watches Suns games instead of simply looking at box scores at night and thinking they know everything about the team, it is clear that Diaw is, without a doubt, the softest and most mentally weak player the Suns have. Yes, she can pass. Yes, she can run the floor and guard bigger post players. But the Shaq trade has undeniably changed the dynamic of this Suns team. Now, before you go ballistic on me and start ranting about how the Suns are still going to run even with Shaq on board, and how this doesn't destroy their identity, let me explain exactly what I mean by that. I am not suggesting the Suns no longer run - they do and Shaq can help that. What I'm suggesting is that now, with Shaq on the Suns, the team is undeniably tougher, and Shaq won't accept anything else from the team. He's set the example for what he wants the guys around him to do on the court in terms of toughness, and if the guys around him don't display that toughness, they might as well not be on the team. When the Suns were showing no pride against Detroit last friday, Shaq didn't simply relax and coast through the rest of the game. He showed that he was pissed about the fact that the Suns had mailed in a game and got a flagrant foul for his efforts, almost causing Amir Johnson's lungs to collapse. So what does Diaw have to do with this? Well the fact of the matter is that her overall lack of what Shaq displayed on Friday isn't going to help this team. Remember when Diaw had that edge to dominate games in the playoffs a couple of years ago against Dallas? When Boris, testicles and all, took the flat-footed oafs the Mavericks had in the post to school and then battled with them on the defensive side of the court? That Diaw seemed to disappear, replaced by this newer, more feminine version that won't go up for a dunk unless she knows it's going to be thrown back in his face (a la Kobe Bryant's rejection of Doris last week). That's not going to cut it on this team, especially when her jumper is weak, she can't step out to the three-point line, which is idiocially what D'Antoni is trying to make her do so Shaq and Amare can patrol the post at will, and doesn't share the mentality that the team leaders are trying to instill in the team. And all of this comes at the hefty pricetag of $9 million per year, with three years left on the contract after this season. Wow. So how could we have gotten rid of her at the deadline? Well guess who's here to show you: me.

THE FIRST POTENTIAL DEAL: Phoenix sends Doris Diaw, Alando Tucker, Eric Piatkowski, Atlanta's 2008 first-round pick, and a future second-round pick to Memphis for Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal.

To Phoenix:
Mike Miller: $8.38 million salary, two years remaining after this season.
Brian Cardinal: $5.85 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

To Memphis:
Doris Diaw: $9 million salary, three years remaining after this season. (In the Base Compensation Year of his contract - This is something very very very important so take note: It may have well been why Kerr couldn't have done something even if he tried to. Doris is a Base Year Compensation player. What that essentially means is that Doris is making $9 million this season as a part of the contract extension she signed a few years back, which kicked in at the start of the season. However, because of the fact that the contract extension kicked in and replaced a year that Diaw was already under contract for, her salary cap number against the Suns for this season is somewhere between where her salary was at the final year of her first contract and where her salary will be once the contract extension takes its full effect. However, if she were traded to another team, her $9 million salary cap number would be used in calculating whether or not the deal would be balanced on the side of the team taking Diaw. But the Suns could not simply trade Diaw straight up for a package of deals worth a combined $9 million, because of the fact that since the Suns are over the salary cap, they must take back contracts with cap effects equal to the cap effects of the deals they are giving up. So essentially, the Suns needed to give up around $4 million in cap numbers for $9 million in cap numbers, and the other team would need to have the salary cap room in order to make the deal happen. This complicates things A LOT, and is hard to comprehend fully. However, it is possible to get around this, as I will explain below.)
Alando Tucker: $931,000 salary, one year remaining after this season.
Eric Piatkowski: $1.22 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

First off let me explain the structure of this deal. How this works is that it is two different trades that essentially work as one trade for the salary cap issues to work out. What happens is that the first trade is Doris, Skinner, Tucker, and Piatkowski for Miller, in which the salary cap effects of the contracts involved match because of the fact that Diaw is in his Base Year Compensation year of his new contract. The second side trade is where the Suns send a future second-round pick and part of the trade exception they received when they sent Kurt Thomas to Seattle, worth Thomas' $8.1 million salary, to Memphis for Brian Cardinal. This allows for the deals to both go through with the league office while essentially working as one trade. The Cardinal deal would have to go through first, because that deal frees up the cap space that allows for the Grizzlies to take on the difference in salary involved in the second deal, allowing the teams to get around the fact that Diaw is a Base Year Compensation player.
Now to explain why this deal works for both sides. Starting with Phoenix, it is pretty obvious. They get rid of Doris and her terrible contract, get a very valuable player in Mike Miller whose game is perfect for this Suns team as it's currently built. The man can flat-out shoot. If the Cavaliers thought getting Wally Szczerbiak for $12 million per year was a great deal, the Suns getting Miller for about $8.4 million per year is fantastic. They're not giving up any real rotation players in this deal besides Diaw, and she needs to go anyways. The other guys are simply throw-ins to make the salary cap numbers go through, Piatkowski has no role with the Suns, and Tucker seems to have no future in Phoenix, especially given the fact that our second-round pick last year, D.J. Strawberry, a guy whose defense I absolutely love (did you see that charge on Kobe? - Kobe even knew he did it), has already clearly out-peformed Tucker. The pick is irrelevant given the fact that Atlanta's recent acquisition of Mike Bibby is going to get them into the playoffs - we don't need another pick in the 16-18 range. Taking on Cardinal is the only (huge) negative of this deal, but it is something that needs to be done in order for Memphis to agree to the deal. Quite frankly, Cardinal would get no run in Phoenix, and his contract is horrid, but it's certainly not as bad as Diaw's, expires a year earlier, and might even be valuable as an expiring deal trading chip to ship off in a year and a half as the Suns start stocking up on draft picks and young players following the Nash/Shaq era. The reality that it would cost the team about $8 million extra next year with the difference of net salary against the luxury tax would probably be a deal-breaker with Sarver, but if he really wants to give this team the best chance to win, he'd agree to these deals in a heartbeat.
As for Memphis, this is all about getting rid of Cardinal and getting value for Miller. New GM Chris Wallace seems to have this weird obsession with trading away all of his veterans for cap space and young players, and he is certainly getting a decent amount of this from these deals. He frees up about $5 million in cap space from removing Cardinal from the picture this summer after the deals of Piatkowski and Skinner expire, gets a rotation player in Diaw who Marc Iavaroni coached in Phoenix and would know how to deal with (on a team that Diaw wouldn't be terrible with - she might even be tougher than Darko Milicic...), and gets a solid draft pick this summer. A pretty darn good haul for Memphis - certainly better than what they got from L.A. for Pau Gasol.
Overall, I see the biggest problem for these deals being Robert Sarver. The rest of the players moving around makes sense for both teams involved. Too bad the luxury tax sucks so much... A possible way to fix this deal up a bit so Sarver doesn't ruin it would be to include Leandro Barbosa going to Memphis, Juan Carlos Navarro going to Phoenix, removing Atlanta's first-round pick to Memphis, and simply combine the deals without using the trade exception (not sure if throw-ins would be needed for the salary cap... Barbosa is also a Base Year Compensation player so this might not even be possible. I don't know - Really, I don't know much, just that the collective bargaining agreement SUCKS). This way, the salaries still match up nicely, Memphis gets another key piece to their rebuilding process, a starting shooting guard who would team up with Rudy Gay to make one of the best young scoring tandems around, Phoenix would get another great shooter that would fit flawlessly in their system, and the removal of the pick makes up for the talent discrepancy between Barbosa and Navarro. Still makes sense to me. After all, the Suns are trying to win in the playoffs, and that always seems to be the time of the season when Barbosa shuts down. Memphis is simply trying to win in the regular season, and Barbosa seems to be pretty good during that time of the year.

THE SECOND POTENTIAL DEAL: Phoenix sends Doris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, and two future second-round picks to Orlando in exchange for Tony Battie, J.J. Redick, Brian Cook, Carlos Arroyo, and, if Kerr is good at getting the most out of other GM's, perhaps a first-round pick or two. Otis Smith hasn't always been the brightest crayon in the box, after all.

To Phoenix:
Tony Battie: $5.2 million salary, two years remaining after this season.
J.J. Redick: $2 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Brian Cook: $3.5 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Carlos Arroyo: $4 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

To Orlando:
Doris Diaw: $9 million salary, three years remaining after this season.
Leandro Barbosa: $5.6 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

Again, there are some structuring specifics that make this possible. If you thought making the last deal into two trades was nice, this one is three. That's right, this trade uses two of Phoenix's trade exceptions, the aforementioned large trade exception from the Kurt Thomas deal, which is used to acquire Battie for a future second-round pick, and then also the trade exception from James Jones' trade to the Portland Trail Blazers last summer, worth $2.9 million, which the Suns use in this scenario to acquire J.J. Redick for another future second-round pick. Those two deals give the Magic the cap space they need to take on the extra salary from the lopsidedness in salary that is created by the fact that both Diaw and Barbosa are Base Year Compensation players when those two are exchanged for Cook, Arroyo, and the picks.
From the Suns perspective, this is a little tough to swallow for some, and only someone like me who really feels its necessary to unload Diaw, and that unloading Barbosa is not a bad idea, would think that this is a deal the Suns should have made. However, unlike the previous deal, this does not create salary cap and luxury tax issues for Sarver. Because of the fact that the salaries of Diaw and Barbosa are going to escalate in terms of their effect on the cap and luxury tax next year, the fact that the two trade exceptions are used to acquire players without sending out players does not affect next season's luxury tax. The net salaries going between the teams are almost identical (off by about $100,000). Then looking at the players the Suns get back, Battie is dead weight but his contract is over before Diaw's, Redick and Cook can both shoot from the perimeter, allowing them to have an impact on the team, and Arroyo finally gives the Suns a really good backup point guard for their playoff run, not to mention he is known for his grittiness. After this deal, the Suns are, in my opinion, in much better shape to deal with the playoffs and are built to suit the attitude that Shaq has brought Phoenix.
Now from Orlando's perspective, this deal is really easy for them to understand. They're giving away a slew of players who, besides Arroyo, have little to no role on their team, and who they would love to get rid of. Redick sits on the bench, and Smith had to have been open to the possibility of moving him, despite what he said to the press about being cautious about trading Redick, Battie is dead weight who they're hoping gets hit by a bus, and Cook is a shooter who can't crack the rotation amidst guys like Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. In return, they get at least one, if not two rotation guys (Diaw in Orlando admittedly would be a terrible fit, given that one of her biggest deficiencies is a skill Orlando covets - shooting). Barbosa would be a hit in Orlando (during the regular season), teaming up with Jameer Nelson to create perhaps the quickest backcourt in basketball. With Turkoglu and the rest of Orlando's shooters on the perimeter, that means open looks. This makes Orlando an elite team in the East until playoff time comes around. Then, they still have no chance against the likes of Boston and especially Detroit, who looks to be the team to beat in the playoffs out East (I don't trust Rajon Rondo enough to perform in the playoffs, but that's conversation for another time). Of course, I seriously doubt Barbosa's ability to drive and penetrate at will come playoff time, but Orlando would certainly be exciting.

There you have it, two deals in which Phoenix manages to give up Doris and get back either equal talent with a bit of a salary issue, or somewhat inferior talent with no salary issues. Regardless, I feel strongly that we need this girl off our team. After all, the Diesel just went through a divorce, he doesn't need any women around the locker room.

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