Friday, February 22, 2008

NBA Trade Deadline - End of the "NBA"

One of my favorite sportswriters in the world,'s Bill Simmons, wrote in an article last year that NBA GM's lack of willingness to spring a potentially risky deal at the deadline had made turned the league into the No Balls Association, a league where it was better to simply stick with the status quo to maintain job security than to make a move that might have any chance of blowing up in your face, even if it could improve your title chances. Someone had better check on Simmons, he might have gone into cardiac arrest following the flurry of deals that happened before yesterday's trading deadline. Teams all across the NBA (not just the Western Conference) sacrificed valuable pieces of their futures and expiring contracts in final efforts to strengthen their teams and make a title run. Some won, some lost, some hit the lottery (since when did Mitch Kupchak become a really good GM? - looking at all of his decisions over the past year and a half, he's been flawless), and some sold out (I feel sorry for Memphis GM Chris Wallace... but that doesn't mean I won't take shots at him). So let's get to it. Here's analysis of trades from the huge to the miniscule and everything in between.

Deal #1: November 20, Lakers acquire Trevor Ariza from the Magic for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans.

Contract breakdown:

To L.A. Lakers:
Trevor Ariza: $3.1 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

To Orlando:
Brian Cook: $3.5 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Maurice Evans: $1.7 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

Not a very-well documented deal, but still deserves some attention, as it involves two teams with legitimate NBA Finals hopes swapping parts that didn't fit in their respective systems. From Orlando's perspective, Ariza simply didn't work there, where the goal is to spread the floor, give Dwight Howard his space in the post, let laser-quick Jameer Nelson & the guards penetrate and kick it out to shooters. Simply put, he's a wing player that can't shoot. Is he talented and with a high ceiling being only 22 years old? Yes. But his deal is up at the end of the year, he didn't want to return, and they weren't going to give him the money he's going to ask for. Instead, Orlando brings in a pair of guys who better fit the system they have. Evans has been shooting quite well since the deal (48% from the floor) and Cook is a great fit for them because of the fact that he lives on the perimeter on the offensive end, but can guard bigs due to his 6-9 260 pound frame. Since he's arrived in Orlando he's shooting a ridiculous 48% clip from the perimeter (although he's only taken 2.1 per game - no clue why).
On L.A.'s side, there's absolutely no reason why they shouldn't have jumped on this deal (making you wonder why Orlando GM Otis Smith didn't try to squeeze some picks out of L.A.). Evans was stuck behind Sasha Vujacic and some guy named Kobe at the 2-guard spot, and Cook's departure has since been negated by a certain acquisition of a really tall Spanish guy (and I suppose the corpse of a former #1 overall pick they possessed before the deal didn't make this swap contingent on their hopes of getting another big) and the presence of Ronny Turiaf and Andrew Bynum to fill up the post. So they went out and grabbed a guy who will be fantastic off the bench for them behind Lamar Odom. The Lakers are scary people. Also keep in mind with that recent Suns/Lakers game that Ariza didn't play. He will have an impact, without a doubt.

Trade #2: December 14, Charlotte acquires Nazr Mohammed from Detroit for Walter Herrmann and Primoz Brezec.

Contract breakdown:

To Charlotte:
Nazr Mohammed: $5.6 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

To Detroit:
Walter Herrmann: $1.9 million salary, expires at the end of this season.
Primoz Brezec: $2.75 million salary, expires at the end of this season (later traded to Toronto - see Trade #10).

This deal shows what happens when GM's think it's a good idea to drunk dial another GM. Charlotte, as a recent expansion team, needs to do one thing above all others: manage their cap situation and stay away from terrible contracts, or use your cap in order to acquire draft picks that you can build your team with at junkyard-level prices. This is why expansion teams only agree to take players with crappy contracts in the expansion draft if that other team gives them a first-round pick (in Charlotte's case, Phoenix's Jahidi White came with a first-round pick surprise). So what do they go and do at the deadline? They take on a deal with over $16 million remaining on it over the next three seasons, when the player, Mohammed, was the third post option in Detroit. Granted, he was behind a lot of very good post players, but he is not the type of player that dramatically improves Charlotte's roster. Especially when Herrmann was so efficient last season (9.2 points per game on 53% shooting, including 46% from three-point range, to go with 2.9 rebounds per game in only 19.5 minutes per game, and making LESS THAN $2 MILLION - why was this guy riding the bench this year, especially when Charlotte is so piss-poor???), and both of the contracts they gave up expire at the end of the year? In this NBA, where $9 million of Kwame Brown's carcass, some end of the first-round picks, a decent European prospect, and one decent prospect they know they'll have on their roster next season can get you an All-Star, how did $4.65 million of expiring deals get them a guy they'll want to get rid of in two years?
On Detroit's side, this is a evidence that Joe Dumars knows what he's doing (something we already knew). They get rid of a long-term deal on a guy they weren't going to play and who would only be valuable in the year his contract was about to expire, and turn it into almighty cap flexibility this summer. With so many teams over the cap by such large margins, having any flexibility is great news for Detroit. Excellent move.

Trade #3: December 29, Utah acquires Kyle Korver from Philadelphia for Gordan Giricek and a protected first-round pick.

Contract breakdown:

To Utah:
Kyle Korver: $4.5 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

To Philadelphia:
Gordan Giricek: $4 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

From Utah's perspective, this is the second-best trade a team has made near this year's deadline, nestled right behind the deal that gave Gregg Popovich an aneurism. They displayed the value of the ever-powerful expiring contract, turning it into the perfect guy for Deron Williams to continue to progress into an elite point guard. And it's clear Korver has benefitted greatly from playing with Williams (instead of Andre Miller, in case you were curious), with jump of just over 7% in field goal percentage, and just under 2% in three-point field goal percentage. While that might not seem significant, one has to realize that he was doing pretty darn well from the field before the deal (40% from the field and 35% from three-point land are solid for a sniper). Giricek's value is assessed in the fragment following the "$4 million" part of the Contract breakdown section. His production caused him to fall out of Utah's rotation, and he was clearly expendable. Also, the first-round pick was free, as they have already built their roster for years to come (only three expiring deals on a roster of 14 players, two of which, C.J. Miles and Paul Millsap, they will want to re-sign). The pick would have had a difficult time even making the roster, and for a team that believes it can win in the near future, having another guy in the D-League isn't going to help.
However, I think that people fail to see that this deal is also quite understandable from Philadelphia's point of view. As the post-Billy King era begins in Philly (and thank goodness for that), it's understandable that new GM Ed Stefanski would want to start cleaning out the remnants of this deal, and getting cap space and a first-round pick in exchange for a guy whose contract was on the books for another two years isn't a terrible haul, especially with the upcoming huge deal for Andre Iguodala. However, I would have liked to see more action from Philadelphia. If you're going to trade away a long-term deal from the previous regime for cap space, why not clean house? It's clear the Sixers need to re-build around Iguodala and kids like Thaddeus Young, but yet they hold on to Andre Miller's $9.6 million deal that runs through next season, even though there was significant interest in him. I would have loved to see the Sixers try to pawn him off as well (Dalembert would have been nice to get rid of as well, but that's a pipe dream with his contract) to see if you can't clear even more space for this summer's nice free agent class. They took one step into the pool, but were too afraid to dive in, and it's a bit of a shame.

Trade #4: February 1, "The Gregg Popovich Aneurism Deal," L.A. Lakers acquire Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies in exchange for Javaris Crittenton, Kwame Brown('s expiring contract), Aaron McKie (signed just before the deal), the rights to Marc Gasol, and first-round draft picks in 2008 and 2010.

Contract breakdown:

To L.A. Lakers:
Pau Gasol: $13.7 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

To Memphis:
Kwame Brown: $9.1 million salary, expires at the end of this season.
Javaris Crittenton: $1.3 million salary, one year remaining after this season (rookie contract - gives club an option to pick up a third year at the same salary)
Aaron McKie: Sorry, I couldn't find the salary numbers for the deal, but what I do know is that he signed a three-year contract with the Lakers before being traded, but the catch is that only the first year of it, the rest of this season, is guaranteed, essentially creating a nice expiring contract for Memphis and making the deal manageable in terms of salary heading to Memphis to match Gasol's $13.7 million.

The best trade I've seen... perhaps ever (from the Lakers' perspective, of course). It's been written over and over and over... and over again by every sportswriter on the planet but they gave up about 13 cents on the dollar for Gasol. Crittenton may turn out to be good, but the Lakers are set at the point with Derek Fisher starting and Jordan Farmar backing him up. Kwame is a cadaver - his NBA career's destiny is sealed, and the only thing left for him to do is let his agent talk up his "potential" to one sucker GM of the 30 teams out there to get another long-term deal for as much money as he can get, bolting Memphis ASAP. The lesser of the Gasol's is apparently a good Euro prospect, and for a re-building team like Memphis he may end up being the best asset they wind up with from this deal when it's all said and done, but he still pales in comparison to big bro for the immediate future, and the Lakers want to win now. The picks are sort of tough for L.A. to lose considering the fact they've drafted absolutely spectacularly in the late first-round in recent years (Farmar, Walton, Cook - this Kupchak guy REALLY knows what he's doing), but I think they'll manage without them, especially considering that Kupchak has made a series of marvelous choices over the last two years. I've already mentioned the great drafts, and then there's last year's trading deadline, where Kupchak was reprimanded by people all over the NBA, and even a few people within his organization (that's you Kobe), for being unwilling to include Andrew Bynum in a trade with New Jersey for Jason Kidd. Now, he looks like a genius, as it's doubtful Kupchak would accept a straight up Kidd-for-Bynum deal at this point. And then he suckers Memphis into making this deal. He's been phenominal. I can't stop going through how well he's done his job in my head - every move has seemed to pay off.
Now for Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace, it's a bit of a different story. At first I thought this deal reminded me a little of Stephon Marbury going from the Suns to the Knicks a few years back, but the more I think about why that comparison fails to meet up to this deal (Gasol has failed in playoffs because he has played with nobody, whereas Marbury had played with KG/Marbury is a team cancer/the only reason the Suns' deal was good was because they dumped Anfernee Hardaway's contract on the Knicks as well, whereas the Grizzlies' refusal to insist that Brian Cardinal be included amazes me), the more I think: WHY?!?!?!?!?! Not that they had to take less than full-dollar value for Pau, that was inevitable. But what was the point of not waiting until closer to the deadline to get a better package for him? There are plenty of teams out there with expiring deals that they could have shipped to match Gasol's deal with prospects equal to Crittenton's ability and draft picks that would have been better than L.A.'s will be (Cleveland comes to mind, Atlanta as well), and who were interested in making a playoff push. Waiting to deal your star player until the time when teams are most desperate for that final piece has always been the best option, nomatter what sport you're looking at, and what player you're talking about. You mean to tell me the Cavs wouldn't have parted with Daniel Gibson, Devin Brown, Shannon Brown, Cedric Simmons, Donyell Marshall, Ira Newble, the rights to 6-9 Nigerian forward Ejike Ugboaja (I'm going to be honest, I just put him in here for fun and because he's the only foreign unsigned draft pick the Cavs have a right to - not sure if he's worth anything), and two first-round draft picks to get Gasol (combined salary for Cleveland's players - $13.56 million? Cleveland GM Danny Ferry knew he needed to make a move, and ended up panicing and getting Ben Wallace's washed-up ability and absurd contract along with Wally Szczerbiak's $12 million salary on the books for next season (more on that deal later - I've got quite a different perspective on that deal than most). He would have changed his mind real quick on Gibson's untouchability if he had the choice between those two deals. And with that package for Memphis, you get your two prospects in Gibson and Simmons, two better draft picks, and the only deal they get that doesn't expire at the end of this season is Simmons', and he makes a paltry $1.63 million on his rookie deal. Clearly, Wallace was pressured by ownership to clear salary, as the team wasn't winning with Gasol, so why pay him? But to make a deal so early when better deals were available is insane. Sorry, but I'm not buying this one anymore. Not to mention the fact that the Grizzlies missed countless opportunities to make something out of Mike Miller's crazy-large contract. If you're trying to cut payroll, which the Grizzlies clearly are, then cut payroll. I'm sick of teams waffling between two different strategies as far as building their teams are concerned. You should either be making a playoff push/title run, developing young talent, or blowing up your team and building around a few key guys. They have that one guy in Rudy Gay to build around after they blow it up, so why did they wait? Bring out the dynamite now and get the messy part over with.

Trade #5: February 4, Memphis acquires Jason Collins and cash from New Jersey for Stromile Swift.

Contract breakdown:

To Memphis:
Jason Collins: $6.1 million, one year remaining after this season.

To New Jersey:
Stromile Swift: $5.8 million, expires at the end of this season.

This trade is extremely lop-sided and makes absolutely no sense to me... I just don't get it. Unless the contract information I received was somehow wrong, which it wasn't, I don't get what Memphis could have possibly been hoping to do with this deal. You're trying to shed salary, so don't go take on a guy who is a worse player than who you're giving up, makes slightly more money than who you're giving up, and whose contract runs longer than who you're giving up!!! Collins is slow, has no offensive presence, and does little to help Memphis. I get that they wanted to get rid of Swift since they see him as a team cancer, and he's simply pure athleticism and no work ethic. But his deal is over at the end of the season, and you're not going anywhere after this deal, so just let it run out. Don't chain yourself down to a bad contract. Sure, it gives them an expiring deal as a trade chip next season, but the Grizzlies aren't looking to trade expiring contracts for pieces, they're looking to acquire expiring contracts to clear up cap space for free agency. This deal goes against everything they're doing and it's simply idiotic. Another strike on GM Chris Wallace (and this one can't go against the ownership's frugality).
For the nets, dumping off Collins' bad deal and getting cap space this summer sets them up for a hauntingly quick reloading. Note that I don't call it a rebuilding, as the Nets really didn't blow their team up, with all of the great players they have in place already. They needed a re-tooling, and they just got younger with the Kidd deal (a fantastic move, I'll get to it later) and freed up cap space with this deal. A starting lineup of Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Star Free Agent X they could sign with what should be over $10 million in cap space due to their huge number of expiring deals, and Sean Williams is simply scary in the Eastern Conference, and they'll have it next season if they spend their cap money wisely. The bench won't be terrible either, with Marcus Williams as backup point guard (did you see the kid against Chicago - 25 points, 3 of 5 from three-point range in 39 minutes; if the kid can cut down on his turnovers and fouls, he'll be a great backup) and Boone as a solid backup big man. Now imagine if that particular Star Free Agent X is a guy like Gilbert Arenas. The scoring possibilities are endless and the Nets could match up with anybody on pure athleticism and fast-break style offense. Every single one of those guys is hauntingly athletic. I'm officially scared about this possibility.

Trade #6: February 6, Phoenix acquires Shaquille O'Neal from Miami in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.

Contract breakdown:

To Phoenix:
Shaquille O'Neal: $21 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

To Miami:
Shawn Marion: $16.4 million salary, one year remaining after this season (Marion, however, is expected to opt out of his deal at the end of this season).
Marcus Banks: $4 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

Finally, a trade that makes really really good sense for both sides. Another deal that's been discussed until kingdom come (so I'll keep it short despite my desire as a Suns fan to write a fifty-page thesis on this deal).
Miami essentially gets a god-send. they were stuck behind Shaq's large salary for the next two and a half years until this deal was done, and now they get a new lease on life as they start their process of blowing up their team and rebuilding through free agency and the draft. While Banks' deal runs for a long time, he does have a chance to have some success in Miami where there isn't such immense pressure for the point guard slot to be so productive. In Phoenix, Banks was always the guy who never measured up to the fans' expectations as the guy who was in when Steve Nash wasn't. It's like being one of Emeril's kids and having to eat out at a less-than-spectacular restaurant. The food you get might be really really good, but if it's following night after night of the peak of gourmet, you're not going to enjoy it as much. In Miami now they'll have Banks backing up Jason Williams, and Banks has nothing near the pressure he had on him in Phoenix to give Steve Nash the rest everyone felt he needed. Also I'd like to take this time to give Miami extra credit at this deadline for NOT trading away their expiring deals of Jason Williams and Ricky Davis and getting back a craptastic package from the Knicks, instead recognizing that the cap space they'll have this summer will allow them to start their rebuilding process, and electing to not interfere with their demolition of this roster by taking on a set of long-term deals of a bunch of career underperformers. Advice to all GM's: Do not make a trade with the Knicks as they are currently comprised (including into next season) unless the only players you're getting back have a last name that is either Lee or Robinson, of unless you've caught Isiah Thomas after one of his binge drinking exploits.
For the Suns, it's obvious what they're doing and it's obvious this is the best way they could do it. I've read articles describing that the Suns could have gotten "more" for Shawn Marion (the deals they propose are pure idiocy - Ben Wallace and Ty Thomas? Sam Dalembert and Kevin Ollie? Marion and Hill for Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic, Josh Boone, and Jamaal Magloire? Wow...), and that it was simply a reaction deal to all the other deals in the Western Conference. Umm, exactly... That's the point. With the way the West was structured, the Suns had no chance of winning a championship unless they got bigger. And they certainly got bigger in this deal. While having a chance to look back on this trade after seeing Shaq look amazing Wednesday night (considering the fact he was playing for the first time in a month with five days of practice under his belt) makes it easy for me to analyze this, I don't see the Suns really regretting this deal. I see Shaq getting the Suns at least to the Western Conference Finals (which may as well be the NBA Finals), and a showdown with the Lakers being the test they need to pass to get their ring that they're going for by making this deal. We'll see how it works out.

Trade #7: February 16, Atlanta acquires Mike Bibby from Sacramento in exchange for Anthony Johnson, Shelden Williams, Tyronn Lue, Lorenzen Wright, and a 2008 second-round draft pick.

Contract breakdown:

To Atlanta:
Mike Bibby: $14 million salary, one year remaining after this season.

To Sacramento:
Anthony Johnson: $2.86 million salary, expires at the end of this season.
Shelden Williams: $3.17 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Tyronn Lue: $3.5 million salary, expires at the end of this season.
Lorenzen Wright: $3.25 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

This deal shows the value of expiring contracts in the NBA today. Atlanta coughs up three expiring deals and a lottery bust to the Kings for a solution to their biggest problem, point guard. A lot of people seem to be down on Bibby for some reason, but the fact of the matter is he's certainly not old. Many simply think he is because of the fact that it has been quite a while since Sacramento was successful and making serious playoff runs, but that was when Bibby was in his early twenties. He's only 29 years old, and has a short-term contract. This is a very small gamble that could pay huge dividends for the Hawks, who finally seem poised to end their ridiculous playoff drought. Billy Knight made a good trade, and the Hawks ownership didn't prevent him from doing so.
I like what this trade did for Sacramento as well, but think they blew it at the deadline this year after this deal was made. This deal showed that they are trying to rebuild around Kevin Martin and the kids. SO BLOW IT UP!!! Ron Artest is finally sane and has legitimate trade value for the first time in years, has another year left on his contract, and it looks less and less likely that he's going to opt out of the final year of his deal based on what his agent, Mark Stevens, had to say: "Exercising our option at this point is possible, but not likely." If that's the case, the Kings' rebuilding plans are put on hold by a $7.4 million salary next season preventing them from signing free agents to build around Martin. The Kings made the right move here, but they needed to take another step. This waffling is becoming ridiculous, and it's going to hurt the Kings in the long run.

Trade #8: February 19: Dallas waives Nick Fazekas, signs Keith Van Horn, and then trades Van Horn with Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop, Maurice Ager, Trenton Hassell, two first-round picks, and cash to New Jersey in exchange for Jason Kidd, Malik Allen, and Antoine Wright.

Contract breakdown:

To Dallas:
Jason Kidd: $19.73 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Malik Allen: $770,000 salary, expires at the end of this season.
Antoine Wright: $1.68 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

To New Jersey:
Devin Harris: $4 million salary, five years remaining after this season.
DeSagana Diop: $2.15 million salary, expires at the end of this season.
Maurice Ager: $970,000 salary, one year remaining after this season.
Trenton Hassell: $4.35 million salary, two years remaining after this season (I'm fairly sure the final year is not guaranteed - can someone check up on this for me, I have a hard time believing the Nets would have taken a three-year deal.)
Keith Van Horn: As was the case with Aaron McKie, I couldn't get Van Horn's contract info. It's the same structure though.

This trade is perhaps one of the most interesting deals of the deadline. One can't help but wonder if the Mavericks paniced when they made this deal. Kidd is an upgrade over Harris right now, that is indesputable. But how important was Diop to this team? Will Dampier be able to step up his production? Did the Mavericks sacrifice too much of their future to make a deal for the present that might not have as big of an impact on them as they expect it to. I believe they gave up way too much in this deal. Although at least they can thank Jerry Stackhouse for messing up the original deal that was arranged, forcing New Jersey to take on Hassell's contract. For me, there are just too many questions surrounding how much this improves Dallas. I think they'll be better this year, but it doesn't put them on the same tier with the Lakers and possibly the Suns and Spurs. I see them as a really really good four-seed who gets knocked out in the second round and as their key players continue to age, with Stackhouse and Kidd well into their thirties, can Josh Howard in the prime of his career along with Dirk and Terry getting up there in the years still manage to keep a very productive team when those two are gone? I say they regret this very very soon.
The Nets got a fantastic haul for Kidd. With the trend in recent years being that teams get nickels on the dollar for their aging star players, the Nets managed to actually get closer to 85 cents on the dollar and set up a very very quick reloading process. People say Devin Harris will be a great point guard, but refuse to recognize he's already really really good. And with the amazing amount of cap space they will have this summer as mentioned earlier (see trade #5), they will find themselves among the top four teams in the East next season. An overall fantastic haul for Rod Thorn.

Trade #9: February 20, San Antonio acquires Kurt Thomas from Seattle in exchange for Brent Barry, Francisco Elson, and a 2009 first-round pick.

Contract breakdown:

To San Antonio:
Kurt Thomas: $8.1 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

To Seattle:
Brent Barry: $5.64 million salary, expires at the end of this season (has already been bought out and waived).
Francisco Elson: $3 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

Deals like this show that shedding salary just for the sake of shedding salary is plain stupid. By simply being willing to take half of a year of Kurt Thomas' EXPIRING CONTRACT from the salary-shedding Suns (using the trade exception from Rashard Lewis' sign-and-trade to Orlando), the Sonics will end up with three bottom of the first round draft picks. Yes, that's right, Sonics GM Sam Presti turned Rashard Lewis wanting to go to Orlando into three first-round picks. While that may not sound like a huge deal, look at some of the valuable players that have come out of the bottom of the first round (picks 20-30) year after year and you'll see that this could be a heist. While it's a bit soon to be looking at the 2007 bottom of the first round draft crop, you can look at guys like Jordan Farmar and Rajon Rondo in 2006, David Lee, Linas Kleiza, and Jason Maxiell in 2005, Jameer Nelson and Kevin Martin in 2004, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Boris Diaw, and Travis Outlaw in 2003, Tayshaun Prince in 2002, and a ridiculously deep draft in 2001 with Gerald Wallace, Sam Dalembert, Jamaal Tinsley, and Tony Parker going consecutively in picks 25 through 28, with a fest of other good picks either just before or following the late first round choices in Zach Randolph at 19, Gilbert Arenas at 31, Mehmet Okur at 38, Earl Watson at 40, and Bobby Simmons at 42. If teams put forth the effort into really scouting the talent at the latter parts of the draft, it's not impossible to find some gems. As a Suns fan, this makes the Suns selling off of late first-round draft picks unbearable. I love how people now think the only good way to spend late first-round picks is on European players that they don't want on their teams for years. That's just what teams do that can't afford to have another rookie's salary on their cap at that time, but who feel it's better to have a prospect's rights than simply cash in a $3 million check.
Getting to the actual players involved in the deal, Kurt Thomas, although a decent post defender, is certainly in my opinion not a great post defender, and isn't even approaching being a great post defender. Tim Duncan walked all over him last year. People have argued that Thomas made Duncan "work for his points," but since when does it matter how much effort you put into getting 30 points? All that matters is the scoreboard, not the effort needed to get the points on the scoreboard. Who says that guys like Amare, Pau, Yao, and even Tyson Chandler won't do the same? In my opinion, his most valuable contribution will be his mid-range shot, which I'll admit is fantastic. This makes constantly doubling Duncan in the post a double-edged sword. You have to do it to hope to neutralize Duncan, but at the same time you must take the threat of Thomas' jumper into account. I don't see this deal dramatically changing the Western Conference, though. Thomas is a good addition, but there is still a crowd at the top, and nobody except PERHAPS the Lakers have really separated themselves.

Trade #10: February 21: Detroit acquires Juan Dixon from Toronto for Primoz Brezec.

Contract breakdown:

To Toronto:
Primoz Brezec: $2.75 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

To Detroit:
Juan Dixon: $2.55 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

Bryan Colangelo continues to build the All-Euro team in Toronto, it's impossible to have too many big men in the playoffs. As a man who used to be nicknamed Primoz (I shit you not), I actually know a little bit about him, and he has always been somewhat awkward and is clearly a horse of a different color than the American-born NBA players he plays with, as evidenced by the fact that he once missed action due to, as put by the doctor who recommended he sit out, "severe exhaustion." He was ripped apart at the time for being mentally weak, and it's clear he isn't like the players most coaches and teams are used to. Perhaps, with a team of players with a similar background to him, players who are used to playing the clearly different style of basketball that is found in Europe, he will find a way to provide some production in a spot-time backup role. One might recall he had a few productive seasons in Charlotte before his position was taken from him by a series of upper first-round picks the Bobcats were obligated to give the playing time necessary to develop elite talent.
As for Detroit, I don't see Dixon being anything there. He might get some sort of spot time, but the Pistons have too many good guards to give Dixon a significant role. This one ends up a wash and neither player amounts to anything on his new team. Both contracts expire at the end of this year, with the cash exchange of the deal likely being for the sole purpose to make up for the prorated salary difference for the rest of the season, and both will probably sign elsewhere for as much money as they can find, which might very well be in Europe.

Trade #11: February 21, Denver acquires Taurean Green from Portland for Von Wafer.

Contract breakdown:

To Denver:
Taurean Green: $430,000 salary, one year remaining after this season.

To Portland:
Von Wafer: $770,000 salary, expires at the end of this season.

Now, I've been a fan of a lot of Portland GM Kevin Pritchard's moves, but as for this one... Why??? Wafer is a guy who will never be anything more than a sub-par shooting 2-guard, and the Blazers already have a boatload of guards who can shoot, and none who are true point guards, which is what Green has the slight potential to become. He was picked 52nd last year, and that's actually a legitimate pick in terms of college players in the U.S. these days because so many picks in the second round are now dedicated to European guys because that's the only way teams think they can get a decent player from the second round (because they don't know how to scout second-round college talent anymore). The truth is that Green is the type of player who would have been picked in the early second round just six years ago. The second round is not devoid of talent, and Green was a pretty solid player on a great Florida Gators squad, and could have become a decent player at a position Portland was lacking in. Granted, this trade has about a 98% chance of being totally irrelevant in two years when both are out of the league, but that 2% chance Green becomes a relevant role player at the point makes this pointless in my eyes from the Blazers' perspective. Wafer has almost no chance of cracking the rotation at a stacked position, giving Portland no opportunity for reward Portland in making this deal. Denver, on the other hand, gets a D-League point guard prospect who could step in and help should Anthony Carter suffer some sort of injury, as their only other legitimate point guard option is the already-injured Chucky Atkins (unless you want to count A.I. as a legitimate point guard, but I call him an undersized 2-guard who has learned to pass). This is trade that most NBA fans will probably not know ever happened (and probably will not need to know in the long run), but that doesn't mean it should be ignored.

Trade #12: February 21, Minnesota acquires Kirk Snyder, a second round pick, and cash from Houston for Gerald Green.

Contract breakdown:

To Minnesota:
Kirk Snyder: $2.36 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

To Houston:
Gerald Green: $1.44 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

Here's a good deal for Daryl Morey - what I've come to expect. Kirk Snyder is offically a bust - we can all say it now. I don't get why Minny even bothered to take Snyder - he's garbage. Really, the only reason I think they did was to balance the money going between teams with the cash considerations making up for the difference in salaries. Money aside, Minny would have just as easily taken the pick for a potentially good player in Green and walked away happy (this is Kevin McHale, this shouldn't be a surprise). Snyder has basically no potential left, isn't supremely athletic, and won't amount to anything but a sub-par role player. Don't be shocked if he's out of the league in a couple years.
Green, however, like all ridiculously talented athletes who have yet to put it all together, has loads of untapped potential. Considering the fact that Green's salary is smaller than Snyder's, and that Green still has that small chance of being a solid rotation player, why not take the gamble? If it doesn't work out, you unload him after his rookie deal expires and all you lose is a second-round pick. A good, calculated gamble.

Trade #13: February 21, three-team trade in which Houston trades Bonzi Wells and Mike James to New Orleans and cash and the rights to Malick Badiane to Memphis; New Orleans trades Bobby Jackson and Adam Haluska to Houston and Marcus Vinicius to Memphis; Memphis trades the rights to Sergei Lishouk to Houston.

Contract breakdown:

To Houston:
Bobby Jackson: $5.67 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Adam Haluska: $430,000 salary, expires at the end of this season.

To New Orleans:
Mike James: $5.83 million salary, two years remaining after this season.
Bonzi Wells: $2.28 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

To Memphis:
Marcus Vinicius: $690,000 salary, expires at the end of this season.

New Orleans simply had to bite the bullet in the financial long-run to improve their team in an instant. By being willing to take on the horrid contract of Mike James for the less horrid contract of Bobby Jackson, they found themselves with a very well-priced scoring option off the bench in Bonzi Wells. So while this might become a slight issue a few years down the line (and that's risky considering the team was built so well for the long haul), they clearly firmly believe that they can win now, and this deal proves it. It takes guts to make a deal like this, and you have to give credit to Hornets GM Jeff Bower to feeling this team has a chance to win now and having the balls to make a risky deal. In the old No Balls Association, this trade doesn't happen.
This deal doesn't make sense for Houston to me though. The fact of the matter with these guys is that they shouldn't be too concerned about the future. Sure, they got out of the crappy long-term contract James has, but Yao and McGrady aren't getting younger, and Bobby Jackson's deal doesn't ooze sunshine. McGrady's already been injured a lot, and came out of high school, so it's hard to believe he lasts well into his 30's. And Yao, despite being fantastic, isn't good enough to carry this team if McGrady isn't performing at his current level. They needed to improve for now, not try to ease themselves financially for the future. Daryl Morey's a smart guy though, so we'll see if he proves me wrong.
The Grizzlies may have well not been involved in this deal... They were in this deal for cap purposes to take on the salary of Vinicius, who they get a free look at over the next couple of months before they choose not to re-sign him this summer, and trade away the draft rights to Badiane, who they probably were never going to sign. Apparently what I've heard is that the only reason they shipped off Lishouk is so the league would approve the deal, since each team involved in the deal is required to trade something.

Trade #14 (FINALLY THE LAST ONE!!! - and it's a rich one): February 21, three-team deal in which Cleveland trades Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall to Seattle and Larry Hughes, Cedric Simmons, Shannon Brown, and Drew Gooden to Chicago; Seattle trades Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West to Cleveland; Chicago trades Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, and a 2009 second-round pick to Cleveland and Adrian Griffin to Seattle.

Contract breakdown:

To Cleveland:
Ben Wallace: $15.5 million salary, two years remaining after this season.
Joe Smith: $5.2 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Wally Szczerbiak: $12.275 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Delonte West: $1.89 million salary, expires at the end of this season.

To Chicago:
Larry Hughes: $12 million salary, two years remaining after this season.
Cedric Simmons: $1.63 million salary, one year remaining after this season.
Shannon Brown: $1.04 million salary, expires at the end of this season.
Drew Gooden: $6.43 million salary, one year remaining after this season.

To Seattle:
Ira Newble: $3.44 million salary, expires at the end of this season.
Donyell Marshall: $5.57 million salary, expires at the end of this season.
Adrian Griffin: $1.59 million salary, one year remaining after this season.

Good lord, where do I begin? I'll start with Cleveland, considering that the fact that they finally made a move was the big headline involved with this deal. It seems that NBA analysts are drinking the Danny Ferry Kool-Aid as a result of this deal, saying that when Ferry finally made his big move, he cashed in big by bringing in a bunch of guys who can help LeBron out. Well as for me, I'm not buying it. Look at those contracts the Cavaliers dragged in... Not even counting the prorated salaries they'll be paying this season, they owe Wallace, Smith, and Szczerbiak approximately a combined $48.5 million over the next two seasons. TWO SEASONS!!! AND THAT'S WITH WALLACE BEING THE ONLY ONE WHOSE DEAL DOESN'T EXPIRE AFTER THE FIRST, MEANING THAT'S WITHOUT SZCZERBIAK AND SMITH COUNTING TOWARDS THAT NUMBER FOR THE SECOND SEASON!!!!!! Spending $24.25 million on average per season, money you'd expect to be paying for a superstar AND a solid role player. The Cavs are spending that much for one year of Szczerbiak and Smith, and two years of Wallace, and that just seems downright pitiful for me. There are so many ways the Cavaliers could have turned their absolutely ridiculous amount of expiring contracts they had, all $17 million worth, into something much better than a washed up center who couldn't play offense when he was good and a wing player who, despite being a good shooter, still averaged just 13 points per game in Seattle. For a $12 million salary?!?!?! When the Cavs had so many other options, whether it be to get a guy like a Jason Kidd (see details of proposed deal in Trade #8 analysis) or to sit and let their cap room free up for a guy like Arenas this summer, they could have done so much better than a deal in which the best player they're acquiring is Wally Szczerbiak. Give this one year and Ferry will be sitting and waiting for Szczerbiak's and Smith's deals to expire, unless, of course, he goes out and makes another moronic move and trades them for new long-term deals, and Cleveland fans will be hoping Wallace gets run over by a bus.
For Chicago, this deal provides them some hope. For those who can remember, Hughes was a very good scorer back when he played in a system that suited his skills in Washington, and he could end up with a sort of revival in Chicago. Also, getting rid of Wallace's uselessness on offense frees up time for Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas that they both deserve, given that they're better than Wallace is. Gooden is young and has a good offensive post-up game, despite his more-than-occasional absences of mind. Brown and Simmons are both recent first-round picks of Cleveland's (and Ferry's willingness to dump them off in this deal is repulsive to me), who are decent prospects and could become solid players, especially Simmons, a freakish athlete who could become a great shot-blocker.
For Seattle, GM Sam Presti is forced to make a crappy salary-cutting deal here, and although managing to get out from Szczerbiak's deal is amazing, the fact that he had to give up a very solid player in West is discouraging. It amazes me how little regard for Seattle's support the ownership there has. It's disappointing, especially since Seattle has been so good to the NBA for so long. Presti was simply doing what he was told to do here.

There you have it, fourteen trades worth of analysis. If that's not enough to cover you until baseball season begins, well... you're in the same predicament I'm in (I'M SICK OF CLEMENS - BRING ON THE BASEBALL!!!).

By the way, I just checked, Bill Simmons is alive and well, and even released a new column. We can rest easy.

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