When You Wish Upon a Star: NBA Upgrades at the Trade Deadline
Ben Wallace. Drew Gooden. Mike Bibby. Jason Kidd. Devin Harris. Shaquille O'Neal. Shawn Marion. Pau Gasol.
These are the kind of players that get traded every day—on my NBA Live video game.
I pick my favorite team and immediately try to stack it to win a championship, blowing out every opponent in my path.
This season, GMs across the NBA appear to be following suit in real life, making blockbuster deals in the last few weeks before today's trade deadline to try and catapult their team toward the Finals.
In addition to the big names above, role players like Bonzi Wells, Kurt Thomas, Kyle Korver, and Larry Hughes have also switched cities.
Why the craziness? Why has this season's trade deadline seen so many movers and shakers?
I'm glad you asked...
1. The Boston Three Party
Danny Ainge's offseason makeover of one of the league's proudest franchises immediately made Boston a viable threat for the 2008 NBA championship. Adding sharpshooter Ray Allen and all-everything Kevin Garnett took Paul Pierce's team to the top of the NBA standings-and every other team with championship aspirations had one more roadblock to overcome.
LeBron and company in Cleveland? Detroit, the East's perennial power? No more guaranteed Conference Finals trips for you.
Boston had upped the ante, and the talent-stockpiling race was on.
2. The Pau Gasol stunner
Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers' general manager, fired the next shot in this winner-take-all trading sweepstakes. Stealing Pau Gasol from Memphis to help his team survive during Andrew Bynum's knee injury was brilliant; doing so without giving up any key pieces was almost ludicrous.
Amidst the Jerry West conspiracy theory (and complaints from Mark Cuban and Gregg Popovich), this trade vaulted the Lakers from middle-of-the-pack to favorite in the stacked West and changed the NBA landscape once again.
3. The window of opportunity
Teams like Dallas and Phoenix aren't getting any younger. How many playoff games has Steve Nash endured in the last four seasons?
The contenders that realistically are chasing a league title (especially the Mavs, Suns, and Cavs) knew they couldn't sit idly by and watch other teams improve while their window of opportunity begins to slam shut.
One of the worst feelings in sports is "almost" getting there, almost winning. Phrases like "Best quarterback to never win a Super Bowl" and "Best team to never win it all" haunt those to which the label is attached.
Think back just a few years to the Blazers with Pippen and 'Sheed. Or the Kings with Bibby, Divac, and Stojackovic. Today's great NBA teams are desperate to avoid the "almost champion" moniker. That brings us to...
4. The dominos falling
Steve Kerr pulled the trigger, and Shaquille O'Neal was on his way to the Valley of the Sun. Always aggressive Mark Cuban and the Mavs were next. Although Devin Harris will be a star for years to come, this trading deadline has been all about "win and win now," and, all of a sudden, Jason Kidd's a Maverick again.
The Cavs couldn't afford to be left out in the cold, no matter how many starters they had to trade. Welcome Ben Wallace. Goodbye Hughes and Gooden.
And finally, mercifully, hours after Cleveland completed its 11-player trade with the Bulls and Sonics, the trade deadline has arrived. The chaos is over—except for the results.
Did the Suns sacrifice their run-and-gun style by acquiring a past-his-prime O'Neal? Did the Cavs give up years of chemistry and improvement in a "quick-fix" blockbuster? Does the addition of Jason Kidd mean the Mavs are finally the team to beat? Will the NBA get its dream matchup of storied franchises Boston and Los Angeles in the Finals?
The trade deadline is over—but the impact of its craziness will take months to discover.
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