Lessons Learned from Last Year's NBA Trade Deadline
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Traditionally, the countdown to the NBA's trade deadline is one of the more exciting times of the year for fans of the game. Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from last year’s.
Contenders usually take one last roll of the dice to try to shore up whatever weaknesses the team may have, while pretenders often opt to ship out higher-salaried veteran players in an attempt to bring back draft picks and/or create salary cap relief for the summer.
This season, the NBA’s trade deadline falls on February 21 and there has been plenty of chatter about players who may be finding new homes between now and then.
Out in Los Angeles, as the Lakers' struggles continue, conversations the team is having about dealing Pau Gasol continue.
In Memphis, despite being one of the top teams in the Western Conference over the last few years, rumors of trimming payroll and dealing either Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph persist.
And for heaven's sake, even Paul Pierce—the 2008 NBA Finals MVP—has been rumored to have been shopped around.
Sometimes, the best moves an NBA team makes are the ones it doesn't make.
Here are some lessons from last year’s NBA trade deadline.
No. 5: Maximize Your Return, Even If Later
Nene, then, of the Denver Nuggets
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Almost immediately after the 2011 NBA lockout, the Denver Nuggets re-signed Nene to a five-year deal worth about $65 million, according to ESPN.com.
Having traded Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the New York Knicks, the Nuggets seemed to have been better served had they let Nene leave via free agency. After all, the team seemed to be embarking on a rebuilding phase.
The decision to re-sign the 29-year-old Nene did not seem to make much basketball sense until the Nuggets flipped him for JaVale McGee at the 2012 trade deadline.
McGee was much better suited to run with Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Kenneth Faried. And though he’s still a bit raw, McGee, who recently celebrated his 25th birthday, is one of the NBA’s brighter center prospects.
The Nuggets realized that Nene was valuable. And since they would not have had significant cap room to replace him if he left via free agency, the franchise made a wise decision by re-signing him on a reasonable deal and trading him when an enticing proposition came around.
The moral here is that a veteran re-signing that seems strange at the time may prove be a great move so long as the re-signed player's new deal is reasonable and movable.
No. 4: Always Consider the Future
Gerald Wallace, then, of the Portland Trailblazers
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Last year, the Portland Trailblazers dealt Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a conditional first-round draft pick.
The Nets clearly got the best player involved in the trade, but the Blazers had incentive to trade him.
At the time, the Blazers were 20-23 and coming off a 42-point loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Within a few days, coach Nate McMillan was fired and the team was blown up.
The pick the Trail Blazers received from the Nets ended up being the sixth overall in the 2012 draft, which the Blazers used to draft Damian Lillard.
Not a bad deal for the early season favorite to win this year’s Rookie of the Year Award, huh?
No. 3: Never Forget the Past
Derek Fisher, then, of the Los Angeles Lakers
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
At last year’s NBA trade deadline, the Lakers made two trades, dealing franchise-fixture Derek Fisher and a draft pick to the Houston Rockets for Jordan Hill.
General manager Mitch Kupchak also sent Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and another draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a package built around point guard Ramon Sessions.
In dealing Fisher, Walton and Kapono, the Lakers got a little younger, but dealt away players with championship pedigree—definitely a risky proposition.
Sessions eventually flamed out in the playoffs and the Lakers realized that he wasn't the club's long-term answer to its point guard problem.
One year later, Sessions is a Charlotte Bobcat and Hill is probably lost for the season after injuring his hip.
Kobe Bryant has never won a championship without Fisher on his team. And even though Fisher’s best days were clearly behind him, he was one of the few guys on the Lakers who was battle-tested and capable of hitting game-winning shots in the playoffs.
When you look at it objectively, dealing Fisher did not net the Lakers anything in return.
It may have just brought them bad karma.
No. 2: One Team's Trash Is Another Team's Treasure
Stephen Jackson on the Spurs--Again
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When someone says the name “Stephen Jackson,” the first event that comes to your mind may be the Malice in the Palace, via huffingtonpost.com, or perhaps it would be his firing of a handgun outside a nightclub some years back, according to ESPN.com.
But one of the things you probably would not associate with him is that he is an NBA champion.
That’s right—Jackson, with 12.8 points per game in the playoffs, was the third-leading scorer for the 2003 San Antonio Spurs, not Manu Ginobili (9.4 ppg) or David Robinson (7.8 ppg).
After the Spurs won the title, Jackson signed with the Atlanta Hawks and then became a journeyman. Even still, that didn’t stop the Spurs from re-acquiring him last year from the Golden State Warriors for Richard Jefferson, T.J. Ford and a protected first-round draft pick., according to nba.com.
And why not?
Jackson was a productive member of the Spurs the first time around. Of all coaches, it seems as though Gregg Popovich has been able to connect with him and keep him on the straight and narrow.
Thus far, since returning, he’s contributed positively as a solid role player for the club and could play a vital role in a deep playoff run for the Spurs.
No. 1: Karma Is Real
Dwight Howard, then, of the Orlando Magic
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Last season, Dwight Howard shocked the NBA world when, at the 11th hour, he decided to waive his early termination option and seemingly commit to the Orlando Magic. That decision came only three months after things got ugly and his demands to be traded were made public.
Obviously, we all know how that played out.
It seems like Howard just wanted to avoid being traded at midseason, since he eventually held out and muscled new general manager Rob Hennigan into trading him to the Lakers.
Thus far, things aren’t working out well for Dwight in La La Land.
Though he’s likely looking at a five-year maximum contract offer from the Lakers when he becomes a free agent in July 2013, nobody should be surprised at Howard's struggles with the Lakers.
And for sure, nobody should be surprised if, for Howard, the grass is not as green on America’s left coast as it was for Shaquille O’Neal.
The way things are looking right now, the NBA gods are not smiling down upon Dwight.
Yup, karma is real.