NBA Chess Match Moves to the Next Round

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer IJune 26, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 15:  Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Phoenix Suns looks on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game on March 15, 2009 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

With the first wave of trades and the NBA Draft now completed, the 30 general managers move onto the next round—free agency.

Who are the winners and losers so far?

Cleveland certainly didn’t give up a whole lot to get Shaquille O’Neal. But is the 15-year veteran, who is 37-years-old, enough to bring the Cavaliers an NBA Title? For that matter, is he enough to bring them an Eastern Conference Title?

Is Cleveland through, or do they still need to bring in a power forward who can spread the floor on offense and play the pick and roll on defense?

With Shaq's $20 million contract and a top-heavy payroll headed by LeBron James, the Cavs are not likely to be in the bidding for the Magic's Hedo Turkoglu or even the Lakers' Lamar Odom.

Both are free agents come July 1.. Although Turkoglu is the more prolific scorer, Odom is by far the more versatile. He can spread the floor with his outside shooting and drive to the basket, grab offensive rebounds, and even run a fast break. But his long arm span and athleticism gives him a considerable advantage over Turkoglu on defense.

The Lakers and the Magic are expected to do everything possible to retain both players.

In an effort to plug up any scoring lapse should Turkoglu sign with another team, the Magic picked up All-Star guard Vince Carter from the New Jersey Nets. The deal also helps to counter Cleveland's trade for O'Neal by putting pressure on the Cavaliers to defend the three-point shot.

The Magic also picked up Ryan Anderson from the Nets, who may be the sleeper in the deal.

The rookie power forward from the Cal Bears only averaged 7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 20 minutes per game, but he has a decent jump shot and the potential to develop his pick and roll skills and his rebounding, especially playing alongside Dwight Howard.

The Magic had to give up Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, and Courtney Lee. They traded with the Houston Rockets to get Alston at mid-season when Jamere Nelson went down with a shoulder tear. But when Nelson returned, Alston became expendable.

In Lee the Magic lose a promising young shooting guard who had difficulty in covering Kobe Bryant during the NBA Finals, but then who hasn't? They also lose Battie, an experienced center, who helped off the bench. With Marcin Gortat also about to test the free agent waters, the Magic may have to find another strong body to back up Howard.

The Lakers so far have stood pat. Questions about who will coach the Lakers in the coming season are still not clear. Phil Jackson wants to return but will undergo medical tests over the next few weeks to determine how another grueling season at the helm will affect his overall health.

The Lakers sold their first round pick to the New York Knicks for a future second-round draft pick and $3 million in cash, which will help defray some of that luxury tax should they indeed sign both Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza.

If that happens, the Lakers may not have to make any deals in order to become a much improved team. Even though they won the NBA title, they got little help from their promising young center, Andrew Bynum, or from Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.

Bynum missed most of the season as he did last year with another knee injury. When he finally returned for the playoffs, he was ineffective for the most part. Vujacic and Farmar were huge disappointments this year.

If Farmar and Vujacic can regain the success they had in 2008 and Bynum can get over the injury bug, the Lakers may not have to make any moves in order to retain the NBA title.

However, those are big ifs.

Meanwhile the Celtics are in the same position as the Lakers. They are that hoping that All-Star Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe will regain their 2008 form after injuries sidelined them this season.

However, the big mystery in Beantown revolves around GM Danny Ainge and Rajon Rondo. After making a statement that the Celtics loved Rondo and were not interested in moving any of their key players, Ainge then criticized the Celtics point guard on WEEI radio for his performance in their second round playoffs with the Magic.

Was Ainge just trying to keep Rondo working on improving, or was he possibly considering a deal? Oftentimes GMs will use the media to alert other teams that the door is open.

Looking at a couple of other playoff teams, Denver hasn't made any moves yet. They are possibly waiting to see how negotiations go with free agent Chris "Birdman" Anderson.

The San Antonio Spurs, on the other hand, helped themselves to Milwaukee's Richard Jefferson while helping the Bucks clear cap space for the 2010 free agent sweepstakes by sending them Kurt Thomas, Bruce Bowen, and Fabricio Oberto.

The Bucks will wave Bowen to avoid paying his full $2 million salary and will try to reach a buyout deal with Thomas. The Bucks then traded Oberto to the Pistons for Amir Johnson.

The deal gives the Spurs some added front court scoring to go along with Tim Duncan. Jefferson, an All-Star forward, has averaged nearly 20 points over his eight-year career.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks dealt Acie Law and Speedy Claxton to the Golden State Warriors for Jamal Crawford, after Crawford, who is owed $20 million over the next two seasons, signed an agreement not to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

The Warriors get payroll relief and Claxton, who was a fan favorite when he played for the Warriors from 2003-2005. The Hawks get insurance in Crawford, should free agents Mike Bibby and backup Flip Murray sign elsewhere.

The Warriors, who were expected to take power forward Jordan Hill in the draft, instead went with point guard Stephen Curry. Was it simply a matter of the best player available, or maybe Don Nelson is not sold on Monta Ellis even though he and GM Larry Riley told Ellis that he was their point guard?

So, those are the major moves on the NBA chess board so far. Okay, NBA fans, what do you think?

Which trades or drafts do you like? Which ones do you absolutely hate? Which team has gotten the most mileage so far?

Let’s hear from you. What are your thoughts?