NBA Uncontested Shots: Lakers Stand Pat & Other Trade Deadline Observations
There were some deals that did get done that will surely help teams either this season or next.
This we know: the big winners were the Cavaliers and Rockets. The losers were either the teams that got fleeced under the premise of trying to create cap space, or the teams that didn't make a move that probably should have.
There is still the chance for player movement as veterans on non-contending teams will seek buy-outs so they can sign on with contenders for the stretch run.
Without further delay, here is my latest edition of Uncontested Shots.
Tip Of The Cap to Daryl Morey
Marcel Mutoni of Slam Magazine said it best when he Tweeted, "The hoop blogosphere drools over (Houston Rockets GM) Daryl Morey more than they do Erin Andrews."
This was in the aftermath of Morey obtaining Kevin Martin, Jared Jeffries, Hilton Armstrong, Jordan Hill, the Knicks first-round pick in 2012, as well as the right to swap picks with the Knicks in 2011.
All of that for the low, low price of Tracy McGrady's expiring contract, Carl Landry, and Joey Dorsey.
I know that I've famously cried about how I don't think teams should spend big money on shooting guards or small forwards who aren't superstars, but there are exceptions to every rule.
Considering how little Morey gave up and how the Rockets offense has struggled to score points, Martin could be the perfect fit for them.
Martin just turned 27. With three more years left on his current deal that maxes out at about $13 million in the final season, the Rockets can now afford to re-sign Yao. They can surround him and Martin with a nice nucleus that includes Shane Battier and David Andersen, as well as young players like Hill, Trevor Ariza, Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger, and Aaron Brooks.
The Rockets are also in a prime position to make a trade down the road using the pick they received from the Knicks (as well a decent combination from that group of young players) to bail out a team looking to move an unhappy player or to create cap space.
As for the Kings, they traded Martin for Landry, Dorsey, and Larry Hughes (who is expected to get bought out).
The move signals that the Kings are ready to build their team around likely Rookie of the Year winner Tyreke Evans, with support from youngsters like Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Omri Casspi, a decent amount of cap space, and the underrated Landry.
While Sacramento has never really been a destination for prime free agents, the move does allow GM Geoff Petrie to use their cap space to make a lop-sided trade. This could be done to bail out a team looking to shed a player to create more cap space.
As for the Knicks, they have to be ecstatic that at least they have a fighting chance to bring in two (almost) max players in free agency this summer. They can also hope that if Tracy McGrady is happy and productive that he might be willing to play for a veteran's minimum deal since he's already made plenty of money in his career and probably won't receive more than a handful of offers from other teams.
The worst-case scenario for the Knicks could be rather bleak. Should they strike out on attracting one of the top three or four free agents, then they might be forced to either overspend for second-tier guys or force their fans to suffer through another terrible season.
If that's the case, then the Rockets will surely swap picks with them in 2011. If they're horrible again in 2012, then they'll hand the Rockets another great pick.
The possibility exists that the Knicks might have been better off hanging on to Jeffries and the picks and waiting until 2011 to make a big free agent splash when Jeffries' and Eddy Curry's deals are set to expire.
More importantly, the Knicks will have to act fast this summer and that might not be in their control depending on the players they decide to woo.
The biggest winner this summer could be the team who makes an offer to David Lee when the clock strikes midnight on July 1. This will force the Knicks' hand while they await word from the big-name free agents they're pursuing.
Lee was hoping to get a big contract this past summer, but eventually settled for a one-year deal.
There's no way he's going to want to go through that same torture all over again.
This could be a trade the helps all three teams, but the Rockets are the only team that's guaranteed to come out winners as of today.
Lakers Stand Pat
As expected, the Lakers failed to make a move by the deadline to add a point guard who could help them on the defensive end.
While there had been much chatter about Hinrich joining the team, the Lakers and Bulls couldn't come to an agreement. The Lakers reportedly offered the expiring contract of Adam Morrison, as well Sasha Vujacic (and the one remaining year on his deal), for Hinrich.
The way things stand right now, the Lakers are in a bit of a pickle this summer. Due to witty maneuvering by some of the league's general managers, there are now seven teams who will have large amounts of cap space this summer: New York, New Jersey, Miami, Chicago, Washington, Sacramento, and the Clippers.
The Lakers have three point guards currently on their roster and all three will most likely test the free agent waters this summer with so many suitors.
Shannon Brown has a $2.2 million option for next season that he will surely not exercise. Jordan Farmar can become a restricted free agent if the Lakers make him the requisite $2.9 million qualifying offer, and Derek Fisher could be looked at as a veteran presence who could play limited regular season minutes with an expanded role in the postseason.
Trading for Hinrich and the remaining two years left on his deal would have alleviated them of the headache they'll likely face this summer.
Someone will surely offer Brown more than he's worth, and Farmar's value has increased with every game Kobe Bryant has missed recovering from his various injuries.
On the bright side, with Morrison's contract coming off the books, the Lakers can afford to use their mid-level exemption to re-sign Brown without increasing this season's payroll by much (depending on what happens with Kobe Bryant's next contract and next season's cap).
Thanks A Lot, Neighbor!
By moving Al Thornton to the Wizards and Sebastian Telfair to the Cavaliers, the Clippers have opened up a slot to offer a max contract to a free agent this summer.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that they're still the Clippers, and no great player in his right mind would ever consider signing a long-term contract to play for them. Can people stop this pipe-dream about LeBron joining the Clippers?
The team that will surely be affected the most by the moves that former coach/current general manager Mike Dunleavy made will the Clippers' arena-mates.
In moving Marcus Camby to the Portland Trailblazers and helping the Cavs acquire Antawn Jamison, the Clippers potentially made the Lakers' road to a repeat extremely difficult.
The Blazers are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference, which would see them playing the Lakers in a first-round playoff series.
By adding Jamison without having to give up J.J. Hickson, the Cavs acquired the stretch-4 that many believed was the missing ingredient. Jamison is the league's best stretch-4, as well as being a perfect teammate and consummate professional.
One more thing on the Jamison trade: I'm going to enjoy Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his agent Herb Rudoy as they pretend that Big Z might actually sign somewhere other than Cleveland once the Wizards buy him out.
The Celtics' Brass Might Be Biting Their Nails Too
The Celtics made a move before the deadline, but it didn't involve Ray Allen. Instead they traded Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, and Bill Walker to the Knicks for Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry (Carl's little brother).
But while everybody is talking about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Bosh, and Stoudemire as the big free agent targets this summer, nobody mentions that Paul Pierce can also opt out.
While I would never assume that Pierce would leave Boston, the presence of more teams with cap space will surely increase Pierce's demands.
The Celtics are already worried about losing Ray Allen and having to re-sign Kendrick Perkins in the summer of 2011.
With Kevin Garnett due around $40 million over the next seasons, the Celtics won't have much wiggle room to add to a team that is not going to win the title this season.
That's the truth (no pun intended), and the addition of Robinson will do nothing to change that.
The Celtics might not have a choice but to re-sign Allen just so they can trade him down the road.
The Celtics will have their mid-level exemption, but they'll need it to a fill out a roster that will see the contracts of both Ray and Tony Allen, Marquis Daniels, Brian Scalabrine, Shelden Williams, Robinson, and Landry expire at the end of this current season.
Back in January of 2008, I wrote an article questioning whether the 2010-11 Celtics would resemble the 2007-08 Miami Heat—a team that ended that season 15-67.
The article was based on the fact that both teams had mortgaged their respective futures to win for the present—the Heat by acquiring Shaquille O'Neal and the Celtics by acquiring Garnett and Ray Allen.
My premise was that if the Celtics won the title it would have been worth it. They did and most Celtics fans would tell you they have no regrets.
But while the Celtics won't finish anywhere near as bad as 15-67 next season, there's a real possibility that their lack of depth and assets could see them drop to a more realistic 46-36 record. It will be even worse in 2011-12, when they probably won't be able to re-sign both Perkins and Glen Davis.
When you consider that the Celtics are currently on pace to finish 53-29 this season it isn't far-fetched to see them drop seven games at their current rate of decline.
The Heat Is On Pat Riley
The Heat did a nice job pretending that they were actually considering a move for either Amar'e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer.
I understand why Pat Riley didn't make a move. Why make a trade when he can sign either player this summer without having to give up something for him in a trade.
The problem is that the Heat are currently just a half-game ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats in the race for the seventh-seed in the east, and only two-and-a-half games ahead of ninth-place Milwaukee. These two teams made nice trades on Thursday—Charlotte acquired Tyrus Thomas and Theo Ratliff and Milwaukee added John Salmons.
If the Heat either miss the playoffs or get swept by the Cavs or Magic in the first round, then Wade might feel as if it's time to move on.
The Scrap Heap
While Ilgauskas and Hughes will likely get bought out, there are a few other veterans who could see themselves bought out before Mar. 1 so they can still be playoff-eligible for their new teams.
The list isn't lengthy but there are a few intriguing names.
Tony Battie, Trenton Hassell, and Bobby Simmons of the Nets are all upcoming free agents who could be bought out. Same goes for Raja Bell, Kurt Thomas, and Earl Watson.
The Way I See It As of Today
If I had to guess where this summer's biggest free agents will end up as of right now, here's how I see it:
Wade and Stoudemire will end up in Miami.
LeBron and Shaq will stay in Cleveland.
Joe Johnson will stay in Atlanta.
Chris Bosh will sign with the Bulls.
Carlos Boozer, Rudy Gay, and Ray Allen will sign with the Knicks.
David Lee will sign with Oklahoma City.
The Nets will sign Shannon Brown, Al Harrington, and Travis Outlaw.
The Clippers will sign Marcus Camby and Jordan Farmar.
The Wizards will sign Tyrus Thomas and Raymond Felton.
The Lakers will sign Earl Watson.
Those are just my hunches.
Andrew Ungvari is a senior writer for Bleacher Report as well as co-lead blogger for the basketball website, SirCharlesInCharge.com .
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