The trade deadline is now in the rear-view mirror, and the season did actually live up to the hype. There were some purely-basketball trades, but as usual most trades were financial moves. Some teams like the Cavs and Mavs set themselves up for winning now, and others like the Knicks and Bulls set themselves up for 2010 free agency.
To me the losers were the teams who stayed put; I thought the teams who made trades helped themselves more than the teams who stood pat.
1.) Cleveland Cavaliers
Danny Ferry stood pat during last year’s deadline and paid the price; this year the Cavs made the big deadline splash adding Antawn Jamison. The Cavs were rumored to be heavily pursuing Amare Stoudemire. However, they made the right move getting Antawn Jamison.
They didn’t give up anything as J.J. Hickson, who has shown a lot of promise lately, wasn’t involved in the trade, and Zydrunas Illgauskas will likely return to the team after chilling out during the mandatory 30 day waiting period.
Ultimately, Jamison was the better fit. With Jamison, they can play him at the three if they want to go big. They can also play him at the four if they want to go with a smaller lineup instead of having LeBron play the four every time the Cavs want to insert a smaller lineup. Jamison is also the stretch-four that they coveted, unlike Amare Stoudemire.
Jamison can shoot the three-pointer, stretch the floor, and while his defense may be his weakness, I think playing with a big man like Shaq will hide Jamison’s defensive deficiencies. The only risk here is if the Cavs don’t win the title and LeBron bails, Cleveland would be stuck with Jamison and he’s owed around 30 million after this season.
However, I like this move for the Cavs. They now have their core of LeBron, Jamison, and Shaq, and are set up well for a finals appearance against the likes of the Lakers or Denver Nuggets.
The move is a total slam dunk by the Cavs.
2.) New York Knicks
The New York writers have gone so crazy with the possible coming of LeBron in 2010 free agency, that they had LeBron on the cover of the New York daily news wearing a Knicks jersey. Let’s not get too carried away, but the Knicks have made a significant step towards adding not one but two max players now that they have the cap space. They cleared 9.4 million dollars by trading Jared Jeffries’s bad contract and adding Tracy McGrady’s expiring contract.
The price to get the cap relief was steep, as the Knicks gave up their lottery pick Jordan Hill, who is talented but wasn’t getting any significant minutes. Position in the draft was the deal maker here, as the Knicks gave up the right to swap picks with the Rockets in 2011 and a 2012 first round pick.
The Knicks are basically giving away their future if they don’t make a splash in 2010. However, they now can go after two top tier free agents.
Let’s say one of the 2010 big names is interested in coming to New York but not positive, the Knicks could make the case to him by adding another top tier free agent. I don’t think if a Wade, Bosh or LeBron were to leave that they’d be interested in going to New York with a less-than-mediocre supporting cast, but now that may not be the case due to the Knicks cap space.
While the Knicks are taking a huge risk by "going all-in" for 2010 free agency, they do give their fans hope. Ever since Donnie Walsh was brought in, all the Knicks fans have heard is how there is going to be hope in 2010. While LeBron is the dream acquisition for the Knicks, they will have an opportunity to significantly improve their entire roster once summertime comes.
The Knicks are getting more than just cap relief in this trade: they're getting a free trial with Tracy McGrady. Will he be a key contributor to the Knicks in the remaining games, will he be a go-to guy, or will he be the injured-McGrady playing with one leg? His trainer Tim Grover has said that McGrady is ready to go and can be effective; we will see if that’s the case.
If McGrady plays well he can be a solid piece moving forward in the Knicks long term future. He said he would be willing to take a large pay cut if the team adds two max players in free agency. McGrady could possibly be the sixth man, adding instant offense for the Knicks moving forward.
3.) Houston Rockets
Rockets GM Darryl Morey did a great job dumping Tracy McGrady’s expiring contract and getting great value in return. Despite giving up Sixth Man of the Year candidate Carl Landry, the Rockets add Kevin Martin, Knicks lottery pick Jordan Hill, the right to swap 2011 first round picks with the Knicks, and the Knicks 2012 first rounder. Carl Landry is a good player, but not of the same caliber as Kevin Martin.
This move is good for the future, which looks bright for the Houston Rockets. The Rockets squad next year will get Yao Ming healthy, as he comes off the same surgery that has made Illgauskas a durable center. The Rockets basically exchanged a 30-year-old Tracy McGrady for a 27-year-old Kevin Martin who has a great shooting stroke, can get to the line frequently, and get you 30 points any night.
Jordan Hill is a young big man who could thrive in Rick Adelman’s system. Hill has drawn comparisons to the likes of Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh, and despite his limited minutes he has posted a very solid 14 points and and nine rebounds per 36 minutes. That stat line means the 22-year-old big man has some promise as a solid player in this league.
I think under Rick Adelman Jordan Hill can thrive, and a front line of Hill and Yao could be a very solid one.
4.) Chicago Bulls
Despite not landing Tracy McGrady and his expiring contract, the Bulls achieved their goal of clearing salary for 2010. Chicago realized that they are a borderline playoff team; they probably won’t advance to the second round of the playoffs. So they made moves for the future.
The Bulls had some cap space heading into the summer, just not enough. By trading John Salmons (shooting 41 percent and averaging 13 points per game, a large drop from last year’s 47 percent shooting and 18 points per game) for expiring contracts the Bulls, like the Knicks, are going to have some cash to spend.
With a core of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Bulls are going to be an attractive free agent destination for some of the big names. Imagine a big man like Bosh or Stoudemire running pick and rolls with Rose: their defensive deficiencies would be masked playing with a Joakim Noah. The Bulls may be the team of the future.
5.) Los Angeles Clippers
We don’t often mention the words "Clippers" and "winners" in the same sentence, but the Clippers were winners this deadline. Like the Bulls, the Clippers realize they are a borderline playoff team who probably won’t get past the first round if they made the playoffs, so they made moves for the future.
The Clippers cleared cap space for a 2010 max player, and with a core of Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, and Chris Kaman, and the lure of the city of Los Angeles, they could add a huge talent.
Hypothetically, let’s say a LeBron James did come to the Clippers. He’d be a perfect fit, as the team lacks a small forward, plus he’d be able to pick his own coach, as the Clippers currently have interim coach Kim Hughes roaming the sidelines.
Why would a top tier free agent say no to the Clippers? Imagine the Clippers being the big ticket in town.
The only negative spin is Clippers owner Donald Sterling, which puts some of these LeBron rumors in a ludicrous category. It’s tough to see a player such as LeBron saying that he wants to spend his prime years working for Donald Sterling.
The Clippers achieved their goal by clearing cap space, they have the young core, and they are an attractive destination for a top tier 2010 free agent. Even for a day the Clippers could be the talk of the town.
1.) San Antonio Spurs
Before the season many fans, including myself, thought the Spurs were a team who could make a legitimate title run. While they still may do so, their chances of winning a title have slimmed down significantly.
I know they have a big three of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli, and I know they have Gregg Popovich. But in reality, the Denver Nuggets are better. The Dallas Mavericks made a move adding Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, and for now they appear to be better. Plus, let’s not forget that the Lakers are still the Lakers.
Richard Jefferson has been a huge disappointment so far, averaging 12 points down from his 19 last year. Jefferson was expected to be a number three or four option but could be a go-to-guy when called upon. Not only has he not been a go-to-guy, the Spurs are stuck with his contract now, which has two years and 29 million dollars remaining.
The team is looking old, which is why I was looking for the Spurs to shake it up during the deadline and add a significant piece, like an Andre Iguodala or an Amare Stoudemire. However, things just didn’t happen. I know older teams usually hit their stride after the break, but it’s tough to see the Spurs beating the Lakers or even the Denver Nuggets in a seven game playoff series.
2.) Phoenix Suns
The Suns not only explored trades for Amare Stoudemire, but they were actually shopping him. However, they didn’t accomplish their goal of trading Stoudemire and getting a young piece in return in order to rebuild before Steve Nash runs out of magic.
Instead, the Suns are now left with an aging team lacking a true young talent to start building around, no first round draft pick for the upcoming draft, and the uncertainty of Amare Stoudemire.
There is a possibility that Amare Stoudemire may take his player option for next year, meaning they could go through this whole mess all over again. However, due to the possibility of a lockout and the potential effects of a new collective bargaining agreement, I think Stoudemire will opt out and take the long term security.
While the package of J.J. Hickson and Zydrunas Illgauskas’ expiring contract may not have seemed all that attractive, maybe it would have been better than giving Stoudemire away for nothing. As for a possible extension, that seems unlikely, as Stoudemire thinks he’s a max player and the Suns don’t.
Assuming Stoudemire goes on the open market, it’s likely that he would find a team willing to give him a max contract. I don’t see how the Suns benefited by keeping Stoudemire, unless both sides feel they could sign an extension and the Suns would build around Stoudemire moving forward.
However, as of now that seems very unlikely.
3.) Boston Celtics
The Celtics added Nate Robinson for Eddie House in what was a minor deal. Yes, Nate is full of energy, can give you 25 points on any night as a dynamic scorer, and can take people off the dribble. However I think not moving Ray Allen and his expiring contract may come back to bite Boston.
Boston did try to move Allen, but by not shipping Allen away, the Celtics may have blown their chance to get a young talent. Now they may be stuck with an old roster for the next three seasons, as Garnett has three years remaining, and Pierce will likely re-sign when his contract is up in two years.
This is probably the last year the Celtics can win the title, but I don’t they will win. Cleveland may have just gotten significantly better, while Boston has a losing record against Atlanta and Orlando, who also appear to be better.
And then out west I can’t see the Celtics beating the Lakers or the Nuggets in a best of seven series. Like the Spurs, the window for Celtics’ title chances is quickly closing.
The bottom line is that there were more winners and losers due to the more trades made this year. As you can see, the teams that made significant moves (the Cavs, Knicks, and Rockets) achieved their goals.
On the other hand, teams that stood pat (the Suns and Spurs) didn’t really benefit much and may have risked their long term futures. It’ll be really interesting to see the impact this deadline will have on the rest of the season on the bonanza that is 2010 free agency.