NBA Rumors: Rockets/Hornets/Pacers/Nets Trade, the Winners and Losers
Who says the NBA news stopped in the offseason with LeBron James' Decision?
Today, ESPN sources reported that the New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and New Jersey Nets were in advanced discussion about a four-team, five-player trade.
If the trade goes through as reported, the Rockets will send Trevor Ariza to the Hornets; the Hornets will ship Darren Collison and James Posey to the Pacers; the Pacers will send Troy Murphy (and his expiring contract) to the Nets; and the Nets ship Courtney Lee to the Rockets.
Once you get over the sticker shock of seeing a four-team trade that's actually close to happening, you begin to realize that a few of the teams involved may have pulled a fast one on the others.
Let's break down the winners and losers of the four-team deal.
Winner: Indiana Pacers
It's tough to argue that the Pacers didn't make off like bandits in this deal.
After openly shopping for a starting point guard all summer, they've managed to land one of the most promising young PG talents in the League. The addition of Collison gives the Pacers a legitimate sidekick for Danny Granger, and suddenly, Indiana looks like a team that should threaten for a playoff spot all season.
Yes, absorbing the $13 million due to James Posey in the next two seasons will be a bitter pill for Pacers fans to swallow. Then again, it's not like Brandon Rush has exactly lived up to expectations as the Pacers' starting shooting guard.
Trading away Troy Murphy will hurt the Pacers' frontcourt in the short term, but with Murphy's contract expiring after next season, the Pacers were wise to use him to gather assets while they still could. The Murphy trade also opens up plenty of minutes for Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough, allowing the Pacers to determine whether either player is a long-term solution or a short-term stopgap at power forward.
After all, Larry Bird and the Pacers front office worked tirelessly to free up boatloads of cap space for 2011. Why not start using it by landing a franchise point guard?
Winner: New Jersey Nets
By adding Troy Murphy, do the New Jersey Nets now not have one of the most promising frontcourts in all of the NBA?
They've got Brook Lopez, who, despite a recent bout with mono, could be the game's best young center not named Dwight Howard. They've got Derrick Favors, the No. 3 pick in the draft, who's got the upside and athleticism of Howard, according to some scouts.
Now they've got Murphy, who's only two seasons removed from averaging 14.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Murphy's addition will allow Travis Outlaw to slide over as the starting small forward, leaving Terrence Williams as a legitimate dark horse candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
The loss of Lee hurts, until you remember that the Nets picked up Anthony Morrow from the Golden State Warriors this summer. Morrow, a career 46 percent shooter from downtown, should blunt the pain of losing a shooter like Lee, although the Nets will need to find a backup SG down the road.
Overall, the Nets guaranteed themselves additional cap space next summer, bolstered their frontcourt for the coming season, and had a contingency plan (in Morrow) in case they traded Lee this summer. This goes down as the savviest move of the summer for Mikhail Prokhorov's new team.
Loser: New Orleans Hornets
According to the ESPN story that broke the news of the trade: "The Hornets are hoping that the addition of Ariza addresses [Chris] Paul's concerns about the team's commitment to winning by showing that they're willing to spend money to get better."
The Hornets just took on a long-term, slightly bloated contract for a good-but-not-great player, and that's supposed to convince Paul to stay in New Orleans past 2012? How, again, does this logic work?
As a friend of mine said while we were discussing the deal, "Ariza is a No. 3 on a good team and he's making a ton of money in the next four years." Ariza has obviously proven that he's capable of contributing to a championship team, but that championship team had Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol as its first two options.
Instead, the Hornets just locked themselves into two more years of financial inflexibility, as Posey only had two years left on his deal, while Ariza has four at approximately the same price. Was that minor upgrade worth the Hornets also dumping their most promising prospect outside of Chris Paul (Darren Collison)?
Treading Water: Houston Rockets
It's hard to slam the Rockets for shipping out Ariza for Lee, especially given that the team is openly acknowledging the move as a salary dump.
ESPN reports that "this deal saves [the Rockets] $28 million on the life of the contract and roughly $10 million (when you factor in luxury tax payments) this season."
Then again, it's hard to celebrate the deal as a huge upgrade for Houston. Despite Ariza's propensity for jacking up three-pointers in the early part of the season, he seemed to begin settling in the Rockets' system once Kevin Martin came to town at the trade deadline.
While the move frees up space for Shane Battier to move back into the starting lineup at the 3, giving Houston a premiere defender next to Luis Scola and Yao Ming in the front court, no one will be mistaking Battier for Ariza on offense any time soon.
Again, given how far the Rockets had treaded past the luxury tax line this summer, it's hard to blame them for making a cap slashing trade like this, especially when they can add a solid, young piece in Lee. But the Rockets didn't make a sizeable improvement to their on-court package like the Pacers and Nets did, and thus, they can't be in the same group of winners.
A Side Note: Julian Wright for Marco Bellineli
Apparently, the Hornets caught trade fever today.
Besides their involvement in the four-team tradestravaganza, the Hornets ended up shipping Julian Wright to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Marco Bellineli.
It's tough to get excited for a trade involving a third-string shooting guard (Bellineli) and a third-string small forward (Wright), but both are young prospects with plenty of time to right the course of their careers. Both players have played less than 20 minutes per game for their career averages, and there's a reason for that.
But, one man's trash could always be another man's treasure. For the Hornets, who suddenly found themselves lacking a backup SG, Bellineli will provide some much needed depth. And the Raptors seem to have adopted the "let's try anything and everything" policy after seeing Chris Bosh depart this summer.
Chances are, this deal goes down as a footnote to the Ariza-Collison-Posey-Murphy-Lee swap. Then again, maybe Wright or Bellineli finally remembers what got them into the NBA in the first place, and they'll finally live up to the expectations fans once held for them.