Melo Doin Work
Over the weekend, the Orlando Magic started off the NBA's trading season with a bang.
In two separate deals, they moved players worth hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts and over a dozen All-Star appearances between them, revamping the roster of a team that went to the NBA Finals two years ago and the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
The acquisitions of Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas were "game-changers." Now an Orlando team with the ceiling of a second-round exit could make a dark-horse run at an NBA championship.
The Lakers, the two-time defending champs and the favorites in Vegas (plus-250 to win the championship), are still the team to beat.
** I enjoyed the odds for these teams: Sacramento, Minnesota and the Clippers: plus-50,000 (!!!) to win the NBA title. Lines courtesy of betus.com **
With the Magic all-in and LA still looking dominant, what are the other "game-changing" moves that the other contenders could make? Here's a look at six trades that could happen tomorrow that could change the face of the NBA.
Which New York based big man should Melo want to play with?
Why It's A Big Deal: A New Jersey Nets team with Melo would have a balanced "Big Three"—All-Star scorers at the post, the wing and the point. Surround them with athletic defenders, like Travis Outlaw and Quentin Ross, and lights-out shooters, like Sasha Vujacic and Anthony Morrow, and they instantly become the team no one wants to face in the first round out East.
Long-term, they could be the biggest threat to the "Decision Three" in South Beach.
Why It Could Happen: Carmelo has insisted on playing in New York not because of some great love for the Knicks franchise but because his wife (VH1 VJ LaLa) wants to be a TV superstar, and she can't do that operating from Denver. The Nets, with the star power of Jay-Z and Beyonce sitting courtside, will be in Brooklyn fairly quickly.
They also have the piece (a young big man with unlimited potential in Derrick Favors) that would interest the Nuggets. And if I'm Melo, I'd rather play with Brook Lopez long-term over Amar'e anyway (Lopez is younger, less injury prone and more of a low post presence).
The Trade: Melo to New Jersey for Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy, two No. 1s and $3 million.
Why It's A Big Deal: Tony Allen, the Celtics' perimeter stopper, was the unsung hero on their run to the NBA Finals. Through four series, he was matched up with Dwyane Wade (Miami), LeBron James (Cleveland), Vince Carter (Orlando) and Kobe Bryant (LA). Look at that list!
Vince Carter is the worst player on it and he has been to eight All-Star games! Ray Allen and Paul Pierce don't have the foot speed of an elite perimeter defender like Battier, and Boston needs to rest its legs so it can contribute offensively.
Why It Could Happen: With Yao Ming looking at retirement after his latest ankle injury, Houston's title window has been slammed close. It's time to rebuild in the Clutch City. So what's the point in hanging on to a perimeter defender in his early 30s? Battier's time as an impact player is running short.
Boston's first-round draft pick, Avery Bradley out of the University of Texas, was rated higher than John Wall by ESPN coming into college. But he's still too raw to contribute to a title run this year. Boston needs to win right now; Houston needs long-term talent. It's a win-win for both teams.
The Trade: Battier for Jermaine O'Neal (when Kendrick Perkins comes back, Boston will have a solid 4-big rotation: Perkins/Shaq/KG/Big Baby—JO is a luxury) and Avery Bradley.
One of the most exciting players in the NBA.
Why It's A Big Deal: With Derrick Rose playing like a legitimate MVP candidate, Joakim Noah establishing himself as one of the best seven-foot defensive anchors in the NBA and Carlos Boozer providing low-post offense, the Bulls could be the surprise team out East this year.
All they are missing is a dynamic two-way player on the perimeter to complement Rose, and Smith, a dynamite athlete and a lights-out shooter, would be a great fit. While he's never been a great defender in Denver, Noah and Bulls coach Tom Thibeadou (who orchestrated Boston's defense as an assistant coach during their runs to the NBA Finals) should be able to make him at least passable.
Why It Could Happen: With Carmelo Anthony out the door at the end of the year, it's a clearance sale in Denver right now—everything must go. Smith, who has been a disciplinary nightmare and has had some serious run-ins with the law, isn't the type of guy you want to build a franchise around or depend on in a losing, no-hope situation.
The Bulls have a few young guys worth taking a flyer on—James Johnson out of Wake Forest and Ronnie Brewer (who is a good young defensive stopper)—especially when it's unlikely that Smith (a free agent at the end of the year) will re-sign with Denver anyway.
The Trade: Smith for Ronnie Brewer and James Johnson.
The final piece in San Antonio
Why It's A Big Deal: This is the best San Antonio Spurs team since their last championship squad in 2007. They have the best record in the NBA (25-3) and the third-best point differential (plus-9.0) behind Boston and Miami. The difference is that '07 team only had one real threat (the Seven Seconds or Less Suns) on the way to the title because the 67-win Dallas Mavericks team (who had beaten them the year before) imploded in the first round.
The Spurs have not been able to beat LA since losing Robert Horry to retirement and the Pau Gasol trade; the Lakers always have two big men as offensive threats, and the Spurs only have one Tim Duncan. Putting Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess on Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom isn't a plan, it's suicide.
Why It Could Happen: With Larry Brown's surprise resignation earlier this week, there might not be a more dysfunctional situation in the NBA than Charlotte's. Without a strong fan base, the Bobcats stand to lose a lot of money if they can't make the playoffs (and MJ doesn't have the billionaire pockets to cover it) and this team full of gritty, defensive scrappers was perfectly suited for Brown's style of coaching.
The Bobcats are a Wil E. Coyote team so it's time to bust out the dynamite. Thomas, a 6'10" All-Star type talent with questionable character, is not the type of guy you want on a team going nowhere. Better to grab some of the Spurs young talent and start cleaning salary.
The Trade: Thomas for DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner and James Anderson (a promising young rookie out of Oklahoma State who was the Big 12 Player of the Year last year.)
AI 2.0 would be a game-changer in Big D.
Why It's A Big Deal: Like their counterparts in Central Texas, the Dallas Mavericks have defied the natural progression of an aging team—at 23-5 (with wins over Miami (twice), Boston, Orlando and San Antonio) and a plus-5.9 point differential, the Mavericks are back in title contention. And like the Spurs, they are still one piece away from being able to challenge the Lakers in a seven-game series.
Right now, with promising second-year guard Rodrigue Beabouis out with a foot injury, Dallas has only one guy who can create his own shot off the dribble in Dirk, You need at least two to beat the Lakers.
Why It Could Happen: Philly is a capped-out team going nowhere. Worse, they are at best the No. 3 team in their market (behind Eagles and Phillies), and they can't afford to have a huge payroll without the revenue of a playoff push.
They also drafted Evan Turner (No. 2 overall) this year, and Turner is not really effective playing off of the basketball—just compare his stats this year to his time at OSU where he was running point all game. Iguodala is a No. 2 option being paid like a No. 1; Philly needs to ship him out, clear space and build around Turner.
The Trade: Iguodala for Rodrigue Beaubois (good young player) and Caron Butler (expiring contract).
Sheed played 35 minutes in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last year ... he can still play.
OK I cheated a bit here. The Heat are a great team (most of their early season struggles came as a function of getting used to each other while playing a schedule loaded with prime-time games by the league); they are tied for the best point differential in the NBA at plus-9.4
Because they gutted their team to sign three max-contract players, they have no trade assets—young players or big expiring contracts—to get a near seven-footer who can play great low-post D and is not a liability offensively. Those guys don't come cheap in the NBA.
There's only one guy out there with the championship experience and the skill-set that could make Miami a legitimate title threat this year (as opposed to year two and year three when they can use the free-agent exceptions and the Draft to put some guys around the Big Three)...
Courtesy call for a Rasheed Wallace? Mr. Wallace? The game needs you; could you please put down that bomb of purp...