NBA Trade Speculation: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011 Offseason
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With the NBA playoffs in full swing and only eight teams remaining, I thought maybe it was time to take a look at the offseason trade landscape. This season should be a bit more active than the last, as the new CBA will be in place and teams will be less concerned about taking long, expensive contracts.
Add to that the fact that the free-agent market looks barren with Carmelo Anthony and Zach Randolph signing their extensions. As it stands now, the Chandlers, Tyson and Wilson (no relation), will be the big names with there being serious doubt that Tyson will actually ever reach the market.
That leaves teams like the Timberwolves, Pacers and Kings left with a bunch of cap space and no place to put it. The Pacers, especially, will feel pressure to do something with it, as they made the playoffs and had that decent showing against the Bulls in the first round. If they didn't use it and didn't return to the playoffs, they would face the prospect of losing the few fans they just picked up.
In Minnesota, David Kahn has to know that this will be his last season drafting a top-five pick one way or the other, and he will know that he needs to vastly improve that team. Since he seems to choose his draft picks with a dartboard, you would think he has to make a big move on the trade front.
We'll get to Sacramento in just a minute.
So on with my five bold offseason predictions.
5. Sacramento Will Not Have a Contract on Roster Above $10 Million Per Year
The Maloof brothers want to move to Anaheim and they may have to tank next season to get it approved by the NBA.
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Not difficult really, when you consider that Samuel Dalembert is the only plus-$10 million contract right now, but I think the Maloofs will take it further than that and dump Beno Udrih and his $7.2 million contract and let Marcus Thornton walk if he asks for too much in free agency.
The Maloofs want to move to Anaheim badly, mainly because Sacramento doesn't seem to be able to support the team/build them a new stadium/support the team/be a location that can attract...well, anybody/support the team.
I think that was the actual proposal the Maloofs presented in front of the relocation committee, by the way.
Anyway, the NBA said no, not right now, and the Maloofs crawled back to Sacramento with their tails between their legs and, I would imagine, plans to demonstrate just how strapped for cash they are by destroying their already inferior product.
Everyone on the roster not named Tyreke Evans is almost certainly available for the right combination of draft picks and low-priced players.
4. Rudy Gay Will Not Be on the Grizzlies to Start Next Season
The combination of Rudy Gay's large contract and the Grizzlies performance since he got injured could make him expendable.
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When Rudy Gay was lost for the season on February 15th, many people wrote the Grizzlies off for the season.
Instead the Grizzlies went 16-9 (with two of those losses coming at the end of the season, when they tanked to face the Spurs in the first round) and began playing with a toughness that most hadn't seen in Memphis, spurred by Tony Allen, Shane Battier and the impressive post duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
They carried that intensity into an impressive upset of the No. 1-seeded Spurs in the first round and have, thus far, been likewise in the second round.
Randolph's emergence has been especially impressive, and the Grizzlies should know by now that they will go as he goes for the foreseeable future, especially since they have committed to him for the next four years. Gay's absence has freed Randolph to be the primary scorer, as the offense now runs through him, and his ability to score big baskets seemingly at will has made them a very dangerous team.
Gay signed that much-publicized (criticized) six-year, $100 million extension in the offseason before he'd even hit the market, leading many to wonder what the Grizzlies were thinking, as the signing of Gay likely meant they couldn't afford to re-sign both Randolph and Gasol. Now, just 57 games into that massive contract, the Grizzlies are finding him obsolete.
I would guess that the Grizzlies secretly hope that they will get a one-player amnesty (like in 2005) that lets them void a contract, in which case Gay will just get voided and become a free agent. If not, he could get shipped to a team with cap space and a need for a star, which Gay is. He can score from anywhere on the court, is willing to take and make big shots, plays serviceable defense and wants to be the guy.
I think he will be—just not in Memphis.
Also, I think this means that O.J. Mayo is probably not available as long as his contract demands aren't outrageous. He is a very good scorer, an able defender and, most importantly, seems to buy into his role, whatever it is, without complaining. He went from starter and very promising young player to bench guy/sixth man. As long as he is receptive to signing a reasonable extension, he should be back.
3. The Pacers Will Explore Trades for Danny Granger and Brandon Rush
Brandon Rush and Danny Granger may be on their way out in Indy
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If you read me regularly, you know this is something I have suggested for the Pacers on more than one occasion.
Granger is incredibly talented and a terrific scorer, but he often gets out of the offense, relying on silly isolations and taking stupid shots. In many ways he is a victim of his own crazy shooting streaks, as he frequently keeps taking bad shots because they went in before.
He seems uninterested on defense most of the time and seems to lack fire and intensity when his team needs it most. I've said those things for about a year now.
Now Larry Bird is saying them too.
"He's a top-30 player. I've always thought he could be an All-Star and he's close. But he's not there yet. I didn't think he was as committed consistently as he's been in the past. It would be really nice if he could be our second scorer.''
If you know Larry Bird well, and you can read between the lines, Bird is basically saying that he doesn't think Granger is working hard enough, and that is one of the worst things you can do in the eyes of one of the hardest-working players in NBA history.
Bird basically said the same thing about Brandon Rush, yet the Pacers picked up his option despite his declining numbers and role with the team since Frank Vogel's ascension as coach.
I think Rush is gone for sure, as there are a number of teams willing to take a chance on such a natural scorer that really just seems to need the right type of coach. I look for the Bulls to pursue him hard.
Granger is another story though. He will be tough to move since you would have to find a team that doesn't need him to be the guy but just needs him to be the second or third scoring option. However, he has value, as he is an amazing talent if he can consistently keep his head in the game, and his contract is not bad at all.
Bird knows, though, that there is only so long you can try the same thing before it fails, and while he isn't the best GM in the league, he is a highly intelligent basketball man, and he knows that the time may be coming to move Granger.
2. Philadelphia Will Trade Andre Iguodala
The 76ers and Andre Igoudala seem to have mutually agreed to part ways.
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"I expect to be back in the NBA. It's always been a dream of mine to play ball. This has been a great ride so far, not just with the Sixers, just playing basketball in general. I'm really looking forward to getting some rest this summer, just letting my body recuperate and get back to 100 percent, and I'm really looking forward to next year being my best year in the league."
It's really no secret that he doesn't like playing under Doug Collins' system, as he went from being the No. 1 option to being the fourth option this season. Collins fought for him during the offseason when management would have moved him for a bag of balls, saying that the 76ers could win with him, and they did, but apparently not on Iguodala's terms, as he seems to settle on the perimeter too often instead of getting to the rim, where he is at his most dangerous.
You saw it in the Heat series, as Iguodala systematically erased all hope the 76ers had of really making it interesting by hoisting threes instead of taking the wide-open lanes the Heat were giving him.
He's not an alpha, though he wants to be, but he is one of the most athletically gifted players in the NBA, and his ability to play defense, especially on the perimeter, is dangerous. That being said, his contract is quite prohibitive in that he is being paid like a max player, yet he is not nearly producing at that type of money level.
That being said, watch for the Mavericks, as you know Mark Cuban will always be willing to take a bad contract if it means he adds value to the roster, and you have to think that Caron Butler's days in Dallas are done.
1. Either Gilbert Arenas or Stan Van Gundy Will Not Be Back with the Magic
Gilbert Arenas and Stan Van Gundy may soon be enemies, if they aren't all ready.
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My guess is that the only way that works is if they work together to get Arenas a cab to the airport on his way out of town.
You have to think that the Magic ownership wants very badly to be able to void Arenas' contract, in which case they will let him go and use his cap space to try to make a run at Rudy Gay or Danny Granger, though all they really have are terrible contracts to offer, so the chances of success are slim.
Yet I find it interesting that Smith brought in a proven cancer that has never been able to work with others or any coach in his career, and then gets surprised when it doesn't work out and puts the onus for making the relationship work on the coach.
Gotta love the NBA.
The truly shameful thing about it is that Van Gundy is truly one of the better coaches in the league (despite what Shaq thinks), and his knowledge of the game and ability to deal with the media and various members of the NBA governing body often go unnoticed. But Van Gundy consistently tries to tell it like it is, and I don't imagine this will be the last we will have heard of this.
Everyone talked about what a great trade it was for the Magic when they pulled it off, but no one is saying that now, and it almost seems as if Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards GM, should probably be in line for executive of the year for somehow getting the Orlando ownership to forget that JUST LAST YEAR Arenas brandished a loaded weapon at one of his teammates.
You mean it didn't work out in Orlando?
Who would have thought it?
This Offseason May Be Even More Exciting Than Last Year's
Ricky Rubio may also add excitement to the offseason.
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Once a new CBA is in place—and I think the NBA owners are paying real close attention to the NFL lockout to see how that goes for them—the summer movement should be fast and furious.
This is the summer that Ricky Rubio will probably have to come to the NBA, which could be good news for the Timberwolves and bad news for whatever team overpays to get him.
You have teams like the Pistons, Bucks, Wizards, Jazz, Warriors and Magic that have a surplus of bad contracts that they will likely look to move, and in the NBA there is always a sucker waiting on the phone to take them.
Don't be surprised if the Pacers make a run at Rudy Gay, as he seems to be a perfect fit, or Minnesota tries to quietly flip Rubio to Denver for Raymond Felton. I just don't see the T'Wolves drafting Kyrie Irving, and if they are faced with the prospect of missing out on he and Derrick Williams, their pick could end up being very valuable to a team looking to move up for Enes Kanter.
I don't know when the new CBA will be in place, but once it is, buckle your seat belts.
It should be fun.