Monday, February 28, 2011

Under Review: NBA Trade Deadline

Some trade deadlines arrive with a ton of hype and coverage, but rarely a trade that’s actually interesting, *cough* NHL *cough*. The NBA trade deadline is not one of those deadlines, and 2011 was no different. In fact, 2011 gave NBA fans one of the craziest trade deadlines in recent memory, with 14 trades, involving 17 draft picks and 49 players, ranging from the Carmelo’s and Deron’s of the world all the way down to the Luke Harangody’s.

There were the blockbusters, one expected, one not, which completely removed all the star-power from Mountain Time…other than Gordon Hayward, obviously. Other deals may have involved lesser lights, but their impact on where the trophy ends up in June for the next few years could be huge. Finally, on the Timberwolves end of the spectrum, there were a number of trades which could have only served to depress fans worldwide as they acquainted, or reacquainted, themselves with the reality that their team is hopelessly irrelevant and, perhaps, will be for quite some time.

Let’s begin at the top. After all the Melodrama, the New York Knicks finally got their man, acquiring F Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets, along with G Chauncey Billups, F Renaldo Balkman, G Anthony Carter and C Shelden Williams from the Nuggets, along with F Corey Brewer from the Minnesota Timberwolves. In return, the Nuggets got F Wilson Chandler, G Raymond Felton, F Danilo Galinari, C Timofey Mozgov, C Kostas Koufas, the Knicks’ 2014 1st round pick, 2nd round picks in 2012 and 2013, both originally belonging to the Warriors, and 3 million dollars cash. As part of the deal, the Timberwolves picked up C Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and F Anthony Randolph from the Knicks, the Nuggets’ 2015 2nd round pick and 3 million dollars.

So after wading through the details of that monster deal, what does it all mean? What it means is that the Knicks will be starting two of the best players in the league, in their prime, for at least the next 5 years or so. I read a lot of articles from various sports media outlets leading up to and after this trade about how Carmelo wasn’t worth the price, how he was just a volume shooter who couldn’t, and wouldn’t, play defence. That’s bogus. That opinion is, as the kids say, an epic fail. Carmelo Anthony is not, “the best scorer in the league.” Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Amar’e Stoudemire and Dwyane Wade are all averaging more points per game and all shoot a higher percentage from the field. What Carmelo Anthony is, is the most versatile scorer in the league. Carmelo Anthony is faster than you and if he’s not, then he’s stronger than you. He might be stronger, taller and faster than you. He can play with his back to the basket and he can kill you from the outside. He can get to the line, where he shoots better than 80%. When you need a bucket, say…I don’t know, sometime in May or June, Carmelo can get it for you any way you want it. That kind of skill-set is rare and invaluable. If you can get Carmelo Anthony, you do it. Throw in the fact that he’s a New Yorker who wants to play in the Garden more than anything and it’s a slam dunk. Yes, the price was steep, but it was absolutely worth it, and let’s not forget that Carmelo didn’t arrive in the Big Apple alone. Flying in with him, somehow under the radar, is a former Finals MVP, Chauncey Billups, who is a definite upgrade at the point-guard position over Raymond Felton. And don’t sleep on Corey Brewer, who joins the Knicks from Minnesota. He is definitely capable of filling in some holes on the stat-sheet and he can give you defence, athleticism and effort, attributes that are always welcome.

It’s not all doom and gloom in Denver either and I think, given the circumstances, the Nuggets came out of this in pretty good shape too. They avoided getting Leboned, Boshed, whatever you want to call it, by getting the most they could for their want-away superstar. Along with draft picks, the Nuggets got a couple of nice young players in Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler, a promising big man in Timofey Mozgov and either a really good backup guard, or a good trade chip in Raymond Felton. They’ll have to make a decision on whether to resign Chandler after this season, but the rest are signed for at least next season. Remember, these guys made up the majority of a starting line-up that had already begun New York’s resurgence and they’ve already started well in Denver, beating the Celtics in the home-opener of the new-look Nuggets before losing by one, on the road in Portland, the very next night. Pretty good start. Nuggets fans should feel good about where they’re at right now. Kenyon Martin’s $16 million salary comes off the books after this season, meaning they should be able to resign anyone they want to keep among their list of expiring contracts (Martin, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Aaron Afflalo) AND, as part of the Anthony deal, they have a $17 million trade exception they can use to sign a marquee free agent if and when they choose.

The Timberwolves got what they got out of the deal and, to be honest, no one really cares, although it’s kinda funny that one team now has Eddy Curry, Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley. Unfortunately, Minnesota is one of those teams I mentioned in the intro: hopelessly irrelevant, their fans can only count the days until Kevin Love inevitably leaves, without even the comfort of knowing that Clippers fans understand their pain. They do, or they once did, but now they have Blake Griffin, so they don’t care anymore.

The big question during the Carmelo trade saga was would Carmelo go to the Knicks, or become a part of the Nets (eventual) Brooklyn revolution. He went to the Knicks and the Nets missed out on the first big splash of the Prokhorov era…or so we thought. In what was maybe the biggest surprise of deadline day, the Utah Jazz sent All-Star point guard Deron Williams to New Jersey for F Derrick Favors, G Devin Harris, the Nets’ 2011 1st round pick, a 2012 1st round pick originally belonging to the Warriors and cash considerations.

The immediate reaction to this deal was that, if you’re going to have to settle on a consolation prize, Deron Williams is a really good consolation prize. That is absolutely true, but this deal marks a huge risk for the Nets organization, and here’s why. Deron Williams, who unlike Carmelo Anthony did not sign an extension after being traded, will be a free agent after the 2012 season. The Nets basically have the rest of this season and next to convince Deron that New Jersey/Brooklyn is the place to be, and I think they could have a hard time convincing him of that. As a Net, Deron Williams will get to play with Brook Lopez and…that’s it. The Nets are one of the least talented teams in the league and the 2011 free agent class is hardly sparkling, so it’ll take some creative wheeling and dealing to make that roster attractive. Yes, Deron is a superstar point-guard, the kind of player other stars want to play with, but teams aren’t giving away players for free, unless you’re the Lakers and you’re offering Javaris Crittenton, and the Nets don’t have a single attractive trade chip. Ultimately, I think Deron only resigns with the Nets because A) they can offer him the most money, B) there’s nowhere better he can go, or C) he’s a huge Beyonce fan. In the meantime, there are going to be a ton of teams plotting a way to sign Deron away from the Nets and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if one of them manages it.

There were a couple of moves made at the deadline that made sense, I can see the logic and they could very well work out spectacularly, but they don’t sit well with me. First, G Baron Davis was sent to Cleveland, along with the Clippers’ 2011 1st round pick, for G Mo Williams and F Jamario Moon. I can see why the Clippers did it. Mo Williams is going to give you, pretty much, what Baron gave you, but for $3 million less. Plus, he never showed up for work completely out of shape. But, Baron had been reinvigorated by Blake Griffin, he was motivated again, motivated Baron is awesome, he was sveltening by the day. The Clippers just had a lot of feel good energy going this season and, as a fan, I can tell you that this trade kind of killed the momentum a little bit. Everything else aside, this trade has to go down as one of the worst ever from a player’s point of view. Baron was fat and unhappy and then Blake Griffin came along and basketball was fun again, Baron got in shape and the Clippers started winning. Baron went from the moon roof of a car in his hometown of LA, throwing a lob to his teammate, the most exciting player in the league, who was about to win the dunk contest, to Cleveland and a historically bad team, in a matter of days…that sucks.

Another trade that just kind of rubbed me the wrong way was the Celtics sending C Kendrick Perkins and G Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder for F Jeff Green, C Nenad Krstic and a future 1st round draft pick. Again, I get it. The Celtics need to start thinking about life after the Big 3 in the long term and they needed to be deeper at the forward spot to deal with the Carmelo’s and Lebron’s in the short term. This deal will help them do both. The Thunder didn’t really need Jeff Green, but they needed a big guy to deal with Bynum, Duncan and Chandler out West, this deal did that for them. What I don’t like about this deal is on the Celtics end. Kendrick Perkins was a big part of their title winning formula, a formula that had yet to fail when all the players were healthy. Perkins was drafted by the Celtics, who watched him grow and develop into the player he is. Where’s the loyalty? The reality is that it’s professional sports and there isn’t any loyalty, but that doesn’t make it sting any less for Perkins, who reportedly cried all day when he found out he’d been traded. On a side note, I’m really tired of teams, fans and the media trying to label want away stars as selfish. It’s such a double standard. Carmelo’s somehow ruining the NBA by going to New York, but the Celtics are just making a smart move. Come on.

Really quickly, some of the other notable deals and their ramifications:

F Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trailblazers

The perpetually rebuilding Bobcats sent Wallace to Portland for Joel Pryzbilla, a couple of 1st rounders and a couple of scrubs. I love this deal for the Trailblazers. They weren’t getting a lot of Pryzbilla and in Wallace they get a high energy guy who’s a great rebounder at his position. The Blazers can roll out Wallace, Marcus Camby and Lamarcus Aldridge and have three guys who could all average 10 rebounds a game. If Brandon Roy can get right and he’s showing signs that he can, this Blazers team is going to be a really tough out in the playoffs. As for the ramifications for the Bobcats, there’s no time…see above re: the Timberwolves, etc.

G Aaron Brooks to the Phoenix Suns

The Suns swapped point guards with the Rockets, sending Goran Dragic and a 1st rounder to Houston for Aaron Brooks. Both of these guys have regressed a little bit this year and they will both need to be resigned after the season. I think Phoenix got the better player in the deal, but how much these two end up costing with their new contracts will give us a better picture of how this shakes out. For now, the Suns have a talented scoring guard who will take pressure and minutes away from Steve Nash’s aging legs and the Rockets probably save some money and get a pretty good point guard prospect.

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