Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grading the Moves, Part I: Major Trades

Phoenix traded center Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland for center Ben Wallace, guard-forward Sasha Pavlovic, a 2010 second-round draft pick and cash.

-- Cleveland did just about as much as it could to sate LeBron James' demands for another weapon, as Shaq will do wonders for this team which struggled to score in the paint all season, not to mention he brings 4 championship rings and a slew of NBA and Finals MVP's along with him. Its almost impossible to fault this deal, especially since the Cavs gave up nothing to get him.
Cavs Grade: A
-- You have to wonder what Steve Nash is thinking right now. I could see trading away 16-year veteran Shaq for a couple expiring contracts if that team was planning on totally rebuilding, but the Suns are not, and have thus essentially given away Shawn Marion and Shaq over the course of the year, all but dismantling a perennial 60-win team. The move will give them some salary cap flexibility in 2010, but by then, it might be too late for Nash, Hill & Co.
Suns Grade: C-

New Jersey traded guard Vince Carter and forward Ryan Anderson to Orlando for guards Rafer Alston and Courtney Lee and center Tony Battie.

-- The Nets gave up any chance they had of winning next year, though it could turn out to be a great move. Consider that last year they were almost totally healthy, and managed just 34 wins, and that Carter's scoring has dropped off considerably. I think that justifies a change. Acquiring Courtney Lee, probably the most accomplished rookie to be traded after one season in my memory, forms with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez arguably the best core of young stars in the East, and shedding Carter's contract means that in 2010-11 they will improbably have only $15.6 million tied up in contracts, which has to be the lowest potential payroll in the league. If in '010 they can get any one of Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Mehmet Okur, Jermaine O'Neal or another PF to team with Lopez down low, they're a contender again.
Nets Grade: B+
-- **THIS WAS WRITTEN WITH HEDO TURKOGLU'S LEAVING DUE TO SALARY CAP CONSTRAINTS A VIRUAL CERTAINTY** Acquiring Vince Carter made the Magic the most talented team in the league, but will it work? Getting Carter likely means letting go of Hedo Turkoglu, and that could prove to be very risky. Hedo was the player that made this group of stars gel, with his terrific passing ability, poise, and ability to play 4 positions. Carter may average five more points per game than Hedo, but how will this hurt the Magic's chemistry? Do they think they could not have won if Jameer Nelson was at full strength? I'm a little reluctant to praise the Magic for letting go of arguably their playoff MVP immediately after making it to the Finals. Also, we must consider the fact that the Nets regressed from Eastern Conference power to bubble playoff team when Carter arrived, and he never did win in Toronto. So what does he really bring to the table? The Magic certainly don't need shooting (they also acquired Ryan Anderson, who had a very impressive rookie campaign and whose game is all about the 3 ball), and now Rashard Lewis may actually be forced to play the PF position, as Hedo's size made things much easier for them on defense. Still, their lineup is the most talent-laden in all the league, and we have to think Steve Van Gundy will make it work.
Magic Grade: B

Minnesota traded guards Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Washington for the 2009 No. 5 draft pick, forwards Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila, Oleksiy Pecherov.

-- I can understand why Minnesota made this deal - they knew they were going nowhere. But they gave away Foye (16.3 ppg) and Miller (1,173 career 3-PT FG) and accepted two or three of the worst contracts in the league to draft a player who might never play for them?? The initial logic was sensible, putting themselves in a position to draft two potential franchise guards with the 5th and 6th picks to complement Al Jefferson and Kevin Low down low, but with only one guard presumably on the way, this might turn out to be a disaster.
Timberwolves Grade: C-
-- Just like the T-Wolves, the Wizards logic in making the deal was sound - upset with receiving the 5th pick rather than the second, they acquire immediate help and rid a couple nagging contracts in the process - but when the dust settled on the 2009 NBA Draft, they were riddled with regret. The fact is this: the Wizards could have had Ricky Rubio. They could have had Rubio, apparently a Wizard with the ball who's unselfish to a fault, dishing to elite-level scorers Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. It would have been a perfect fit for both. Will the Wizards be better next year with Foye and Miller than they would have been with Rubio? Most likely. But consider this: the Wizards traded away the #5 pick, a point guard for veteran talent (Jamison) before. That point guard became Devin Harris.
Wizards Grade: C+

San Antoniotraded forwards Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas and center Fabricio Oberto to Milwaukee for forward Richard Jefferson.

-- Rising from the dead and encouraging discssion of a veto rule to dissallow trades such as these that makes the best teams better at the expense of worse teams' money woes (ok, maybe I'm the only that's upset about trades like this, and Kwame Brown and Jarvis Crittenden for Pau Gasol...), the Spurs, coming off their worst season since Tim Duncan joined the team in 1997, are primed to contend for the title once again. San Antonio didn't give away anyone of real value to them, and in returned nabbed a swingman who routinely averages 18-22 ppg and is entering his prime, healthier than ever. The franchise appeared doomed after dropping 4-1 to the 6th-seeded Mavs in the first round, but with this move - coupled with the Lakers apparent refusal to re-sign both Odom and Ariza to the deals they desire - are arguably the team to beat in the West once again.
Spurs Grade: A
-- Almost over night the Bucks went from a potential 45-win team with an extremely solid lineup consisting of Ramon Sessions, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut to league doormat. The move was apparently made to free up cap space for Sessions and Villanueva, but now the latter is gone and the former is fielding serious offers from four or five teams. Even if they keep Sessions, we're looking at the least talented team of the league, one that also sadly struggles with injuries and tons more bad luck. And no, Brandon Jennings is not the answer. The only hope for this team is to nab one or two impact free agents in '010, and that will still be hard as they'll have a hefty $42 million locked up. Really, its just sad, but its hard to pity them, seeing as they essentially gave an All-Star to a team that's won three championships in the last seven seasons for nothing at all.
Bucks Grade: D+

New York traded guard Quentin Richardson and cash to Memphis for center Darko Milicic.

-- When a team acquires Darko Milicic, you can't say "that was smart move." You're not allowed, unless you're being sarcastic...but in this case, and I never thought I'd say this, the Knicks were right to deal QRich for him. Richardson seriously underperformed in every season as a Knick, and keeping him would only serve to hinder budding star Wilson Chandler's development. If Milicic ever capitalizes on his potential it will be under the guise of a coach like D'Antoni, who honed his style in the Europe, which works to the athletic Milicic's advantage, and he won't start, meaning less responsibility and downside. Plus, he's off the books after next year, so there's minimal risk involved. Yeah, he's sucked thus far, but I have a feeling D'Antoni could make a real impact on him.
Knicks Grade: B-
-- Memphis dealt Richardson to the Clippers for Zach Randolph days later, so this grade gets an incomplete for now. More on that trade when it becomes official.

Golden State traded guard Jamal Crawford to Atlanta for guards Acie Law and Speedy Claxton.

-- FACT: Jamal Crawford has played for three different teams. The average improvement in a team's first year without Jamal Crawford is a 16-win increase. He has the lowest winning percentage of any player in the league, struggles to shoot 40% from the field (he's shot below 40% in three different seasons), and does not play defense. Did I mention teams improve by an average of 16 games after getting rid of him?
Warriors Grade: A
-- FACT: Jamal Crawford has played for three different teams. A team's average first season with Jamal Crawford is a 9-win regression, most notably the Warriors going 48-34 in 2007-08, acquiring Crawford in the off-season, then going 29-53 the following year. The Hawks were 47-35 last year. They can expect a similar fate.
Hawks Grade: F

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