The Give and Go
By Charlie Zegers and Chris Liss
RotoWire Staff Writers
Subject: Give and Go
Date: January 5, 2008 8:08 AM PDT
Last week we talked a little about the rumor that Baron Davis was pushing for a trade back to Oakland. Sounds like Davis isn't the only one who might be looking for an "undo" on a big offseason move.
Consider: The Sixers spent big money to acquire Elton Brand, thinking that he would make them a legit contender in the East. It seems he's had the opposite effect - as I write, Philly is dead last in the Atlantic and 12th overall in the East. Making matters worse, it seems the addition of Brand and his half-court-oriented, back-to-the-basket game really hampered the open, slash-to-the-hoop style that favors guys like Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Willie Green. Iguodala, in particular, has really picked things up since Brand's injury, scoring 22 or better in four of his last five games. Maybe that's just him picking up the slack with Brand out of the lineup - or maybe the fact that Brand isn't on the low block gives Iguodala a little more room to operate.
Can't help but wonder if the Sixers wouldn't have been better off passing on Brand, looking to turn Andre Miller and Sam Dalembert into younger, more athletic assets and planned on competing in 2009-10 with a team built around Iguodala, Williams, Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights.
Also can't help but wonder if guys like Iguodala, Williams and Speights are "sell high" candidates now... since their value may take a dive when Brand comes back later this month.
The Raptors gave up talented but injury-prone guard T.J. Ford to acquire Jermaine O'Neal. Theoretically, this makes the Raptors better by allowing Chris Bosh to move to his natural power forward spot, and by handing Jose Calderon the full-time point guard job. Things haven't exactly worked out as planned... O'Neal has missed six games so far, including Toronto's last three, due to shoulder and knee problems. Andrea Bargnani has been far more productive as a starter in O'Neal's place than as a bench player - and using him as a small forward makes the Raptors impossibly slow on the wing. Meanwhile, the Ford deal left Toronto very thin at the point.
As I write, Toronto has won two straight - over impressive competition, the Rockets and Magic - with Bargnani starting and O'Neal (and Calderon) sidelined. And with a very soft stretch of schedule coming up (at Milwaukee, at Washington, Memphis), there's a very good chance they'll move into the East's top eight by end of week. They're getting decent production out of the Will Solomon/Roko Ukic tandem at the point - but that's gotta be considered a pleasant surprise, not something you can count on. Would the Raptors be better off without O'Neal and with Ford right now?
(Would the Raptors be better off dealing Bargnani to a center-needy team in exchange for a more athletic wing type? O'Neal's salary would probably be harder to move... but his deal does expire before the summer of 2010, so maybe there's a chance.)
Of course, the most entertaining - to me, at least - potential "undo" trade rumor floating around right now is a potential three-way deal involving the Knicks, Blazers and Clippers. The New York Daily News floated a potential trade that would send David Lee to Portland and Quentin Richardson to L.A., with Marcus Camby and Channing Frye coming back to New York.
Camby was part of the Knick team that reached the NBA Finals during the 1999 strike-shortened season. The Knicks traded him away - in one of the more hideous deals in team history - along with the draft rights to Nene, in return for Antonio McDyess. Dice then missed the entire 2002-03 season and played in 18 games in 2003-04 before getting traded to Phoenix as part of the Stephon Marbury trade. (Speaking of hideous deals...)
Have to say... I love the idea of a guy like Camby playing in D'Antoni's system. Sure, he's not the jump-shooting pivot that D'Antoni craves... but he could run the floor, start the break, and probably score 20 a game on offensive boards and put-backs. Frye also seems like a great fit for the Knicks, and he's become an afterthought in the Portland rotation. Of course, I can't really figure out why the Clippers would want Q-Rich, so this one is probably too good to be true.
One more thing... the Celtics have now lost four of six... including two losses to seriously inferior competition (the Warriors and Knicks). This got me thinking... before the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, no one really thought Doc Rivers was all that great of a coach.
Who do you blame when the team just doesn't show up for road games against weaker teams? Seems to me ol' Doc might not be doing the greatest job keeping these guys on task for the last couple of weeks. Of course - that makes the Celtics' rumored acquisition of Stephon Marbury even more questionable - doesn't it?
Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: January 6, 2008 1:18 AM PDT
The problem with the Sixers is that they weren't going anywhere without another impact player like Brand, so they took a chance. And sometimes I wonder whether these run and gun teams are fun to watch, but incapable of actually winning. When was the last time a team like that won an NBA title? The Showtime Lakers? The closest thing to that was the D'Antoni Suns, and you could argue they would have won two years ago were it not for Tim Donaghy and his bookie. But that team had two-time MVP Steve Nash paired with two of the best big-man finishers in the game. The Sixers aren't even close to that. So when Brand goes down, the Iguodalas and Lou Williamses go nuts for a little while, but if you can't play half court basketball you can't really win in the NBA.
As for the Raptors, we don't know yet whether Calderon can really hack playing big minutes every night. He's been a little dinged up so far, but that might or might not be an indicator of things to come. But if Calderon does hold up, I think the trade was worth doing - as you can't have him and Ford on the floor at the same time too much anyway. And speaking of injury prone, Ford is up there with anyone. I picked up Bargnani in a league recently because he scores and hits threes when he gets the minutes, and he's blocking shots this year. And I agree that he's better off in the pivot than as the slowest three in the league. They're better off with Jamario Moon there - at least he'll contribute some defense. As for dealing Bargnani, I don't think they'd get a difference-maker for him at this point, and Bargnani's skill set is more unique than that of most wings.
As a Knicks fan (if I can still call myself that), I would hate to see that deal done. Camby is playing great, but the Knicks aren't going to contend for another year or two at least, and I don't see why you'd part with Lee for a short-term upgrade.
I was never a huge fan of Doc Rivers as a coach (or Danny Ainge as a GM), but after last year (and the first month of this one), both will get the benefit of the doubt for a while and probably should. The Celts shouldn't be losing to lesser teams, but these games are not exactly do or die, and it's hard to keep that edge all year long. As long as Rivers has them playing well down the stretch and into the playoffs, these losses will be forgiven.
Finally, one team we haven't talked that much about this year is the Pistons - after their seemingly disastrous trade of Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson, Detroit has won seven in a row and has nearly as good a record as Denver. Rodney Stuckey has emerged as a major weapon in the backcourt, and the team is only five games behind Cleveland in the loss column. Do you think the Pistons have a chance to knock off one of the top teams in the East (Boston, Cleveland, Orlando)? And what about the Hawks - they've won 8 of their last 10 also. Do you think they could make the leap into a serious Eastern Conference contender before the end of the season?
Subject: Give and Go
Date: January 6, 2008 7:19 AM PDT
See, that's the thing I find so frustrating about today's NBA. Yeah, the Sixers probably did need to take a chance on Brand - or someone like him. But sometimes, those gambles don't pan out... and then you're left with no recourse and very little roster flexibility for the life of a very large contract. I'd love to see more teams take chances and try to get better... but the consequences are brutal.
I'd also argue that - though I liked the signing very much - it wasn't a "Garnett and Ray Allen to the Celtics" level move that made the Sixers instant title contenders, even in a best-case scenario.
How do they fix the situation? I think they need to exchange one of their slasher-types for a legit shooter, which would help to space the floor better and possibly give both Brand and the other wings a little room to maneuver. These guys really seem to miss Kyle Korver - or someone like him. (There's another "undo" trade scenario for you.)
Philly is probably one of the teams that could really stand to benefit from the fact that they won't be players in the 2010 free agent free-for-all. The Sixers have over $40 million tied up for 2010-11 with the salaries of Brand, Iguodala and Sam Dalembert alone. Throw in Lou Williams, Reggie Evans and Willie Green and they're well over $50 million... and that's before they deal with team options on guys like Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights and Jason Smith.
If I'm Ed Stefanski, I'd be dangling a guy like Andre Miller - whose $10 million contract expires at the end of this season - to see if I can get a player who will better complement Brand from a team looking to clear salary for 2010.
Stefanski's a pretty sharp guy... I'd actually be sort of surprised if that doesn't happen. All of a sudden, the fact that I'm holding Lou Williams in a couple of leagues seems like a positive.
T.J. Ford's injury history is, indeed, terrifying... which is why pairing him with a guy who is more than capable of stepping in to the lead role for a couple of weeks at a time (but might not be a real fill-time starter) makes perfect sense. Ford is also five years younger than O'Neal.
(Just looked it up - Jermaine O'Neal is just 30. Wow. Feels like he's been in the league long enough to have played with Moses Malone. Of course, the age of O'Neal's knees should probably be measured in dog years.)
That said, O'Neal only has this season and next left on his deal, so he's not nearly the long-term risk to Toronto that Brand is to Philly.
As for the Knicks deal... Donnie Walsh and Mike Dunleavy were quick to deny everything... Camby's return to New York probably isn't happening. I don't mind giving up Lee for a short-term player because at this point, I believe Lee is a short-term player. He's a restricted free agent after the season, and I just don't see the Knicks giving him a big contract when they're really planning for 2010 and beyond. I suspect there will be real bargains to be had in the 2009 free agent market - like Lee, like Nate Robinson - for any team willing to write off the possibility of signing one of the big 2010 guys.
My guess is Lee will be traded before the deadline one way or the other... Portland is the team that seems to be most interested, and the Blazers have a ton of guys that seem tailor-made for D'Antoni-ball.
The Pistons are playing better, but look at their recent schedule... Chicago, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, Orlando, the Nets, the Kings, the Clippers... Orlando's the only legit team in the bunch. I'm not sold on them as a contender... not yet, anyway. At this point, I put them in the second-tier in the East, in the same group as Orlando and Atlanta. I still think Cleveland and Boston are a step ahead of those guys.
Could the Pistons or Hawks or Magic knock off the Cavs or Celtics in a seven-game series? Sure... the Hawks took the Celtics to seven games last year. I don't think it's likely, but it's certainly possible. Ask me again when we have a better idea of what these teams will look like come playoff time... Cleveland, in particular, seems likely to make a move, especially if Zydrunas Ilgauskas' injury is serious... and the Celtics are still talking about adding some depth at guard.
If the C's really do sign Marbury, I'm picking against them on general principle.
Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: January 6, 2008 4:10 PM PDT
If the Celts did sign Marbury, I doubt he'd disrupt anything much - he just doesn't have the clout. When T.O. disrupts a team it's only because that team needs him. If they don't need you, you can just be fired for the disruption. But Marbury, if he's right, would bring some instant offense to the second unit. I'm just not sure he still has it anymore.
The one thing I find frustrating about fantasy hoop is that it requires you to look at all this salary cap stuff and inhabit the mind of these GMs to figure out whether your guy will eventually come into some playing time. I personally much prefer to watch the games and analyze the players' actual skill sets. It's annoying enough to have to be aware of Scott Skiles' or Don Nelson's coaching tendencies. But now we have to consider the front office as well. I guess that's what we're here for, but I'm speaking as a fantasy owner. I want to pay attention to the product on the court, not the behind the scenes stuff. It's why I'm more into sports than say stocks. I like to watch the players pass, shoot, block and defend rather than suits add and subtract. That and that the people refereeing the stock market made Donaghy look positively Solomonic in his fairness and restraint.
As for Lee, you might be right that he's a short-term guy, too, but I'd like to see them get someone who can be part of the next playoff-series-winning team the Knicks field, and Camby's not that - even if it ultimately it's moot because they're just trying to clear space for 2010.
Article first appeared on 1/6/09