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Now, that’s what I call a trading deadline.
The NBA had a fans’ delight week with some three dozen players changing teams, including about a half dozen former All Stars. While it didn’t carry the potential balance of power changing effect of the summer of 2010 free agency, it does potentially impact this summer’s moves and the shape of the league to come.
So here’s an early look at how teams did. All of this is subject to change, of course, if I am wrong:
Cavs: In acquiring two time All Star Antawn Jamison. LeBron James finally has his Scottie Pippen/Paul Gasol. Jamison will be 34 next season. But he still plays at a high level and seems a better fit with James than Amar’e Stoudemire, whom the Cavs pursued. Plus, the Cavs keep their top defensive players and young players like Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson. LeBron isn’t about to commit to the Cavs because he likes to see them wiggle. But he’s not going anywhere. There’s likely no team he can join with a particularly better supporting cast, and certainly nowhere he’d be treated better than in Cleveland.
Mavericks: They kicked it all off All Star weekend with the continuation of the Wizards’ unraveling by acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood and moving the moody and injured Josh Howard. It gives them a true second scoring option better than Jason Terry and some size and toughness up front to go along with Erick Dampier. If Jason Kidd holds up they could cause some playoff problems for someone.
Bulls: They may have helped Milwaukee marginally in the short term by dealing them John Salmons and some second round picks. But the Bucks could conceivably give the Bulls a chance to bring Marquette’s Dwyane Wade 90 miles south. The Bulls thus make it the big three national markets—New York, L.A. and Chicago—among at least eight teams with probably enough salary cap room to attract a max salaried free agent. The big markets are the Bulls, Clippers, Knicks and Nets. Without disturbing their starting lineup, the Bulls replace Tyrus Thomas with a slightly less talented much less troubled Hakim Warrick. Thomas and his antics just never were going to fit with what the Bulls hope to build, even if I felt you could have gotten through this season with him. The Bulls probably would have had to renounce him and get nothing this summer, so at least they get a future No. 1 draft pick as well as two players for this season. If Thomas thinks he’s yelling at coaches anymore, that’s over with Larry Brown. I’d like to listen in to some of those practices. The Bulls also get a veteran shooter in Flip Murray and remain on course to compete for a playoff spot and to have the money to tell a free agent they can join an All Star guard in Derrick Rose. Could they have tried to move, say, Brad Miller and Luol Deng to open up a second potential max slot? Perhaps, though I think it’s too much risk and would set you back too far this season in trying to make the playoffs. And you suddenly don’t look so inviting finishing behind Milwaukee and Charlotte. The Bulls now head into the summer with enough to offer a veteran a maximum salary deal, estimated now at $16.5 million. And with a good supporting cast already with an All Star in Rose and top rebounder like Joakim Noah in place. With a high level point guard and center and solid small forward in Luol Deng, it leaves the Bulls with more talent than any of the teams competing for top free agents. Plus, they have pieces if they have to do a sign and trade to guarantee someone like Dwyane Wade of Chris Bosh the most they can make even from their own teams. And if those players stay with their teams, the Bulls also have the space and players to make trades or take on top players from teams having financial issues or trying to get into the next free agency. It gives them multiple options.
Rockets: I was surprised they’d give up Carl Landry, who personifies their toughness and competitive spirit. Kevin Martin from the Kings is a good scoring big guard and I know the notion is he’ll fit with Yao better. I don’t make them a winner for that move as much as getting, in effect, the Knicks 2011 and 2012 No. 1 draft picks because if the Knicks strike out this summer, as I expect they will, you might be able to build a franchise on those draft picks. The history of the NBA shows short term success with free agency and long term success through the draft.
Trailblazers: Quietly may have gotten the steal of the week with robo rebounder Marcus Camby for Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw. Camby is on an expiring deal and if Brandon Roy’s health is OK, he can team with Roy and Aldridge to keep them in it with Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla hurt.
Knicks: You could say they won in moving Jared Jeffries in order to get far enough under the salary cap this summer to pay two max deals. The flaw in that theory is if players leave to sign with new teams without a sign and trade—which the Knicks cannot do with a decimated roster—they have to sign shorter deals for a total of about $30 million less than they would make resigning with their own teams. Maybe you’d do that if you could be guaranteed a title. But the Knicks have so little on their roster—Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, basically—they have little chance to get better. They traded their 2009 No. 1 pick, their 2010 No. 1 got to the Jazz, the Rockets can swap their 2011 No. 1 for the Knicks and the Rockets get New York’s 2012 No. 1. That is about the same penalty, losing four No. 1’s, that crippled the Timberwolves in the illegal Joe Smith signing. Though the Knicks will pursue the top guys, one theory is with getting Eddy Curry off last season they’ll make their move for Carmelo Anthony in 2011 and Chris Paul in 2012. So maybe I change their grade then.
Lakers: They had a shot at the Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich, but never were very serious despite an obviously weak backcourt. They believe they have enough to win now, and they may be right. But we’ve always heard it’s only about championships in L.A., and you figured they’d take any chance to assure that. They apparently declined to.
Heat: So here’s the conversation buddies LeBron James and Dwyane Wade might have had this week: James: “Hey, D-Wade. My team got me an All Star in Jamison. What did you team do for you?” D Wade: “Nothing.” Pat Riley apparently made for show bids for Amar’e Soudemire and Carlos Boozer, but Wade has to be asking himself whether the Heat is just making money on his back and essentially wasting two of the best years of his career. It has to brighten the prospects for every team that wants to steal way Wade this summer.
Celtics: They were another of those alleged suitors for Hinrich and even John Salmons. They spread the word around the NBA they were going to make a major deal and widely discussed dealing Ray Allen. But they ended up with an asterisk addition of Nate Robinson, this season’s Stephon Marbury.
Magic: Another team with backcourt issues that did nothing to address them. I thought I had a great idea in a deal involving Brandon Bass and Hinrich. They’ve had Bass and to a lesser extent Marcin Gortat hanging around doing not much and didn’t seem to try to upgrade. You mean they think they believe they are good enough to win a championship as is?
Spurs: Another team that didn’t do anything. They seem to have needed a spark, but couldn’t land anyone. They’re into the luxury tax and with a team that seems unmotivated at times and still doesn’t seem to fit, somewhat unathletic and aging. They needed an activity jump start and couldn’t find one.
I think Milwaukee helped itself for the near term with John Salmons as they can’t be a free agency player. The 76ers kept Andre Iguodala and probably were right to do so. Same with the Suns and Stoudemire. They may not be championship material, but it’s difficult to persuade people to watch cap space. Outside New York, at least. The Pacers struck out in trying to move Troy Murphy and T.J. Ford, and they seem stuck in a morass. The Pistons couldn’t free up their perimeter logjam and the Wizards saved a lot of money, which could be a model for the federal government right there in the neighborhood.