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NBA Acquisitions: Early Grades

Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:53am
By Mike DeStefano

The summer set the tone for an extremely active first month of the season. A lot of notables have changed addresses and donned new jerseys, including six former All-Stars (with hopefully a seventh on his way out of NYC in the near future). These big moves have drastically changed the teams involved, so I’m going to play professor and grade the biggest acquisitions of this young season based on how these new-look squads performed through Early December.

1. Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets - A

 
 


Chauncey Billups
 
Bringing Billups home has finally gotten this talented group playing up to their potential. They are 17-7 ( 1st in the Northwest), 15-4 with Billups in the fold. He’s producing the way we’ve come to expect from him (18 points and 7 assists per game), but it’s the leadership and defense that are most valuable to Denver. He’s carried this team to this record despite the fact that Carmelo Anthony has just begun to play like a superstar this season. Furthermore, they received cap space by letting McDyess go, which is clearly a priority with the way they gave Marcus Camby away. But now, that looks smart. Nene is playing the best basketball of his career, but know this: Everything good that’s happening with this team right now comes back to Billups.

2. Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons - D

Joe, take solace in the fact that you didn’t get an F. After a summer of strong words, that’s what you would have gotten if the only roster move you made was the addition of Kwame Brown.

The Pistons are only 9-9 with Iverson in the lineup, with home losses to Minnesota by 26 (not a misprint), Washington by 13 and Portland by 11. In fact, seven of those nine losses have been by double digits. I agree that Dumars needed to shake things up, but Billups brought stability and leadership to this team, and those are things that a championship team cannot afford to sacrifice. Iverson’s play hasn’t helped anything; 17.6 points and 5.9 assists are way below his career averages. The team needs time to develop chemistry, but there’s no guarantee that will come. Getting McDyess back will help in the long run, but this team is going nowhere fast. No longer legitimate title contenders, it seems like a safe bet that they'll be absent from the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in seven years. On the bright side, they remain in tremendous cap shape and should be able to reload quickly.

3. Elton Brand to the Philadelphia 76ers – D-

This looked like the best move of the summer. Last year, this young Elton-less team rallied for an unlikely postseason birth before losing a hard-fought series to the Pistons. With Elton, many basketball fans and analysts expected Philly to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Right now, they are 10-14, tied (with Toronto) for last in the Atlantic Division. When you’re behind the Knicks in the standings, you know something’s wrong. Samuel Dalembert came out and said that “it’s not the same team that was playing last year,” and he’s right. It’s hardly Elton’s fault, although 17 and 10 are below his career averages, and his field goal percentage is down. The problem is that GM Ed Stefanski failed to consider two things when signing Elton. First is that Elton missed all of last year and may not ever be his old self. The second, and most important, is that Andre Iguodala might not be able to go from main man to second option and might not be able to fit in to a half-court offense that goes through the post. His lack of production is the biggest reason for the sub-.500 record. Let's see how they respond to Cheeks' firing.

4. Baron Davis to the LA Clippers - F

Maybe things would be different if Elton had stayed put. Then again, this is a Clippers team that has considerable talent on its roster, so there is no excuse for their 6-17 start. Baron’s 17 and 8 per game are solid, but it’s his inability to lead this group that has hurt this team most. He’s been inconsistent and doesn’t look to be getting along with Coach Mike Dunleavy. Perhaps the addition of Zach Randolph will infuse some energy into a group that should be playing much better than it has, but so far no luck.


As for the theft of Camby from Denver: any time you can get a Defensive Player of the Year for nothing, it’s a positive no matter how bad the team is doing. But Camby's contract will soon outweigh his production. Getting Randolph will be graded an Incomplete, although 24 and 10 through 9 games is all they can ask for. The real question is whether or not he can help them win games.

5. Ron Artest to the Houston Rockets – B+

Artest’s arrival in Houston was met with mixed reviews. Would he take this team to another level and out of the first round or would his instability and cancerous past destroy them? Thus far, Ron’s tour with the Rockets can only be looked at in a positive light. They are not where optimists thought they could be, but they currently sit a half game out of the division lead at 15-9. Artest has been solid but not spectacular, averaging 16 and 6 on 35% shooting, much lower than his career average of 42%. However, his effects have definitely been felt on the defensive side of the ball, with Houston currently holding teams below 93 PPG, good for 5th in the League. And all of this comes without Tracy McGrady, who's limped to 16 PPG in only 17 games played.

6. Jermaine O’Neal to the Toronto Raptors – C

This isn’t the start that Raptors’ fans expected after giving the reigns to Jose Calderon while bringing in a former All-Star center to play alongside Chris Bosh. It seemed like a lop-sided trade: an oft-injured point guard for a center anxious to rejuvenate his career. But so far, O’Neal has not produced the way Toronto needs him to. They currently sit at 10-14, tied for last in the Atlantic Division. O'Neal is only averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds per game. To add insult to injury, the Raptors have gotten no production from their backup point guards and would probably be better off with Ford coming off the bench. If not for Chris Bosh's MVP caliber play early on, who knows where this team would be?

7. Mo Williams to the Cleveland Cavaliers – A+

Quick, can anyone tell me off of the top of their heads what Danny Ferry gave up to bring Mo to Cleveland? Didn’t think so. Meanwhile, the Cavs are off to a 20-4 start, following up an 8-game win streak with 11 straight victories. Before their recent loss to Atlanta, their first three losses came at the hands of Boston, Detroit, and New Orleans, three teams believed to be among the NBA’s elite at the start of the season. Mo has done a great job providing King James with a reliable second option, averaging 16 points and 5 assists per game and allowing LeBron to raise his game to yet another level. The brilliance of this move is that this shoot-first point guard has fit in with the Cavs seamlessly. There have been no chemistry issues for the Cavs, who have leapfrogged Detroit as the second best team in the East.

8. Richard Jefferson to the Milwaukee Bucks - D

The rough start is not Jefferson’s fault. He is averaging 18 points per game and leads the team in minutes. But his impact is not being felt the way Scott Skiles had hoped. The Bucks are 11-15, fourth in the Central Division. This team has suffered through a number of injuries early on, but the fact is that they just aren’t producing enough offensively. On the other side of the deal, New Jersey is sitting at 12-11. When a team gets a 20 point per game scorer for pennies on the dollar, and that player’s former team is better than his new team, the grade can be no higher than a D.

9. James Posey to the New Orleans Hornets – B+

There is no way to give this deal a fair grade because it was not made with the regular season in mind. While the Hornets are 13-7, it is not where Chris Paul and company wanted to be midmay through December. They got smacked by the Blazers and have also lost games to the Bobcats and Kings, two teams they should have beaten with ease, but are finally on track having reeled off 8-of-10. Posey is right around his career averages of 9 points and 4 rebounds per game and has provided this team with defense (see: picking LeBron’s dribble in victory over Cleveland) and clutch shooting (3-pointer with 19 seconds left to beat the Nuggets). This team will cruise to 50 or more wins with Posey playing a supporting role, but the true importance of this deal will not be understood until May or even June.

10. Mickael Pietrus to the Orlando Magic – A-

When Orlando started 0-2, I laughed at the fact their only significant move this off-season was the acquisition of another small forward to play alongside Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. Since then, I’ve had to eat my words as the Magic have gone 19-6 to overtake the upstart Hawks for first in the Southeast. Pietrus is averaging 13 points per game while shooting the best percentages of his career, proving that he could be productive from the 2-guard spot. Now, he is out for 3-4 weeks with a thumb injury.

Incomplete

- TJ Ford (IND): He’s healthy and he’s producing, but his team is not winning.
- GSW Deals: Crawford and Maggette combine for 40 per game but the team plays no D.
- NYK Deals: Check back in July 2010.

AlexBoii
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Elton Brand

I thought the entire grade for the Sixers Elton Brand signing was totally off, including the analysis of what's gone wrong with the team. Look, Elton Brand's struggles are not long term, and he did not miss all of last season. Because he did miss so much of last season, being on a new team is that much harder in terms of conditioning and acclimating himself. And with Iguodala, the problem is not the fact he's being asked to be a second option. He's been the 2nd tier guy for most of his career, and he was performing very respectably as a role player. The fact is he was playing to be more of a perimeter player because Brand was clogging the lane. This in turn made Brand's work challenging as he in confusion whether to step out to mid range or post up. Iggy was in debate what kind of player he was to be with Brand. In recent games Iguodala's numbers are better being moved to the 3 spot and being more of a slasher, with more perimeter shots coming from Green at the 2. This is leaving room for Brand to be more of a post up player, and letting him get in his comfort zone to step out to his jump shot throughout games. Being a realist Sixers fan, I'll be satisfied for them to make the playoffs but I think the team will slowly find itself as were heading to mid season.

japirish15
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Brand

What you wrote made no sense. Yes, Brand is on a new team and is having problems. However, the last two years Iguodala was THE man in Philly. In the 06-07 season, AI was there for all of 15 games, after that Iggy took over. He scored 18.2 points per game and led the team in scoring (behind AI if you count his 31.2 ppg through 15 games). Then, in 07-08, not only did Iggy lead the team in points per game, minutes per game, and field goal attempts per game, he was considered "the man" in Philadelphia. Andre Miller, Willie Green, Louis Williams, Sam Dalembert, all these guys were the role players around Iggy. Iggy was only the "2nd tier guy" when AI was on the team for his first two seasons, 04-05 and 05-06. Iggy has had to adjust from being #1 to #2, and from being a slasher who attacked the lane to more of a jumpshooter with the addition of Brand. Brand has not helped the 76ers yet.

And lastly, the last thing you said completely contradicted the rest of your post. "I'll be satisfied for them to make the playoffs." From my understanding of it, a grade of a "C" means that the team basically did not get better or worse. However, this 76ers team is worse than last years, as last years team played with energy and played up-tempo. Now they have lost the energy, and they can't seem to score at will like they did in last year's playoffs. Brand has not helped the 76ers cause.

Robert Niles Sa...
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Generic Brand

I completely agree with the grade of D for the sixers. I have watched nearly all the games this year and Brand has not nearly made the impact he was supposed to when they signed him. One can argue that whenever he gets the ball down low he is being swarmed and has no shooters to pass out to but that doesnt explain why he has career lows in shooting and a shaky mid range jumper which is usually his bread and butter. Being a realist sixers fan this team should be top five in the east and matches up well with the orlando magic bc of their length and athletic ability. These are early acquisition grades so you cant be looking into the future, i think a D- is generous considering the team signed a former all star and then had to fire their coach who just signed an extension a quarter into the season.

AlexBoii
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Brand, Take 2

Ok guys, I see where you guys are coming from. Yeah I didn't put much emphasis on the "Early" grades aspect of this article. I just think at that set of circumstance with Iguodala having the ball in his hands a lot last year, and the fact Brand played so many years in a slow paced system while missing so much of last season there was certainly going to be a lot of incoherence early on. Don't get me wrong, am I disappointed at where the team is at? Absolutely I thought this team was going to be one of the top defensive teams in the league while being at the mid-range level in scoring. Thought this team would be block shots, steals, fast break galore. I thought Iggy would have only become a better perimeter shooter, with Brand having an easy time not needing to score necessarily. Unfortunately, Brand now has his dislocated shoulder, taking more time away from this team getting acclimated with each other. Nonetheless, I'm still gonna cheer hard for this team.

japirish15
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La Marca (The Brand)

The major reason why Philly hasn't taken off the way people thought they would is because Iggy hasn't developed a steady, consistent outside jumper. With double-teams underneath, he'd get open looks outside and should shoot rather than slash, but since he doesn't have that jumper yet, he either misses or is forced to drive into traffic.

CordellHatley
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Jermaine O'Neal

Jermaine O'Neal to me is the biggest dissappointment to me so far! When I first heard that he and Chris Bosh were going to be paired down low along with Calderon, Parker and AB playing alongside them I went crazy! I was thinking they would at the very least be the 4th best team in the East. But once again what all looks good on paper does not always work out. I thought that the change of scenery would do Mr. O'Neal wonders. I guess he just doesn't have it anymore. Unless he wakes up and smells the coffee, he will never even smell an NBA Championship. Chris Bosh don't worry you have a couple of contracts left. You could bolt for another city that will treat you right ala Chicago. We would surely treat him right in Chicago. I like Jermaine but he must start to play like the all-star that he used to be or still is. Please help the East climb back to supremacy. Even though the championship was in the East last year. Lets be honest the West has far more quality and consistent teams. Make the city of Toronto proud O'Neal...

laronfan
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philli problem

I was not surprised at all as a nba fan to see the sixers strougle. I saw it when I looked at their roster at the start of the season.

I agree with the grade of the acrosition because the team is worse than last year and the acrosition is partly to blame for it because getting Brand exposes a weakness in Philis offense. It was a weakness that I thought everyone saw before the season started and it is the reason why they are not winning. my only surprised was that the auther missed the reason why they are not winning.

what complements strong inside play like that of Brand's?

the same thing that they have been missing since they traded Korver to the Jazz. An out side shooter.
For proof look at Orlando the've surrounded Howard with outside shooters as well as slashers and they are the top in the devision.

if phili had a real shooter Andre Iggi could play his game which is slashing. but they only have slashers and post players on that roster. So the deffense collapses in the paint and they can't make out side shots enough to keep the deffense honest

yes its a different team adding a legit post player, which they did not have before, will do that. what they need is a true shooter.

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