Trade Deadline Breakdown

Thu, 02/18/2010 - 10:00pm

By Jon Pastuszek

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

--The first line of A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Antawn JamisonAntawn JamisonDickens, you could have been an NBA blogger.  No opening line from a historical novel sums up the NBA better than Dickens’ famous lead-off into his literary classic.  Set in London and Paris during the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities is a 680 page book about struggle – specifically, about the struggle between the overtly rich aristocracy, who believe that “things in general are settled,” their vast wealth and luxurious lifestyles essentially guaranteed, and the poor, oppressed and exploited peasants who ultimately revolt against them.

As we know from history, the French underclass ended up revolting, the British didn’t.  But, similar themes are playing off right now in the League, and it has cause for alarm.

Never before has our League seen such inherent contradictions emerge more than this season, nor have such opposite extremes collided this epically.  It all crested over this trade deadline, where we saw teams hand over All-Stars for nothing tangible in return in lieu of an economic recession that has left owners in financial binds.

Yet, on the court the NBA is arguably the best it’s ever been.  Simply, there has never been this much great talent in the history of basketball.  The vast majority of teams are enjoyable to watch.  The West is even more competitive than we’ve ever imagined.  The East has four great teams that match up well with each other.  The scoring title is a three man race that is likely to go down the wire, as ‘Melo and ‘Bron showed us last night.  The right guys are entering their primes, the Hall of Famers are reinventing themselves for old age, and a glut of exciting young players are developing faster than we anticipated.

Off the court, different story.

A little more than a week ago, NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners commissioned a proposal outlining their demands for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement: a wide-scale reduction in player salaries and a hard salary cap to limit spending.  The current structure is excessive and unsustainable.  Stadiums are too expensive, owners aren’t smart with their money and players are paid too much.  Stern estimates league-wide losses will hover around $400 million this year alone.  Arenas in Indiana, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Detroit are totally empty and even the rumor of relocation of several distinguished franchises has been brought up.  An ugly dispute between players and owners, each side with completely different ideologies, will drag out, possibly into a lockout after the current CBA expires in 2011.   

This is what we’re in: the best of times and the worst of times.  And accordingly, we're enveloped in inconsistencies.  Owners complain about excess, and then the 2010 All-Star game is played in Cowboys Stadium, the most excessive stadium in the world.  It is hailed as the best All-Star game ever, an emphatic triumph and a testament to the League’s development and popularity.  They cry about inflated player salaries, then, without blinking twice, clear out as much cap space as possible to chase LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this summer.  Inevitably, most will end up overpaying for fringe All-Stars. 

Contractions – it’s not just for U.S. politicians.  The NBA is rife with them, too.  And so, we press on into the second half the season and onwards towards the Summer of 2010, set for an unknown Dickensian destination that is bound to be rife with volatility. 

Let’s recap the major trades in chronological order.

February 13th:


Dallas Gets: Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and Deshawn Stevenson

Washington Gets: Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross and James Singleton

D.C., our nation’s capital, stands for District of Columbia and it has seen better days.  

In a city where Mother Nature dumps 27 feet of snow in two days, Republicans and Democrats dump on each other at will as they simultaneously dump on American citizens on a daily basis, and the Wizards dump everyone of value on their roster for expiring contracts, D.C. could very well stand for Dump City.

In the aftermath of Gilbert Arenas’ suspension, the Wizards are blowing up the team, getting under the luxury tax, and hopefully clearing out enough space to make a splash in the spectacular 2010 free agent class. Good luck!

Butler and Stevenson both had cumbersome multi-year deals and Haywood was an unneeded veteran center with an expiring contract for a team looking to rebuild.  This was a straight up, no holds barred salary dump.  Though they got essentially a declining star and little else
, the Wizards did achieve their goal of clearing out all big contracts.  I’m sure Wizards fans are delighted.

On the flip side, by acquiring Butler and Haywood, Dallas is attempting to shore up its two biggest excuses: Howard and the lack of size up front.  Statistically, Howard and Butler are essentially the same player, so by swapping one for the other, the Mavs are counting on addition by subtraction mathematics.  Tough Juice will give the Mavs another threat in isolation, as well as an added element of physicality.  It’s not a huge upgrade, but it was a switch that had to happen, as the Mavs grew tired of Howard’s strenuous attitudes.

But, the reason why I ultimately really like this deal for Dallas, however, is the addition of Haywood.  Worried about lack of depth and toughness up front, the Mavs replaced Gooden with Haywood, who fits the bill as a big, defensive minded center.  Though not the grizzled banger down low that he’s made out to be sometimes, Haywood provides Dallas with size to matchup against the Lakers and Nuggets out West.  Furthermore, the move alleviates some of the frustration over Orlando’s decision to re-sign Marcin Gortat as well, as it is likely that the Mavs will re-sign him over the summer.

Overall, good move for the Mavs, but I’m not sure if it is going to be enough to overtake the Lakers.  For Washington this was a gratuitous salary dump that returned nothing of real net value.  Sadly, it wouldn’t be their last move, nor would be it be the worst.

Washington: C-

Dallas: B+

February 16th:


Portland Gets: Marcus Camby

Los Angeles Clippers Get: Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw

Whatever your opinion is on Camby, he fills a major need for the Blazers.  Sans Greg Oden and Joel Pyrzbilla for most of the season, the Blazers had been relying largely on NBA senior citizen, Juwan Howard, to fill the paint in the middle.  Considering his age, Howard has done an extremely serviceable job, but if the Blazers are to secure a Playoff bid in the hyper-competitive Western Conference, they needed some help.  Camby, the League’s second leading rebounder and seventh leading shot blocker, will come in and shoot the mid-range jumper, protect the rim and control the glass.   

But, how this will affect LaMarcus Aldridge, another long, lean player who typically strays from contact, is an issue worth mentioning.  He’s been at his best when playing beside a big, strong center, like Pryzbilla.  With all the uncertainty surrounding Brandon Roy’s hamstring, Aldridge needs to be playing well for Portland to get into the Playoffs.

The Clippers, as evidenced by Mike Dunleavy’s self-imposed firing as coach, have conceded their 09-10 campaign and have no need for a proven defensive big man who may needlessly decrease their chances for a high lotto pick.  For the rest of the season, Blake will back up at the point, and Outlaw will get to shoot a lot on the wing, and Donald Sterling will save a little over a million as the Clippers once again jostle for position in Secaucus.  It’s possible that Outlaw is brought back in for an extension in the summer, but the Clippers’ roster has enough offensive minded players already, and I’m not sure what Outlaw could bring to the table besides more shots.

Portland: B+

Los Angeles Clippers: C

February 17th:


Milwaukee Gets: John Salmons

Chicago Gets: Joe Alexander, Hakim Warrick

Another team gearing up for the Summer of 2010, the Bulls shed Salmons and his multi-year deal in order to free up the cap space needed to target a max free-agent, namely Chicago native, Dwyane Wade.   

Salmons was an integral part of the Bulls’ thrilling near-upset of the Celtics, but this season struggled to regain his form.  It isn’t a major move for the Bucks, but it at least signals that ownership is serious about making the Playoffs this year.  He’ll give Milwaukee a versatile replacement for Michael Redd, and a potential third scorer to take some pressure off of a slumping Brandon Jennings.  Good for Milwaukee, the feel good team of the 09-10 season.

The Bulls get cap room and in my mind, have a real opportunity to get Wade.  Knowing that Wade is growing increasingly frustrated by his teammates, Pat Riley tried desperately to get an All-Star big man to flank their star in Miami.  Nothing materialized, and recognizing a potential opportunity, the Bulls sent Salmons downstream.  Playing with Derrick Rose in his hometown could be awfully tempting for D-Wade, and I think the Bulls were smart to free themselves up.

The immediate implications for the Bulls aren’t much.  Alexander is a full-fledged lottery bust – his option wasn’t picked up by Milwaukee in the fall – and is a lock to be released after the season.  Warrick, however, is a useful short-term replacement for the departed Tyrus Thomas, and could even be brought back in the off-season if management decides Taj Gibson and James Johnson aren’t quite ready for big time minutes.

Chicago: A-

Milwaukee: B


Cleveland Gets: Antawn Jamison, Sebastian Telfair

Washington Gets: Zydrunas Illgauskus, Al Thornton, the rights to Emir Preldzic and Cleveland’s 2010 1st round pick

Los Angeles Clippers Get: Drew Gooden

Maybe it’s not quite on the level of Chris Wallace’s tax deductible donation of Pau Gasol to the Lakers in 2008 (though Marc Gasol, probably contrary to Wallace’s expectations, has vindicated him this past season), but Grunfeld’s giveaway of Jamison to the Cavs is in the same vicinity.  Illgauskus is almost certain to be bought out, in which case he will wait the League mandated 30 days and rejoin his old team in March, just in time for the Playoffs.  By the end of this, Cleveland will have gotten a two-time All-Star for the 30th overall pick.  How about a round of applause for Ernie Grunfeld, everybody!

The Cavs were torn over Amare Stoudemire and Jamison, but ultimately settled on the 33 year-old power forward because of how cheaply he could be obtained.  By doing business with the Wizards, the Cavs were able to hang onto J.J. Hickson and keep the rest of its delicate balance of role players intact.  To reiterate, the Cavs picked up a two-time All-Star for nothing.

Even so, I can’t help but wonder about a tandem of Amare and LeBron.  For really deep thought on an Amare-LeBron partnership, click over to John Krolik’s excellent piece written a few weeks ago.  (Apparently, I’m not the only one who puts STAT and ‘Bron together, either by playing within the rules or by cheating, in the NBA 2K series).  I agree that he doesn’t fit well with Anderson Varejao, and I agree that there would need to be a period of adjustment for the coaches and players, which isn’t ideal for a contending team mid-season.  So yes, short-term Jamison is a better fit.

But, long-term, the potential for a dynasty is greater with STAT because I believe that the Power of LeBron ultimately conquers over all.  If his 2006 NBA Finals run with Eric Snow and Damon Jones running the show proved anything, it cemented the fact that LBJ can adapt to play with anyone by his side.  He’s a joker, a wild-card who transforms measly, nothing hands into pot winning full-houses.  He is the best player and teammate in the League, a guy who has successfully integrated Shaq and his massive personality into the team on and off the floor, while also quickly adjusting to several other new additions made last summer.  Not even Steve Nash could do that.  He has turned Mo Williams into an All-Star, transformed Varejao into an indispensable cog and created the perception that Mike Brown is a good coach.  Is it a stretch to believe that ‘Bron would have found a way to make it work with an uber-talent like Amare?  It’s a question I’ll ask, but ultimately, never know for sure.

The Clips dump Thornton, the bane of several Clipper fans, and Telfair, who at this rate, is on his way to China next year to join up with his cousin, Stephon Marbury, effectively freeing up enough cap space to make a run at a big free agent.  Not that anybody is going to come to play for the Clippers, but false hope has been driving this ship since it sailed up from San Diego, and darn it, it’s going to keep driving it well into the new decade!

Washington gave away its most coveted asset for nothing.  Contrary to what some may believe, this isn’t Gil’s fault.  By foolishly believing Butler, Arenas and Jamsion were enough to deliver the Wizards into the NBA Finals, Grunfeld set himself up for a huge buildup and an epic collapse.  It’s dumb GMs like Ernie who pay absurd amounts of money to players who haven’t proven anything, and in the end, it’s their fans who have pay the price.  The Wizards are a joke right now.  That was the worst series of transactions I have ever seen.  You are awarded no points, Mr. Grunfeld and my God have mercy on your soul.

Cleveland: A

Washington: C-

Los Angeles Clippers: B+


New York Gets: Brian Cardinal

Minnesota Gets: Darko Milicic

Ho hum. Nobody seems to care about this trade including Milicic who was quoted as saying "I'm going home to Europe" about he deal. Milicic is reportedly too out of shape and too depressed to play in Minny, and is expected to approach David Kahn about a buyout.  By now, Kahn must be used to being rejected by Euros.

Cardinal saves the Knicks $1 million in luxury tax this year and has already been bought out.  I'm suprised -- I thought the Janitor would have provided several keys to D'Anonti's offense in New York. 

Minnesota: D

New York: B

February 18th:


Memphis Gets: Ronnie Brewer

Utah Gets: 2011 1st round pick

A tough trade to swallow if you’re a Jazz fan.  Kevin O’Connor basically gave away a solid contributor on a top four Western Conference team for a mid first-round pick.  But, in the minds of many, this trade is an example is why drastic changes to the League’s CBA are needed.  The Jazz are a model small-market franchise: They trot out winning teams every year, sell out their arena every night, and have a foothold in the local community.  Yet, despite all that, they’re forced to cut costs to avoid crippling luxury tax costs.  It stinks if you’re a fan, but this is the reality of the NBA right now, and it’s why the League and its owners are uniting to significantly cut player salaries.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies pick up a capable wing to come in off the bench.  The Grizzlies’ second unit is amongst the worst in the League, and although Brewer isn’t a dynamic scorer, he is an athletic, up-tempo player who can defend and score decently off hustle plays.  He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year, and if he impresses, Brewer could be re-signed as a cost effective piece this summer for the upstart Grizzlies.

Utah: C

Memphis: B+


Boston Gets: Nate Robinson, Marcus Landry 

New York Gets: Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker

Danny Ainge tried unsuccessfully to make a big splash by trading Ray Allen’s big expiring contract, but got nowhere.  So, instead, he targeted back-up point guard as the team’s most realistic option to improve.

Here’s what we know the Celtics don’t do: rebound, take care of the ball, get to the free throw line and, through stretches, score.  And here’s what we know they do: play good defense, whine at refs, sulk, make excuses and blow huge third quarter leads.

Enter Robinson, an offensively explosive, defensively challenged, emotionally volatile, combustible point-guard who is most certainly not a subscriber to Ubuntu. But, Nate can score in bunches and is capable of carrying teams offensively by himself at times.  He won’t fix Boston’s other glaring weakness, their inability to defend bigger guards either, but Danny Ainge was forced into damage control after making the mistake of signing Marquis Daniels as their back up point guard. They lose their ace in the hole shooter Eddie House in the deal, a player capable of winning games off the bench. But this deal was essential as the Celtics were incapable of running their offense when Rondo went out.

With the Big Three banged up, nobody on the Celtics consistently warrants a double-team, and nobody felt the effects more than House, who no longer received the amounts of open looks in previous years.

Ultimately, while the de-facto House for Robinson swap was necessary for the Celtics, it comes across as repainting the Hindenburg. This team’s success is predicated on the health of Kevin Garnett, who is obviously not healthy right now.  Furthermore, old age and a sense of entitlement has crept in among the veterans, creating a possible rift in the locker room that Rajon Rondo hinted at back in January.

Robinson will put on a few great individual performances over the rest of the year and maybe the Celtics will get into the Eastern Finals, but in their current state, nobody is confident that this is a contending team anymore.

The Knicks essentially destroyed any trade value for Robinson when they benched him for 14 games in December, but given that they’re unwilling to take back any multi-year contracts, what could they have gotten for him?  Hopefully, we’ll get to see some highlight reel dunks from Walker as a consolation.

New York: D+

Boston: B


Chicago Gets: Acie Law, Flip Murray, future 1st round pick

Charlotte Gets: Tyrus Thomas

The Bobcats had been after a big man in the weeks leading up to the deadline, engaging in talks with the Celtics over Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace before settling on Thomas.  Actually, I could kind of see this coming last summer – after Taj Gibson and James Johnson were drafted, the writing was on the wall for Thomas to either shape up or ship out.  A suspension earlier this month pretty much for conduct detrimental to the team basically sealed his fate.

I like Murray for the Bulls.  The Bulls need people to score the ball, and Murray, a bonefied gunner, will inject instant some much needed offense off the bench.

Charlotte is banking on a change of scenery for Thomas.  He shores up a flaky front line, and alongside Gerald Wallace and Tyson Chandler, if he gets back to a sustainable level of health, features in an extremely athletic and potentially defensively devastating lineup.  I like the gamble Charlotte is taking, but, I wonder: If Thomas clashed with Scott Skiles, a short-fused from the old-school disciplinarian, how is he going to get along with Larry Brown?

Chicago: C+

Charlotte: B

New York Gets: Tracy McGrady, Sergio Rodriguez

Houston Gets: Kevin Martin, Hilton Armstrong, Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill, the right to swap first-round picks with New York in 2011 (top-1 protected), New York’s first round pick in 2012 (top-5 protected)

Sacramento Gets: Carl Landry, Larry Hughes, Joey Dorsey

If you didn’t believe that Daryl Morey, “Dork Elvis” as he is affectionately known to some, was the best GM in the League already, surely you do now.  Morey’s latest move is arguably his best: A 23+ ppg scorer, Kevin Martin, the number eight pick in the 2009 Draft, Jordan Hill, and the Knicks’ first round picks in 2011 and 2012 for Carl Landry and T-Mac.

Knowing that Donnie Walsh’s future as Knicks GM depended on clearing out gratuitous amounts of cap space for run at two max-level free agents this summer, Morey extracted every last drop from him and came away with one hell of a deal.

The statistically aware Rockets have always been huge fans of Martin, whose unorthodox knacks for draining threes and getting to the line have resulted in incredibly high true shooting percentages over the years.  Know this: if Morey likes a player that much, he’s probably pretty awesome.  Martin will step into the 2-guard position right away, likely moving Shane Battier to the bench.  They’ll use smaller, quicker lineups to make up for the absence of Landry, and amazingly, probably shoot more threes than they are now.

I also really like the Hill throw in.  Hill, unfairly labeled as a bust half a season into his career, will get a chance to develop with a sane, practical franchise in a system that is better suited for his talents.  Despite being rather old for a rookie at 22, Hill is still raw and wasn’t a good fit for D’Antoni ball. But, he has the physical tools and mental makeup to improve, and could provide the Rockets with some much needed size up front.  Morey wasn’t going to take Jeffries’ contract – the key to this deal, by the way – unless Walsh included some young talent.  Great pickup for Houston.

And when you count Hill in addition to the two draft picks, the Rockets came away with three Knicks draft picks, all of which could potentially be in the lottery.

Wait, it gets better.  Despite dumping Landry, a leading sixth man of the year candidate, Morey improved the balance of his roster while also getting under the luxury tax.  The Rockets are saving money and acquiring assets!  Other than maybe Oklahoma City, no team is positioned better for the future than the Houston Rockets.  This deal was simply amazing.

Trading Martin surprised me, however.  Sacramento vehemently denied that Martin was on the block in the weeks leading up to the deadline, opting instead to assess the situation in the off season.  Tyreke Evans is now The Man in Sactown, and his domination of the basketball and of the stat-sheet never gelled with Martin.  Maybe they pulled the plug too early, but Geoff Petrie ended up with a very good player in Landry as well as boatloads of cap space this summer.  Dubbed as a franchise shrouded in hopelessness a year ago, the Kings now sit on a promising young core with a 2010 lottery pick and cap space to build on.  The future is bright in northern Cali.

In New York, this move is the ultimate gamble.  The Knicks have mortgaged their future in an effort to realize their dreams of LeBron James as a Knick.  If Walsh is able to convince LeBron and D-Wade to come to the Big Apple together or get one of the two and Chris Bosh or Joe Johnson, then this trade was a romping success.  If not, the team will have to settle for second tier free agents with no way to supplement them via the Draft.

Regardless, the Summer of 2010 is back on in a major way.  Will the allure of playing together as teammates in one of the biggest markets in the world entice the two best players in the League to come to New York?  A week ago, I would have told you that the Knicks were screwed – nobody wants to sign a long-term deal to play with Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.  But, now, the prospect of playing alongside a fellow Olympian may be too good for Bosh/James/Wade to refuse.

Houston: A

New York: Grade Incomplete

Sacramento: B+


San Antonio Gets: 2nd round pick

Charlotte Bobcats Gets: Theo Ratliff

This deal makes sense for both teams. The Spurs weren't using Ratliff, and shedding him saves them almost a million in luxury tax payments. Larry Brown has a familiarity with Ratliff from their days in Philadelphia and with Tyson Chandler and Nazr Mohammed both on the mend, they needed someone to act as an insurance policy during their playoff push.

SanAntonio: B

Charlotte: B


Milwaukee Gets: Royal Ivey, Premoz Brezec and a 2010 2nd round pick.

Philadelphia Gets: Jodie Meeks and Francisco Elson

The Sixers had been hot after Meeks since before the draft, yet were unable to land the sharp-shooting Kentucky product.  They finally land their coveted wing and at little expense. The Bucks get their steady defensive bench player back and a high second rounder which could land a nice player in this year's draft.

Milwaukee B+

Philadelphia  C+

Jon Pastuszek is an NBA writer for  He can be reached at [email protected]

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How the heck can you say the Wizards got nothing for Jamison? That's a heck of a deal if you ask me. Just getting rid of his 3 years 33 million was worth it. The Wizards are a team in rebuilding so paying Jamison that kind of money would just be stupid. Secondly I've always said when Jamison has been hurt that Blatche has been a better player. Jamison's stats are highly inflated. He needs 20 shots to score 20 point. Also he's a horrendous defender. Too slow to guard 3's, too weak to hold his own in the post. His 0-12 last night in his debut for the Cavs is just a sneak peak at the player he's become every since he got over the big 30. As for the Wizards you unload his contract, get a huge 10+ mil expiring in Big Z, get a young athletic player in Thornton who last night looked like the better rookie version of himself, and you get a late first round pick which will give them a a top 10 pick and a late first rounder in the upcoming draft. Bad trade, I say not. I would have been happy just unloading Jamison's contract for Big Z's expiring and say Jamario Moon.

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