As I am writing this, it is currently 3:14 PM Eastern Time on Thursday, February 18th 2010. It is the Thursday following the NBA All-Star weekend, meaning the trade deadline passed just 14 minutes ago. More importantly, I am in my underwear, meaning that I have a lot to say about the aftermath.
Before I begin my trade deadline analysis, I want to talk about the All-Star weekend. The long-distance contest and skills challenge were the typical snoozefests, and I for the first time in my life I was disappointed that Detroit did not have a WNBA team, because this meant that Detroit did not have a team for the Shooting Stars game. In fact, the only thing that represented Detroit in All-Star weekend was Jonas Jerebko, who played in the Rookie-Sophomor game, which I missed. However I cannot help but think that Jerebko would have missed the cut had Blake Griffin been healthy and Ricky Rubio got drafted by the Knicks this past summer. Oh yeah, was I the only one that was disappointed by the fact that Rubio wasn't in the Skills Challenge?
in fact, the entire All-Star game prelude was nothing but disappointment. The Dunk Contest this year was hands down the worst Dunk Contest I have ever watched. Gerald Wallace simply did not look like he wanted to be there, and he performed dunks that 88% of the players in the league could do in the 4th quarter of a playoff game. Then there was Nate Robinson, who at this point is not fun to watch anymore. We get it, he's the darkest Oompa Loompa to ever win the damn contest. After watching him for four straight seasons, it has become less impressive that he can dunk despite being so short by NBA standards. Then there was Demar Derozen, who was actually fun to watch, but then some incompetent douche bag at TNT had to cutaway to Gerald Wallace in the middle of a Derozen dunk. How the fuck does a guy like that have a job? The Dunk Contest is an easy event to direct: When a player is taking off, don't switch cameras. Furthermore, don't switch cameras to fucking Gerald Wallace of all people. I'm pretty sure that even the Charlotte faithful did not want anything to do with him after that first round.
Then there was the All-Star game. The game itself was fantastic, the only thing I had an issue with was waiting for the fucking thing to start. Come on, I wanted to watch the best 30 players in the world* play a game of basketball, not Usher lip-syncing for 30 minutes. Also, Charles Barkely barely said anything funny. I guess he just could not wait another 48 hours to indulge in some Paczkis.
I wanted to begin with my trade analysis by talking about a trade that did not happen: Amar'e Stoudemire. I am pretty sure I am beating this dead horse like Jason Kidd beats his wife, but is Amar'e really that good? This is the third consecutive season where the Suns openly shopped this guy. Forget that the guy is overpaid, doesn't play defense, and has a knack for getting injured. Everyone seems to love this guy just because he puts up stats. The bottom line is that his team has been overwhelmingly willing to get rid of him for nearly 36 months. Furthermore, during these past 36 months, no other team was willing to give up anything of value for him. And he is supposedly one of the "big names" in the free agent market this summer. Unless he's the third man or lower on a championship contender, I wouldn't want him. And even then, players with big egos are never a good fit as the "final piece" for a title contender. Just ask Andre Miller (Portland), Allen Iverson (Denver and Detroit), Shaq (Phoenix), Vince Carter (New Jersey and soon-to-be Orlando), and Ron Artest (Houston, maybe LA?)
Let me get the minor trades out of the way first. The Blazers got Marcus Camby, which makes their team more complete, but still makes them a sure one-and-done in the playoffs. I'm still note sure whether or not the Celtics acquired Nate Robinson from the Knicks in exchange for Eddie House, Bill Walker, and JR Giddens. However, I think it would be funny considering that Boston got Robinson after winning the dunk contest, where they could have had yet another minor highlight (Paul Pierce winning the long-distance shoot out being the other one) in the middle of such a disappointing season. By the way, 97 points if you had the Boston Celtics' dynasty in your dead pool this year.
The Knicks also sent Darko Milicic to Minnesota for Brian Cardinal, whose $7 million contract expires this summer. The Chicago Bulls sent John Salmons to Milwaukee for Hakim Warrick, Joe Alexander, and some confusing draft pick scenarios. This was Chicago's way of saying "we need to get rid of key players on our rotation in order to make room for free agents this summer". With the free agent market this summer loaded with shooting guards, and the Bulls needing one, what are the odds that they land a top prize in Dwyane Wade or Joe Johnson? I say moderately high. More on this later.
The whole trade deadline extravaganza kicked off on Saturday night when the Dallas Mavericks sent Josh Howard to Washington in exchange for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. I think there were like six other players involved in the deal that didn't matter, but I don't feel like opening Google right now, so we'll just focus on the players that do matter.
I like this trade for both teams. After all, Dallas really needed a small forward because I guess Shawn Marion wasn't good enough. And Washington needed a shooting guard because they already had Randy Foye. By the way, does anyone else besides me think that it would be funny if Gilbert Arenas switched from point guard to shooting guard? Too soon? Too late? Who cares?
Anyway, I think that Howard really needed a change of scenery. In case anyone forgot, there was an 11 month span (May 2006 - April 2007) where Dallas was the best team in basketball. Then Golden State beat them in the first round, Josh Howard talked about smoking pot and how he hated America, and the Mavericks have not been the same since. He should fit right in with all of the controversy going on in Washington right now. And no, I am not talking about the Health Care bill.
Washington did not stop with Butler. Ernie Grunfeld managed to punch the Cleveland Cavaliers into the 2010 NBA Finals by handing them Antawn Jamison in a three team trade with the Los Angeles Clippers (the Cavs also got Sebastian Telfair, the Wizards got Zydrunas Ilgauskus and and Al Thorton. I think the Clippers just got worse). Also worth mentioning is the speculation surrounding Ilgauskus, that the Wizards may wave him, thus allowing him to go back to Cleveland. With that said, is there any doubt that Cleveland is the hands down favorite to win the Eastern Conference? They now have two legitimate scorers around Lebron (Mo Williams and Jamison), may be getting back Zeek (who has been and still is a tremendous fit for their offense), they are already in control of the top spot by five games, and this is the best team that Cleveland has ever had in the Lebron era. I know that anything can happen in the playoffs, but who in the East can stop this team? I think that the only team that can is Orlando. But with more support around Lebron, I highly doubt that Cleveland's offense will go cold like they did last May.
I also believe that the Jamison trade officially altered the NBA for the next 10 years. More on this later, I need to keep on topic.
Come to think of it, I am just now starting to find Washington's situation a little under-analyzed by the sports media. Is it any secret that the Wizards have finally kicked into rebuilding mode? This team was a pre-season shoe-in for the playoffs. Now they are a lock for the lottery. Which makes me beg the following what-if. Now I know that hindsight is 20/20, because I don't think anyone would have predicted that Gilbert Arenas would have brought guns to the Verizon Center (thus potentially voiding his monster contract), but what if Washington doesn't trade the 5th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft? They take Ricky Rubio at number five, he stays in Europe because he does not want to play backup to Arenas, Arenas brings guns to the arena, the Wizards unload Jamison and Butler and add Thorton at the 3 and Howard at the 2 (thus eliminating any potential chemistry issues amongst the swingmen because Randy Foye isn't there), in the meantime they unload their three biggest contracts and have a shit ton of money to spend in a loaded free agent market, and they have a high draft pick in the 2010 Draft. Does Rubio come to the NBA next season? I say yes. With Rubio Howard, Thorton, 2010 high draft pick, and a young free agent or two, the Wizards suddenly become one of the best and most exciting young teams in the league. Then again, if they luck out and get John Wall, this whole what-if scenario is pointless.
The other major trade that occurred was Daryl Morey's robbery, where Houston dealt Tracy McGrady in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jarred Jeffries, Jordan Hill, and they also have the right to swap picks with New York in 2011. Sacramento was also involved in the deal and got Larry Hughes, but nobody really cares about the Kings right now, so we'll focus on the Knicks and Rockets.
Now although this move was fan-fucking-tastic for the Rockets, this was an obvious move for the future for both of these franchises. This deal may have also altered the 2010 free agent market, with New York acquiring yet more expiring deals, and Houston further establishing a talented roster of young guys, perhaps in hope that Yao Ming exercises his Early Termination Option and gets off their cap space. Wow, what a perfect opportunity to transition:
2010 Free Agent Market: We're finally here!
If you have been following along at home, the New York Knicks will have all but $7 million dollars in cap room available this summer. The Bulls freed up roster space by getting rid of John Salmons. The Rockets added Kevin Martin, Jarred Jeffries, and Jordan Hill to an already young nucleus of Trevor Ariza, Luis Scola, and Aaron Brooks (and if Yao Ming opts out, which probably won't happen, the streets will really be flowing with blood). The Cavs just got better by adding another quality staple in Jamison with Lebron, Williams and Hickson. Also worth mentioning is that Shaq's $20 million contract comes off the books this summer. Now, for those who don't follow the NBA like I do, the Miami Heat were effortlessly trying to obtain Carlos Boozer today, and did not. After everything that has happened over the past week, can you see why Miami would do that? Also, can you see why I thought it was a bad idea for the Pistons to wait until this summer to make moves?
There are officially four major players in the sweepstakes this summer: Cleveland, New York, Chicago, and Houston. Miami is also a player, considering it's a beautiful city, they will have lots of cap space, and Dwyane Wade is possibly resigning. The fate of the sweepstakes still depends largely on what happens in June.
If Cleveland wins the championship, Lebron stays. If they make the Finals, I think it's 75% certain that Lebron stays. Conference Finals, 50%. Second round or earlier? Basketball is Cleveland is officially over.
For the sake of argument, will go with scenario number one: Lebron stays.
If Lebron stays, the Cavs will likely spend the money they spent on Shaq on a couple of other quality role players. With the abundance of shooting guards, I say they would likely go after a swingman, perhaps one that is aging, but is still looking to win titles to salvage their career. Ray Allen? Tracy McGrady? Better yet, say Cleveland thinks to themselves, "We're using the money we spent on Shaq to go big", and they chase someone like Joe Johnson. Or even better...Dwyane Wade?
It makes sense: Wade and Lebron are good friends. Both love to win. The money logic is out the window because the Cavs spent that same amount of money the past two seasons anyway, and with someone like Wade, the merchandise sales, ticket revenue (assuming they raise prices, which is a definite possiblity), advertising, and national television time will likely make up for the costs of employing Wade. The only thing that gets in the way is the alpha-male complex. I'm pretty sure that Wade does not want to spend the next 5 years in Lebron's shadow. But look at it this way, say he stays in Miami or goes to a mediocre team, and they get discarded by the Cavs every season. Wouldn't Wade be in Lebron's shadow anyway?
Regardless, if Lebron stays in Cleveland, the domino effect ultimately comes down on Wade. Whatever Wade does will open the floodgates. If he stays in Miami or goes to New York, Bosh will likely follow. After Bosh goes, teams will eye Amar'e as the consolation prize to Bosh, and he will get the offers.
This is what happens in scenario number one: Wade stays in Miami or goes to New York, Chris Bosh joins him (no other team has the money to employ both. Chicago could open their wallet, but I don't think that even they would shell out $35-40 million of their cap space for two players for the next five seasons). If Wade goes to Chicago or Cleveland, then Bosh will go to the next biggest market. Then Amar'e and Joe Johnson will start getting offers.
Scenario number two: Lebron leaves.
My question is: where? The situation in Cleveland is pretty stable. The only other places I would imagine him going is New York (big market, strong possibility of playing with one or two other starts) or Chicago (big market, and with his respect to Michael Jordan, following in his footsteps has to be on Lebron's mind). If Lebron goes to New York, Bosh will follow. But will Wade? Does Wade stay in Miami and play with Amar'e, or go to Chicago with Derrick Rose? Would Joe Johnson go to New York if Wade doesn't? If Chicago and New York are all tied up, does Amar'e even opt out? Obviously scenario number two is more exciting to think about.
Either way, the foundations are officially established for what will be the most interesting offseason in NBA history. Fuck baseball, WNBA, and golf. My attention will be paid to Inside Hoops, Twitter, and ESPN.
On one final note, I wanted to mention how funny it is that New York once again is overpaying has-beens. Has there ever been a bigger graveyard for all-stars in professional sports? Just take a look at the list of stars since 2000 that went to New York to have their careers kick the bucket:
Also worth mentioning is the number of players who went to New York during a downtime in their respective careers, and improved after they left:
Part of me believes that Amar'e and Joe Johnson will end up in New York because of the D'Antoni connection, which would be a reunion of the 2005 Suns without Steve Nash or Marion. We will finally get to see Amar'e without the luxury of playing with a stellar point guard, his stats will plummet, he will probably continue to get injured, and his career will die like all of the others mentioned. How fitting would that be?