Thursday, February 20, 2014

NBA Trade Deadline 2014

       The trade deadline is notoriously a marketing creation. Used effectively in the EPL as well as the major professional sports in America. There is no real logic to it. I’d guess it stems from incidents back in the day where dumb owners made horrible trades just before or even during the playoffs that shifted the competitive balance so greatly that an adjustment was made.
There have only been a couple times when a deadline deal has been able to really change the landscape of a season. A lot of times contending teams will make a small adjustment that will help a bit on the path to glory. Every so often there is a truly big deal. Luis Suarez was a big deal when he went from Ajax to Liverpool at the deadline in 2011. He’s an even bigger deal now three years later. This is an example of buying a player at the right point in their career. A valuable thing for sure but in the last three years Liverpool has won zero premier league titles. Because only one team wins a year that’s not a huge deal except for the fact that Manchester United has won twice during that time bring their total to 20 premier league champions. Two ahead of Liverpool.
The biggest transfer in the history of EPL deadline day is commonly believed to be Wayne Rooney in 2004. Since then Manchester United has won five premier league titles. Before winning with United, Rooney helped them finish third place in back to back years followed by a second place showing before winning three straight.
In soccer teams use money to buy players from other squads at the deadline. Because of deals like the ones for Rooney and Suarez there is a premium to pay when buying top tier talent in the early stages of their athletic prime. Mesut Ozil was transferred for close to twice as much as Rooney was nine years earlier. And he is four years older than Rooney was at the time. That is the name of the game at the deadline. Pay the price for the best pieces available and you can win big. But even these examples fail the ultimate sort of measuring of deadline dealing. Beyond dumping salary or acquiring assets for the future there remains an even more pure cause for ‘wheeling and dealing’ up until the bitter end. Some teams believe they are one change away from everything. And by everything I mean a championship that very same year.
In Hockey it is more common than I thought. There are multiple examples of key players getting moved at the deadline who made a real difference in their new teams push for the cup. Examples include Ulf Samuelsson joining the Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburg Penguins in 1991. This trade also included Ron Francis, who was a living legend for the Hartford Whalers at the time. He was shown the door along with Ulf in return for a young player named John Cullen who was top ten in scoring at the time of the trade. Usually a smart team doesn’t want to trade a young blue chip player. In this case John Cullen faded away and Pittsburgh won back to back titles.
There are other examples in the NHL like Mark Recchi in 2006, Bill Guerin in 2009 and a pair of risky moves the Rangers made in 1994. All of these trades start to show some patterns. The most noticeable one is that suddenly at the deadline players who are thought of as undesired by their current club become, in a moment, the key piece of their new club. Often they are traded for superior players who are younger and on better contracts. But suddenly once the trade happens the roles are reversed. In NHL deadline deals, the path to a championship seems to be adding veterans who have lost their value.
In baseball there are a lot of good deals on deadline day but still very few great deals. Randy Johnson was traded to the Mariners in 1989 and increased the teams wins above replacement by over 80. That’s a lot. The best example of success is from 1964 when Lou Brock was traded to the Cardinals. At the time he was a rising star and only 25 years old. The Cardinals won that year and Brock went on to be elected to the hall of fame after a 19 year career. He’s been called ‘The Legend of St. Louis’. Stole 118 bases in 1974. Won two World Series in St. Louis, lost another. Was third in the league in sacrifice hits in 1964. Top 100 all time on the intentional walks list. Top ten in hits for ten years straight. Top 100 all time in doubles and triples. Top 20 all time in singles and at bats. Top 50 in games played and runs scored. 24th all time in hits. From 1965-1968 for four straight years he was first in errors committed by all outfielders and also first in range factor, a number that determines which fielders successfully cover the most amount of field. Number two all time in steals behind Multicultural Friend Ricky Henderson. The most Lou Brock ever made in a year was $180,000. In 1964, the year he was the big deadline deal that sealed the Cardinals title he was paid $12,000.
Lou Brock was traded for three players. This has become a staple of deadline deals for good players. Packages of prospects whose names are often quickly forgotten in exchange for a difference maker who has fallen out of favor to the point of becoming expendable for one reason or another.
This brings us to the NBA. The best example of a deadline deal that made a difference is none of than Multicultural Friend Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons in 2004. The Pistons were able to acquire Wallace for no one who affected the team. Although draft picks traded away to make the deal work eventually became Josh Smith in Atlanta and Tony Allen in Boston. The Pistons won the title that year. Were a contender atop the Eastern Conference the next couple years after that. Rasheed was the key piece. Combined with Ben Wallace in the post the Pistons had an imposing defense and a complement to Wallace on offense who could create space for Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton to find lanes and open looks. The team changed the way their opponents had to play against them by putting together a perfect starting five. Before Rasheed Wallace came to town the Detroit Pistons were one piece short. After he arrived they were a title winner. Before he arrived he was still in his prime, had led Portland to the playoffs multiple times and somehow was traded to Atlanta in a dump type move where he lasted about a week before Detroit swooped in and got him.
This year there are many rumors floating around. Smart organizations with smart gm’s like the ones in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, LAC, Miami, OKC, Orlando and San Antonio are floating non key pieces trying to see if they can give themselves depth in more important places for the stretch run. Danny Ferry now has a reputation for making good deals and has been trying to find another victim. Chances are decent that he works his way into some talks with Jeff Teague as bait. A solid point guard but not elite. He is the perfect player to have around the deadline. On a contender he makes a huge difference. On a team that believes it can contend he can make an even greater one. The problem is Danny Ferry is too smart to get fleeced. Unless it’s someone like Iman Shumpert or Omer Asik its probably not happening. While the Knicks and Rockets do need a point guard there are no deals that make a lot of sense. Maybe if Atlanta sends Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague to Houston for Omer Asik. Houston sends Lin and Ronnie Brewer to the Knicks who send Shumpert and Raymond Felton to Atlanta. This would gives the Knicks a point guard capable of playing 30 minutes a night while also rejuvenating the fan base. They also replace Shumperts promise with Brewers veteran presence. Houston loses their blue chip center and Lin in exchange for a point guard who is a better fit and a power forward who can play with Dwight Howard and mesh with the teams other key players. Atlanta gets a prospect with a lot of potential for two guys who aren’t in their long term plans. Houston gets a little better with this deal and it could make the difference come championship time.
The Bulls are in a funk. Their star is hurt and not back until next year. Their team is not capable of winning it all but with Tom Thibodeau as coach and a scrappy bunch of solid tools they find a way to contend. This is the time to trade one of their veterans some place and take a chance on a prospect or a draft pick becoming a valuable piece down the line. They have enough pieces to take a chance on someone who’s value has dropped or to try and get an extra second round pick, which they’ve been effective turning into quality players. Whatever move they make it won’t win them a title. Even if they make the rumored Carmelo Anthony trade.
Dallas is in an interesting place with two expiring players who also happen to be competent. There is a chance someone makes a move for Carter and Marion. Both are solid rotation players best suited for a bench role. But that can be very valuable in the playoffs for certain teams. Dallas could use this as a chance to convince someone like Luol Deng to sign long term or they could take a chance on a package of spare parts and hope one of those becomes a diamond in the rough. Either way they are not one move away from the title unless it is for Lebron.
The Clippers want to get better. The truth is they are probably better off standing pat. Trading their spare parts for other teams spare parts has as much of a chance of backfiring as it does succeeding. This team was put together strategically to get the right group. I doubt taking two or three of those pieces and treating them as insignificant is the best way to get the team to go to the next level.
The Heat and Thunder are both looking for improve. Neither team wants to sacrifice anything too valuable so they are both being careful not to move the wrong piece and cause the foundation to weaken. Oklahoma City may trade Sefolosha and or use one of their trade exceptions to add a swingman. The Heat will probably be the first choice of any guys waived due to deadline deals. Doubt they can turn any spare parts into a valuable asset. Maybe a small tweak but I doubt we see any of the big three getting moved or anyone capable of being the ‘fourth’.
The difference makers are Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, the Cavaliers, Kenneth Faried, the Pistons, Harrison Barnes, Arron Afflalo, the 76ers, the Suns, Kyle Lowry and Gordon Hayward. You also have to include Danny Granger, Zach Randolph and Pau Gasol. All three are older with diminished returns but they are all on the last year of their deal except Randolph, who has a player option he may or not exercise this offseason.
Pau Gasol is probably the most interesting of the bunch. The Lakers have no reason not to move him if the right sweeteners are included. It is a bit of a challenge finding a team that is the right fit for Gasol’s abilities at the moment. He is a large plodding man with a refined offensive touch. He’s a liability on defense but a hard worker. Ideally he fits on a team with a point guard who doesn’t hold the ball much. A team that is contending but needs another piece to solidify with. The Suns are an interesting option, that’s why there have been rumors of him going there. The Trailblazers are interesting too. Same goes for the Wizards and the Bobcats and the Mavericks. All these teams are contending for playoff spots. If they can get the Lakers to accept the right package he can change the fortunes of one of those teams.
Granger and Randolph are more enigmas albeit on different ends of the spectrum. Granger is a three point specialist known for showing up fat and rusty at the start of every year. Despite having the natural talents to have already lead the league in scoring once during his career he struggles to stay at a high level. There are good matches on other teams where they would love to have his expiring contract going into the offseason. The Pacers would also love to hold onto him and probably cannot entertain moving him if the package includes players with big numbers and multiple years left on their deals. The Clippers would be a great fit and you can bet a handful of other teams are making calls. Doubt the Pacers do the trade for anything less than a Deng type player.
Randolph is a garbage man power forward. Just past his prime but still with gas in the tank. He’s the kind of player who could totally change the outlook of the postseason if he were added to San Antonio or Toronto. As things stand now that seems doubtful. The possibility still exists of someone grabbing him from the Grizzlies for one of those packages of prospects or even one of the names listed above.
Hayward and Lowry are in interesting positions. They are both full of ability and capable of being huge difference makers. They are also both about to be free agents asking for more money than some teams think they are worth. Many teams could benefit from obtaining one of these guys at the deadline. Few teams will be willing to part with the assets to take a chance on one of them. Hayward could be a glue guy on a team with players who need the ball or a distributor on a team with weapons that lacks a leader. Lowry is a pit bull capable of changing the fate of many teams. Both guys can probably take a contender and solidify their playoff spot or take a top tier team and push them over the edge. For other teams they represent a solid building block for the future.
Kenneth Faried and Harrison Barnes are both young guys who have played better in the past than they do now. Either guy is capable of shifting the playoff race if put in the right location. Barnes is a beast who could really blossom with minutes on an uptempo team. If he was traded to Philadelphia for Thad Young or Spencer Hawes both teams would benefit. Faried could really help a team down low. Everybody always needs rebounds and despite his flaws Faried more than makes up for it with his rebounding rate. He also gets easy put backs and is a double double machine with 30 minutes a night.
The 76ers, Pistons, Suns and Cavaliers all have a bunch of assets that they can turn into a piece or two that better fits their current teams. The 76ers are in full rebuild mode but somehow have at least two guys they are willing to move who are on reasonable deals that also can make an impact during the stretch. The smart move would be unloading both to teams like the Spurs for packages slightly less valuable than they may be worth. That way the players will perform well and Hinkie can start to repair his reputation after fleecing New Orleans in the Jrue Holiday deal.
The Pistons have problems that probably need to be fixed through action. The first option would be trading Josh Smith, the more likely option is moving Greg Monroe. Greg Monroe is an elite talent right now in the league. Josh Smith is over the hill and overpaid. Both could be effective in different situations but Monroe is the one you have to focus on if he can really be had for the right pieces. I can’t imagine a world in which every team isn’t thinking about what it would take to get Monroe right now. He is capable of playing 4 or 5 and has a sophisticated all around game.
The Suns are a piece or two away and if they can get a superstar have to think about packaging some assets and making a run. If they could trade the Okafor expiring for Greg Monroe that would put them right near the top of the West. On top of that huge expiring contract they also have a stack of draft picks. Should be able to do something if they want. Would be smarter to think long term and go use their assets to get someone with a chance to be great.
The Cavaliers have pieces and no one is untouchable besides Kyrie Irving. That makes them ideal partners for someone looking to make a move. The team wants a legit star to pair with Kyrie Irving. The good news is that their idea of a star is different than some other teams in the league. The bad news is that it seems as if most teams in the league are not fans of the Cavaliers assets. The possibilities are endless but really I doubt many teams besides the Knicks are very interested in adding Dion Waiters, the prime chip.
That leaves the big three this deadline. The bronze goes to Arron Afflalo. Guy’s on a reasonable deal, puts up monster numbers that actually help his team. On any contender he could push them over the top. The questions are does Orlando want to move him and does any other team have enough to make a trade realistic. He is a game changer but could be someone we end up seeing grow with the rest of the new guys in Orlando.
The silver goes to Rajon Rondo. Despite coming off a knee injury he is still at a good number for next year and can change the future and fortunes of an organization in a moment. It’d take a lot to get him, as the Sacramento deal suggests. But if Boston can really get a package like Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a draft pick from a lottery team they have to think long and hard about pulling the trigger. Especially if it is someplace Rondo would actually play. Imagine him on Houston. Or feeding Melo. And you get the idea why teams covet him right now and Boston seems to be listening. I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an extension with the Celtics getting announced and him staying as the backbone of the team for the rest of his career. So that one is up in the air but he is definitely a franchise player who seems to be available for the right price.
The big piece is Kevin Love. Most assume it a forgone conclusion that he leaves Minnesota as soon as possible. While that does seem likely I wouldn’t put it past a doughy guy like Kevin Love to take the max money while the offer is there. He’s already a big star. Heading to a big market and winning some games will increase that but by how much? And what teams will really be able to afford adding Love to the mix at max numbers? I’d say you have to consider Golden State, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns as all being teams with a legit chance. The Lakers get rumored but its not happening for Gasol and a pick. The Clippers would be interesting if they had different pieces to offer back. Houston could maybe work it involving other teams. Whatever way you slice it the trade would be a big deal because Love is a top 5 player in the league right now if not for his inability to lead a team to the playoffs. If the Wolves keep him they probably lose in the second round of the playoffs and hope the team gels before Love has a chance to leave as a free agent the next year. If he goes someplace else that team likely joins the conversation about who realistically can win it all this year.
Peanut Butter Honey

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