June 27, 2011
This past week’s NBA Draft wasn’t very star-studded according to most experts. Unlike the 1996 Draft, which was one of the best in recent memory producing future Hall of Famers such as Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, and Allen Iverson, this year’s class isn’t expected to have as many stars.
That said, as always, some teams still found a way to draft wisely while others left us scratching our heads.
Washington Wizards – I know all about Enes Kanter taken by the Utah Jazz at No. 3, but Jan Vesely could end up being the best international player in this field. Vesely is a true athlete that has an NBA-type game and will be a perfect fit for John Wall and the Wizards’ young team. At 6’11”, he has three-point range and could cause huge mismatches for opposing teams’ frontcourts. Washington also landed Chris Singleton at No. 18, a great defensive weapon, and Butler’s Shelvin Mack in the second round. Mack was listed as a late first-round pick in many mock drafts and the Wizards could have gotten a bit of a steal.
Detroit Pistons – The Pistons picked up a relative steal in getting Brandon Knight at No. 8. Knight is the second-best point guard in the draft and averaged more than 17 points a game as a true freshman – something virtually unheard of. Getting him that late (especially when there’s a premium on point guards in the NBA these days) was a big coup for General Manager Joe Dumars. The Pistons also ended up with Kyle Singler, who played a big role on some winning teams at Duke and as a second-rounder, was a smart pick. And while Vernon Macklin (No. 52) isn’t a star, he shot more than 60% during his entire collegiate career and has a chance to be a serviceable backup center.
Sacramento Kings – Sacramento reeled in the draft’s most prolific scorer in BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. Even better for the Kings is that he should be an excellent fit for their team. Fredette will fit right in alongside Tyreke Evans and give the Kings a great backcourt for years to come. He’s not a stellar defender and will need to improve if he wants to play 30 minutes a game, but he knows how to score – and that’s the primary function for a shooting guard. Tyler Honeycutt was a solid second-round selection and, unlike some other teams to be named later, the Pistons secured a good proven talent in guard Isaiah Thomas with the last pick in the draft instead of going for an unknown international player.
Los Angeles Clippers – Man, the Clippers’ just can’t catch a break. They were so desperate to unload Baron Davis’ huge contract that they traded him away with an unprotected first-round pick back at the trade deadline in February. Little did they know that pick would turn out to be the No. 1 overall selection. So to recap, the Clippers traded away Davis (a former All-Star) and the No. 1 overall pick for Jamario Moon and Mo Williams? Yeah, how’s that one working out? Look, I understand the desire to move that contract, but the fact is that Davis is still a solid NBA player. Instead of having Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams to pair along with Blake Griffin, the Clips are still a few players away from being able to compete. The bottom line is that trading unprotected lottery picks away simply to dump large contracts is a very bad idea and this is why the Clippers are the Clippers.
Los Angeles Lakers – Even without a first-round pick, the Lakers still had a chance to make an impact in the draft. Unfortunately, even with four second-round selections, Los Angeles failed to add much substance to their team. Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock were reasonable picks, but that’s when things got a bit crazy. With talented players like Scotty Hopson and Ben Hansbrough still on the board, L.A. somehow decided it was a good idea to draft Ater Majok (a player who averaged less than a point per game in the NBDL) and Chukwudiebere Maduabum, an international project with no discernable talent. In their defense, Maduabum was later shipped to Denver, but with some solid players still available, the Lakers had the chance to add two quality prospects instead.
Philadelphia 76ers – Philadelphia took a huge gamble by taking big man Nikola Vucevic at No. 16. Nothing about him screams superstar and the 76ers could have done much better with more of a proven commodity. At No. 50, Lavoy Allen out of Temple was a solid, but unspectacular player in college. What strikes me the most about him is that he didn’t seem to improve much during his time there. His stats over the past three seasons remained virtually unchanged and his shooting percentage actually dropped the last two. It can be sometimes hard to find real value that late in the draft, but Allen had undrafted free agent written all over him. This move reeks of drafting a hometown kid just for the sake of a nice story. And a team needing as much help as the 76ers can’t afford to make those types of picks.
February 28, 2011
As expected, there was a flurry of moves before the NBA trade deadline. Some teams legitimately improved their chances of winning a championship this season and others planned for the future. An important aspect of some trades is the ability to take on players with expiring contracts to increase salary cap space in future years. But because free cap space doesn’t guarantee teams will necessarily be able to sign the free agents they want, that part is essentially impossible to consider when evaluating these deals.
With that said, it’s time to break down some of the more significant trades and find out who got the better end of each deal.
New York Knicks receive: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter, and Corey Brewer
Denver Nuggets receive: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos, Knicks’ first-round draft pick, Two Warriors’ second-round draft picks, and $3 Million cash
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph
This was the blockbuster deal of the year and the Knicks finally made the big splash that everyone expected. Not only did they land one of the NBA’s best players, Carmelo Anthony, to pair with All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire, they also secured Chauncey Billups to give New York a legitimate trio of stars. While Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman, and Anthony Carter are lesser talents, Corey Brewer is a young player who could develop into a solid sixth man down the line. Brewer came from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who played a small part in this deal.
Even though Denver lost Anthony, they did pick up some legitimate talent in exchange for him. Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler are three young developing players who could help Denver for years to come. All three are averaging more than 15 points per game and are already quality players.
Still, at the end of the day, the Knicks came away with arguably one of the league’s top ten players and a former All-Star guard in one fell swoop. In trading for Carmelo, the Knicks have lit a fire under their fan base and should be a contending team in the Eastern Conference for many years. The young players and draft picks that Denver received help make this a fairly even trade. But in the NBA, superstars win championships and without Anthony, Denver will have a hard time advancing deep into the playoffs.
WINNER: New York
New Jersey Nets receive: Deron Williams
Utah Jazz receive: Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Two first-round draft picks, and $3 Million cash
The Nets may have missed out on Carmelo Anthony, but they did grab a nice consolation prize in Deron Williams. Williams is one of the league’s best point guards and reports surfaced recently that he and long-time coach Jerry Sloan didn’t always see eye to eye. So when Sloan abruptly retired shortly before the trade, no one could imagine that Williams would be shopped. The Jazz apparently had other plans.
In moving Williams, the Jazz gave up on a franchise player. He has the ability to win games almost single-handedly and is a bonafide leader. While the Nets didn’t give up a star to get him, Devin Harris is a proven starting point guard, and Derrick Favors was the third overall pick in last year’s draft. But the 2011 first-round pick might be the biggest piece for Utah. The Nets are one of the NBA’s worst teams this season, and, depending on which way the ping pong balls bounce when the draft order is announced, that pick could end up being one of the top selections in the draft.
WINNER: This one’s a little complicated. Part of the reason the Jazz traded Williams is because his contract expires after next season. If the Nets are able to re-sign him, they are the winners. But if Williams leaves after next season, the Jazz come out ahead. This trade falls under the dreaded ‘To be determined’ category.
Boston Celtics receive: Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, Future first-round draft pick
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson
The defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics made a bit of a gamble in dealing starting center Kendrick Perkins and one of their top reserves, Nate Robinson. In exchange, though, they get the versatile Jeff Green and backup center Nenad Krstic. For now, the Celtics have settled upon starting Krstic. That may change, however, as they also have the option of anointing Green as a starter and using a smaller lineup.
Perkins is a good defender, but the Celtics received a capable replacement in Krstic. While they’re now weaker in the middle, Green is another defender who will help them if they run into the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the postseason.
WINNER: Boston Celtics
Los Angeles Clippers receive: Mo Williams and Jamario Moon
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Baron Davis and 2011 First-round draft pick
Since LeBron James’ departure, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been the same. They’ve gone from a championship contender to one of the worst teams in the league. With this trade, they lose two high-energy players, but pick up a one-time star in Baron Davis. The Cavs also secure the Clippers’ 2011 pick, which will be a lottery selection. So why would Los Angeles trade a high draft pick and a solid point guard for two average players? Simply put, it was all about the money. The Clippers wanted to be free of Davis’ large contract, and this trade allowed them to do that. But in giving up a high draft pick, they also gave away a chance at adding another young piece around stars Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon. Meanwhile, with two lottery picks for next season, Cleveland has a chance to rebuild a bit faster than expected.
WINNER: Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlanta Hawks receive: Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong
Washington Wizards receive: Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford, and 2011 First-round draft pick
This deal features two veteran point guards, and while Kirk Hinrich may be a very slight upgrade over Mike Bibby, that swap is essentially a wash. Hilton Armstrong and Maurice Evans are both marginal players, so there’s not much impact there, either. But the Wizards also get the Hawks’ first-round draft pick and a young player in Jordan Crawford, so they get the edge in this one.
WINNER: Washington Wizards