Grading the NBA Offseason Moves
I remember as recently as last year when people didn’t really care about the NBA 0ffseas0n past the first week of July. The draft and big free agent signings would happen and then the action would pretty much be done until October. But this offseason has been wonderfully different. Mix one cup of bad economy, a spoonful of horrible team management, drop in some opportunistic teams trying to be the next, “team to beat” and you have the recipe for one of the most exciting offseasons ever. We’ll update you as more moves are made, grading the notables on a scale from zero basketballs (worthless move) to five (best possible move to make based on needs and improvement) and keep you in the know for the 2009-2010 NBA season.
Utah Jazz match restricted offer made by Portland Trailblazers for Paul Millsap
Portland forced the hand of the Jazz by offering Millsap a front-loaded four-year deal, but the Jazz decided to head deep into the luxury tax zone by matching the offer and retaining Millsap’s services. Millsap will serve once again as the sixth man of the present, but figures to be the starter at power forward, should the Jazz be able to deal Carlos Boozer this season. While Millsap is considerably overpaid for his stats, the intangibles he provides clicks perfectly with Utah’s style of play and he has also become a huge fan favorite. Since the Jazz played so long without Boozer this past season, they likely won’t miss a beat if Millsap takes over at the four.
Grade for Utah:
Los Angeles Clippers trade Zach Randolph to Memphis Grizzles for Quentin Richardson
This deal made little sense when it was first announced and still doesn’t now. Memphis takes on $25-million dollars in extra salary (not to mention an added year) to get Randolph, a player who has no chance of sticking with the Grizzlies’ long term plans. Meanwhile, the Clippers are given a, “Get Out of Jail Free Card” on one of Mike Dunleavy’s dumbest decisions since taking over for Elgin Baylor.
Biggest question for Los Angeles: Is it a day of celebrating or a whole week of partying now that Randolph is gone?
Biggest question for Memphis: What are the Grizzlies going to do with a Marc Gasol (pretty decent), Hasheem Thabeet (Mutombo Lite) and Randolph logjam at the big positions?
Grade for Memphis: (You give and you give, Chris Wallace.)
Grade for Los Angeles:
Atlanta Hawks re-sign Mike Bibby and Zaza Pachulia to multi-year contracts
So much for Mike Bibby getting more cash elsewhere. Having expected an extension in the preseason for upwards of $10-million a year, Bibby settled for the Hawks three-year/$18-million offer and Pachulia signed for four years/$19-million. While both of these moves obviously maintain the Hawks talent level, it also assures Joe Johnson that when he becomes a free agent in 2010, the core will almost certainly be intact. No one cares about the Hawks in Atlanta, but continued success certainly can’t hurt. Having already traded for Jamal Crawford, the Hawks have a deep and versatile back court that should cause havoc in the East.
Grade for Atlanta:
Orlando Magic match Dallas Mavericks restricted offer to re-sign Marcin Gortat.
At first, I didn’t understand why the Magic would pay Gortat the full mid-level exception. That is until I realized that the Magic have known for much longer than they let on, that they didn’t have a shot at Hedo Turkolgu. Gortat was initially angry at having the offer matched because he wants to play, but he may get a shot to start in a twin-towers lineup with Dwight Howard.
Grade for Orlando:
Jason Kidd re-signs with Dallas Mavericks
Jason Kidd has never played a single minute for the New York Knicks, but he can thank the team from Gotham for forcing the Mavericks to grossly overpay the 37-year-old point guard. Kidd re-signed for three years/$25-million, giving the Mavericks their floor general presumably until 2012. Kidd used a generous offer from the Knicks to get two years more than he should. One year of solid play is about what the Mavericks should expect, which makes this a terrible waste of money. The only positive is it gives Dallas one more year to be in the NBA title conversation.
Grade for Dallas:
San Antonio Spurs sign Antonio McDyess
Give the Spurs credit, their gambles rarely miss. After trading their two best bigs to get Richard Jefferson, the Spurs lock in one of the best role-playing big men in the league by signing McDyess. McDyess will get three years/$15-million and should be a viable cog for the Spurs for at least the first two seasons of the deal. This signing allows San Antonio to match Duncan against less punishing foes on defense, which will help to extend his career. Just another example of shrewd business by the Spurs.
Grade for San Antonio:
Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur exercise player options for 2009-2010 season with Utah Jazz
It’s clear what direction the Jazz want to go in, it’s now just a matter of making it work. Shortly after Okur took his player option, Utah re-signed the center to a two-year/$21-million extension, while informing Boozer that he was no longer in their long term plans. Injuries more than anything else have taken Boozer out of favor with the Jazz, who clearly want to keep building, but around point guard Deron Williams. The Jazz are hoping to have Boozer traded by mid-season so his cap number won’t count against the luxury tax.
Grade for Utah:
Orlando Magic trades Hedo Turkogluto Toronto Raptors and receives cash from both Toronto and Dallas Mavericks – Dallas trades Jerry Stackhouse and cash to Memphis Grizzlies, trades Devean George and Antonie Wright to Toronto and receives Greg Buckner from Memphis, and Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries Nathan Jawai and cash from Toronto – Memphis receives cash from Dallas and 2016 second round pick from Toronto
Here’s what you need to know from that mess. Marion is a Maverick, Turkoglu is a Raptor, Orlando received a valuable $8-million trade exception and Memphis basically traded Greg Buckner for cash and a second round pick, seven years from now.
So what does this mean?
The Mavericks will now feature a crunch time line-up of Kidd, Jason Terry, Marion, Josh Howard and Dirk Nowitkzi. Dallas plans on playing Nowitkzi a large chunk of time at the five when Erick Dampier is not in the game, and Dallas believes that a Kidd-Howard-Marion core – although getting way up there in age – will be enough to convince Nowitzki to re-up when he can opt-out after 2010. Whether Marion still has any decent game outside of Phoenix is anyone’s guess.
Toronto gets Turkoglu, George and the underrated Wright in exchange for Marion’s services. As you’ll recall, Turkoglu spurned Portland to take slightly more money with the Raptors. Again, looking to 2010, Toronto hopes a versatile line-up of Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Turkoglu will be enough to convince Chris Bosh to stay after 2010.
While both the Raptors and the Mavericks made these moves to show their superstars they were serious about contention, both Orlando and Memphis really have no stake in the trade except for money and future consideration. Memphis has already has waved Stackhouse and will be pocketing quite a bit of cash for participating. Instead of getting nothing, Orlando can now be in the running to get players they couldn’t before, due to their newly acquired trade exception. Remember, that was the way the Lakers were able to get Pau Gasol from the Grizzles in 2008. Sadly, even that won’t make up for the loss of Turkoglu, whose departure makes the trade for Vince Carter a lateral move for the team.
Grade for Memphis: (Ehhh, this was glorified money laundering.)
Grade for Toronto:
Grade for Dallas:
Grade for Orlando:
Boston Celtics sign Rasheed Wallace
This move was a coup for the Celtics not because he improved their team so much, but because it changed the fortunes of so many other contenders. The Spurs, Magic and Cavs all saw Wallace as the answer to their issues at the four (especially Cleveland), but Boston was able to nab Wallace with a mixture of team talent and several very impressive gestures in negotiations with the inside-outside forward. Wallace will almost certainly not start for the Celtics to begin the season, but he provides them with a quality big man to spell Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins, as well as giving them a dangerous crunch time line-up that will have both Garnett and Wallace together on the floor, along with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. The Celtics don’t mind his fiery attitude, it will fit right in with Garnett’s. This was a huge signing for Boston.
Biggest question for Boston: Can they utilize Wallace well enough to really make Cleveland and Orlando regret not signing the angry forward?
Grade for Boston:
Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon sign with Detroit Pistons
The signing of Gordon was a curious one, as Detroit already has Richard Hamilton until 2013, but the signing of Villanueva gives the Pistons a young player with the same style of play as Rasheed Wallace, with a lot less headache to go with him. Villanueva figures to start at forward alongside Tayshaun Prince, but Gordon may likely come off the bench in his first season in Detroit, unless he can clearly outplay Hamilton in training camp. The Pistons still have definite size issues down low, but these two players will be a great addition to the core, should GM Joe Dumars have the chance to trade Hamilton in the near future.
Biggest question for Detroit: How will Detroit handle the playing time between Hamilton and Gordon to make both happy?
Grade for Detroit:
Ron Artest takes midlevel exception with Los Angeles Lakers
Shortly after playoff hero Trevor Ariza spurned the Lakers for a similar offer in Houston, the Lakers quickly snatched up Artest, who was no longer in the long-term plans for the Rockets. The Lakers immediately become one of the more physical and aggressive defensive teams in the NBA (such is the value of Artest) but also now have a player who has a history of unhealthy aggression and uneasy behavior (not to mention a penchant for retaliating against fans in the stands). Artest is a notable upgrade from Ariza and buffers the Lakers should they lose Lamar Odom in free agency. Artest will also keep the Lakers from complacency as the team will work to get Crazy Pills acclimated to the triangle offense.
Biggest question for Los Angeles: Can they succeed with Artest if Odom doesn’t re-sign with the team?
Grade for Los Angeles:
Cleveland Cavaliers trade Ben Wallace, 2010 2nd round pick and cash to Phoenix Suns for Shaquille O’Neal
The Big Cactus now becomes the Big… Buckeye as he puts on a jersey for his third different team in the last three years. O’Neal was brought to Cleveland to achieve two goals: to satisfy LeBron James in the never ending, “will he/won’t he” saga that is his 2010 free agency, and to do battle come playoff time with Dwight Howard. The Cavaliers will have no problem rotating in O’Neal with Zydrunas Illgauskas, so both should play around 25 minutes a game. This deal was to bring in someone to watch James’ back. The Suns, now that they have gone back to the run-and-gun, are admitting their error by dumping off O’Neal. Ultimately, the move was a failure and the team regressed quite a bit. The cap space will be nice next season (everyone loves playing in Phoenix), but the Suns are going to struggle in a loaded West.
Biggest question for Cleveland: Does the addition of O’Neal give the Cavaliers enough muscle to beat out Boston and Orlando?
Biggest question for Phoenix: Can any team be successful with Channing Frye as their center?
Grade for Cleveland:
Grade for Phoenix: (The benefit will come after this season and they get all that cap relief)
New York acquires Darko Milicic from Memphis for Quentin Richardson
Memphis finally gave up on the Darko experiment and takes on Richardson, simply for salary purposes. This trade is really pointless for both teams, except that D’Antoni runs probably the only style that Milicic can succeed in, and if he can’t, it’s over. Richardson is merely salary fodder and won’t see much time, if at all, in Memphis (see Mayo, OJ).
Biggest question for Memphis: If a trade is made and no one in your city cares, did it really happen?
Biggest question for New York: Can they prove that Joe Dumars was right to not draft (gulp) Dwayne Wade or (gulp) Carmelo Anthony?
Grade for Memphis:
Grade for New York:
Orlando Magic trade Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie to New Jersey Nets for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson
I have a feeling this trade will come back to haunt the Magic. Suffering from the sting of losing the Finals in five games, the Magic quickly traded for Carter and fixed their point guard issue all at once, when they moved Alston in the same deal. Unfortunately, it took trading promising shooting guard Lee to finally get the deal done. The Magic are assured of Carter’s services for the upcoming season, but no more. That would imply that Orlando may only have a one year window to get the franchise’s first championship. Meanwhile, to get the deal done, they trade valuable depth as well as promise, in hopes it will be enough to once again get out of the East. For New Jersey, this was purely a chance to move past Carter and pair Lee with up-and-coming point guard Devin Harris.
Biggest question for Orlando: Will there be enough shots to go around for the Magic?
Biggest question for New Jersey: Do people ever go to a game to just see Devin Harris?
Grade for Orlando:
Grade for New Jersey:
Milwaukee Bucks trade Richard Jefferson to San Antonio Spurs for Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas
In what now seems like the first shot fired by a contender in this NBA offseason, the normally calculated and frugal Spurs took on the Jefferson’s big contract. In doing so, they are going against their usual spending habits to capitalize on their closing window of contention. The Bucks will cut or trade most of what they received from the Spurs to save on costs and presumably re-sign Ramon Sessions to a deal. Jefferson gives the Spurs a devastating top-four of Parker-Ginobili-Jefferson-Duncan and also gives San Antonio an underrated defender on the wing to take over the duties formally filled by Bowen.
Biggest question for San Antonio: Is Jefferson tough enough to handle the myriad of All-Star swingmen in the West?
Biggest question for Milwaukee: Can their fans handle ANOTHER rebuilding season?
Grade for San Antonio:
Grade for Milwaukee: