Game of Dominoes: NBA Free Agency

Let’s cut the flabber and get right to it. Steve Nash is heading to the Lakers in one of the more shocking moves of the offseason. The 38-year-old was shipped to LA in a sign-and-trade for two future first rounders and two future second rounders. The initial reaction isn’t a huge one. With Nash joining a proven playoff team, the picks figure to be at the end of their respective rounds. The thing is, though, that this was probably the best thing Phoenix was going to get. It surely beats letting him walk for nothing, and trumps out whatever sign-and-trade options Toronto, Dallas or New York would have offered.

It’s also somewhat genius for LA. Financial fodder aside, the Lakers got a top-tier player for relatively nothing. Los Angeles has a tendency to move their late first rounders for useful players in years past, so moving them for Nash isn’t surprising. Not to mention Steve Nash is much more than a useful player. No, the Lake Show didn’t get to unload Metta World Peace’s contract in the move, or any contract for that matter, but the Suns probably wouldn’t take it, or want it.

On the flip side of this, Phoenix seems to be throwing their new-found cap space at young, offensively-talented players. They have supposedly signed former Sun and Nash understudy, Goran Dragic, to a four-year deal and have also agreed to terms with former number two overall pick Michael Beasley on a multi-year pact. The third potential attacking prong is that of Eric Gordon. The Suns have signed him to a large offer sheet, and New Orleans could be hesitant to match given the fact that they are rebuilding and don’t want to tie down too much of their future money to one player, even one of Gordon’s talent. The Suns seem to be in less disarray than people would think after losing their face-of-the-franchise. A core of Dragic, Beasley, Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris and potentially Gordon is pretty desirable, especially for a team that wants to score in drones like Phoenix does.

With Nash now out of the picture, Dallas has lost on one of their point guard options, scratch that, one of their options period. Lamar Odom is gone and the return is simply a trade exception. That we knew was probably coming, but what’s more is that the Mavs find themselves having gone down swinging on Nash, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Derron Williams. Yikes. What Mark Cuban and friends do next is beyond me.

Speaking of Williams, he’s staying a Net. One reason for that is the acquisition of one Joe Johnson. Johnson will join Williams along with recently signed Gerald Wallace in Brooklyn at the expense of Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, DeShawn Stevenson (likely a sign-and-trade) as well as forwards Jordan Williams, Johan Petro and a draft pick. This move looks terrible for Atlanta when news trickles in that Jordan Farmar is likely being bought out. That likely leaves the Hawks with some three pointers by Morrow and some defensive stops from Stevenson. Not exactly what you envision when you trade a six-time All Star. But here is why it’s so wonderfully brilliant. All the contracts the Hawks received in return only run through next season. That’s right, all expiring contracts. Even more surprising is the fact that Danny Ferry also shed Marvin Williams oddly long contract by way of Utah, dealing another former number two overall pick to the Jazz for Devin Harris. Who, in sticking to theme, also has an expiring contract after this season.  So add that all up and the Hawks have thrown themselves into the much finagled running for Dwight Howard and All-Star Point Guard X, who might or might not end up being Chris Paul.

In other New York news, Jeremy Lin might be done playing for the Knicks. It’s reported that Jason Kidd has verbally, or whatever the official term is, reached an agreement with the Knicks. Because of the new CBA among other things, the Knicks do technically have the ability to match any offer that is made to Lin, but it could be costly as reports suggest that Houston is discussing an offer sheet in the neighborhood of 30 million dollars. Talk about “overnight” success.

Houston meanwhile is putting a lot of their eggs in that “Lin” basket. The team moved Kyle Lowry to Toronto for a first-round pick that takes a lawyer to decipher when Houston could actually get the pick. That and Goran Dragic’s aforementioned presumable departure leaves the point wide open for Kevin McHale’s club. It would be a bit funny if Lin stays in New York and the Rockets go after and sign Aaron Brooks. Brooks was traded to Phoenix for Dragic, and should he sign with Houston… well you get the point.

With no transition at all here, no really, none at all, the Clippers are getting better. In terms of success, the newer Los Angeles team strengthened a solid backcourt to the point of using the word ridiculous. Randy Foye and Nick Young are likely out the door, but in their place return the now-healthy Mr. Big Shot as well as Jamal Crawford. They join Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe in a backcourt that now has four starting caliber guards. This move also merits the acquisition of Lamar Odom at the cost of Mo Williams. If you’re playing along at home, that’s a starting five of Chris Paul, Billups or Crawford at the two, Odom at the three (if not off the bench), Blake Griffin at power forward and DeAndre Jordan down low. Yikes.

In a slight towards the Oklahoma Raiders, what a crap deal to trade away Eric Bledsoe’s draft rights for a future first round pick, they could have definitely used him in the playoffs. Actually, good for Bledsoe: the Raiders don’t get a good player and Bledsoe doesn’t have to play for a terrible owner. Win-win.

In guards-who-can-score-at-all-times news, Jason Terry is going to Boston. Or he has “supposedly” agreed to a contract with the Celtics. Terry will get the full mid-level exception for three years and upwards of 15 million dollars. Jason Kidd supposedly signed with the Knicks because they had better pieces, and you can see why. Dirk’s supporting cast has shrunk to Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Yikes.

And throughout all this, the name “Dwight Howard” seems to be flying under the radar. FOR ONCE. The constant-topical center has supposedly (if I only had a million dollars for every time I said that, I’d be a multi-millionaire! Grins cheesily and gives Borat-esque thumbs up) asked to be moved to New Jersey Brooklyn. Good luck Dwight. After Joe Johnson and his contract (which, by the way, is so big that he had to check it on the flight up to Brooklyn) were acquired, and along with the long-term buildup of Gerald Wallace’s shiny new deal, there isn’t a whole lot of cap room left for you. The Nets do have Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks, who all together almost add up to Howard’s salary. However, I’m not so sure that the Magic should make that move.

 Let the financial finagling continue.

NBA Off-Season “Hot Topics”

(Never thought I’d write “Hot Topics”….moving on.)

Is it too early to discuss the NBA offseason?

Is it premature to speculate about the goings on in the offseason?

Yes and yes. But I’m delving into it anyways. And don’t think I’m giving up on the playoffs yet, I’m pouring all my energy into jumping on the Spurs bandwagon. I’m not saying this because I’m heavily opposed to the Raiders, which I am by the way.  I’m saying it because San Antonio is the most complete and best team left in the playoffs. There, I said it Heat fans.

Enough about San Antonio, let’s get on to the offseason:

Uncertainty: When I say uncertainty I’m aiming right at Sacramento. David Stern needs to do something right for the first time in a of couple decades. He (and I’m sorry King fans, I feel your pain, I really do) needs to move the Kings north to Seattle. I’d like it done quickly, but honestly just the promise in writing that a team is coming at some point is fine. And no one gives a rat’s whatever about my opinion. Case-in-point-but-not-really-just-wanted-to-say-the-words-case-in-point.

It’s also that time of year when the time-old tradition of imploding-playoff-teams-if-they-can’t-work happens. The Lakers are a sure candidate for this after being bludgeoned out of the playoffs by the Raiders.  Pau Gasol is a likely trade possibility, as is Andrew Bynum if the right return presents itself (read Dwight Howard). The Boston Celtics are probably next in line at the blowing-up establishment. The Big 3 are obviously in their twilight years and even if they win a title, change could be in order. Atlanta has gone through a lot of one-and-done as well as second-round exits in the last couple years. The underlying-theme-spoiler-alert-WRITTEN-IN-ALL-CAPS theme is that the current group isn’t doing it. Joe Johnson is good, but not good to the point of warranting his contract. Josh Smith supposedly wants out, Marvin Williams is an amnesty option and Kirk Hinrich’s contract is up. Al Horford is the one sure thing on the roster. He’s backed up by a solid Zaza Pachulia and will likely be joined by the potentially-potent Jeff Teague. After those guys, and I’m not kidding you, the rest of the roster is one-year, minimum contract guys. That’s how low the Hawks are on cap space. So now that I’m done rambling about them I’ll give you the short version of the story on all the other possible roster-dynamite-lighters. Utah was a surprise playoff team and could move some of their vets toward a larger youth movement. Dallas might blow it up to get under the cap, and Orlando has the whole Dwight Howard conundrum.

If you haven’t heard (because whenever you Google “NBA free agency” you get a load of pick-your-expletive  on the Miami Heat and what not) free agency is almost upon us. That’s right, no LeBrons or Chris Boshs, but very good players none the less. Steve Nash is an option for teams looking for point guard help (just realized that might be the worst lead in on a topic ever). After Nash there’s a guy you might have heard of that kind of took the world by storm and then couldn’t make the tail end of Sportcenter: Jeremy Lin. Not because he played bad, but because he just wasn’t playing at a ridiculous level. In the rest of the free agent pool there are a lot of guys wading (pun intended… eh… not my best) for a big payday. Roy Hibbert could cash in big time after a nice bout of postseason play. Ditto JaVale McGee. Other guys waiting in line for a bigger pay check include Lavoy Allen, Omer Asik, Lopez’s Brook and Robin, Landry Fields, Ersan Ilyasova, Kris Humphries as well as Eric Gordon. Let the speculations begin.

There’s also this little thing where guys get to represent their country called the Olympics coming up, again, not sure if you’ve heard of it. There are plenty of spots available now that Dwight Howard and Derek Rose were lost to injuries. Just thought I’d mention that so you could run to the Y and practice before you try out. Anyways, the loss of Howard is a real blow to the Americans. With a daunting Spanish frontline consisting of the Gasols and Serge Ibalka, it might be a problem without one of the better rim defenders in the league. But the options after him are quite good. Tyson Chandler might be second in everything that Dwight Howard is first in defensively and Kevin Love is a rebounding monster. And I write this as I look at the roster of finalists, you thought Beijing was good? Listen to the potential here, you’ve got almost everybody from ’08. Which means Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Paul, Deron Williams. Then there’s the “new guys” Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Iguodala and Russell Westbrook. This is going to be a really good team and a fun one to watch too.

So there it is, enjoy your off-season folks. Well, enjoy it after the finals, but enjoy it none the less. And let’s bring the NBA back to Seattle while we’re at it. (Looking at you Stern.)

Rashard Lewis: You See Contractual Albatross, I See Potential Gold Mine

If I asked you who the highest paid player in the entire NBA is you’d probably rattle off answers like LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose or the ghost of Gilbert Arenas’ contract. But no, in fact it is former Seattle SuperSonic great Rashard Lewis.

Yes, Rashard Lewis is being paid 22.7 million dollars next year. What makes it even more perplexing is that he plays for the Washington Wizards, a team that doesn’t really need him and should be angling every asset on their roster towards youth.

Which is what they might be doing with Lewis.

Maybe Ernie Grunfeld and friends were being smart when they didn’t use the amnesty provision on Lewis. Maybe they’ll look like complete geniuses for not doing it. After all, he could turn into the next Tracy McGrady.

T-Mac was dealt in a three-team mess with the Knicks and Kings from the Rockets to New York. Houston also gave up Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey and in return picked up Jordan Hill, a couple first round picks and the right to pay Jared Jeffries checks.

Not too bad right?

Now if you’re Washington, you already have a star player and team “Atlas” of sorts in John Wall. He’s the star; he’s the present and future face of the franchise.  You already have a very good center in this league in Nene. And you have a bunch of youth, which is never bad. Some of it will pan out and some of it won’t, but it’s better than trotting out declining vets with bloated contracts.

Going on my theory of throwing almost a dozen young players at the court and seeing which ones stick, it wouldn’t be bad if Washington had more of them to throw at the court.

Now, McGrady was moved to New York for the sole intent of clearing cap space to bring in a max free agent(s). Which ended up being Amare and money to throw at Carmelo after they were robbed by the Nuggets and left with Anthony. The point here is that Tracy McGrady was moved so the team could get under the cap so they could go after a max-contract free agent. It’s not as if there aren’t any potential big-name free agents hitting the market soon. Well, except some guy named Dwight Howard. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

Again the point is that normally teams wouldn’t go rushing out to get an overpaid player whose contract is north of 20 million as a rental, but that is something that might become a reality here.

The big, grand finale-ish, maybe-wrapping-up-point-but-probably-not is that the Wizards are in a prime position to move Lewis to a team who would like to clear cap space for Howard.

These would be teams like the Lakers, Mavericks and Nets.

LA isn’t going to do anything brash and dump Pau Gasol for Lewis, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them pick him up for the sole purpose of clearing cap space. I’m sure LA would love to be rid of Metta World Peace, Josh “McBobs” McRoberts and Steve Blake’s collective contracts, however, the Wizards aren’t going to make that trade unless David Stern threatens to move them to Omaha. Again, a completely viable option. I would not put it past him. Next thing you know the Magic and Suns will be playing in the Dakotas. All because he likes “small markets”.

Dallas could conceivably deal Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and Vince Carter’s unguaranteed contract to Washington, though while Marion would help  Washington a lot at the 2 and 3 as well as providing… You know what? A John Wall, Nene, Marion, Jordan Crawford and Jan Vesely starting five would be pretty fun to watch.

The only thing that really prevents the previous trade from happening is Brendan Haywood’s supersized, bloated, terrible, overkill contract. Feel free to add any adjectives that I might have missed there. Maybe it could happen if the Wizards forced the Mavs to take Andray Blatche back. Not sure if Dallas would do that.

Another scenario, this assuming Lamar Odom’s contract isn’t bought out, sees Dallas moving Odom, Marion and Carter for Lewis. Not sure if the Mavs would sacrifice that much wing depth, but to Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, I’d do it.

The trade machine makes it a bit difficult to trade with the newly dubbed Brooklyn Nets seeing as almost all of their contracts are expiring.  Still, Lewis to New Jersey for anyone but Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Brook Lopez or Gerald Green makes sense. I realize that  I named almost half the roster there, still those guys are likely safe unless Howard comes to Brooklyn. In that case Lopez would be available.

The point here is that Rashard Lewis and his contract very well could be one of the more sought after commodities on the trade front. He’s gone from maybe the least desirable asset to maybe the most desirable one.

The Nets are Still Stinging From Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Deron Williams is a New Jersey Net. He might be a Brooklyn Net next year. Or he might be on another team. Dwight Howard could too be a New Jersey/Brooklyn Net.

But, and I emphasize but, if Howard doesn’t go to the tri-state area, the Nets could be in some hot water. Without Howard, Williams isn’t going to stay with the Nets. They are terrible with Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and Johan Petro’s contract. They aren’t getting any better, unless David Stern awards them every lottery pick this season (not out of the question). Point is that Williams probably isn’t going to stay with their current roster for the next couple years.

It all hinges on Howard. Because, to reiterate the same point, Williams is probably gone if Howard doesn’t come.

Look at New Jersey’s roster without Williams.:

PF Kris Humphries

SG Anthony Morrow

PG Jordan Farmar

C Johan Petro

C Brook Lopez

SG Deshawn Stevenson

SF Damion James

G MarShon Brooks

PF Shelden Williams

G Sundita Gaines

F Jordan Williams

SG Keith Bogans

F Gerald Wallace

These days in the NBA, and generally all professional sports, there isn’t a biggest loser team. There is no bad team laden with terrible contracts. Granted this team doesn’t have a lot of bad contracts, but you might be looking at a team with a not so bright future with the Nets. Unless the aforementioned Stern-gives-the-Nets-all-the-lottery-picks. You’ve got Brook Lopez, Wallace, some role players and a couple iffy contracts.

If the Nets let all their potential free agents walk (including Williams), you’re looking at next year’s team minus free agent signings and draft picks being Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Damion James, MarShon Brooks, Wallace and Jordan Williams. That is a decent second unit-and-change at best along with Wallace. So go ahead and sell season tickets with that.

Deron Williams also was acquired for, get this: Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, the Enes Kanter draft pick, and the Warriors first rounder this year. That’s another potentially big piece. Keep the Bigs along with Lopez and another lottery pick? I’m not saying I would stand in line for the bandwagon, but that isn’t too shabby for a squad that recently rolled out some iffy squads.

Who wouldn’t want those guys along with Brook Lopez, Wallace and Brooks instead of Williams leaving.?  Even if Williams stayed, I’d rather have Harris and two potentially, really good bigs instead of possibly four or five years of D-Will and no other superstar.

So to reiterate again, we have reality, which is a potentially lame duck in Deron Williams and a lot of iffy assets. Or we have fantasy which is Kanter, Favors, another lottery pick and Devin Harris.

The bright future that the Nets would like isn’t there. Unless Williams leaves and David Stern magically makes all the Nets’ contracts expire after the season. (Again completely plausible. Stern is probably a nice guy, but he can be a little biased towards certain people and cities. Cough, Clay Bennett, Cough, Oklahoma City).

(Had to get my annual Stern jab in there.)

Say this situation happens next year, Dwight Howard is traded to the Lakers, or the Bulls or any team frankly, anywhere but New Jersey. Let’s also say that Howard signs an extension with team x. The Nets aren’t going to let Williams walk, because he will if Howard goes elsewhere, without getting anything back. The team will try to get some pieces out of him. Whether that be picks or young pieces.

The stupid thing would be to move Williams frantically for a big expiring contract and an iffy piece.

The smart thing would be to feel out the market and take the best deal possible.

The sad thing (and looking like the likely thing) is that the Nets might lose all those potentially very good pieces for an extended rental.

NBA Trade Deadline Grades that Pay

(Corny title, I know.)

The deadline is upon us as I write this. It probably isn’t the magnitude that the baseball trade deadline is, but it’s close, at least on a higher level than the NFL.

Deals will happen. They always happen at the deadline and will continue to do so in the NBA’s existence.

Let’s start with the Lakers, who have glaring needs at forward and the point. Here’s what they have done so far-

  • The Lakers Acquired Ramon Sessions to stabilize the point guard spot while also picking up young forward Christian Eyenga. The cost to acquire those two was and is wings Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and a top 14 protected 2012 first-round pick.

Sessions was expendable from the sense that the Cavs already have Kyrie Irving on payroll and the fact that Irving is the future.

The Lakers give up what is probably a pick somewhere in the 20s if they make a playoff run.

That might be the only huge loss here for LA. They get out of the rest of Walton’s contract as well as Kapono’s. They also get a youth infusion in the front court with Eyenga.

This leaves the Lakers with Sessions, Steve Blake and Derek Fisher on payroll. Which leads us to this…

  • The Houston Rockets Acquire PG Derek Fisher from the LA Lakers for Jordan Hill and the Mavericks first-round pick.

The Lakers have now moved both of the first-round picks that they owned in this year’s draft. But on the flipside, the Lakers have unloaded both Fisher and Walton, who are under contract next year, replacing them with players who might not be under contract next season.

Hill gives the Lakers more youth in the frontcourt as well as depth, which is another thing that they probably could have used to help their championship aspirations.

The Rockets pick up another first-round pick to add to their hull while also picking up a stop gap point guard to fill in for Kyle Lowry while he recovers from injury. The Rockets could also buy out Fisher following the return of Lowry, or keep him for a stretch run.

Hill was movable in a sense because of another trade…

  • The Houston Rockets acquired Marcus Camby from the Portland Trailblazers for former lottery picks Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second-round pick that originated with the T-Wolves.

The Rockets picked up a presence in the frontcourt after going down swinging in the original Chris Paul trade. Thabeet and Flynn were almost dead weight in Houston and should benefit from a change of scenery. The Blazers might be in a bit of a rebuilding or retooling stretch, whichever lights your fire after moving this key cog to an Eastern Conference team…

  • The New Jersey Nets Acquire F Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trailblazers for frontcourt depth in Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur and a top three projected 2012 first-round pick.

The Nets are attempting to keep Deron Williams for next season just as Dwight Howard has now chosen to stay in Orlando for next season. A starting five and core of Wallace, Williams, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks isn’t too bad.

This is curious for Portland, who after dealing Camby and Crash, they have also reportedly fired Mr. Sonic himself, Nate McMillian. This is truly sad news, as the Blazers are supposedly starting to rebuild or retool. Again, whichever lights your fire. Williams has a player option for next year, which will likely be exercised as well as Okur’s expiring deal, which totals almost 11 million dollars. This should set up Portland to go after a big free agent while also getting a potentially high pick in a very good draft.

Moving on with no transition, we see a very surprising trade from George’ Karl’s Denver Nuggets-

  • We move on to more former Sonic news as George Karl’s Nuggets have moved their big free agent resigning- Nene Hilario- to the Washington Wizards for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf. This trade also involves the Los Angeles Clippers as Nick Young will head to LA to help the Clippers’ two guard needs. The Wizards will get forward Brian Cook and a future second-round pick in return.

This moved shocked me to be honest with you. The Nuggets dealt their starting center in Nene for another one in McGee as well as another good bench player in Ronny Turiaf. The Nuggets will certainly be fine because of their exceptional depth, but the Wizards clearly won from a talent perspective now. Nene might just be a better fit with John Wall than McGee was, and he gives a young Washington squad a veteran presence.

The Nuggets might have benefited long term more so than the Wizards because they got to unload Nene’s contract. This frees up money not only for the future, but also money for restricted free agent Wilson Chandler. Chandler, who is fresh off a stint in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), would give the Nuggets a boost on the wing.

The Clippers are the under the radar team here as they pick up a shooting guard to replace the long-injured Chauncey Billups. This really helps the Clips in terms of a missing piece and needed scoring punch.

New we really don’t have any transition as the Indiana Pacers get some backcourt depth with Leandro Barbosa.

  • The Pacers picked up Barbosa for a second-round pick and cash considerations from the Toronto Raptors.

The Pacers didn’t need to put any outgoing players in the deal because of their vast salary cap room. Not exactly vast mind you, but under these circumstances, that’s a lot. Good deal for Indy.

  • Golden State acquires Richard Jefferson and a first-round pick from the San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors did a brilliant job of turning Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown into Andrew Bogut, Jefferson and a first-round pick. That’s a nice little roster turnaround for Golden State. Jefferson might be bought out, nobody knows. Nice swap for the Spurs as well as Jackson gives the Spurs a little bit more of a scoring touch compared to Jefferson.

  • In the last move, or first chronologically — whichever way you want to look at it, the Philadelphia 76ers picked up athletic wing Sam Young from Memphis for the rights to former second-round pick Ricky Sanchez.

So there are your trades everybody. Some other notes of prominence-

  • The Raptors have released point guard Anthony Carter, who was originally believed to be part of the Barbosa trade.
  • The Magic didn’t trade Dwight Howard, as he will presumably come back next season.
  • The Celtics kept the Big 3 intact for at least this season.
  • Steve Nash stayed put in Phoenix.
  • Michael Beasley is staying in the Twin Cities.
  • And Deron Williams is still a Net.