Warriors, Clippers hope big-ticket additions make for big turnarounds
Zach Randolph will cut deep into the Clippers' salary-cap room for 2010
Healthy Nene is helping lead the Nuggets into the thick of playoff race
An NBA scout breaks down what Antonio McDyess will bring back to Detroit
One glance at the back page of any New York City tabloid on Saturday would have told you what the Knicks gained in dealing Jamal Crawford to the Warriors and Zach Randolph to the Clippers: LeBron James, or at least a feasible path to getting him or any of his coveted fellow free agents in 2010 with the salary cap space that the trades created. But in agreeing to help the Knicks punt the next two seasons, what did the struggling Warriors and Clippers get out of the deal, aside from two players who are making a combined $21 million this season?
A lot of uncertainty, to be honest. How much? Let's take a look at how the Knicks' salary purge likely will affect their trade partners.
Limiting the future
While the Warriors got a final nail to their hopes in the 2010 free-agent market, the Clippers took a lesser, but still significant blow to any ambitions they might have envisioned in the Summer of LeBron.
Crawford's $8.6 million salary this season isn't exorbitant by NBA standards, but the $10 million he's scheduled to earn in 2010-11 (assuming he doesn't exercise an early-termination option in his contract next summer) means that Golden State already has more the $55 million in committed salaries for only seven players who are likely to still be on their roster during the free agency bonanza summer. With the cap expected to come in around $64 million, that doesn't leave a lot of room to round out a team, let alone add a high-profile star.
The Clippers were on pace to have a boatload of cap space, but with Randolph on board, L.A. will, as its roster stands now, lose all but about $9 million to $11 million-worth of room while picking up the $17.3 million tab that he carries in the 2010-11 season. That doesn't move the Clips out of the marketplace, but it will put them in the clearance aisle that summer.
If this were a fantasy league, these deals would make a lot of sense. For a team that is a haven of small-ball talents, Crawford could allow Golden State to deal for the power forward type it so desperately needs. And for a Clippers club that is already trying to sort the Chris Kaman-Marcus Camby combination, Randolph could pave the way to ship a big man for the off-guard the team lacks.
But this is the NBA, and these are two of the more puzzling front offices in the league. In other words, we doubt the subsequent deals will happen in order to maximize the effectiveness of these trades. So while Crawford may appear to be a good fit with Don Nelson's love of small lineups, he'll do little to ease Golden State's congestion of shoot-first gunners and even less against bigger Western powers such as the Lakers or Rockets. Randolph can only help the Clips' struggling offense, but he won't help alleviate a perimeter game so impotent that Baron Davis has little choice but to hoist up the threes coach Mike Dunleavy detests.
A lot of noise, little pop
Clearly, the Warriors and Clippers got the better of the deals from a talent perspective, but neither of these 20-point scorers is likely to make the kind of impact his salary would suggest. Yes, that was Isiah Thomas's fault, but when you raise your hand to take on those salaries, it's now your mistake.
Crawford should hold things down at point guard until Monta Ellis comes back, but he is at his best when allowed to shoot at will. With Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson in front of him, and given Crawford's penchant to fit in more than make waves, shooting at will he is not likely to do.
Waiting his turn probably won't be Randolph's problem, and that could further strain the relations in a locker room that is already dealing with Dunleavy's displeasure about Davis' freelancing this season.
Look, these deals could help the Warriors and Clippers, but the improvements both teams make will be incremental, at best, barring further maneuvers. With the Warriors caught in the middle of a front-office power struggle and the Clippers being, well, the Clippers, do you trust either of these deals to be definite progress? Neither do we.
Dwyane Wade's resurgence. Want proof that Wade is back to his pre-injury best? It's not the 26 points. Nor is it the 7.2 assists. Two blocks a game, though, from someone who is 6-foot-4 and has never averaged as many as one? Yeah, there's your proof.
Donnie Walsh's body of work. Even if New York's president doesn't make another move for the next two seasons, he's already earned his salary in the eyes of most Knicks fans by clearing enough cap space to be a major player in the summer of 2010. Dealing Crawford was smart, but finding someone to take Randolph's remaining $60 million was inspired.
Nenê's inside efforts. What a comeback only a year after surgery for testicular cancer: He has career-high averages in scoring, rebounding and shooting from the floor and the line. The Brazilian also is blocking almost twice as many shots as ever while helping ease the loss of Camby. No wonder the Nuggets rank among the 10 best teams in defensive efficiency (a measure of how many points a team allows per 100 possessions).
Patience. The Knicks pull the trigger on clearing out cap space almost two seasons before they plan to use the money. The Thunder and Wizards pink-slip their coaches after dismal but somewhat understandable slow starts (given the rebuilding in Oklahoma City and injuries in Washington). And the league is focused almost entirely on the free-agent summer of 2010. So much for stopping to smell the flowers of a young NBA season.
The Pistons' defense. As little respect as Flip Saunders received from his locker room, he still maintained the defensive production upon which this title contender was built. This season, with Michael Curry running the bench, Detroit has slipped into the bottom 10 in the league in opponents' field-goal shooting and defensive efficiency. Dare we say that Detroit has gone ... soft?
Ricky Davis' start. The free-agent pickup has been an early bust: 27.2 percent shooting (to get his 4.3 points in 21.3 minutes) while doing little on the boards and fouling almost as much as he records an assist.
Why did more than half of the league contact Antonio McDyess when the Nuggets granted him his release shortly after getting him from Detroit? SI.com checked in with an NBA scout to ascertain what the former, and future, Pistons big man has to offer.
"At this stage of his career, his very solid skill sets are still very much intact. He is a versatile big man who can guard power forwards and centers, and he's a very capable individual post defender as well as a great team defender. He can still score against second-line bigs by himself on the block. And you can also use him in pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll basketball. And everybody raves about his character and all the quality intangibles he brings.
"He can have the impact P.J. Brown had on Boston last year, if not more, because McDyess has more left in the tank than Brown did. He's going to be motivated by a winning situation."
They said it
"I could never see him being a coach ... Maybe high school. There's not a lot of demands at the high school level. I don't know how he's gonna handle the referees, that's a whole different conversation. Some of those school districts aren't excited about embracing a guy who likes to use the F-bombs a lot when he talks to referees."
"I've fished for catfish, barracuda, sea bass, salmon ... but I've never fished for bass. You've got to know how to catch certain fish. And this bass has been kicking my butt, but I've got something for him. I'm going to learn every little technique and I'm gonna throw the whole shebang at him."
"No goggles. No, no, no. Never. I'm not going to be like Rip Hamilton, where my nose is broken eight years ago and I still wear a mask. The only way I'll wear a patch is if my eye's closed. I'd rather stay with Captain Jack, not Pirate Jack."
"This year, with me and Brendan [Haywood] out, some of the veterans are like, 'Man, I don't even know what to think of this year.' And I told 'em, 'If this is one of those years we don't make the playoffs, we're one of those teams that's in last place the whole year -- you know that's what happened to San Antonio and that's how they got Tim Duncan. If that happens with us, it's for the better."
Basketball Reference: It's too early to write that Kevin Durant won't live up to the expectations most have for him, but Neil Paine has his doubts, considering how little the former No. 2 draft pick has differentiated himself from his largely listless group of teammates.
Sacramento Bee: It looks like the Kings have found Geoff Petrie's successor-in-waiting.
Globe and Mail: What effect does getting your shot blocked have on a team? Or a game? Not much, writes Michael Grange.
San Francisco Chronicle: With only seven games on his NBA résumé, Anthony Morrow is still largely a mystery. Gwen Knapp peels a layer or two off the onion that is Don Nelson's latest find.
Sacramento Bee: All is not so bad in Sacramento. The Maloof brothers are developing what could be the next hit reality series -- Rebuilding the Kingdom -- which will follow the Kings as they try to reconfigure themselves to prominence.
Slate: How much of a difference does a head coach make? Not much, argues stat head Dave Berri. It's a notion that's sure to be disputed by at least 30 men in the NBA and Dean Oliver, the statistical guru for the Denver Nuggets. Who's right? Good question, and one well analyzed by Ryan McCarthy.
1. While everyone at the Worldwide Leader and any other media outlet within earshot of New York City assumes that LeBron will be a Knick by the fall of 2010, there are a few million reasons he may actually stay in Cleveland. For one, the Cavaliers can offer him a deal worth perhaps $30 million more in total compensation than any other team, since he's their player. Two, Cleveland is on course to have the cap space to acquire a second top-tier free agent that same summer. And three, the odds are pretty good that the pressure of appeasing James likely will make the Cavs a much readier title contender than the Knicks or Nets in two years. If rings are truly the thing, the Broadway lights may have to be screened in gold to top all that Cleveland will offer.
2. Here's the question I want to ask every GM who is clearing out cap space with a vacuum: What is your Plan B? There's only one LeBron, one Wade and one Chris Bosh. With seemingly half the league readying itself for maximum-bid offers, plenty of clubs are going to be stuck outside of the velvet rope. Without a contingency plan, it could make for a number of hard years ahead; just ask Jerry Krause after the Bulls struck out on Tracy McGrady in 2000.
3. The Hornets may be scuffling a bit on the offensive end, but they could help themselves a bit more if they hit the boards a bit harder. Entering this week, they were last in the league in rebounding, a situation that isn't likely to improve with only two proven post men on the roster -- Tyson Chandler and David West. Big men may become available by the trade deadline, but they don't come cheap.