Trade Fallout: Five outcomes that will impact postseason, beyond
The playoff landscape is completely altered after major deadline deals
The moves hurt small-market teams like Jazz, shifts power in the West
Other topics: Shaq in Boston, potential Kings relocation, USA Basketball
No one envisioned so much activity. "It's pretty quiet," a general manager said of leaguewide trade talks following the All-Star Game on Sunday. Then Carmelo Anthony went to New York, which inspired New Jersey to ask for Deron Williams, and suddenly deals that didn't seem possible were courted and consummated. The dealing and the reckoning isn't done yet. Here are the five major outcomes of this year's trade deadline:
Players must be waived before March 1 to be eligible for the playoffs, and no one will be in more demand than 6-foot-11 power forward Troy Murphy, a rebounder with three-point range. The Nets wanted no part of Murphy, who played 18 games for them before they moved him in a minor deal with the Warriors, who are expected to buy him out. As recently as two years ago, Murphy converted 45 percent of his threes and averaged 11.8 rebounds in 34 minutes a game for the Pacers.
The Celtics believe they can lure Murphy to provide length and rebounding in place of departed center Kendrick Perkins, though a league source said Murphy is also considering Miami at the top of his list. If the Celtics are able to essentially replace Perkins with Murphy as well as 6-9 combo forward Jeff Green and 7-footer Nenad Krstic, who were acquired in the Thursday deal with Oklahoma City, then the controversial trade will make more sense to the Boston veterans who have to be questioning the departure of their center.
(In a side note, I don't necessarily buy the talk that Green is the best player in that trade. He puts up bigger numbers and of course he is more versatile offensively than Perkins, but stats don't convey Perkins' value. The Thunder are viewing him as an indispensable part of an eventual title contender. They hope to convert from a finesse team to a two-way unit that will defend the basket and adapt to the nastier style of postseason basketball, and Perkins' arrival will instantly make them more intimidating this spring. As for the Celtics, it's now difficult to articulate their identity as a team: If Shaquille O'Neal isn't playing the majority of the minutes at center, who will provide the post presence that helped define them at both ends of the floor? Did the Celtics surrender their rugged advantage against Miami now that they can't hope to keep Perkins or Shaq on the floor at all times? Green may turn into a valuable asset for both the short- and long-term, but let's see how this trade and the ensuing buyout acquisitions influence each team before deciding whether Perkins or Green is the superior asset.)
The Heat have long been rumored as a destination for former Knicks center Eddy Curry, who had played 10 games over the past three seasons before New York packaged his expiring contract to Minnesota as part of the Anthony trade. Miami will also be interested in point guard T.J. Ford, should his wish for a buyout be granted by the Pacers.
Other buyout candidates include three-point shooters Rasual Butler and Jason Kapono; big men Joel Przybilla (who will be coveted by all the contenders if he is interested in continuing his career after being dealt to Charlotte) and Darius Songaila; defenders Jared Jeffries (who is expected to return to New York) and Leon Powe (who could return to Boston); and recent Knicks pickups Corey Brewer, Renaldo Balkman and Anthony Carter.
Murphy should be attractive to all the contenders. As for the remainder of these buyout candidates, the Spurs, Mavericks, Lakers and Bulls are generally expected to have less interest in pursuing them than the Celtics, Heat and Magic, who have short-term needs to be filled going into the playoffs.
Nuggets coach George Karl won't agree with this assessment, as he believes his team's newfound depth and potential commitment to defense can keep them in playoff contention following the trade of Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks.
But other teams view Denver and Utah as teams in recession now that each has surrendered its franchise star in a trade. If the Nuggets and Jazz slide into the lottery, room will be created for the Grizzlies (who added Shane Battier but held on to O.J. Mayo after the last-minute breakdown of an attempted trade with Indiana) and the Suns (who added Aaron Brooks as a potential long-term replacement for Steve Nash) to claim the last two playoff spots.
Three second-tier Western playoff teams improved for the stretch run. The Thunder are a more intimidating postseason team with Perkins; the Hornets added another low-post scorer by trading for Carl Landry from Sacramento; and the Trail Blazers strengthened their perimeter by acquiring hyper-aggressive small forward Gerald Wallace from Charlotte. The heavily injured Blazers had considered surrendering talent for future prospects and draft picks, but their success around the newfound leadership of LaMarcus Aldridge persuaded them to hold on to center Marcus Camby in order to maintain a challenge for this season.
Apart from the Celtics and their ever-bold president, Danny Ainge, the championship favorites had a quiet week. The Mavericks were interested in moving Caron Butler's expiring contract for Tayshaun Prince, who would have helped Dallas at both ends of the floor without any risk of damaging team chemistry, but the Pistons weren't interested. The Bulls tried to land a shooting guard, but the Grizzlies weren't interested in dealing Mayo -- at least, not to Chicago.
The Spurs, Heat and Lakers had little they were willing or able to trade, which is a function of their success -- most of their investments are indispensable, and those that are available (if you believe the Lakers would love to dump Ron Artest) are too expensive to be moved in this market. The Heat wanted to improve but lacked tradable assets. The Magic were thought to need more size to match up with Boston, but the Celtics traded away that advantage by sending Perkins to Oklahoma City.
The Cavaliers claimed they were interested in Baron Davis as a talent, in addition to the first-round pick that accompanied him in the trade that sent Mo Williams to the Clippers. But does his arrival also signal the likelihood of an amnesty clause in the next collective bargaining agreement?
Davis was thought to be untradable because he has two full years remaining at a total of $28.7 million. With the owners seeking a hard salary cap next season, there is talk of each team's being provided "amnesty" to dump one or more players: They would be paid their salaries, but their money would vanish from the team's cap commitment. Cleveland's Dan Gilbert is one of the more influential owners in the current CBA negotiations, and he is ambitious enough to be willing to someday dump Davis' salary in exchange for a pick that could hasten his team's rebuilding.
New point guard Devin Harris became an All-Star in 2008-09 when Nets coach Lawrence Frank installed a dribble-drive offense to exploit his skills. Utah's traditional offense is the antithesis of the dribble-drive.
Now that Jerry Sloan is no longer in charge after 23 years, expect Utah's offense to adapt to Harris' skills.
"I think there is a little wiggle room," Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor said. "We've got a new coach. Ty [Corbin] shouldn't do everything Jerry did, because he's not Jerry. That's one of the things you look at."