Erick Blasco is a 21-year-old college student attending Brooklyn College on a full scholarship. He is majoring in Television/Radio and minoring in English with the hopes of someday becoming a professional basketball analyst.
The NBA draft is usually a time where teams look to the future, but Cleveland, Orlando, and San Antonio have more immediate concerns—like capturing an NBA championship. That’s why such mega names as Shaquille O’Neal, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson have been dealt in the past handful of days.
Here is what each move implies.
San Antonio acquires Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto.
The Spurs have lacked three things the past few seasons that have stalled their attempts at recapturing an NBA crown—healthy stars, young athleticism, and another creative scorer.
Fortunately, Jefferson solves all three problems.
With Manu Ginobili’s health a major concern, Jefferson brings stability—he’s appeared in all 82 games each of the past two seasons.
Also, because Ginobili has missed so much action, and Tony Parker isn’t a dangerous jump shooter, the Spurs have lacked that key perimeter player who can both drive to the hoop and hit a jump shot. Jefferson provides that, whether in tandem with, or insurance for Manu Ginobili.
And since Bowen, Thomas, and Oberto are 38, 36, and 34, the Spurs are younger and more athletic with the 29-year old Jefferson.
On the court, Jefferson has a quick first step, is a strong finisher, can pull up off the bounce, shoot the three, and post selective opponents.
He’s also a willing passer and a competitive defender. If those skills have dulled the past few seasons playing for the mediocre Bucks and Nets, being reacquainted with a title-worthy team like San Antonio should reinvigorate Jefferson. So should being a fourth-option on offense, as opposed to being the primary option the second half of last season after Michael Redd went down.
Of the players given away, it’s not unlikely that each will be bought out and can return to San Antonio. Assuming they don’t return, giving up Oberto and Thomas greatly reduces San Antonio’s frontcourt depth, particularly if Drew Gooden isn’t retained.
Is Ian Mahinmi ready to play important minutes for the Spurs? Is Tiago Splitter ready to come stateside? If not, Matt Bonner’s not-quite-ready-for-prime-time shooting stroke and limited athleticism will be Tim Duncan’s lone sidekick up front.
Richard Jefferson could slide in at the power forward and play alongside Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and either Roger Mason or Michael Finley, but only against select fours.
In other words, the Spurs need an able-bodied big man.
Ime Udoka has been underwhelming as an heir-apparent to Bowen, but can step in and play above-average defense in a pinch. Since Bowen’s defense had been gradually eroding, and since Jefferson can also play quality defense, Bowen’s loss won’t be significant.
In fact, the Spurs are back to being ready to challenge the Lakers for Western Conference supremacy.
Milwaukee acquires Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto from San Antonio for Richard Jefferson. Milwaukee then acquires Amir Johnson from Detroit for Oberto.
The Bucks were forced into this trade for a myriad of reasons.
Because the plummeting economy and the expected lowering of salary cap and luxury tax thresholds hit’s the bucks hard, they have to save cap space anywhere they can.
Throw in the fact that Michael Redd blew out his knee last year and Andrew Bogut has back issues, and it’s unlikely that, even with Jefferson, the Bucks would have fielded a team capable of making the postseason.
It’s also unlikely that the Bucks assumed Ramon Sessions would turn out to be more than a flash in the pan, and that Charlie Villanueva wouldn’t get banished by Scott Skiles.
Since Jefferson isn’t worth the $14 million dollars you expect of franchise-carriers, trading him off makes nothing but financial sense.
They now have to flexibility to resign Sessions and Villanueva—musts if they plan on fielding a competitive team.
Kurt Thomas can still shoot midrange springers, rebound, and defend in limited minutes, and is an invaluable teacher. He’s a better backup than Dan Gadzuric and is insurance in case Bogut’s back can’t hold up.
Bruce Bowen can still occasionally play stand-up defense, but isn’t the standout he once was. His best asset will be teaching Joe Alexander the ropes.
Amir Johnson has big-time athleticism, but still has limit understanding of where he’s supposed to be on the court and why. His upside is worth a flier.
The Bucks shed a bad contract, got more flexible, and will be able to resign their young stars. Just don’t expect a playoff berth next season.
Washington Wizards acquire Randy Foye and Mike Miller from Minnesota for Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila, Oleskiy Pecherov, and the draft pick they used on Ricky Rubio.
Randy Foye is an undersized two-guard who is tough and can shoot, but is a limited player. Mike Miller should rebound after a disinterested season in Minnesota, but at his best, he’s a bombs away gunner who can sometimes attack the rim, but only rarely play defense.
So the Wizards, already loaded with guards and shooters, acquired two more guards who like to shoot. Brilliant!
Getting rid of Thomas is addition by subtraction and should create more roster harmony, and Pecherov is little more than a young shooting big man himself. Songaila is a tough, smart glue guy now missing from a team devoid of ball movement.
Gilbert Arenas, Deshawn Stevenson, Mike James, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Nick Young, Mike Miller, and Randy Foye. Of those players, only two of them (Stevenson, Butler) will try defensively, and only one (Butler) will consistently attack contact at the rim.
They better hope Ricky Rubio doesn’t become good.
Minnesota acquires Darius Songaila, Eton Thomas, Oleskiy Pecherov, and the draft pick they used on Ricky Rubio from Washington for Mike Miller and Randy Foye.
Randy Foye isn’t an impact player, and Mike Miller never really bothered in his lone season in the twin cities, so neither player will be missed.
However, the Timberwolves need athletes badly and didn’t get any from the players. That means that their trade hinges on how good Ricky Rubio is and how good he can be.
Songaila fosters ball movement, he works hard, and he can hit open jump shots—all things Ryan Gomes can do and more. Thomas will work hard on defense and make up for some of Al Jefferson and Kevin Love’s defensive shortcomings. All Pecherov will do is shoot long jumpers and shouldn’t play much.
The trade marginally covers up some of Minnesota’s weak points, but they need athletic talent. Even with Rubio, where’s the perimeter scoring?
Cleveland acquires Shaquille O’Neal from Phoenix for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, a 2010 draft pick, and cash.
Since Cleveland should be a title contender next season, the draft pick they gave away shouldn’t be anything of value. Ben Wallace occasionally played impact defense, but he’s a complete offensive non-factor, and Sasha Pavlovic is a non-athlete.
So the Cavs certainly didn’t give anything up to get Shaq. But are they better with him?
Since Shaq can only operate within eight feet of the hoop, he clogs up vital driving and screen/rolling lanes for teammates, namely LeBron.
Remember how Amare Stoudemire complained about Phoenix’ offensive system no longer providing him with open dunks? That’s what happens when Shaq’s defender doesn’t have to leave the paint and can protect dive cuts to the rim.
Since LeBron has no pull-up game, how will he react to having his runway to the hoop congested with Shaq traffic? It may require him to turn into more of a jump shooter, taking away from his strengths.
Defensively, any screen attacking Shaq will result in an open jump shot. Shaq’s also incapable of guarding any player that can face up, and he lacks the quickness to deal with athletic post players. In fact, the only players who Shaq can guard, are slower brutes that won’t leave him in the dust so he can bang them around.
He’s also not as good a rebounder as he once was, though he’s so big, any loose ball in his vicinity should be his.
What Shaq can still do is get deep position on the block and overwhelm all but the best post defenders into easy shots and foul trouble. He’s the first true low post scorer the Cavs have had in the LeBron-era, and for the first time the Cavs will be able to employ a multifaceted inside-outside offense.
However, Kendrick Perkins and the rest of Boston’s strong-armed goons have the defensive might to keep Shaq out of the paint where he can’t hurt them.
Dwight Howard’s too long and quick for Shaq to handle, and as Howard’s individual defense improves, he should be able to neutralize Shaq’s offense.
The rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference don’t matter.
So while the Cavs are still formidable, they’d still look up at a healthy Boston and Orlando.
Phoenix acquires Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, a 2010 draft pick, and cash from Cleveland for Shaquille O’Neal.
While Phoenix considers themselves in a transition phase, it’s not unreasonable to think that they can make the postseason with their current starting lineup. With Shaq out of the paint, new driving lanes should appear for the Suns gang of gunners, which should rejuvenate Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.
And if Phoenix does decide to start over, Wallace and Pavlocic come off the books after this upcoming season, shedding nearly $20 million dollars in cap space. And a draft pick never hurts when looking toward tomorrow.
On the court, the contributions of Pavlovic and Wallace will be negligible. Pavlovic doesn’t have the athleticism to succeed in Phoenix’ open court game.
Wallace’s complete lack of offense will bury him on the bench, though he could still provide brief minutes as a hard working defender in place of the inept Robin Lopez.
But looking at the bigger picture, the trade isn’t about getting better this year, it’s about setting the sun on Phoenix’ decade long run with the hopes of a bright tomorrow.
Detroit acquires Fabricio Oberto from Detroit for Amir Johnson.
It’s not entirely sure what position Detroit is in. They may decide to deconstruct their roster and rebuild, or they may jettison Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace and look to rebuild with Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, and one or two high impact free agents.
By trading away Johnson, my guess is the latter. Johnson is filled with untapped potential, but is strictly a raw athlete. Oberto is bigger and has a higher basketball IQ. With Jason Maxiell on board, the Pistons already had a backup power forward, now they have a respectable backup center.
Atlanta acquires Jamal Crawford from Golden State for Acie Law and Speedy Claxton.
Jamal Crawford’s a reckless but talented scorer whose wild athleticism hasn’t yet been tamed. This isn’t necessarily because he’s selfish, but because he’s never had a stable coaching situation to provide discipline and refinement to his game.
Entering his tenth season, Crawford has had Tim Floyd, Bill Berry, Bill Cartwright, Pete Myers, Scott Skiles, Lenny Wilkens, Herb Williams, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Mike D’Antoni, and Don Nelson.
Berry and Myers were brief interims, but in nine full seasons in the league, Crawford has been tutored by 10, soon to be 11 different head coaches.
Since Mike Woodson has neither the credibility, the personality, or the track record to refine wild players (as evidenced by the still undomesticated Josh Smith and Marvin Williams), it’s unlikely Crawford will change his stripes.
Meaning the Hawks will be getting a wildly talented, inefficient scorer that can’t differentiate between good shots and bad shots, believes gambling defense is good defense, and makes poor decisions with the ball.
He’s too aggressive a scorer to run the point, but should Mike Bibby not be brought back, and nobody else brought in, the Hawks will have to live with Crawford’s mistakes at the point. This means that, along with being Mr.Everything for Atlanta, Joe Johnson will also have to expend energy bringing the ball up.
Should the Hawks resign Bibby or a comparable point guard, then Crawford will most likely be Atlanta’s sixth man, a role he’s perfectly suited to. He could also start at shooting guard, moving Johnson to small forward, but if Crawford isn’t a primary scoring option, he provides little else to justify his presence on a court.
In other words, he’s raw, undisciplined, spectacularly talented, and does little off the ball. He’ll fit right in with the Hawks.
Golden State acquires Acie Law and Speedy Claxton from Atlanta for Jamal Crawford.
Since Golden State doesn’t need a point guard for its “my turn to shoot, your turn to shoot” offense, the fact that Law is a bust and Claxton is a career backup shouldn’t bother the Warriors. They’ll simply plug in Monta Ellis at the point and keep the circus going.
Losing Crawford hurts in the talent department, but it clears up a jumbled wing situation, which should be addition by subtraction.
The problem with Golden State isn’t with the trade, it’s with Don Nelson’s cockamamie approach to basketball.
New York acquires Darko Milicic from Memphis for Quentin Richardson.
Darko is slow, can’t shoot, and isn’t a prototypical shot blocker so it’s confusing as to why the Knicks acquired him. Dealing off Richardson removes a log jam on New York’s wings and frees up more playing time for Wilson Chandler and Danillo Gallinari. In that case, the deal is a success.
Memphis acquires Quentin Richardson from New York for Darko Milicic.
Quentin Richardson gives the Grizzlies depth on the wing, and becomes their best low post player. With youngsters Marc Gasol, Hasheem Thabeet, and Hamed Haddadi competing for minutes and on-job experience at the center position, there was no reason to hang on to Milicic.
New Jersey acquires Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie from Orlando for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson.
After the trade, the Nets have only two roster spots and $6.6 million dollars invested in 2010-2011, giving them an enormous amount of flexibility to resign their own youngsters, while targeting the mega free agents on that off season’s horizon.
Since the Nets weren’t contenders anyway, the deal puts New Jersey in full rebuilding mode—something Vince Carter was not going to be a part of. But after Devin Harris’ quantum leap and Brook Lopez’ promising first year, New Jersey shouldn’t be moribund with talented youngsters and a luminous future.
If Rafer Alston griped about backing up Jameer Nelson in the NBA Finals, he’ll get a karma-induced slap in the face, backing up Harris on the bottom-feeding Nets.
Tony Battie shouldn’t figure to get major playing time ahead of Josh Boone, Eduardo Najera, and Yi Jianlian. Courtney Lee is a legit talent, who can create his own shot and defend. He’ll quickly become New Jersey’s featured wing scorer.
With Harris, Lee, Lopez, and the boatload of cap flexibility they have, the Nets should be a very interesting team once fall of 2010 arrives. They just have to suffer through this coming season’s growing pains.
Orlando acquires Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson from New Jersey for Tony Battie, Rafer Alston, and Courtney Lee.
Ryan Anderson’s a hard working defender with three point range who’ll quickly make Magic fans forget about Tony Battie while adding to Orlando’s long-distance firepower.
Rafer Alston proved during last season’s Finals that he’s full of excuses and not even a championship-caliber backup.
Courtney Lee has a talented future and is the prize heading back to New Jersey.
But Vince Carter is the feature player of the deal, and his presence brings question marks and uncertainties.
Carter is a talented scorer with diminishing athleticism, and an ever-present fear of taking contact. He has unlimited range, is unselfish, and can even post up some. However, he spends too many stretches—minutes, games, weeks—going through the motions, playing lazy uninspired basketball.
He also plays with no competitive edge (except against Toronto) and has a history of disappointing in the postseason.
He’s a worse defender than Lee, and if teaming with Hedo Turkoglu, will make Orlando a perimeter defensive sieve.
Still, the trade isn’t all bad.
- Assuming Hedo Turkoglu stays put, Carter will be a third or fourth offensive option, a position he should thrive in.
- Fewer responsibilities will mean less pressure.
- He has more talent than Lee, and should be able to run Orlando’s high screen/roll game to satisfaction.
- He’ll rebound, something the Magic don’t do well outside of Dwight Howard.
However, these imply that Turkoglu will remain on the team and continue to be Orlando’s main offense creator.
If Turkoglu isn’t resigned and Carter is asked to be the featured perimeter playmaker, Orlando is in trouble.
- Because he has less vision than Turkoglu and isn’t as tall, he’s a strictly worse playmaker and decision maker for Orlando’s offense.
- The difference in Hedo’s pressure shooting and Vince’s are the difference in night and day.
- Carter’s a slightly worse finisher and gets to the line less often than Turkoglu, even though Carter takes more field goal attempts.
- Turkoglu rarely loses focus, especially late in games.
If Carter is an add-on to Orlando’s core that went to the Finals, then he’ll make the Magic more explosive and more versatile, traits that could easily allow them to repeat as Eastern Conference champions and contend for another NBA crown.
But if Carter’s a replacement to Turkoglu, then expect the hocus-pocus that made Orlando magical go poof and disappear.