Friday, December 09, 2011

NBA Transaction Analysis: 12/9

Los Angeles Lakers acquire Chris Paul; New Orleans Hornets acquire Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic; Houston Rockets acquire Pau Gasol

For the Lakers: I don't know how they managed to get Paul without parting with Andrew Bynum, but bravo.  Dwight Howard's move to LA is now inevitable, and will give the NBA a fourth power trio (to go along with Boston, Miami, and New York (which I'll get to later)).  Until Dwight is in purple and gold, though, I can't say I see this being a rousing success for the Lakers.  Chris Paul is one of the five or six best players in the league, and on paper, adding him to a backcourt that already has Kobe Bryant should be a slam dunk.  However, both Kobe and CP3 are at peak operating efficiency with the ball in their hands.  Can Kobe add and develop a Reggie Miller/Ray Allen catch-and-shoot skill set and (more importantly) mentality while Paul runs the show?  Can Paul become Derek Fisher times 1000 while Kobe does his thing on the wing?  And what exactly are the Lakers going to do up front?  As it stands right now, Derrick Caracter is the only power forward on the roster (although his salary isn't guaranteed), so unless Mike Brown wants to go small ball with Metta World Peace at the 4 and the newly signed Jason Kopono or Matt Barnes at the 3, Caracter is about to get a big-time promotion.  None of this speculation really matters, of course, since Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu (I'm assuming any deal involving Dwight will also have to involve Hedo's atrocious contract) will be in LA before the new trade deadline, and 50-year old virgin AC Green could line up at power forward and the Lakers would be fine.  Personally, I love Chris Paul, and I'm depressed that I'm going to have to hate him now.

For the Hornets: I don't get it.  I know they had to trade Paul, but Boston was offering his heir apparent, along with another young piece in Jeff Green who still could develop into a solid third option.  While I have not been shy about my distaste for Rajon Rondo, he is still a young borderline All-Star player who is locked up to a reasonable contract for the foreseeable future.  The package the Hornets actually received is certainly not young, unless you count the 25-year old Dragic as a significant building block (which I don't, his one good performance of his career in the 2010 playoffs not withstanding).  Why not hold onto Gasol, one of the twenty best players in the league, and try to build around him?  If things don't work out, it's not like the Hornets couldn't have gotten a similar package back down the road.  To put how poor I feel the haul New Orleans got back from Houston is, consider if the Lakers had traded Pau for the exact same deal.  People would be killing the Lakers, but because the Gasol part of the deal is getting overshadowed by the Paul part, nobody seems to be noticing that Houston stole Gasol, and probably now have enough cap space to add Nene, too.  The Hornets somehow managed to make two separate deals within this one deal that saw them give up two top 20 players and yet somehow not receive either trading partner's best trade asset in return (Bynum from the Lakers, Kyle Lowry from the Rockets).   That's not an impressive feat.

For the Rockets: As mentioned above, the Rockets stole Gasol, dealing nice (expensive) pieces in Scola and Martin while holding on to their best young player in Lowry and held onto their bevy of young, cheap assets (Patrick Peterson, Courtney Lee, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, to a lesser extent Terrence Williams, Jonny Flynn, and to a much lesser extent, Hasheem Thabeet, who could be an amnesty casualty), which gives them flexibility to make yet another move if the opportunity presents itself.  Gasol by himself doesn't make the Rockets that much better than they already were, but if they can reel in Nene to play alongside the Spaniard, then they may finally be ready to make some noise in the Western Conference.

(UPDATE: Never mind.  The NBA has become the WWE, with David Stern playing the role of Vince McMahon.  Who is going to be the NBA's Stone Cold Steve Austin, and spray Stern and his cronies with a beer truck?)

Los Angeles Clippers sign Caron Butler for 3-years, $24 million

Caron Butler is an okay piece to add, but not for that much money.  He is coming off a pretty substantial knee injury, and he wasn't exactly lighting it up in Dallas before going down (14.2 PER).  In fact, Butler hasn't really been good since the 2008-09 season, which, not-so-coincidentally, happens to be the last time he was an above-average scorer (19.4 points per game).  My point is, Butler derives most of his value on the court from his ability to score, which, even if he is still able to do at a productive rate (which I doubt, considering he's 31 and, again, recovering from injury), isn't exactly what a team that boasts Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon needs.  If a third scoring option needs to step up, Mo Williams is perfectly capable.  What the Clippers needed at small forward was a Luol Deng/Tayshaun Prince-type (or, ideally, Andre Iguodala); instead, they added a rich man's Lamond Murray.

Detroit re-signs Tayshaun Prince for 4 years, $27 million and Jonas Jerebko for 4 years, $16 million

Let me get this straight: Tayshaun Prince, exactly the type of player I just said the Clippers need at small forward, is going to be paid less annually than Caron Butler?  My mind is blown.  Equally perplexing is why Prince went back to Detroit, which has to be one of the three or four worst situations in the NBA.  I also don't understand Joe Dumars reasoning behind bringing Prince back, considering his team is awful and full of aging players signed to long-term deals.  You'd think he'd take the opportunity to shed one of those aging players as he gears up for a full-tilt rebuild, regardless of how much he might like Prince.  I guess not.  As for Jerebko, he had a very promising rookie season before tearing his Achilles tendon last year, so if his health is sound, this seems like a solid investment for the Pistons.  Four years seems a tad much for a guy coming off such a serious injury, though.  Hopefully Jerebko doesn't become Jason Maxiell 2.0.

Portland re-signs Greg Oden for 1 year, $8.9 million

This was the minimum Portland could pay Oden under the restricted free agency rules, which is kind of absurd.  Still, if Oden could finally become healthy, his defensive value is easily worth the nearly $9 million investment.  If I were advising him, I would tell him to call Zydrunas Ilgauskas daily for inspiration, since Big Z also missed nearly all of his first 5 years in the league yet bounced back to become a two-time All-Star and one of the best Cavs ever.  Keep your head up, Greg.  We're all cheering for you.

Miami signs Shane Battier for 3 years, $9 million and Eddy Curry for 1 year (financial terms undisclosed)

Battier is a perfect fit alongside Miami's Big Three, a scrappy do everything leader-type who doesn't demand any shots on offense.  He's yet another better option for the Clippers than Caron Butler.  As long as the money isn't too much more than the league minimum, Curry is a decent risk.  He always had talent, and perhaps now that he can't just sit on his ass and collect James Dolan's millions he may actually be motivated to get into shape.

Milwaukee signs Mike Dunleavy, Jr. for two years, $7.5 million

For the third time in the same day, the Caron Butler signing is made to look foolish.  Dunleavy would have also been a much better fit for the Clippers, and at a much reduced cost in terms of money and years.  I assume the Bucks are going to slot Dunleavy in at the two, which should be an adventure on defense.

Phoenix signs Shannon Brown for one year, $3.5 million

Considering how buried Brown was on the Cavaliers' bench his first two years in the league, the Mike Brown hire probably sealed the end of Shannon's Lakers career.  That Brown is going to make more annually than Dunleavy or Battier is yet another example of how stupidly Suns owner Robert Sarver decides to spend the money he constantly claims he doesn't have.  Over the years, the Suns have traded the draft picks that became Rajon Rondo and Luol Deng for financial reasons, while also letting Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudamire go.  Instead of spending money on any of these talented pieces, Sarver instead sunk millions into the likes of Marcus Banks, Hakim Warrick, and Josh Childress, and then had the gall to be one of the biggest crybabies about losing money when the lockout hit.  Dan Gilbert is likewise a giant hypocrite (and even more sleazy and douchey [although I'm almost positive he got me and my buddies into the VIP room at a Cleveland strip club, which was pretty cool]), but at least he isn't cheap.  Sarver is the worst of the worst when it comes to NBA ownership, and it's a shame that Steve Nash has to play out the rest of his career for such a clueless organization.

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