Wednesday, February 23, 2011

17 comments We Have to Talk About These Trades, Right?

Apparently the interwebs and people taking to each other through machines has hijacked all forms of communication. If you didn't see the Carmelo deal on Twitter, one of your Facebook friends put it as their status. Maybe you were watching a meaningless regular season college basketball game on ESPN2 (I couldn't resist taking a shot there) when the news flashed across the ESPN Bottom Line. Or maybe you just happened to check a random sports website and the news magically appeared. Regardless of how you found out, this blockbuster trade still has the feel of a "where were you when it happened" moment, despite everyone's ability to predict the outcome beforehand.

Once the trade happened, you analyzed the boatload of moving parts. As most people have already noted, your reaction was probably along the lines of, "Wow, the Knicks gave up a lot. Maybe too much." Don't worry, I had that same reaction. But then I broke down the parts (we'll ignore the garbage/"you're only in this trade to make the salaries work" guys.

From the Knicks' standpoint, the significant contributors went from:

Stoudemire
Turiaf
Chandler
Gallinari
Felton
Fields
Douglas
Williams
Mozgov

to

Stoudemire
Turiaf
Carmelo
Fields
Billups
Carter
Douglas
Williams

In short, the Knicks' only significant loss was depth in the front court. Williams, Douglas, Turiaf and Fields are all suitable role players capable of playing off-ball. If we say that Billups and Felton are roughly the same, the Knicks essentially traded Chandler and Gallinari plus a bunch of invaluable parts. (You may say that Anthony Randolph isn't useless, but the Knicks were building for a win-now team, something to which Randolph clearly does not belong.) In terms of net-gain, I'm a satisfied customer. Add in one more significant piece and the Knicks are serious contender.

More troubling, however, is the Knicks' front office tactics. Maybe I missed something. Maybe Marc Stein or Chris Broussard (who, by the way, has taken over as the official "main scoop" guy of ESPN. Seriously, when any NBA story breaks, he's literally the only ESPN guy to pick it up. Marc Stein and Chris Sheridan really need to pick it up. Same with Chris Mortensen. Adam Schefter owns him right now.) already explained this one. So correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the Knicks in a complete position of power?

If I'm sitting in the Knicks' front office, I'm letting this trade drag out until Thursday at 3. When reports surfaced of the Knicks dealing Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry and Wilson Chandler to the Denver in a three team trade with Minnesota, I was surprised that anonymous GMs said they would never agree to the deal. Of course that deal is not even. But would Denver really have a choice? Carmelo refused to go anywhere but New York. The Knicks had all kinds of power to low ball the Nuggets into submission. Despite clinging to erroneous hopes that Melo would stay or agree to an NJ Deal, the Denver GMs are not stupid: they saw what happened with Bosh and LeBron. They had to make a deal, no matter how terrible it was. While the Nets offer may have been better, their need for Melo to resign eliminated them from the equation. The Knicks only real competitor, then, was a team willing to rent him. The Mavs and Rockets did not have the Knicks' assets. The Magic already overhauled their roster this season.

When Ian O'Connor wrote that the Knicks needed put Mozgov in the deal, I once again recoiled. Why? Once again, there was no competing offer. If the Knicks held their ground, the Nuggets would have had no choice but to cave. Do I blame Donnie Walsh? No. D'Antoni? No. I'll throw that one on James Dolan. His irrational fear that Melo might slip away seriously cost the Knicks. Imagine if the Knicks had been able to keep either Gallinari or Chandler. All the talk about the Knicks being nothing more than a 1st round playoff exit disappears.

More frightening for the NBA as a whole, however, is the precedent that this is setting. With star players rarely spending their entire careers in one place, a team's peak is much shorter than its valley. As with most sports, teams continuously go from periods of great success to epic failure. The current makeup of the NBA only hammers home the fact that teams lacking a superstar are destined for years of aimless wandering until that next superstar is found. Despite Denver's ability to compile young assets and draft picks, their only hope for success is to either lure a class A free agent (which is unlikely since Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard will not leave their respective teams for a worse situation) or to hit the jackpot in the draft. And its the latter that ultimately matters most. Besides the Knicks, every team that has compiled an assembly of stars has already had one in place through the draft.

Take the Jazz, for example. Deron Williams was that centerpiece. Al Jefferson was star #2. One more piece and this team is a serious contender. But their lack of trade assets and the recent savage murder of Jerry Sloan by Williams lead them to conclude that Melo-drama would potentially repeat itself. So they executed a preemptive strike, facing the reality that this team was stuck in the Atlanta zone (3-6 seed with no chance of winning the NBA title, and no trade assets or cap space to improve). Yet unlike the Nuggets, the Jazz addressed their situation ahead of time, giving them added leverage. If the Nets were unwilling to deal 2 1st rounders, Favors and Harris, the Jazz could have simply walked away. The Nets were not going to wait a year for the next deadline to bring the appropriate pressure that would have facilitated a better deal. But Utah's hand was forced by the growing trend of the NBA: superstar disloyalty. So much so that the Jazz were willing to move their best player a year and a half in advance and begin the process of rebuilding now.

In the end, the Jazz made the right move at the right time. Why wait and suffer through two first or second round playoff exits? You might as well just start over sooner and try again.

17 comments:

Bengoodfella said...

I don't want to sound like an old man, but it is getting a bit wearisome with these players insisting on being traded (I know Williams didn't insist anything, but he was 6 months away from doing so). I think we will find these players are going to eventually stop doing this if it doesn't work.

I don't dislike Deron Williams, but now he is stuck in New Jersey simply because he gave the perception he wouldn't resign with the Jazz. NJ is doing a good job of rebuilding, but Williams now has to wait 18 months to get a new team if he doesn't like it in New Jersey. I can't predict the future and don't know how these trades will work out, but I like the trade for the Jazz and the Nuggets. What's interesting is these two stars were traded to the Eastern Conference. The balance has shifted.

I see this nightmare scenario for the Knicks:

Amar'e's knee gives up in two years and Anthony is stuck on a team he doesn't want to be on, like what happened in Denver, except the Knicks aren't close to the playoff hunt like the Nuggets were. Then Anthony wants to get traded again b/c Stoudemire is injured and the Knicks aren't going anywhere.

I don't believe the Knicks are going to be able to land a third star unless someone takes a pay cut. Not to mention, with the attempted Mike Miller trade we have seen how having three highly paid guys on a team prevents that team from getting reinforcements.

Enough rambling, I love this trade for the Jazz. Favors, Jefferson and Millsaps is a good frontline and Harris is a decent point guard. Throw in the fact the Nets pick will be high this year and even though the GS pick is protected from #1-#7 that pick will be fairly high as well. It's a good move by Utah and what I like most is they saw a star who was being non-committal to the team so they just traded his ass.

It may come back to bite them in the ass, but whatever ends the era of stars wavering on whether to resign with a team dragging a decision out I support.

Joe D said...

Go heat!

cs said...

I think the NBA has what it wants - LA with two huge draws. Miami, Chicago, Boston and New York all big draws now. They've got all the major markets covered.

Which leads me to think, does the NBA get involved in these trades? I mean, logically, they are running a co-op of businesses and they'd want the most profitable situations for the league. Covering those major markets has to be a priority, right?

Bengoodfella said...

Cs, I am sure the NBA is happy. I don't know if they had anything to do with the trades, but I also don't doubt the trade of Anthony to the Knicks hurt their feelings.

I would think covering those markets is a priority and if Deron Williams sticks around until when the Nets move to Brooklyn it would set up some sort of Nets-Knicks rivalry as well.

cs said...

And, I agree with you Ben.

I live in Miami now, but grew up in New Jersey, so I'm a Knicks fans. I've been to several Heat games this year, and because of work I've gotten really great tickets. The arena is electric at times, but there is something missing. I've waxed poetic about the mid-1990s Knicks, and in truth, that level of basketball is gone. This Heat team feels like an All-Star team, not a team that has worked it's way into being formidable, not a team that has worked it's way into a rivalry. Magic-Heat, Celtics-Heat, these are supposed rivalries, but it's more like these other teams and fans just despise what the players did to get to Miami together. It's not Bulls-Knicks, Pacers-Knicks, even Heat-Knicks from the 90s. I can't explain it, but I think this new approach is bad for the NBA. And, I think there are some serious rules changes coming in the future.

Bengoodfella said...

Cs, and I agree with you. I just finished an article about how there may be labor troubles in the NBA this summer and teams from (more western United States) smaller markets are not happy they are losing talent like this.

I don't live for the good ol' days or anything like that, but there is a different feel now. I really like Deron Williams, but part of me is happy he was shocked he got traded. Now he knows how a fan base feels when a player demands a trade...except Williams didn't have time for someone to do PR for him.

Again, I have nothing personal against him and players don't have to get all warm and fuzzy when it comes time to discuss a new contract, but this lukewarm shit that holds everyone in suspense isn't going to cut it with some teams. I see rule changes coming in the future as well.

The best thing I can say about Albert Pujols is he did try to negotiate with the Cardinals. In the NBA, if a team like the Jazz thinks they are going to lose a player they have learned from the Raptors and Cavs to go ahead and be proactive. That is the result of what we see happening and I am not sure it is bad.

ivn said...

Just in case there was any doubt as to why the NFL is easily the most popular sports league in America...

I understand there are a lot of different factors involved, but I think one big one is that it's rare that someone like, say, Aaron Rodgers doesn't play out his rookie contract and then say "fuck this" and rush off to Miami or San Diego.

small markets don't stand a prayer in the NBA. other than San Antonio (who beat once-in-a-generation odds with Tim Duncan), when was the last time a small market team won the championship? does Detroit count as a "small market"? Houston? if you're not in New York, LA, Florida, Chicago, or Boston, you're not getting a star unless you get lucky in the draft. I'm sure Simmons is creaming his pants over this shit but it can't be that fun to follow a league where 25 out of 30 fanbases know they don't stand a chance.

ivn said...

to use an analogy I'm sure Dylan will appreciate, the the NBA is turning into one of those pickup games where two or three really talented players insist that they're a "package deal" and won't play unless they get to all play on the same team.

Dylan said...

BGF,

I love that Deron was upset that he was traded. God forbid that a player wants to remain on the team that he's on. And if the nightmare scenario happens, I will probably cry in my Matt Ryan jersey.

cs,

The NBA is probably happy and sad. They're happy that the big cities have power teams, but the lack of equal teams hurts the league as well, since smaller market teams lose all chance at generating revenue.

Hopefully there will be some rule changes. Even though this benefits the Knicks, its an unfortunate way for them to go from bad to great. In the long run, I think this hurts the league a lot.

ivn,

Love the analogy. Anything that relates to pickup basketball is something that I will always enjoy.

The NFL will always be king because players are not guaranteed stardom wherever they go. For most positions, there is only one or two guys at that position. In the NBA, you can essentially put any five guys on the court. Since you can't have more than 3 great receivers, 2 runners and 1 QB (and the massive amount of talent), you'll never have a situation where great players combine. No matter how much money they offer, Aaron Rodgers is never going to the Colts, Chargers, Steelers, Pats, etc.

rich said...

I think that while the whole "superstar" conglomerates we're seeing now are the new "it" thing in the NBA, the question is long term can they last?

Sure Miami has the big three, but can they build an actual team around them like the (I can't believe I'm about to say something nice about a team Bill Simmons supports) the Celtics? Even if they manage to win a title, are they going to run into the same problems the Bulls did?

In sports, players always talk about wanting to "play for a championship," but once they've actually won one, they tend to play for the highest bidder. Do you keep playing for below market value or do you take your championship and go elsewhere (ala Pippen)?

The other thing is that both of the new super teams have rather huge flaws. NY doesn't have a solid outside shooter now nor do they play any defense. Miami's problems are well documented. If you can build a solid team with good depth (Boston), then you'll stand a chance against the super teams. It just takes one or two GMs to stop being stupid about giving max deals to the likes of Rudy Gay or Rashard Lewis.

Keeping with the analogies, what's happening in the NBA is kind of like what's happening in college basketball. You have these coaches (Calipari) who tell kids to play one year on these super teams and pray that one year they get lucky.

One day they will, but more often than not, the more balanced teams will manage to compete, especially in a long series.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, if the Heat happen to win the NBA title this year then I have a feeling we will see even more teams built like they have been (somehow). If the Knicks make a playoff run then the same thing will be said.

I do agree with you though. I think if you look at all the teams that have won an NBA title over the last 15 years they have had really good role players and a cast around those star players like MJ, Kobe, Shaq, and Tim Duncan. I still believe that is the way to win an NBA title, to have 2-3 great players and valuable role players around them.

It wouldn't shock me if the Heat won the NBA title this year, but I do agree with you that the best way to build a team for sustained success and actually have sustained success is 2-3 great players and then great role players that fill any of the weaknesses the team may have.

Matt said...

perhaps it's really time for contraction in the nba. stern even recently mentioned it.

if this trend continues, support for small market teams will dry up. attendance, already way down league-wide, will plummet.

the system is broken as it currently is set up. that's why there will be a work stoppage.

Bengoodfella said...

Matt, I am not in favor of contraction at this point. I can see how it wouldn't be a bad idea though. I would nominate the team in Charlotte go first though. That way I don't feel bad about not giving a shit about an NBA team that is 90 miles away from me.

Dylan said...

Rich,

Ironically, the faults that all these super teams have in a sense cancel each other out. They each have one or two glaring weaknesses. Only the Celtics lack that major weakness, which is why I think they have the best chance at winning it all.

Matt,

I'm not in favor of contraction from a fan standpoint, but it seems like this is where the league has to go. It's stupid if not every team has a chance. League rules have to change to prevent this scenario from continuing. What I don't understand, however, is why this trend did not start until recently? Why haven't star players screwed over the smaller teams as much as they are now? Sure, it has happened in the past, but not to this degree. I guess it was the sense of loyalty that has clearly disappeared.

Martin F. said...

One thing I'd like to point out is that small market teams can compete, if they are run well. Big market teams have a slight advantage for getting free agents, but I'd claim that expensive free agents are more a detriment then a boon for teams. They always end up costing so much of teh cap that it hamstrings the teams. Also, if the pieces aren't in place before that free agent signs, they end up in the circle of mediocrity.

OKC isn't a big market, and the franchise was moribund the last two years in Seattle. Getting a Durant helps, but smart trades and smart drafting have made them into a power. The Chicago Bulls are a top team now, and none of it has anything to do with them being in Chicago. Portland is a healthy Brandon Roy from being a top team, but between his and Oden's continuing injuries, the team can't get over the hump. The Suns have been another team on the cusp for 8 years, never quite making it.

What I will say is that being in a big market can help you keep a team together, like the Lakers and Celtics, who can be very expensive. The trade off is that they get sucky draft choices for the duration of keeping the top flight roster together.

Now some teams have terrible ownership situations, such as the Hornets and Clippers. Just because the Clippers are relevant this year because Griffin has burst upon the scene is not reason to ignore the 20 years of futility. Bad ownership creates problems for the teams, no matter their location, and yet these two teams are doing ok record wise (after the Clips 1-13 start....) Good ownership and stability in the front office are usually a cure for constant futility. For that I point to the Lakers and the Spurs.

In the last dozen years only the Mavericks for one year have represented the Western Conference in the Finals, besides the Lakers and the Spurs. That means in the last tweleve years it hasn't mattered what market you are in, because you have to go through two of the dominate teams of all times in terms of length of sustained excellence. Yet Houston, Dallas, and Golden State are major markets that did nothing, and Dallas is one that has had limited success.

I support contraction of a couple teams because I tihnk it would be good for the league. Not because the small markets can't compete.

Martin F. said...

Ur, Houston, Seattle, and Golden State (the Bay Area...at least as much money as the LA area) big markets that have done nothing. Dallas limited success.

Had to run off for a moment, food poisoning.

To finish my thought....it's more about getting that top draft pick then anything else. Kobe in LA. Duncan in San Antonio. LeBron in Cleveland. Rose in Chicago. Durant in OKC. Wade in Miami. Carmelo in Denver/NYC. Amare in Phoenix/NYC. Dominance in the NBA is dictated by good and stable front offices combined with luck...and being able to attract second tier free agents who can fill your holes.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin F, I get what you are saying. I want to point out Kobe wasn't a high draft choice. He was middle of the first round at #13. The Lakers got doubly lucky he was available at that point and the Hornets were adverse to getting talented players on their team so they traded him for Vlade Divac.

I don't support contraction right now, but I think I could move that way at some point. It would be nice to get some of these borderline NBA players out of the league, but the player's union probably wouldn't like that too much.

I think large markets have an advantage with being able to draw free agents, but like you said, it can be a bad thing because the lure is to do that and not build a team from within like the Spurs and Thunder have done. All teams have to be smart and I think you hit the nail on the head in that the biggest problem in the NBA is incompetent front offices, ownership and management.