After 8 months of prolonged, dolled out, all-talk-no-walk Melo rumors, we got the exact opposite from Tuesday onwards, with a flurry of deals coming out of nowhere to hit us right in the face. Here is a quick team-by-team look at what happened and what it means.
Atlanta Hawks: Kirk Hinrich is in, Mike Bibby is out in the role of washed up point guard. The difference is in the levels of washedup-iness – Bibby is, at this point, practically useless as anything but a spot up shooter and is one of the worst defenders in the league, while Hinrich is past his prime but still serviceable. Atlanta should enjoy watching opposing point guards actually work for their points, but don’t expect this upgrade to go further than softening the blow of a first round exit. Hilton Armstrong will compete with Josh Powell and Etan Thomas for absolutely nothing.
Boston Celtics: Boy, was this unexpected. The Celtics came out of nowhere to send out the non-all-star portion of their classic starting 5, sending out Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to OKC for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. One has to assume Danny Ainge is counting on his team maintaining one of the league’s best defenses without Perk, which has worked so far this regular season. Concerns about Perk’s impending free agency were obviously a factor as well. Problem is, what happens when you meet Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum/Pau Gasol for 7 games? Can two over aged, oft-injured O’neals and a perimeter oriented guy like Krstic pass for a contending center rotation? Stay tuned.
In the meanwhile, the hope is that Jeff Green can supply a wing scorer, decent defender, and someone who can sop minutes behind Paul Pierce. Green’s NBA career so far isn’t optimistic in that regard – despite the reputation bestowed upon him by OKC’s golden-boys image, he’s hardly been average at any category, and his defensive plus/minus has been awful – but he has the athleticism and size to be a good defender at the small forward spot, and a good system in Boston can bring that out in him.
It should also be noted that by shipping out Marquis Daniels, Semih Erden and Luke Harangody, the Celts cleared up some roster spots for future buyout guys, giving this deal even more of an incomplete grade.
Charlotte Bobcats: It’s very easy to look at this move and criticize MJ for being cheap. The bottom line, though, is that this is a team going absolutely nowhere, that needed to blow things up. By finally sending out Gerald Wallace, they did just that. The return is unspectacular to say the least – Joel Pryzbilla will either leave this summer or be bought out in the following days, and Dante Cunningham is solid but no more – but they got two first rounders in the process and are working towards a clean slate. Acquiring decent prospect D.J. White from the Thunder for veteran center Nazr Mohammed was another step in the rebuilding direction. Waiving Derrick Brown was not. Don’t expect this team to be good anytime soon.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls ultimately passed on bringing in a new 2 guard, doing their damage by salvaging a first round pick for seldom-used forward James Johnson. Good value, and though the passiveness may come back to haunt them these playoffs, they’ll have plenty of time to get another major contributor if the lockout ever ends.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Baron Davis may be a big price to pay for a lottery pick, but for a team going nowhere, the pick is worth it. Mo Williams will not be missed. If Semih Erden and Luke Harangody turn out to be future rotation players, consider it gravy.
Dallas Mavericks: Made a push for Devin Harris before the Deron Williams trade ruined their shot. For once, Cubes stands pat.
Denver Nuggets: Nobody likes losing their franchise player, but considering the situation, Denver made out well here. The team now goes 2 deep at every position, has some solid youngsters in Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, and might even manage to hold on for a playoff spot. It will take some work to create a future as promising as the Melo past, but this was a good start.
Detroit Pistons: No idea what Joe Dumars is trying to accomplish her. The veterans are angry and overpaid, the youngsters (excluding Greg Monroe) are questionable building blocks, and yet the Pistons do nothing. Things are not looking good in Motown.
Golden State Warriors: The Dubs came up with minuscule savings in the form of Troy Murphy, though they almost blew it on a last minute Antwan Jamison deal. Murphy is probably working out a buyout as you read this, on his way to Boston/Miami/Orlando.
Houston Rockets: If Hasheem Thabeet pans out, great. More likely, the Rockets gained a first round pick for the trouble of paying him. Houston should be sad to see Shane Battier leave, but they’re much better served giving his minutes to youngsters Chase Budinger and Terrence Williams to see how they fit long term. Moving a disgruntled Aaron Brooks to Phoenix for Goran Dragic – a similar, younger player who makes less money and arguably has more upside – was a steal. Oh, and they got a pick from the Suns too.
Indiana Pacers: A disappointing deadline in Indy, where the hope was to nab a young core piece at either power forward or shooting guard. The latter almost came in O.J. Mayo, but the trade call missed the deadline. If the Pacers don’t fully utilize their cap space next summer, they will regret missing out very much.
Los Angeles Clippers: Baron Davis is gone. That’s all that matters. Although I’m sure the L.A. food industry is quite hurt.
Los Angeles Lakers: Despite overblown talks, the Lakers, as expected, did nothing. Maybe they’ll pick up a buyout guy, but it looks like this is the core that will fight for that three-peat.
Memphis Grizzlies: Shane Battier suddenly makes this team deep at the wings, and gives them another perimeter stopper along with Tony Allen. This team looks prime for a playoff push – but will have to deal with a very unhappy O.J. Mayo, who knows that he was being shopped for very little (Josh McRoberts and a pick? Really? That’s it?)
Miami Heat: Miami had nothing to move, though they reportedly tried to get teams to bite on Mike Miller’s awful deal. Another team waiting for the buyout market.
Milwaukee Bucks: Another non-participant, who is probably just waiting for this nightmare of a season to end.
Minnesota Timberwolves: I hope you’re excited about Anthony Randolph, Wolves fans. The David Kahn Rehabilitation Center takes on what may be it’s most challenging project.
New Jersey Nets: When you can nab a top-2 point guard in the world, you do it, and ask questions later. Or do you? The Nets better hope that they won’t regret bringing in an extensionless Deron Williams, because if they move him next year, they aren’t getting back a Derrick Favors. In the meanwhile, Deron can try and restore the remains of Brook Lopez’s potential.
New Orleans Hornets: Marcus Thornton was a fan favorite, but he was deep in Monty Williams’ doghouse, while frontcourt depth was lacking. Carl Landry will help that in a big way – playing for a playoff squad with an elite point guard should restore him to his Houston level, 6th man dominance.
New York Knicks: The Knicks got their man, and will immediately be better. The question is, at what cost? The new CBA might help, but until then, Melo and Amar’e will make a combined 40 million a year. This for two guys who play offense only, and who both want to be focal points of the offense. The hope is that the two of them draw in a third star, but until it happens (and the odds of that happening are questionable), this deal makes the Knicks much more prominent in headlines than in contender discussions.
Oklahoma City Thunder: This is it. After 3 and a half years of staying the course, Sam Presti went all-in for the final piece of the puzzle. Kendrick Perkins gives this team a legit defensive presence down low, and a young one (26) at that. Addition by subtraction could be a big factor here as well – Serge Ibaka has been far superior to Jeff Green all year. Moving him to the starting lineup should pay huge dividends. Nazr Mohammed was an underrated pickup that completes a suddenly strong frontcourt with Nick Collison.
Orlando Magic: The Magic used all of their assets up in December. Expect the flailing contender to make a run at any buyout big man they can get their hands on.
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers decided that making the playoffs was a top priority, and stayed pat. Expect them to either overpay or lose Thaddeus Young this summer as punishment.
Phoenix Suns: I’m not sure what the plan is, here. Aaron Brooks is less likely to accept a backup role than Goran Dragic, is older, and is up for an extension. I’d criticize the Suns for giving away a pick in the swap, too, but they don’t really use those first rounders anyway. Free Steve Nash.
Portland Trail Blazers: Gerald Wallace completes an absolutely fearsome 6 man rotation, one that should see both Wallace and Nicolas Batum see plenty of minutes as small-ball 4s with Joel Pryzbilla leaving to Charlotte. This is a team that will frighten people come playoff time. However, I’m not sure what the long term plan is – Gerald is already 28 years old, has 2 years and 21 million remaining on his deal, and has declined since his all-star campaign season. This team might have painted themselves into a long run of first round playoff exits.
Sacramento Kings: I think I’ve made my thoughts on Marcus Thornton pretty clear by now. Marquis Daniels is an afterthought who was only brought in to raise the Kings above the salary floor.
San Antonio Spurs: Best record in the NBA gives you the benefit of the doubt. No moves here.
Toronto Raptors: Nothing against James Johnson, but he isn’t the savior. This is a team in need of a major shakeup, and they didn’t even take a single step in that direction.
Utah Jazz: Whether trading Deron Williams was the right move is debatable; if you make the choice to go through with it, though, you’ll be hard press to get better value than Utah did. Devin Harris has regressed since his 2009 all-star season, but has played well if not spectacularly this season, and should be better once he gets back to caring about basketball (funny how Avery Johnson kills players’ will to play). Derrick Favors could be a beast, and the Jazz now have two lottery picks this summer, assuming they fall out of tha playoffs, which looks pretty probable. However, one wonders why they didn’t try to move Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap – they will now be paying the luxury tax for a lottery team, all while stunting Favors’ development.
Washington Wizards: Hinrich was a positive influence in the locker room, but using him to take a shot at a former first rounder (Jordan Crawford) and to acquire another first round pick is sound. Crawford will also blend nicely with the whole “I have no idea how to play basketball, but I loooooove the look of this 20 footer” theme that Washington has going for them.