Thursday, February 21, 2008

Another Blockbuster.

I feel like the sort of writer I don't want to be would start this blog --after giving it that title-- with a note about the trade between the Nuggets and the Trailblazers in which Von Wafer and Taurean Green switched spots, following that by writing "just kidding," or "bah-dum-ching," or "but seriously," and then moving onto the higher profile deal between Chicago, Cleveland, and Seattle in which players who actually appear on the playing surface regularly were involved. I don't want to be that writer, and yet, because I've read that sort of introduction so many times it was so firmly embedded in my head I couldn't think of anything else to start with (a phenomenon --make that "happening"-- Joe Po referenced here, scroll for it ... scroll for it ...) so now I feel compelled to actually say something about Wafer for Green before advancing to the trade that likely will effect the teams involved.

Cheating --which I had to do because I haven't had cable for years and so my only opportunities to watch either one play was Florida in the NCAA tournament last year in a bar and most of that time was probably spent drunk-- I looked at John Hollinger's player profiles on ESPN and I learned things. Did you know Von Wafer lead the D-League in 3 point shooting last year? I'm mildly impressed by that stat. Taurean is leaving a team in which he's fourth on the depth chart of at his position, as is Wafer, to go to a team where he'll likely be the third point guard, while Wafer will be the third shooting guard. It's difficult to imagine that, barring injuries, either player will have an impact on their new team this season, but considering Green and his presumably low ceiling (the next Jacque Vaughn?) I have to think Portland is better off here. With the regularity teams seem to be in the need of a shooter --to help space the floor and etc.-- why not trade a mediocre point guard when you have three for someone who could have value down the road if he's able to figure out how not to be a total liability in every other phase of the game. I'm nearly positive that in a year or two, I'll look back on this and wonder why on Earth I spent this much time (yes, even this much) writing about this deal, but it seems like one that could have the potential of looking pretty okay down the road for Portland.

I have a friend, a whole one, that is from Cleveland and, predictably, he's a Pistons fan. He hates the Bulls because when he was younger, they always beat the Cavs in the playoffs, so following that logic, when Ben Wallace signed with Chicago, he put up a picture --torn from a magazine-- of Wallace standing in front of Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon with arms crossed on his wall. I haven't talked to him about this trade yet, but I imagine he's stoked to have his favorite basketball player on the team he roots for only when the Pistons have been eliminated from the playoffs and then only joylessly (but in fairness, that joylessness could partly be attributed to the fact that the only time the Cavs have been in the playoffs longer than the Pistons this decade was last year's Finals when only rubes and dullards were giving Cleveland a chance to win).

Ignoring the rest of the players they're receiving, Wallace is a perfect acquisition for the Cavs. Watching them the past two years, their offense seems to revolve largely around LeBron ISOs which may or may not result in open looks for teammates that are even less likely to be made. If there's one coach whose schemes won't be affected negatively by a complete liability on offense like Big Ben, that man (or woman; I'm not calling Mike Brown a woman, but I don't want to be accused of assuming females, another word for "women," shouldn't/can't/won't coach a professional basketball team with the same level of competence as Brown) is Mike Brown. I'm doubtful anyone will notice they're doing anything differently when he's on the floor.

As for the rest of the players involved, I've liked Wally Szczerbiak with the Sonics; as an overpriced veteran on a bad team playing inconsistent minutes, I was impressed on Tuesday against Memphis that he was still playing as though he cared. His role will be to replace Larry Hughes, or rather play as well as Cleveland would have hoped Hughes would have, but considering his injury history and his inconsistency, luck will be required. Delonte West is another undersized shooting guard to go along with Boobie, but with LeBron being the primary playmaker in the Cleveland offense, he'll be able to spot up and shoot when left open. He and Wally are being brought in as Hughes and Donyell Marshall leave, the later who was specifically signed to do what they're hoping West will, why he'll be more effective in that role than Marshall, I'm not sure, because he's been just as brittle this year and he looks like a cancer patient which won't help anyone.

All in all, it's a positive trade for Cleveland, they've managed to add shooters, a solid defensive center, and a power forward (Joe Smith) who, while not being as a good a rebounder as Gooden, does have a PER around 4 1/2 points higher and haven't further negatively affected their future financial flexibility. Wallace's contract will run two years after this one, but they were going to be stuck with Hughes for just as long, who was probably producing far less than the three million dollar difference between the two player's salaries.

Among members of their rotation, they're losing Ben Wallace and Joe Smith and among players that are likely to play for them that are coming in, they're getting Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden. If this trade means that the Bulls will be playing Aaron Gray, Tyrus Thomas, and Joakim Noah more, that can only be a good thing down the road, but it doesn't allow them to get out from under what they already had, a brutal long term contract given to an overrated player in a shallow free agent market. Hughes, likely to be known only as Larry Hughes' Expiring Contract within a year and a half, gives them a far below-league-average shooting guard who can start while Chicago continues to bring Gordon off the bench. They didn't trade away any of their young pieces but it's hard to imagine they'll be better in the near future, at least with Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots' contract affecting their cap.

Couldn't they at least have picked up a draft pick? For Ray Allen, they've now received Jeff Green and expiring deals. I know that certain prognosticators have likened Green to Pippen (and Durant to Jordan), but without jumping the gun, that's seems a tad optimistic. Allen hasn't played as well this year as he had in the past, but he was a top shooting guard not too far beyond his prime and it's disappointing that all the Sonics are able to get back are Adrian Griffin and Donyell Marshall. Szczerbiak, Marshall, and Griffin's contract all expire in two years, so it won't give them a great deal more cap room for next year beyond Newble's expiring deal, I wonder if they'd have been able to get more for Szczerbiak next season.

Cleveland has probably improved, Chicago will be better not having to play Wallace and they avoid acknowledging how horrible a mistake that deal was, but Seattle has done little than to shorten their rotation. They're clearly not trying to win this year or next, but it's hard to think they couldn't have gotten more.

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