They Smell Like the Future: Austin Daye

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 22, 2009 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images.

Gonzaga Sophomore
6′10.75”, 192 lbs. (Combine measurements)
21 years old
Small forward
Projection: Mid-late 1st round
Combine Interview

Austin Daye doesn’t exactly fit the Mavs’ needs like a glove.  He’s a 6-10 small forward, which as you may recall is a position currently occupied by Josh Howard.  Daye obviously won’t be running the offense, he can’t fill the void at shooting guard (unless that meant Howard could be moved to the 2), and he isn’t going to be defending centers anytime soon.

In the spirit of the NBA draft, we’ve now covered what Daye is not.  What Daye is, though, is a pretty intriguing talent.  He’s a very versatile offensive player and an excellent shooter.  His knuckles rub on the ground when he walks, and he’s got some serious size.

Digging for stars in this draft is going to get you nowhere.  Instead, teams need to bank on talent and production to pan out with rotation players, with second tier guys to supplement their team’s core.  Austin Daye is a perfect prospect for that set of expectations.  He’s still far too thin to be dominant at 6’10”, and lacks both the strength and speed that would make him a superior NBA small forward.  His athletic abilities aren’t anything to write home about, but his height helps him compensate for that weakness defensively.  Daye’s knack as a scorer helps him from just about any spot on the floor; his three point stroke is pure, and his finishing ability is solid.  He’s a do-it-all offensive small forward with plenty of potential.  Daye’s blessing and his curse are one in the same: his versatility is more likely to result in a still very respectable Lamar Odom-esque career than a LeBron James one.  He has the talent to be a fantastic player, but his skill set and lack of brawn could send a team on all sorts of tangents trying to find his place on the floor.

I have a feeling that Daye would thrive in a role similar to Odom’s.  With two proven scorers ahead of Daye in the food chain, he could thrive as an offensive jack-of-all trades.  The Mavs have that with Dirk and JET, just as the Lakers do with Kobe and Pau Gasol.  Still, like Lamar Odom, teams may find Daye to be a bit mind-boggling.  He’s not a very aggressive player on either end, and that style may be confused for a lack of effort.  The skills are all there, and the notion that Daye wouldn’t seek to utilize them at all times is a bit confusing to some.  It’s one of the things that comes with the package, and given what Daye can bring to a team, I think it’s well worth it.

The biggest obstacle in terms of drafting Daye will be the Phoenix Suns at 14.  The Suns are rumored to be very interested, and have brought Daye in for workouts.  But if Daye manages to slip past the Suns for whatever reason, he could certainly slip into a freefall.  The incredible parity throughout the first round means that many teams are going to be high on very different players.  If there is no general consensus on Daye, it seems very plausible that he could still be on the board when the Mavs pick at 22.

I’m sold on Daye’s potential, but it’ll take some time before he’s ready to accept offensive responsibility in the NBA.  There’s a reason he was rocking the t-shirt look on the college court; Daye is so lean that his height won’t be useful in the post until he bulks up.  In the short-term, Daye can spot-up on the perimeter, take bigs off the dribble, and finish around the basket.  Not a bad set of skills, but only a glimpse of what Daye can bring to the table as a pro.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Daye.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are based on Daye’s two-year career at Gonzaga.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Finding comparisons for Daye was tricky; he rebounds at a rate superior to most small forwards, and has enough range to disqualify most bigs.  That left one player in Daye’s range that had both size/rebounding and a sweet shooting stroke: Rasheed Wallace.  Wallace is a fitting comparison for Daye, despite the fact that Sheed is a power forward/center and Daye a more natural wing.  Just as Rasheed has puzzled teams with his playing style and tendencies, Daye may get on some nerves with his unwillingness to dominate.  What separates Daye from a player of Wallace’s caliber is defense.  Sheed is one of the better interior defenders of this era, combining strength and size with decent speed and shot-blocking instincts.  Daye is more likely to come out an average defender, albeit one who gets his fair share of blocks.

They Smell Like the Future: Jeff Teague

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

Wake Forest Sophomore
6′1.5”, 175 lbs. (Combine measurements)
21 years old
Point guard/shooting guard
Projection: 1st round

For the most part, I try not to worry about position.  I’m not concerned with which letters appear next to a player’s name on their rookie card.  Team needs are often better defined as particular skills or even skill sets, and to boil that down to position alone essentially ignores a handful of options.  That said, Jeff Teague’s position terrifies me.  He’s obviously a pretty great talent, albeit one that could have benefited from more time playing college ball.  He’s going to be a fine scorer on the next level, and he’s in no danger of slipping out of the first round.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with scoring ‘point guards’, provided they’re surrounded with the proper accoutrements.  The Mavs got a first hand look at a dynamite scoring point in Tony Parker.  Jason Terry is another prime example.  Unfortunately, both Parker and Terry are outliers; many other combo guards in the league are high volume scorers but also high volume shot takers (Ben Gordon, Monta Ellis, etc.).  Many are turnover-prone, defensively inept, and lack the ability to set up even the most basic offensive sets under duress.

I don’t expect Teague to be an anomaly in the Parker/Terry/Gilbert Arenas mold.  He’ll score in the pros at a rate that’ll pay the bills, but likely won’t bring the average team any kind of sustained success.  The Mavs want a point guard waiting in the wings when Jason Kidd finally hangs ‘em up or leaves in free agency, but you don’t leave the keys in the ignition for Jeff Teague.  The dude is a shooting guard through and through, and one that can’t defend opposing point guards particularly well.

I guess that’s where I draw the line: defending the point guard position.  I have no problem with a combo guard on the Mavs, provided they can defend the 1.  JET, again, is an exception to the rule, but he’s weaseled his way into my heart with not just dynamite scoring, but very strong efficiency numbers.  Looking at Terry’s defensive struggles guarding either guard position, why would the Mavs wish that on a new prospect?  Why would they bring in a guy poised for a career of the same troubles, regardless of what his offensive production may be?  The Mavs are not only drafting for a contributor now, but also hopefully someone who can stick around for a new era.  That new era should not be built on the shoulders of an undersized shooting guard that has shown little defensive aptitude.

I don’t mean to undervalue him; Teague is a player.  He has a pretty valuable skill, and one that will translate to a long, well-paid career in the NBA.  Still, I can’t help shaking the feeling that Teague is best served as a back-up.  He seems destined for a shot-in-the-arm scorer, which may or may not fit a team’s needs.  The Mavs already have that player in Terry, and to a lesser extent in J.J. Barea.  They’ve pretty much got the market cornered on scoring small guards.  That’s why I don’t like Teague’s prospects with the Mavs.  If he can fool some teams into thinking he can reliably run an offense, he could end up as a long-term starter at point guard, despite his shortcomings in that role.  Maybe that works if you’re running the triangle, or if you have another player to share those responsibilities, but the Mavs don’t have that luxury.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Teague.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are based on Teague’s two-year career at Wake.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Okay, first thing’s first — a note about the player comparisons.  Teague had a stat line that had few comparison points.  There are plenty of players that do what Teague does, but few that do those same things on Teague’s projected scale; he’s somewhere between the sweet scoring two guards who dish a few assists (think Monta Ellis) and the much less effective developing prospects at that same position (think Louis Williams).  That led me to include not one, but two rookies, who have a statistical sample size of a whopping one season.

That said, there’s still some sense to be made of all this.  Teague’s career averages project to balance out in the same range as Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo’s rookie seasons.  Not bad at all, but falling well short of stardom.  Mayo and Gordon also have a bit of height on Teague, making their lives as shooting guards a bit easier.

In my opinion, Larry Hughes compared the most closely out of the three regardless.  Hughes doesn’t shoot as effectively by any stretch, but he holds the edge in rebounding.  Regardless, Teague would likely find the most success in a role similar to where Hughes should have been his entire career: coming off the bench.  Both have the speed and savvy to score off the bench, even if Hughes has been deluded by either himself or team management into fancying himself a starter.  I realize that Larry Hughes isn’t the kindest of projections, but the numbers have no agenda.  That, and the clear lack of options for comparison made things a bit problematic.

Heard It Through the Pre-Draft Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 20, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

General

  • Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Blazers have legitimate interest in Jason Kidd.  Boot up the trade machine!
  • Nick Prevenas of NBADraft.net: “The 2009 draft frequently draws comparisons to the 2000 draft — otherwise known as the worst draft in NBA history. Kenyon Martin (a player eerily similar to Griffin) went No. 1 overall, but never developed into the dominant power forward we expected to see after his career at Cincinnati was stopped short by a broken leg. He turned into a key cog in the Denver Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference Finals, but injuries have held back a potentially promising career. The rest of that draft was just dreadful. Marcus Fizer? Keyon Dooling? Jerome Moiso? Courtney Alexander? Lottery picks. Seriously…Is this year’s draft that bad? At this point, I’m leaning no. However, it is the type of draft where a team would much rather pick in the 15-25 range than from 4-13…[Jrue] Holiday — along with guys like Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan, Stephen Curry, Jordan Hill, Jeff Teague, and so on — are seeing their stock artificially inflated because of the lack of competition.”
  • Matt Kamalsky of Draft Express breaks down the shooting guards in the draft (notably Marcus Thornton, Terrence Williams, Jeff Teague) by the numbers.
  • John Hollinger’s Draft Rater is very high on Ty Lawson, Austin Daye, and Nick Calathes, three prospects which have been linked to the Mavs via rumors or simply availability.  The three came in as the 1st, 4th, and 6th best collegiate prospects respectively, outclassing plenty of their lottery-bound draftmates.  Jordan Hill and Patty Mills are listed as potential disappointments.  Hollinger willingly admits that the Rater has missed the boat entirely on some prospects, so keep in mind that prospect hunting is hardly a science.

Ty Lawson

  • The Nets’ GM, Kiki Vandeweghe, gave a glowing review of Lawson following his workout in Jersey: “To me, it’s more of what the guy has inside. It’s more about speed, quickness…At the end of the day, that’s what basketball is. Would you like to have taller players on your team? Yeah, it’s basketball…But having said that, this guy I think is one of the more ready guys to play. If he comes in, he helps a team, no question about it…First of all, he’s very strong…If you look at the history, he makes other players better, knows how to play. If you go back through the history of our league, guys who were very strong that way — no matter what size they are — they find a way to compete at their position. I think he really helps a team.”
  • Dave Berri also makes the case for Lawson.  That’s not one, but two of the most prominent stat heads in the field on Lawson’s side.  Ty also has all of the “heart of a champion” rhetoric and anecdotal evidence he could possibly need.  Considering that all that really seems to stand between Lawson and a guaranteed spot in the lottery are his measurables, can the Mavs really expect him to tumble to 22?

Jordan Hill

  • The Knicks may have some interest in Hill at 8, so if the Mavs are content with moving up in the draft to snag him, they’d best play it safe and aim for Washington’s 5th pick.  Then again, maybe they shouldn’t be doing that at all for the likes of Jordan Hill.  And then again, maybe Hill has convinced the Wizards to stick around in the lottery.

Jeff Teague

  • Michael Stephenson, in a guest post for TrueHoop: “Teague had the purest stroke and hit his jumper most consistently in the drills and during the scrimmage…But it was obvious that he’s a level behind and had trouble keeping up with his peers. In an extremely guard heavy draft, I imagine it’s going to be tough for him to turn many heads.”  The peers that Stephenson describes are Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans.
  • John Givony, of DraftExpress fame, wrote a feature on point guards for NBA.com.  Conveniently absent from Givony’s superlatives is Jeff Teague, and there’s a reason for that: Teague is not, and likely will never be, a conventional point guard.  Asking Teague to run the show is akin to asking a young Jason Terry of the same

Terrence Williams


via Detroit Bad Boys via Dime

  • The Mavs certainly have competition for the services of Terrence Williams.  The Nets seem awfully high on him, and the Bobcats would not only make sense (Williams seems like a Larry Brown kinda guy), but be entirely possible with the 12th pick.
  • Williams knows how to win over the hearts and minds of NBA coaches, teammates, and die-hards: defense.  It’s what separates him from the rest of the talent pool the Mavs may face with the 22 pick, and Williams has the size, the resolve, and the athleticism to be a fantastic defender in the big leagues.

An Early Father’s Day for Dirk

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 19, 2009 under News | Read the First Comment

Dirk Nowitzki has petitioned for sole custody of his unborn child.  Dirk is clearly washing his hands of this entire situation, and moving toward complete custody means he’s using extra soap.

EDIT: The plot thickens, and thickens some more.

Sugar Plum Dreams

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

The Mavs very well could stumble into the “most underrated player in the draft” next week, picking up right where they left off in June of 2003.

Oh, and he just so happens to be a pretty tremendous talent, an excellent defender, and fills a hole in the Mavs’ lineup.


Video via The Baseline.

Who has two thumbs and wants the Mavs to draft Terrence Williams?  THIS GUY.

The Future is Soon

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 18, 2009 under Commentary, News | 3 Comments to Read

NBDL President Dan Reed and Mavs exec Donnie Nelson announced at a press conference this afternoon that Nelson’s ownership group has purchased the already existing NBDL team the Colorado 14ers, and will move them to Frisco, TX for the 2010-2011 season.

This, contrary to what you may think you know about the NBDL, is big news.

But before we get to the facts, let’s look into the fog:

  • The team that will play in Frisco is currently nameless.  Nelson dropped the news that the name will be decided in some kind of fan contest,  and will be the Texas _______.  I’m thinking Rangers.  Or maybe Longhorns.
  • The Mavs are not officially affiliated with the 14ers (which will be renamed upon their arrival in Frisco for the 2010-1011 season)…yet.  They won’t be until next summer.  Meaning everything going on between now in then in regards to Nelson’s convenient little relationships with both teams will have to go without assignments of current and soon-to-be Mavs.

So currently, the Mavs aren’t quite on level with the Spurs in regard to their D-League ownership of the Toros.  In fact, ths situation is slightly different considering that Donnie Nelson, and not Mark Cuban, will be the owner of the _____s.  Nelson would conceivably still have near complete control of basketball operations, but it should be noted that the ownership groups are indeed different.

All of that said, I fully expect Nelson to take full advantage of the Mavs’ new little brother.

The Frisco team will likely have one, maybe two other NBA affiliates.  That’s fine by me.  Though exclusivity is my preferred method of D-League ownership, having a Mav at the helm is the next best thing.  Officially, the Mavs are allowed just two players on their roster to be assigned to their affiliate.  But obviously due to Nelson’s position with the team, he can have complete influence on how the remaining roster spots of the team are filled.  Plus, he gets an excellent look at the skills of the other affiliates’ assignees, which is perhaps just as valuable.  Nelson put a strong emphasis in the press conference of having all of these prospects within such close proximity.  All of the prospects on the team are just a short drive away, and readily available for dissection (figuratively, I hope) and evaluation.

Every team in the NBA can use more depth, and a D-League farm system is an ideal manufacturer.  The coaching staff will be in the know as to the franchise’s specific goals and methods, the players are hand-chosen by Nelson himself, and the entire on-court laboratory is but a hop, skip, and a jump from the Mavs’ front office.  The NBDL may fall short in churning out star power, but it can be a welcome and capable resource in terms of delivering role players to a team in desperate need of some.  Antoine Wright, Ryan Hollins, and James Singleton are all useful players in some regard, but have some serious flaws.  Having control of the Mavs’ D-League affiliate would not only expedite the search for capable, young role players in the future, but also the development of some of those players now.  It’s essentially a year-long summer league with a pool of prospects ripe for evaluation, and allows the Mavs to turn an on-and-off program of prospect hunting into a full-time scouting and developing dynamo.  Nelson has been tremendously successful in digging up talented players from the scrap heap, most recently with J.J. Barea and Brandon Bass.

This endeavor is completely worthwhile for the Mavs, especially as they focus on retooling for the future.  In that vein, Tim Varner wisely advised to keep the timetable realistic.  Bureacratic red tape already prevents the team from moving to Frisco until the 2010-2011 season, meaning the full benefits of team ownership will be delayed until then.  I have no doubt that Nellie Minor is already trying to figure things out in regard to the roster, but even with that in mind it is going to take time for these benefits to take shape.  The presence of the D-League in Frisco is a tremendous boon for the Mavs, but it’s simply a means toward better evaluation and development, not a catalyst.  The process won’t necessarily be expedited beyond reasonable expectations, but rather made more thorough.  The help is coming, Mavs fans.  But as always, we’ll just have to wait.

Some Big News

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 17, 2009 under News | 3 Comments to Read

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News (via Ridiculous Upside) is reporting that the NBDL will be coming to Frisco.  For those not in the know, Frisco is a fast-growing local suburb and the hot, young thing in the metroplex.  Mark Cuban has confirmed the scoop with HoopsWorld.

No official word yet on whether the affiliate will be Mavs exclusive (a la San Antonio), but this could be absolutely tremendous news.  Creating a farm system is a big step toward the youth movement the Mavs need, and the D-League is the perfect place for a team of low-risk with the potential for solid returns.  More to come.

Ladies and Gentleman…

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

I present to you Antoine Wright, the second least productive player in the league.  According to Wins Produced, at least.

Rumor Mongering: The Man With Moon Shoes

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Commentary, Rumors | 8 Comments to Read

First thing’s first: a little company policy.  During the regular season and the playoffs, I like to keep trade rumor talk to a minimum.  Confirmed, popular, or oft-repeated rumors will get a mention and perhaps some brief analysis as to the whys/why nots, but on the whole I like to stay away from the vacuum that is the rumor mill.  The offseason is a different beast entirely, and one that gives us the opportunity to leave no stone unturned.  I don’t want this blog to turn into a running thread of trade machine quick fixes, but some of these rumors deserve a bit of attention.

That said, the summer is a boring, desolate time.  There’s a lot of reading between the lines as fans get progressively more stir crazy.  In all likelihood you’ll find me sitting in a corner, twitching, with my eyes glazed over by the time September finally rolls around.  The long summer days practically beg for this stuff, and who am I to deny them their most base speculative basketball instincts?  As such, I’ll be dipping my toe into the pool from time to time, but still, I wouldn’t expect me to cannonball into the deep end.  Though, I must say, I am a wicked cannonballer.

Now on to the juicy stuff.

Chad Ford, ESPN:

The big trade rumor flying around…centers on the Hawks’ Josh Smith. Several league sources told ESPN.com that the Hawks have been working hard the past few weeks to see whether they can find a taker for Smith…

The Hawks have had no problem finding teams interested in Smith. The issue is the whopping $6 million trade kicker attached to his contract. The trade kicker essentially would require the team that trades for Smith to pay him the $6 million immediately. In this economic climate, many owners will balk at the payment. “You are going to see very few owners willing to do things like that anymore,” one GM said. “I’m not saying he’s impossible to trade. There are a few owners like Paul Allen, James Dolan, Mark Cuban and maybe Daniel Gilbert who would pay the money. But there aren’t many.”

Josh Smith is a tasty find…for the right price.  He can bring a lot to a team, particularly one that needs athletic finishers and help on the defensive end.  When you boil down the basic Maverick needs to taglines, Josh Smith makes sense.  But diving a little deeper, and there could be some problems.  Nothing of cataclysmic proportions, mind you, but problems that may make you hold off on offering your first-born to the Josh Smith altar.

Any deal the Mavs are able to swing involving Smith would likely require some serious talent on our end.  Probably Jason Terry and Josh Howard.  As much as we’d love to believe that a salary dump would be enough to get it done, this is still a young stud.  He’s tremendously athletic and comes with a fairly reasonable price tag (pre-trade kicker) salary-wise.  There has been no explosion in Atlanta that would compromise the Hawk’s position in negotiations, and thus it’s fair to assume that it’s going to take somewhere around Smith’s market value to pry him out of Atlanta’s hands.  That value is not equal to Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse, no matter how you shake it.

Now, Howard could conceivably be packaged with Stackhouse in a deal that would relieve the Hawks of Josh Smith and Speedy Claxton’s dead weight of a contract.  Barring turning Jason Terry into their point guard again, that’s the deal that seems to make the most sense for Atlanta.  Even then, this trade is hardly fit to sail.  Howard and Smith are hardly on equal terms these days, so much of this trade (and these rumors, for that matter) hinge on Atlanta’s want to rid Mike Woodson of a headache and/or save some money.  I’m not about to tell you what Hawks’ ownership and management wants, and I’m not sure that they could either.  This development of the Hawks has been mired substantially by failings higher up in the management chain.  Mismanagement and confusion are the names of the game.  If I were to tell you that I had my thumb to Atlanta’s pulse, I’d be quite the liar.  So let’s just say that there are variables at work here that are beyond us.

I’m not concerned about Smith’s position.  He started his career as a natural three, and was moved to the four because of personnel and his inability to shoot.  If he had to play the three again, I have no doubt he could do so.  The biggest questions should dwell with Smith’s place on the court.  Not necessarily in terms of position, but rather in regard to the skills he brings to the table and the spots he occupies on the floor.  Offensively, Smith has no go-to moves when he’s farther than 1.5 feet from the basket.  He doesn’t post up particularly well, he can’t shoot threes or mid-range jumpers particularly well (a gross .349 eFG on jump shots), and to top it all off, he exhibits some generally poor decision-making on that end.  Get him the ball in transition, on a lob, or just an open cut to the basket, and he’s money.  Otherwise, expect a clank.

On defense, Smith is best equipped to guard forwards.  He doesn’t have the quickness to keep up with guards on the perimeter, and though he’s an excellent shot-blocker, that skill is negated when you’re acting as a human turnstyle.  So what does this really change about the Mavs’ overall team defense?  They have an improved defender on either the opponent’s 3 or 4, but still have limited means to prevent penetration.  That said, Smith could be a flat-out defensive weapon against the league’s better small forwards.  He won’t shut down LeBron James, but he could certainly be a sizeable road block against the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Hedo Turkoglu, or Lamar Odom.  Sometimes the key to a strong defense is to limit the opportunities of the second or third guy on the offensive end.  Forcing an opponent’s star to take on more and more of the scoring load likely means a drop in efficiency, which is exactly what the Mavs should strive for.  Apart from getting an elite defender at the wing positions or at point guard, the Mavs need to largely make do.  Smith would allow them to do that and then some.

My issues with Smith are largely at the offensive end.  He’s not simply a non-factor on offense, but has a habit of being a possession killer.  Also throw in what he would likely cost the Mavs: the departure of Josh Howard, Jason Terry, or both.  Both Terry and Howard are keys for Dallas on offense.  The Mavs were able to find offensive success this season largely due to the hyper-efficient nature of Dirk and JET’s games, but from watching the team it appeared that such success was hanging by the slightest thread.  Howard gave the Mavs a bit of breathing room with his ability to take over (or monopolize, depending on your perspective) the offense for stretches.  Substituting Smith for Howard removes the safety net, and substituting Smith for Terry could make the sky fall.  Howard’s inconsistency is manageable when he’s living the small-time life of a third offensive option, but he very well may drown in the responsibilities of being the second guy.

Annnnnd this was entirely too much for a bare bones trade rumor.  Definitely a cannonball.  Feel free to sound off in the comments, though.  What price is too high for Smith?  At what point does the offense begin to take a nose-dive?

EDIT: Some extra credit reading, in which SLAM’s Lang Whitaker, who knows a thing or two about the Hawks, tackles the idea of Atlanta unloading Smith.

Rumor Mongering: Is This Really What We Want?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 15, 2009 under Rumors | 9 Comments to Read

Chris Broussard, ESPN:

Phoenix has also fielded calls from other teams that have inquired about [Shaquille] O’Neal, including the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers and New York Knicks. While getting talent in return is a priority, the Suns’ desire for financial relief is real, which means they will likely trade O’Neal and his $20 million contract this offseason.

…Dallas could send the Suns Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier, but the Suns have little interest in the Mavericks’ plodding center, especially since he has two years and more than $23 million left on his contract. [emphasis mine]

First things first: the reason why Dampier is a valuable trade chip is because that second year on his contract that Broussard cites is actually unguaranteed money.  Damp is very nearly a free agent, and that’s likely the only reason why he’d turn a head in the trade market.

But I wouldn’t read too much into the O’Neal rumors regardless.  Broussard makes it crystal clear that the Suns aren’t willing to send away Shaq for savings alone, as doing so would be Steve Kerr leveraging the franchise straight into the ground.  He broke up the core, brought on the departure of a beloved coach, and changed the style; getting rid of Shaq isn’t just admitting defeat, but admitting that no small move can make things right.  It’d send a bad message to Steve Nash, to Amare Stoudemire, and to the fanbase (including those ever valuable season ticket holders).

Damp and Jerry Stackhouse are the trade chips most often linked to O’Neal and his mammoth contract, and it’s unlikely that saving a few bucks will be enough to inspire Kerr to send his career into a tailspin.  Robert Sarver may pull a lot of puppet strings with dollar signs in his eyes, but I just don’t see this one happening in the name of a few million.  If the Mavs somehow included a signed-and-traded Bass, that’s a possibility.  If they include Josh Howard, that’s a possibility.  If they even included J.J. Barea, the Suns might pay attention for a few seconds.  But Dampier and Stackhouse alone?  I wouldn’t count on it.