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.
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.
Jonathan Givony of Draft Express:
Another interesting tidbit of information coming out of the NBA Combine in Chicago revolves around the Dallas Mavericks and potential interest they may have in Arizona power forward Jordan Hill. The rumor mill indicates that Dallas is seriously considering making a move to acquire the ultra athletic junior, and views him as exactly the type of tough, active rebounder they are missing in their frontcourt rotation at the moment. Brandon Bass currently fills that role for them, but they may not be able to keep him and still maintain ample cap space for 2010…Hill’s measurements (6-9 ¼ without shoes, 7-1 ½ wingspan, 9-0 standing reach) in Chicago confirmed the notion many people had that he will have no problem seeing minutes at center in today’s NBA…One team that could reportedly help Dallas move up high enough to pick Hill is the Washington Wizards at #5, a team they already have a history with making draft-day deals…Dallas can offer either the non-guaranteed contract of Jerry Stackhouse to help the Wizards reduce payroll next year (while taking someone like Mike James or Etan Thomas off their hands) or they can help the Wizards by providing a veteran like Josh Howard or Jason Terry if it’s experience and scoring punch they are after. Either move would allow the Mavericks to stay flexible from a financial standpoint as they look towards the free agent class of 2010. They can also dangle their first round pick (#22).
From Dave D’Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger:
Agent Mark Bartelstein just made it unofficially official: The Nets are out of the running for his client, Luther Head.
And before you jump to conclusions, you should know this: It was only their inability to guarantee playing time that was the dealbreaker.
And no, they didn’t go cheap on you with a playoff berth at stake: “If we wanted to come, they were willing to pay,” Bartelstein believes.
But here’s your basic bottom line: “They have a three-guard rotation right now that they’re set with, and we want Luther to control his own destiny,” the agent said of his free-agent client, who was waived by Houston Saturday. “So it’s not going to be the Nets — it’s just not the right fit. It’s about minutes right now for him.”
Head will choose between Milwaukee, Miami, Dallas and San Antonio. But Charlotte is still in the picture.
If playing time is the deal-breaker, I’m not sure Dallas is an ideal locale for Head. He doesn’t have the skills to be a real back-up point, and Jason Terry has already cemented himself as the first shooting guard off the bench. Now, if the Mavs have something different altogether in mind — say, if they think Head is a better option at the starting 2 than Antoine Wright — it could work. But it would definitely require that type of creativity, in my eyes.
From Marc Stein:
[Drew] Gooden was formally waived by the Kings shortly after 11 p.m. ET on Sunday night. He had to be released by 11:59 p.m. to be playoff-eligible for his next employer. Gooden was due $7.1 million in the final season of his contract.
San Antonio and Dallas are among the teams that will be chasing Gooden hardest this week, sources said, with the Cleveland Cavaliers expected to land the other prominent veteran who reached a buyout agreement Sunday night: Oklahoma City’s Joe Smith.
Tell me this a week ago, and I might be interested. Drew Gooden is a decent scorer (notably not a back-to-the-basket scorer; Gooden’s game is almost exclusively face-up) who can play spot minutes at center, but any interest I would have had in Gooden has been curtailed by James Singleton’s ridiculous play of late. I’ll side with Brandon Bass and Singleton, two quality players who already know the system and don’t quite share Gooden’s poor defensive reputation.
Then again, might feigning interest in Gooden be worth it just to prevent San Antonio from getting more frontcourt depth?
The trade deadline is over — aren’t these things supposed to stop? Apparently not, because now we’re looking ahead to this summer and beyond. From John Hollinger:
Even then they aren’t assured of being under the tax, especially since teams with cap space know money is tight in Milwaukee, and thus will come after their restricted free agents hard. That’s why trading [Richard] Jefferson seemed so palatable for the Bucks; from here on out it’s going to be much harder to put together deals that get them under the tax without great pain. One possibility to file away in your back pocket: They could trade Jefferson to Dallas for Jerry Stackhouse (only partially guaranteed at $2 million), Antoine Wright and Jose Juan Barea; replacing the latter two players with Matt Carroll would also work.
The small forward/shooting guard distinction is dubious at best, so the fact that Josh Howard and Richard Jefferson are natural small forwards probably doesn’t make that much of a difference. He’s 28 and has plenty of money coming his way, but he might actually be a good prototype for what the Mavs want from their starting shooting guard: a solid wing defender, a good finisher, a decent jumpshooter, and aside from ripping the city of Milwaukee (who hasn’t?), a guy who quietly goes about his business and goes to work. The fact that he’s played (and thrived) with Kidd in the past is the cherry on top.
Of course, whether or not you’re interested in Jefferson likely has to do with how you diagnose the Mavs. If you think the biggest hole on the roster is shooting guard, logic would put you in favor of Richardson, who can either fill that role himself or slide Josh Howard into that position. If you think the biggets hole is at center, this trade probably doesn’t do anything for you. It’s tough to gauge exactly what Stack’s value this summer will be as of this point, but I’m putting it out there: I wouldn’t mind having Richard Jefferson on the roster one bit.
About half an hour until the deadline, and not much out of Mavs-land. Considering the Mavs most expendable trade asset (Jerry Stackhouse’s contract) can actually be used over the summer (the Mavs have until August to turn down the non-guaranteed portion of his deal), I don’t think they’ll be panicking. Hell, the Blazers aren’t panicking, and that’s with Raef Lafrentz’s mammoth expiring contract. Here’s the latest chatter from around the interwebs:
- Mark Cuban, via Eddie Sefko’s piece this morning: “‘I don’t know that there’s a whole lot more that’s going to be done,’ owner Mark Cuban said. ‘Everybody’s looking to do the same thing, save money and to save cap room [for the future]. It’s hard to do both.’”
- Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports: “‘It feels like Dallas has 100 different scenarios juggling in the air,’ one Western Conference executive said Thursday.”
- Eddie Sefko, DMN Mavs Blog: “You never know when a rebound will fall in your lap. And the Mavericks are still working the trade grapevine to see if anything crazy happens in the last hour. Doesn’t seem likely, but you never know with this bunch.”
- Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: “‘How many trade offers have you had?’ Donnie [Nelson] was asked on Wednesday night. ‘Today? Seventy-five. Maybe 100. A lot,’ he responded. ‘I just got five in the 45 minutes I’ve been talking to you guys.’”
Here are the completed trades of the day:
- The Kings trade Bobby Brown and Shelden Williams to the Timberwolves for Rashad McCants and Calvin Booth. The motivations for this deal are largely financial, although Bobby Brown showed potential in the summer league and I’m confident Rashad McCants can be a solid rotation player. Shelden Williams may still have a few tricks up his sleeve, but Calvin Booth’s deal expires this summer.
- The Knicks trade Malik Rose and cash to the Thunder for Chris Wilcox. I don’t get this one at all. It’s a no-brainer from the Knicks perspective; both players have expiring deals, and their production levels aren’t even comparable. I doubt Wilcox will re-sign with NY, but they’ll get a free look at a much better player. If you can figure out what’s in it for OKC, please, by all means.
- The Bulls trade Larry Hughes to the Knicks for Tim Thomas, Anthony Roberson, and Jerome James. Jerome James is likely to retire after this season, meaning most if not all of his 2009-2010 salary will be covered by insurance. This could be the Knicks trying to consolidate their deals into one neat little package, or maybe D’Antoni seems some real value in Hughes. Either way, if for whatever reason the Knicks do decide to play the trade market next year, Hughes’ expiring deal will be worth more to teams than Thomas’. The Bulls can plug Thomas into Nocioni’s role, and on top of that they should save some coin if Jerome James retires as planned. Anthony Roberson’s a freebie.
- The Bulls trade Thabo Sefolosha to the Thunder for a nondescript future first rounder. More on this as it’s confirmed; I haven’t seen a release yet.
- The Kings waive Mikki Moore. The Cavs and the Celtics are the early favorites to bid for his services (each has at least part of their midlevel exception remaining).
- Three-team deal: the Magic acquire Rafer Alston, the Rockets acquire Kyle Lowry and Brian Cook, and the Grizzlies acquire Orlando’s first round pick. Rafer’s got the experience and did a surprisingly good job during that 22-game win streak last season, so why risk changing point guards with T-Mac already on the shelf? Even if Lowry is younger and a marginal upgrade, aren’t the Rockets hinging an awful lot on the shoulders of a young point guard that has shown little to no improvement in his first NBA seasons and has looked shaky as a starter. Magic fans are in for quite the headache, and the Grizz are saving up their lunch money.
- Another three-teamer: the Raptors get Patrick O’Bryant, the Kings get Will Solomon, and the Celtics get a virtually nonexistent second round pick that’s as conditional as fine print. No comment.
Fin. Done. It’s over. These are the Mavs you’ll see for the rest of the season, folks — for better or worse.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
The Mavericks have been offering Jerry Stackhouse’s virtual expiring contract ($7 million this season, only $2 million guaranteed next season) and Brandon Bass ($826,000) to the Kings since this past summer, when Sacramento was shopping Ron Artest. The biggest obstacle for Dallas on a Salmons deal has been the Kings’ insistence that the Mavericks — lacking draft picks to sweeten the deal — also take back guard Beno Udrih, who has four years and nearly $27 million remaining on his contract after this season.
There is another complication for interested parties: Sources revealed Tuesday that Salmons has a 15 percent trade kicker in his contract that would require the team that acquires him to pay him a bonus of nearly $2 million and add that figure to its payroll. Salmons otherwise would rank as one of the league’s better bargains, earning just $5.1 million this season while averaging 18.3 points and shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 41.8 percent on 3-pointers.
Beno Udrih sucks. Been there, talked about that. But would this $2 million trade kicker influence a potential trade with the Mavs? I’d doubt it. Cuban has said he’s willing to spend to make things happen, and though the luxury tax implications make things a bit painful with the kicker (it’s effectively doubled, with $2 million going to Salmons and $2 million going to the league to be dispersed among the teams under the tax), I doubt it would deter Cuban from making an impact deal.
Bad movie. Better trade rumor. From Eddie Sefko on the DMN Mavs Blog:
The Mavericks, by the way, still are working the phone lines with nothing concrete yet. This thing looks like it will go right down to the final hours. They still are chasing Sacramento’s John Salmons, but don’t be surprised if a name like Marquis Daniels or some other swingman (or a center) pops up.
Emphasis mine. Could it really be true? Is there any truth to the idea that ‘Quis could be coming home? And more importantly, could it be possible for me to wear my Marquis Daniels jersey in public without looking dated or making some kind of semi-ironic statement?
Or at least you’d think so. Stein tackled a few of the more popular Mavs rumors out there, hopefully stopping any momentum on some of the more underwhelming offers floating around the mainstream media:
There are a couple GMs out there who believe that the Trail Blazers will enter (or have entered) the Vince bidding. Dallas, by contrast, continues to say that it won’t.
The Nets would want Josh Howard in such a deal and the Mavs, according to club sources, have no intention of making Howard available for a Carter swap.
Dallas insists that it’s interested in Carter only if the most valuable trade chip it surrenders is Jerry Stackhouse’s virtual expiring contract (which has only $2 million guaranteed in 2009-10). As covered in Thursday night’s Daily Dime, one Mavs source went so far as to claim that the Nets would have to include rookie center Brook Lopez to change that stance, which obviously isn’t happening.
The Mavs believe that the recent arrival of Darrell Armstrong as an assistant coach — after Armstrong’s influence was badly missed in the locker room in the final, fateful days of Avery Johnson’s run as Mavs coach — gives Howard a confidante on the staff who can help keep him engaged after a rough year-plus for the former All-Star.
The swingman Dallas has actually been chasing, sources say, is Sacramento’s Salmons, but the Kings want the Mavs to take back Beno Udrih as well since they don’t have a first-round pick to sweeten the deal. But Udrih won’t be Dallas-bound with three years and nearly $20 million left on his contract after this season.
I like the Mavs’ hard stance on Vince Carter. Howard would seem a steep price to nab a scorer poised to decline in production and increase in salary. But you already knew that.
I’m also pretty excited that the team isn’t high on Beno Udrih. I’m not sure how anybody could be at this point. I wouldn’t mind adding Salmons to the squad — his slightly above average production warrants his midlevel contract. Udrih is definitely a deal-breaker for me, though.
Stein’s trade frenzy also brings up a point that hasn’t been discussed here in any length, and that’s the impact of trades on the rest of the West. Terry Porter’s firing in Phoenix would definitely seem to help the Mavs (and the rest of the West hoping to stay in the hunt for the playoffs or homecourt advantage), and a major trade for Phoenix, New Orleans, San Antonio, or Portland could significantly alter the playoff picture. There’s no point in digging through the rumors for all of those teams, but we’ll talk if anything seems imminent.