Transactions 9/11-11/12

Boston Celtics 

9/29    Re-sign Sam Cassell 

It’s pretty amazing how quickly a player can lose it.  Cassell was perfectly useful for the Clippers last year (12.8 ppg, .455 FG%, 4.7 apg in 25.7 mpg), only to offer pretty much zero for the Celts (7.6 ppg, .385 FG%, 2.1 apg in 17.6 mpg) and was even worse in the playoffs (4.5 ppg, .333 FG%, 1.2 apg, in 12.6 apg).  Now, the limited role on Boston obviously had a lot to do with Cassell’s precipitous drop but at some point when you fall so hard, you have to think the career is over.  Even so, Boston was willing to give him one more contract just to ride out the good feelings from last year’s playoff run.

Cleveland Cavaliers

9/12    Re-sign Delonte West 

West flirted with Europe and other teams but the Cavs needed another point guard and he was perfectly competent last year.  West has shown he won’t be a star but a two-year deal for $8 million is a perfect price for such a player.  West is not really a star or even a bona fide starter but he is an asset off the bench even if his copious neck tattoos are distracting (even by NBA standards). 

Denver Nuggets

11/4    Acquire Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb from Detroit for Allen Iverson

11/10  Waive Antonio McDyess 

A very nice pick up for Denver.  They pick up the best player in the deal, the player that best fits their system best, and the youngest player as well.   We are, of course, referring to Billups.  From Denver’s perspective, they now have a formidable point guard, who uses much fewer shots than Iverson (about four fewer shots per 36 minutes than Billups) and will rack up more assists.  Throw in the fact that AI’s major asset, the ability to create a ridiculously high volume of shots at a surprising degree of efficiency, isn’t quite as helpful with so many other scorers in Denver (Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith) that a point who can defend bigger guards will be quite helpful.   The Nuggets save a bunch of cash short term too because of salary discrepancies (AI makes about $21 million, while Billups makes $11 million and McDyess was bought out for $6 million and Samb is only at $800,000).  In terms of obligations, the Nuggets do have to pay Billups $23 million the coming two years but that isn’t a terrible obligation for a big guard in his early to mid-30s. 

So, the move is pretty much a no-brainer for the Nuggets.  The only questions here are two-fold: (1) how much better does Billups make the Nuggets? and (2) how much better would the Nuggets have been if they had acquired Billups and kept Marcus Camby?  With respect to the first question, Denver is definitely better but is still not a title contender.  Before this trade, the Nuggets were a contender for one of the lower playoff seeds and now they’ve made their playoff status a little bit more stable.  The team is still not great at rebounding or have much presence up front.  Nene has played  very well so far (but I don’t think he’ll continue to shoot 67% the rest of the year).  Still, it would’ve been nice to see the Nuggets have taken a shot with Camby, who was a monster on the boards and in blocking shots last year.  Again, Billups and Camby (assuming he stays healthy) would still might not make Denver a title contender but certainly they would have an outside shot of making a title run.  As it stands now, the Nuggets should be an interesting team and one of several such teams hoping to nab a good player for nothing (see Gasol, Pau). 

Detroit Pistons 

11/4    Acquire Allen Iverson from Denver for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb 

From the Pistons’ perspective isn’t a surrender but it certainly is a retreat.  Joe Dumars wanted to shift the team’s make up around but I never thought that Billups would be the target of that effort.  Billups has been the team’s best offensive player every single season he’s been in Detroit (he has led the team in PER each year since 2002-03).  I understand the trade from Detroit’s perspective.  They lose Billups’ long term contract obligation and while not dropping off too much in the short term because Iverson is a really good player too.  But the difference between the two players, for 2007-08, probably means the difference between a title contender and a merely good team.  AI’s style does not fit well with Detroit’s egalitarian slow-paced offense, while Billups thrived in that environment and was a better defender.  

In Detroit’s defense, they are looking to shed Billups so that they can have the shot at acquiring a good young free agent in the next year or two.  I understand the logic but it presupposes that Detroit couldn’t have traded Billups for cap relief later on.  Given how good Billups has been, I see no evidence that if the team was convinced that it had to make this type of trade that it couldn’t have been executed closer to the trading deadline (or in the off-season if the Pistons’ goal is to have salary cap room in the summer of 2010).  At the very least, I would’ve waited to see how the East shook out.  Boston is good but even older than Detroit at keyp positions and no one else was clearly better than the Pistons.  Why not wait until Feburary?  Detroit jumped the gun in this case.  

Golden State Warriors 

11/2    Sign Rob Kurz 

This rookie out of Notre Dame impressed Don Nelson enough to get a regular season contract.  He was a versatile college player who did a little bit of everything, similar to old Nellie favorite Tom Tolbert.  Kurz is obviously not a star but could use his time in Golden State to be a fringe NBAer. 

Miami Heat 

9/11    Re-sign Chris Quinn

10/1    Sign Shaun Livingston 

It wasn’t clear how good Livingston was going to be before his horrific leg injury in 2006-07, so he’s a real question mark now.  For the Heat, it’s a no-lose proposition.  Pre-traumatic injury, Livingston was also injury prone and hadn’t developed a long range jumper.  Still, he was fast and had a unique style of play that made him intriguing, irrespective of statistical indicators.  Let’s hope he regains that form because he certainly did not deserve the frustration of the last two years. 

Oklahoma City Thunder 

9/11    Re-sign Robert Swift

11/3    Waive John Lucas III

11/4    Sign Steven Hill 

Speaking of injury-prone teenagers from the 2004-05 draft, we have the previously forgotten Swift.  Swift has also been beset by injuries and has only played 71 games in the past four years (though he didn’t play much as a rookie more because he was so young).  In Swift’s only bout with regular playing time in 2005-06, he looked pretty competent (6.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg in 21 mpg).  With two major knee injuries before he age-23, however, there is some skepticism that he’ll develop into the solid center he could become.   The Thunder are not very good and have very little money committed so it’s worth the risk, even if the health indicators aren’t great. 

Washington Wizards 

9/23    Sign Juan Dixon 

Dixon exists to shoot.  He hasn’t always shot well, but is coming off of a nice year in limited minutes (.417% from three).  The Wiz are taking a chance with the old local hero because the team sans Gilbert Arenas doesn’t have too many shooters.  Antonio Daniels three point shooting is very weak (.230% last year).  The move also further buries Dee Brown, who hoped to get meaningful minutes at the backup point.  Expect Dixon to take that job for the time being.

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