Transactions: 11/20-12/20

Atlanta Hawks

12/3    Signed Damien Wilkins

Not much upside in this move but Wilkins is still quasi-useful as a bench player.  Wilkins can help the Hawks at the wing, particularly defensively.  The more surprising thing is that this Wilkins (son of former Knick Gerald Wilkins and nephew of Hawk Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins), is now almost 31 years old.  If that didn’t make you feel old, Gerald is already 47 and uncle Dominique is now 50.  Hopefully, Damien is careful because Gerald tore his Achilles at age-31 and Dominique at age-32.

Chicago Bulls

11/26    Signed John Lucas

Speaking of the sons of former NBA players, this Lucas finally has gotten another NBA shot after four years in the minors.  There won’t be many minutes for Lucas here as a third point guard behind Derrick Rose.

Golden State Warriors

12/9    Signed Acie Law and waived Jeff Adrien

Law returns to the only NBA team where he has ever played well (though it was in a five game cameo last year).  His limitations are quite clear but if he’s going to make an impact, it’ll be on an all-offense team like the Warriors.

Houston Rockets

12/15    In a three-team traded, Lakers traded Sasha Vujacic, a protected 2011 and a first-round to New Jersey for Joe Smith, two 2011 second-round picks, and the rights to Sergei Lishouk from Houston who traded a protected 2012 second-round pick to New Jersey for Terrence Williams

12/15    Traded Jermaine Taylor and cash to Sacramento for a protected second-round pick

The Rockets give up very little (the rights to Lishouk) for some potential in Williams.  Having watched Williams in New Jersey, I was not impressed with his overall package.  He is a very good athlete, who can rebound, defend, and pass but he can’t shoot and has very poor instincts on and off the court.   Still, the Rockets’ general idea, getting young players on the cheap and hoping that they develop, is sound, particularly since contention is at least a year away and Williams is not owed much salary going forward.

Los Angeles Lakers

12/15    In a three-team traded, Lakers traded Sasha Vujacic, a protected 2011 and a first-round to New Jersey for Joe Smith, two 2011 second-round picks, and the rights to Sergei Lishouk from Houston who traded a protected 2012 second-round pick to New Jersey for Terrence Williams

Even in the best of times, the Lakers have never been shy about trying to save some cash.  Here, dumping Vujacic’s contract ($5.5 million for this year) for Smith ($1.4 million for this year) represents over $5 million in savings when you factor in luxury tax (plus the costs of the 2011 pick).  As for actual talent exchanged, Smith has barely played in Jersey (and was bad when he did play).  On the bright side, Phil Jackson has a nice track record of getting some use out of these old vets (notable examples include old vets James Edwards, John Salley, and Robert Parish in Chicago and A.C. Green and Horace Grant in L.A.).

As for Vujacic, he will undoubtedly go down as one of the more annoying supporting players for dynastic teams.  Unlike past irritants like Danny Ainge or Bill Laimber, Vujacic wasn’t ever very good but was visible and scrappy on the court.  He had one of the great fluke shooting season in which he hit 44% from three (he has never come close to shooting so well again).  That shooting gave him value and earned him this current big contract.   Not a bad player but the cost savings is well worth the salary dump.

Miami Heat

11/23    Signed Erick Dampier and waived Jerry Stackhouse

There are many who have low opinions of Dampier and his career and consider him a disappointment.  Ultimately, he has always has been and still is  a competent big man.  He also still has some value in that role.  For the Heat, Dampier helps create a four-headed monster at center, starting with Zydrunas Ilgauskas (the shooter) and then going to Joel Anthony (shot blocker), Jamal Magloire (hacker), and Dampier.  What does Dampier give the the Heat that the other three do not?  Dampier is a nice mixture of defender, shot blocker, and big body.  While he’s not a huge upgrade, Dampier can definitely help against the Dwight Howard’s of the world in a way the other three centers cannot because Dampier is so much physically bigger/broader than the others.

Milwaukee Bucks

12/2    Signed Brian Skinner and waived Darrington Hobson

Just what the Bucks need…another guy who can defend but can’t score.  Skinner has always been an ideal defensive forward off the bench but you have to question his uses in Milwaukee and its 28th rated offense.  Skinner won’t play enough to matter but the roster spot might be better used in another way.  It is also worth noting that Skinner is creeping towards having a shot of catching Tony Massenburg and Chucky Brown for most teams played by a player for in the NBA.  Skinner is at seven separate franchises played for but this is his third tour of duty with the Bucks (and he also has played for the Clippers twice).  At only 34, Skinner might bounce around enough to knock that total up higher.  Massenburg, who was a very similar player, lasted until he was 37 and racked up a few more teams in those extra three years between 34 and 37.

New Jersey Nets

12/15    In a three-team traded, Lakers traded Sasha Vujacic, a protected 2011 and a first-round to New Jersey for Joe Smith, two 2011 second-round picks, and the rights to Sergei Lishouk from Houston who traded a protected 2012 second-round pick to New Jersey for Terrence Williams

For the Nets, this trade is about accruing assets (namely first-rounders) so that they can put together that uber-trade that everyone has been talking about where they get Carmelo Anthony and some other star-type player.  It remains to be seen if or when this will happen but giving up Williams for the chance to do so is a no-brainer.  As a side benefit, Vujacic will actually improve the two-guard situation in Jersey (which says more about the Nets’ two guards than it does about Vuajcic).

New Orleans Hornets

11/20    Traded Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic to Toronto for Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks, and David Andersen

For the Hornets, dumping Peja’s bad contract was worth losing a potentially good young player in Bayless.  Stojakovic was a disaster for the Hornets between injuries and decline in production and getting him off the books will save some cash.  Banks and Andersen aren’t worth much in return but Jack is a solid veteran and a good friend of Chris Paul’s to boot.  This trade is nothing to get excited about for Hornets fans but, at least, it might let them avoid a salary dump of one of their better players (David West).

Orlando Magic

12/18    Traded Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas

12/18    Traded Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, a 2011 first-round pick and cash to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Earl Clark

There is a lot of movement here in Orlando where the team pulled off one of those trades reminiscent of the deals that Mark Cuban used to make in early to mid-2000s.  You know the ones…tons of pretty big names are exchanges but, at the end of the day, the actual improvement is minimal at best.  Unlike the Cuban trades, which were done to take a shot at improvement, there is more of a stench of desperation here.  The Magic have had an awful few weeks and now there are rumblings that Dwight Howard might shimmy off in a few years if they don’t start winning.

Sure, Howard could opt out after next season but this has been a very good team.  Why totally re-make it two months into the season?  A radical makeover doesn’t make sense unless something is seriously wrong and/or there is a chance of significant chance to improve.  Orlando had been struggling a bit but, in this case, the Phoenix portion of the trade makes little sense.  Let’s look at the money obligations that were traded:

Player 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 Total
Richardson $14.4
Turkoglu $9.8 $10.6 $11.4 $12.2
Clark $1.8
Total $26 $10.6 $11.4 $12.2 $60.2
Player 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 Total
Carter $17.3
Gortat $6.3 $6.8 $7.3 $7.7
Pietrus $5.3 $5.3
Total $29 $12.1 $7.3 $7.7 $48.4

Swapping VC for Richardson is probably a wash in terms of talent (both players will be free agents at the end of the year).  Richardson is younger and has a little better numbers but remember he is playing on a running team while Carter is the second or third option on a plodding jump shooting offense.

Looking at the rest of the deal doesn’t make up for the, at best, slight differences between J-Rich and VC.  In the summer of 2009, the Magic specifically let Turkoglu go because they didn’t want to pay him big bucks when he was a free agent and this was at the height of his value.  Now Orlando must assume the worst of his contract and have let the useful Gortat go as well in the process.  Pietrus has been awful this year (he basically turned into a three-point gunner and has done nothing else) but he is young and his contract is reasonable, so they didn’t have to let him go either.  In the end, the Magic are probably flat in terms of talent at two guard after the deal, have assumed Turkoglu’s bad contract, lost an asset in Gortat, and owe about $12 million more in payroll in the process.  What’s the point?  Just to shake it up.  This seems way too haphazard a way to run a team that has been very successful.  Sure, dumping Carter or trading Gortat aren’t bad ideas in theory but the return makes little sense unless another trade is in the offing.

As for the Arenas-Lewis deal, this was just about swapping headaches and hoping that a change of scenery might help things.  Both players have two more years left on their contracts after his year at over $20 million per.  Lewis was a good soldier but his stats have declined to the point where he is below average.  Arenas has also declined significantly and has had to deal with knee injuries and that’s without worrying about his interesting methods of resolving disputes off the court.  You can’t kill the Magic for hoping Arenas might get some of his mojo back but don’t hold your breath.  Now the Magic are in flux.  The team could still make a nice playoff run but they seem less likely to do so now than they were at the beginning of the season. (Editor’s Note: The Washington Post has reported that Arenas has less guaranteed money due than Lewis by about $10 million, which would make the deal much better for Orlando).

Phoenix Suns

12/18    Traded Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Earl Clark to Orlando for Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, a 2011 first-round pick and cash

As noted, the Suns save a bunch of money getting rid of Turkoglu, who was overpaid, aging, duplicative of all their small forwards.  As a bonus, they get Gortat, a useful younger center in the process.  If Pietrus bounces back to form, the deal could turn out pretty well.  None of this will make the Suns contenders again but it’s a win trade for Phoenix.

Another interesting aspect of the trade is to see how flipping Richardson for Carter affects both players stats.  J-Rich is going to a team where he will be expected to play around a stationary post player while VC will be able to run with Steve Nash for the next few months.  This could narrow the perceived difference in value between them this year (J-Rich has a PER of 19.6 with Phoenix while VC is at 16.6)

Sacramento Kings

11/29    Waived Antoine Wright

12/16    Traded a protected second-round pick to Houston for Jermaine Taylor and cash

I guess a team as bad as the Kings doesn’t need a defensive specialist.  Wright was particularly weak offensively with the Kings (he made one shot in seven games in limited playing team).  Still, I think someone will give him a shot because of his hustle-play but clearly Wright has reached the nomadic phase of his career in earnest.

San Antonio Spurs

11/23    Waived Danny Green and signed Ime Udoka

Udoka’s decent seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08 seem like a long time ago now.  He’s already 33 and his shooting percentage has fallen to unacceptable levels.  He has gone from above average three-point shooter to poor shooter overall in that time.  He is now a deep bench player and seems unlikely to help the Spurs.

Toronto Raptors

11/20    Traded Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks, and David Andersen to New Orleans for Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic

For the Raptors, this is the type of trade they need to make.  Flipping dead weight (Banks and Andersen) and a solid veteran (Jack) for a young player with upside (Bayless) makes sense.  Whether Bayless blossoms into a great player is an open question but, at 22, and with solid enough stats the possibility is there.

Washington Wizards

11/22    Signed Alonzo Gee and waived Lester Hudson

12/18    Traded Gilbert Arenas to Orlando for Rashard Lewis

The Arenas re-signing, coming off of multiple knee injuries a few years ago,  was a predictably bad move.  Arenas was able to make it even worse by acting like a complete putz to boot.  So, the Wiz had to dump him posthaste.  There is no salary cap relief in this deal, since Lewis has a nearly identical contractual obligation (about $56 million over this season and the next two season going forward).  Lewis is a good soldier but his numbers have fallen off dramatically the past two years and it is fair to wonder if he can return to previous levels.  In addition, Lewis’ previous level didn’t quite merit the huge deal he got from the Magic to begin with.  Like the Magic, the Wiz hope their contractual deadweight somehow turns it around to have some value.

Lewis’ decline has been steady.  His two-point shooting, free throw attempts, rebounds, and assists have all gone pretty much straight down the last three or four years.  On the bright side, Lewis’ three-point shooting this season (35%) is uncharacteristically low (he hasn’t shot lower than 38% since 2002-03 and is a career 39% shooter).  At 31, there is a good enough chance that Lewis will return to his historical shooting averages.  This won’t make Lewis a great player but he’ll have some use and will make him better than the current small forward alternatives on this roster (Al Thornton and Josh Howard).  Just remember that getting an overpaid but decent Lewis would be quite a minor victory that could’ve been avoided if they hadn’t overpaid for Arenas in the first place.

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