Transactions 3/6-3/16

Chicago Bulls

3/14    Signed Mike James to a 10-day contract

With Derrick Rose’s injury issues, Mike James has gotten another look in the NBA, long after his career seemed over.  The Bulls signed him and cut him early in the year but he was surprisingly effective, primarily because he has hit 57% of his threes (he was less impressive 12-31 inside the line).  One would think there are better alternatives than a 36-yeard old fringe player, who hasn’t been really been in the NBA since 2008-09, though he was good in the cameo earlier in the year.

Cleveland Cavaliers

3/14    Traded Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga to L.A. Lakers for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, and a protected first-round pick and other considerations

3/15    Signed Donald Sloan to a 10-day contract

It is pretty clear that the Cavs lost the talent portion of this trade, as Sessions is a bona fide NBA starter, while Walton looks done and Kapono hasn’t hit the three, which is the only reason he is in the NBA.  The salary exchange is fairly neutral too.  So why give up the talent?  The Cavs didn’t need Sessions with Kyrie Irving playing so well but the haul here is only a first-rounder (reported to be the Lakers’ own pick in 2012) and “other considerations”, which I assume means some cash.  A first-rounder isn’t a bad haul for Sessions but you have to wonder what else might’ve been available considering how many teams could use a solid point right now.

Denver Nuggets

3/15    In a three-team traded, Washington traded Ronny Turiaf and JaVale McGee to Denver and Nick Young to L.A. Clippers for Nene from Denver and Brian Cook and a 2015 second-round pick from the L.A. Clippers

Talk about a fascinating out of the blue move.  Only a few months ago, Nene was the centerpiece of the post-Carmelo Nuggets and now he’s gone for McGee.  How did this happen?  Hard to say exactly.  Nene’s flaws are clear: he doesn’t rebound and shot block well for a big and he has not shot as well as usual around the rim (.509% from the field versus .560% for his career).  At 29, Nene would be good the next few years but probably not as good as in his 20s.  McGee, on the other hand, offers youth, shot blocking, and incredible hops, but with tons of mental mistakes thrown in the max.  Also, McGee is a potential free agent.  Despite all this, McGee’s advanced stats are really impressive (19.7 PER, 3.2 blocks per 36 minutes, and 11.6 rebs per 36 minutes).

It seems that the Nuggets have decided that the effective team from last year was not a true title contender and they would rather re-boot with McGee than have Nene be the cornerstone of the team for the next five years.  If McGee plays great over the rest of the season, they have a free agent that they will have to pay.  If McGee does stupid things, Denver can walk away and try to find another big.  It isn’t a foolproof plan, as a Nene-led team could certainly get to the second-round of the playoffs but I like that Denver is shooting for higher upside, even if there is some risk involved.

Golden State Warriors

3/8    Traded Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown to Milwaukee for Stephen Jackson and Andrew Bogut

3/14  Traded Stephen Jackson to San Antonio for T.J. Ford, Richard Jefferson and a conditional first-round pick

The Monta Ellis trade makes sense for the Warriors.  Ellis duplicated Steph Curry’s strengths and was not particularly efficient and Bogut offers much needed defense.  The two things to be concerned about are: (1) Bogut’s injury history and (2) whether this was the best deal GS could have swung for Ellis.  Bogut missed 78 games the three season before this one, and has missed most of this year too.  If healthy, Bogut will bolster a weak defensive team.  If not, Ellis is gone for little.  The rumors coming out of Golden State indicated that the Warriors believed Ellis has star-level value.  Given the return for Ellis, though, management obviously did not believe what it was leaking.

Part two of the Warriors trade denied us of really contemplating the fun scenario of watching Jackson come back to Oakland, the team that he somehow demanded and got an extension from when his deal was far form over and then a demanding a trade (also successfully).  Instead, Jackson was flipped for Ford’s retired contract and Jefferson.  RJ is younger than Jackson and has been better this year but both have been below average and Jefferson’s PER has steadily declined for years now.  Thrown in the fact that Jefferson has an extra year on his contract and the Warriors have assumed more than $11 million more in salary over Jackson (who is only signed for one more year, while RJ has two years left on his deal).  The Warriors get a a first-rounder for this privilege.  In all, I don’t see the benefit to this deal.  Better to rot with Jackson, even if he left town on terrible terms the first time.

Houston Rockets

3/14    Traded Jordan Hill to L.A. Lakers for Derek Fisher and a conditional first-round pick

3/15    Traded Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second-round pick to Portland for Marcus Camby

3/16    Waived Terrence Williams

Presumably, Fisher will be bought out.  The Rockets will hope clearing future salary and getting a pick beats a decent backup forward in Hill.  As for Fish, his career maybe over at this point, though his numbers aren’t really any worse than the last two years.  I guess some title team might grab him as a veteran leader type.  He could certainly have more value in Chicago than Mike James.

Camby, however, is a pure veteran stretch run acquisition.  The Rockets have been slightly below average defensively and in shot blocking.  Camby can’t score at all anymore but he has boarded as well as ever this year (he even has a career high in rebounds per minute this season) and can still swat shots.  A nice pick up and obtained for dead weight.

Indiana Pacers

3/14    Traded a second-round pick to Toronto for Leandrinho Barbosa

Barbosa is still instant offense off of the bench and provides a nice addition for the Pacers.  Indiana is deep enough that it isn’t clear where Barbosa’s minutes will come from.  Both Darren Collison and George Hill have shot well and are better passers but this is a free talent grab and Frank Vogel will have to figure out how to make the pieces fit.  In any case, this is pretty much a riskless trade with a chance of really helping the team if Barbosa gets hot.

Los Angeles Clippers

3/9    Signed Bobby Simmons to a second 10-day contract

3/15    In a three-team traded, Washington traded Ronny Turiaf and JaVale McGee to Denver and Nick Young to L.A. Clippers for Nene from Denver and Brian Cook and a 2015 second-round pick from the L.A. Clippers

Nick Young is a one-dimensional scorer but he’s pretty good at that one dimension (19.8 points per 36 minutes).  With no good shooting backups at guard (Randy Foye and Eric Bledsoe are both shooting below 39% from the field), Young will get playing time as instant offense off the bunch.  A very nice haul for a second-rounder and Brian Cook’s remains.

Los Angeles Lakers

3/14    Traded Derek Fisher and a conditional first-round pick to Houston for Jordan Hill

3/14    Traded Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and a protected first-round pick and other considerations to Cleveland for Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga

On the Lakers, conventional point guards don’t thrive with Kobe but Fisher’s lack of athleticism and Steve Blake’s inability to score were both so stark that a warm body like Sessions was needed to offer a little bit of what neither incumbent has.   The Lakers may actually be better served to keep Sessions on the bench to be a scorer for the second unit and just so it can have some scoring threats.  As for Fisher, he’s had some great Laker moments but sentiment only brings you so far.  Los Angeles has a pretty good team and a chance to make some impact in the playoffs.  Swapping out Fisher to make sure a better player like Sessions gets time and also nabbing a live body like Hill is a good move.  Don’t worry, Fisher might not get his number retired later but he will be an executive of coach in L.A. at some point in the future.

Memphis Grizzlies

3/14    Traded Sam Young to Philadelphia for draft rights to Ricky Sanchez

When you are traded for the draft rights to someone who will likely never play in the NBA, you have to kind of figure the Grizz don’t want you around.  Just in case you are really wondering, though, Sanchez is a big man out of Puerto Rico who played for Idaho of the NBDL in 2006-07 and 2007-08.  He was a poor rebounder for his size but could actually shoot the three.  His career D-League stats:  10.1 ppg, .414 FG%, .386 3-FG%, 3.6 RPG in 25.1 MPG, 11.8 PER.  He is currently playing in Argentina.

Milwaukee Bucks

3/13    Traded Stephen Jackson and Andrew Bogut to Golden State for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown

The Bucks very much want to sneak past the Knicks and get into the playoffs and Bogut’s health is shaky.  So, flipping Bogut for a talent infusion short term makes some sense.  But what does Ellis do for the Bucks?  The logic from the Bucks’ side is that Ellis will be better than Shaun Livingston and Udoh and Brown will provide some defense to.  I don’t see it.  Milwaukee is 11th in the NBA in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defensive efficiency.  The Bucks also already have a high-volume, low-efficiency guard in Brandon Jennings.  Jennings has taken 20% of the Bucks’ shots this year and Ellis took 21% of the Warriors shots so far.  Something has to give.  Whether Jennings or Ellis gets the extra shots will likely not improve either player’s middling efficiency either as they are both gunners.  We can’t know what the options were if the Bucks were hell bent in trading Bogut right now but getting Ellis doesn’t seem to fit a team need and probably won’t be enough to get them in the playoffs this season unless New York or Boston implodes.

New Jersey Nets

3/8    Signed Gerald Green to a second 10-day contract

3/14  Traded Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur, and a conditional first-round pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace

3/15  Signed Jerry Smith to a 10-day contract

First let’s talk about Dwight Howard.  His dance with the Magic the last few weeks has been a bit bizarre, almost like watching a failing marriage.  Dysfunction is all around.  Orlando begs for one more chance and Howard, who has likely resolved to bolt town, has agreed to give the Magic one more chance, if only to assuage his conscience.  But Orlando still isn’t a title contender and they probably can’t improve because they are locked into the salaries of Glen Davis, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu.  Howard still refuses to sign an extension and has really only reset the speculation deadline another year.  Does he think Magic fans will suddenly love him for delaying the decision to bolt until 2013?  They will still boo him when he comes back in another uniform.

Howard for, his part,  previously seemed to be angling to avoid a trade by telling reporters he shouldn’t be traded because he might think about returning, in what looked like a blatant attempt to let the Nets keep their assets and then sign him after the season.  Howard should’ve just kept quiet on everything, refused to sign the waiver of his free agency option and see if Orlando had the cojones to keep him for a potential playoff run this season.  It must also be noted that Howard doesn’t owe the Magic any loyalty.  They may have drafted him but it was with the first friggin pick!  It’s not like they took a shot on some undrafted free agent.  If Howard had sucked, he would not have been given a max contract and he would not be in Orlando.  In short, this entire episode is very silly.  There are no good guys or bad guys here.  The NBA is a business and the chips will ultimately fall where they will but getting there has given us a soap opera.

As for the Nets’ angle, it’s not clear what Wallace does for them.  He obviously improves the team from “bad” to “better but still bad.”  The mission now may be to try to make a playoff run to keep Deron Williams happy until Dwight Howard might be available next year.  If not, Wallace’s presence on the team makes little sense, since the Nets are better off just tanking the season and hoping to win the lottery instead of seeking the opportunity of being a speed bump for Chicago or Miami in the playoffs.  The word may be that Williams specifically requested that the Nets bring in Wallace but the impact will be limited for now.

New Orleans Hornets

3/9    Signed Jeff Foote to a 10-day contract

With all the talk of Jeremy Lin, Foote is another ivy leaguer in the NBA (Cornell).  Foote is a seven-footer and will fill space.  Incidentally, he is the first Cornell NBAers since Ed Peterson in 1951.  Just in case you are curious, here is the last NBAer from each of the Ivies:

Brown: Mo Mahoney, 1953-54

-Columbia:  Jim McMillian, 1971-79

-Cornell:  Jeff Foote, 2011-present

-Dartmouth:  James Blackwell, 1994-95

-Harvard: Jeremy Lin, 2010-present

-Penn:  Matt Maloney, 1997-2003

-Princeton:  Steve Goodrich, 2001-02

-Yale: Chris Dudley, 1988-2003

New York Knicks

3/13    Announced resignation of coach Mike D’Antoni and named Mike Woodson interim coach

D’Antoni’s “resignation” was inevitable before Jeremy Lin came to town.  Linsanity seemed to have saved D’Antoni but a quick losing streak plus an unhappy Carmelo Anthony ended those good feelings rather quickly.  D’Antoni has been a decent coach in New York and the firing was probably unfair, as the losing streak came on a tough road trip (plus one home game against Philly) where the best realistic outcome would’ve been 2-5 or 3-4.  Nor was it the offense’s fault that Melo and Amare Stoudemire have been bad this year.  Both players look diminished this season, having nothing to do with the point guard play.  Most troubling was the large volume of anonymous complaints that were obviously planted by upper management (who have wanted to dump D’Antoni since his hirer Donnie Walsh bolted town) and Melo’s people (who seem to blame D’Antoni for Melo’s inability to shoot well).  D’Antoni is probably glad to get his cash and leave town.

As for Woodson, he’s had three impressive wins so far.  The New York tabloids were screaming that Woodson wants to pull back Lin and play Baron Davis (who has been horrible this season so far).  Woodson was a solid, if unimaginative coach, in Atlanta and Davis might fit his profile.  Even so, management sees Lin’s value to fans and there is no way they will tolerate benching him for Baron (nor should they based upon Lin’s play so far).  Woodson also has a pretty good shot of coming back next year if the team makes the playoffs, as ownership has stuck with coaches until things got really ugly.

Philadelphia 76ers

3/14    Traded draft rights to Ricky Sanchez to Memphis for Sam Young

Young is a decent scorer but a terrible passer for a guard.  Philly has too many guards already and Louis Williams is the designated scorer off the bench already.  Young is merely free talent in case someone gets hurt.

Portland Trailblazers

3/14    Fired coach Nate McMillan and named Kaleb Canales interim coach

3/14    Waived Greg Oden and Chris Johnson

3/14    Traded Gerald Wallace to New Jersey for Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur, and a conditional first-round pick

3/15    Traded Marcus Camby to Houston for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second-round pick

It’s over.  Looking back, Portland looked like the most promising team in the West four years ago but injuries have totally killed that.  McMillan is a solid coach but the players have totally stopped responding to him and it is time to retool.  The Blazers are not going to bottom out too terribly since LaMarcus Aldridge will keep the team respectable but they will be in the lottery this year.  Kudos for also nabbing a potential lottery pick from the Nets for Wallace (the Nets only keep it the pick is in the top 3).  They will have to get some talent back from two mid-lottery picks to start the rebuild.

The other story is that Oden’s also gone.  It is not clear if he will ever play again but cutting ties may be the healthiest thing for all sides.  Oden has not played an NBA game since December 2009 and no one knows when he’ll play again.  If it makes him feel better, Oden can look at Sam Bowie, who was also injured in his second season  (1985-86) and was not able to return to the NBA full-time until 1989-90 but had a relatively healthy six-year run thereafter.

San Antonio Spurs

3/14    Traded T.J. Ford, Richard Jefferson and a conditional first-round pick to Golden State for Stephen Jackson

3/16    Signed Eric Dawson to a second 10-day contract

As mentioned above, the Spurs saved $11 million in flipping RJ for Jackson.  Jackson maybe a little “off” but he is about as good as Jefferson and the $11 million savings easily offsets Jax’s erratic nature.

Toronto Raptors

3/14    Waived Anthony Carter

3/14    Traded Leandrinho Barbosa to Indiana for a second-round pick

Toronto is in full punt mode and was happy to send away Barbosa to save a bit of payroll.  Not the most exciting thing for fans but the accountants are thrilled.

Washington Wizards

3/15    In a three-team traded, Washington traded Ronny Turiaf and JaVale McGee to Denver and Nick Young to L.A. Clippers for Nene from Denver and Brian Cook and a 2015 second-round pick from the L.A. Clippers

The Wiz got a nice close up look at McGee for a few years and they seem convinced that it wasn’t going to work.  Nene is not a bad return for him too.  The question about Nene though is whether a 29-year old forward makes sense on a team that is in the early stages of rebuilding.  Will Nene still be above-average when/if the Wiz put it together in a year or two?  It is possible because John Wall is a pretty nice starting point for any rebuild.  Still, Nene is entering his 30s and if Wall is injured or the Wiz don’t find a little more talent (the roster is pretty bereft besides Wall and Nene right now), Nene might not be tradable in a few years.  The counterargument is that Nene brings effort every night and his presence should be enough to make the team more respectable and now the Wiz must develop Jan Vesely and get another good player in the draft.  Not a terrible plan but I am a bit cynical given the Wiz’s failure to make the right decisions in the past.

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