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Posted on December 14, 2011 | 2 Comments
Wow, for those who felt the lack of any real NBA news over the last 5 and a half months, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few hardcore basketball junkies overdosed on what came out the last few days. Among the news are two rescinded trades of Chris Paul, New York adding the best center they’ve had since Patrick Ewing, several former All-Stars getting “amnestied”, possible tampering by the New Jersey Nets, Boston almost getting Davis West, and lots and lots of signings.
So where do we start?
The first Chris Paul deal to the Lakers appeared to be pretty much done until the rest of the league realized that the Lakers would, again, be foregoing the usual need to rebuild and simply using their stature to secure a replacement for franchise player Kobe Bryant. Since New Orleans is owned by the league, technically all the owners own the Hornets, so any trade or deal needs to be run by all of them, first. If this sounds like a recipe for disaster, you’re probably right.
And so after the first deal got nixed, the three teams (New Orleans, Lakers and Houston) got together and put together a different, rather similar, deal. And the NBA nixed that one, basically telling the Lakers that no matter what deal they put together, they aren’t getting Chris Paul.
As a fan of several teams that aren’t owned by Jerry Buss, I can’t say I’m too disappointed. The thought of watching the Lakers grab another top 10 talent, and one that would eventually replace Kobe, was not enticing at all.
So with the Lakers out of the picture, the Clippers started making their offers for Paul. This time, though, instead of the Hornets GM, Dell Demps, handling the negotiations, it was NBA brass, Stu Jackson and Joel Litvin, running things for the Hornets.
Yes, while he hasn’t been fired, for some reason the NBA has basically castrated Demps and taken any power away from him in favour of the guy who was mostly responsible for mismanaging the Vancouver Grizzlies so badly that he destroyed any chance for the team’s long term viability in the city. Hornet fans need to brace themselves. Seriously.
Still, from the sounds of it, it’s hard to be critical of their strategy. If they can get anything close to Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe, as well as the T-Wolves 2012 pick, for Paul, then they’ll have done very well. While, I wasn’t a big fan of HOW the NBA killed the Laker deals, I felt they were horrible deals for the Hornets. If you’re going to lose your franchise player, getting one low draft pick and no potential star is probably not the best deal. They need to take a page out of Utah and Denver’s book and get as many young assets and draft picks as they can. Trading your franchise player, while trying to stay competitive is a recipe for disaster. Well, mediocrity, but that’s the same thing in the NBA.
On the other hand, could New Orleans be expecting too much for Paul? Considering no other team can really come close to what the Clippers have already offered, you have to wonder if the NBA is simply trying to LOOK like they are trying to trade Paul. After the Laker’s debacle, Paul, his agent and the NBAPA made some noise about suing the league. And you also have to think that the Hornets franchise is worth A LOT more with a franchise player like Chris Paul than without him. Unless they get some amazing talent back (like what they’re asking for from the Clippers), it makes some financial sense to hold onto Paul for as long as they can.
That means, though, if I’m another team, I’d approach any negotiations with an air of suspicion.
And now it seems the Lakers, gluttons for punishment apparently, are now back in the hunt for Paul.
Although nothing has happened with Chris Paul, there were a whole slew of deals that happened in the league. In fact, all the free agent centers, who were probably the biggest free agent prizes, have now settled on homes for the new season.
The first domino was Tyson Chandler quickly signing with New York, after flirting with New Jersey, Houston and Golden State. An interesting and somewhat surprising turn of events considering that it pretty much takes them out of the free agent market next summer, when Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard were most likely going to become free agents.
From a basketball standpoint, this was probably the best move they could make. After being almost left out in the cold in the last free agent bonanza, coming home with probably their fourth choice, risking it all again probably wasn’t the best move. And the fact is, while Paul and Williams would certainly help the team, what the Knicks need most is defense, and that doesn’t start with the point guard position. It starts with the big men. With Amare, defense is an afterthought, so signing one of the best defensive centers in the league, to play alongside him, is a stroke of genius.
So does that mean the Knicks are finally going to be a true contender again?
Not so fast.
They had to amnesty Chauncey Billups in order to sign Chandler, and while his best days are definitely behind him, he’s still one of the better PGs in the league and his leadership and veteran savvy will be difficult to replace. The signing of a WAY over the hill Mike Bibby and the rumours of signing Baron Davis when he’s waived by the Cavs does very little to change things.
And an offense that runs through Carmelo Anthony, who’s never been known for his passing or his ability to make those around him better, is probably not going to be as potent as it was last season. But with better defense, maybe it won’t have to be.
After Chandler was signed by the Knicks, the next free agent center to get his big payday was DeAndre Jordan, who you need to look at as more of an investment, because his prior stats certainly aren’t going to sell you on the fact he might be worth the $10 million a year the Golden State Warriors offered him and the Clippers matched. For a guy whose stats were incredibly similar to Amir Johnson‘s, Clippers fans better hope that what we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
Just to emphasis the similarity of the seasons Jordan and Johnson had, let’s look at their stats:
Jordan is 23 and Amir is 24. Jordan is listed at 6’11 and Amir is listed at 6’9 (although is probably closer to 6’10). Jordan will be making $40 million over the next four years. Amir will be making $25 million over the next four years.
So where are all those people who complained that Amir was vastly overpaid?
One interesting thing about DeAndre Jordan is that he was actually a second round pick, proving that you can find talent anywhere (although it’s incredibly rare). Coincidentally, the next center to back up to the bank was another second round pick, Marc Gasol. While neither Memphis or the Clippers are known for their shrewd personnel decisions, both of them made the decision to allow their player to get an offer from another team, setting their market value, and then matched it. Maybe Memphis learned their lesson after they overpaid Rudy Gay the previous offseason, without him even testing the market.
Lastly, for all the talk that Denver simply didn’t respect him, money did the talking and he signed a 5 year, $67 million contract with the Nuggets. And while Denver obviously had to do something to stem the exodus of talent (mostly to China, strangely enough), I don’t know if a team that should be focusing on rebuilding should be spending that much on a 29 year old big man whose defense and rebounding have never been great (although they are decent), and who’s never averaged even 15 ppg during his career.
With all the money being thrown around at above average centers, do you think Jon Koncak is wishing he was born 20 years earlier?
AROUND THE HORN
So as I said, Chauncey Billups got waived by the Knicks, but ended up being claimed by the Clippers for only $2 million. Not a bad bargain and a great deal for the Clippers, who desperately need his leadership. Even if the Clippers don’t end up trading for Chris Paul, you have to think their PG situation is MUCH better than it was a couple of years ago when an out of shape and grossly overpaid Baron Davis was running the show.
In fact, with the signing of Caron Butler (who was overpaid, but we’re not talking Baron Davis money, so it’s all relative), gives the Clippers one of the best up and coming teams since the Oklahoma Thunder. The small forward position was their weakest position and, if healthy, Butler is exactly what they need.
And speaking of small forwards, I have to say I was greatly disappointed to see Shane Battier sign with Miami. It’s not that I didn’t want him to sign with a contender, it’s that I would have MUCH rather have seen him sign with the Spurs, a team he probably would have ended up starting for, and who would have gone together like Shawn Kemp and alimony cheques.
As for the Spurs, at one point it looked like Richard Jefferson was going to be a victim of the amnesty rule, but when both Butler and Battier signed elsewhere, it probably saved Jefferson from having to pack his bags. I don’t know if there’s another small forward on the market, now, that’s better than Jefferson.
I’m going to do another Offseason Report Card, this year, so that’ll be it for my commentary for now.
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