NBA Trade Deadline: Winners and Losers

At 3:00 PM eastern time on February 21, the trade deadline for the 2012-13 NBA season halted all transactions between teams until the summer. Basketball fans were on the edge of their seats all day, just waiting for a “Woj Bomb” (a tweet by Yahoo basketball reporter Adrian Wojnarowski) that rocks the basketball world. Let’s dive into what the biggest winners and losers of the trade deadline were.

Winners: 

Houston Rockets: General manager Daryl Morey is at it again. One of the earliest trades of the deadline sent Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich, and Toney Douglas to the Sacramento Kings and sent young forward Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns. The good news? They were able to bring in Thomas Robinson, the strong and athletic rookie from Kansas University who was drafted fifth overall in the draft last summer. Robinson hasn’t earned the opportunity he deserves in Sacramento, and with Patterson and Morris moving out, he’ll have a great chance to shine in Houston. As a Kansas Jayhawk, Thomas Robinson averaged 18-12 on 51% shooting. Although he doesn’t have elite length, he’s able to succeed under the basket as an excellent rebounder due to his strength and fundamentally-correct rebounding techniques. In this trade, the Rockets also brought in Francisco Garcia, yet another player that specializes in three-pointers and defense that fits perfectly in the Rockets system. Also acquired by Houston in this deal is Jimmer Fredette’s bench buddy, Tyler Honeycutt. That’s pretty sad, I guess, but the rest of the trade was exciting from Houston’s perspective.

Los Angeles Lakers: As a Lakers fan, I actually approve of the lack of moves on their part. Dwight Howard is still only 27 years old. Despite being banged up with injuries this season, he’s put up numbers that for anyone else in the NBA, you’d go, “_______ is really having a productive season. He’s scoring efficiently and rebounding at a high rate.” Howard has higher expectations, but hasn’t really fallen too far short of them, except on the defensive end, where he’s improved in the last few games. I also feel like the Pau Gasol injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the Lakers, who would have contemplated dealing him had he remained healthy. If there had been a trade for Gasol, given his recent play this year, the Lakers wouldn’t have received a return package of the same value as Gasol. It’s almost never a good idea to seek a trade when a player’s stock is that low.

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks were able to land the biggest name of the day in J.J. Redick without giving up any important assets. In a trade that sent Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb, and Beno Udrih to Orlando, the Bucks bring in Redick, the shooting guard out of Duke known for his shooting. This mostly helps to right the terrible balance of the Milwaukee offense that sees Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis shoot an insane amount of inefficient shots. Consider these three shot distribution markers:

monta jennings redick

You can click on the images to view them closer, but if you had to choose one, I’m sure that you would choose the one furthest to the right. The one furthest to the left is the shot distribution of Monta Ellis, who currently takes the MOST shots on the Milwaukee Bucks. The one in the middle is the shot distribution of Brandon Jennings. It doesn’t seem too bad at all, until you zoom up and see that he is shooting 43.5% from under the basket, good enough for last among qualified players from inside 9 feet. And the one on the right is the newcomer. JJ Redick. Do you see why it is so important that he takes shots away from these two ball-hogs? Assuming that it helps their team’s putrid balance, this is a great move for the Bucks.

Boston Celtics: The Celtics have been imitating the Portland Trail Blazers the last few weeks. Rajon Rondo and Leonardo Barbosa both were lost for the season with ACL tears. Their back-court was left in shambles. the Lakers on Wednesday, the Celtics were depleted at the guard position so badly that they were left with three guards on their line-up. Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Avery Bradley. So when the Celtics went out and were able to acquire Jordan Crawford for just the price of the injured Barbosa’s expiring contract and the little-used Jason Collins, it seemed like a no-brainer. Crawford is known for taking too many shots and is much criticized for his decision-making. Hopefully for Boston, the veteran leadership will be able to guide him to a wiser overall game. I believe he’s talented enough to make a major contribution to this team if he’s able to do these things.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Trail Blazers agreed to a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder that brought in point guard Eric Maynor for a second-round draft pick. Maynor, a fourth-year player out of VCU had rarely been used in OKC this season after missing the entire previous season with a knee injury. In his first two seasons, Maynor showed tremendous promise. He was a solid three-point shooter and a tremendous passer. In his college days at Virginia Commonwealth, Maynor was a ball of excitement in the Colonial Conference. The last couple minutes of one of the VCU Rams games with George Mason may have been the greatest thing ever. For a Portland bench that scores 9.2 points fewer per game than any other team and are the only team since the 1997-98 season (the limits of my source) to score less than 17 points per game, this move makes a lot of sense. Maynor is able to create for himself a little bit, but specializes as a floor general and will be able to create for others when he is out there. The only concern with this move is that Maynor is coming off of an ACL tear, something that Blazer players have become almost synonymous with.

Losers:

Sacramento Kings: The Kings were sitting at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the lowest abyss in any ocean. So many bad situations have put this franchise into a situation where you wonder if they can go any lower. Suddenly, whilst sitting at the bottom of the lowest trench in the world, the ocean floor crumbled beneath them and they fell another 5,000 feet nowhere and unable to see any sign of daylight anywhere. While I’m not sure whether or not that metaphor came across or not, the point is this. The Sacramento Kings are a freaking disaster. Dysfunctional ownership has left the team in a scramble to harvest all possible cash to prevent the franchise from relocating to Seattle. At the trade deadline, the starve for money led to the team trading away their fifth overall pick and their future, Thomas Robinson. I understand that it saved them $3.1 million in a time where they need to accumulate cash, but still. In the long run, this will likely make them more bankrupt. Although they earn money in the trade, they lose money in advertising, ticket sales, and merchandise sales. What fan wants to stand by an organization that just admitted to throwing away their future? They hardly got any value at all in return. Toney Douglas is  basically a twelfth man. Cole Aldrich, too. Patrick Patterson is a rotational player and has probably already peaked. He’s far less valuable than Thomas Robinson’s immense amount of potential. The Maloof family should be embarrassed to own a franchise this way.

Utah Jazz: None of the other “losers” of the deadline can quite compare to the atrocity of the Sacramento Kings, but the Utah Jazz certainly did themselves a disservice. The Jazz needed to make a deal. They’re sitting at the seventh spot in the west, with the talent-filled Lakers occupying the ninth spot, eyeing their playoff spot. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are both on expiring contracts and both valuable. The Jazz have a notable weak spot at the point guard position and talent like Eric Bledsoe was on the market. Their front-office has a long history of making the right decision, but at this trade deadline, I feel like they made the wrong one. Salt Lake City isn’t always a desirable place to spend a winter and they had a golden opportunity to get talent in return for one of their big men before they may walk during the free agency period this summer.

Atlanta Hawks: THEY HAD TO TRADE JOSH SMITH. He may have a problem with heaving too many jumpers and sometimes he may not seem like he’s totally “in” the game, but he still is a very athletic tweener forward that has value on many teams. I think he will walk away this summer anyways. Take it from the Cavaliers. It isn’t fun when you watch a star player walk away with your team getting nothing in return. Don’t get me wrong–Josh Smith isn’t nearly the player Lebron James is–but the two situations are relatively similar. They could have sent Smith to San Antonio and received Dejuan Blair and Stephen Jackson in return. Maybe they could have also been able to pry Bledsoe away from the Clippers and fill the void left on the bench when Lou Williams went down. Maybe even the Lakers would have bitten if they tried hard enough to get Dwight Howard. The Hawks intend on making an effort to draw in Howard, who grew up near Atlanta, during the summer. It would have gone a long way towards completing that signing if they could have made him a Hawk now and familiarized him with his teammates and the organization.

You can follow Skyler Gilbert on twitter at @skylerjgilbert.

Bobcats Let Them Shoot

After reading a post on Queen City Hoops (a name eerily similar to ours) about the Bobcats letting the Pacers shoot threes, I went to check if the Bobcats let the Rockets do that to them today.

Oh, yes they did.

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 5.40.18 PM Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 5.43.13 PM Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 5.43.41 PM Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 5.45.20 PM Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 5.46.48 PM

These are all screenshots (thanks to NBA.com/Stats) of different looks the Rockets got. Look! I stopped screenshotting with 8 minutes still remaining in the first half! I already had got my point across.

ALL OF TEH OPEN THREES

The Royce White Saga Continues

A little over a month ago, I wrote a quick bit about why teams were smart to pass up on drafting Royce White. But I also noted, along with many others, that I wanted Royce to succeed. However, that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, the Rockets, with no playing time available for him or fellow rookie Donatas Motiejunas, planned to send both to the D-League (along with guard Scott Machado). Royce, apparently, hasn’t reacted well. From the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen:

With the Rockets planning to send White along with fellow rookies Scott Machado and Donatas Motiejunas to the NBA Development League, White skipped Monday’s game and Tuesday’s practice amid signs that he has not practiced for days.

Rockets acting coach Kelvin Sampson said he did not know why White did not attend Tuesday’s practice and did not speak with him on Monday when Motiejunas and Machado were told of the plans to send them to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Meanwhile, White refuted that the Rockets had no knowledge about his absence, via a statement he released (and via David Aldridge, who published highlights of it on his twitter account). White says the Rockets know exactly what’s going on, and they aren’t being helpful or forthcoming:

As you already know, White suffers from an anxiety disorder which prevents him from flying to most games. But his anxiety issues may also arise for other reasons. For instance, while not confirmed, anxiety troubles and straightening out his travel accommodations led to White missing much of training camp. Again: this is the “baggage” that comes with drafting a high risk/high reward player like White. What will happen is not simple.

But the real question is: why is Royce White going to the media for this? While Feigen speculated (and teammates confirmed) that Royce had been missing practices, they only offered supportive comments and advice. They noted what Houston media had suspected for a few days, but resisted throwing a teammate whose condition they likely have little understanding of under the bus. Again: what is the problem that prompted Royce to send out a statement defying his team?

The only person who denied knowing what had been going on with White was interim head coach Kelvin Sampson. Sampson, replacing Kevin McHale for the time being (who currently is attending to a serious family matter), mentioned he wasn’t sure what was going on with White. When reporters asked Daryl Morey, he issued a statement essentially saying they had no comment on his missing practice but are committed to White. White apparently disagrees with this notion. But why? Did the Rockets renege on their deal? Have they insulted him by sending him down to the D-League? By keeping the matter private, did they somehow offend him? Who knows. I certainly don’t, and I’m in no position to pass judgment.

No matter his rationale, Royce White’s approach to his NBA career so far won’t endear him to many. Much of that approach is out of his control. But today’s statement wasn’t. It was pointed at the Houston organization. It blamed them for not providing him a chance to have a successful start to his career, even though they’ve allowed him to miss practices and training camp without much fanfare and have made an agreement to arrange for alternative travel arrangements. White obviously needs concessions for his condition, but the Rockets have openly made efforts to assist him. The Rockets also drafted him and signed him to a multi-million dollar deal. From the outside, they have been nothing but supportive.

Moreover, White’s timing couldn’t have been worse. His team’s coach is on indefinite leave, as he spends time in Minnesota with his daughter who, according to Ernie Johnson, became very ill over the weekend. It comes as he receives a D-League demotion, with his teammates gladly accepting the changes. It comes when a fellow talented rookie who plays his position in Terrence Jones struggled to get more than a minute or two of playing time. But Jones played during all of training camp and hasn’t missed many practices, if any at all.

Everything here, then, makes me re-consider my position that Houston, despite the geographical challenges, was a nice place for him. The rapid roster change, the coaching situation, and the limited playing time certainly work against him. But I have to wonder whether there’s a team out there where does fit at this point, because so far the Royce White era in Houston has been a disaster.