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.

Sacramento Kings Season Preview: Sleepless in Sacramento

Photoshop by Blake Potash

Team Capsule

 After a mess of an off-season with the lockout, the Sacramento Kings continued that trend with a horrific and complicated 2011-2012 season. First, were some questionable moves by trading Omri Casspi AND a first round draft pick for JJ Hickson along with moving all around the draft to end up with college superstar Jimmer Fredette. So far, Hickson has been waived, Jimmer has not shown up, and Tyreke Evans continues to be a disappointment after a great rookie season. After just seven games (going 2-5), Paul Westphal was relieved of his coaching duties, and was replaced by Keith Smart. The Kings ended the season at 22-44, good for second to last in the Western Conference.

It’s hard to tell what the Kings are looking for out of this season, but they have made a couple of interesting moves. With the fifth overall pick, they added size with Thomas Robinson, to form a potentially deadly post game with DeMarcus Cousins. Then they traded for James Johnson, an athletic freak of a small forward who has shown signs of being a star, but hasn’t got his head on completely straight.

The breakout of rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas gave the Kings the luxury of trying Evans at multiple positions, to see if he could regain form. The results were inconclusive, as it seems that the team and fans may be willing to let go of any hope that Evans would lead the team to the playoffs after what is now a six-year long absence.

While the on-court struggles are evident, off the hardwood, the team and city are in a complicated situation. The Maloof family has toyed with the emotions of the Sacramento faithful. With rumors spreading that the Kings could be the next team to relocate, the Maloofs and the city came to a tentative deal to build and new stadium and keep the Kings in Sacramento. Just a few weeks later, when things were looking up, the owners announced that they had cut ties with the deal, and were going to continue the relocation process. This could be one of the last seasons the Kings are in Sacramento, and it is not promising for the fans.

Biggest Strength: Rebounding and Athleticism

 Last season, the Kings led the NBA in pace, and were one of the top rebounding teams in the league (big thanks to DeMarcus Cousins). With three quality ball handlers in Marcus Thornton, Thomas, and Evans, they were able to spread the floor and run. Unfortunately, they still are not very good at turning all of those possessions into field goals, but it’s a good start. With the addition of James Johnson, they get more length and another player who can bring the ball up at times.

Cousins is just entering his third NBA season, and is already one of the premier rebounders in the league. He was third in the league in both offensive and total rebound percentage. Thomas Robinson joining Cousins down low should help the Kings become even stronger at grabbing boards.

Biggest Weakness: Youth and Immaturity

 One of the big knocks on DeMarcus Cousins is his attitude. He was second in the league with 12 technicals last season, and led in the personal fouls. His poor relationship with Paul Westphal is considered the main reason that he was fired. It has been noted that Keith Smart has a much better relationship with Cousins, and with age and experience, he should cut down on the attitude.

The Kings projected starting lineup is just under 24 years of age, on average. John Salmons, 32, is the only true veteran on the team, and isn’t really known for his leadership ability.

Player to Watch: DeMarcus Cousins

 As you can see, I am mentioning Cousins a lot so far, and it’s not by accident. Cousins is the potential superstar the Kings need to be contenders for a playoff spot. With a usage rate of 29.7%, he is focal point of this offense, and continues to grow as a player. He increased PER by over 7 points from his first season and is rebounding the ball at an incredible rate. Now, his shooting percentage is not nearly as good as it should be for a center, but he is improving. If he can get his FG% near .500 this season, all things will be looking up.

2011-2012 Record: 22-44

 Coach: Keith Smart (65-116 career record)

 Key Additions: Thomas Robinson, James Johnson

 Robinson and Johnson add much needed size to a generally small team. Both could be looking at starting spots by the end of the year.

Key Losses: None

 Trajectory: Seattle

 With the new stadium deal in Seattle, all signs point towards a Kings relocation to there. It is disappointing for Kings fans, but when you have owners like the Maloofs, there really isn’t much you can do. The team has struggled for a while now and even though it seems to be getting better, Sacramento shouldn’t hold its breath to see another playoff game in their city.

Projected Record: 25-57