Saturday, March 17, 2012

Trades, backstabs, loyalty and waivers.

While March Madness has been wildly disappointing for me thus far with both Memphis and UCONN being knocked out in the first round, denying us a matchup between Drummond and Davis in college, the NBA made up for it by going H.A.M. trying to shake things up.

So after a long absence in posting I've got some time to break down every single trade deadline move. Without further ado, let's get stuck in.

Three team trade with Nuggets, Wizards and Clippers;
  • Wizards get: Nene, Brian Cook, Clippers' 2015 2nd round pick, Clippers get: Nick Young, Nuggets get: Ronnie Turiaf, Javale McGee.
  • For the Wizards; this was a genius move; they lose two knuckleheads and return a veteran PF/C who should provide some veteran leadership. He's hit a rough patch lately, but Nene is going to be invaluable for a team like Washington; he runs the floor well, can score in the post and doesn't need a lot of touches to be effective. Brian Cook is a nice throw-in too.
  • For the Clippers; they lost out on signing J.R. Smith, but Young is a dead-eye shooter who really fills a team need for the Clippers during their stretch run into the playoffs. If CP3 can keep him in line and get him to defend then Young might be able to secure the starting 2-guard spot beyond this season. It's a win-win for Lob City, because they gave up very little and gained a potentially high-rewarding player. What's that about one man's trash?
  • For the Nuggets; this is a bit of a head scratcher, and to be honest I'm disappointed. Javale McGee isn't going to be any less of a bonehead in Denver, and Nene did a rare thing in re-signing with the Nuggets over teams like Indiana who could have used his services. This was a decision for the future and to save money, but it's sad to see a guy like Nene get banished to the Wizards after showing some loyalty.

Rockets get Camby and Fisher from Blazers and Lakers;

  • Rockets get: 2012 1st-round pick, Derek Fisher, Marcus Camby, Lakers get; Jordan Hill, Blazers get; Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and Houston's 2nd-round pick.
  • For the Rockets; bit of a head-scratcher really, but they shed the salary of Thabeet, gain a late-first rounder and some veterans at key positions. Hill wasn't getting enough minutes, Flynn was a third-string PG and Thabeet was a massive bust. They didn't gain a whole lot, but didn't lose much either, Rockets are seeminly active for the sake of it sometimes.
  • For the Lakers; they get a young, athletic PF/C who can backup Bynum and still has room to develop. They needed athleticism desperately, and Hill forms a great athletic frontcourt off the bench alongside McRoberts. Once Pau moves on Hill could pair with Bynum at the 4 spot, so this was a no-brainer.
  • For the Blazers; I really liked these moves, they gained a young shotblocking C who should fit in well alongside Aldridge without giving up a young asset, whilst also adding a PG in Flynn who could be the answer to their problem at the 1; he's undersized, but can still succeed in the NBA despite a tough run with injury.

Blazers fire head coach Nate McMillan;

  • This was big, but entirely necessary. Nate would be a great coach for a team of veterans who rely on stifling D and half-court execution, but this is a young, hungry team which needs to get out and run to avoid getting blown out so often. Sometimes you just need a new voice in the lockerroom, and although Nate should be sitting on a ring or two had Roy and Oden remained healthy, he had a good run and will find a new home soon I dare say.

Nets get Gerald Wallace from Portland;

  • Nets get: Gerald Wallace, Blazers get: Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and top-3 protected 2012 1st-round draft pick.
  • For the Blazers; Another savvy move by the Blazers, they get a decent back-up C in Okur, a role player in Williams, and most importantly, a likely lottery pick in a stacked draft. Portland may have just traded their way into landing a Beal, Rivers or Lamb to fill their 2-guard spot with a shot-creator. An added bonus of this trade is that it opens up minutes for Batum at his natural small forward, which is good news for all parties, as Batum is a versatile scorer who defends like a maniac.
  • For the Nets; Another head-scratcher for the Nets, they are desperately trying to win-now, but whilst Wallace is a great pick-up for this team, they are likely to lose Deron Williams in free agency and have just traded away another high draft pick for an older player. With Howard opting in, the Nets have shot themselves in the foot by taking such a huge gamble on Williams staying.

Lakers get Ramon Sessions from the Cavaliers;

  • Lakers get: Ramon Sessions, Christian Eyenga, Cavaliers get; Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, Dallas' 2012 1st-round pick.
  • For the Lakers; another home-run for the Lakers, who now have a promising, young PG in Sessions to replace Fisher, and a super-athletic 2-guard off the bench to replace the spark-plug that was Shannon Brown. Oh, and all they had to give up was bench-warmer Jason Kapono, grossly overpaid Luke Walton, and a late first-round pick. I swear Kupchak is using some sort of voodoo on opposition GMs!
  • For the Cavaliers; they get a big expiring contract in Walton, a cheap sharp-shooter in Kapono and a late-first round pick. Actually a good move for the Cavs, as that pick will be valuable for a team on the rebuild in this stacked draft.

Indiana Pacers acquire Leandro Barbosa from Toronto;

  • Pacers get: Leandro Barbosa, Toronto get: 2nd-round pick.
  • Makes sense for both sides; Toronto is looking to get younger and shed salary, and Pacers get a great bench scorer for their playoff run. Bad news for Lance Stephenson though.

Warriors trade Stephen Jackson to Spurs for Richard Jefferson;

  • Warriors get: Richard Jefferson, Spurs' conditional 1st round pick, T.J. Ford Spurs get; Stephen Jackson.
  • For the Warriors; they get a veteran small forward to pair with Wright and lose a bad lockerroom presence in Jackson. The first-round pick is great too, as there is a lot of value to be had in this draft. Ford is retiring, so won't have an impact either way.
  • For the Spurs; Jackson fits in well in San Antonio, and as the Spurs gear up for a final push for a ring, Jackson could be the difference between making the WCF or losing in the first round.

Memphis trades Sam Young to Sixers;

  • Sixers get: Sam Young, Memphis gets: Rights to Ricky Sanchez.
  • Not likely to make an impact either way, but Young provides nice insurance should Iguodala get traded in the offseason.

Bucks-Warriors deal;

  • Warriors get: Andrew Bogut, Stephen Jackson, Bucks get; Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, Kwame Brown.
  • For the Warriors; Golden State has been looking to trade Monta for years, and getting a former 1st-overall pick in Bogut is pretty good value, glass bones aside. If Bogut can stay healthy then Warriors will push for a playoff spot next season. Losing Monta also gives rookie Klay Thompson more minutes to shine, as he's produced in limited minutes and gives the Warrior size in the backcourt for the first time since Jackson and Davis were running the show. Losing Udoh was unpopular, but he's too old to have so far to go in terms of reaching his potential and Mark Jackson wants to win now. Kwame is just a throw in.
  • For the Bucks; they get a shot-blocker who can actually stay on the floor in Udoh, but gain an undersized volume shooter in Ellis which makes the Bucks the shortest 1-2 combo in the NBA. It's possible this move was to prepare for the departure of Brandon Jennings, as Livingston and Ellis would be the right size for your backcourt, and there have been rumblings about Jennings leaving lately.

Blazers waive Greg Oden;

  • The great Oden era is over in Portland, to the benefit of every stressed out Portland fan waiting for Greg to shatter into a million pieces again. Good move for both sides, Oden is no longer burdened with the hopes of a passionate fan base and the incompetent training staff, and Portland gets to embrace the rebuild. Hopefully Oden sees reason and goes to Phoenix for the veteran's minimum, because if he ever has a chance at playing in the NBA, it's most likely to happen with the Suns and their miracle workers- I mean medical staff. That said, Boston should look at signing him to a one year deal to shore up their big men department, he'd be low-risk for the right price and still has a very high ceiling if he can just stay healthy.

Rockets waive Terrence Williams;

  • A poor man's Lebron James, Williams is a multi-talented G/F with a superstar mentality, ridiculous athleticism and a shaky jumpshot. Not the most promising package, but now that he's free to choose his own fate, he could find minutes with a team like Charlotte which desperately needs a small-forward and a bit of athleticism. He could break out with his third NBA-team, because he's still relatively young and can produce if given the minutes. No loss for the Rockets because they have a wealth of SFs with Morris, Budinger and Parsons all in the fold.

Dwight Howard opts in;

  • This is the big one. After half a season of insanity, Howard takes a look at his team's current record after a big win over the Heat and decides he can stick around another year. If the Magic can catch fire in the playoffs they could scare a team without elite big men like Miami, Indiana and Atlanta in the second round. However, beyond wanting to see the season through, Howard's decision drastically increases his chances of sticking around, given that a number of the Magic's awful contracts come off the books at the end of the 2013 season, which gives Orlando an opportunity to put a team together more to Dwight's liking, unlike their situation right now, where they are way over the cap and with little flexibility. At the end of the day, the rumour mill is going to turn next season too, but until the 2012-2013 season, Orlando and Dwight can just focus on playing basketball, which should make a nice change. As far as markets go, Orlando isn't a bad place to be, especially with the amazing new arena which is the new gold-standard for the NBA, so it really comes down to what Otis Smith can do to surround Dwight with talent.

If I've missed any trades or moves let me know, but those are my thoughts on the 2012 NBA trade deadline.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Don't forget about Andre

With all the hoopla about Anthony Davis' amazing statistics - and I use the words statistics instead of play deliberately - people are forgetting about Andre the friendly giant. In the world of ESPN highlights being the basis for so many people's opinions of players you can imagine why Dre goes under the radar; there's nothing sexy about a kid playing like a kid and putting up freshman numbers.

However, in our stats-obsessed world, people too often forget to just look at a prospect play the game and analyse their strengths and weaknesses. The so-called eye test is often foregone in favour of checking box-scores. Now, I've made my feelings about Davis clear on this blog before, so this article will try to focus on my man Andre, not to hype him up unfairly, just an informed opinion of who he is now, what I think he'll be in the future, and why he's going to make whoever passes on him very foolish. I've seen Drummond play a few times over the course of the year, the most relevant being games against Georgetown, and more recently, against Pittsburgh.

Let's start with the Georgetown game. I'm not much of a stat-head, and the game was a while ago, but there were a few things I noticed about Drummond. First off, when he's allowed to isolate against his man in the low post, he can get buckets through sheer size and strength alone. Secondly, his footwork in the post isn't as bad as it's made out to be. The first ten minutes or so of this game Drummond was fed the ball on the block and repeatedly backed his man down, he was so dominant and unstoppable against a man-to-man defensive scheme that Georgetown swapped to a zone and subsequently doubled him every time he got the ball. That stretch of play just screamed NBA C to me, I could just imagine him being surrounded by NBA quality shooters and punishing his opponents if he's allowed to go 1v1. The wide open spaces of the NBA would do wonders for him, especially the defensive 3-second rule. He also displayed a good instinct for rebounding, but lost interest in the game once he was no longer being fed the ball. I will say this though, if I were Drummond, and I'd had so much success scoring early, only to have my guards spend the remainder of the game jacking up jump shots, I'd lose interest too. The UConn offence isn't really designed for Drummond to be much of a scorer, and this particular squad really lacks a true point, with both Napier and Boatright playing more like undersize 2-guards. I have to make a mention of Davis here, because he plays for a coach who knows how to get his big guys easy buckets, and his teammates are a lot more willing to share the ball than Drummond's. UConn would lose that game, and the adjustment to compensate for Drummond was a big part of the reason why in my opinion.

Moving on to the game I watched today, the game against Pittsburgh, and a few things immediately jumped out at me. Firstly, that Drummond has great timing on his shot-blocking, there was a sequence where he repeatedly denied the Pitt big man under the rim, and his length is astounding. Secondly, he shows very little interest in fighting for offensive rebounds if you body him up, defensively he'll pull down the boards, but he seems to content to be pushed out of the paint when Lamb or Napier clang another shot off the iron. At the very least he'll be an engaged defender at the next level, because he seems to take pride in protecting the rim. His agility is also uncanny for someone his size; on a few occasions he was picking up the point guard on the perimeter, and he was able to move laterally so well that the smaller players would be intimidated and ignore the mismatch. He had one enormous block where he shuffled alongside the driver only to rise up behind him and smack it against the board at precisely the right moment. Like I said, his timing is great, and it's not just under the rim. In a strange turn of events, he decided to stalk down the PG from behind on one possession, and with a deceptively long stride and reach he simply knocked it out of his opponent's hands. The nonchalant manner in which he did it made me shake my head at just how good this kid could be. He'd be a terror defending the pick and roll at the pro level, as he'd had no qualms just switching onto the PG. However, like in the Georgetown game, he wasn't featured much in the offence, and the opportunities for him to score in the post were limited. However, he did display great vision when passing out of the post, often finding open jump shooters on touch passes; if anything, Andre is unselfish to a fault, and for the most part would pass the ball before looking for his own shot. This aspect of his game reminds me somewhat of Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons, a guy who has a great skill-set, but also a high basketball IQ who you can run your offence through in the post. That said, as the game wore on, and he was overlooked in the post a number of times, he would lose interest in establishing position, and looked to score off a back-door pass rather than creating his own shot. The regularity with which he was doing this suggested it was by design, and using a player of Drummond's skill in this way leads me to further question Calhoun's ability to use big men offensively at the college level beyond lobs and dunks.

To sum up, Andre is still going to be the best player out of this freshman class in my opinion. So many aspects of his game are tailor-made for the NBA, and his deficiencies are just as much a result of the UConn offence as any permanent mark against him. For all the praise Anthony Davis receives for his shot-blocking prowess, in the games I've seen him play, he spends a lot of time camped under the rim, blocking the shots of guards who are already being pressured by Kentucky's excellent perimeter D into forcing the shot. With the defensive three-second rule coming into play in the NBA, I can see Davis struggling to be anywhere near as effective as he is in college, whereas UConn plays a more pro-style man defence, so the jump to the pros should be an easier adjustment for Drummond. Overall, Andre Drummond should be viewed as a high risk-high reward prospect going forward, but only because he needs to go to team which knows how to use big men appropriately. If any player is susceptible to busting due to circumstance, it'll be Drummond, because while he could go down as an all-time great if he maximises his potential, his character on the court is team-oriented, and he won't dominate unless his coach gives him the opportunity.

Ideal destinations for Drummond would be;

· Boston (if they fell into the lottery and lucked out); Rondo is great at getting his bigs involved, and Rivers is an excellent motivator.

· New Orleans; a franchise desperate for a superstar, with Gordon unlikely to remain, and being injury prone regardless. Drummond will allow NOLA to trade away Kaman, and Dre can learn from Okafur until he's ready to start full-time. Monty Williams has proven himself to be a very capable head coach too, which is a bonus.

· Cleveland Cavaliers; Varejao is getting on in years, and Thompson is more of a PF, so Drummond would be a great partner for Irving. Jamison has seen plenty of shots in Scott's offence, which means Drummond should see a lot of the ball, which would play to his strengths.

· Brooklyn Nets; Yes, they already have Lopez and they are making a play for Dwight Howard, but Brook wasn't offered an extension, and Deron Williams would help Drummond like he helped Jefferson and Boozer get easy buckets while he played with them. Let's face it, Dwight probably won't end up in Brooklyn regardless, so it's not a big concern.

· Orlando Magic; There will most likely be a giant Dwight-sized hole in the Orlando roster, so if the Magic pull the trigger and trade him before the deadline, there's a good chance they'll fall into the lottery, and Drummond would be a perfect fit for a franchise which has a history of building around Cs.