Picking Up the Pieces

Sometimes I wish I didn’t actually have to go to work. Just lie on my back all day, watching things happen on the internet and hearing people say stuff on ESPN. Just chewin’ on some Pizza Bites or tortilla chips without any salsa. You know, whatever was around.

Because tracking this record-setting trade deadline through furtive bathroom glances at my phone’s delayed Bleacher Report was far from satisfying. And really did a great injustice to one of the most exciting and surprising deadlines in recent memory. I wanted to take a day or two before writing this to digest the day a little and think some more about the pieces that changed hands. Unfortunately (and for some really lame reason, I know its team physicals, but it’s still really lame) none of the new players made any appearance Thursday or Friday so I’m forced to speculate, a little blindly, on what kind of impact these guys are going to make for the present playoff picture and the bright, bright future beyond. Fortunately, blind speculation is one of the things we do best here.

The Big Kahuna

The dragon. Goran Dragic and brother Zoran (wrong picture? wrong picture.) shuttled off to Miami for two first rounders and a bunch of Danny Granger type spare-parts. Yet another example of Phil Riley really putting the “Zen Master” to shame, especially after Dragic disclosed that Miami and New York would be two of only three destinations he would feel happy signing a contract extension with after this summer. The other? They may stink up the joint now, but never underestimate the draw of playing in the purple and gold.

For Riley and the Heat, its a huge win. PG was by fair their weakest position and Dragic is scary underrated. The guy has polished up more and more as his career has progressed, with a third-team All NBA selection last year. He’d even been putting up some pretty good juice this season as well, despite being the unhappy part of a three man time share at the point. Considering that one of the picks Miami gave isn’t even until the 2021 draft, I’d say this move doesn’t even hurt their future in the way trading first rounders to win now usually does. Pat Riley may not even be around next decade running the show, meaning there was no drawback to him trying to go all-in one more time. Though, you never know, some vampires live forever…

For Miami

Before writing this sentence, I wanted to check if Miami was pulling this move because they were trying to make that post All Star push to pull down one of the Eastern Conference’s final two playoff spots. Nope! Turns out these jokers, are already holding down the 7th seed with a record of 23-30 (!!!), hammering home the sorrowful reality of the Eastern Conference and how many teams are fighting for those last two playoff spots without even coming close to .500 ball.

There’s been some speculation about the looming possibility of a juicy Miami-Cleveland first round matchup and the legitimately scary starting line of Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh and the “How is this still happening?” Hassan Whiteside. Juicier still could be the look of absolute self-disgust and not-so-secret hatred for his teammates that could result if the Cavs actually blew this one and James had to look on as his old running mates hit TNT to make another run at the Larry O’Brien trophy in June. Sadly, recent news has surfaced that Chris Bosh will likely be shutting it down for the season with reports of suffering blood clots in his lungs (ala Mirza Teletovic), with only a slim possibility that he could return in time for the postseason. Even with their terrible record, Bosh has really impressed this season, taking on a huge scoring load for his team and developing much more of an inside-outside multifaceted attack.

I don’t know if Dragic completely makes up for losing him. Of course, the question (as it usually does for Miami) really resolves around Dwayne Wade’s health and performance, whether or not he is able to play and close out, critical end-of-season games (and playoffs too!) I am curious to see Dragic being able to play full PG duties again as he basically carried the Suns last year when Bledsoe went out with an injury, so holding on to that playoff spot is more than possible. However, and again I can’t overstate how important Bosh is to this Heat team right now, I don’t know if they have enough to really take on Atlanta or the surging Cavaliers. Really their best option may be looking ahead to a Milwaukee Bucks team that has just lost a crucial component (more on this later. duh.) to pull a more manageable first round match up with the 3rd seed.

For Milwaukee

Yup skippin’ around a little bit. Feelin it’.

Hands down weirdest trade of the day, and more than a little bit sad. Andrew Sharp at Grantland recently wrote an awesome piece detailing the somewhat surprising, but very promising future the Milwaukee Bucks had ahead of them. 2nd pick in the draft and clear NBA talent Jabari Parker locked up on a rookie deal. The growing (literally) brilliance of Giannis Antetokuonmpo, “The Greek Freak“. And you know who else? BRANDON KNIGHT!!!

Yes Brandon Knight is not really a name everyone knows. Not really someone who gets talked about when the guard position comes up. But the kid is only 23 (My age!) has greatly improved his leadership and 3 point shooting this season and THE TEAM IS WINNING!!! This Milwaukee Bucks team has characters, its got great defense, and is playing way above their heads during a year everyone pegged them to be one small step above the Philly-Orlando-Boston tank jobs. Really a surprise when you realize they are closer to that small group of over .500  Eastern Conference teams (Bulls, Raps, etc.) than the woeful group fighting it out for those last two spots.

Simply put, the Bucks are good. Not great, no one’s saying that, but pretty damn good with a bright future going forward. Its true that Knight was becoming a free agent this summer and would have demanded a fair amount more money when negotiating a new deal. And he’d deserve it too. But the PG position is so absolutely glutted and with the salary cap set to explode the Bucks could have easily payed him the money and kept it rolling. I mean the kid is young and these guys are winning.

And I just don’t know what to think of Michael Carter-Williams. Like any self-respecting basketball fan, I have watched very few Sixers games these past few seasons. I know that MCW put up some fantastic numbers (albeit inefficient and turnover filled) en route to a ROY showing. I know that KJ McDaniels was an absolute steal in the draft and that Daryl Morey can add another, smaller, achievement to his list in stealing him. Carter-Williams definitely has one thing that these new, sneaky good defenses, such as Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and even the rising Sixers possess: Length. These are a bunch of tall, lanky, EXTREMELY athletic motherfuckers. And as they fill the passing lanes with long, outstretched arms and put big bodies in front of the basket it can get pretty difficult to shoot well. (The Thunder in particular absolutely swallowed up Dallas the other night.)

MCW has that length. I mean the guy is a 6’6″ PG and has already been doing pretty much the exact same thing in the City of Brotherly Love. He’s also a few years younger than Knight, and as such represents another key building block that Milwaukee now possesses. Just days before it would be how Jabari and Giannis would develop alongside each other over the next few years. Adding another young, talented lottery pick is definitely intriguing.

My only concern is that the Bucks had a good thing going and they broke it up. Chemistry is not really something that just happens overnight and Milwaukee had a great bunch of dudes who were getting along. Blowing that up just as you’re looking forward to the first playoff trip after shut out by Miami seems a little stupid. And while I still think this move was a net negative either way, there is something to be said for this somewhat new method of rebuilding. Neither totally bottoming out or going all in but simply having a young group of guys really gun for the playoffs. Learning a thing or two before getting their asses kicked the first round. But knowing how to come back and get better. I hope they figure that out. Because hot on their tails are:

For Detroit:


And the other killer piece on the table.. Reggie Jackson.

There’s definitely two schools of thought on whether Jackson is overrated or underrated after all that’s gone on this season. There is no denying that he unequivocally demolished the Grizzlies in the playoffs, keeping that series alive (If you have 5 minutes that’s a great clip to watch. It’s the Internet also so you probably have 5 minutes). But for a Reggie Jackson fantasy owner this year, and someone who watched the Thunder early in the get go this season when Westbrook was out, Jackson is an interesting player. He’s certainly tough as nails and can get to the hoop, learning from one of the best in the game right now. He’s not a terrific outside shooter and the though this guy actually believes he’s getting the max contract there is the reality that Brandon Jennings also plays for this team. And was having a pretty stellar campaign to go along with the no Josh Smith resurgence, leading to a thorny issue of how Stan Van Gundy will manage their minutes come next season.

Nevertheless Reggie Jackson can ball. And with no Jennings for the rest of the season, this dude gets to do whatever the damn hell he pleases. Again, its a shame we can’t see these guys play at least one game after the trades go through but Jackson was in Detroit on Friday (killer win against Chicago), looking sharp and generally enthusiastic on the bench as his teammates put in a great performance. This guy is into it. And so happy to be free and on a new team, really exposing how awful that whole period in Oklahoma must have been for him. With the Pistons in place to chase another one of those final 2 sorrow spots (watch out Charlotte!) this could be huge.

Back to the Suns

Just straight weird. Top 5 funnest team in the league last year. I was at the Q when the Suns somehow sparked a second half comeback on the road to beat a shocked Cavs audience. They’d been down like twenty or something at the half. Unreal. I was one of the only people guys there in wine and gold not totally stunned. That had been some good friggin’ basketball.

The Suns this year looked forced. Like they weren’t having the same enjoying it out there together as much or the expectations were higher or maybe because Phoenix GM, Ryan McDonough, decided that if two PGs were playing well together, three could only be better.

To their credit, the Phoenix front office did a good job of picking up on the MASSIVE warning signs, saw how unhappy Dragic was and attempted to cut bait on Isaiah Thomas in a last ditch effort to keep their Slovenian Superstar, the “Heir to Steve Nash”, happy and playing in a slightly less logjammed backcourt. Ultimately, though, they somehow managed to piss off Dragic so much he was just flat out of there, and and they finally had to flip him, nabbing those two first rounders (again, lol at Miami. The 2021 draft pick is so far away it might not even exist). But they responded so well with the Knight signing it won’t really matter.

We now have the all Kentucky backcourt where Brandon Knight will ideally have to use the uptick in his shooting numbers this season to play offball with Eric Bledsoe while somehow trying to fend off the always fucking scary good Oklahoma City Thunder (who have just now overtaken the 8th seed from them, one up in the loss column. Finally). But really more than anything else, this move represented how odd and totally irrelevant the Isaiah Thomas signing has been and the reality that little moves like that and losing Channing Frye can really mess with a fun team’s chemistry. And while, the Suns are still playing really great basketball, they’ve gotta be looking up at OKC in that last playoff spot and wondering if Brandon Knight really moves the needle enough to take down the roaring Thunder.

Boston Celtics

And all too happy to take Isaiah Thomas off Phoenix’s hands, GM Danny Ainge strikes again, all for the low-low price of Marcus Thornton and one of Cleveland’s low-low 1st rounders. Personally, I am beyond happy that Boston has FINALLYYY made a move to the future that didn’t involve picks, expiring contracts, more picks, and just general losing, losing, and losing. Although, again as I write this, Boston is only a game and a half out of the 8th seed in the East (Unbelievable), thanks to a couple huge wins like over Atlanta right before the break.

Having Thomas could make that push a reality, if that’s something the Cs are trying to make happen. The dude is a volume shooter, but he can flat out score, which pairs well with his more defensive-minded backcourt mates in Smart and Avery Bradley. Plus he’s locked up for the next couple of years on an excellent contract, meaning Danny should now be able to start sniffing around at free agents and using his picks to get this team back into playoff contention for the next few seasons. Fun, fun.

For the Sixers

Don’t care. More picks I guess. Having Javale McFlow sit on the bench in another state. More picks, more waiting, more picks. Really just don’t care. Also way to give up KJ McDaniels for practically nothing.

For the Nuggets

Ahhh, we were waiting for the fire sale all season. And, now that the axe has finally fallen, a bit more underwhelming than it could have been. Ty Lawson will still be in the Mile Hugh City, along with Kenneth Faried, by far the team’s two best players. Even Wilson Chandler, who is practically a human trade rumor at this point, will still be suiting up in the Pepsi Center, as the Blazers decided to make a run at Aron Afflalo instead.

Dumping one of the Mozgov picks to free up Javale’s gargantuan, wildly-undeserved salary was a good move. And the 2016 first rounder they got from Portland is barely protected at all, which is fine for them as Afflalo has been in and out of this Denver lineup over the last few years, making him far from essential to their rebuilding plans.

The real question now, though, is what are their rebuilding plans? True, the Nuggets are only two seasons removed from their dominant 38-3 home win campaign, which earned them the 3rd playoff seed and a coach of the year nod for George Karl (now getting ready to hit the bench in Sac-Town) But they are far, far away from that style of winning basketball and are looking up at numerous better teams before they even hit that final 8th spot. I know Lawson is a talented, SPEEDY player and the Manimal is a fan favorite in Denver, but these guys would not have been wrong to think about blowing up this entire experiment.


And finally, one of the oddest, heartwarming trades of the day. The Brooklyn Nets picking up Thaddeus Young from Minnesota, sending back the best player in Timberwolves franchise history. For the Nets, its a nice little steal. They didn’t get any picks out of the deal (thank God), but Young is a “young” versatile player, who should be able to pair well with Plumlee and give the Nets at least a little youth and excitement in their frontcourt.

For the Timberwolves, nostalgia aside, this trade makes literally zero sense, although it does free up more playing time for Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. But for a team that already has some good excitement looking forward to the future with Andrew Wiggins, its an added gift to the fans to let Garnett retire in a Timberwolves uniform, and not to mention all the tough-love mentoring he’ll be able to give the Wolves younger players.

Odds and Ends

I’m glossing over a lot of the other stuff here. The Ramon Sessions for Andre Miller PG swap. Enes Kanter going to Oklahoma City (Really should’ve written about this one a little more, but I’m entirely unfamiliar with his game), and subsequently Kendrick Perkins reloading with Lebron and the island of lost toys in Cleveland. But really, only one of these smaller moves had any significance to me or my Knicks faithful reading this page.

Pablo Prigioni traded to the Houston Rockets for two second rounders and Alexey Shved. And I almost teared up when I saw this.

Truthfully, I was a little pissed that Phil couldn’t swing a trade for Calderon and get some real salary off the books. However, the asking price for Pablo was originally only one 2nd rounder, so to grab two and a young player is nice. I guess. Sadly, I’m really going to miss Prigs who was one of the feistiest characters on this Knicks team. With him gone, as well as Amare hitting the Mavs, literally every player outside of Carmelo Anthony has been jettisoned from our 2012 54 win team. God help us.

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