No word on any of the big fish yet. In fact, there hasn’t even been all that much going on with the little fishies either. But, as we now sit just one day in front of Thursday’s 3 PM deadline – Something’s Gotta Give! This article will loosely track all of the remaining movement in the 31 hours before the deadline, with me coming back to give you all the good, good updates before and after work these last two days:
Courtney Lee to the Hornets
The first finalized trade I read about, a three teamer that sent Courtney Lee from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Hornets for Brian Roberts and P.J. Hairston. The Miami Heat got involved as well in an attempt to dump some salary, sending two second rounders to the Hornets who sent them right back to the Grizz in addition to Chris “The Birdman” Anderson’s contract, who I have a lot harder of a time visualizing partying in Memphis than in Miami. With the dust settling, the Grizz held onto P.J. Hairston, Birdman, and the two future Miami second rounders (though one is heavily protected), the Hornets got their wing player in Courtney Lee, and the Heat got Brian Roberts and the chance to move on from $5 million in salary.
What it Means?
Not a whole lot. For Charlotte the move obviously adds a pretty solid facsimile of a 3-and-D wing player (37% on the season) to replace the again injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and make a run at the playoffs after missing the postseason last year. They’re currently in the 8th seed in the East and could go even higher after the All-Star break with the way the Bulls are imploding after losing Jimmy Butler for a few weeks. Even though the Raptors have played out of their minds for the last couple of months, they have a lot of postseason demons, and every first round series in the East with the exception of Cleveland seems pretty up in the air.
For the Grizz this could be interpreted as punting on a disappointing season that capped off with Marc Gasol breaking his foot. Even though Memphis still has a three game lead over Dallas for the 5th seed in the West, avoiding a first-round matchup with the Dubs/Spurs/Thunder, Gasol could easily miss the rest of the season and they wouldn’t be able to make much noise without him – even against the Clippers. It makes sense to move on from Lee, who is set to become a free agent and earn the type of ridiculous 10-15 million/year contract that any person who can shoot a 3/play a little defense is entitled to in this new cap situation. I haven’t seen much from Hairston, he’s a bulky tough defender and a poor shooter. Pretty redundant for the Grizz, but they still have Matt Barnes to take Lee’s minutes and it’s pretty good to get picks and a young player for a free-agent.
The Miami Heat are way over the tax. Look for them to dump more salary if possible.
Tobias Harris for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings
This is my kind of trade! Two Eastern Conference teams on the outside looking in, desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in years making a gamble. I gotta say I love the move for the Pistons. After signing a 4 year/$64 million contract over the summer, Harris has underwhelmed this year for the Magic who have too many positionless players who can’t shoot the ball from deep. He’s found his way in and out of head coach Scott Skiles’s rotation and his skill set conflicts with their younger, more intriguing prospect Aaron Gordon.
What it Means?
Well kudos to the Pistons for being able to read the Magic’s desperation and snatch up a young talented player under contract for the next three seasons. However, for the people who think this makes Detroit a significantly better team this season, I have to disagree. Ersan Ilyasova was quietly the team’s third best player this season and has shot significantly better from 3 than Harris has at any point in his career. And, while Brandon Jennings was almost guaranteed to be traded, his departure creates the same issues as the Pistons had at the beginning of the season with no bench unit and an offense that absolutely dies when Reggie Jackson hits the bench. The only thing that may be better in the short term is that Harris can be given the ball to prop up All-Bench units with his ISO-inclined scoring, but really I would expect this team to take a slight regression and miss out on the playoffs (currently in the 9th seed), unless the Bulls continue to take a waxing. Long term though? Adding another young solid rotation player to the core of Jackson and Andre Drummond? You gotta love it.
For the Magic the move helps solidify what was largely a positionless team, allowing Gordon to play the 3 with the shooting of Ilyasova from the other forward spot. It also takes minutes away from point guard Elfrid Payton, whose shooting cripples that team in near-Rondo levels, which is not to say Jennings is any better than a league average shooter at best. I don’t know how much this trade is about making a push for the playoffs and how much it attempts to clarify a jumbled rotation by prioritizing guys like Gordon and rookie Mario Hezojna over the departed-Harris, but I can’t say I love the move. A team like Orlando or Boston with a lot of intriguing young guys should be trying to package them together for a clearly superior talent, not shipping them off for more role players.
More to come?
Thursday morning, nothing so far. Just a lot of rumors out there. Hmmmm maybe if this keeps up I’ll just power rank the rumors instead. See ya tonight.
Updated to Include Thursday’s Action:
Wow, what a boring one. For all the talk of the big names on the market, very little in the way of difference-makers changing hands. You could point to NBA contracts being shorter and guys like Howard/Horford/Anderson basically being rentals with upcoming free agency this summer. You could point to the impending salary cap explosion and the fact that General Managers want to stay cautious when navigating the first year of this new uber-money terrain. You could even point to the crazy strength of the Warriors and all the would-be contenders staying out of the way for at least another year or so. Or whateverr… I don’t know why I always get so hyped up for this day.
Shelvin Mack to the Jazz for point guard depth. Brian Roberts and another Miami 2nd rounder to get the Heat out of the luxury tax (very masterfully done this year). Kirk Hinrich to the Hawks for a 2nd rounder. Randy Foye to the Thunder in an ongoing five year experiment to find a shooting guard who can both shoot and defend and give the Thunder a legitimate 5th starter. Ugggghh
Anderson Varejao for Channing Frye
Varejao Noooo! With this move the Cavs dealt perhaps the most expendable (and most likeable) player on their roster for a stretch big who projects to be nothing better than the most marginal of upgrades. I’m not exactly sure how Cleveland plans to use Channing Frye; his role is very redundant with Love’s so it’s possible they think of him as insurance in case Love misses another playoff series to injury or as a little more outside shooting for bench units. I floated the idea of playing a small super-shooting line-up with Love at the 4 and Frye at the 5, which would allow Lebron almost total free-rein with ISO post-ups and bully-ball, but I don’t think Frye is going to be fast enough defensively to keep up with Draymond Green, and at this point all of the Cavs’ moves should ultimately be with the idea of how best to combat the Warriors and that death line-up. This one just doesn’t move the needle.
Still, it is an upgrade over Varejao who is completely redundant with Mozgov and Thompson and it saves owner Dan Gilbert a little bit of luxury tax money (yayy!) at the cost of losing Lebron’s old buddy “Wild Thing” and a protected first rounder sent Portland’s way who ended up absorbing Anderson’s salary (Big Kudos to the way to Portland who has somehow managed to be competitive in the West while still so below the cap that they were able to extract a couple of picks from teams unloading salary this deadline. Low-key winners this year). I dunno, I’m gonna be sad to see the big guy go. Hopefully he finds a team after Portland completes the buy-out process.
Markieff Morris to the Wizards
And speaking of low-key winners of the NBA trade deadline, big congrats to the Phoenix Suns for extracting a couple of modestly productive players in Kris Humphries and Dejuan Blair AND a first round pick from Washington in exchange for a guy whose value may never have been lower. For a team that so obviously wanted to move on from the disgruntled twin, it’s a pretty solid haul.
For the Wizards, the move is all about gambling on the Markieff Morris from last season who led the league in crunch-time scoring and flashed the rare trifecta of defense, passing, and shooting that very few big men possess. If Washington gets this player (and just in time for their last-minute play-off push), he should complement Wall-Gortat pick and rolls perfectly, by being able to drive and kick to secondary options or knock down mid-range jumpers. He’s also still fairly young at 26 and on an INCREDIBLY friendly contract, making less than $9 million/year until the 2018-2019 season (Jesus! Wish the Knicks had had something to gamble on him with. Though probably not a first rounder so never mind). He fits the Wizards’ timeline perfectly with Wall, Beal, and Porter and doesn’t get in the way of their long-shot goals at signing Durant next summer. Perfect in almost every way. Don’t mind losing the first rounder that much here for Washington.
Detroit acquires Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton
I don’t know if anyone saw the Detroit Pistons as being the most aggressive buyer at this year’s trade deadline, which says a lot about Van Gundy’s power in the player personnel office and this team’s desire to make the playoffs after five miserable seasons. And, while I loved the Tobias Harris deal, I’m not really sure I can co-sign this one.
The Pistons shipped a first rounder and Joel Anthony (promptly sent to the Philadelphia scrap-heap afterwards) for the big man with the smooth touch and the scary back issues as well as the perimeter shooting of the journeyman Thornton. In theory, Motiejunas’ shooting should be a good complement to Drummond; he could play minutes alongside him or back-up center when Drummond hits the bench, but I think it’s ridiculous that Detroit had to give up a first rounder here and not one in the Harris deal. Also, more troubling is the news that the Pistons sent Motiejunas to a back specialist today, instead of doing some kind of medical examination before acquiring him. If everything goes right here, Detroit should be able to push for the 7th or 8th seed and will have a roster full of intriguing players in their mid 20s, competitive for years to come. But if they do miss the playoffs this year, all of these guys are going to be set for raises very soon (max extension for Drummond over the summer a guarantee) and you’re almost bumping into the luxury tax for a team that has accomplished pretty much nothing together. We’ll see how this one goes.
Lance Stephenson for Jeff Green
Ohhhh Roc Divers. Okay maybe kind of an NBA nerd inside joke there for the shocking dichotomy that is Doc Rivers as an excellent head coach and just a woefully inadequate General Manager.
Coming in at just minutes before the 3pm deadline the announcement that the Clippers had swapped problem child Lance Stephenson with Memphis for combo forward Jeff Green. There were people who initially thought of this trade as kind of disappointing for a team doing it’s best to cash in on the big 3 Paul-Griffin-Jordan era, who were then horrified to learn that this deal also included L.A. sending a first round pick in this deal. For two players who are ultimately just pretty comparable and just pretty not that good this can only be a giant blunder.
It’s true that statistics have shown Stephenson to be one of the worst basketball players in the league over the last couple of years, but there is really little reason to think that Green will be any better. SB Nation wrote a good piece about how teams keep convincing themselves Jeff Green is some missing piece who will come in and provide athleticism and play some small-ball 4, but this is a guy who shoots barely over 30% from 3, has terrible on/off court splits, and regularly looks checked out of games emotionally (oooh, can’t wait to see how he fits in with Chris Paul). Just like with Oklahoma City, it’s hard to believe that the Clippers have 4 excellent starters and have been totally unable to find that 5th player for years. And, while Green may be a better piece than 75 year old Paul Pierce or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, this is just an example of going from worse to bad for that has never looked further away from a championship. Rough.