Saturday, February 23, 2008

Grading the final NBA trades of the year

By Rick Morris’s John Hollinger has broken down the recent NBA trades and he has delivered grades to all teams involved. I’m going to limit my own grades to the teams in serious contention this year, because the quest for a title in the short term was the most dramatic element involved in this remarkable flurry of deals. Having said that, though, if I were going to grade Seattle, I’d give them an A+ for clearing out insane cap room to put together with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and whichever amazing stud from the top of this year’s draft class that winds up with them – it’s just a shame for their great fans that the people in Oklahoma City will be the ones watching up-close when they’re making serious title runs in the next decade. Likewise, I’d have given an A+ to Miami for setting themselves up to have the league’s best nucleus in the next few years: Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley.

Los Angeles Lakers A Coach Pop is right; the league does need a trade review committee. Memphis got absolutely nothing in return for a legitimate star who poses matchup problems. Clearly, the Grizzlies are worshipping at the false altar of cap space. They should go ask Crumbs Krause how that ends up sometimes. The Trevor Ariza deal also helped the Lakers in terms of having enough usable depth to make the Gasol deal.

Atlanta A- The Hawks gave up absolutely nothing to add Mike Bibby, thereby solving a longtime need at point guard and procuring a shooter who can spread the floor. What’s not to like?

Cleveland A- I agree completely with the grade that Hollinger assigned. The Cavs had three main deficiencies for the past few years: point guard, an extra shooter and frontcourt enforcer. They upgraded substantially in all three areas, while not parting with anyone indispensable. Hilariously, the idiot-basher part of the Cleveland fanbase, which is one of the worst in sports, represented strongly prior to the trade in priceless fashion as no less than 16 different brain surgeons bashed outstanding Akron Beacon-Journal beat reporter Brian Windhorst for correctly indicating that a big move was underway.

San Antonio B+ They won a title with the same nucleus last year – well, scratch that, they won with much less production out of Manu Manu. Now, they add Mighty Mouse Stoudamire and Kurt Thomas to the mix. Right now, they are stronger than last year at a point when they definitely needed to be better.

New Orleans B- Once again, I agree exactly with Hollinger’s grade. Bonzi Wells fills a hole at two-guard, the only one that the Hornets have had, but the bench remains suspect. The starting lineup is very good, but not as top-heavy as other Western competitors, notwithstanding Chris Paul’s ascension to megastar this year and the fact that he’s second only to Lebron James in MVP worthiness this year.

Phoenix B- The Suns took a ginormous risk by turning their system upside down, but there’s reason to believe they will see some approximation of the Shaq of old rather than an old Shaq. Shawn Marion’s an excellent real player and an even better roto one, but he’s a small price to pay as the key component of a deal for one of the greatest centers of all time. Phoenix will now be a bit more balanced offensively and more able to play the half-court game that is so important in the playoffs.

Utah B- On the nights when “Bad Korver” materializes, the team won’t be any better off than it was before. On the nights when “Good Korver” is in the house, the Jazz will be much more frightening.

Dallas C+ Aside from Devin Harris, I don’t feel that the Mavs parted with anyone individually of any consequence. But collectively, they lost a lot of depth. Everyone points to the Phoenix as an example of a team that threw its approach of the last few years out of the window because they can’t run as much with Shaq in town. But the top-heavy Dirk/Kidd/Howard approach represents just as dramatic and risky of a break from the past in Big D.

Detroit, Boston and Orlando C- In this climate, if you’re not moving decisively forward, you’re falling behind. Granted, Danny Ferry didn’t complete his deal until the 11th hour and many doubted whether he’d be able to get anything done with the Cavs’ plethora of bad contracts, but the gamble that he would not be able to by the Pistons and Celtics greatly reduced the chance of a late ‘80s throwback in the Eastern finals. Much as I was unimpressed by the Pistons’ moves, I don’t think the Magic sufficiently addressed their hole at two-guard or their overall need for depth.

Houston D- They’re even more of a two-man team than before and firmly on the periphery of Western relevance.

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