Monday, August 30, 2010

Carmelo Anthony wants out of Denver = Denver screwed for the next 3 years

(photo from NBC)
You've heard it already, but
  • Carmelo can be a free agent next summer by opting out of the last year of his contract.
  • He wants to sign an extension NOW, because there is a possibility of an NBA player lock out if things don't go well at the next NBA collective bargaining agreement and he might not be able to get that money after that all of that settles.
  • He doesn't want to sign that extension with Denver.
  • He has given Denver a list of teams he would like to be traded to.
  • Denver is now taking fielding offers for one of the best players in the NBA right now.
(Photo from Zimbio)
In Chauncey Billups' corner (Denver starting point guard)
  • Simply put, this guy is an old guy (about to turn 34 in September).
  • He's still a top PG but his days are limited and he has recently said he wants to play four more years:
“I have hopefully four years left of playing,” Billups said, “and I’m not the kind of person to just ride it out. I want to win. I want to go out on top; I want to go out winning. …I want to get out there, get after it and play. And I want to win as a Nugget the rest of my years. In a perfect world that’s what I would want, that’s what I would hope for.”
Read between these lines - He's not the kind of person to just ride it out on a bad team with no superstar (such as Carmelo Anthony), an aging Kenyon Martin, a shot blocker that jumps at any pump fake Chris Andersen, etc. Even if the Nuggets got some good young players and draft picks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony (which they've come out publicly saying they want), they're not going to compete at a high level to start out.

As of right now, the top two teams who have a chance at Carmelo are the New Jersey Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers. Even if the Nets offer some package including Devin Harris and/or Rookie Derrick Favors, it would take a couple years to still build a team around these players (plus Devin Harris is a starting point guard just like Billups so that wouldn't work/would be a waste of talent). Same goes for the Clippers: if they offer a package including one of Blake Griffin or Eric Gordon, as good as these players are potentially going to be, it's not enough for Billups to stick around. Even if it's not these two teams that finalizes the deal, the Nuggets have said they want young players and draft picks. They are officially in REBUILD mode.

So when Carmelo is dealt, it is inevitable that Chauncey Billups will also request a trade to a contender where he won't have to "ride out" the rest of his career. These are Denver's two BEST players. After that there's an aging/injured Kenyon Martin, a solid center in Nene Hilario, a young point guard Ty Lawson and recently signed scoring forward Al Harrington. This was a GOOD team that had the talent to do big things. They made the Western Conference Finals in 08-09 and lost to the eventual champions the LA Lakers! It's frustrating when franchise players want to switch teams because they like certain cities better than others, but it's not illegal and they can do whatever they want.

The point is, the Nuggets are in rebuild mode. The team is also trying to trade JR "I shoot the effing lights out some games" Smith. And you can't quite build a team around Kenyon Martin, Al Harrington and Nene Hilario...

My BOLD BASELINE PREDICTION is a three team deal that sends Carmelo Anthony to either the Nets or the Clippers in exchange for either Devin Harris or Baron Davis respectively, with Chauncey Billups going to a third team and other players included so salaries match. I'm also predicting that Kenyon Martin gets traded for some young players or draft picks to a team that is trying to shed salary as Martin will be in his last year of his contract that pays him $16.5 million.

Chris Andersen doing his thing...

(Photo from westword)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why the Lakers are stuck with Sasha Vujacic for next year

(Photo from NBCSports)
Before Shannon Brown was re signed to a two year deal, there were talks about how the Lakers and Brown were close to a deal but that it was dependent on whether or not Sasha Vujacic could be traded so they could use that $5.4 million and give it to Brown. Well, fast forward to a couple days ago and the Lakers went ahead and signed Brown anyway to the tune of $2.2 million this year and a player option for next year at $2.4 million (Brown has the choice to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and re enter the market).

Now the Lakers are supposedly trying to trade Sasha and his horrible horrible contract because they are well over the luxury tax threshold and Jerry Buss, while he loves winning championships, would like to do so at a "reasonable" price.

Well too bad. You are stuck with Sasha Vujacic. Here's why

Like I said, the Lakers are well over the Luxury tax limit. They're on tap for around $94 million and they just signed their two 2nd round draft picks which will probably be around another $1 million. Now they need to shed money and the likely candidates are Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton. These two players have already become the Adam Morrison and Sun Yue of the 2010-2011 season and the season hasn't even started.

But contract-ually speaking, Sasha is more moveable than Luke. Sasha is in the last year of his contract (due $5.4 million) while Luke has three more seasons at $5.2 mil, $5.6 mil, and $6.1 mil respectively. Add to that Luke's bad back problems he had last season, he's just not a sought after player as of right now. I mean, who would want a player who costs a lot who's going to be injured.

So Sasha Vujacic is on the trading block.

(Photo from Hoopedia)
Let me bring you back to the summer of 2008. The Denver Nuggets had two high priced players in Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony, along with a high priced Kenyon Martin and a $10 million dollar Marcus Camby. Nuggets didn't want to pay all of that and they needed to do a salary dump. So the Clippers came along and sent a 2nd round draft pick for the former defensive player of the year, always up there in the league leaders in defensive rebounds and blocked shots. A rip off trade, no? Well of course it is, but it was a salary dump. The Clippers had money to spend, and the Nuggets were spending too much.

Had the Clippers traded another $10 million dollar player for Marcus Camby, well there wouldn't be a point to that, would there? The Nuggets would still be spending a lot of money, and the Clippers would still have money to spend and another lost roster spot. OK back to Sasha. THIS MARCUS CAMBY DEAL IS WHAT THE LAKERS ARE TRYING TO DO RIGHT NOW. They want a future 2nd round draft pick (because 2nd round picks are not guaranteed contracts. They do not want a player of equal contract value because they are trying to get RID OF CONTRACTS. So for a team to take on Sasha, they would need to send a 2nd round draft pick, and a 2nd round draft pick ONLY.
OK, so why are the Lakers stuck with Sasha? Because Sasha, unlike Marcus Camby, isn't a defensive player of the year, doesn't put up great defensive rebound numbers or blocked shots... quite simply put, no one wants him. There isn't a team out there saying to themselves, "Man, we are so close to being a championship contender, all we need is... SASHA VUJACIC!" and no team is saying, "Man, we need to rebuild this roster, first things first, GET ME SASHA VUJACIC!"

But he's an expiring contract! Everyone wants an expiring contract! True. Expiring contracts are a great way to rebuild a team for the future and/or clear cap space for a big free agent during that year's summer. But here's the thing with expiring contracts: a team wants to get rid of a guy making the same amount of money during this year, but who also happens to be making more money in later years.

So let's take a random player from a random team making around the same $5.5 million Sasha's making, but is NOT in the last year of his contract: Mike Bibby from the Atlanta Hawks. Mike Bibby is scheduled to make $5.5 million this year and $6.2 million next year. If the Hawks wanted to clear cap space because they don't want to pay the $6.2 million to Bibby next year, they would do this trade. They'd get Sasha and the Lakers would get Bibby. The Hawks would pay Sasha's $5.5 million this year, and then he'd be a free agent. The Lakers would pay Bibby the $5.5 million this year, AND the $6.2 million next year that the Hawks didn't want to pay.

But don't you see... that's exactly what the Lakers don't want. They don't want to take on more contracts regardless of who it is because they are already over the luxury tax threshold.

In plain English: they want someone to take Sasha Vujacic for free, but no one wants Sasha Vujacic.

Therefore, the Lakers are stuck with Sasha Vujacic.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ariza, Collison, Murphy, Lee, Posey Trade Simplified

I've decided to do a graphic like this for all multi team deals to help me figure out what teams are giving up and what they're getting in return, and WHY teams would do what at first looks like a ludicrous trade.

Let's start with the New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets give up Darren Collison, James Posey, and Julian Wright and receive Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli (separate trade with the Raptors).

If you were paying attention last season, you'd notice that one of the lone bright spots in New Orleans was rookie Darren Collison putting up great numbers for an injured Chris Paul. In 37 games as a starter he averaged 19 pts, 9 ast, and 3.5 rebounds (40 minutes per). Those are some stellar numbers but they only won 14 games with him starting. Granted there wasn't much talent. They had already gotten rid of alley oop star Tyson Chandler for no great offense Emeka Okafor. They did have David West but after him and Chris Paul, the talent dwindled to Peja Stojakovic and Marcus Thornton.

There have been so many rumors regarding Chris Paul's future, unhappiness, and trade demands and a possible, not-as-great, big 3 in New York with CP3, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony next summer.

So why did the Hornets make this move?
To keep their franchise player happy. Out goes their back up point guard and in comes a new, slashing, defense minded, 3 point hitting, but can't quite create his own shot, small forward in Trevor Ariza, relegating Peja Stojakovic to the bench for a starting line up that looks something like:

PG- Chris Paul
SG- Marcus Thornton or Devin Brown
SF- Trevor Ariza
PF- David West
C- Emeka Okafor

Ariza can run and finish with Chris Paul on fast breaks and can hit the 3 pointer like Peja could, only he can also cut to the basket unlike Peja. Defensively, Ariza is leaps and bounds better than Peja who can guard some of the league's top swingmen. And by the way, this is Peja's last year of his contract which will give the Hornets $15ish million to spend next summer.

But what about the side trade with the Raptors (Belinelli for Julian Wright)? The contracts are almost identical. Both for two years, both for about $2 mil this season and $3 mil next season. As you can see the SG spot is a little weak with 2nd year Thornton and Devin Brown, Belinelli could offer some depth and options at that spot. James Posey was also playing that SG/SF spot but was being paid far more than he was worth (around $6 mil this season and $7 mil next season!).

Indiana Pacers

So both Posey and Collison are headed over to the Indiana Pacers, who traded away Troy Murphy.

If you've played fantasy basketball, you know that Troy Murphy is an automatic 10 rebounds a night guy. He can shoot the ball and has range that stretches to the 3 point line. Defensively, there's room for improvement but he's at the age where what you see is what you get (30). Out he goes and in comes a point guard to one of the few teams in the league that needed a point guard. James Posey and his contract was the "you can have Collison if you also take this guy off our hands" guy in order to get him Collison.

The Pacers had been playing TJ Ford and Earl Watson at point guard last season. With Earl Watson currently a free agent looking for a team and the Pacers wanting to go in a different direction away from TJ Ford (currently discussing a buy out), the team needed to get a PG and felt up and coming young Darren Collison was the way to go.

Don't get it twisted. There are a lot of things wrong with the Pacers. The PG situation was just one piece of the puzzle, and it might not even work out. They have Brandon Rush at SG (could be James Posey at the start of the season), Danny Granger at SF, their franchise player who isn't quite a franchise player, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster at PF, rebounders with little offensive talent, and Roy Hibbert and Foster at Center, again, little offensive talent although Hibbert is improving.

But here's some silver lining for the Pacers, next summer they will be busy. A lot of their guys are in the last year of their contract this year (Dunleavy, $10 mil, Ford, $8.5 mil [if they can't get a buyout], Jeff Foster, $6.6mil, Jamaal Tinsley, $5.5 mil). That's a lot of money and they can start building up a team again around Granger and Collison. Things haven't been quite the same since Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest were in town...

New Jersey Nets

The New Jersey Nets took on Troy Murphy and his rebounding skills. They also took on his expiring contract of $12 million dollars. But the Nets did need some size. All they really had last year was Brook Lopez, but they just drafted power forward Derrick Favors. They also have Johan Petro who isn't much of an offensive threat and after that, they have a lot of small guys including recent free agent signees: Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, and Travis Outlaw to go along with Devin Harris and Terrence Williams (wow this team couldn't have won more than 15 games last season!)

Houston Rockets

So they didn't really have space or playing time for Courtney Lee. So they sent him to the Houston Rockets. who gave up Trevor Ariza. What kind of deal is that?! Keep in mind The Rockets just signed Ariza last year to a full mid level exception deal to be THE GUY to replace Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady. Well they didn't make the playoffs but that was due in large part to Yao Ming being injured and being sidelined for the entire season.

Since then they acquired Kevin Martin who's getting paid a lot ($11 mil, $12 mil, and $13 mil for the next three seasons). Couple that with Brad Miller's new contract (Around $14 million for three seasons), Luis Scola's long term contract that pays him $11 million in 2014/2015 season, and Kyle Lowry's big deal for the next 4 years at about $23 million. THAT'S QUITE THE PAYROLL especially if they want to re sign Yao Ming next summer. Quite simply put, the Rockets needed to shed salary. That's why all they took on was Courtney Lee's $1.3 million dollar contract with a team option next year. Salary dump at its finest. Add to the fact that Shane Battier can start at SF and play as hard as he ever has and you have a starting lineup that looks something like:

PG- Aaron Brooks
SG- Kevin Martin
SF- Shane Battier
PF- Luis Scola
C- Yao Ming with Brad Miller backing up.

That's a nice starting lineup, one I predict to return to the playoffs.

Overall, I really like this trade for the New Orleans Hornets. Darren Collison was a nice back up but they had a starting PG in Chris Paul. Add to that a great defender and finisher in Trevor Ariza, while shedding the salary of James Posey and this team is definitely better off than they were yesterday.

Yeah, the Celtics are the team to beat in the East

(Photo from Boston Herald)
Sorry Heat, you have the star power but the Celtics are having a strong off season gearing up for another trip to the finals. Probably one of my favorite quotes of the summer so far is Rajon Rondo's comments on the Heat's off season moves:

"What is there to be nervous for?" he said. "I'm worried about L.A. That's the team we need to beat. Miami looks really good on paper, and I'm sure they're going to be really good. But they still have to come together as a team. I'm not saying they won't, but who knows if those guys can jell?

"Our biggest opponent each night is ourselves - that's how I look at it. Not to be cocky or anything, but that's how we honestly feel. We are the defending [Eastern] champs. Once the first game of the regular season starts, that's irrelevant. But we are going to go into training camp looking to get back to the Finals and win it."

Rondo's not worried about the Heat, he's worried about the only team that beat his Celtics in the playoffs last year. And honestly, doesn't that just make 100% perfect sense? Celtic management seemed to agree as the Celtics... well, they pretty much got huge. Having to replace an injured Kendrick Perkins, they signed Jermaine O'neal and Shaquille O'neal. They brought in Von Wafer to a one year deal, and they drafted Avery Bradley, a really good pick at pick #22. Along with re-signing Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson (plus Doc Rivers), this team is built to make a run.

Size and rebounding played a major role in the Finals a few months ago and now with a front line of Jermaine, Shaq, KG, Perkins and Glen Davis, I mean my goodness... that's low key HUGE. You're telling me in a 7 game series, with 2 or 3 of these behemoths clogging the lane, Chris Bosh will take advantage by taking free throw line extended jump shots, Joel Anthony will take advantage by crashing boards (all 6'9" of him) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas will take advantage by taking baseline jump shots?

"But Dwyane Wade and LeBron will carry this team!" Well I don't know if you've seen LeBron James' jump shot you'd second guess your self and Dwyane Wade will be knocked on his ass like he's been his whole career, especially with the Celtics' physical style of play of NO EASY BUCKETS. I also have this strange premonition that LeBron will once again wilt under pressure and take a back seat against the Celtics, hoping Wade will carry the team. But we'll see.

Sidenote: My predicted 1-8 in the East is 1. Heat 2. Magic 3. Bulls 4. Celtics 5. Atlanta 6. Milwaukee 7. Knicks 8. Charlotte (but really it's a toss up for that 7 and 8 spot).

The Celtics, like the Lakers, addressed needs this summer. While they had to retain their core, they also needed length/replacement for Perkins. Jermaine O'Neal signing is huge and here's why:

No, Jermaine is not an all star. Especially in his years at Miami. But let me throw this out there. Jermaine was probably the 2nd best player on Miami behind Wade. Okay, maybe tied for 2nd with Michael Beasley, but he was their #1 post option. On a team with Paul Pierce, KG, Ray Allen and an actual point guard running things in Rondo, I'm predicting a more than average year from Jermaine O'Neal with his super annoying ugly jumpshot that somehow finds its way through the net. Here's a highlight video of him going against Zydrunas in a Heat/Cavs game from the 08-09 season. Again, 2nd best player on that team...

And for a substitution? Bring in Shaq who might not have the explosiveness of 10 years ago, but he is a huge person and can still change shots and like I said, will put people on their asses if they come to the lane. Like he did a few months ago against his new teammate!


Look, the Heat have the star power. They will beat good teams and pummel bad teams. But when it comes to the playoffs where strategy comes into play, where rebounding plays a large role, where other playoff teams are preparing by resting their star players for the REAL season, where injuries come into play and good bench players and depth play a huge part in a team's success, that is where the Celtics will shine. They made the finals, were a few points from winning the championship, they addressed their needs. They can cruise for stretches and rest their core and make a run in the playoffs like they did last year. Laker fans needn't be worried about this super Heat team, they need to worry about the Celtics. Again.