The Wild West

Kurt —  November 3, 2008

Apparently, the Denver Nuggets hate losing to the Lakers so much they thought it was time to make big changes. Iverson out, Billups in. McDyess is in Denver, although rumors are he may be bought out (for luxury tax reasons).

I kid about the Lakers end of that, sort of. It’s not just the Lakers, but the Nuggets were spending a lot of money on a team that was going to be in the second or third tier of the Western Conference, they had no choice but to make a big, bold move.

What are Nuggets fans thinking? Here are the thoughts from Pick Axe and Roll:

My number two off-season priority for Denver was finding a point guard. I guess three games into the season is close enough to the off-season where we can say they got the job done. When I laid out the specifications after last year that I would like to see in a point guard Chauncey Billups is almost a prefect match. He is unselfish, knows how to set up his teammates and can run an offense, he has the size and willingness to play defense and he can shoot it from downtown. He is nearly a perfect fit.

Keeping that in mind the question is does Billups accomplish what AI could not and make the Nuggets a contender? I think this trade clearly makes the Nuggets a better team right now, and probably next year too, but I have to say at this point they are still not a contender at the level of the Lakers, Hornets and Jazz. I do think this trade will put them firmly in the playoffs ahead of teams like the Spurs, Suns and Mavericks though and they will be a much tougher out than they have been the previous five seasons. With the new defensive focus and intensity we have seen and with the addition of a player in Billups, who will fit better than AI in a half court setting and will add another player capable of hitting 40% of his threes to pair with J.R., the Nuggets are going to be a team to be reckoned with…..

The Nuggets now will be starting Billups, J.R, Melo, Kenyon and Nene. That is a very good starting five capable of both scoring and playing stout defense. For all the hatred spouted at the Nuggets over the Camby trade, there is no doubt that today the team is better than they were at the end of last season and to top things off they are far cheaper as well.

I think that’s a good assessment. The Nuggets are now a better team (at least once everyone meshes) but are they really on par with the Lakers or Hornets (or maybe even Rockets)? My first reaction is no, you never know how things will shake out but are they deep enough? They did get better, however, no doubt.

As for Detroit. Welcome to the youth movement. They may or may not keep AI after this year (can they get him at a greatly reduced price?), but they clearly have decided to go with the Rip/Prince/Amir movement for the long term. If they let AI walk at the end of the year they can sign a near-max player this summer and still have room for a max deal in the highly-valued summer of 2010. That’s quality and fast rebuilding.

Just a couple of other random thoughts to throw in there:

• After watching a lot of games last week, and a lot of team introductions, I have to say that Chicago’s digital “running of the Bulls” through the streets of Chicago may be one of my favorites.

• As for least favorite things this season, Bryan hit the nail on the head in the comments:

One thing that stood out so far: the Timberwolves play on an abomination of a basketball court. Between the three point lines it’s varnish orange/brown, and inside the three point line it’s a light wood (with the key being painted team colors). Seriously, every time I see a game played there right now, I think I’m watching the Wizard of Oz in Technicolor. Something must be done before every Minnesotan goes blind. I can’t even find an image of it online – even the internet knows not to show the world this eyesore.

• If you do just one thing tomorrow — get out and vote. No discussion here of who and what to vote for, just that it is important to vote, to make your voice heard.

Now, if you had to vote for a Laker for president, who would it be?

Kurt

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40 responses to The Wild West

  1. David St. Hubbins November 3, 2008 at 11:48 am

    I’m curious as to why the AI/Billups trade happened now. This deal could have been made at anytime in the off season when both players could have acclimated with their new teams. Did somehting happen in the first week of the season for either (or both) teams that drove them to make the deal now?

    You never know about chemistry, but I think this deal makes Denver better. The experimented with AI and Carmelo together and I just don’t think playing 2 guys that need to dominate the ball that much works. Billups should allow Carmelo to be the man and be more of a traditional point guard who initiates offense for other players rather than just himself. He’s also a significant upgrade defensively where they’ve had to play Anthony Carter against the other teams’s 2 where he’s always mismatched. I think this will also provide an opening for J.R. Smith to play some minutes. With Iverson gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves into the starting lineup with Carter moving to a backup role where he is more suited.

    I’m not sure how this benefits the Pistons in the short term. I don’t thnk adding AI puts them over the top of either the Celtics or the Cavs. I guess Detroit must think that Stuckey is ready for a big step up (I love him as a player). They can rent AI for one year and then have 20 mil back for their cap and have Stuckey ready to start next year. I watched AI against the Clips and the Lakers and he really looks like he’s lost a step. It could be that he’s just not motivated since Denver stripped his captaincy and he’ll perk up on a new team. However, the Pistons have stressed defense over the last few years and I think AI is a downgrade for there. He gets some steals by gambling, but he’s not real effective as either a one on one or team defender where he gets exploited for his lack of size and lack of willingness and his quickness isn’t what it used be. Again, you never know how the chemistry will work out…it could be a great move, but does anyone think this makes Detroit better this year?

  2. Henry at TrueHoop broke the Pistons side down well:

    Down, the road the Pistons becomes the driving force of big-time free agency as soon as Iverson’s contract comes off the books next summer. The Pistons will combine a winning environment, one of the most respected general managers in the game, and — depending on salary cap levels that are yet to be set, and extensions that may yet be given to existing Pistons — likely enough cap space to sign two free agent players to max contracts over the next summers of 2009 and 2010.

    Feast your eyes on this list of players who will be available. 2010 free agents include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Ray Allen, Tyson Chandler, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Redd.

  3. By all accounts, Dice is not happy about this deal. His agent said so.

    But, he gets the buyout payday plus the payday from whomever picks him up. That’s a lot of dough. And, he could land himself on an even better team.

  4. Certainly, AI’s massive expiring contract is now an asset for Detroit … however, the Pistons are taking a big gamble if they think they can simply buy their way back into the league’s elite over the next couple of off-seasons.

    Recent history has shown that the surest way to vault yourself into true title contention is through a combination of smart (or lucky) draft picks and shrewd trades to fill in any missing pieces on the roster. You might have to go all the way back to when we added Shaq to find an NBA champion squad that was headlined by a free agent pick-up.

    Big-name free agent acquisitions are expensive and, at best, high risk/high reward. Even for a storied NBA franchise like the Pistons, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to pry away the right player, that one difference-maker … there’s going to be fierce competition over the top names, and the home team almost always has an advantage in the amount of money and number of years they can offer. Not sure I see this one ultimately working out for either team, but we’ll see; certainly each one had to do SOMETHING.

    And, hey, how about former Lakers draft pick Cheikh Samb being the throw-in guy?!

  5. 4. That makes sense, but that list of free agents is pretty enticing. The possibility of Detroit being able to sign TWO of those players to lead a nice stable of role-players has got to be exciting for Detroit fans. I know I’d be salivating and emailing everyone I know today if I was a Detroit fan…

  6. Joel, was it my imagination or did KG just lead the hated Celtics over the Lakers in the 2008 Finals. Generally, I agree that huge free agent signings very rarley lead anywhere (hello, Philly, Clips and GS).

  7. A fantastic short-term trade for both teams. Pistons get a go-to crunchtime superstar they’ve always lacked and wanted. Mr Big Shot was good enough for that for a year (the same year they won a championship) but he is no longer that. AI is exactly what the Pistons needed to make it back to the Finals. Even if he’s not the final piece, his expiring contract is good enough with the youth movement and ability to sign big-time free agents. Nuggets get a real PG to focus and run their potent but chaotic offense. It will certainly improve them, but defense is where the games will be won, and Billups is a better defender than AI. If I was Nugs, I’d try to keep McDyess, or at least try to trade for a true center. They need as much size as they can get.

  8. this is an amazing list of 2010 free agents:

    LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Ray Allen, Tyson Chandler, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Redd.

  9. 5 — Ow, my eyes.

    6 — You could, of course, be right. I almost think the worst-case scenario for Detroit would be if this year’s team performs well with Iverson making a significant contribution. What if, say, the Pistons lose a hard-fought Eastern Conference Finals series in which AI scores a ton of points … does the team then feel obligated to offer him one last big contract at the age of 34? Could be an awkward dilemma; shades of the decision the Dodgers face in whether or not to re-sign Manny.

  10. BTW, I lived in Denver in the 90s and there is one guy who owes his lfe to Chauncy….Ricardo Patton who was the interim Mens BBall coach at Boulder for the 1st year that Chauncy was a Buffalo. CU had a great season and Patton got the full time gig with long term deal…..and never won anything again. Somehow he lasted 11 years.

    All because of Chauncy.

  11. I really like this trade for both teams. Detroit not only gets some payroll flexibility after this season, but they get another scoring option that can create for himself. Usually when the Pistons want a bucket, they go to ‘Sheed on the block and have him create. All their other sets are screens for Rip or isolations for Billups (who is not the ideal, create for yourself PG). Now the Pistons can just clear a side and let AI create if they want and they’ll at least have a decent chance of getting a good shot from him or his pass to a teammate when he goes to the basket.

    I really like this trade for Denver too, just because it brings their roster into balance. They no longer have to cater to AI needing the ball to score and can now run more traditional sets on offense. They also have a much bigger backcourt can now match up better defensively against other teams. Plus this will open up more minutes for Smith and Kleiza who I think in the long run will help them more than AI.

    What I find funny about this trade is that while Dumars has done well for himself, he’s also still searching for some sort of reprieve from the Darko pick. In that draft he could have had Melo, Bosh, or Wade but took Darko instead. That will forever haunt him as he’s still trying to fill the hole in his roster that that pick created.
    I mean, he’s clearing cap space just so he can have a chance to sign one of those players when they become free agents. Anyways, it’s funny how even the best GM’s make personnel decisions that can come back to haunt you later on.

  12. 8 — JackM, it happened in the off-season but Boston acquired KG via a blockbuster trade, not as a free agent.

  13. I don’t think this trade does much to change the NBA landscape this season. The Nuggets are still a fringe playoff team at best in a loaded West, and I just don’t see AI putting Detroit over the hump in the East.

    Billups isn’t the same player he was in year’s past. He’s a better fit for the Nuggets than AI, granted, but even if they hold onto McDyess (which isn’t likely), they’ve still got a lot of holes to fill after letting Najera and Camby go over the summer. And someone please give me a call when Mr. Hilario plays a full season. They’re just not deep enough, nor talented enough, to hang with Utah, L.A., New Orleans, the Spurs or Houston. Portland and Phoenix and Dallas may even be better.

    The Pistons with AI seems like a strange fit. He’s not known for playing defense or a team concept, which have been hallmarks of this franchise’s recent success. True, Rasheed went to Auburn Hills and became a good citizen so I won’t say Iverson won’t work out well there. But even if he’s the perfect fit, does that put them ahead of Boston? Ahead of Cleveland? I don’t see it — and Miami and Philadelphia may have something to say by year’s end, as well.

    Because of those factors, I agree with those who suspect this was more of a chess move by Dumars. He’s put the team in position to have money to spend when some nice players will be on the market. Only time will tell if that works out, or blows up in his face a la Jerry Krause back in the day.

  14. I like this trade for both teams. Both teams remain competitive and free up time to develop their youngsters(J.R. Smith, Johnson, Maxiell, Stuckey).

    The trade will allow Detroit to participate in the free agent bonanzas of 09 and 10. Denver won’t have any capspace until at least 11, when K-Mart’s contract expires and there is a team option for Billups. In 12, Nene, Billups, and Carmello’s contracts definitely expire.

    My only issue with this trade is whether team chemistry will be damaged or will improve.

  15. The addition of Billups to Denver is going to improve that team quite a bit. They now have a floor general, something they’ve lacked for years. As everyone mentioned, they have balance and stability now. Even more important, they may start to develop an identity. Billups is a winner and he is going to bring a winning attitude to the team built on defense.

    Also, he will help spread the floor for Melo to operate on the low block. With Chauncy and JR Smith on the perimeter, doubling Anthony will be much more of a challenge. I feel like their team just elevated themselves into the 2nd tier of the West, and they should now be in the playoffs, barrying injury. But they are back to strapped financially w/o AI’s expiring $21 million.

    Detroit made out well too. It’s good to see these kinds of trades where both teams benefit. I’m assuming Detroit will have a starting line-up of AI, Rip, Prince, Sheed, & Amir Johnson. Ivo will bring the ball up, hopefully running the offense, and then they can look to Stucky as their sixth man. Even a crazier idea, which won’t happen because it’s AI, would be having him be their sixth man as he would be instant offensive electricity off the bench. But would he accept that? No. Is Stuckey ready to start? I don’t know, but it’s a thought that may provide a more flexible and dynamic squad. Regardless, I think Detroit is the 2nd best team (behind Boston) in the East and they should be right in the running for the Eastern Conference Title.

  16. I really hope the Celtics don’t pick up Antonio McDyess.

  17. 2010 has one other guy that has a Player Option to extend or go into UR Free Agency…some Kobe Bryant guy…I hear he is pretty good too.

    I think the Nuggest improved drastically…Billups may not be the guy he was in ’04 but he is still smart and still a solid player…and…I think this Nuggests team resmebles that ’04 Pistons team…minus the Defenese of course…but….lets see what happens…I think they will surprise us all….maybe not…maybe Carmelo is just to dam lazy to really make a differnce ever. I dont know.

    AI in Detroit is just nuts…to me…the only logical thing I can see is the 3 open roster spots just created and thent he 4th when AI goes his own way this summer….oh yeah and that 20 Million opening as well…I am sure they will fill some of these spots temporailly this season…I think Joe may be just waiting for next year and having AI this year keeps the seats full…at least for now…if they start choking thru the season there may be more shake up…but for now I think they will all be content.

  18. I think AI will be popular in Detroit. That can be a laid-back team at times, and if there is one thing AI is not it is laid back. He’ll bring them some energy and he’ll run with those young kids.

  19. East Hiearchy

    Boston
    Detroit

    Philly/Cavs/Tor
    Orl
    Atl
    Wiz/Bulls/Heat

  20. West Hierachy

    LA
    NO/Hou

    Utah

    Den/Dal/SA

    Pho
    Port/GS

  21. Basketball has become more balanced than any of the other major sports in my opinion. A lot of good teams in diverse markets, and teams are able to get better if they do “the right things”, fair in my book.

  22. 11. That’s an interesting hypothetical. I’m skeptical that Iverson is going to make the Pistons better, but if it were to happen, I think Dumars would stick to his plan (which I assume is to let Iverson’s salary come off the books). Granted, there would probably be some pressure to keep AI around if that were to happen, but I think most Detroit fans would realize that a max or near-max deal for a 34-year old Iverson could be crippling. Dumars has shown little compunction when it comes to axing folks if he doesn’t think they’re going to contribute to a title.

    Not to mention, I’ve seen some speculation that Iverson may get moved AGAIN before the trade deadline; supposedly he’s trade-eligible about 2 weeks before then. It’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out.

  23. Can we vote for Gasol?

  24. I’m loving this Gasol deal more and more! Look at the havoc we’ve wrecked here. PHX traded for Shaq, DAL traded for Kidd, and DEN just traded AI. My god talk about changing landscapes. How many times have we seen centerpieces from teams that made the finals being traded? Sure they are all ‘off to the sunset’ players (hence coming west?) and probably just a prelude to 2010, but it surely is fun (you could of course also say that all of this has been triggered by that KG trade).

    Anyway, I think it’s a great deal for the pistons who probably had no chance winning over boston/cavs anyway, and in the same way, a good deal for the nuggets too. Fun stuff, and although i’m not sure of the severity of K’mart’s injury, but having that McDyess thrown in will give them more options.

  25. 21, 22 Kwame A

    The hierarchy looks pretty solid. I would definitely up the Spurs one though and stick them with the Jazz. Especially since its an odd year, and Manu should be back by mid-December. Also, I might toss the Cavs up a tier as well, just cuz of Lebron.

    I want to take this moment to celebrate the Celtics loss to the Pacers. WOOOHOOOO!!! :D seriously though, I really think the Celtics will miss Posey and PJ Brown, both veterans who know how to close down tough games. The only significant addition they’ve made is a year of experience for their Rondo and Powe.

  26. 26 – Amen about the Gasol trade. It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving.

    Let’s not forget before Billups was Mr. Big Shot, he was Mr. Journeyman (5 teams in 7 years). He found his niche in Detroit, and he may not find it again in the much tougher Western conference. McDyess must be pissed, though.

    AI is going to kill in Detroit. My prediction is an improvement on his 26/3/7 season from last year. And they will love him because he leaves it all on the floor. The Celtics must be crapping their pants. He’s a great foil for Rondo. He’s too fast for Rondo to guard, which means plenty of fouls for Rajon. AI also overplays passing lanes, forcing Rondo to be a scoring point.

    I know I’m hoping that AI gets to play us in the Finals…

  27. At first I was a bit confused as to how it would help Detroit on the court. I knew they had to shake things up because this group was finished as far as having another real Title run, but in some senses AI is the anti-Piston. But the more I think about it, the one problem the Pistons was they had no closer. They didn’t have a guy who could score at will, and create for himself. It was their undoing the past couple of years. What you usually saw was Rasheed trying to work the inside, or Chauncey make it all up chucking 3′s, and it didn’t work. Now, they have a player who can make something out of nothing and score on anybody, time after time.

  28. Who do the Lakers play next?

  29. New post up, keep the Iverson talk going here

  30. The Dude Abides November 3, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    I haven’t seen it mentioned much here, but I also think that Dumars is shaking things up attitude wise. He’s hoping that the presence of Iverson lights a fire under certain Pistons (cough Sheed cough cough) and solves its complacency problem. So, the three things the trade could accomplish are (1) lighting a fire, (2) freeing up cap space for 2009 and 2010, and (3) giving the team a go-to guy to close games. Iverson still has that competitive fire, and maybe some of it will rub off on Sheed. One thing for sure, the Pistons could set the season record for getting T’d up (AI, Rip, and Sheed).

  31. Lebron James is taking notes of this transaction. The Pistons will probably be the favorite now. Don’t for get about Stuckey. The Pistons obviously believe in his abilities. They have a nice core, one of the best in the league. Afflalo is another piece, along with Maxiell. Dumars does it again.

  32. 33. I don’t know. Maybe they can win a title or two with him, but, if a LeBron move is really about international brand marketing, about the $$ from endorsements and shoe companies, Detroit doesn’t cut it. Really, only three markets do, and he isn’t coming here.

  33. Some observations and comments on previous comments.
    Miami as constituted is horrible,they are nowhere close to a Playoff team.
    As noted AI gives Detroit somebody who can take over a game and win it,something Detroit has sorely lacked. For all the Detroit talk,they haven’t made the Finals the last 3 yrs and it’s obvious the old roster just wasn’t good enough. Detroit sure must feel their young PFs are ready-or else Hermann has really turned some heads there.
    Denver’s better,but they are still a 6-8 seed. At the end of a game who’s taking the shot?
    LA,Utah and Houston are still the class of the West because of their depth. These teams can all have a player go out for a week or two and still win,where other teams will go thru a mini-funk. NO is a very good team,but they need everything go right,and I think this season is going to be a grind for them and they will falter towards end of season.
    Early but the best trades look to be Gasol,Artest,Korver and Miller/Love.(Didn’t like the Artest trade,and still have misgivings,but w/out him the Rockets are probably 0-3.)
    If,IF,McDyess is bought out it will be interesting to see who pursues him. A solid tall defensive big man who would prob come cheap?
    If he wants to FU Detroit-Toronto,Orlando,Cavs. Substantial minutes-Miami. Shot at title-SA,Hou,NO.
    Cavs would be interesting as they could then move Varejao for a SG.

  34. Summer 2009 – Kobe opts out to play for $50 M for 1 year in Greece.

    09-10 season – Lakers suffer

    Summer 2010 – Lakers sign LeBron. Kobe, who’s made 2 years money in 1, shocks NBA world by signing with Lakers for mid-level.

    10-11 to 12-13 seasons – Lakers win 3 championships and break NBA record with 74 win season.

    As the Emperor said, “I have foreseen it”.

  35. 36. The funny thing is, even if Kobe left, and the Lakers somehow added no new salary, the Lakers wouldn’t be able to sign LeBron in two summers unless he decided to come here for the MLE.

  36. Yes, it looks like even without Kobe and Lamar, the Lakers would only have about $9 M – $12 M to work with (depending on the 09-10 salary cap level).

    Barring other moves, of course.

  37. I can help, Plan9: in the aftermath of Kobe’s depature, the league passes a special rule allowing teams to match offers from out of the league regardless of cap.

    Mysteriously, Kobe and Lebron get offers in 2010 which are exactly what the Lakers are willing to play. Rumors about shoe money and David Stern (who hasn’t been seen in public for over a year at that point) abound.

  38. When will the league get around to passing a rule that says bought out players cannot resign with the team that just traded them? If Antonio McNugget ends up back with the Pistons… it’s just not right.

    JackM, I was a Buff from 95-00, and even split season tickets with friends for the Nuggets opening of the Can )(the Pepsi Center), and the 2nd(?) worst single season record. Good times. I had a couple classes with Chauncey: he’d walk in, put his head down, get up an hour later and leave. Rough life.