Archives For Trades

Just as we figured, the LeBron James decision has started a flurry of moves around the league as teams now move on to their own plans. That includes the Lakers who have helped facilitate the Rockets’ pursuit of Chris Bosh by taking Jeremy Lin off their hands. From ESPN:

The Houston Rockets have traded guard Jeremy Lin and a future first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers, a league source told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The Lakers were amenable to this deal, according to sources, because Lin is only under contract for one more season, thus preserving their cap space next summer. They also covet draft picks, after trading away their first-round picks in 2015 and 2017 to Phoenix and Orlando as part of the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades, respectively.

If the Lakers are going to miss out on the big name free agents this summer — and with each passing minute that seems increasingly likely — they needed to move on to their Plan B and start to fill out their roster. Acquiring Lin helps in that.

Lin is the exact type of asset the Lakers have said to be pursuing this summer. He’s a good player (we will get into this later with a full analysis) and he is only signed for one more season. This allows the Lakers to preserve their cap space and financial flexibility for next summer when they can again pursue the top free agents on the market.

The sweetner here, however, is the 1st round pick the Lakers will also receive. While the Rockets are likely to be one of the top 5-10 teams next season and deliver a pick in the mid-20′s next June, that pick is much better than the one the Lakers would be slated to have should they finish outside the top 5 selections — which would be no pick at all. Now the Lakers will be armed with a pick that can be used in another trade or used to select another young player who can potentially be part of the team.

Viewing the deal through this dual prism, I am quite happy with what the Lakers have accomplished. When the Lakers talk about “financial flexibility”, this is one of the ways in which they use the term. Having money under the cap isn’t just about signing FA’s, it is about leveraging that space to absorb players and getting additional assets for their trouble. The fact that Lin can actually play, fills a position of need, and has other marketing qualities that will help the Lakers is icing on the cake.

It is about time the Lakers got creative and started to use all the assets at their disposal to improve the team in the short and the long term. Drafting Julius Randle was step one in this process. It remains to be seen what becomes of Lin as a player next year or what the pick they will receive from the Rockets produces, but the hope is that they too become pieces that improve the short and long term trajectory of the team.

The news hit right before game time — Steve Blake was actually in his warm-ups and was ready to play against the Rockets — but in an instant the third longest tenured Laker (behind Kobe and Pau) was a Laker no more. Blake was shipped off to the Warriors in a 2-for-1 trade that netted the team young swingmen MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore.

The mechanics of the deal aren’t as straight forward as you’d think, but Amin Elhassan of ESPN summed up the deal as three separate trades:

  1. Steve Blake traded to the Warriors into a Traded Player Exception (TPE)
  2. MarShon Brooks traded to the Lakers into a TPE
  3. Kent Bazemore traded to the Lakers into a minimum salary exception

Those are the mechanics, the business side of this. Of course, that’s not the only part of a deal like this.

I, for one, will miss Steve Blake a great deal. Others may not feel this way and it is somewhat understandable when you consider the full picture of his time as a Laker. Blake was brought in as a $4 million/year point guard who was supposed to fit into the template as an ideal Triangle point guard. He had a reputation as a shooter, but not necessarily a playmaker and was supposed to thrive as an off-ball worker in Phil Jackson’s scheme. It didn’t play out that way, however. Blake had his moments under Phil, but never really flashed the consistency or high level three point shooting the team was hoping to get. That, combined with his salary, had fans turning on him early in his tenure and never really coming around on him as a player with value.

Which is a shame. Because while Blake’s salary should be a factor in how he’s viewed as a performer, what I saw when he played was someone who always gave his all while on the floor, always talked about the success of the team as his number one priority, and always carried a chip on his shoulder with an extra level of competitiveness that isn’t always seen in players — even at this level. He never wilted from a big moment, never blamed a teammate when something went wrong, and never did anything less than he could to try and help the team win. If that meant playing out of position at shooting guard, he’d do it. If it meant coming off the bench or having his minutes cut, he’d accept that too. Blake is the type of teammate everyone respects and the type of player who coaches love to have on their side.

The hardest part about trading Blake now is that he had finally come into his own as a contributor in a scheme that seemed to suit his skills best. Unlike the off-ball work he was asked to do under Phil Jackson and Mike Brown, Blake had the ball in his hands under Mike D’Antoni and was showing what he could do with the added responsibility. He proved he could make plays for his teammates in both the half court and when running the fast break. He also showed that he really could shoot well enough to be a long range threat. Blake had his best games under this head coach. Now he will try to do the same for Mark Jackson out in Oakland.

I wish him nothing but the best moving forward.

And speaking of moving forward, the players the Lakers got in this deal fit the profile of players they’ve been chasing for the past year. Brooks isn’t a former lottery pick, but he’s a former first round pick who has flashed an ability to score the ball well. His rookie season saw him score over 12 points a game while playing about 29 minutes per night. Since that point, however, he’s seen his minutes and production dip. In his 2nd season with the Nets he only played 12.5 minutes per night and in stints with the Celtics and Warriors this year he’s only appeared in 17 total games. Brooks’ issues seem to lie most with his shot selection and his ability to play NBA level defense. The latter is an issue most young players have, but that doesn’t alleviate the concern. The former is an issue that can also be aided with coaching, but that doesn’t mean it actually will be. Some players are what they are and never really grow out of the habits that they’ve had most of their basketball playing lives.

Whether Brooks is one of those players or not remains to be seen. But know that the Lakers acquired him to get a long look at whether he is redeemable as a player and whether the promise he showed as a rookie can be harnessed again. Brooks, after all, is only 25 and is only in his 3rd year. He is entering his prime and whatever skill he has is about to be combined with what should be his peak physical years. The Lakers, like they did with Xavier Henry and Wes Johnson and Kendall Marshall, are hoping he can show why he was a first round pick in the first place and do it under their watch.

As for Bazemore, he’s had a winding road to the NBA, going undrafted and then having spent time in the D-league trying to round his game into form. He’s probably best known for his legendary sideline celebrations, but he’s also been a summer league demon and flashed an ability to use his athleticism and physical gifts to look like a capable a pro. The issue is, however, that he hasn’t shown the skill level to match his physical tools and that has left him out of the Warriors’ rotation the past two seasons. This past summer they experimented with him as a point guard and tried to rework his jumper to get him to be a compliment to Steph Curry, allowing Steph to play off the ball more offensively and guard the lesser of the two guards defensively. That, though, never materialized and now the Warriors have turned to Steve Blake to do that job (after also failing with Toney Douglass and, to a lesser extent, Jordan Crawford).

If Bazemore is really going to stick in this league it will have to be as a “three and D” perimeter player in the half court and a guy who is opportunistic and a strong finisher in the open court. His defensive potential is enormous as he has great length and enough foot speed to guard three positions. That, like Brooks’ offensive talent, must be harnessed, though, if he is to become a rotation player in this league. Just as his offense will need to be at least replacement level. It’s one thing to have a somewhat broken jumper if you play Tony Allen level defense — but even that is getting harder to do as spacing has become so crucial in the league — but Bazemore is nowhere near that level now. So he must refine his offensive game so he can be a somewhat capable half court player. Because if he doesn’t, he’ll find himself sitting on the bench a lot in Los Angeles, just as he did in Oakland.

The Lakers will give him his shot, though. And he has some potential to make a wise man out of a gambler.

All in all, then, what these trades do is signal the continued transition of this team, in this season. Trading Blake means salary savings and a peek at two young players who have some promise. It maintains financial flexibility moving forward and, at least in the short term, actually adds healthy players to the rotation for coaches to evaluate. I can’t say from a management perspective I am mad at this approach. It is hard to see a player you like leave, however. And with the trade deadline nearly here, I don’t think it will be the last time I say that today.

Pau Gasol will not be going to the Cavs via trade. Per Brian Windhost of ESPN:

The first round pick from the Kings that the Cavs are sending to Chicago is more than mildly protected, needing to be outside the top 12 in the upcoming draft and outside the top 10 in any of the drafts from 2015 through 2017 (which, at this point, may not occur based off their franchise trajectory as of now). The right to swap 1st round picks this year is also protected and can only occur should the Cavs make the playoffs (they are currently on the outside looking in, sitting in the 12th spot).

The Lakers, then, hold onto Pau. Which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing right now.

As an aside, there is a common misconception about what a Pau Gasol trade would have meant for the Lakers, at least in relation to the deal that was supposedly on the table with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While more recent reports had the Lakers continuing to stand their ground in seeking at least one other asset (a draft pick, a young player, or an established player who could be a part of next year’s team or traded again for more assets), the key benefit  of the deal from their perspective was a financial one.

The injury-ravaged Lakers have been considering whether to execute a Gasol-for-Bynum trade because it would get them out of the luxury tax for the first time in seven years. More important than the $20 million in instant savings would be easing the pressure of going into the repeater tax in either 2015 or ’16, sources said. If a team is in the luxury tax in four out of any five years, it triggers the repeater tax.

This, of course, is very true. The Lakers stood to save a bunch of money this season AND dip below the luxury tax line. However, what’s not spelled out in that excerpt — in fact, it wasn’t really spelled out in many places — is that the Lakers will be below the luxury tax line next season simply by letting Pau Gasol’s contract expire and then renouncing his rights in free agency (which is almost a given).

What’s also not spelled out is that the Lakers, should the sentence I just typed hold true, will also find themselves below the tax line the following season simply due to CBA mechanics that make it extremely difficult to get above the luxury tax line without committing big money to your own free agents via their Bird Rights. As it stands today, the only Lakers who will be coming off the books in the summer of 2015 are Robert Sacre and Steve Nash (and potentially Nick Young and Kendall Marshall should stay with the team beyond this season). Simple math, even when accounting for free agent signings this summer and whatever draft pick is added, make it extremely difficult to get above the tax line when you consider who the Lakers would need to commit big money to.

Said another way, the Lakers are very unlikely to be a tax paying team in either of the next two seasons and, thus, are very unlikely to pay the repeater tax. If they simply let free agency play out in a normal way, they’ll avoid those heavy tax payments that were the supposed impetus to trading Gasol to the Cavs and will maintain the benefit of the flexibility that trade would have offered them anyway.

Even in saying all that, let’s not act as though the Lakers’ only chance to trade Gasol evaporated with the Cavs pulling the trigger on a deal for Deng. Gasol has played well of late — in his last 10 games he’s averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds on 51% shooting — and if his production stays relatively stable until the trade deadline the potential for trade partners to materialize could increase. We’re looking at another month or so of time before that date comes.

Whether the Lakers find a deal they like enough to follow through with a trade is another story, but it’s not impossible to imagine them finally finding some sort of package that fits into their short and long term goals for building a team. In other words, Pau may still be a Laker today but there’s still plenty of time on the calendar for that to change.

And, so, more things change, the more they stay the same. Over the next month or so, I think we’ll find this to be especially true when it comes to Pau Gasol being in the middle of trade rumors.

As expected, the Lakers didn’t make any moves as the NBA Trade Deadline came and passed. With the Lakers struggling to get back to .500 this year, many wondered if another big move was on the horizon for the Forum Blue and Gold, but there was never anything that made any sense. There were rumblings about both Howard and Pau Gasol being moved (which would have potentially been a bit louder had he not been injured). But in reality, the Lakers don’t have any pieces that other teams want that they want to move. Going into this trade season, it was expected that the team the Lakers had before the All-Star break would be the team that they finished with at the end of the season. The nature of the contracts, the ages of the guys with those contracts, and the fact that this team hasn’t really gotten a chance to really play together as a unit — especially under D’Antoni’s system.

Furthermore, there were no trades that were of the blockbuster caliber. J.J. Redick was the centerpiece in the most high profile trade of the day, and Thomas Robinson was the headliner in the biggest (and only) trade from yesterday. While I won’t provide much analysis here (i.e. none) here’s a look at all of the trades from the last two days.

Orlando-Milwaukee Trade
Orlando gets: Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb, and Tobias Harris
Milwaukee gets: J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith

Houston-Sacramento-Phoenix Trade
Houston gets: Thomas Robinson and a future 2nd Round Pick
Sacramento gets: Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas
Phoenix gets: Marcus Morris

Portland-Oklahoma City Trade
Portland gets: Eric Maynor
Oklahoma City gets: The draft rights to Giorgio Printezis

Oklahoma City-New York Trade
Oklahoma City gets: Ronnie Brewer
New York gets: 2nd Round Pick

Dallas-Atlanta Trade
Dallas gets: Anthony Morrow
Atlanta gets: Dahntay Jones

Atlanta-Philadelphia-Golden State Trade
Atlanta gets: Jeremy Tyler
Philadelphia gets: Charles Jenkins
Golden State Gets: Two 2nd Round Picks, one from each team

Charlotte-Orlando Trade
Charlotte gets: Josh McRoberts
Orlando gets: Hakim Warrick

Boston-Washington Trade
Boston gets: Jordan Crawford
Washington gets: Leandro Barbosa

Phoenix-Toronto Trade
Phoenix gets: Hamed Haddadi and a 2nd Round Pick
Toronto gets: Sebastian Telfair

Memphis-Miami Trade
Memphis gets: Dexter Pittman
Miami gets: Trade Exception

Wow. Wow. WOW. To be honest, even now, I’m still in shock.

Earlier today I wrote that I seriously doubted the rumored 4 team trade that would land Dwight Howard on the Lakers would happen. Well, I was only partially wrong (and couldn’t be happier about it). The rumored deal has been re-worked and the framework for a Howard trade has been agreed upon by all parties. A call with the league is set for tomorrow morning to get final approval. From ESPN’s report:

A four-team trade that would send Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers is complete, multiple sources told ESPN on Thursday night. A source with direct knowledge of the talks told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein the Lakers will receive Howard, the Denver Nuggets will acquire Andre Iguodala, the 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, and the Magic will get Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and one protected future first-round pick from each of the three teams. In addition, the Magic will be getting other pieces, including 76ers No. 1 draft pick Moe Harkless, a source told Stein.

One name you don’t see listed there is Pau Gasol’s. In what can only be considered a coup by Mitch Kupchak, the Spaniard is staying in Los Angeles and will team with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, and Dwight Howard to form a starting lineup for the ages. As if getting Howard wasn’t enough.

But let that reality sink in some more. Dwight Howard will be a Laker.

He is the premier big man in the league. In the season before last, he was the runner up for the MVP award. He’s won 3 defensive player of the year awards. He’s a superstar of the highest order, bringing two way impact that that’s felt on the floor and from a marketing perspective. There was no bigger fish to be had this summer and he’ll be wearing the forum blue and gold next season.

Of course, there are some concerns. First of all, he’s currently not able to play basketball. As of this writing, he’s rehabbing his back after season ending surgery. Second of all, he’s made no commitment to the Lakers beyond next season. One of the reasons he’s even available is the fact that he’s not under contract beyond next year and has expressed the fact that he’ll test the free agent waters once his current deal expires.

However, it’d be silly to think the Lakers haven’t thought those issues over one hundred times over. Howard has been rehabbing his back in Los Angeles and it’s fair to assume they’ve done their due diligence on his progress and are comfortable that he’ll be ready to play at a high level next year. As for keeping him beyond next season, the Lakers will not only have Howard’s Bird Rights but can sell him on the history of the franchise and the team’s status as perennial contender for the championship. There are few, if any franchises, that can give Howard the market, dollars, and chance to win that the Lakers do and you can bet they’ll spend the upcoming campaign convincing him that his future is with this team.

All that said, those are concerns for another day. Today, the Lakers and their fans can celebrate. They’ve nabbed the league’s best big man. Its premier defensive player. Its best pick and roll big finisher and one of the few elite hedge/recover defensive bigs. If there’s a single player that could have taken an already primed team to the next level, it was Howard.

After the Nash acquisition, the signing of Antawn Jamison, and the return of Jordan Hill the Lakers were already on the doorstep of being one of the few teams that could claim challenger status to the Thunder and the Heat. Now, the Lakers have kicked in that door and placed themselves right in the middle of the conversation. They’ve made a fantastic team even better.

Kudos to Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss. The front office that just a season ago was questioned on the trade of Lamar Odom and its ability to make the necessary moves has transformed the team in a single summer. They’ve spent the money, made the prudent trades, and held on to the guys they’ve wanted to.

It’s really unbelievable. Dwight Howard will be a Laker. I still can barely believe it.