Archives For Trades

Records: Lakers 33-15 (2nd in West), Rockets 22-27 (11th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.5 (2nd in NBA), Rockets (110.1 (5th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.1 (10th in NBA), Rockets 109.9 (24th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Rockets: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes and Andrew Bynum (both out); Rockets:Yao Ming (out), Jared Jeffries & Courtney Lee & Brad Miller (all questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: Two straight losses (especially when one is to the Celtics) has a lot of fans panicking and has GM Mitch Kupchak talking about exploring trade options. My brief take on this is that a trade is doubtful for several reasons:

  • The Lakers have few trade-able assets that aren’t core players that the team doesn’t want to get rid of. I’m sure the Lakers are more than willing to explore trades of guys like Walton, Ebanks, and Caracter. And while Artest and Blake are guys that aren’t performing up to expectations right now, their contracts are problematic AND they’re guys that do have defined roles on the team. Brown and Barnes have low salaries and thus can’t fetch much back unless it’s an equally low paid player that the Lakers trust to play well. That leaves Bynum, Odom, Gasol, Fisher, and Kobe. Raise your hand if you think the Lakers would seriously consider trading any of those guys. (Note: my hand is still down.)
  • Money is still an issue for this team. Besides the Pau Gasol trade, the every Laker trade has been made to cut costs. Radman and Sasha were salary dumps. It’s very unlikely at this point that the team is willing to add to an already league high payroll.
  • Mitch Kupchak typically keeps things quiet. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall any leaks about the trades that brought in Gasol, Ariza, Shannon/Ammo, or Joe Smith. Mitch normally doesn’t let information out easily. The fact that he openly discussed the possibility of a trade actually leads me to believe a trade is less likely, not more.

That last point is the key one to me, though. Kupchak’scomments that a shake up may be in order centered entirely around the performance of the current group. His comments included several references to the team having enough talent and that it’s currently under-performing. That sounds like a man that’s telling his team to get in gear, not one that’s planning a big move. I could be wrong, obviously. But the public nature of this discussion andthe fact that the core players (i.e. players with trade value) are guys the team wants to keep has me thinking no deal is eminent. We’ll see though.

The other major news of the day is that Andrew Bynum has been ruled out of tonight’s game. An MRI exam showed a bone bruise on his left knee andif you noticed him limping or sporting some tape aroundthat leg during the Boston game, that’s why. (As an aside, the right knee is the one with the brace and the one that he had off-season surgery on.) After yesterday’s practice, Phil relayed the fact that Drew hoped to play tonight, but alas he’s been ruled out. I know that the words “Bynum” “hurt” and “knee” often cause panic, but based off reports this isn’t serious. Hopefully he’ll be back by Thursday to face the Spurs. We’ll get you updates as we get them. 

The Rockets Coming in: Honestly, this team has been flying under the radar for me of late. When you look at their schedule, they’re 2-4 in their last 6, but in that stretch they faced Orlando, Dallas, and San Antonio. All of those teams are better than Houston so losses aren’t that big a concern. They’re currently 4 games out of the 8th spot in the playoffs and unless they make a big push after the all-star break, this team may find itself out of the post-season.

One difference of late, though, is that the Rockets have been starting Kyle Lowryat PG rather than Aaron Brooks. For a while that was injury related as Brooks missed many games with a badly sprained ankle. However, upon his return, he’s been relegated to reserve status as the team has preferred Kyle Lowry’s defense and ability to attack off the dribble to Brooks’ long range bombing and lack of D. With the Rocketson the bottom quarter of the league in defensive efficiency, I can understand why.

Rockets Blogs: A few quality spots to get Rockets news and analysis. Red94 is one such site. As is The Dream Shake.

Keys to game: With Bynum out, the Lakers are going back to their LO/Gasol frontline and that means a bit of a different approach on offense. We’re likely a shift from Kobe to Lamar as intitiator in the Lakers’ two guard front of the Triangle. Kobe will probably play much more on the wing andat the weak side elbow with Lamar making the initial pass into the corner or the hub of the Triangle to get the Lakers’ actions going.

This means that the Lakers’ attack will change some as rather than Kobe doing a lot of his work off the dribble, he’ll be off the ball more. Hopefully this creates better ball and player movement for the team and allows others to “activate” themselves in the Lakers’ sets. This also means that Pau will move off the wing and elbow and more into the low post for longer stretches this game. Going up against Chuck Hayes is never a picnic for Pau as Hayes’ low center of gravity and quick feet allows him to push Gasol out further than he’d like on his catches and makes backing down to earn position harder. However, if the Lakers can get Pau to make his catch on the move and coming to the ball, I think tonight can be a night where Pau gets good shots inside using his jump hook (a shot that has been too absent from his arsenal in the past several weeks).

Defensively, the Lakers must be disciplined and understand that they’re in store for a lot of cuts, screens, and misdirection tonight. Rick Adelman’s preference for the Princeton offense means a lot of high post entries to big men with wings like Martin, Battier, and Budinger screening and cutting off those picks to either fade to the corner for open shots or cut hard back door for layups. Every Laker must be aware of what’s going on and communication on D will be crucial to the team’s success in defending these actions.

From an individual standpoint, the Rockets O tries to feature the efficient Kevin Martin on the wing and the crafty Luis Scola on the block. Controlling Martin is always tricky because he moves well off the ball to free himself up for his jumper but also uses the threat of that J to drive the ball hard into contact andearn trips to the foul line. As evidence of this he’s on track to becoming a player that can lead the league in both 3’s and FT’s made which is quite the feat.  So the Lakers must effectively trail him off screens to deny his jumper (you know, the opposite of how they treated Ray Allen) and with the big man supporting that action by stepping up early to deny penetration while giving the wing defender a chance to recover. As for Scola, he’s a very good post scorer but please don’t let him go to his right hand. Every fake, pivot, spin, and step through is designed for him to get back to his right hand for a jump hook or scoop shot. Force him to turn over his right shoulder, sit on his right hand, and you’ve completed 75% of the job.

This isn’t panic time but tonight is a game the Lakers need to win. Even though Phil was in a joking mood after yesterday’s practice, he mentioned that the Lakersneed to do a better job of protecting their home court while also beating the teams that aren’t currently in the playoff mix. Tonight’s opponent fits the bill on both counts. The Lakers surely don’t want to go into Thursday’s game vs. the Spurs on a 3 game skid. Let’s get this win.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on Fox Sports West. Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710am.

Talking Joe Smith

Phillip Barnett —  December 16, 2010
Getty Images

Getty Images

Because of the Lakers’ heavy schedule early in the week, we haven’t had the opportunity to discuss the Sasha-for-Joe Smith trade. The three-team deal happened on Tuesday which essentially boiled down to a Sasha Vujacic for Joe Smith trade with New Jersey, but the Lakers also acquire: a 2011 2nd round draft pick from Golden State, a 2012 2nd round draft pick from Chicago, draft rights to Sergei Lishouk from Houston and a trade exception worth approximately $5.5 million (according to Larry Coon). With the trade, the Lakers should shed off about $8.687 million off of their payroll. Saving money is always great considering the Lakers huge payroll; however, this trade can have some on court implications as well.

Joe Smith is in his 16th NBA season and the Lakers will be the 12th team the journeyman has played for. The signing came on the heels of Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum announcing his return to the team, adding the much needed depth up front that has been one of the main sources of the Lakers struggles. Smith, a 6’10’’ power forward himself, will, along with Bynum add another big to the currently thin Lakers frontcourt.

So far this season, Joe Smith had seen the floor only four times for the New Jersey Nets, with only just over six minutes per game in those contests, but his lack of playing time is no testament to his ability to fit into the Lakers system. Smith played with Atlanta last season, only averaging eight minutes per game, but while on the floor he showed flashes of his younger years. Atlanta runs variations of the Princeton offense, with bigs catching the ball at the pinch post, so throwing Smith into the offense and putting him in similar situations should be a smooth transition for such an intelligent player. Going back and looking at some of the things he was able to do last season through Synergy, I noticed a few things that would suggest that he can find some minutes with the Lakers:

-While he was on the floor, he had great chemistry with both Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia. Because of his limited minutes, he didn’t record many assists, but a good percentage of his assists in the half court was a direct result of him passing to another big or receiving the ball from one of them and swinging the ball to an open shooter. Considering how well we’ve seen Gasol-Odom-Bynum pass, the offense shouldn’t slow down having Smith on the floor with any of those guys.

-Joe Smith is a great outlet passer. It’s clear that he isn’t going to spend much time with the starting unit, so his ability to grab defensive rebounds and immediately get the ball out to Blake-Barnes-Brown on the break can be an extremely useful asset. In the past two games, we’ve seen Odom get more run with the second unit with Bynum back, if Phil is able to throw out a line up of Blaker-Barnes-Brown-Odom-Smith, he’ll have five guys on the floor who can grab a defensive rebound and get the break going.

-Lastly, Smith is a great help defender. Like Theo Ratliff, he’s been a very alert defender his whole career who takes pride and sliding over to help side when a perimeter defender gets beat off the dribble to throw a shot into the stands. One thing that has been missing from the Lakers for most of the season is using their defense to create offense. Things have been picking up a bit lately, and if Joe Smith can find his way onto the court, he can help add on to this element of the game.

With all of the things he can do, it’s hard to imagine Smith contributing a lot of minutes — especially as the season progresses and Andrew Bynum’s health improves. Phil Jackson was largely three deep up front last season with DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell getting the scraps of minutes that Gasol-Odom-Bynum left behind. I imagine the same thing happening for the remainder of this season with the scraps being shared between Smith-Ratliff (when healthy)-Caracter. The best part of this trade is knowing that there will be two capable veteran big men at Jackson’s disposal as we approach the All-Star break and the latter half of the season.

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Records: Lakers 18-7 (3rd in West), Pacers 11-12 (7th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.3 (1st in NBA), Pacers 104.0 (21st in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (11th in NBA), Pacers 102.6 (9th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Pacers: Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Roy Hibbert
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff (out); Pacers: none

The Lakers Coming in: Apparently, yesterday was a bad day for me to get sick since there was a lot of news with the Lakers.  So while I sip on another Thera-flu, let’s get right to it in discussing all the ins and outs of a busy Tuesday for the Lakers.

First, Andrew Bynum returned last night and I thought he looked as good as could be expected considering his long lay off.  There were a couple of plays where his footwork was awkward and he was unable to convert the two lobs that were tossed his way, but those were the only down moments on a pretty successful evening.  In his 17 minutes of game action, ‘Drew did a good job of changing ends and he used his (massive) size effectively to create post up chances on offense and block/alter shots on defense.  In the end though, his biggest impact came in how he provided rest and an interior alternative for Pau and Odom.  Throughout the game Gasol especially looked fresher and more comfortable on the floor as he no longer had to preserve energy while also taking all the banging down low – two things that don’t really go well together.

The other big news was obviously the trade of Sasha and LA’s 2011 first round pick as part of a three team deal that netted them Joe Smith, two second round picks, and Ukrainian big mag Sergei Lishouk.  This trade has a lot of positives and I’m quite pleased with the haul the Lakers received and the financial benefits that result from the deal.  Looking at the money first, the Lakers save nearly $9 million this year in salary and luxury tax payments in the swap of The Machine for Smith.  They also gain a trade exception of almost $5.5 million according to cap guru and CBA expert Larry Coon.  All of this money will bolster the Lakers chances of being able to spend more next off-season or use the trade exception to take on salary without giving up any players should a player come available that the Lakers really want to bring on board.

As for the haul of Smith, picks, and Lishouk are concerned, I’m very happy that the Lakers have been able to supplement their big man depth (a real need), grab additional second round picks that can be added to the roster or stashed in Europe with little financial commitment, while also grabbing the rights to a seasoned European big man that currently plays in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.  Obviously the picks and Loushik are potential pieces for future seasons and can’t be looked at as anything more than assets, but Smith is a guy that can help this year as another serviceable big that can hit the top of the key and baseline jumpshot while also providing decent low post defense.  Plus with Ratliff still out of commission from his knee surgery, Smith provides a contingency plan in case Theo’s recovery takes longer than expected.  Overall, this is a win for the Lakers as they’ve accomplished what many would have thought impossible: they’ve traded Sasha, saved money in the process, and picked up assets that can help down the line without taking on any additional salary.  Really, Mitch Kupchak has done it again.

One last note on Sasha, I’m happy that he’s going to get a fresh start and wish him nothing but the best in New Jersey.  While his tenure with this team had its severe ups and downs and could mostly be characterized by frenetic play that upset Lakers fans as much as the opposition, Sasha provided some good moments that I’ll remember for a long time.  His two FT’s to clinch last year’s title are the obvious, but his inspired play in 2008 also helped the Lakers reach the Finals and really contributed to the turnaround of this organization from first round fodder to contender.  His role in all of that was indeed limited and behind the bigger roles of Kobe/Pau/Bynum/etc, but he’s a guy that always worked hard and gave it his all on the court.  And for that, at least, I’ll remember him fondly.  Plus I’ll miss his videos.

The Pacers Coming in: Since the 5 game stretch at the end of November when the Pacers took down both the Heat and the Lakers, the team from the Hoosier state hasn’t been able to find a real rhythm.  They’ve lost 5 of their 7 games this month and haven’t beaten a quality team since they visited Staples Center and took out the Lakers (their two wins this month have come against the Bobcats and the Raptors).  So right at the time that many thought the Pacers were breaking through and starting to show that they can be a pretty good team in the East, they’ve stagnated.  It’s like they’ve come back to earth before ever really taking off.

Plus, their coach seems to be making some strange decisions and showing tougher love than what may really be needed with his up and coming team.  Recently, Jim O’Brien sat Darren Collison down the stretch of a close game in favor of AJ Price.  When Collison was asked about being parked on the pine, he offered that he “didn’t know why (he) didn’t play”.  Then you have the comments he made about Roy Hibbert to the media where he basically said that his much improved Center “isn’t really having a good season”.  I’ve always liked O’Brien as a coach as he typically gets the most out of his players.  He runs creative schemes on both sides of the ball and his results are usually better than expected considering the talent on his roster.  But, in this case, I’m really not sure what he’s up to or what he hopes to accomplish by taking the stance that he has with two of his best young players.  We’ll have to see if this leads to better play, because even though they currently sit in 7th in the East this group does need to turn it back around.

Pacers Blogs: Jared Wade continues to do a bang up job covering the Pacers over at 8 Points, 9 Seconds.

Keys to game: When these two teams met last month, the Pacers controlled the paint on both sides of the ball and pulled out the win mostly with their ability to defend well and control the tempo of the game.  Tonight, if the Lakers are to get the season split, they’ll need to turn the tables on the Pacers by taking that same formula and making it their own.

Offensively this means attacking the interior through quick post ups and by utilizing the actions of the Triangle to get good shots going towards the hoop.  Last night against Washington, the Lakers did a very good job of being patient on offense and waiting for cutters to break open and then delivering the ball on time to get shots at the rim.  Those same techniques can be utilized tonight against the Pacers if the Lakers commit to running their sets and executing them cleanly.  That means setting good screens off the ball and cutting hard when Kobe, Pau, and Bynum are in the post.

The other key on offense will be to make the extra pass against a good defensive team.  The Pacers do a great job of playing a disciplined defense where they rarely gamble and funnel players to the paint so that their bigs can contest shots.  To beat this type of defense, the Lakers will need to penetrate the gaps but then look to make the pass to the open man when the help comes.  In the last game the Lakers got too caught up playing in isolation and it led to bad shot attempts and a lot of Kobe ball.  Kobe did his best to keep the Lakers in it by having a 41 point outburst, but in order to get the win tonight, more balance will be needed and that means moving the ball on to the open man when possible.

Defensively, the Lakers need to defend the paint.  In the first match up, the Pacers made 22 of their 33 FG’s within 10 feet where Hibbert and the Pacers’ wings were way too comfortable posting up and attacking off the dribble.  The Lakers need to do a much better job of fighting Hibbert for position while simultaneously closing down driving lanes better.  Having Bynum back will aid in this, but I’m also looking for Artest and Kobe to do a better job on their men by not gambling as much for steals and by playing better position D when the Pacers run their myriad of screens and cuts to free up their perimeter scorers.

On the second night of a back to back, this will be a good test for the Lakers to see if Bynum can be productive and if the rest that the Lakers got last night will carry over into tonight.  Motivation should be easy to come by considering the results of their last meeting, but it will take more than just wanting it tonight.  The Lakers are going to have to exceed the execution of the Pacers and play hard throughout in order to get the separation that they’ll need to pull this game out down the stretch.  Hopefully, we’ll see that commitment to playing a full 48 that we saw last night against the Pacers this evening.

Where you can watch: 4pm start time out west on KCAL.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Talking Chris Paul

Phillip Barnett —  July 22, 2010

January 20, 2010: Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets in action against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game in the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. Tyler Kaufman/CSM.

Where to start with Chris Paul is tough because there are several ways to look at the potential of bringing in one of the best point guards of the last decade to the two time defending champions. Before getting into the ramifications of what it would mean to bring a talent like Paul to the Lakers, I think it’s important to understand the situation that the Hornets are currently in.

Chris Paul, as most star athletes do, wants to play for a contender – and he wants to sooner rather than later. As of right now, the team is built around Paul with David West as his number 2, some young talent (Darren Collison and Marcus Thorton), and a coupe of really bad contracts (Peja Stojakovic and Emeka Okafor). This team is hardly a championship contending basketball team. As reported by Ken Berger, Chris Paul will demand a trade if the Hornets can’t put together a championship caliber basketball team. With the young talent that the Hornets likely won’t want to move and the contracts that will be extremely hard to move if they tried, it doesn’t look like Paul’s wish for a contender in NOLA will be likely. This is a team that reached its peak in 2008 when they finished first in the Southwest Division and got knocked out in the second round by the Spurs in seven games. As Kelly Dwyer put it:

CP3 signed his extension in 2008 soon after the New Orleans Hornets gave the defending champion San Antonio Spurs all they could handle before losing in the second round of the playoffs. With David West screening and Chris Paul rolling, the team seemed poise to break through to the next level by anyone who wasn’t really paying attention. But really, this was the best the Hornets were ever going to get as presently constructed.

Why?

Because you have to look at this roster. All of the main components of the team’s rotation played in upwards of games in the high 70s. Including Paul (who missed 18 games the year before that), Peja Stojakovic (who missed 69 games the season before), and the perpetually fragile Tyson Chandler. The rest of the contributors, including Peja? Already sliding or about to hit the first downslide in the descent from their respective primes. Bonzi Wells, Bobby Jackson, Jannero Pargo — all men we’d already seen the absolute best from.

And yet, Paul signed the contract extension.

Why?

Because the Hornets were a good team the year before, and players like money. They talk themselves into believing their current situation is better than it is, because the money is better with an incumbent team than it would be with a squad you’d have to jump to, so they talk themselves into thinking that Peja Stojakovic (who had just turned 31) was a proper third wheel on a championship team. That things were going nowhere but up.

So now New Orleans is faced with the impossible task of turning their current roster into a title contending team or they’ll be faced with moving their superstar and re-beginning their rebuilding process, which may make more sense for the franchise in the end. With this current roster, the Hornets will be stuck in a limbo between early playoff exits and mid-round draft picks – not a place any team wants to be in a never-ending quest to get better. This almost ensures that Paul will be leaving in 2012 when his contract ends, putting them in the same rebuilding dilemma that they’d be facing now, except they’ll get no return for him because he’ll be taking his talents elsewhere as one of the most coveted free agents of that particular summer. As TrueHoop’s Henry Abbot writes:

A more pragmatic reality is that Hornets are a middling team who, league sources say, have been calling around looking to dump salaries. There are a lot of different stories you can use to rally your fanbase — good ones include: we’re young and growing, we’re fun to watch, or we’re contenders.

A less compelling story: We’re on the playoff bubble, and likely to stay there. In other words, it’s entirely possible they won’t be exciting in the playoffs nor the draft.

There have traditionally been two ways out of that purgatory: To go cheap, by trading away big contracts and amassing draft picks and cap space, or to go expensive — like the Celtics did — by bringing on expensive players in their prime.

It does not seem likely that the Hornets are about to go the expensive route.

Which means that, as a business, they’ll have a sales job to do. The ownership needs to sell the ticket-buying public, sponsors, even coaches and players, on the idea that they have a real plan in place.

The whole pitch becomes nearly impossible if the eye of the storm — the one superstar in the building — is on record as not wanting to be there.

However, Chris Paul still has two years left on his contract, so a move might not happen at all. Paul doesn’t have much leverage with so much time left on his contract – and he is a superstar, something sports franchises don’t like to move, especially in the primes of their respective careers. And over here at Forum Blue and Gold, we have seen this kind of situation before. In the summer of 2007, the Lakers were placed in a similar position when Kobe Bryant was demanding a contender or a trade out of Los Angeles. That summer, the Lakers essentially did nothing. They didn’t make any major moves to contend and they didn’t move Bryant. From the keys of Kurt Helin:

The Hornets do not have to give in. They should not give in. There are not other Chris Paul’s out there, the Hornets need to try to build around him, not move him.

Certainly Paul and Kobe’s situations are different. Don’t confuse the rudderless ship that is Hornets ownership and management right now with the proven winner Jerry Buss at the top and a patient Mitch Kupchak at the wheel. Kobe did not see the big picture (and nobody saw the Pau Gasol trade coming). Paul doesn’t see the big picture, but nobody does. We’re not even sure who will own the team when the season starts.

Hugh Webber’s rush to fill in the vacuum of power does not instill confidence.

The Hornets can rebuild — this is the last year of Peja Stojakovic’s oversized deal, he is a trade chip. David West is still good. Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton show promise. There are pieces there. Things can improve.

But things will not get better without Paul. Trade him and you start to rebuild from the ground up. New Orleans shouldn’t do that. Not until they have to.

Now, considering all of that, I find it highly unlikely that Paul would become a Laker. There would be too many names involved in a trade for the young stud at the point guard position and could potentially break up some key pieces to the three time Western Conference Champions and two time NBA Champions. It is believed that, if a trade between the Lakers were to happen, both Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, along with maybe one other Laker (maybe Sasha Vujacic or Luke Walton) would be sent to NOLA for Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor’s horrendous contract. In an e-mail exchange with Darius, he had this to say on Paul potentially coming to Los Angeles:

The prospect of getting Paul is one that needs to be looked at from many angles if you’re the Lakers – and that’s not the case with other teams.  If you’re Orlando or the Knicks, wanting to acquire Paul is a no brainer.  He’d instantly become their best player (or maybe tied with Dwight if sent to the Magic) and he’d be the leader with the ball in his hands on nearly every possession.

In LA that wouldn’t necessarily be the case and the Lakers would be dismantling a championship team to acquire a player that really isn’t needed right now, in the short term.  This isn’t to say that Paul couldn’t make a difference – he’s one of the best players in the NBA and if not for injury concerns he’d easily be the best PG in the league (but as it stands now I think he’s still in competition with Deron Williams for that fictional title).  So, yes he’d help.  But how much would he help?  Kobe is a ball dominant guard.  In order to get Paul the Lakers would surely have to give up Bynum and potentially Odom in a deal that includes Okafor.  And if that’s the deal, the Lakers give up the the thing (besides Kobe) that makes your team special (versatile size) to get a player that who plays a position that may not even be maximized considering the other personnel that remains (Kobe) and the system the Lakers run.  In essence, I see the allure and whenever you can acquire the best player in a trade it’s definitely worth looking hard at.  But, this is still a team game and getting the pieces that fit together to make the strongest team is what matters most.

The flip side to this argument – and something that I can easily see as well – is that as this Lakers’ team and the league evolves, a team with a dynamic point guard that is flanked by Kobe, Gasol, and Artest is theoretically one of the best in the league still.  When you look at Kobe, his game is moving more toward one that is more effective in the post than on the perimeter and Gasol is a player whose game is so versatile that he’s comfortable in nearly every spot on the floor out to the three point line.  So, when looked at any potential acquisition of Chris Paul from this angle, the Lakers would have a team whose post game revolves around the exploits of Gasol and Kobe and whose perimeter players would be Chris Paul, Artest, and Kobe (as he slides in between the post and the wing based off the motion of the offense).  If Odom is in the mix over Okafor, this formula looks even better as the Lakers would still have the most versatile team in the league with “do it all” size and two of the top 5-6 players in the league when healthy.  However if Okafor is in the deal that changes some things…”

Darius presented us with some of the positives and negatives of a deal like this, and as I mentioned this morning and Darius just two paragraphs ago, this really takes away from the size that the Lakers have used to dominate the Western Conference and even the rest of the league. Yes, a Paul-Kobe-Artest-Gasol-Okafor lineup would be a formidable one, but it isn’t as menacing without the likes of Andrew Bynum, who is heads and heels above Okafor as far as offensive capabilities go. A healthy Bynum can go out and put up 20 and 10 on any given night while Okafor will go out and get you only 60 percent of that production. The Lakers are better served keeping their roster in tact and adding one or two more minor pieces to the team.

It was reported earlier that Matt Barnes will consider signing a one-year, 1.7 million dollar deal with the Lakers if the Cavaliers don’t raise their three-year, $3.5 million offer for the wing. Adding guys like Barnes make more sense than breaking up a team that has an opportunity to win its third straight NBA title.

Despite there not being any Lakers games since Thursday’s game against Boston, their have been a few interesting developments around the league over the past couple of days – especially in regards to some of the guys that changed area codes before the Thursday trade deadline. So, here are a few random thoughts on what we’ve seen in their first games with their new teams…

*How about that T-Mac? He was quite impressive in his debut for the Knicks as he looks completely healed from his knee surgery (I think Doc Brown performed his micro-fracture surgery) and was in better condition than I would have expected for a guy that has only played a handful of games over the past season and a half.  If McGrady can play well down the stretch of this season for the Knicks, some team is going to want him and maybe even a contender.  If money really isn’t an issue for him, I could see scenarios where he stays with the Knicks or moves on to another team that is in contention for a championship.  There are plenty of teams that could use a player with his skill set and if he really can adjust to being a secondary player on a good team, he will surely help out with his ability to score and handle the ball.

*T-Mac wasn’t alone in looking good for the new look Knicks, though.  I was quite impressed with Sergio Rodriguez and his comfort in D’Antoni’s schemes (they are a natural fit) and was also happy to see Eddie House doing his thing for a team that can’t really hurt the Lakers in the post-season.  Like Phil Jackson, I believe House is a dangerous player and I think Boston let go of a player that really can change the game with his shooting.  House is a threat and can change the momentum in a game.  However, coaxing those types of performances out of Eddie is seemingly much easier when he’s upset and playing with chip on his shoulder (as he is after this trade) and while playing in a shooter friendly system that he has history in.

*Lots of other players had good performances for their new teams over the past couple of days.  Hakim Warrick and Flip Murray performed quite well in their debut for the Bulls and fit in like they’d been playing with the team all season.  Ty Thomas stepped in with the Bobcats and played well in his first game under Larry Brown’s coaching as the Cats continued to terrorize the Cavs.  He then followed up that performance with a double double against the Bucks the next night.  Speaking of the Bucks, John Salmons has given them the scoring punch and playmaking they need on the wing.  These are small sample sizes for these players and keeping up the strong play will be something to monitor, but getting a boost from a trade is a always a good thing because it’s not always a smooth first impression for these guys.

*Like Antawn Jamison’s 0-12 debut for the Cavs.  Or Carl Landry’s ten points on eleven shots for the Kings.  Or Ronnie Brewer tearing his hamstring in his first game with the Grizz.  Sometimes things don’t go as planned and players don’t perform well in their debuts, making it easy to think the worst.  However, just as you can’t get too high because of a strong performance from a newcomer, you also can’t get too down on a player because they played poorly.  Jamison and Landry are good players and they’ll be better than they showed in their first games with their new teams.  I thought Matt Moore had a good take over at ProBasketballTalk on Jamison’s debut:

To think that Jamison’s career in Cleveland will be marked with failure because he had difficulty on his first night after lots of traveling, rearranging his life, and trying to integrate into a brand new system is just plain silly, and ignores one significant factor in this outcome: the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Bobcats defense is one of the best in the league, beset by talented, versatile defenders, especially bigs. They operate well in man, man-help, zone, and hybrid schemes, meaning essentially they can affix their approach to any opponent. Throw in their effort and ability and it’s not at all shocking that Jamison struggled. Throw in the other factors and a cold shooting night, and it’s simply one of those things that happens. Let’s wait to see how Jamison responds for the remainder of the season before sounding the panic alarm.

However, even though I agree with everything said, I do think Jamison will need to have a strong performance soon just to relieve the fans of the Cavs.  They’ve lost two straight games (one without ‘Tawn and one with) and that is a rare thing for this years Cavs.  For a team that was coasting along on a 13 game win streak and in possession of the league’s best record, a couple more losses or bad performances from their new acquisition may induce some panic.

How Trades Affect the Lakers

Darius Soriano —  February 19, 2010

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If the playoffs were to start today, the Lakers would face Portland in the first round.  And if the first round held its form with the higher seeds winning the series and advancing to the next round, the Lakers would then face Dallas.  If we extrapolate this same line of thinking to the Conference Finals, the Lakers would face Denver and then in the Finals the Lakers would face the Cavs.  It just so happens that three of those four teams pulled off trades in the past week that were aimed at strenghthening their roster for the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.  So, at this point, I think it’s wise to look at the trades that those three teams made and how they affect their roster (and a matchup with the Lakers).  We’ll start in the first round and then move forward.

Portland:  Portland traded Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw for Marcus Camby.  This was a natural move for the Blazers as it relieved them of players that were crowding their rotations at both PG and SF (Blake at PG and Outlaw at SF) and opened up time for players that they are quite high on in Jerryd Bayless, Martell Webster, and Nic Batum.  When you combine that with the injury status of Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla and the chance to acquire Marcus Camby, this deal becomes a no brainer.  Camby is still a very effective player that rebounds well, plays very good team defense, and is a capable offensive player that does not force shots nor need the ball very often to be effective on that end of the floor.

In a match up with the Lakers, an addition of Camby means that the Blazers have more than Juwan Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge to throw at a front line of Odom/Pau/Bynum.  As you can imagine, slowing down the Lakers frontline is key to any series with the defending champs.  Yes, Kobe is the engine of this team; he is the unquestioned leader and the player that every teams defensive schemes revolve around.  But, as the Lakers showed against Utah, San Antonio, and Orlando, if you can not contain the Lakers frontline you do not have a chance at victory.  Only Denver came close to taking the Lakers bigs out of their game(s), but even they eventually succumb to them as Kobe’ brilliance caused double teams that the Lakers’ bigs exploited again and again with cuts to the middle of the floor where they either got easy buckets or moved the ball to an open shooter on the weakside.  If Portland is going to slow the Lakers big and turn Kobe into a volume scorer with little help from his mates, Camby’s presence is definitely needed as the Blazers stable of big men would not be nearly enough to battle LO, Pau, and ‘Drew over a seven game series.

My prognosis? I don’t think Camby gives them enough over the course of a series.  Though he is a very good defensive center whose rebounding skills would limit the Lakers second chance points, I still think he lacks the girth to battle Bynum underneath and would not have the endurance to go from ‘Drew to Pau as the Lakers work their substitutions over the course of a game and a series.  Plus, Camby does not have the offensive game to put the Lakers bigs in foul trouble and though his 18 foot jumper and high post passing are very strong, bigs that primarily rely on jumpshots rarely help lead playoff upsets against teams with strong post play.  This is not to say that the Blazers don’t have other weapons to take down the Lakers – we all know that Portland is, historically, a very tough match up for the Lakers.  Miller, Aldridge, and especially Roy all cause different issues on offense and both Webster and Batum can give Kobe problems on defense.  But, in the end, I don’t think this trade has improved the Blazers enough to truly contend in the post season and win a series against the Lakers.

Dallas:  You can find my thoughts on the Dallas trade here.  As for how they match up with the Lakers, I think this trade helps them a great deal.  Haywood is a really strong defensive center and I do think he could limit Andrew in a one on one matchup.  Completely stop him?  No, but he could make his life difficult on that end while also providing good help defense on any dribble penetration or post ups from our other players.  I also think Butler is a player that must be respected by Artest and that even though Ron could contain Caron, I also think that Butler is a good enough player to make Artest work hard and burn energy over the course of a game and a series.  You add in Dirk (who is fantastic), Kidd, and notorious Laker killer Jason Terry, and I think you have a team that matches up with the Lakers quite well up front.

That said, they don’t have anyone that can really slow Kobe.  And an effective Kobe compromises everything you want to do on defense as he finds ways to beat you by scoring and then (as shown against Denver last season) he shifts his game to exploit your changing schemes by using his teammates to hammer you into submission.  Then, on the flip side of that superstar coin, you have Pau and (especially) Lamar (and, potentially, even Artest) that have the ability to play Dirk one on one and I think Dallas has an issue with matchups against the Lakers.

My prognosis? I think it would be a hard fought series, but that ultimately Dallas would not have enough on both ends of the court to beat the Lakers.  Dirk may be too good to hold down for an entire series, but I think our array of defenders slow him in enough contests to make the Mavs’ lives difficult on offense.  You add the Lakers front line depth and the lack of depth (behind Haywood and Dirk) that have the size to compete with the Lakers bigs and I think our post presence wears them down over the course of a series.  Throw in the Kobe factor and you have a real advantage for the defending champs.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Dallas is close.  But I don’t think they get enough from Marion (who has traditionally struggled with Phil Jackson’s schemes and Lamar Odom) and I also think their back court is a bit too thin on defensive players to match up with Kobe (or even the quickness of Farmar on the second unit).  I think it would be a great series to watch though.

Cleveland:  Ahh, the Cavs.  If both teams are good (and lucky) enough to make it this far, fans and media alike would be drooling at the prospect of seeing these two teams battle for the championship.  This is only more true with the addition of Jamison.  Antawn gives the Cavs what they’ve sorely been missing the past several seasons – a reliable scorer in the front court that complements Lebron’s game.  Jamison is a player that is just as comfortable as a spot up shooter as he is a slasher as he is a post up player.  A member of the “I don’t really know how his game is that effective” club, Jamison is a guy that keeps plugging along with an arsenal of deep jumpshots, driving runners, and post up flip shots that make old guys at the Y smile.  Jamison is also a good rebounder and a solid defender.  Most important of all, Jamison is a real team player and a pro’s pro that will work hard to fit into the team concept of the Cavs and will not rock the boat.  There is no diva in Antawn.

However, when it comes to matching up with the Lakers, an addition of Jamison is not a slam dunk for the Cavs.  While Jamison may be a guy that has the size and style to match up with Rashard Lewis or even Josh Smith, facing off against Pau Gasol is a different story.  As we saw in the Finals last season, when an undersize PF matches up with Gasol it often leads to a double team that can be exposed by our Spaniard’s slick passing skills.   This is a defensive matchup that is not in the Cavs favor.  Now, Jamison could make up for it on the other end of the court with his versatile offensive game, but as we’ve all seen Pau is an underrated defender whose length and reach often bothers shooters more than they anticipate.  Obviously though, a match up with the Cavs is not only about Jamison.  They have Shaq as well.  Oh, yeah, and that Lebron guy too.  These are players that create match up issues for the Lakers defense.  So far this season, battling Shaq on the block has not worked out too well for Bynum and Gasol.  And even though Artest is an elite defender, Lebron makes even the best of the best look slow footed and lacking in strength.  Throw in the possible return of Z, Andy Varejao’s crafty defense, and the shooting of Mo’ Williams/West/Parker and you have a team with a tremendous amount of talent and diversity to their potential attack.

My prognosis?  This may sound like a cop out, but I really don’t know how this series would turn out.  There are too many variables could break in either direction that lead a victory for either side.  Do the Cavs have enough size and defense in their back court to contain Kobe?  Does Z return to the Cavs to complete their rotations at Center?  Can Artest (and the rest of the Lakers help D) slow Lebron enough that the other Cavs are forced to make the key shots in a game?  Does Lamar play like he has for the last 5 games and the way that he did in last year’s playoffs from the Denver series on?  Do our guards make shots?  Can Bynum outduel Shaq?  Does Mike Brown make the right adjustments to the wrinkles that Phil is bound to incorporate into a gameplan?  I could go on and on.  These are obviously the best two teams in the league and I think we’d all be lucky just to see this matchup occur.

In the end, understand that the countdown is now on to the playoffs.  Rosters are pretty much set (save for a random addition due to a buyout or, tragically, potential injury) and teams will be looking to gel and peak as they enter the second season.  Yes the Lakers stood pat.  And yes some of their chief rivals did everything they could to compete.  Were these moves enough?  How will it turn out?  Let me know what you all think about these moves (or any of the ones not mentioned – Kevin Martin to the Rockets for example) and what they mean in relation to the Lakers.

Before I get into any of the trade links, here are a few links on Kobe’s status as of yesterday after the Lakers’ practice. Kobe was interviewed after practice, and when asked if it were a definite no in playing in tomorrow’s game against the Celtics, he responded saying, “right now it’s a no, but if I wake up tomorrow and feel drastically different, I’ll play – but I doubt it.”

Land O’ Lakers also have post-practice interviews from Phil Jackson, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol on various topics like Kobe, the trade deadline, tonight’s game against the Celtics and the season beyond. Also, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog has some analysis on Kobe’s post game interviews and what his recovery is looking like:

I had earlier maintained that the situations involving his finger and ankle are different. Though having a fractured finger is far from enjoyable, playing through that injury is technically doable. As far as Bryant’s insistence to play through his ankle before and his decision to take a long-term approach now seems pretty straight forward and doesn’t really need much parsing (though I’ve kind of already done that). The strained tendons and muscles in his left leg has added difficult to the recovery process, with Bryant noting “tendons are a little different; they have their own agendas on what they want to heal.” But his outlook on recovering from injuries appears the same.

Yesterday, there were a few moves by teams either trying to improve, or teams trying to clear cap space for this year’s free agency. The most notable of those trades was Washington sending Antwan Jamison to Cleveland in a three way deal that also included the Clippers.

Cleveland gets: Antwan Jamison, Sebastian Telfair
Washington gets: Cavs 2010 1st round draft pick, Draft Rights to Emir Preldzic, Al Thorton
Los Angeles gets: Drew Gooden

Reactions:
The Cleveland Plain Dealer gives all of the details of the trade
Clipper Blog explains what it means for the Clips as far as cap space is concerned
Cavs: The Blog explain how Jamison is going to be able to help the Cavs offensively (yes, help them) with his ability to spread the floor:

Jamison can shoot. He has to be guarded beyond the three-point line, and is comfortable catching and shooting. Even if he’s not on fire, he’ll provide Shaq with space in the post and Andy space to cut. He’s also crafty off the ball, and should be able to find cuts and angles to receive an interior pass from Shaq or Andy when Antawn dives to the rim. When he gets it near the hoop, he has great patience and can finish from a variety of angles. Jamison’s been in the league for a long time. He knows how to score from everywhere on the court. He’ll be able to make it work on offense in ways that pairings of Shaq/Hickson, Shaq/Andy, or Andy/Hickson weren’t able to.

The Kings and Rockets also made a deal yesterday involving Tracy McGrady and Kevin Martin.

Sacramento gets: Tracy McGrady, Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey and cash considerations
Houston gets: Kevin Martin, Sergio Rodriguez, Kenny Thomas, Hilton Armstrong

Reactions:
ESPN gives all the details of the trade
- Cowbell Kingdom gives all the details and much, much more:

“And I don’t blame the Kings for doing so, either. Sacramento had to figure out if Evans and Martin could coexist together. The only way to do that was to force the issue and get them to form some chemistry on the court. What happened was the Kings already existing struggles to score inside were amplified because the ball stayed on the perimeter. The Martin-Evans duo needed an inside presence in the post to balance out the attack and open up the perimeter. Unfortunately, they never had that weapon at their disposal and the rest of the team seem to be forgotten too often.
“With Martin’s role becoming less and less defined in the offense over the recent stretch of games, there was some confusion as to what the next step would be. The immediate reaction was to think he’d be traded (especially after the weird sitting out of all but 15 seconds of the fourth quarter on Tuesday night). However, since the Kings were demanding a low post presence and none of the rumored deals seemed to be meeting that criteria, a Kevin Martin deal seemed to be improbable.
“But here we are. Kevin Martin is traded and the Kings received a low post threat that they desperately have been seeking.”

One last notable trade was the Chicago Bulls dumping John Salmons contract on the Milwaukee Bucks.

Chicago gets: Hakim Warrick and Joel Alexander
Milwaukee gets: John Salmons

Reactions:
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives the details of the trade
By The Horns explains that this trade was purely for cap clearing reasons:

“In the meantime, the Bulls are a little worse.

Don’t get me wrong. Salmons hasn’t had a great season by any stretch of the imagination. But he’s still the team’s second-best three-point shooter and its third-leading scorer. Make that was. I guess it’s time for Devin Brown and Jannero Pargo to step up.
Said Derrick Rose: “Man, that’s crazy thinking about John leaving. He just came here [in a trade with the Kings on Feb. 18, 2009]. But, it’s the NBA. If he does get traded we’ll definitely miss him, but [the season] must continue. … It hurts your team a little bit. Like when you have a game right after [a trade]. But that’s just how the NBA goes.”

There was also a trade between Minnesota and the Knicks where Brian Cardinal and Darko Milicic were swapped and it still remains to be seen if Tracy McGrady will end up in New York or if Amare Stoudemire will end up in Miami. Teams have until Noon PST to make their decisions.

Today, I leave you with a post from Eddie Maisonet, the newest member of SLAMonline.com, who introduced himself by writing a bold piece proclaiming Pau Gasol, not Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ MVP. Here’s a few lines from the post:

“Sure, Kobe’s more dynamic. He’s going to shoot the game-winners. He’s the poster child for the League. We all know this. If we were talking about the Most Outstanding Player for the Lakers and the NBA, of course Bryant wins this award.
“However, the title is “Most Valuable” and from a value perspective it’s extremely tough to say isn’t more valuable. Plus, who’s to say that Gasol doesn’t make players better? Lamar Odom was almost traded roughly 38 times before Pau got there, however Gasol and Odom (and Bynum to a degree) remind some of the Uncles in our family to a Parish/McHale/Walton ’86 Celtics feel of a frontcourt. Other teams in the NBA have strategically reshaped their teams to beat LA, by adding frontcourt depth in particular.”

Check out the article. Thoughts?

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Some updates on today’s trades

As many speculated yesterday, Tracy McGrady wasn’t done moving. The Kings were able to come to terms with the Knicks to complete a three-way deal with the Rockets.

New York gets: Tracy McGrady, Sergio Rodriguez
Houston gets: Kevin Martin, Jared Jeffries, Hilton Armstrong, Jordan Hill, NYK’s 2011 pick, the right to switch picks with NYK in 2012
Sacramento gets:

Reactions:

– NBA Fanhouse tells how Sacramento was able to helm make this a great trade for Houston:

Houston’s role in all of this is interesting, and it’ll be worth following the next few days of explanations to see exactly how this came together. The Rockets had been working with the Knicks on the non-Martin, non-Landry portions of the deal for weeks. It seems as though Houston got tired of waiting and made the deal for Martin about 12 hours early, perhaps putting pressure on New York to give up those picks. It worked. It looks like Sacramento really helped the Rockets here.

– Ball Don’t Lie explains McGrady’s worth for the teams who dealt him:

The deal? In the latest of many permutations, it appears as if Tracy McGrady is heading to New York. An expiring contract, and nothing more, despite the long term outlook they’ve been trying to sell you through the media. The Knicks will no doubt play Tracy this season, but come July, he’s gone. Come July, thanks to the work of Donnie Walsh, most of these Knicks are gone, and they’ll have a real shot at signing two big free agent contracts.

The Knicks were pretty busy today. Not only did they acquire McGrady, they were also involved in a five player deal that sent Nate Robinson to the Celtics in exchange for Eddie House.

Boston gets: Nate Robinson, one other Knicks player not mentioned yet
New York gets: Eddie House, Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens

Reactions

ESPN gives the details of the trade.

Celtics Hub on why bringing in Robinson was the only move the Cs made.

A lot of Celtics fans are going to be disappointed that this is the only deal the C’s have made at the deadline, considering the number of other deals that went down around the league. The truth is, Danny Ainge hands were tied, given the team’s salary concerns for next year (63 million committed to just 6 players) making it tough for the team to absorb any bad contract that would be required in return for receiving any “impact” player the C’s were looking for, as seen in the excerpt above.

The C’s had plenty of expiring contracts to deal besides Ray Allen, but all of those guys were either a) lacking talent that would make them appealing to other teams (Giddens, Walker, Scalabrine, Williams) b) important parts of the team’s rotation (Daniels, TA, House)

There were also a few other minor deals made before the deadline:

The Chicago Bulls traded Ty Thomas to the Charlotte Bobcats for Acie Law IV and Flip Murray.

Ronnie Brewer was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for a protected 2011 pick.

The Philadelphia 76ers traded Primoz Brezec and Royal Ivey to the Milwaukee Bucks for Jodie Meeks, Francisco Elson and a second round draft pick.

-Phillip

Talking Trades

Darius Soriano —  February 15, 2010

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During the All-Star game coverage, Charles Barkley said something that I think bears repeating when he was talking about all of the trade rumors and (in the case of the Dallas/Washington swap) trades that have already happened.  Chuck said that all of these trades that contenders are making are for one reason – to beat the Lakers.  I mean, the Lakers are the defending champs and are the favorites to win the championship again this season.  The Lakers may not currently have the best record in the league, but I’d argue that they have the best roster, the best coach, and have a level of confidence combined with experience that put them in position to repeat this season.  Obviously, there is no guarantee that the Lakers win – there are other very strong contenders and if the Lakers are good enough to get out of a stacked Western Conference, they’d still end up facing either Cleveland (currently the team with the best record), Orlando (runner up in last years Finals), or Boston (’08 champion and a team with loads of experience and mental toughness).  Essentially, repeating this season will be a tough task even if no other trades are made and no team improves.  But, with the trade deadline looming, one mega-deal has already been made and there are countless other rumors flying around.  Let’s take a look at what’s already gone down, what is rumored to be going down, and even touch on what the Lakers may do as we approach this Thursday.

As we’ve all read, Dallas has improved their team by acquiring Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and Deshawn Stevenson.  As I mentioned yesterday, I think this trade definitely improves Dallas by giving them a more consistent player on the wing (Butler) and also giving them one of the best defensive big men in the league in Haywood.  To me, Haywood (as much as Butler) makes this trade a real upgrade for Dallas because the Mavs have consistently struggled with teams that have strong offensive post play with only Eric Dampier standing in the way of guys like Pau, Bynum, Duncan, Dwight Howard, Shaq, etc having big nights and compromising their team defensive schemes.  Haywood is a player that can guard most of these guys one on one and enabling Dallas’ wings to stay at home on their own men.  Haywood is also a better shot blocker and rebounder than Dampier and that will help Dallas contain explosive wing players as driving lanes will be better cut off and more shots will be contested and altered at the rim.

The only downside I see for Dallas with this trade is the disruption of roles for the players that have already been on their roster.  It’s already been announced that Jason Terry will move back to the bench with Butler sliding into starting lineup at SG.  Yes, this puts Terry back into a familiar role and one that he excelled in last season – winning the 6th man award as the leagues best bench player.  But, Terry had not been performing as well in that role this season and had been playing much better of late as a starter. Does Terry stay in his groove now that he’s back to being the sixth man?  And will Butler play as well as a SG as he has playing SF for the Wizzards?  The stats seem to say that Butler is a lesser player when he plays SG as referenced by his lower PER (14.2) and his higher PER Against (16.2) as a SG rather than his slightly better numbers as a SF (14.6 PER, 14.4 PER Against).  Will those numbers change with the Mavs?  And if those numbers don’t change, what does this mean for the Mavs when games are tight at the end and their coaches must decide on what their best line up should be down the stretch of these games?  Does Butler slide back to SF with Terry playing SG next to Kidd in the backcourt?  What does this mean for Shawn Marion?  Does he now sit at the end of games in favor of a Butler/Dirk/Haywood frontline?  Does Haywood sit so Dirk can play Center and Marion can play PF (where Shawn has a much better PER but also has trouble defending PF’s)?  As I’ve noted in the past, these aren’t huge problems for the Mavs and maybe everything will be worked out with the situation coming up roses.  But, chemistry concerns are real in this league and the most talent on the floor doesn’t always mean the highest level of play.  This is something the coaches for the Mavs will need to sort out by the time the playoffs start.

Speaking of chemistry, the Cavs are looking at disrupting theirs as they explore how they can potentially improve their roster.  Already owners of the best record in the league, one would question if the Cavs even need to make a deal.  Just one week ago, Danny Ferry was saying just that.  But as players that could help Cleveland have become available via trade, the Cavs are looking to get better and have been identifying targets to acquire.  The question is, what player do they want the most and which player will actually help the the most?  The most recent player of high interest to the Cavs is Amare Stoudemire.  Apparently, the Cavs are high on STAT and think that he could be a difference maker this season and also help in retaining Lebron when he’s a free agent next summer.  But, Antawn Jamison is also a player the Cavs have looked to acquire in the past week.  But, if both of those options fail, there’s always Troy Murphy.  Based off this group of players, it’s obvious that the Cavs think their biggest issue is an offensive minded PF that could both space the floor as a shooter, play P&R with Lebron, and also rebound at a level where their team defense is not compromised.  Based off an analysis of the numbers, Amare may be the best choice for the Cavs if any deal can be made. But, again, this conclusion does not take into account any chemistry issues and what a Lebron/Amare/Shaq frontcourt would actually play like when they shared the court.  All three of those players have a usage rate over 25 and all perform best when they create shots for themselves (though Amare is also very good working off the ball in the P&R and as catch and shoot player in the mid-range).  There’s also the question of defense.  Zephid made a salient point in the comments when the Amare to the Cavs story was gaining steam over all-star weekend:

Amare has a PER of 23.4 this season, with an opponent’s PER against of 20.2. According to 82games, the Suns score 1.4 points more when Stoudemire is off the floor, and they also give up 3.4 less points on defense. All in all, Amare has a net production of -4.8 (all per 100 possessions). The Suns all shoot about the same percentage (54.1% on versus 54.2% off) with and without Stoudemire, but allow their opponents to shoot 1.2% better when Stoudemire is in the game.

This is pretty important considering the Cavs are 2nd in offensive efficiency while 5th in defensive efficiency. Is adding Amare really going to make their offense that much more potent? And will it outweigh the points they give up due to Amare’s lack of D?

Right now, Anderson Varejao plays the bulk of the minutes at PF, averaging nearly 30 a game. Varejao is also 3rd in +/- this season, so if Stoudemire cuts Varejao’s minutes from 30 to 15, that takes away a huge element of the Cavs game.

And what about the Lakers?  As I said earlier, almost any trade that a contender makes has a matchup with the Lakers in mind.  But the Lakers are not without their own issues that they may think need upgrading when making their final push towards the playoffs.  Despite the strong showings in recent games, the Lakers do have a weakness at point guard and that is a position that if not addressed this season, will need to be looked at this off-season with both Fisher and Farmar being free agents (Fisher is a UFA and Farmar is a RFA) when this year concludes.  The persistent rumor is that the Lakers are after Kirk Hinrich of the Bulls.  Is Kirk really a good fit?  I have my doubts.  His shooting is down across the board this season and his PER is not much better than Fisher’s and is lower than Farmar’s.  Yes, his defense would be a big upgrade over any of our current PG’s but his contract would be a tough one to swallow just for a defensive stopper.  And, that contract is the real issue.  The Lakers already have the highest payroll in the NBA, and taking on more salary is not the most fiscally prudent plan for a team that already has a fantastic core of (well paid) players.  This would mean any trade that the Lakers make to improve at PG would have to jettison either Sasha and/or Luke and that will not be easy.  I mean, every trade rumor involving the Lakers has Sasha as a player the Lakers give up and in those same stories you hear “sources” saying that Sasha’s contract is one that teams don’t want to swallow.

In the end, I’m not sure what is going to happen with Cleveland or the Lakers as far as trades go.  These are the two best teams in the league and both could win the title just by standing pat.  Just because Dallas made a deal, does that mean that the Lakers or the Cavs have to?  I would think that we’d see a trade from the Spurs or the Celtics or the Hawks before we saw the Lakers make a trade.  Again, the Lakers are the hunted here.  Our team is the current champion – that not only serves as motivation for other teams to try and catch us, but it also serves as disincentive for other teams to help us improve.  And, as Kurt always said, understand that this is the time of year where rumors are put out there for reasons beyond just player acquisition.  There is always a motive from an agent, an opposing GM, or it’s just plain media speculation to create a story in the silly season.  Will a deal happen for any contender?  We’ll know by Thursday, but we might as well discuss what’s out there as we countdown.