Archives For Trades

The Deal That Died

Darius Soriano —  December 9, 2011

 It’s been over a half day since the Lakers had Chris Paul in their mitts only to suddenly not. It’s a nifty magic trick to make a player disappear in plain sight but that’s what the owners of the Hornets - who double as the owners of the other 29 franchises in the NBA – did on Thursday evening.

Rehashing every detail inspires anger, but somewhat necessary. The Lakers were set to deal away two thirds of their advantageous front court for the purest point guard in the land. Gasol and Odom – two pillars of character and, combined, elite production – would be shipped away. Their loss can not be overstated or overlooked. Without them the Lakers don’t win back to back championships in ’09 and ’10; they don’t make an unthought-of of Finals run in ’08; they’re not considered one of the handful of championship contenders every season.

In return they would have gotten the six foot maestro of tempo and efficiency the league has not seen the likes of in a generation. The evolutionary Zeke Thomas with the mean streak to match. For all the concerns about a suspect wheel, Paul is a bona fide top 5 player in the league and impacts the game in ways other play makers simply don’t. I remember the first round of the playoffs in 2011 quite well with guys like David Andersen and Aaron Gray looking like above average big men and slashers like Trevor Ariza and Willie Green getting hit in stride in the creases of a Laker defense thought to be too formidable to be pushed by such average talents. Paul elevates his teammates. He can make depleted rosters better and would have done so with the Lakers holdovers that match that “average” description. What he could have done for the games of Andrew Bynum or Kobe Bryant inspire a wry grin just thinking of it.

But it’s not to be. The league has decreed the deal dead. That has consequences the must be looked at:

The Bad
The Lakers find themselves in the unenviable position of having players on their roster that feel unwanted. Lamar Odom – a key lockerroom cog, a leader, an unquestioned talent – did not report to training camp today. Pau Gasol did report and tweeted messages of positivity, but lets be real: he too is surely upset and wonders where he stands within the Laker organization regardless of how he thinks of himself as an all world talent.

The Lakers need to heal and in a compressed season under a new coaching staff where there was barely going to be enough time to learn sets, they now have to re-learn how to trust; how to co-exist. A fractured relationship does not get repaired the same way that a leaky back side coverage of a pick and roll does. This can’t be remedied by the x’s and o’s on a grease board.

Is Mike Brown – an excellent teacher – up to the task of being a healer? We shall see but the challenge is in front of him now.

He’ll also need help from the other leaders on this team. Kobe Bryant must reach out to his mates to reassure them that a management decision does not impact his mind about what these players mean to him, to his team. Phil Jackson is gone now,Kobeis the holdover that must channel some of that zen to bring his mates back into the fold of the family. Derek Fisher must also step in and perform some of his own unifying magic. The man that led the union in a fight against the owners must now lead his players in a similar fight against those that wish to tear the team apart.

I don’t envy anyone in this scenario. Their work is hard and there’s no set path to walk to get it done.

The Good
Despite that awkwardness that will exist it needs to be remembered that the Lakers roster, as constructed, is a damned good one. Those rumors that had them acquiring some of the best players in the world are only in place because the existing talent is good enough to bring those players toLos Angeles. Those that don’t believe in this team have the Mavericks series fresh on their minds and I don’t blame them. However, those that do believe understand that a healthy off-season for every single one of the Lakers top 6 players just happened.

KobeBryant is refreshed. Andrew Bynum is, by all accounts, ready to make an impact as far reaching as his mammoth wing span. Removing the emotional baggage discussed above will be difficult for Gasol and Odom (especially Odom) but they too had a long off-season to recuperate, reflect, and recharge. This team has motivation to prove the doubters wrong and even without a Paul or a Howard are primed to make a push. A team doesn’t go from elite to afterthought overnight. At least not this one; not with #24 on the team.

A balance must be struck. The deal that was reported died. It was killed by a league of owners that are too busy worried about their pocket books and the fortunes of the Lakers to see anything else but what helps line their own pockets. Commissioner David Stern has become the anti Pinocchio turning from a human to a puppet right before our eyes. This is nature of the league now and as a basketball fan this angers me to no end.

But as a Lakers fan, the time to feel bad or be angry is pretty much over. It’s now time to work on healing. And learning. The season starts in 16 days when the Bulls visit the team. As far as I know – as far as anyone knows – the team as constituted now (save for some FA signings to address depth) will be the team that dives into the trenches together on Christmas Day. The deal that died must soon become a memory – just as all things that pass away do.

UPDATE: Well,  then. The NBA has decided not to approve the trade. In a statement from a league spokesman Mike Bass:

“It’s not true that the owners killed the deal, the deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons.”

We’ll have more on this fiasco in a bit.

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In a blockbuster trade that many thought possible but few (meaning me) didn’t think would come nearly so soon (if at all) the Lakers have acquired Chris Paul from the Hornets for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in a three team deal includes the Rockets.

I’ll have much more on the trade a bit later, but for now, park your comments below.

In a vacuum, trading for Dwight Howard is a no brainer. He is, by any measurement, the premier big man in the league. He’s been the defensive player of the year 3 years in a row, has been the 1st team all-NBA Center four years in a row, was 2nd in last year’s MVP vote, and is a fixture at the all-star game. In a league where being an elite two way player boosts your value exponentially, Howard is the best of the best. And while every player has his detractors and no player is perfect, these are the facts.

But trades don’t happen in a vacuum. The other team must agree to take on players and there are ramifications – both on and off the court – that play into any decision. Trades of this magnitude are never as easy as fans would like them to be and the issues at play can submarine a deal as quickly as the original rumor pops up.

So, exploring this potential trade from a variety of angles is necessary:

Continue Reading…

The trade and free agent rumors are coming fast and furious. Every “available” player is now seemingly being linked to the Lakers. Just taking an inventory, here are the names that I’ve read the Lakers are interested in acquiring either via trade or in free agency (includes potential amnestied players):

  • Dwight Howard
  • Chris Paul
  • Jamal Crawford
  • Baron Davis
  • Rashard Lewis
  • J.J. Barrea
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Aaron Aflalo
  • Shane Battier
  • Delonte West
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Jason Kapono

Granted, all of these names in some way, shape, or form make sense. They’re either some of the best players in the league or fill skill and/or positional holes for the current Lakers team. In a lot of ways, the Lakers would be well off to have even one of them, much less two or three of them.

But lets forget the names for a second. After all, if the Lakers actually acquire a player, we can analyze it at that point. Instead, lets focus on how names end up being reported in the first place.

Leaks of information almost always come back to establishing some sort of leverage. Whether to increase the dollar amount of a contract offer, to sweeten the pot of players included in a trade, to play agents or teams off each other…there are countless reasons information ends up in the hands of the media to be reported to the masses. I mean, teams, agents, and players are all looking for the best offer for them and however they can get there is fair game.

Relating this back to the Lakers and the names listed above, this is the perspective that needs to be taken into account when considering whether any acquisition is really possible. Do you think it’s more likely that the Lakers could actually acquire both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul or that there’s been some sort of leak to play parties off each other in order to execute a favorable deal? Do you think it’s more likely that the Lakers sign all those FA wings or that the information given to the media is being used advantageously to get a client a better offer?

Remember, this isn’t the first time the Lakers’ name has been dropped in a trade a rumor. Last season it was Carmelo Anthony. The year before that it was Chris Bosh. Right now it’s Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. Give it enough time and Deron Williams name will pop up too.

The Lakers have the types of assets to make a deal; this much is not debatable. And, like every other team in the league, they’d surely have interest in acquiring the best players currently lacing up their sneakers. However, the internal workings of how a trade actually gets done is rarely broadcasted to the masses. At least, not with this Laker team; not with Mitch Kupchak running the show.

And this is where leverage comes into play. From a team’s standpoint, a trade will always be about getting the best asset possible while giving up as little as possible. From a player’s and agent’s standpoint, it’s about getting to the most desirable destination while getting the maximum amount of money. The information that is given to the media is meant to help accomplish those goals from whoever is doing the leaking.

Understand that right now the Lakers are a natural target for anyone and everyone. As mentioned earlier, they have the trade pieces to placate an opposing team’s wants in a deal. As a free agent destination the Lakers are also prime real estate as a championship contender with a fixed contract to offer that other teams will have to exceed to acquire any given player. Using this information as leverage in the whirlwind market in front of us is also the natural maneuver.

So, take a step back and see these rumors for the leverage seeking moves that they are. It doesn’t mean that a deal won’t happen, but as history has proven – especially with this Lakers team – it surely doesn’t mean it will either. At this point we’re all best served avoiding the circus. I know I will be.

Over the weekend, Silver Screen and Roll had a couple of great posts on the Lakers and their current point guard situation, and more importantly, how to solve it. While I understand that the Lakers problem is at the point guard position, I don’t think it’s a problem that the Lakers should exactly go out of their way to solve considering that both upgrading through free agency or trade both have their own pitfalls to overcome. While I’d like to see an upgrade at the top, I wonder if it’s going to be too difficult to make this happen considering that the Lakers are seeing frontcourt depth and a backup for Kobe with a natural ability to score. The Lakers are going to be looking to try and make a lot of small tweaks to their roster, and I’m not sure if upgrading the point guard is the most important issue at this point. However, I recognize that it is an issue and this section from Dexter Fishmore really hammers it home:

But Fish is a lion in winter. He turns 37 next month, and his abilities are in decline. For a guy whose only offensive role the past few seasons has been to knock down open looks, his shooting numbers are unacceptably poor. He can’t beat anyone off the dribble. On defense, he lacks the lateral mobility to check even average point guards, to say nothing of the elite PG’s the Lakers face in the playoffs.

To make matters worse, the Lakers are abandoning the system that allowed them to mask many of Fish’s shortcomings. In Phil Jackson‘s Triangle offense, Fish was a semi-viable option because the system neither required nor could even really accommodate a classic, ball-dominating point. The Lakers won’t have the same luxury under Mike Brown. His playbook calls for the point guard to assume a more traditional playmaking role, of which Fish is simply incapable.

How do the Lakers upgrade, though. As they’re currently sitting, they’re dishing out about 91 million in salary already. Picking up through free agency will not only be costly monetarily, but could be equally costly to the Lakers chances on the court considering the not-so-high-profile crop of free agent point guards on the market this year. While there is some talent in free agency, all of it will likely come at a price that the Lakers ultimately won’t be able to afford, all things “new collective bargaining” considered. What about through trade?

Emile Avanessian wrote convincingly about the Lakers acquiring Ramon Sessions through trade when he wrote:

Thus, the Lakers will likely have to try their luck in the trade market.

Let me direct your attention to a 25-year-old point guard whose 2010-11 Adjusted PER of 21.05 (all statistics via HoopData) dwarfed the average for both the league (14.17) and his position (15.71), was good for 23rd in the NBA (minimum 40 games played) and seventh among lead guards, trailing only Russell WestbrookDerrick RoseChris PaulDeron WilliamsSteve Nash and Tony Parker. The 4.54 Adjusted Win Shares he contributed were also well above average (3.44 for the league, 3.72 for point guards), and better than the totals for Jameer Nelsonor Jason Terry.

Meanwhile, his 24.21 usage rate was 49th in the league. In 26.3 minutes per game, he averaged 13.3 points and 5.2 assists (a Tony Parker-esque 18.1 and 7.3 per 36 minutes played) and shot 46.6% from the field. His 55.9% True Shooting Percentage trumped the league and point guard averages (54.5% and 53.6%, respectively) and he got to the free-throw line more than your average NBA’er (0.55 free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt, vs. the league average of 0.298). Was he able to get his own shot? You bet: just 28.5% of field goals were “assisted,” compared with 36.9% for point guards leaguewide.

But again, this ultimately forces the Lakers in a tough position considering that no teams are going to give up efficient talent without some kind of return, and nine times out of 10, that return is likely going to be size  – an advantage that took the Lakers to three consecutive trips to the Finals. Do you give up your biggest advantage for a Ramon Sessions-esque talent. Some might say yes, just so we don’t have to watch Derek Fisher start for another 82+ games, but it’s hard to imagine any situation where that is the right move.

For next season, the Lakers just might have to play some of their young guys a lot more than what we’ve seen since, well, Kobe and Fish were the young guys. The Lakers drafted Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, two guys who both have ball handling experience despite their very different skill sets. As of right now, those two might be the Lakers most viable and realistic options unless teams are just waiting to take on Ron Artest’s and/or Luke Walton’s contracts. The point guard might not be the most thrilling part of the Lakers team (which it hasn’t been since Nick Van Exel), and I’m okay with that. Some will disagree completely, but I think adding depth to the front court and finding another wing who can get his own shot off are more important issues the Lakers need to take care of for the next season.