Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marion to Mavs in 4-way trade

No deal in the NBA, with its complex salary cap structure, is simple. The four-way trade approved this afternoon is certainly no exception. Shawn Marion was acquired by the Dallas Mavericks in a byzantine arrangement that has assets going between the Mavs, the Raptors, the Magic and the Grizzlies. The core of the deal has Marion heading from Toronto to Dallas in a sign-and-trade move. Kris Humphries and Austrailian centerNathan Jawai goes with Marion, while the Raptors get Antoine Wright and Devean George in return. Hedo Turkoglu's decision to go to Toronto is wrapped up in this, as Toronto gets him as part of a sign-and-trade with Orlando, and the Magic at least receive cash and a trade exception instead of nothing, which they would have gotten if Turkoglu simply signed with the Raptors. The Grizzlies helped facilitate this, sending Greg Buckner to Dallas and receiving Jerry Stackhouse in return along with a 2016 second round pick. The Grizzlies will likely release Stackhouse, meaning they wind up gaining a bit of cap space and little else. Their participation in the deal is by far the most questionable, as though GM Chris Wallace were simply looking for ways to build good will after his gift of Pau Gasol to the Lakers helped L.A. to the championship. The pursuit of Allen Iverson, on top of at all, must leave Grizzlies fans shaking their heads. The Mavs are at the other end of the spectrum. They improve their perimeter defense markedly with Nowitzki around, and if they keep Josh Howard, they'll likely move him to shooting guard to facilitate Marion at small forward and allow Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry to continue in his bench role. They signed Marcin Gortat and have Jason Kidd coming back, too, so they're clearly looking to win now, a smart move given Nowitzki is in his prime. They probably haven't done enough to put themselves over the top, but they've gotten a lot closer. The Raptors are retooling after last season's debacle, and trying to show Chris Bosh that they're committed to winning. They didn't have any intention of signing Marion after they agreed to a deal with Turkoglu, so that they receive a couple of veterans like Wright and George makes this trade a winner for them. Wright can move into the starting shooting guard position vacated by Anthony Parker, who is headed to the Cavs. The criticism for Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo should come not for his willingness to get involved in deal so much as the decision to dump Marion and pick up Turkoglu in the first place. The notion that Turkoglu is that much of an upgrade over Marion is not a strong one, and what the Raptors gain in outside shooting and a few more points per game, they lose in on the glass, where Marion was 3.1 rebounds a night better than Turkoglu. Bosh, who averaged 10 boards a night, almost twice as many as the next best returning Raptor, will have to take a leap and rebound a lot like Turkoglu's old teammate Dwight Howard, who averaged 13.9 a game last year.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Lakers make faustian deal for Artest

1. The Lakers clearly have a win-now mentality, and with Kobe preparing for his 31st birthday next month, that makes sense. The move to acquire 29-year-old Ron Artest and let 24-year-old Trevor Ariza go would seem to support that theory, but it's only a marginal upgrade that could have a much greater long-term cost. Ariza raised his game significantly in the playoffs, justifying his midseason insertion into the starting lineup with clutch play and 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in the postseason. Artest's numbers were better, with 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists a night during the playoffs, but it would be hard to argue the former Defensive Player of the Year was any more effective at stopping people than Ariza. It's even harder to make a case that Artest is a better guy to have around the locker room, given his well-documented antics. He's never played with a superstar like Kobe before, and hasn't been surrounded by quite as much talent either. Ariza meshed quite effectively as a role player, and it remains to be seen whether Artest can do half as well as someone who is no more than a third offensive option behind Kobe and Pau Gasol. The Lakers will be paying Artest about the same amount of money Ariza is getting from the Rockets, but Artest gets three years instead of five on his contract. It makes little sense why Mitch Kupchak and the L.A. braintrust would balk at just two more years for someone who could have been a cornerstone for the next few years and the transition into the post-Kobe era. The next five years with Ariza could have at least ensured a 20-something would occupy one starting wing spot while Kobe aged. Artest turns 30 in November and will be entering his 11th NBA season. The only party that came out looking worse than the Lakers was Ariza himself, who goes from the champions of the league to a team that may just have lost Yao for good and is still awaiting Tracy McGrady's return from microfracture knee surgery. It hardly seems worth it, for either Ariza or the Lakers, given the difference of two years that appeared to be all that stood in the way of a better situation for both.