Monday, September 2, 2013

Let's Make A Deal Part II

We're back for part 2 of Let's Make A Deal where last time I laid out a couple of trade ideas, most of which involved LeMarcus Aldridge. Apparently there has been some additional discussion on that matter but nothing appears serious. In my second installment I have a couple more ideas, one of which I'm certain is to illicit some debate.

My first trade this week is Rajon Rondo along with Paul Pierce's trade exception to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger, George Hill & a couple of draft picks. I'll start with why the Pacers make this deal, which I think is pretty obvious, Rondo. As long as he can return close to his former self, they'd be getting one of the best PGs in the entire NBA, that's reason enough. In my opinion, the Pacers biggest weakness is starting PG. Hill is a nice player but not dynamic enough for my tastes. Against a team like the Heat where PG is one of the few places you can have an advantage over them, Hill isn't that much better than Mario Chalmers.

If you're the Celtics since you're trading damaged goods it's not unreasonable to be expected to receive damaged goods as well. While much of this deal does hinge on the health of both Rondo & Granger, if they both return to full health then the Celtics are getting back a player who age-wise should just be reaching his prime & is a top 20 scorer in the league. If healthy, they should be good enough to make the playoffs. Even if they miss the lottery, they have enough draft picks to make additional moves come next years draft to add to a core of Granger & Jeff Green. If he's unable to come all the way back from injury, then they could continue with the rebuild process & still be in line for a lottery pick.

If nothing else, they could showcase Granger for the first half of the season & attempt to move him before the trade deadline depending on what their season is looking like. Since he's entering the final year of his deal there would be plenty of teams that would potentially be interested. Perhaps a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder would take Granger before the deadline for some of OKC's young talent & a couple of draft picks.

Since Danny Ainge was gifted Kevin Garnett by his old Celtics teammate Kevin McHale, maybe he should return the favor to another former teammate, Larry Bird, & send Rondo to conference rival Indiana.

The next trade, I just mentioned is the Oklahoma City Thunder trading Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, DeAndre Liggins & 2 of their trade exceptions for Danny Granger. The Pacers may need to throw in a draft pick, be it a 1st or 2nd rounder to sweeten the deal. Having said that though, the trade is essentially Granger for a couple of young players that may take too long to develop for a team like the Thunder who are in win-now mode.

The key pieces the Pacers would be taking back are Lamb & Jones. Neither player has proven yet that they can be a reliable contributor for a team that has championship aspirations. In Indiana, Lamb can be brought along slower, with a chance to prove himself while coming off of the bench. For Jones, he  may not get huge minutes but it would probably be more than he was going to get in Oklahoma City. He'd also get a chance to play behind 2 of the better bigs in the game in Roy Hibbert & David West. 

If you're Indiana, after taking the Miami Heat to seven games in last year's conference finals without a healthy Granger, you already know you can win without him. Plus, with the pieces the Pacers added this off season in Luis Scola & Chris Copeland, they've improved their biggest weakness, their bench. By picking up Lamb & Jones, they're getting a couple of young guys they can develop, who strengthen their bench & are both still on their rookie contracts so the cap hit is reasonable.

Meanwhile, for the Thunder, they need Lamb to blossom now so he can help fill the void left by Kevin Martin's departure who was filling the void left by James Harden's departure. No offense to either player but Martin was a step down from Harden & Lamb will be another step down from Martin as this stage of Lamb's career. That's a trend in the wrong direction. 

Lamb can still become a reliable 3rd scorer but since he hasn't actually done it yet, it's not guaranteed that he can. However, if Granger is healthy, there is no doubt he can do just that. It would require an adjustment as he'd probably have to play at the SG position at times or possibly come off of the bench. The biggest factor would be health of course, not just the health of Granger but of Westbrook also. It could be a risky trade for the Thunder to make before the season begins without knowing for sure that both players have proven they're healthy. Therefore, this is a deal that would make more sense around the trade deadline.

The next deal I'd like to see is the New York Knicks trading Tyson Chandler to the Golden State Warriors for Andrew Bogut & a couple of draft picks. On the surface, given both players' recent history, it would seem to be a downgrade for the Knicks but for all of Chandler's defensive prowess he's pretty much limited offensively to alley-oops. After alley-oops, his next best attribute is the tap-out rebound. Mike Woodson though has said that he'd like to see him convert more of them into baskets instead of always looking to tap it out to the perimeter.

It appears that Woodson sees it what I've been saying since they acquired Chandler, he needs to expand his offensive repertoire. Oddly enough though it doesn't seem that Chandler agrees with that notion. Over the last 2 summers there's been talk from the Knicks about him working out with Hakeem Olajuwon like so many other current NBA players have in search of a low post game. In both instances though, Chandler balked at the idea, each time with varying reasons. He has the physical tools to be a decent offensive player with his height & length but for whatever reason, he seems to be content with his game as is. Granted the Knicks do have plenty of offensive fire power already but because of Chandler's limited offensive skills, he actually can make it more difficult at times for them to get their shots off. For a three point shooting team like the Knicks nothing would open up those shots, plus driving lanes, like a 7 footer with a legit post game.

The Knicks did just go out & get Andrea Bargnani who is also a 7 footer that can post up, but the problem is, he too likes to shoot threes. This is where a guy like Bogut would be valuable to the Knicks. He can both post-up & hit a 12-15' jumper. There was a time a few years ago where you could argue that he was on his way to being the 2nd best center in the NBA after Dwight Howard until he sustained a nasty elbow injury that threw his career off track.

Admittedly, Bogut isn't as good an all-around defender as Chandler, but per minute he is a better rebounder & shot blocker. The biggest reason to make this deal though is his offensive skill set. He would give the Knicks a legitimate low post threat who is also a decent passer out of the post. His field goal percentage isn't as good as Chandler's but that can easily be explained by the fact that he shoots jumpers as well while again, almost every shot Chandler takes is an alley-oop or right at the rim. That's not a knock on Chandler but the reality is, Bogut is athletic enough that, when healthy, he can take & make those same types of shots while also being used in more ways offensively than Chandler.

One person who would benefit from a Chandler for Bogut swap is Amare Stoudemire. Since Chandler came to New York he supplanted Stoudemire as the Knicks primary pick-&-roll screener essentially because Chandler doesn't possess a jump shot that teams have to honor. With him on the floor, running pick-&-rolls through Stoudemire allows teams to sag off of Chandler & clog up the lane for the roller. For all the talk about Carmelo Anthony & Stoudemire co-existing, it's actually the Chandler/Stoudemire pairing that creates the most problems for the Knicks. With Bogut on the floor, both he & Stoudemire could play the role of screener in pick-&-roll situations. When he was on the floor last year Stoudemire's primary role was that of a low post threat. A role which he was thriving at until his second knee injury of the year. He also managed to improve his defense some last year as well in limited time.

For the Warriors however, Chandler is exactly what they need in the middle. With all of the shooters they have, Chandler would be required to simply man the paint & grab rebounds. His veteran leadership along with the newly acquired Andre Iguodala would also be a huge factor. With both of them on the floor, you would have two elite front court defenders to help cover for weaker defenders like David Lee & Stephen Curry. On the offensive side, Lee can post up on occasion so you're not losing much there. Besides, much of the success the Warriors had last year was sans Bogut so they too already know they can win without him. Adding a player like Chandler though would greatly improve their chances of going deeper into the playoffs.

As is the case with some of the other trade ideas, much of this deal hinges on health. Bogut has played in only 44 of 148 regular season games. He did play well in the playoffs last year after returning from  injury & averaged 11 rebounds in just over 27 minutes per game. As was the case in the Rondo-Granger deal I mentioned, it would probably be best to do it some time during the season to give everyone a chance to see how healthy Bogut & Chandler for that matter are.

Let's not forget, Chandler missed 16 of the Knicks final 20 regular-season games because of a neck injury last year & has had a history of injuries himself. He has remained relatively healthy since coming to New York but you can't run from that fact either.

Because of Bogut's own health history the Warriors should have to include a couple of draft picks although it seems that the Knicks are trying to avoid any guaranteed rookie contracts in the immediate future as evidenced by the Bargnani deal. Contractually though, the deal works for both teams as Bogut is on the last year of his deal at roughly $13m while Chandler has 2 years left at around $14m per year.

A deal like Chandler for Bogut is one that would probably bring heavy criticism to the Knicks, (though they should be used to that by now) because of Chandler's place on their roster as both a leader & as their defensive anchor. Adding a healthy Bogut would help them on both sides of the ball. With the acquisition of Metta World Peace & having Iman Shumpert healthy for the start of the season, that should help defer some of the loss of Chandler on the defensive end. Make no mistake though, Bogut is as tough as nails & is no slouch on that end himself.

With training camp less than a month away, any potential trades that teams have interest in should start to heat up in the next few weeks. Most teams have finished putting together their rosters though & all that's really left are some training camp invitees for some squads. Any potential deals that may have been discussed probably won't be made until we get much closer to camp so teams have a newly acquired player at the start. Until then though, all we're left with are the speculations & suggestions of an NBA junkie like myself.