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Day One (03/16)

March 16, 2012
Transaction Analysis
Deadline Day Blowout

by Kevin Pelton


Atlanta Hawks

Acquired cash considerations from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for a 2012 second-round pick. [3/15]

The back story here is that the Hawks were unable to make a move to get below the luxury-tax level, which they edged over by signing Erick Dampier for the rest of the season. With no takers for Jerry Stackhouse's contract, there were few other options for Atlanta, as the rest of the team's players have been in the rotation at various times as injuries have struck the Hawks. So instead Atlanta sold a second-round pick to Golden State to cover the cost of the luxury-tax bill. The Warriors will get the lesser of the two pick the Hawks have this season, their own and one belong to the Phoenix Suns.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Acquired forwards Jason Kapono and Luke Walton, the Lakers' 2012 first-round pick and the right to swap first-round picks in 2013 from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for guard Ramon Sessions and forward Christian Eyenga. [3/15]

For what initially looked like a straightforward deal--Sessions for a first-round pick--this turned out to be remarkably complex. We really have two separate exchanges. One is the Cavaliers getting value out of Sessions, who has the opportunity to become a free agent this summer and was likely to head elsewhere rather than stick around as a backup to Kyrie Irving. The other is Cleveland taking on Walton's $5.8 million salary for next season to relieve the Lakers' luxury-tax burden.

In exchange, the Cavaliers get a pair of assets. One, obviously, is the Lakers' first-round pick this June. The other is the right to swap picks in 2013, which is meaningful because Cleveland already owns not only its own pick but also the Miami Heat's, a leftover from the LeBron James sign-and-trade. Naturally, the Heat's pick is likely to fall somewhere between 28-30. So it is almost inevitable that the Cavaliers will exercise their right to move up with the Lakers' pick. Additionally, the Lakers did not put any protection on the 2013 swap, meaning if everything somehow collapses in L.A., Cleveland could net a lottery pick.

Valuing all of that is challenging. Sessions for a first-rounder seems like reasonable value, and possibly even to the Cavaliers' favor given that this was a buyer's market for point guards. (Sessions was the only playmaker who moved for the purpose of upgrading the position.) So is the opportunity to swap picks worth taking on $5.8 million?

Historically, a first-round pick has been valued somewhere around $3 million. Typically, the only first-round picks that are sold--either for cash, which is limited to $3 million, or taking on salary in a deal like this--are late in the round, so it's tough to say how much a lottery pick could fetch. At the same time, Cleveland is also giving up a first-round pick worth nearly $3 million. At most, I'd value the difference between the two at about the same amount, $3 million. The Cavaliers took on double that salary. Cleveland is far under the cap, of course, but there's an opportunity cost to using the space on this rather than relieving another team's luxury-tax burden over the summer or this time next season. So I think the Cavaliers probably overpaid to some extent.

Denver Nuggets

Acquired centers JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf from the Washington Wizards in exchange for center Nene. [3/15]

The Nuggets authored the day's boldest and most surprising move, trading Nene some three months after celebrating re-signing him in free agency to a five-year contract potentially worth $67 million. Denver certainly didn't give Nene away, but it's hard to view this move as anything but buyer's remorse on that contract. Limited by nagging injuries, Nene has rated as below average on a per-minute basis this season and has contributed just 1.3 WARP to the Nuggets. As a result, his projected value has dipped. Before the season, his multi-year WARP projection for 2012-13 and 2013-14 was 8.3 wins. Now, that's down to 6.2 wins, and 8.1 over the next three years--during which his contract will pay him $39 million.

Perhaps Nene just needs to get healthy and will be fine once we get beyond this unusual post-lockout season. However, nobody knows him better than the Denver organization, and their willingness to move him is a signal in and of itself.

What kind of prospect are the Nuggets getting in McGee? His athletic potential is as well known as his penchant for frustrating plays that are counterproductive when it comes to winning. By regularized adjusted plus-minus, McGee has rated far below average. In fact, he's the second-worst player in the league this season, per Stats for the NBA. At the same time, his solid individual statistics suggest the tools are there.

I think the key for Denver will be putting McGee in a box--focusing him on the handful of things he needs to be doing at each end of the floor. What springs to mind is the example of Joel Przybilla, a lottery bust when he turned up in Portland. When I saw the Blazers play late in 2004-05, assistant coach Tim Grgurich spent basically the entire game coaching Przybilla's every move on defense from the sidelines. In time, Przybilla soaked in this knowledge and became a strong position defender. Sadly, Grgurich is no longer with the Nuggets, who were his next stop, but I think George Karl and his staff can do something similar with McGee. In fact, that's what Masai Ujiri seems to be counting on in making this deal.

"Historically, guys who come here play better," he told the Denver Post. If you look at the progress of Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos, even from last year to this year, we can't wait to see the progress JaVale McGee can make."

Going back further, Karl has gotten the most of Chris Andersen, a player with somewhat similar skills to McGee's. Presumably, the task of focusing McGee will be easier with veteran teammates around him rather than the chaos that ruled in Washington. Denver gets the next month and a half to evaluate McGee's progress before making a decision on him as a restricted free agent.

Because McGee's contract is up, this deal may not help the Nuggets much from a salary standpoint. McGee could command something similar to DeAndre Jordan's four-year, $43 million contract. That's simply the going rate for athletic 7-footers. So if Denver is to win this deal, it will be because McGee makes good on his potential and improves as Nene declines. That prospect is far from guaranteed, and it's a rare risk for a likely playoff team to make, but it does give the Nuggets a chance of improving as they build around a new young core led by Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.

Golden State Warriors

Acquired guard T.J. Ford, forward Richard Jefferson and a 2012 first-round pick from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for guard Stephen Jackson. Acquired a 2012 second-round pick from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for cash considerations. [3/15]

Whatever you think of the Warriors' moves, their front office cannot be accused of inactivity. Two days after making what might still stand as this deadline's most important trade, Golden State flipped Jackson on to San Antonio to add Richard Jefferson and the Spurs' first-round pick. If you start from the reasonable position that Jackson was never going to return to the Bay and would have been sent home or bought out, effectively the Warriors took on $11 million in salary for the 2013-14 season, the last of Jefferson's contract, in order to get his services for two-plus years and a pick that's likely to be in the mid to late 20s.

Again, the value of that kind of pick is near $3 million, so Golden State is swallowing a marginal $8 million in order to have Jefferson. If they signed Jefferson to a two-year, $8 million contract this summer, I'm not sure he would be worth it. Jefferson can still make an open three (42.6 percent), but at this point that's about the sum extent of his skills. The Spurs have been much worse with him on the floor this season. Really, Jefferson's stats are worse across the board than what Brandon Rush has produced as a backup small forward for the Warriors this season. Maybe Jefferson can more effectively serve as a stretch four because he's slightly bigger than Rush, but these kind of reserves aren't that difficult to find.

Give Golden State some credit for at least getting some long-term value in the form of the first-round pick, but there are cheaper ways to get into the end of the draft.

Houston Rockets

Acquired guard Derek Fisher and the Dallas Mavericks' 2012 first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for center Jordan Hill. Acquired center Marcus Camby from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for guard Jonny Flynn, center Hasheem Thabeet and a 2012 second-round pick. [3/15]

The Rockets are another example of a team employing a mixed strategy in terms of short- and long-term goals. Naturally, that required dealing for a pair of 37 year olds. In Camby's case, this is strictly a move to solidify the team for a playoff run. Camby's offense has slipped badly in his late 30s; he barely makes 40 percent of his two-point attempts and is below 50 percent from the free throw line. About his only contribution on offense is lobs from the high post, and Luis Scola figures to be less effective at converting those into dunks than LaMarcus Aldridge. However, Camby is still a terrific shot blocker and rebounder who will be an upgrade over Hill in the 20 minutes a game Houston needs behind Samuel Dalembert.

The Rockets also added a pick by taking on the last season of Fisher's contract (a player option he is likely to exercise). Houston may not get it this year, as the Mavericks' pick is top-20 protected and they currently stand 17th in the order. That protection limits the upside, but the pick should still be worth around $3 million and the Rockets might be able to save a little of the $3.4 million Fisher is owed by buying him out.

Houston ended up as one of the deadline's winners, as much because of the other moves Western Conference teams made as from the addition of Camby. With the rest of the bottom of the playoff picture imploding, the Rockets now look more likely to reach the postseason than not, and they have a realistic chance to move up as high as sixth.

Los Angeles Clippers

Acquired guard Nick Young from the Washington Wizards in exchange for forward Brian Cook and a 2015 second-round pick. [3/15]

Finally, the Clippers have a natural shooting guard on the roster. Unfortunately, the one they added is badly flawed. Young gives them legitimate size defensively at the position, something that's been missing all season long, but he's also a terrible and indifferent defender who won't help at all on the glass. The Clippers can still make this work if they get Young to stick to a limited role on offense. He can make a three (37.1 percent this season) and rarely turns the ball over (shooting before you can turn it over will make that happen), so if Young stays away from isolation plays and just waits for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to set him up, he might be an upgrade. If not, at least it barely cost the Clippers anything.

Los Angeles Lakers

Acquired guard Ramon Sessions and forward Christian Eyenga from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for forwards Jason Kapono and Luke Walton, the Lakers' 2012 first-round pick and the right to swap first-round picks in 2013. Acquired center Jordan Hill from the Houston Rockets in exchange for guard Derek Fisher and the Dallas Mavericks' 2012 first-round pick. [3/15]

The Lakers got better today. Ramon Sessions gives them a fifth average or better player, to go with the core of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol plus Matt Barnes, and the kind of playmaker the team has badly been missing this season. The transition from the triangle to a more traditional offense obviously wasn't kind to Fisher and Steve Blake, who are most comfortable spotting up away from the basketball. That led the Lakers to relying heavily on Bryant to create offense from the perimeter. Now Mike Brown has another option in Sessions, who is masterful off the pick-and-roll.

Sessions isn't a perfect solution. He won't do much, if anything, to help the Lakers' poor defense at point guard. Despite this year's impressive 42.5 percent mark beyond the three-point line (in 61 attempts), he isn't much of a shooter, so defenses will be able to leave him late in games when the Lakers clear out for Bryant. Blake may actually still be the better option in this situations, and it will be ideal to have Sessions in as often as possible when Bryant is on the bench so the offense can run through him and one of the bigs in the pick-and-roll. But the Lakers' supporting cast has been so bad that almost anything would have been an upgrade, and Sessions has been an outstanding offensive player for extended stretches throughout his career.

The Lakers also cleaned up their cap situation for next season, clearing some $9.2 million between Fisher and Walton. Since the Lakers will surely be over the luxury tax, double that amount to get their real savings, some of which will likely go into re-signing Sessions if he opts out of the final season of his contract. Alas, the Lakers' exorbitant payroll continues to force them into short-term band-aids instead of addressing the solution by getting value from players on rookie contracts. The Lakers won't have a first-round pick going into this year's draft and will now almost certainly pick at the end of the round in 2013. At some point, the Lakers have to get some younger contributors. Maybe they believe they can do so for even less cost in the second round, as they tried to do last June with Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris. But continuing to deal away first-round picks, even those late in the round, is not a workable long-term plan.

Memphis Grizzlies

Acquired the rights to Ricky Sanchez from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for forward Sam Young. [3/15]

Barring a stunning reversal of fortunes for Sanchez, who is currently playing in Argentina according to the great Mark Deeks, this deal is entirely a salary dump. Young had been edged out of the Memphis rotation by Quincy Pondexter, who is both younger and under club control for a longer period, and was thus expendable. The Grizzlies were hovering right above the luxury-tax line and now get safely under. Beyond that, not much to see here.

New Jersey Nets

Acquired forward Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for center Mehmet Okur, forward Shawne Williams and the Nets' 2012 first-round pick. [3/15]

When it comes to the Nets' moves, the traditional framework has to be thrown out. This trade won't be judged on wins and losses, or building for the future, or almost anything besides whether the Nets can re-sign Deron Williams this summer. Williams is so valuable to the team that nothing else really matters. What GM Billy King is betting, then, is that he can put a competitive team on the floor the rest of the season to convince Williams he ought to stay as the Nets head to Brooklyn for 2012-13.

Quietly, the Nets have assembled a solid starting five. Williams, Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez are good enough, all other things equal, to get to the playoffs. Wallace is a massive upgrade on the slop the Nets have been running out there at small forward, which has been one of the league's weakest position groups over the last two seasons. Even with a dreadful bench, the Nets still figure to be competitive the rest of the way if they can stay healthy.

That desire to win now feeds into a willingness to give up the first-round pick. The Nets no longer have to worry about whether each additional victory is costing them ping-pong balls. Unless the pick lands in the top three, it's not likely to change Williams' thinking in the way a proven veteran like Wallace is.

There's another benefits to this deal. Wallace's name has already come up in trade discussions with the Orlando Magic, so if Dwight Howard ultimately becomes available this time next spring, he might be an asset the Nets can utilize to land their white whale.

The problems come if Williams still decides to bolt, whether to return home to Dallas or head somewhere else. Then the Nets would be left with Brooks, an aging small forward and two key free agents (Humphries and Lopez). At that point, not having a lottery pick to help build what suddenly would be a limited core would hurt. The Nets managed to add a quality young piece in Brooks during last year's draft, but they've now traded away lottery picks in consecutive picks for veteran players, which is not an ideal way to add talent. It's a quick fix, which stands the potential of going badly wrong.

This is admittedly a dangerous assumption from the outside, but I suspect the Nets could have gotten away with additional protection on the pick. The Blazers were in "everything must go" mode; would the difference between top-three and top-five protection scuttled the deal? That would have limited the Nets' risk in case their season unexpectedly goes bad the rest of the way. Right now, they would pick sixth, and they're only a half-game ahead of Sacramento and Toronto. The incentives would suggest the Nets will finish ahead of those teams in the standings, but there's no guarantee of that happening.

ESPN Insider's Chad Ford passed along an explanation from a source in the Nets front office that the team only loved three players in this year's draft: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson. Therefore, any pick after three was less attractive. However, the order of the top three picks is far from certain some three months out from the draft. One of those players could slip or the Nets might have been able to move up. Basically, even if you accept the fundamental premise of this move--and I'm not sure I do--the Nets still might have been able to do better.

Philadelphia 76ers

Acquired forward Sam Young from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for the rights to Ricky Sanchez. [3/15]

From the Sixers' perspective, there was little cost to acquiring Young. I don't know that Young fits into Philadelphia's talented perimeter rotation on a regular basis, but the team had little depth behind its five regulars and Young is a much better insurance policy than Andres Nocioni. I can also see Doug Collins making use of Young as a Mario West-style defensive substitute in certain situations, including the end of quarters.

Portland Trail Blazers

Acquired guard Jonny Flynn, center Hasheem Thabeet and a 2012 second-round pick from the Houston Rockets in exchange for center Marcus Camby. Acquired center Mehmet Okur, forward Shawne Williams and the Nets' 2012 first-round pick from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for forward Gerald Wallace. [3/15]

After this road trip, the Blazers had no choice but to blow it up. A team that started the season blowing out lesser opponents was suddenly on the receiving end of similar beatdowns. Last Friday in Boston, Tuesday in Indiana and finally Wednesday in New York, Portland failed to even compete. At that point, change was inevitable, and the only real question is whether Nate McMillan would go (as he did) or the team would actually prove the old adage wrong and simply fire the players.

The Blazers made just two trades, but all evidence suggests they were willing to make more if they could have found a taker for Raymond Felton or a deal for Jamal Crawford that did not require taking back future salary. Felton may yet be waived or bought out; the strongest argument for keeping him around at this point is that if Portland is tanking, Felton's poor play this season might help assure a high draft pick. Crawford's situation is trickier because of his player option for next season, but one way or another he's on his way out.

The Blazers will now rebuild around LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, the latter a restricted free agent this season. Wesley Matthews may stick around because of his long-term contract, but otherwise the rest of the Portland core has been entirely disassembled. The Blazers will use the rest of this season sorting through parts, including youngsters Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt, to see if there's anyone else who can be part of the next competitive Portland team.

Otherwise, it's a matter of stockpiling assets. The Nets' first-round pick is a crucial one, and terrific value given that a year ago the Blazers sent out the No. 19 pick in a weaker draft and a future first-round pick (originally scheduled for 2013, but now likely to be delayed because of lottery protection) to Charlotte to get Wallace. Trading those two picks to get the Nets' selection would be a good deal on its own, and Portland also got a year's worth of Wallace's services.

If the season ended today, the Blazers would go into the lottery slotted to pick sixth and 12th. While New Jersey's pick may get worse, Portland's is almost certain to get better. The Blazers are likely to at least move up to ninth and possibly all the way to seventh. The remaining players besides Aldridge, Batum and Matthews are a mishmash of lottery busts, injured veterans and existing players who did not have enough trade value to move elsewhere.

The motivation for the Camby deal is not quite as obvious as the one for Wallace, since Portland merely got a second-round pick. However, the Blazers shed some salary in the process, and there basically is no downside to bringing in Flynn and Thabeet other than having to release third center Chris Johnson to make room on the roster.

Portland is starting what figures to be an extended rebuilding process. In Aldridge, the Blazers have already found an anchor, which is often the most difficult part. But because the last few Portland drafts have been so unproductive (the one player who has shown promise, Elliot Williams, now appears likely to miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury), the Blazers must spend time building their core and using their cap space to turn into draft picks before they start thinking about competing again, perhaps in 2014-15.

San Antonio Spurs

Acquired guard Stephen Jackson from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for guard T.J. Ford, forward Richard Jefferson and a 2012-first-round pick. [3/15]

Every once in a while, the Spurs like to bring in a player who doesn't seem to fit their culture, just to keep us guessing. Remember the time Glenn Robinson won a ring in San Antonio? In Jackson's case, the front office and coaching staff have first-hand experience. Jackson established himself in the league as a part-time starter for the 2002-03 Spurs team that won a championship. That surely gives San Antonio confidence Jackson will fit in. There's an opportunity for him to play regular minutes, but also the leverage not to play him if he doesn't work because of the Spurs' depth on the wing.

Still, I'm not sure Jackson the player makes more sense than Jefferson. Jackson has never been much of a three-point shooter, and that's the primary thing San Antonio will ask of him at this point. He may also do some playmaking with the second unit, a role Jefferson could never fill because of his declining skills. (Alas, based on his time in Milwaukee, Jackson's skills may be just as much in decline.)

If there's a downside to this deal, I think it's the lost opportunity to use amnesty on Jefferson. The Spurs can't take Jackson's contract off their cap in the same manner, meaning they won't be able to get far under the cap this summer. The financial benefit to this deal is in terms of actual salary; had San Antonio used amnesty on Jefferson after one of the next two seasons, he still would have been owed $11 million in 2013-14, when Jackson's contract will be up. That's a lot to ask Peter Holt and company to spend, even if it meant giving up a first-round pick.

One minor aspect of this deal is that it sheds the contract of Ford, who announced his retirement early this week after another scare involving a neck injury he has played with for years. Now the Spurs have a little more wiggle room to sign a replacement.

Washington Wizards

Acquired center Nene from the Denver Nuggets and forward Brian Cook and a 2015 second-round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-team trade in exchange for centers JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf and guard Nick Young. [3/15]

From a pure production standpoint, by replacing McGee with Nene the Wizards are obviously a better team. They've also started the break with their embarrassing play over the last season and a half by dealing away two of their flawed young players. Still, it's difficult to see how adding a 29-year-old center with a long-term contract fits in with Washington's rebuilding program.

Nene surely still has value as a trade asset. The best thing the Wizards could do, perhaps, would be pumping up Nene's price by keeping him healthy and productive the remainder of this season and flipping him on over the summer for players who are more in keeping with the team's timetable. This doesn't necessarily mean going super-young, a strategy that hasn't worked for Washington in the past, but a slightly lesser player a few years younger with a more favorable contract might make more sense for the Wizards.

Until we see what the next move is, it's hard to grade this trade as anything but an incomplete.

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Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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