Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bucks trade Harris, Udrih, & Lamb to Magic for Redick, Ayon, & Smith

Every season I give Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond my advice for how he should approach the NBA trade deadline.  I specifically mentioned that the Bucks should not make a deal for a guy like J.J. Redick but that's exactly what the Bucks did trading Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris, and Doron Lamb to the Orlando Magic for Redick, Gustavo Ayon, and Ish Smith.  Much like I did in 2011 when I dissected the deal that brought Stephen Jackson to Milwaukee, I am going to give a lengthy Wednesday What Happened analysis of the Redick trade today instead of just giving my "Quick Thoughts" or waiting almost a full week to break down the deal next Wednesday.

My displeasure with the Bucks trading for Redick was two-fold.  One, I thought the Bucks were going to have to give up a rotational player and a future first round pick to "rent" Redick for the rest of 2013 since he is scheduled to become a free agent this off-season.  The most common trade rumor was Redick for:
Two, I thought by trading for Redick would keep the Bucks from making a larger deal for a potential Top 25 player.  As it turns out Mbah a Moute was actually being dangled for a different expiring contract, Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks:
Despite Smith being critical of Milwaukee when the Bucks lost to the Hawks in the opening round of the 2010 NBA playoffs, according to a number of sources, if the Bucks held onto point guard Brandon Jennings (set to be a restricted free agent this off-season) and shooting guard Monta Ellis (holds an $11 million player option for next season) he would have not only welcomed a trade to Milwaukee but would have strongly considered signing an extension this off-season.  Smith is set to seek a max contract this off-season so if the Bucks would have acquired Smith and he signed an extension with the Bucks this off-season they would have only been able to hold onto Jennings or Ellis with Ellis holding all the cards via his player option.

It is all academic for the rest of this season though because the Bucks failed to acquire Smith.  According to Ric Bucher, the final offer the Bucks made to the Hawks for Smith was Ekpe Udoh (PF), Luc Mbah-Moute (SF), Beno Udrih (G) and a protected No. 1 pick.  When the Hawks rejected that offer, the Bucks acquired Redick just before the deadline:
What do the Bucks get in Redick?  A shooting guard that is earning $6.2 million this season in the last year of a three-year contract. With Redick in the contract year, he is predictably putting up career highs offensively.  Redick is averaging a career-high 15.1 points per game thanks to shooting 45% from the field and 39.3% from 3-point range.  Redick is almost shooting better from three-point range than Ellis is shooting from the floor (39.9%) while Ellis is shooting a miserable 22.8% from 3-point range for the worst percentage in the NBA.  Basically Redick accomplishes the same things offensive scoring-wise as Ellis with roughly four less shots per game.

Redick is also averaging 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 31.5 minutes but keep in mind that all those numbers are still not good enough for Redick to start for one of the worst teams in the NBA.  In terms of intangibles, there is no doubt that Redick brings playoff experience.  Redick played in 44 playoff games over the last six seasons, thanks in large part to playing with Dwight Howard till this season.

Besides Redick, the Bucks acquired the 27-year old center Ayon who is currently averaging 3.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.3 minutes along with the 24-year old guard Smith who is currently is averaging 2.4 points and 1.6 assists in 10.5 minutes.

The Bucks traded away the 30-year old Udrih who is currently earning $7.4 million on an expiring contract but is only averaging 6.7 points and 3.5 assists along with rookie Lamb (42nd pick 2012 NBA Draft) who is currently averaging just 3.5 points in 23 games and second-year player Harris (19th pick in 2011 NBA Draft) who is averaging 4.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 11.6 minutes.  Harris started the first 14 games of the season but has gotten little to no playing time since.

Redick is clearly the best player in the trade but it looks like the Magic acquired the second through fourth most valuable players in the trade. The Bucks shave roughly $1 million in salary for this seasons because the three players acquired (Ayon, Redick, and Smith) are earning $8.5 million this season while three players traded away (Harris, Lamb, and Udrih) are earning $9.5 million.

Sometimes the best deals are the one's that you don't make such as the Nets offering a pu pu platter for Ersan Ilyasova:
Clearly the Bucks wanted to make a bigger splash than the Redick trade.  Instead of landing Redick and spare parts, I would have added Jordan Crawford (SG) for the pu pu platter of Marques Daniels (SF) and Lamb discussed in my NBA trade deadline advice for Hammond.

The Washington Wizards sent Crawford to the Boston Celtics for the injured Leandro Barbosa (G) and Jason Collins (C).  Fine, if the Wizards are looking to dump Crawford for an injured player (Barbosa is out for the season with a torn ACL so he will earn the remaining of his one-year, $1.2 million deal from the Wizards instead of the Celtics) and an old center (Collins is 34 so he can at least earn the remaining of his one-year, $1.35 million deal), the Bucks could have sweetened that deal by offering a healthy Daniels and Joel Przybilla (C). 

Why do I love Jordan Crawford so much?
The biggest head scratcher of the 2013 NBA Trade Deadline was the Houston Rockets stealing Thomas Robinson (5th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft) along with Francisco Garcia, Tyle Honeycutt, and a second-round draft pick from the Sacramento Kings for Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas, and $1 million from the Rockets.  I know the Kings are owned by the broke Maloof brothers but the team will most likely be sold before next season to an ownership group in Seattle so giving up on a high lottery pick from the 2012 NBA Draft seems foolish to save just a little money.

If the Robinson heist didn't happen, I would say Crawford for Barbosa and Collins was the best deal of the NBA trade deadline.  Barbosa is out for the season and Collins is not much more than a warm body.  When you factor in that Crawford played some point guard while John Wall was out injured earlier this season and he is still very affordable by NBA standards since he is on the last two years of his rookie contract (earning $1.2 this season and $2.2 million next season), it makes no sense to me that the Wizards gave away Crawford for essentially a bag of balls.

With a record of 26-27, the Bucks currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Boston Celtics by 1.5 games while leading the Philadelphia 76ers by 3.5 games and Toronto Raptors by 5 games despite the fact that the Bucks dropped 8 of their last 10 games.  Since the Bucks made the deal for Redick, here is a three point plan for how the Bucks should proceed:

#1) Both Jennings and Ellis are averaging 37 minutes a game this season, which is way too much for high volume shooters like those guys.  Get Ellis's minutes down to the high 20's while keeping Jennings in the low 30's as opposed to the mid-30's.

#2) Gauge Redick's interest in staying with the Bucks past this season.  There are varying reports as to what Redick will cost to re-sign with the low-end being $6 million a year and the high-end being $10 million a year.  Redick turns 29 this off-season so if he gets the four-year deal he is reportedly seeking this off-season, the Bucks could get a couple peak seasons before his decline.

#3) Last but certainly not least, do everything possible to encourage Monta Ellis to decline his $11 million option, which would leave the Bucks with only $30 million committed to eight players (Ilyasova, Gooden, Mbah a Moute, Udoh, Sanders, Henson, Ayon, and Smith) and possibly only $22 million to six players if the Bucks amnesty Drew Gooden (set to earn $6.7 million the next two seasons) and decline their $1.5 million team option on Ayon for next season.  That would allow the Bucks to sign Jennings and Redick while reserving almost max-level money.  Don't get me wrong, Milwaukee is one of the least attractive destinations for NBA free agents but a core of Jennings, Redick, Mbah Moute, Henson, and Sanders has to be enticing to one of the front court studs (Josh Smith, Paul Milsap, Al Jefferson, and Dwight Howard) set to break the bank, which will determine whether the Bucks have enough money to re-sign Mike Dunleavy and Samuel Dalembert.

As always, the NBA Trade Deadline was somewhat disappointing since all the rumored big deals never came to fruition but at least the Bucks acquired Redick for spare parts instead of giving away a stud for essentially nothing in return like they did in the Ray Allen for Gary Payton heist.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Building The 53 - Packers release Charles Woodson

New broke this morning via Twitter when the official account for Charles Woodson Wines posted this:
A few hours later, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson released this statement:
"We are grateful for all that Charles has given to the Green Bay Packers over the past seven years.  He has been an integral part of the Packers’ success and our Super Bowl title in 2010 would not have been possible without his contributions. A once-in-a-generation talent as a player, he is also a great leader and ambassador for the organization off the field. Charles will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to his eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We wish him and his family all the best."

A few weeks ago I advocated for the Packers to keep Woodson in my annual off-season advice for Thompson but deep down I knew that Woodson's $10 million salary in 2013 was untenable, especially since the Packers don't have very much salary cap room for next season and they need to extend at least three franchise players (James Jones, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji) before the end of next season.  It is really hard to succinctly summarize the career of one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history but I will try, with a focus on his years in Green Bay.

Woodson won the Heisman Trophy in 1997 en route to helping Michigan win a share of the 1997 National Championship with Nebraska.  Woodson was the first predominately defensive player to win the Heisman. I said predominately because it was Woodson's kick return ability that catapulted him over Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf, and Randy Moss not just his defensive abilities alone.  The Oakland Raiders drafted Woodson with the 4th pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.  Woodson made a splash right away in the NFL winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998.  Woodson went on to play for the Oakland Raiders from 1998 to 2005 but the end of his tenure in Oakland was marred by injury.

Woodson reluctantly signed a huge seven year, $52 million contract with the Green Bay Packers in 2006 to start the most magical seven year defensive run (note that Reggie White played for the Packers for six years from 1993 to 1998) in franchise history.  In Woodson's seven seasons in Green Bay he started 100 regular season games and 10 playoff games.  As a member of the Packers, Woodson was twice named to the AP All-Pro first-team (2009 and 2011) and a four time Pro Bowler (2008-11). Woodson finished his Packer career with 99 pass break-ups, 38 interceptions, and 11.5 sacks.  Woodson only had one interception this season because he missed nine games with a broken collarbone so that means he amassed 37 interceptions over six seasons in Green Bay. Woodson had at least seven interceptions in 2006, 2009, 2009, and 2011 to join Bobby Dillion as the only players to accomplish such a feat in franchise history.

Woodson's turnover numbers are quite impressive but it was his ability to convert those turnovers into touchdowns that sets him apart from other defensive ball hawks.  Woodson had 10 defensive touchdowns (nine INTs and one fumble return) as a member of the Packers, which is the most in franchise history.  When you add in Woodson's defensive touchdown with the Raiders, it puts him only one defensive touchdown behind Rod Woodson for most regular season defensive touchdowns in NFL history.

Woodson's 2009 and 2010 seasons in Green Bay stand out the most to me.  Statistically speaking, Woodson's best season in Green Bay was 2009 when he was named 2009 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year thanks to amassing 65 tackles, 21 passes defended, nine interceptions, four forced fumbles, and two sacks.  Although Woodson only had two interceptions in 2010, he posted a career high in tackles (76) and forced fumbles (5) to help the Packers win their first Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXXI.

A big part of sports is commiserating with friends and family about it.  Here are two text exchanges that I had earlier today that pretty much sums up my thoughts:
Let me give you a little background on the end of that exchange.  Gaber was quoting me from one of my worst performances at a Packer game.  As I discussed in this space a few times, I've been to almost every Packers/Bears game in Chicago over the last decade.

Things have gone the Packers way for almost all of those games with their 2007 regular season match-up being an outlier.  The 12-2 Packers traveled to play the 5-9 Bears on a brutally cold day.  Fernando, Gaber, Sug, and I started the day early with some Andre champagne (later used by the Milwaukee Brewers to celebrate making the playoffs) and things went downhill from there.

We "snuck" in a number of bottles of Baileys into Soldier Field.  I say "snuck" because I was definitely over-served before we got to the game so I was dropping them left and right as we tried to enter the game.  Luckily, actually probably unluckily, we made it into the game.

The Packers ultimately lost 35-7 in a meaningless game.  Instead of taking the loss graciously, I offended both Bears and Packers fans by continually calling the Bears a horrible organization and listing off how much better the Packers have been over the last few decades.  Although everything I said that day was true, still not my finest hour.

Back to Woodson getting cut by the Packers, here is another text message exchange from later in the day:
This turned into the longest "Quick Thoughts" post ever and probably should have been a Sunday (not so) Funday post but I am going to the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field on Sunday with Dre, Nick, Sug, and Tessa so I plan on posting my extended thoughts on seeing Wisconsin and Minnesota face-off (great pun huh) as a Sunday Funday post.

Check back soon for more of my thoughts on the business side of the Packers parting ways with Woodson, but I will leave you with this.  Earlier this year Cheesehead Chick, Dre, Gaber, Nick, Sug, Tessa, and I went to the Packers/Vikings playoff game.  I was pretty sure that would be Chuck's last home game in Green Bay and based on this picture, it looks like Chuck knew it too...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2013 NBA Trade Deadline Advice for John Hammond

For merely being a borderline playoff team, the 2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks have been very interesting to follow this season.  The Bucks started the season hot thanks in large part to Larry Sanders turning into the best shot blocker in the NBA.  That isn't a joke either, watch games and look up the stats if you don't believe me.  The Bucks followed that up with a cold streak that resulted in them "mutually parting ways" with their head coach Scott Skiles.  Following the inevitable improvement in play when Jim Boylan took over as head coach, the Bucks fell back into their old ways losing four games in a row.  The first two loses were justifiable road losses to the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz but the last two were home losses to the lowly Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards.

That left one game before the all-star break, a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers.  The Bucks barely beat the 76ers 94-92 to put themselves four games ahead of the 76ers for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  Restricted free agent to be Brandon Jennings changed agents recently sparking rumors that he is trying to force his way out of Milwaukee.  Jennings quashed those rumors after the win over the 76ers but take that with a grain of salt because else was Jennings supposed to say?  Keep in mind, since Jennings is a restricted free agent after this season, the Bucks have the option to match any offer Jennings receives.  Unless a team can come up with a particularly onerous offer sheet, the Bucks have to match any offer to keep Jennings long-term if they don't trade him before the trade deadline this season.

Thankfully Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hannond traded Stephen Jackson last season along with Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown so I do not have to devote my entire trade deadline advice post for Hammond for how to move a radioactive player like Jackson like I had to last season.  In the past (see 2010 & 2011) I dissected the entire Milwaukee Bucks roster like a highly skilled surgeon before I gave my five favorite reasonable fake trade ideas for Hammond.  Since I recently updated my rankings of the entire roster, I am going to skip that primer.

Despite being barely over .500 with a record of 26-25 at the all-star break, the Bucks are only five games back of the 3 seed with no one in the Eastern Conference separating themselves from the pack besides the Miami Heat.  There have been rumors swirling that everyone on the roster besides Larry Sanders is available.  The trade rumors I've read mainly surround getting J.J. Redick (makes no sense because he is a free agent this off-season) or trade young assets (i.e. John Henson or Tobias Harris) for another veteran complimentary piece.  Those are not the type of middling deals the Bucks need to make at the trade deadline.  The Bucks need to swing for the fences to try to land a Top 25 (or at least someone with the legitimate potential to become a Top 25) player so they can build long-term around Brandon Jennings, Larry Sanders, and the player they get at the trade deadline.

With the 2013 NBA Trade Deadline (Thursday, February 21st at 2:00 PM CST) rapidly approaching, here are my favorite trades (least favorite to most favorite) that I put together with an assist from ESPN's NBA Trade Machine:

#5) Milwaukee Bucks trade Marquis Daniels (SF) Doron Lamb (SG) to the Washington Wizards for Jordan Crawford (SG):
This is my one trade proposal that does NOT net the Bucks even a potential Top 25 guy, this is aimed at pacifying my basketball crush on shooting guard Jordan Crawford.  Ever since I saw Crawford play in college, I've thought he could be a star in the NBA.  We now have a few years of evidence that Crawford will most likely not be a star, but could be a legitimate above average starting shooting guard in the NBA.  Since the Washington Wizards are all set at shooting guard for the next decade thanks to drafting Bradley Beal, it makes sense to dumb Crawford for some cheap expiring assets like Daniels and Lamb.

For the rest of the trades, I am going to show you my thought process for getting to the final trade by including some of the initial offers that helped me formulate the final trade I would hope the Bucks could pull off with each team. 

#4) Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets:
May be the biggest enigma in the NBA right now is rookie forward Royce White of the Houston Rockets. always churns out great work but their coverage of White has taken it to another level.  Over the last year they filmed a documentary of his draft day experience as well as an in-depth piece recently by the always entertaining Chuck Klosterman.  There is almost zero chance that the Houston Rockets would give up so quickly on a guy like White, despite the fact he has never played in an NBA game, especially with how much they've tried to cater to White's needs.  I know offering the same package that I fake offered to the Wizards (Daniels and Lamb) for Crawford will not be enough to get White back to the Midwest.
My second thought was to try to swap high expectations but low productions guys in a straight swap of Harris for White.  Harris has played in the NBA for a year and a half while White has never played in an NBA game yet Harris is still over a year younger than White.  This trade gives Houston a serviceable rotation guy while Milwaukee gets a lottery ticket that might be worthless but has a 10% chance of hitting the jackpot.
In order to sweeten the pot a little, I added Ekpe Udoh and Terrence Jones, which makes this trade even more enticing for Houston because they get two serviceable rotational players for two lottery tickets.  From what I've gleaned about White from the aforementioned pieces, he needs to get back to the Midwest to recapture some of the magic he created at Iowa State thanks, at least in part, to his coach Fred Hoiberg (for continuity purposes, let's look past his troubled stint at Minnesota before going to Iowa State).  If the Bucks acquire White, make sure Hoiberg is hired as Jim Boylan's (or whoever is head coach of the 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks) head assistant coach next season and work with White on his aversion of flying.

#3) Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors:
When the Carlos Boozer for Andrea Bargnani trade roomers started swirling in Chicago, it got me thinking whether Bargnani would be a good fit in Milwaukee.  The answer is probably no since the Bucks have a bevy of young, affordable front court players (Henson, Sanders, and Udoh) and that does not even account for the fact Bargnani will make $11 million next season and $12 million the following season.
Let's face it, the Bucks do not need a soft underachiever like Bargnani but they might need a point guard, especially if Jennings bolts this off-season, so look at Bargnani as the expensive tax for acquiring a potential franchise point guard like Lowry.  If Jennings re-signs with the Bucks they would start the smallest backcourt in the NBA with Jennings and Lowry, which would either push Monta Ellis (SG) to the bench or get him to decline his $11 million player option for next season to test the free agent market.  I get that starting Lowry and Jennings means the Bucks would be starting two point guards but Jennings is already morphing into a shooting guard in the mold of a Rich Man's Mo Williams.  This deal makes much more long-term financial sense for the Raptors than the Bucks since the Raptors would get rid of almost $30 million in future salary commitments for two expensive expiring contracts.

#2) Milwaukee Bucks and New Orleans Hornets:
If this deal went through, it would mean that the Bucks turned Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson into Eric Gordon and Ekpe Udoh.  Not sure that is a great return given that Bogut, when healthy, is a force on both ends of the floor.  The same cannot be said for any of the other three guys.  The problem is that David Stern New Orleans gave up Chris Paul to get Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman and the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2012 first-round draft pick, which turned out to be the the 10th pick that New Orleans used to draft Austin Rivers.  Given all of Gordon's injury issues, only getting Aminu, Ellis, and Rivers for Paul looks like a horrible trade.
Offering Jennings and Beno Udrih (PG/SG) feels like too much for Gordon.  Plus that leaves the Bucks without a real point guard so I tweaked the trade a little.
I landed on Jennings and Drew Gooden (PF/C) for Gordon.  With stud front court players like Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis, the last player New Orleans needs is the grossly overpaid Gooden but that is the tax for getting a dynamic point guard like Jennings.  This off-season Jennings will sign an extension worth roughly $10 to $12 million a year.  Gordon is owed $15 million a year for the next two seasons and holds a player option for the 2015-16 season worth $15.5 million.  That means New Orleans will take on some extra salary since Jennings and Gooden will make roughly $18 million a year combined through the 2014-15 season but get an upper echelon NBA point guard for an injury plagued shooting guard.  Who knows, Gordon could continue to be injured and thus a Michael Redd-esque noose on the salary cap but that is a gamble worth taking to get a potential Top 25 player like Gordon. 

#1) Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers:
Before the season, in two separate trades, the Lakers acquired Steve Nash (PG) and Dwight Howard (C) for Andrew Bynum (C) and what feels like 25 first round draft picks.  Nash started the season hurt while Howard is still playing his way into shape following back surgery during the off-season. Just when the Lakers thought the 2012-13 NBA season couldn't get any crazier, they lost Pau Gasol for six to eight weeks with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.  Although I feel bad for Gasol personally, I am happy he got hurt for two reasons.  One, I eyed a Gasol trade for the Bucks that originally included Dalembert, Ilyasova and Sanders to get Gasol because I thought that was the only way they could get a Top 20 NBA player like Gasol.  As crazy as it sounds, whether Gasol got hurt or not, Sanders should never have been included in any offer based on the breakout season he is putting together that might result in him winning the NBA's most improved player award.  Two, Gasol needs a change of scenery after playing with Kobe for so long, especially following such a brutal injury.
Ultimately I landed on a trade that involved some extra expiring contracts that could actually help the Lakers this years since they've been decimated by injuries.  As crazy as it sounds, the Lakers might end up on the better end of this deal while giving up Gasol and former Buck Jodie Meeks (SG) because much like Kobe did with Shaq, it looks like Kobe finally wore out Gasol.  This trade allows the Lakers to take Gasol's $19 million salary for next season off the books while only adding back Illyasova's $8 million salary for next season since the rest of the players they would acquire are on expiring contracts.  That gives the Lakers the financial wiggle room to re-sign Howard so they can move forward with a core of Kobe, Howard, Nash, and Illyasova.  May be this is just my reverence for Bill Simmons but I keep thinking back to how well Gasol played in the gold medal game for Spain against the United States.  Although Spain didn't win, Gasol did everything humanly possible to beat the United States.  Putting Gasol on a team without Kobe is an immediate win for him.  Add in that Milwaukee is a small market where the media spot light won't shine so bright and I see Gasol going on a tear once he is healthy.  Even if Gasol has to sit out the rest of the season injured, this trade allows the Bucks to build around a core of Gasol, Jennings, and Sanders.

I would be shocked if the Bucks made any of the aforementioned trades but stay tuned if the Bucks make any moves because I will have a full breakdown.  Finally, I am going to the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field with Dre, Nick, Sug, and Tessa so check back Sunday for my extended thoughts on seeing Notre Dame v. Miami of Ohio and Wisconsin v. Minnesota.