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.

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