A Review Of The 2009 NBA Trade Deadline
February 19th, 2009

If it wasn’t for the NBA Draft – that hotbed of prejudice that can see the entire prognosis of the NBA change in six short hours – then the trade deadline would be my favourite time of year. There’s nothing like it; you cancel every event in your social calendar, turn off your phone, ignore real life world events, and mash the refresh key for three straight days, waiting for any trades to come in, even those with the dreaded “conditional second” tag on them. (Well, that’s what I do.)

Recent trade deadlines have been disappointing. Last season saw many of the biggest trades (Shaq to Phoenix, the Jason Kidd/Devin Harris swap, Pau Gasol, Mike Bibby) take place in the weeks leading up to the deadline, with only the 11-player Ben Wallace trade of any major significance. And 2007 was a complete washout, with the Primoz Brezec for Juan Dixon swap being the highlight of the entire month. No matter how much I pleaded for Pau Gasol to come to Chicago, it didn’t happen.

However, this year, things went down rather well. Six trades were made, involving ten teams, and that’s not even including the trades in the run-up to the deadline. There were some slight anti-climaxes when Phoenix decided not to be insane and kept Amar’e Stoudemire, and Portland’s big plans to land everybody available with a combination of Raef LaFrentz and Travis Outlaw came to nothing. But most teams got involved, and here’s what went down. (Note: list includes trades done in the fortnight prior as well, because I felt like it and didn’t comment on them at the time.)


– Boston

Trade 1: Traded Sam Cassell and cash to Sacramento for a conditional second-round pick.
Trade 2: Traded Patrick O’Bryant to Toronto for another conditional second-round pick from Sacramento.

Unable to get Raja Bell, Andres Nocioni, or any charge-taking defensive-minded player that might replace James Posey, the Celtics cut their losses and tax liabilities with these two simple, somewhat inconsequential moves, designed to free up spots and money for the waiver wire. It’s probably going to work, too; Mikki Moore has already been waived by Sacramento, and the Thunder are sure to follow with Joe Smith. Other candidates to be waived include Stephon Marbury, Bobby Jackson, Adonal Foyle and Chucky Atkins amongst others, and the Celtics now have the two roster spots that will allow them to sign these very welcome reinforcements.


– Charlotte

Traded Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown to the Lakers for Vladimir Radmanovic.

I have no idea why they did this. None whatsoever. Morrison has been poor, and Brown is nothing more than a deep bench player, but Radmanovic is nothing more than a bench player either, and they now have to pay him $15 million over the next two years to do that. This while also paying Nazr Mohammed an identical amount to play even less, and another backup in DeSagana Diop for four more increasingly expensive years. If Charlotte has a distinct plan, then I don’t see it.


– Chicago

Trade 1: Traded Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons and Andres Nocioni to Sacramento, and Michael Ruffin to Portland, for Brad Miller and John Salmons.
Trade 2: Traded Larry Hughes to New York for Tim Thomas, Jerome James and Anthony Roberson.
Trade 3: Traded Thabo Sefolosha to Oklahoma City for the lesser of San Antonio and Denver’s 2009 first-round picks.

If you look at it one way, it’s kind of a kick in the junk to go from reportedly potentially acquiring one of the finest big men in the game in Amar’e Stoudemire, to ending up with only a bevvy of bench players. If you want to look at it that way, John Paxson has failed you. But you’d be wrong to look at it that way. The main part of being a good GM is capitalising on another GM’s faulty logic, and John Paxson tried to do that as best a man could. He shouldn’t be penalised for Steve Kerr finally realising what a mistake he was about to make.

Instead, look at it another way. The Bulls didn’t trade away a single starter in any of these deals, and yet they returned a near-20 ppg scorer and MIP candidate (Salmons), a former All-Star centre who isn’t done yet (Miller), a potentially useful backup forward (Thomas), a good deep bench shooter (Roberson), a player that they won’t even have to play (James), a first-round pick, long-term salary relief, the outlines of a 2010 plan, a new Traded Player Exception and the possibilities of a $3.2 million Disabled Player Exception, whilst also getting rid of two of their worst contracts (Nocioni, Hughes), a sort-of bust (Sefolosha) and two players that couldn’t take the court (Gooden, Ruffin). How bad can that be?

Drifting purposelessly even after winning the lottery, the Bulls were losing games, playing with apathy, not meshing well, and tiptoeing around the luxury tax. Their best scorer, Ben Gordon, seemed destined to leave as a free agent, and about $45 million was invested into the bench of a team with bad depth. Despite his past performance, Nocioni has been playing about as badly as anyone in the NBA this season, Luol Deng has disappointed after signing his new contract, and the pairing of Gooden and Hughes were snuggly tucked up on the inactive list.

For a man supposedly incapable of getting a deal done, John Paxson just shook up his roster without losing a single important piece. They now have a potential replacement for Gordon, a centre with legitimate size and skill that isn’t Aaron Gray, the amusing sideshow that is James, and the entirely unexpected but equally humorous return of Tim Thomas, a man who previously survived in Chicago fan’s memories as only a verb. (Example usage: “Hey, have you heard about Stephon Marbury? He’s been Tim Thomas’d.” It’s become a staple.) The Bulls still haven’t made The Big Deal for the #2 guy, but they can only do one if such a deal is available, and it wasn’t. Besides, come the offseason, a package of Miller’s expiring contract, Salmons, Tyrus Thomas and the two first-round draft picks the Bulls now own is enough to bid for Amar’e again, no?

It might have cost them any shot at re-signing Ben Gordon, but that shot was no higher than 5% anyway. And besides, if you can convince Minnesota that Kirk Hinrich is the correct fit next to Randy Foye (or convince Oklahoma City that Hinrich/Westbrook/Durant was meant to be), then the Gordon era might not even be over yet. I’m glad you’re not quitting, John Paxson.


– Detroit

Traded Alex Acker to the L.A. Clippers for a conditional future second-round pick.

This insignificant trade saw an inactive list player get dumped, so that his team could then avoid the luxury tax. It’s only real significance came from the fact that I predicted it. You will never hear the end of this. Quite literally.


– Houston

Traded Rafer Alston to Orlando in exchange for Brian Cook from Orlando and Kyle Lowry from Memphis.

I love Kyle Lowry. He’s one of my favourite players. I’ve always thought he was like young Jason Kidd, if Jason Kidd did not pass like Jason Kidd. Admittedly, that’s not the most flattering comparison, and is a bit like saying that Michael Sweetney is like Pavarotti if Pavarotti couldn’t sing. But, still. Lowry is fantastic, and as such I can’t begrudge any team that acquires him.

However, when the team that acquires him also has Aaron Brooks, it’s a little odd. The two are pretty similar players – they both push the ball, excel at driving, look to score first, are relentless bordering on reckless, defend similarly aggressively if not entirely successfully, and are both undersized. Therefore, if you’ve got Brooks, do you really need Lowry?

Well, sort of.

The Rockets offence suffers from a lack of aggressiveness from the perimeter, both before and after the loss of Tracy McGrady. And while Rafer Alston would sometimes try and be aggressive, he wasn’t very good at it. Shooting 37% on the year, Alston’s well-intentioned play led to little more than some streaky outside shooting, mediocre defence, and dozens of missed floaters. By contrast, Kyle Lowry is undeniably aggressive, with a penchant for throwing himself wildly into gaps in the defence that don’t really exist. He’s not one to camp out on the perimeter.

But is this what the Rockets really need? Alston was never great at running a halfcourt offence, but neither at this stage is Lowry, and he is unequivocally best in a running game. And the Rockets don’t have the personnel for a running game.

Perhaps more importantly, Lowry isn’t a good outside shooter, and is a downgrade from Alston in this area that the Rockets were only slightly above average in. Houston gets an outside shooter in this trade in Cook, who will give them the occasional Novak throwback; however, Cook isn’t likely to play much, considering the other options at his position. As such, the spacing of the floor around Yao Ming is no better than before. The Rockets can put a trio of Brent Barry, Von Wafer and Shane Battier on the floor at any one time alongside Yao and a point guard, which helps, but without a great deal other options out there, the Rockets offence is still set up to occasionally bog down. Rick Adelman’s already experimented with playing Yao Ming in the high post to open up the floor for the penetrating guards, but all it did was take the team’s best offensive option out of his best spots. Now, he has Kyle Lowry to kick out to, a man who might not play to his strengths. It doesn’t really work.

The Rockets needed to upgrade at point guard. Instead, they may have downgraded. They got younger, but no nearer. I’m not sure of the point of that.


– L.A. Clippers

Acquired, at various times, Hassan Adams, Cheikh Samb and Alex Acker.

If your team had luxury tax issues, they probably called the Clippers for help. In taking on these three guaranteed contracts, the Clippers acquired no more than a small bit of cash and a 2011 second-round pick, as well as free looks at Acker and Samb (who has already been waived). When you are rumoured to have made everyone on your roster except for Eric Gordon available, you’re pressing hard to trade away Baron Davis, Chris Kaman’s name comes up in various scenarios, you nearly deal Marcus Camby, and yet your sole deal sees you acquiring Alex Acker…..that’s underwhelming. The Clippers’ future direction is no clearer than it was a week ago, and the remnants of Elgin Baylor’s final stand will be here for a while yet.


– L.A. Lakers

Trade 1: Traded Chris Mihm to Memphis for a conditional second-round pick.
Trade 2: Traded Vladimir Radmanovic to Charlotte for Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison.

If there was any incentive for Memphis to take Chris Mihm off the Lakers’ hands, I missed it. (I’ll assume that there was some cash also sent over, which seems to have gone unannounced.) The Lakers just got a significant $2.8 million luxury tax saving for a man fourth on their depth chart, constantly injured, and the recipient of 105 minutes all season. And it cost them nothing to do it. Can’t ever argue with that.

Can’t argue with the Charlotte trade, either. Morrison is largely irrelevant, as comparisons to Larry Bird now look silly in the wake of his more apt likeness to Luke Jackson. But somehow, the Lakers shifted a year off the back end of Radmanovic’s oversized contract, while picking up a decent and needed athletic fifth guard in Shannon Brown for their troubles. What’s got into Mitch Kupchak in these last 18 months? He hasn’t overpaid anyone since Luke Walton, and even wins trades these days. I’m impressed.


– Memphis

Trade 1: Traded a conditional second pick to the L.A. Lakers for Chris Mihm.
Trade 2: Traded Kyle Lowry to Houston for Adonal Foyle, Mike Wilks and a 2009 first-round pick from Orlando.

Memphis has been using their cap space this season to do other people favours, having acquired Shaun Livingston and Steve Francis before this, getting both Miami and Houston out from under the tax threshold. However, in those two deals, the Grizzlies received an incentive to trade, namely cash from Miami and their own second-rounder back from Houston. They don’t seem to have gotten a similar incentive for taking on Mihm, so I don’t know why they did this one. Mihm used to be good despite his delicate nougat centre, but those days passed a while ago. As for trading Lowry, in spite of how much I like him, it’s always hard to turn down the offer of a first-round draft pick for your backup point guard, even if said draft pick will be extremely late in the first round. Foyle and Wilks are irrelevant.


– Miami

Traded Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to Toronto for Jermaine O’Neal, Jamario Moon, a future first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick.

I like the idea of trading a massive expiring contract for some value, being able to shift Banks’s needless contract, whilst picking up a decent role player and a pick for your troubles. The Heat’s staunch negotiating tactics got the maximum out of this deal’s peripheries. But why is Miami trading for O’Neal in the first place? Is it to obtain a defensive anchor that’s sorely needed on an otherwise good defensive unit?

Maybe. A line-up of Mario Chalmers, Dwayne Wade, Moon and Udonis Haslem sure can defend. But I don’t think you can really call O’Neal that anchor any more. Apart from the occasional night, he wasn’t one in Toronto, and his offence has regressed to the point that it’s a bit painful watching him try to do what he no longer can. Nothing about his decline seems reversible – O’Neal may level out, or decline a bit slower, but he won’t ever be back to where he was before the injuries. And that leaves you paying over $23 million to someone who still wants it badly, but who doesn’t have it any more.

Regardless of his money and knee injury, though, O’Neal still represents an upgrade on the medley of centres that Miami has turned out so far; Joel Anthony, the remains of Jamaal Magloire, Mark Blount, and an out-of-position Haslem. While no longer great at anything, O’Neal can still protect the paint and score a few points, even if he is to offensive flow what John Goodman is to mountain biking. The league has figured out Jamario Moon’s deep flaws, and thus his inclusion into the trade doesn’t really mean a lot, but the duo have their uses as players, more so than the outgoing two.

The real payoff from this deal will come in 2010. With Banks’s contract now gone, the Heat are even more relevant than they were before. Therein lies the real prize, with the pick as a nice bonus. The intervening 18 months, though, will see the money get a bit tight.


– Milwaukee

Traded Tyronn Lue to Orlando for Keith Bogans.

I’m still not sure why they signed Lue, you know, considering that they had the capable Luke Ridnour and the highly-promising Ramon Sessions already at point guard. Never mind that now, though; after abortive attempts to use Lue as a two guard, the Bucks finally gave up and got a proper one. The trade is somewhat of a wash – neither player is in the other team’s long-term plans, and are only short-term fill-ins for injured stars. But Bogans will hit some corner threes and try hard on defence, so Scott Skiles should like him.


– Minnesota

Traded Rashad McCants and Calvin Booth to Sacramento for Shelden Williams and Bobby Brown.

While Kevin McHale’s decision to staple-gun McCants to the bench made his team better on the court, it also destroyed any value he may had. McCants has gone from being rumoured as the centrepiece in a Gerald Wallace deal, to being the centrepiece of a deal for one of the bigger draft busts of a generation. Nevertheless, Shelden Williams can play more than his minimal usage suggests that he can, and even though he seems destined to do little more than briefly audition and leave as a free agent, he gives the Wolves a decent defensive centre to compliment the less-than-decent defensive play of Kevin Love and Craig Smith. Bobby Brown isn’t a bad back-up point guard, either, and the combined cost of the two for next season is Brown’s minimum salary. (Note: Brown has a player option, but it’s his prerogative whether he exercises it or not. I truly believe that they gave him an option purely so that this gag could be made.)


– New York

Trade 1: Traded Tim Thomas, Jerome James and Anthony Roberson to Chicago for Larry Hughes.
Trade 2: Traded Malik Rose and cash to Oklahoma City for Chris Wilcox.

For all of Larry Hughes’s faults – petulance, over-confidence, injuries, gambling on defence, dogged insistence on the brilliance of his own jump shot – he’s not Jerome James. For Isiah’s most humiliating mistake, the Knicks filled a pretty urgent need for a shooting guard, and even though it cost them some money to do it, this is the Knicks. They can afford it.

More importantly, it cost them no 2010 cap space, which is pretty much all that they live for at the moment. Hughes may have a nice little career resurgence in the numbers-inflating system of Mike D’Antoni, even if he doesn’t help the Knicks in any significant way on the court. But the Knicks other trade is better – somehow, they were able to get the out-of-favour Chris Wilcox for no more than Malik Rose and a few quid. Wilcox has barely played all season, and is going to be with the Knicks only very briefly before becoming a free agent, but he’s also less than a year removed from averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds, and giving the Knicks a sorely-needed capable big man for their playoff push. And somehow they got him for Malik Rose. Gotta like that.

(By the way, this trade led to one of the five most interesting moments of my life to date. In a Messenger window on Thursday morning, a source told me that Hughes was going to be traded for Thomas and James. I had assumed that they meant Tim and Jerome, and started firing out a series of top quality jokes as a result. (“I wonder if Tim Thomas will get Tim Thomas’d again?”, et cetera. It was golden.) But they didn’t – they meant the Washington duo of Etan Thomas and Mike James. However, I didn’t realise that until a while afterwards, and had already told everyone in the world that Hughes was going to be dealt to New York for those two. And then, in a strange quirk of fate, he was. This was a weird moment, but the lesson here, as ever: I’m a genius. An accidental genius, but a genius all the same.)


– Oklahoma City

Trade 1: Traded Chris Wilcox to New York for Malik Rose and cash.
Trade 2: Traded the lesser of San Antonio and Denver’s first round selections to Chicago for Thabo Sefolosha.

The aborted Tyson Chandler trade was bad luck, but the follow-ups seem like bad judgement. Why did the Thunder give Chris Wilcox to the Knicks for little more than a buyout candidate? Contractually it’s a wash, but if this is the most that you can get for your starting power forward of the last two years, then maybe you haven’t managed your asset very well. Wilcox is better than Rose is, and is better than Rose ever was. So if Malik Rose is all you can get for him, you probably should have worked on his value more. This means not needlessly spot-starting Robert Swift, who, despite being my boy, is unproductive and good for only a few H.O.R.S.E shots in the shootaround.

Also, if there’s one player that I know anything about (and there may very well not be), then that player is Thabo Sefolosha. I have spent the best part of three years trying to convince my fellow Bulls fans of several things – that he’s not a guard, that he’s not a primary ball-handler, that he’s not a slasher, and that he’s not good offensively at all. Thabo Sefolosha is a backup small forward with a great knack for rebounding in traffic, sporadic but decent defence, versatility on defensive match-ups, a very broken jump shot, and nothing to really go to on offence. He’s an eighth man if he improves, an 11th man if he doesn’t. His best case scenario might be Doug Christie, if you can mend the shot and give him some swagger. But until then, he’s a bit-part player. Why, therefore, have the Thunder traded for him? They already have their back-up small forward Jeff Green starting at power forward due to the lack of available small forward minutes, and they’ll be in for a tough time if they want Sefolosha at two guard, trying to guard far quicker players and clanking his kick-outs. So why would they trade for him? Regardless of how low the pick is (and it will be low), they could still use it to draft a player equal to the calibre of Sefolosha, and doing so wouldn’t be eating $2.8 million out of their cap space next season like Thabo will. I’m really not sure I get this one. But good luck to them.


– Orlando

Trade 1: Traded Keith Bogans to Milwaukee for Tyronn Lue.
Trade 2: Traded Brian Cook to Houston, their 2009 first-round pick, Mike Wilks and Adonal Foyle to Memphis for Rafer Alston.

The Magic managed to trade the four least relevant players on their roster for a makeshift point guard tandem. Not bad. Alston isn’t nearly the shooter that Jameer Nelson is, or was even before he broke out. But he’s capable, and should if nothing else keep the tempo up and alleviate some of the playmaking duties from Hedo Turkoglu. His arrival does make the Lue acquisition a bit pointless, but Lue himself is a solid backup point guard, and the duo share one thing in common; neither of them is Anthony Johnson, who is normally decent yet who has spent the season clanking away. These moves won’t put the Magic over the top, and nothing will without Nelson on the scene, but they’re as decent of a patchwork job as could be done with their few available assets. They also solve the problem of back-up point guard for next season, so if Anthony Johnson decides to not get better, they can cope accordingly.


– Portland

Traded Ike Diogu and cash to Sacramento for Michael Ruffin from Chicago.

Well, this was disappointing.


– Sacramento

Trade 1: Traded a conditional future second-round pick to Boston for Sam Cassell and cash.
Trade 2: Traded Brad Miller and John Salmons to Chicago for Drew Gooden, Andres Nocioni and Cedric Simmons, and Ike Diogu and cash from Portland.
Trade 3: Traded Shelden Williams and Bobby Brown to Minnesota for Rashad McCants and Calvin Booth.
Trade 4: Traded another conditional second-round pick to Boston for Will Solomon and cash from Toronto.

No one was busier than the Kings, but busiest doesn’t necessarily mean best. The Kings used the money freed up by Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s medical retirement to take on other people’s dead weight, doing the Celtics a favour with Sam Cassell and Toronto one with Will Solomon, getting a few quid on top for their troubles; all good harmless fun. But then it goes a bit wrong.

The trade for Andres Nocioni makes little sense – best case scenario, the Kings use their immediate cap saving for next season wisely, and Nocioni bounces back to become the player that he used to be, somewhat justifying his salary. But if that doesn’t happen, the Kings just traded the two best players in the deal for the worst contract. And that’s never fun. The McCants trade was better, as for all of McCants’s lifelong devotion to isolation plays, he can make for a useful backup shooting guard, something that Sacramento otherwise lacked having traded Salmons. It cost them nothing to get it, either, and even saved a little money on Brown’s second year if they decide not to bring McCants back. However, the Kings didn’t improve their on-court product any, and added long term salary in doing so.

To be honest, I can’t see what they were trying to achieve. Gooden’s most valuable asset is that you can stop paying him in three months. Nocioni’s most valuable assets are peripheral, and non-conducive to his skills. What were the Kings looking for?

(Note: the Kings also waived Mikki Moore, opening up a further $4.22 million next year. Unfortunately, this leaves their bench big men as follows: Diogu, Booth, Simmons, Gooden and Kenny Thomas. This is an area they might need to spend in. So is point guard.)


– Toronto

Trade 1: Traded Shawn Marion, Jamario Moon, a first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick to Miami for Jermaine O’Neal and Marcus Banks.
Trade 2: Traded Will Solomon to Sacramento for Patrick O’Bryant from Boston.

90% of Raptors fans hate this deal, but I disagree with them. Jermaine O’Neal is the best player in the deal, and by far the most skilled. He also represents the sole return on T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and Roy Hibbert (Nathan Jawai doesn’t count until he does something), all assets that Colangelo gave away for the O’Neal gamble. I might not like this blatant admittance of failure, either, if I had the emotional investment into it that they do. But I still like it for the Raptors.

If you’re going nowhere (and they are), you need to improve numerous parts of your rotation (and they do), and yet you have absolutely no money to do it with (which they didn’t), then you can’t be paying the highest salary in the world of professional basketball to a player who earns a mere third of it. They might want to make short-term improvements to pacify Bosh, or they might want to trade him and start again. Either way, they’ll need assets. And while losing the first-rounder is one less asset, gaining $20 million in wiggle room from under the luxury tax threshold makes up for it. The Raptors won’t have cap space due to the contracts of Banks, Jason Kapono and Kris Humphries getting in the way, but they’ll have a high first-rounder, the MLE and BAE to throw at people, and the wiggle room to get creative.

All the things that weren’t possible before (sign and trades, taking back more salary in exchange for assets, buying up in the draft, even bringing back Carlos Delfino) are now options again. And they weren’t before. All it cost you was a bench forward, the most overpaid man in showbusiness, and a non-lottery first. This Jermaine O’Neal trade is not that bad. It’s the other one that was. And while it kind of sucks a bit that Colangelo was forced to yield the first rounder to Riley’s hard-line negotiating stance….well, needs must.

If they re-sign Marion, though, that will invalidate everything that I’ve just said. The money will be largely spent, and much of the flexibility gone. So please, don’t re-sign Shawn Marion. You have money to work with now. You can be creative, and an aggressive buyer in a buyer’s market. The Raptors are moving backwards, but at least they’re soon going to be able to move forwards. Don’t waste it all on a declining Marion.

(All other teams DNT-GMD. Except for Phoenix, who DNT-OD. Pity.)

In closing, a summary.

The winners: Chicago, L.A. Lakers, Miami, New York, Orlando, Toronto.
The losers: Charlotte, Sacramento, Oklahoma City.
Everyone else: Meh. Particularly you, Portland. Very meh.


Posted by at 2:32 PM