So many people, myself included, felt Amare Stoudemire's time in Phoenix would expire Thursday, There were a couple of teams that had major interest (Heat and Cavs to begin with) that were trying to come up with a package that would meet the Suns' desire, but in the end, Stoudemire will be staying put in Phoenix, at least to finish off the 2009-'10 season.
As I said in our last post here, none of the packages that the Heat or Cavs could offer would have matched up with what the Suns wanted from the Warriors for Stoudemire this summer. They wanted at least Andris Biedrins and Stephen Curry and probably would  have also requested either Anthony Randolph or Brandon Wright. The names that were atop the Cleveland/Miami offers were JJ Hickson and Michael Beasley. Don't get me wrong, Beasley and Hickson are both very nice, young talents that could turn out to be studs, but those guys don't come close to comparing with Amare Stoudemire, who is arguably the top power forward in the West when he's right. Instead, the Cavs settled for Antawn Jamison, who cost them Zydrunas Illgauskas and their 2010 first round pick. The addition of Jamison makes the Cavs stronger, and I do think they'll represent the East in the NBA Finals this year, but I still don't think they match-up with LA well enough to beat them in a 7-game series. The Heat wisely stood pat, and decided to hang onto Beasley, Mario Chalmers and all their draft choices and I think it was a good decision by them. Unless they could have gotten Stoudemire without having to part with too much, and I think Beasely, Chalmers and a draft choice would have been too much, I don't think they really could have competed with the Cavs in the Playoffs anyway.
There were some other pretty big names on the move though Thursday, with Tracy McGrady going to New York, Caron Butler and Josh Howard swapping teams, Kevin Martin to the Rockets and '10 dunk contest winner Nate Robinson heading to Boston. I'm a big fan of the trade deadline in all sports, especially the baseball and basketball deadlines as they seem to be the most active. Normally, a trade deadline has winners and losers. Now, all teams who made deals did so for there own reasons, but there were definitely some teams that made moves that really left there team without a direction or a core to build around (see Washington Wizards). Here are the teams that I think came out the best and the teams that could have done better, the 3 "winners" and the 3 teams that really could be kicking themselves if things don't go as planned for them this summer:
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: They didn't get Stoudemire, but I don't think there's any doubt that they improved themselves as a team. They clearly have made themselves the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and they should, barring injury or major upset, be in the Finals with the talent they have now accumulated on that roster.
2. Dallas Mavericks: I like the additions of Butler and Brendan Heywood. They needed the size in Haywood now that Dampier is out for a while, and I think Butler's a much better fit, and really is the better player, than Howard was in Dallas. Butler can play the 2, and is a very strong defender, something they really need in Dallas. Overall, strong move for Mavs and it certainly better suits them to face LA now that they have Butler to guard Kobe.
1. Houston Rockets: The Rockets won with a few moves. First off, they  cashed in on Tracy McGrady, and turned him into Jordan Hill, Jarrod Jeffries and the chance to swap first rounders with NY in 2011, and their 2012 first rounder. Hill was a top-10 pick from last July, and is still very raw, but he'll get plenty of time in Houston to prove himself, and I do think he's going to end up being a pretty good ballplayer. Oh yeah, they also added one of the top scoring 2 guards in the league in Kevin Martin. The addition of Martin helps the Rockets in so many ways, like allowing Trevor Ariza to move to his natural spot, small forward, and gives Houston a premiere outside shooter to team up with Yao Ming. I just really like Houston's depth and size, and they could be one of the top teams in the West with a healthy Yao Ming in 2010-11.
3. LA Clippers: The Clippers, just like the Kings and Wizards, just gave away a few valuable pieces to their roster. They sent Marcus Camby to Portland for Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw. That's giving up a premiere defensive big-man for two career, 20-minute-a-night bench/role players. Granted, Blake and Outlaw are solid NBA bench players when healthy, they are just role players. The deal left Clippers players even scratching their heads and questioning the move and that means they've got to be questioning management and the direction of the team in general. It goes further than just dealing away a player for 2, much lesser players. They also sent Al Thornton, a young, athletic forward with upside, though he had been struggling, to Washington to clear cap space in hopes of landing a big fish in free agency this summer.
2. New York Knicks: The Knicks did clear up cap space for this summer, but they have some much work to be done, and are so far away from being a contender, that I think they're going to have a tough time actually louring free agents to come there. And if they end up failing to add one or two of the top guys out there, than these moves will really look bad come next fall. T-Mac's contract expires at the end of the year, but I think they could have gotten someone who could help them out for a couple of years on the cheap by giving up a top pick like Jordan Hill. I guess the Knicks just didn't see Hill ever succeeding for them in NY, but I think he should have gotten more of a chance. You just don't give up a top-10 talent for 2 months of Tracy McGrady when your in rebuilding mode.
1. Washington Wizards: The Kings get strong consideration here as well, but at least they are left with some sort of direction. The Wizards just got rid of everyone for the bare minimum in return compared to what they gave up. I understand they want to rebuild, but they shouldn't have just completely overhauled their roster, especially without bringing back a piece that they could build around. This year, they've already lost Gilbert Arenas, now they just lost 3/4 of their starting 5 from the beginning of the year, giving away Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. They should have kept Caron Butler. Instead, the top player on their roster is now probably Al Thornton and that's just sad. As the dust settles after the flurry of deals, I think the Wizards are now the worst team in the NBA, at least on paper, running our a starting five of PG Randy Foye, SG Mike Miller, SF Josh Howard, PF Al Thornton, C Andray Blatche. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention, their team president doesn't foresee them getting involved in the bidding for Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh or Joe Johnson... What a positive situation.
Trevor Cole The Bay Area Sports Journal