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Midseason trades are always a favorite of mine because they are put into effect immediately. Most of these trades occur for teams not in the playoff picture, usually the teams that are right on the outside looking in. Examples include the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Because season record does not matter once the playoffs start, managements work furiously during the midseason to make a deal that is clearly in their favor and will put them over the top (or the bottom as is the case for many of these teams). Four major trades have occurred this year, but are they trade deadline studs or duds?
The first major midseason trade of the year, the trade involved two franchises that found themselves in similar scenarios. The Boston Celtics are currently third place in the Atlantic Division behind the New Jersey Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers. Similarly, the Minnesota Timberwolves are third place in the Northwest Division behind the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. Both ball clubs are not far behind the other teams in their respective divisions and should they go on a win streak, they could sneak into the playoffs as eighth seeds. However, in order to do that, each team needed a trade. Despite the amount of players involved, the big names were Ricky Davis and Wally Szczerbiak. Though a controversial and ego-driven player (he shot on his own goal to get a rebound and complete his triple-double), Ricky Davis clearly had game. He made his name known three years ago with the Cavaliers but was traded to Boston. Management claimed that his attitude and superb skills prevented Lebron’s growth. I am still not sure why you would want one good player instead of two, but I guess things worked out for Cleveland. As a result, Davis moved on to the Celtics where he had career numbers in points, rebounds, and assists. He was a triple-double threat every night. At one point, he was the ninth best player in fantasy basketball. Long-time Minnesota mainstay, Wally Szczerbiak was the main second option behind Kevin Garnett. However, in recent years, his role has changed, especially once Sprewell and Cassell joined the team two years ago. Wally was relegated to the bench during those times. With the two aforementioned players leaving, Wally once again assumed the starter role and was having a career year in points, registering games in the 30s-40s. There is not much to talk about in terms of the other players. Marcus Banks, though a hot commodity at one point (Boston requested him back after “accidentally” dealing him to the Lakers two years ago), is not ready to become an all-star. Michael Olowokandi, with the exception of last year, is a disappointment, averaging single digits in every category. Blount and Jefferson are decent rebounders but that is all. Finally, Jones is the mere throw-in in this trade.
The Winner: Timberwolves. The Acquisition of Ricky Davis gives the team a player who can triple-double every night. Though problematic, one cannot deny his abilities. Wally, though a good player, will just shoot from the perimeter for a Celtics team that definitely needs an inside game. In addition, Banks has thrived in Minnesota and has found himself the starting point guard, replacing Marko Jaric.
Stud or Dud: Definitely a stud. Both teams desperately needed to make a move if they wanted to reach the playoffs this year. Boston is still having a horrendous year and probably will not make it because Webber and AI are playing extremely well and retaining the eighth seed. Minnesota still has a shot of replacing the Lakers.
2 player trade: Ron Artest to the Sacramento Kings; Peja Stojakovic to the Indiana Pacers
You have clearly been living in a hole if you have not heard these two names in the last month. After stating that he wished to be traded, Artest sat indefinitely on the Pacers bench, leaving many to wonder where he will continue his career. After nearly a month, the Pacers dealt Artest to the Kings for Peja Stojakavic. Though the whole Artest ordeal ended, there was not much suspense in terms of the trade. Artest-Peja trade rumors started three years ago. Peja, like Artest, expressed frustration during his time with the Kings, believing they no longer had a chance at a title following the 2003 NBA season. He exhibited the most frustration following Vlade Divac’s departure to the Lakers and Chris Webber’s departure to the 76ers. Moreso, the former as Vlade is one of his best friends. From a GM standpoint, the trade was not mind-boggling because the two teams merely grabbed all-stars from positions they needed. The Kings received an inside threat to replace Webber, and the Pacers received a very good outside shooter, no longer requiring Artest because of Jermaine O’Neal.
The Winner: Both teams won because they each acquired a decent player. The trade has revived both franchises as Artest has led the Kings to seven wins in their last ten games, and Peja has picked up the slack for injured Jermaine to keep the Pacers at fifth seed in the East. It is not known whether Artest and Peja will stay with their current ball clubs, but it is definitely working out for the both squads.
Stud or dud: Definitely a stud. This trade is perhaps one of the fairest trades in all of basketball that did not just involve opening up more salary cap space.
3 player trade: Steve Francis to the New York Knicks; Trevor Ariza and Anfernee Hardaway to the Orlando Magic.
Steve Francis has had an enigmatic career. A star on the rise, he was responsible for the Rockets revival following the Drexler-Olajuwon era. He was known as “The Franchise,” and the future only got brighter when the Rockets received the first round pick in the 2002 NBA lottery. Francis represented the team and his face lit up, knowing management wanted Yao Ming. Despite three good years, culminating in the Rockets reaching the playoffs in five years, Francis was clearly no longer “The Franchise” and was dealt to the Magic. The Francis-Hill duo did not perform as expected. Francis sulked over being traded and Mobley’s departure to the Kings. Mobley was one of his true friends and his partner in crime during the Houston days. Eventually, Francis earned enemies in Orlando, constantly criticized for playing way too much one-on-one basketball. Numerous suspensions and attitude problems later, he was dealt to the New York Knicks. I am not particularly enthralled with the trade because the Knicks already have a point guard in Stephon Marbury. Marbury has been known to be more of a shooting guard, so if Francis were a true point guard, the trade would have made sense. However, Francis and Marbury are in the same boat, so I do not know what Isaiah Thomas is thinking (but then again, who does?) The addition of Francis only adds more gunslingers to a squad chock full of them. Crawford, Richardson, Marbury, Francis, and Rose all want to take ten shots a game minimum. The Magic is doing a superb job in rebuilding a team that was supposed to contend years ago under Tracy McGrady. Because this did not work, they now are rebuilding with Darko Milicic and Trevor Ariza. Ariza played well with the Knicks and Darko will now receive playing time to show why he was the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.
The Winner: The Magic. The Knicks’ squad is full of big names but not a team that will make them successful either now or in the future. Because the Knicks are still losing with their new squad, the Magic has clearly won. The Magic has used its money wisely and could become a contender with Dwight Howard and Milicic leading the team.
Stud or Dud: Dud. The trade does not help the Knicks and may not help the Magic in the future. In addition, Thomas clearly has other things in mind and may not be done dealing. There are rumors that Thomas plans to acquire more big names to make a lucrative offer for Kevin Garnett. Because Thomas has shown that money is no object, I can see this happening. We will see what tricks Isaiah has up his sleeve this off-season.
9 player trade: Earl Watson, Bryon Russell to the Seattle Supersonics; Reggie Evans, Ruben Patterson, Charles Smith to the Denver Nuggets; Voshon Lenard, Brian Skinner to the Portland Trailblazers; Vitaly Potapenko, Sergei Monia to the Sacramento Kings.
A very convoluted deal that involved trading role players. Earl Watson was the biggest name in this trade. Despite much praise given to the Nuggets for acquiring Watson in the off-season, George Karl has decided to just not use him. He was the third option behind Andre Miller and Earl Boykins and only played when the latter was injured. When he got the playing time, he showed why he was an excellent pickup, scoring 15-18 points a game with numerous three-pointers, a few rebounds, and a few assists. Despite this, the Nuggets dealt him to Seattle where he can be an adequate backup point guard to Luke Ridnour. Reggie Evans played extremely well during Seattle’s glorious 52-30 run last season. Unfortunately, like every other Sonics player, he has lost his defensive touch. Though he still can grab ten rebounds every game, he has shown to be expendable because of his lackluster offensive numbers. Seattle had many guys like this such as Nick Collison, and I think it was just time for Seattle to move to a smaller quicker lineup. They are a run-and-gun type team after all. Voshon Lenard was one of the main shooters for the Nuggets prior to the arrival of Carmelo Anthony. He had decent averages, but injuries resulted in inconsistent play from him and his team. Nothing hurt the Nuggets more than his injury in 2005 that kept him out until the All-Star Game where he returned to defend his three-point shooting crown. I can see him helping a Trailblazer squad that does not truly have a shooting guard. Brian Skinner became a fan favorite following the Webber trade. He battled on the inside and double-doubles were no problem. However, with the acquisition of Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas, Skinner found himself relegated to the bench. I am glad he is moving on because he clearly shows promise.
The Winner: No one really. The trade involved numerous role players who will not be able to help these “out of the playoff picture” teams.
Stud or Dud: Because I do not expect many of these trades to last, these are duds. The trades also happen to not bring any excitement to the fans, especially in the case for Kings fans.
These were the four major trades this year. There were big names that peaked interest, but this does not imply success. Currently, the Pacers-Kings trade is the only one that has any success in the near future with the others being long-term projects or mere transition periods.
Tue 03/14/06, 6:29 pm EST