Friday, May 2, 2008

Fall Out from the Gasol Trade

In case you hadn't heard, Pau Gasol was traded to the LA Lakers back in January.

That one trade has done more to disrupt the balance of power in the Western Conference than any other action since Magic Johnson announced he had contacted the HIV virus. Teams panicked on the news of the Lakers acquisition and the result of that panic is now starting to be felt in many interesting places. It has caused normally reserved men like Greg Popovich to cry foul and demand an oversight committee to look into the trade as being anti-competitive and illegal. Of course, I imagine he wouldn't hold his Spurs to the same light of inspection when they acquired Michael Finley, Damon Stoudamire, Kurt Thomas or Brent Barry. That is a different discussion however. One I may have later but not today.

Mike D'Antoni is supposedly out as head coach in Phoenix. Why? There is only one real reason. He couldn't win the title with Shaquille O'Neal at center. Why did he have Shaquille O'Neal at center? Because Steve Kerr panicked and traded away Shawn Marion to get him because the Lakers got Pau Gasol. Phoenix was a relatively young team three years ago. Today they are ancient with Steve Nash (34) unable to stay in front of Tony Parker, Grant Hill (35) unable to stay healthy and Shaq looking every bit the 36 yrs old he is. Sure Amare Stoudmaire is young but Raja Bell is 32, Brian Skinner is 30 and Gordon Giricek is 29. Now the 'Run and Gun' Suns have become the retirement community of the NBA. How long before Phoenix takes dynamite to their lineup and starts all over? I would anticipate it begining around late June personally.

Dallas was up 2-0 two years ago in the NBA Finals before falling to the Heat. They were the best team in the league during the regular season last year winning 62 games. They fell to the 7th seed in the west this year, lost in 5 games in the playoffs, fired their coach and look likely to blow up their team as well. What happened? Look no further than the panic move orchestrated by Mark Cuban to acquire Jason Kidd. The Mavs gave up Devin Harris, DeSagna Diop and draft picks for JKidd (35) only to realize that he is over the hill. Throw in Jerry Stackhouse (34), Dirk Nowitzki (30), Eddie Jones (36) and Erick Dampier (33) and you have an over the hill group of players with very little young talent except Josh Howard who is actually 28 and has admitted to smoking pot in the off-season. The only players who should still have their best years ahead of them in Dallas are Juan Jose Barrea, Brandon Bass and Antoine Wright.

San Antonio is old but still damn good. They dispatched the Suns with relative ease 4-1 but one has to wonder how different that outcome would have been had Tim Duncan not hit the 3 pt shot at the end of the first OT. The Spurs are getting by with Brent Barry (37), Bruce Bowen (37), Tim Duncan (32), Michael Finley (35), Fabricio Oberto (33), Kurt Thomas (35), Damon Stoudamire (35) and Jacques Vaughn (33). That is not including Robert 'Big Shot' Horry who is 38. How much longer can the Spurs continue to survive with 9 players over 30 and Manu Ginobilli and Ime Udoka joining the group this summer when they hit 31? Can San Antonio wait to blow things up with so many competitors getting a head start on rebuilding? I guess it depends on how far they go in the playoffs but it has to happen soon.

Denver is another team looking to blow up the core. Despite winning 50 games, qualifying for the playoffs for the 4th straight season and having three all-stars on their team, George Karl is under the heat lamp for a number of things. Most important is he failed to win a single game against the Lakers in the playoffs. When you have the 3rd highest payroll in the NBA you aren't supposed to be swept in the first round of the playoffs. Heck you aren't supposed to be the 8th seed for that matter. Icing the cake were comments made by Carmelo Anthony that the team quit in the third game. Teams aren't supposed to quit. Players aren't supposed to quit. Coaches don't survive when teams quit in their first home game of the playoffs prior to being swept. Look for Denver to look to move some core pieces over the summer as well and when you change coaches and look to trade all-star players you are blowing up the team.

Throw in Golden St (who has to make some big decisions with Don Nelson, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Mickeal Pietrus) and Sacramento (similar thoughts with Ron Artest, Mikki Moore and Brad Miller) and the there is a lot of change going on in the Western Conference. So that is 6 teams out of 15 that are looking to renovate their rosters over the summer if not completely gut and rebuild their houses. Not all of the change is directly related to the Gasol trade but a lot of it is. When that much turmoil is around interesting things are likely to happen. If you think the people in charge aren't going to make bad decisions I just point you to the trades that resulted in Jason Kidd and Shaquille O'Neal returning to the Western Conference. When people are under pressure to win right away people make bad decisions.

So who has benefitted besides the Lakers from the trade? You have to assume Portland with another lottery pick, all that youth and still waiting for Greg Oden to suit up should see an immediate benefit from the teams at the top collapsing. Houston, if they can hold together another season with the team they have, should step up into the top 4 but probably can't surpass New Orleans as the elite team in the Southwest Division. Chris Paul, David West and Tyson Chandler are just entering their best years and Julian Wright looks like he will be another big contributor if Peja or MoPete slip in production. Utah looks solid and should remain among the best in the West as well.

Then comes the 2nd tier teams. These teams aren't serious contenders yet but could move up over the next year or two, depending on how manic some teams get about their rosters. Seattle is young, have another early lottery pick and will be cheered by fanatic fans if they go to Oklahoma City. Minnesota is young and talented and also should find a starter from this draft. Al Jefferson, Randy Foye, Rashard McCants and Ryan Gomes is a good core of young players and all they need is a big and a true PG in this draft. They should be able to find that in the top 6 picks.


And then there is Memphis. The Grizzlies have young talent, many draft picks over the next few years and cap space almost every other team in the league dreams of having. Chris Wallace is the GM and he has been a good drafter of talent, if a questionable judge of that same talent in trades. The good news is Memphis wants to build via the draft. The need is to increase the overall talent on the team. From what has been made public the team isn't looking to bring in over the hill players who won't mature with the core and they aren't looking to spend money that doesn't correspond to butts in the seats so don't expect them to overpay for unknown players no matter how talented nor trade for 28+ players no matter how well known. That is not the strategy Heisley wants to pursue. Having Wallace in charge under this scenario is actually a positive for Memphis. Positives are something that Memphis has been in short supply of the last few years.

So how will Memphis prosper in this era of turmoil and turnover in the West? First, the team has some assets for teams looking to rebuild. Mike Miller is obviously on the wish list for a team looking to stretch a few more seasons from their current lineup and want a scorer off the bench. San Antonio, maybe Phoenix and possibly Dallas could look to offer something to Memphis in the way of expiring contracts and draft picks. Golden St, Phoenix and Denver could have interest in Hakim Warrick. He is an active PF who can run the court after all and defense has never been a major concern for those teams. Memphis is loaded with young PG's that might intrigue Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio.

Second, and far more likely and important, Memphis has young players already in place. As long as they hold onto the talent and allow them to develop the team should be in a strong position to pass the current teams that have to start over. The Grizzlies will have to be smart with their moves both from the draft, free agency and trades, but they have some intelligent people working for the club and an owner who is finally interested in making the team successful.

It won't be easy but Memphis may actually benefit from the turmoil they created in trading Pau Gasol in ways the club never imagined.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pau Gasol to the Lakers was the biggest thing to shift the balance of power in the West since Magic Johnson retired? Uh, what about Shaq going from Orlando to LA? I think that might be a little bit bigger.

Shawn said...

I like it. If we can't build a team good enough to compete with them then the least we can do is pull them down with us. :-)

evan said...

Good at drafting, terrible at free agency?

I believe the template for that type of GMship has been created by one Isaiah Thomas. Here's to many more years of Grizz success!

Please to be trading Kyle Lowry to the Magic or Heat.

Anonymous said...

When Magic contacted AIDS, what did he say exactly?

Shawn said...

the knicks are a horrible comparison..

high priced big name guys vs one heavy cap minded trade?

d.x. said...

Nice post, I like the optimism and enthusiasm. Although this is the first time I've ever seen Chris Wallace described as "intelligent."

Anonymous said...

When Shaq moved from Orlando Magic to LA Lakers, the other teams did not panic. This doesn't qualify to be an earth shaker.

Anonymous said...

OK MAGIC DID NOT CONTRACT THE AIDS VIRUS. SECONDLY, SHAQ TO LA IN 96 I DONT THINK SHIFTED THE BALANCE OF POWER iN THE WEST AS SUDDENLY AS PAU TO LA, BECAUSE THAT TEAM DIDNT BECOME A SERIOUS CONTENDER UNTIL THE 2000 SEASON. SHAQ TO MIAMI SHIFTED THE EAST'S BALANCE OF POWER MUCH FASTER THAN SHAQ TO LA DID FOR THE WEST.

Grizz GM said...

Magic Johnson "retired" after stating that he was HIV-positive. He did however participate in an All-Star game and the Olympics after announcing his retirement.

Anonymous said...

Shaq to La in 96 did shift the balance of power and turned them into a contender immediatley. In 98 4 Lakers made he ALL-Star team Eddie Jones, Nick Van Axel, Kobe Bryant, Shaq. Check the playoff records they didnt win a title until 1999-2000 but they became big time players in the mix immediatey.

Anonymous said...

Magic does not have the AIDS virus; he is HIV positive. They are two different things. If you're going to be credible, then correct the record.

Anonymous said...

It's embarrassing that people still think HIV and AIDS are the same thing. If Magic had AIDS he would be dying. HIV is a virus. Which is what Magic has. AIDS is a syndrom where your immune system fails. Magic don't have that any more then we do.

ChipC3 said...

I didn't say Magic has AIDS. I said he contacted the AIDS virus which is the HIV virus which Magic has contacted. He is HIV Positive but doesn't have AIDS yet and may never be diagnosed as having AIDS.

Since that expression has caused so much confusion for some people I will change it to read he contacted the HIV virus.