Note: This article also appears on Raptors Republic.
In the NBA, the offseason can sometimes be more entertaining than the regular season, and it usually has nothing to do with actual basketball. You’ve got trade rumours galore, teams and free agents doing more posturing than at a club on a Saturday night, and NBA forums full of threads entitled, “This is how we can get [insert name of superstar player here]”. The first few days of the offseason is why Twitter was invented. Anyone without ADD will probably overload on the avalanche of rumours flooding out of even the mainstream media accounts.
It’s fitting that this offseason started off with a “Not-So-Fast” Andrea Bargnani trade that would have seen him sent to the Knicks for Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, the Knicks 2016 first round pick and two second round picks.
Of course, as we all know, the NBA wouldn’t approve that deal in time for the season deadline, so New York had to throw in Quentin Richardson in a sign and trade, who thanked God because someone actually realized that he still played in the NBA. He shouldn’t be thanking God. He should be thanking David Stern, who apparently felt the Raptor fans hadn’t suffered enough and screened Masai Ujiri’s calls (I’ve yet to hear exactly why the NBA wouldn’t approve the original deal in time). Without the delay, Richardson probably retires. With it, he pockets an extra $1.4 million.
I joke, but Richardson actually averaged 29 minutes a game last season for New York. It was just one game, where he shot .091 (yes, that’s 9%, 1 for 11) and did manage to grab 10 rebounds, but still….
While Richardson turned spiritual with the trade, Camby wasn’t so happy. For some reason, he didn’t see the same promise with the Raptor roster that Colangelo saw, and decided that maybe he didn’t want to turn 40 playing for a team with a ceiling of the first round of the playoffs.
While the deal is apparently agreed upon, it will be interesting if there is enough of a backlash from Knicks fans to cause Glen Grunwald (who may think he still runs the Raptors) to have second thoughts. But maybe Knicks fans don’t read Grantland, SB Nation, Ball Don’t Lie, Sports Illustrated, or, well, the New York Times.
It couldn’t be any other way for Raptor fans. First Bryan Colangelo has his slow exit from the organization, keeping Raptor fans flapping in the wind until he resigned a month after his basketball powers were stripped. Then Bargnani is traded, then not, then maybe, but not quite yet.
Until this deal is finalized, I’m not going to be writing Bargnani’s Raptor eulogy just yet. The sentiment among Knicks fans is they seem to realize that’s WAY too much to give up for an oft injured shooter who hasn’t proven to be a very consistent shooter and and hasn’t shown he can do much of anything else. It’s hard to say whether there will be some sort of fan revolt by Knicks fans over this. Will the whole “what-if-he-is-able-to-put-it-together” argument win out, or will the Knicks and their fans realize that they will be paying four players, who basically play two positions for the Knicks, more than $68 million.
$68 million for four players, only two of whom will probably start, and three of whom are below average defenders.
No wonder Knick fans aren’t happy.
So Raptor fans probably shouldn’t hold their breath, but we’ll all cross our fingers and sacrifice whatever barnyard animal the basketball gods demand.
The Bargnani to the Knicks non-trade wasn’t the only Raptor trade rumour. Apparently the Raptors turned down a David Lee for Bargnani offer from Golden State (thank goodness- Lee is owed $44 million over the next three years and his lack of defense has become very well known).
And before the Raptors agreed to send Bargnani to the Knicks, his name was being mentioned in discussions with the Clippers. Eric Bledsoe, DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler were all discussed as possibly coming back. The biggest target for the Raptors, apparently, is Bledsoe.
— Adam Francis (@raptorshq) June 30, 2013
I did have a whole section devoted to Bledsoe, but since he now appears to be going to Phoenix for basically J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, I scrapped in favour of the latest rumour that Detroit has offered Charlie Villaneuva and Rodney Stuckey for Rudy Gay.
It’s actually quite coincidental, because in my original column (which I finished Monday night), I wrote this:
Detroit would be a great option for the Raptors to trade Gay to. They want to win, have loads of cap room, and have been known to take on special cases like Gay. Plus, he’s a shorter term option than someone like Josh Smith, who would demand a longer contract than Gay has. If the Raptors take back Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva‘s contracts (leaving the Pistons with their cap room and the ability to still sign a big free agent), they might be willing to part with their 2014 first round pick and maybe even their 8th pick from this draft, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
I’d like to take credit for predicting this, but truth be told, it was inspired by this Tweet:
— Vincent Ellis (@Vincent_Ellis56) July 1, 2013
The first problem with my proposal is Detroit actually owes their 2014 pick (top 7 protected) to Charlotte, so unfortunately that’s out. That’s too bad, since that would be the main attraction to doing this deal. Of course, would the Pistons throw in Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Knight and a couple of second round picks? Would that be enough to entice Ujiri?
Obviously this deal would be a big indication that the Raptors plan was to tank for the 2014 Draft.
There are a lot of opponents of this strategy, but it seems to be gaining more and more support, even among some of the mainstream media. No one LIKES the idea of tanking, but in a league that requires you to have a superstar talent to contend, and the difficulty most teams have in acquiring them, tanking is actually a viable option, especially in a draft Chad Ford has been told by numerous GMs could have as many as eight All Stars. And just to be clear, that’s eight more than the Raptors currently have, including Gay.
Landing a superstar next June would change the fortunes of a historically moribund franchise far more than trying to tweak the flawed roster they currently have. Yes, it’s a gamble, but so is trying to go forward with the talent they have. If you’re going to gamble, wouldn’t you rather go for the bigger payoff?
One of the things I love about the early rumours is that they can give you a glimpse of the strategy of some of the teams. At this point, without knowing what Ujiri’s reaction is to the Gay trade offer, it’s hard to figure out what his plan is. The Bargnani trade just tells you Ujiri liked Bargnani’s game about as much as I did.
The Bledsoe rumour also is hard to gauge without knowing what Ujiri would actually have given up for him. It does tell me that he’s casting a pretty big net, though, and that few on the roster are safe. DeMar DeRozan‘s name being mentioned is encouraging to me because it tells you he is not likely to make the same mistake Colangelo made with Bargnani, and keep him too long.
DeRozan can still be sold for his potential, and the Raptors need to sell high. At this point, his future seems to be a one-dimensional, low efficiency scorer, the type you find on bad teams.
This isn’t a notion that a lot of Raptor fans like to hear, but if anyone can point to a player that has made as big a developmental leap as DeRozan needs to make AFTER having played 10,000 minutes in the NBA, then it might sway my opinion.
With the Raptor’s interest in Bledsoe, it also tells me Kyle Lowry probably shouldn’t be making any plans for Caribana. The Raptors didn’t get Bledsoe, but their flirtation with him shows they aren’t entirely happy with Lowry. And there are a few more point guards out there that are available.
It’s also fun trying to figure out what other team’s plans might be. Golden State looking to trade David Lee tells me that their management sees the obvious flaws in him and, despite his popularity among fans, is willing to do the right thing and deal him. Lee was an All Star, last season, but his absence during the playoffs might have actually helped Golden State get as far as they did.
By trading for Bargnani, it’s obvious the Knicks still don’t care about the luxury tax, and were so desperate to counter Brooklyn’s big draft night trade that they gambled on a player who, on a good night, is a poor defensive player, rebounder and inefficient scorer. They are also apparently interested in Monta Ellis, but since teams in the luxury tax can’t sign-and-trade FOR a player, I don’t see how that’s going to work unless Ellis takes a massive paycut. Not only do the Knicks seem to be focusing on offense, they apparently believe that Tyson Chandler will be able to defend not just his position, but everyone else’s, as well. Somehow I don’t see that working very well.
What is it with the Knicks, anyway? The baseline for that team seems to be having massively overpaid players with flawed games. No sooner do they get rid of guys like Eddy Curry, Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury, do they turn around and get some of the worst contracts in the league, again. In fact, the Knicks will have two of the five worst contracts in the NBA, according to Grantland.
New Orleans and Sacramento are two teams that are definitely NOT trying to tank. The Pelicans (at some point I assume I will be able to write that without cringing) showed their hand by trading for Jrue Holiday and then doubled down by overpaying Tyreke Evans.
This is the same franchise that drafted Austin Rivers at #10 last season, despite plenty of evidence to suggest he’d be the player he has become so far, and matched Eric Gordon‘s 4 year $58 million offer from Phoenix despite not being healthy since his he took his preschool team to the state finals.
The Pelicans have had more luck than sense, lately.
Now, there is some talk that Evans’ contract offer somehow validates DeRozan’s extension. I’m not sure how. While both are definitely shooting guards who came into the league at the same time, Evans is superior in nearly every aspect of the game. He’s a better shooter, passer, ball handler, rebounder and defender. Evans already has most of the skills to be a good player in the NBA. DeRozan still needs to acquire most of them.
Besides, one bad contract doesn’t excuse another one. it just shows there is more than one bad GM out there.
Sacramento apparently offered Andre Iguodala a four year contract worth somewhere between $54 million and $7.8 billion, but then late last night rescinded the offer. They either realized that paying that much for a shooting guard who scored just 14 ppg last year and shot .317 from behind the three point line was maybe not the best use of their cash.
Of course, they might have rescinded the offer in order to match or beat Evan’s contract offer, so maybe paying Iguodala that money might have been a better use of that cash.
The Clippers made good use of their money by re-signing Chris Paul, who ignored the fact he works for one of the worst owners in professional sports, has a center who can’t hit a free throw to save his life, and a power forward who, at his current rate, will have Bargnani-like rebounding numbers in a season or two and has not developed nearly as much, especially defensively, as you would have expected after his rookie season.
With Paul off the market, all the attention has turned to Dwight Howard. As most know, Howard has gone from one of the most popular and likeable stars in the league, to a guy who may be more trouble than he’s worth. If I were Houston, and I had the core they do, I would think twice about tying my franchise to a player who hasn’t been happy in years, complains if he doesn’t get touches, and who doesn’t seem to realize that arguing with a two-time MVP might not be very smart…
If Howard signs with Houston, then Josh Smith and Andrew Bynum suddenly become the flavour of the moment. Personally, I would be careful about signing either one of these player. Smith has had barely a season go by without some sort of issue, has never made an All Star team but stated he wants to make the max.
Bynum, well, is Bynum. After what he pulled in Philadelphia, I’m VERY interested to see what kind of reaction he gets from teams around the league.
And if Dallas misses out on Howard, as expected, you have to wonder how desperate they will be to prevent another year of treading water. They could tank, but probably won’t with Dirk Nowitzki still around. So they might try and pull off something big.
Minnesota, another team with lots of cap room, already made a splash by signing Kevin Martin and re-signing Chase Budinger. One thing this does is take away a potential trade partner if the Raptors were to move DeRozan. The T-Wolves played Luke Ridnour at shooting guard for most of the season, which tells you something.
There are still lots of potential trade partners out there for the Raptors. If the Raptors can’t work out a deal with Detroit for Gay, they might be interested in DeRozan. Or maybe Dallas, if the Mavericks get left out in the free agent cold. Dallas might also be interested in Gay, as could Washington, Cleveland and even Minnesota, if Andrei Kirilenko ends up signing elsewhere.
While it’s difficult to tell, at this point, what Ujiri’s ultimate plan is, what is clear is that he’s intent on clearing out Colangelo’s mistakes, which means no one, outside of Jonas Valanciunas should feel safe on the Raptors.
The offseason can make or break teams. A year ago, Houston overpaid Jeremy Lin and Omar Asik and looked like a team with more money than sense. But they surprised everyone, including themselves apparently, by trading for James Harden and becoming a team on the rise. Without Harden, Howard probably wouldn’t even be an option, because of his desire to sign with a contender.
That might explain why teams start throwing money around and gamble on the wrong players. Because there’s always a chance they could end up hitting a home run. Everything is a gamble, in the NBA. Thankfully, it usually makes for a good show.