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Being an NBA general manger isn’t as difficult as some executives make it look.
Fundamentally, there should only be two managerial approaches when piecing together a team- you’re either building for the future or preparing for the present.
Simple, right? For many teams, it isn’t. Usually the teams that wind up stuck in mid-level purgatory (not good enough to contend, not bad enough to get a high draft pick) try to move in different directions and instead end up tying knots in their cap space.
Oklahoma City is a prime example of how to handle a changing of the guard. Once the Ray Allen/Rashard Lewis era came to an end, they simply shipped them off and went after draft picks and young players. They didn’t trade for veterans with long contracts. Instead, they waited patiently. After a few years of bottoming out, they wound up with a talented young core (Durant, 23; Westbrook, 23; and Harden, 22) that is now ready to contend.
What do those three players all have in common besides ceiling-less potential? They are all top-four draft picks. That’s the model Toronto should be emulating. To that end, they should be looking to ship off veteran talent for either youth or draft picks.
If Bryan Colangelo has any sense (insert scoff here), then he should be looking to flip Jose Calderon, his resurgent 30-year-old point guard and possibly even Andrea Bargnani (27), the offensively-talented but defensively-challenged “center.”
You can’t tell me Toronto dumping salary, getting a top-five pick this year and building around a young core of DeRozan (22), Bayless (23), Amir Johnson (24) and Ed Davis (22) isn’t the wisest long-term strategy. Again, just look at the Thunder.
With that being said, Calderon’s stellar play this season (best assists/turnover ratio in the league) and fairly reasonable contract (2 years/ $20 mil left including this season) makes him a desirable piece for contenders sorely lacking a competent point guard.
With Jeff Teague, Tracy Mcgrady, Joe Johnson and Kirk Hinrich as the current Atlanta guards, the Hawks have plenty of firepower and shooting range, but they’re severely lacking in terms of traditional distributors. A flip of Hinrich for Calderon would mean the Hawks have a true point on the court more at all times (the key to keeping Josh Smith’s offense closer to the basket than to his kryptonite, the 3 point line).Meanwhile, Toronto wins by losing. Despite Calderon’s local popularity and effectiveness on the court, the team is going nowhere as currently composed. Well, that’s not entirely true; they’re going to the lottery, and as much as we would all prefer to ignore when pro sports teams tank for draft position…without Calderon they have a better chance of landing near the top of said lottery.At 7-16 the Raptors are currently WAY out of the playoff race, yet they’re starting to pull away from the other last place teams; Detroit and New Orleans have each managed only 4 wins, while Charlotte has trudged along to all of three. In an ideal world, the Raps turn around Hinrich to a contender for a trade exception and a draft pick. Sadly, in the real world Jerry Colangelo still has the keys to an NBA franchise, which means Hinrich would probably be given an astronomical four year extension obliterating the team’s next half decade of cap flexibility.
Houston trades Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic to Toronto, and Luis Scola to L.A.
L.A. trades Pau Gasol to Houston
Toronto trades Jose Calderon to LA.
What, you thought we wouldn’t find a way to squeeze in a three-teamer? And what would be a better three-teamer than this?
Even better, this time around the deal can’t be nixed by David Stern (or….can it?) as it no longer involves Chris Paul. We already know that Houston is willing to part with Dragic, Martin and Scola if it nets them Gasol. While I do think Darryl Morrey is slightly over-valuing Gasol, he probably has some sort of secret saber metric model for Spaniards that I have no idea about, so let’s assume he knows what he’s doing.
Anyway, Morrey finally gets the big man he wanted all along to give Houston a suddenly formidable and lengthy front court with young, athletic wings (Lowry, Lee, Budinger) to complement its inside game. An average Rockets team suddenly has an identity.
Toronto gets a one-dimensional, but much-needed, scorer in Kevin Martin (and trade chip) and a possible point guard of the future (Dragic). Most importantly, this gives them someone to take the scoring burden off of DeMar DeRozan, who clearly isn’t up to being a legit second option yet. You’re telling me that team wouldn’t be infinitely more watchable than the current squad? For a team with such a porous defense, they shouldn’t also be as weak on offense, but they are (30th in the league in ppg).
And finally, L.A. would walk away with a legit point guard and Scola, who at the very least would not get punked by Chris Paul. Gasol needs a change of scene and L.A. needs depth. Everyone wins!
Even though the Spurs are leading the toughest division in the NBA (at 14-9 they are currently tied for first with Dallas) one struggles to picture this rickety old Spurs team holding up through the grueling shortened schedule to make a deep playoff run…especially after last year’s team rolled through the regular season dismantling opponents only to be outed in the first round of the playoffs by the upstart Grizzlies.
Tony Parker (remember, the “youngster” of the Spurs big three at 29) made waves this summer when he indicated in an interview that he believed the Spurs were no longer able to compete for a championship, but later backed off the statement. Regardless, it’s clear that if anyone on the team is eager to exit, it’s Parker.
Given what we know about the Spurs, it’s safe to assume they aren’t going to blow up the team entirely until Tim Duncan’s jersey is high up in the rafters rather than on the court. Rather than moving Parker for future draft picks and prospects, the Spurs could instead flip him for one Jose Calderon.
Though Calderon would never be able to match the magician-like scoring potency of Parker, he would actually represent an upgrade in certain areas (outside of the obvious- team chemistry). For example, Calderon would stretch the floor better when playing off the ball (career 34% 3-point shooter, compared to Parker’s 28%) and would be a safer bet to handle the ball in late game situations (career 93.8% free throw shooter, compared to Parker’s 78.8%). Calderon would surely embrace the opportunity to play on a team with even the tiniest crack in the “contender window” still open, and play his heart out for Popovich, Duncan, Ginobili and the San Antonio fans.
Parker on the other hand would get to step into being the face of the Raptors franchise in one of the most attractive international cities in the world to live in. While the roster is by no means stacked, Andrea Bargnani has established himself as a legitimate scoring big, and the future for recent draft picks Ed Davis and Demar Derozan looks bright. While probably miles from competing for a title, Parker would still likely benefit from the change of scenery…and what NBA city could be more appealing to the Frenchman than Toronto? (Outside of New York, that is.)
Kris Humphries (1 year, $8,000,000) and Keith Bogans (1 year, $1,728,000) for Jose Calderon (2 years, $9,780,991 this year)
This trade cannot be complete until after March 1st because Kris Humprhries signed his current contract this offseason.
At the beginning of the Dwight Howard “trade me – no wait maybe don’t trade me” saga, the Nets (still feeling good about themselves after from pulling off the blockbuster trade for Deron Williams) became the media’s favorite theoretical destination for the NBA’s second Superman. Since then, however, Brook Lopez went down with an old-man foot injury, Deron Williams has become increasingly agitated and the team has been tanking. Between the increasing momentum behind the theory that Otis Smith will refuse all offers in the hopes of resigning Howard in the offseason and the even more popular rumor that Howard AND Williams will both sign in Dallas as free agents this summer, Nets management has been backed into a corner.
Trade Deron before the deadline, or face the possibility of being the franchise that gave up Derick Favors, Devin Harris and two first round picks just to rent Deron Williams for a year and a half, to play on a lottery team. With the wonderfully limited window between when players in the first of year new contracts can be traded and the actual trade deadline (March 1st – and March 15th, respectively), shit could get crazy. Picture the first week of March: Dwight either has been traded (presumably somewhere he will sign an extension, Los Angeles or Chicago) or he hasn’t (and Otis Smith has basically come out and said “fuck it, hopefully we win a title and he changes his mind”). What incentive could Williams possibly have to resigning in Brooklyn/Jersey?
Now that we’ve established that the Nets are trading Deron (most likely for some package like the one mentioned by Bill Simmons here for Pau Gasol – or, god forbid, some package built around Joe Johnson) we can start to play with what’s left of the roster to build for the future. The team has obvious incentive to be as good as possible in the next few years (beginning the process of trying to turn Knicks fans), so we’ll assume that the team will be at least looking to compete. Since Humphries has established that he is trying to command more money than the Nets are ready to pay him (and he now lacks the allure of being married to a Kardashian), he makes sense as a trade chip. Calderon could be the stand-in starter for two years in any scenario, and if the Gasol trade is actually consummated they might be able to get some Spanish National team magic going.
In Toronto Humphries would be a nice fit next to Bargnani until Ed Davis develops, especially given Bargnani’s tendency to play further from the basket than traditional centers (Humphries is averaging 10.5 per game this year, a nice addition to Bargnani’s 6.4). While the Raptors could conceivably let Humphries walk after the season, couldn’t we all picture Jerry Colangelo giving him the slightly inflated (while still distinctly still cap-crippling contract) he’ll inevitably command somewhere?
Check out other “Sources Should Say” pieces on Amar’e Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Josh Smith, Michael Beasley and DeMarcus Cousins.