NBA PM: Five Burning Trade Deadline Questions
The NBA season has reached its midpoint, which means the trade deadline is right around the corner. This is the time of year when teams start to take a long, hard look at their best laid plans of the offseason and make some realistic determinations about where they need to go from here. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the things that are working and some of the things that are not working as we head towards next month’s deadline.
1) Is it time to trade Dwight Howard?
When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, it was assumed that he would keep them among the ranks of NBA contenders for years to come. It was just one more example of why the Lakers are the NBA gold standard, always managing to find their next franchise player just as their previous one is nearing the end of his prime. Instead, Howard has been about as bad a fit as there could be. His lack of intensity has been a point of irritation for Kobe Bryant, and he seems to be all but cancelling out Pau Gasol. Given the Lakers’ lack of depth and Howard’s ineffectiveness, it makes a great deal of sense to cash him in now. They can sign him to a contract extension and send him to a team with lots of redundant assets like the Denver Nuggets or Houston Rockets, or they could send him to a young team looking to cash in some long-term contracts in favor of rebuilding next summer, as his contract expires at season’s end. The Lakers are saying they’re determined to make it work with Dwight, but with Howard leaking his discontent with yet another coach and the Lakers floundering near the bottom of the West, it’s reasonable to wonder if they will stick to their guns.
2) Can Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph co-exist?
This question has been floating around since well before last season’s trade deadline, and recent rumors about the Grizzlies gauging interest in Gay and perhaps talking about trading Randolph has only served to fuel that fire. The reality of the situation is that Memphis was exploring ways to get under the luxury tax threshold, something they did when they made the recent trade with Cleveland that sent out Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby. Now that they’re under the cap there is less urgency to make a bigger move. Is Gay still radically overpaid for what he brings to the team? Sure. But the Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the Western Conference and it’s not a stretch to say they could make it to the Conference Finals. From there you’re one lucky break, one lucky bounce or perhaps one official’s whistle away from the NBA Finals, and that’s just not something you want to break up if you can help it.
3) Is it time to break up the Celtics?
On paper the Boston Celtics look like a younger, deeper team than the one that took the Miami HEAT to the brink of elimination in last year’s playoffs. On the court, however, the Celtics have barely managed to hold onto a playoff berth, and while the non-playoff teams in the East might be too weak to catch up, the Celtics are far from a strong postseason team as things stand today. Last year’s deadline was filled with rumors about Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and possibly even Kevin Garnett being traded, but team president Danny Ainge elected to keep them together for one more run. It was a smart move at the time, given that team’s success, but now it looks like it’s finally time to break up the core. Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley are clearly the future in Boston. Now they need to get younger and deeper around that duo.
4) Carlos Boozer back in the Bulls’ good graces?
Six months ago, it seemed likely that Carlos Boozer would be amnestied by the Chicago Bulls. Having fallen well short of expectations and losing minutes to backup power forward Taj Gibson, Bulls fans were calling for Boozer’s head over the offseason. Instead, the Bulls stuck with Boozer, and now that decision is paying huge dividends. Averaging 16.1 points and 10 rebounds this season and coming off of a Player Of The Week award, Boozer is back in good standing with fans and management alike. Early in the season the Bulls looked like they might not even be in the playoff picture by the time injured All-Star Derrick Rose returned, but now, thanks in large part of the improved play of Boozer, the Bulls look like they might just be contenders again if Rose can get back to 100 percent in time for postseason play. Don’t expect the Bulls to shop Boozer.
5) Can the Raptors move Andrea Bargnani?
The Toronto Raptors have fallen well short of expectations this season, but they have been a much better team with Andrea Bargnani out of the lineup than they were before he suffered an elbow injury that has him currently out of action. When he got hurt the Raptors had lost 10 of their last 11 games, and when he went down they went on a tear, winning eight of nine games. They are 11-9 without Bargnani, after going 4-18 with him in the lineup early on. It’s clear that what the Raptors need is a little addition by subtraction, but the fact remains that there aren’t too many teams who are excited about adding Bargnani to the mix. Toronto would love to have Pau Gasol or Wilson Chandler, in particular, but it is highly unlikely that Bargnani helps land either player.
The NBA trade deadline is February 21.
No Ordinary Rookie
Houston Rockets rookie Patrick Beverley didn’t get to travel much as a kid, so you might say he has been making up for lost time in his basketball career.
“No, not really, not at all,” Beverley tells HOOPSWORLD of his travel experience before basketball. “I wasn’t fortunate to travel a lot, but I’ve been traveling now. … I’ve been playing overseas ball since I was 19, but not to this level. I’ve been to three different countries, five different states in the last 25 days. It’s been pretty crazy, but I’m getting used to everything.”
There are plenty of very good basketball players who haven’t been able to make it to the NBA. The fact that Beverley has persevered and is now finding a role for himself in Houston is a testament to his single-minded determination to play at the highest level.
“For me, it’s just what I’m used to: play basketball and wherever basketball takes me,” says Beverley. “I’ve been fortunate to get a chance to play in the NBA and I’m going to try and take full advantage.”
Beverley was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft, but wound up being traded to the Miami HEAT and opted to play in Europe at the time. After playing in Russia and Greece he finally reached an agreement with the Houston Rockets, who sent him to their D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, before calling him up.
“I can’t really compare, I think it’s two different types of basketball,” says Beverley of the difference between the D-League and Europe. “Over here, it’s much faster and more athletic. Over there, it’s more about the mind and trying to do little tricks to get back here and there. I’ve been fortunate enough to get the best of both worlds and I’m definitely going to use what I learned overseas to incorporate that into my basketball game.”
Scouting reports and statistical analysis have become increasingly important as NBA teams look to prepare ever more thoroughly for their opponents, and Beverley says that’s not much different from what’s going on overseas.
“I think in both places coaching staffs do a great job to prepare for your opponent,” says Beverley. “I’ve spent some time with the HEAT and I’ve spent some time in Greece, it’s the same thing, personnel is very important. I think a team concept and team defense is a little more important overseas and you can tell by the low-scoring, low-possession games.”
To his credit, when the Rockets finally called him up and he got roughly 90 seconds of garbage time in his first appearance, Beverley was ready to run. He drilled a three, made a steal and assisted on another three in his first NBA action. That earned him more minutes right away. The Rockets have lost five of their six games since Beverley was called up, yet they have been on the plus side with him on the court in every game, including +17 in their win over Charlotte.
“Yeah, I’ve just always been ready for my chances here; I want to take advantage of that,” says Beverley. “The D-League has helped me a lot with that and it really helped me a lot with spacing and where I need to go and things like that. The D-League has definitely been a blessing in disguise.”
Staying ready and playing hard when he gets on the court are the keys to Beverley continuing to earn minutes for head coach Kevin McHale.
“Continuing doing what I’m doing, continue to work hard and prove the type of player I am, the defensive type of player,” says Beverley. “Just be ready, that’s the biggest thing, when my number is called just be ready and I think I’ve been doing a good job getting myself prepared.”
So far so good for Patrick Beverley, who has been waiting for his shot at the NBA for quite some time. Now that’s he’s got it, he shows no signs of letting it slip away.
Gentry Firing Gets Suns’ Attention
We often see an NBA team respond right away to a head coach being fired. It has a way of grabbing the attention of players and getting them to play a little harder, at least in the short-term.
That’s been the case with the Phoenix Suns, who lost head coach Alvin Gentry earlier this week and are now 2-0 under acting head coach Lindsey Hunter. The first win was not that impressive, as it came over a struggling Sacramento Kings team, but the second was over the Los Angeles Clippers. Even though Chris Paul was sidelined with an injury, a win over the Clippers is no less impressive.
“Confidence grows,” Jared Dudley told Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. “The way we’ve been doing it can continue. It’s defensively making stops and offensively making the right plays in transition and getting out there. (Against the Kings) I think we held them under a hundred and now under 90 (against the Clippers). That’s pretty impressive. No matter where you’re at, you’ve got a chance to win. You may not win every time, but your percentages go up.”
Luis Scola scored 14 points in the fourth quarter against the Clippers to help ice the win, but he was quick to caution against short-term thinking after two wins.
“I don’t feel confident saying we fixed the problem,” Scola said. “It’s just one game. We played well today and that’s a good thing, that’s encouraging. We have played well in the past, too. We’ve beat good teams. We’ve proved we can have good games. Our challenge now is to have many good games in a row and accumulate good performances. We did good, but I don’t feel we’ve fixed anything. We’ve got to go to San Antonio and do it again.”
Hunter is likewise thinking long-term, and feels a culture change has to be at the heart of a new era of Suns basketball under his guidance.
“Every day we have to establish a culture and an identity, which takes some time,” Hunter said in an interview with KTAR in Phoenix. “But you have to start with simple things like ‘we are going to complete every play we start, we’re going to do things the right way, we’re not going to shortcut things,’ and you slowly but surely build that culture and frame of minds with guys. Teaching guys how to practice winning habits and it takes time for all of that to happen.”
Posting a win in San Antonio on Saturday night most definitely prove to be more of a challenge for the Suns, but getting their first two wins under Hunter was a great way for them to start the process of changing the culture of the team. The Suns looked better on paper before the start of the season than they have ever managed to look on the court. Maybe that disparity will begin to close a bit now.
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