NBA PM: The Next Trade Chip To Fall?
February is upon us and while the most anticipated sporting event of the month is the NFL’s Super Bowl, right behind it is the NBA’s trade deadline. The Baltimore Ravens took care of that first bit of business last night, so all eyes will now be on the NBA as teams look to make their last moves of the 2013-13 season.
One of the players expected to be moved before the February 21 deadline is Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat. He was originally thought to be a part of the Suns’ much-needed defensive infusion, but with the team rebuilding and a new coaching staff now in place, Gortat appears to be on his way out.
“It’s really not easy,” Gorat tells HOOPSWORLD of all the upheaval around him. “For me it’s a first time situation in my basketball career. There’s a lot of things going on that we have to try to block and just focus on basketball. There’s a lot of new changes around the team, including the new coaching staff and new philosophy. We just have to stay focused and work hard to try and get over the hump and just bring it. Guys have to bring it every game, be ready for every game, every practice. Situations like that is where we are right now, so it’s very hard. We got to be extra motivated and extra focused on everything we do.”
Gortat’s numbers aren’t bad this season, but he has taken a step back from the career-best 15.4 points and 10.0 rebounds he averaged last season to the 11.5 points and 8.9 rebounds he’s giving the Suns this year. He credits the departure of Steve Nash, among other things, for his own struggles.
“I don’t think that’s a problem with Coach right now,” says Gortat. “We’ve played 45-46 games and honestly it’s not about Coach, it’s about players. This is who we are, we don’t have the same people that we had last year sharing the ball, we had a guy (Nash) that was creating for everybody. It’s much harder for guys to get an open shot, an open look and each one of us has to work for every point twice as hard. We have different players this year, we have different spacing, a little bit different of a system and basically it’s hard. I don’t think it’s necessarily all about Coach, there’s a lot of things going on that influences my performance, so it’s hard to say.”
Part of the issue, of course, is that Goran Dragic brings more of a scoring mentality to the point guard position than Nash did, and is averaging just 6.5 assists per game while leading the team in scoring at 14.2 points per contest. Dragic’s 44 percent shooting is cause for an argument that perhaps he should work the ball to the 56 percent shooting Gortat a bit more. Gortat would certainly like to make the case for that.
“He’s got to work on it,” Gortat says of Dragic. “It all depends on the coaches, they got to put on the pressure, they got to do what they got to do, they got to talk to him. It’s not me or anybody on the team, each one of us is trying to play basketball and he plays basketball the way he plays, he does what he does the best. He’s an aggressive scoring point guard and it is what it is, I can’t deny it.”
The issues that have led to the Suns’ disappointing 16-32 record are widespread, so much so that Gortat has a hard time narrowing it down to just one thing the team needs to address first.
“We’re trying to obviously play better defense, we’re trying to protect the paint better,” says Gortat. “I think the first two or three games we did a pretty good job, we shrank the floor, made the other team shoot a lot more jump shots, but just like that we forgot the things we had to do today. We opened up the paint, they were driving and starting fast breaks, so many layups, so many offensive rebounds and we just can’t allow those things to happen. We’re going to try and play better defense next game, hopefully bring more energy and we just have to play better. Each one of us has to bring more energy, we have to be focused on everything we do.”
For now, Gortat is content to make the most of his situation, focusing on the things he can control.
“First of all, we got to stay focused on everything we do,” says Gortat. “I still believe, for me, for the big man in the middle, I still got to try and be aggressive on the boards, get as many rebounds as possible, block as many shots as possible, play good defense, play the right rotation and try to help this team as much as I can. Whatever is going to happen on offense is just going to be extra, because quite honestly, there’s not too much for me on offense. It is what it is. It’s not like I’m complaining, but each one of us is trying to find a way to fit together on this team, to fit themselves on the team. For me, everything starts defensively and on the boards, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
The only question is how much longer he will be doing those things as a member of the Phoenix Suns. Sources continue to point to a trade for Gortat when the price is right, and the price is usually best when teams get desperate before the NBA trade deadline. Expect to hear Marcin Gortat’s name a lot over the next two weeks.
Danny Granger Available?
Prior to the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, Danny Granger had about as much job security as any player in the NBA. The Indiana Pacers have received dozens of calls from teams looking to acquire the star small forward, but the Pacers simply weren’t willing to entertain the notion of giving up their franchise cornerstone.
Times change, however, and the emergence of Paul George as Granger sits out with a knee injury has reportedly caused the Pacers’ new management team to change their stance.
Count the Houston Rockets among the teams who would happily help the Pacers move on from Granger, as one executive close to the situation in Indiana recently told HOOPSWORLD he thought Rockets GM Daryl Morey had it on his daily to-do list to call and ask the Pacers if they were ready to part with Granger yet.
Internally, the Pacers have some doubts about the condition of Granger’s knee, and whether or not he will ever be able to sustain a high level of play for 82 games plus the playoffs. That, together with George’s phenomenal play, have them pondering whether it might not be best to cash Granger in now and turn the team over to George. With George coming off of the best two months of his career and steadily improving, that would seem to make a great deal of sense.
Calderon Cleared To Play
The least talked-about part of the three-team trade that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto and Ed Davis and Tayshaun Prince to Memphis has been the side of the trade that landed point guard Jose Calderon in Detroit. The Pistons don’t necessarily need another point guard with Brandon Knight, Will Bynum and even Rodney Stuckey already on the team and able to log minutes at point. The fact that Calderon was not cleared to play before the Pistons took on the Lakers yesterday had some trade theories stirring among Pistons fans, but today the team announced that Calderon has passed his physical and is cleared to play tonight as the Pistons take on the New York Knicks.
One way of looking at the Pistons’ acquisition of Calderon is as a simple salary dump. Prince has two more years left on his contract, while Calderon is in the final year of his deal.
On the other hand, Calderon just might represent a significant missing piece in Detroit’s long, drawn-out rebuilding plan.
Before the trade, the best point guard on the team was Knight, who is second on the squad in scoring at 13.9 points per game and averages 4.5 assists per game. To put that in perspective, Calderon started 30 games for the Raptors this season, averaging 12.6 points, 9.0 assists while shooting 49 percent from the field and 44 percent from three. Calderon is a more efficient floor leader who gets his teammates more involved and makes the defense pay for not respecting him.
Simply put, Calderon is a wizard of the half court game, where he ranks in the 88th percentile league-wide. So far this season Calderon has been involved in 459 half court sets with Toronto, with the team scoring 457 points on those plays. Only 12 percent of the league are better at converting than the Raptors were under Calderon. When you consider that the the Pistons are 24th in the NBA in half court offense despite having two of the best young front court players in the game in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, it quickly becomes obvious why the team would be interested in Calderon, who was creating easy buckets for a team with far less front court talent in Toronto.
It’s certainly possible that bringing in Calderon in the trade with Memphis and Toronto was about clearing cap space this summer, but it’s at least as likely that it was about vastly improving the team’s front court play long-term. If a subsequent trade now sends out Rodney Stuckey or possibly Will Bynum, expect to see Calderon in a Pistons jersey long-term.
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