NBA PM: Top 5 2012 NBA Trades
The NBA may currently have its players locked out, but that doesn’t mean that a number of hard-working GMs aren’t working to get deals in place for once the lockout lifts. With that in mind, HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the top five players most likely to be traded in 2011-12:
#5 – Martell Webster, Minnesota Timberwolves
The fifth most popular name among a select group of HOOPSWORLD analysts was Martell Webster, with the general feeling being that he’s the stand-alone veteran in a lineup of young players who will be growing together under new head coach Rick Adelman. Webster has a reasonable deal, paying him roughly $5.3 million this season and with next season non-guaranteed. A team looking for wing help can add Webster, and if they want to waive him for cap space next summer it costs them nothing. The Timberwolves are looking for help at the two position, and Webster could turn out to be the player who gets them that help. More on that in a minute.
#4 – Leandro Barbosa, Toronto Raptors
When the Toronto Raptors originally acquired Leandro Barbosa from the Phoenix Suns for Hedo Turkoglu there was a notion that he might be the point guard who could lead the Raptors into the future. The team had come to grips with the fact that Jose Calderon was not that person, and they were already embroiled in efforts to trade Calderon to anyone willing to take him. In fact, the Raptors were very close to sending Calderon to Charlotte for Boris Diaw and Tyson Chandler before the Bobcats backed out at the last minute. Now the Raptors are looking to move both Calderon and Barbosa, and with Barbosa’s $7 million deal expiring at season’s end, it seems likely they will find a taker, at least by the trade deadline. Toronto is still looking for that floor leader of the future, though there is hope that Jerryd Bayless may turn out to be him.
#3 – Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
When the Hawks walked off the floor at the end of the playoffs last season there was a strong feeling that Josh Smith had played his last game as a Hawk. Not because he’s not enormously talented, and not because the Hawks are just dying to unload him, but more because Al Horford wants to play the four spot and the Hawks have no hope of trading Joe Johnson’s crazy contract. Smith had also become a convenient scapegoat for the team consistently falling short of expectations, and his irritation with that had him saying he felt he needed to move on from the situation. The Hawks had discussions with the LA Clippers about Chris Kaman, but the Clippers didn’t feel Smith could fill their primary need for a starting three, and they certainly don’t need a starting power forward with Blake Griffin in the house. The Hawks are going to have to keep looking, and it may turn out that the best move is simply to keep Smith and let Horford continue to play the five and be well paid to do it.
#2 – OJ Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies
Last year’s trade deadline almost saw OJ Mayo become a member of the Indiana Pacers, but it was a three-team deal and the New Orleans Hornets pulled out at the last second. Mayo stepped up in the playoffs, helping the Grizzlies surprise the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and come very close to advancing to the Western Conference Finals, but it’s unlikely that was enough to assure his long-term presence in Memphis. The Grizzlies are going to lose swingman Shane Battier to free agency, and could look for a replacement. Considering the Timberwolves have small forwards to spare and a gaping hole at the two, it seems likely the two teams will at least have a conversation.
#1 – Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Kaman has been on the block for a while, and it has nothing to do with his not being a capable player. When healthy, Kaman is arguably a top ten center in the NBA. He averaged 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game two seasons ago, which doesn’t quite put him in Dwight Howard territory, but certainly qualifies for the elite class of NBA big men. He missed much of last season due to injury, but is healthy now and had a stellar showing with Germany in Euroleague play over the summer. There no question that Kaman can be a big part of a very successful team, but the Clippers look poised to make DeAndre Jordan their starting center going forward.
Jordan’s numbers – roughly 7.5 points, 7.8 rebounds as a starter last season – aren’t as flashy as Kaman’s, but he’s a young and emerging player who seems to have unlimited potential. The idea in LA is to have Jordan develop alongside Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and the young Clippers nucleus. Of course, Jordan is a restricted free agent and the Clippers don’t yet know what it’s going to cost them to keep Jordan in town. The Houston Rockets are one team that’s extremely interested in Jordan, and they are expected to make him a sizable offer once the NBA lockout lifts. The Rockets have also had talks with the Clippers about Kaman, but those talks didn’t get very far.
Still, it seems highly likely that Chris Kaman’s days as a Clippers are coming to an end, and whether that happens before the season starts or at the trade deadline (when the bulk of the final year of his contract will have been paid by LA), we feel he is the player most likely to be traded in 2011-12.
Steve Nash – The Phoenix Suns are saying they won’t trade Steve Nash and Nash is playing good soldier with the media when he’s asked about finishing his career on a rebuilding team. Still, we can’t help but feel that the pressure will mount for the Suns to deal Nash to a contender, and we’ll be keeping an eye on that situation.
Dwight Howard/Chris Paul – The top two free agents in 2012 will be the franchise players from Orlando and New Orleans. There is a rule change being contemplated that would enable the Hornets and Magic to keep their stars in town, but that’s just one proposal in a new collective bargaining agreement that is being met with plenty of resistance from both of the sides who are involved. More on that in this space tomorrow.
Boris Diaw – The Charlotte Bobcats have successfully unloaded the majority of their veterans as they prepare for a massive youth movement, but Diaw is still in town despite the team’s best efforts to trade him. This year his $9 million contract expires, which should help the Bobcats move him at the trade deadline, if not before. Of course, there’s no harm in Charlotte keeping him and using the cap space themselves if the right deal doesn’t come along.
Mehmet Okur – A couple of our experts included Okur’s name on their list, and it makes a certain amount of sense. As much as Okur’s absence hurt the Utah Jazz last season, the team did acquire Al Jefferson and now has plenty of front court talent without their former starting center. The Jazz could easily use Okur’s $10.9 million expiring deal to add depth at other positions if they so choose, and the aforementioned Houston Rockets might be open to talks regarding Okur if they miss out on Nene, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler.
Antawn Jamison – Antawn Jamison has never been one to complain about his situation, but when you look at what’s happened to him over the last couple of seasons you can’t help but hope the guy can find his way to a contender. He was part of an impressive group in Washington that rarely got to play together due to injuries, but he left that behind when LeBron James asked management to bring him to Cleveland two seasons ago. Then-GM Danny Ferry did just that, but the Cavs fell short of contending and LeBron blew town . . .leaving Jamison again stuck in a bad situation. There’s no doubt that Jamison still has a lot to offer even in the later stages of his career, but his $15 million price tag might make him a hard sell before the trade deadline.
Special thanks to HOOPSWORLD’s Tommy Beer, Joel Brigham, Eric Pincus and Jason Fleming for contributing to this article.
America’s Top Sports City
Dallas/Fort Worth, with the NBA champion Mavericks, AL champion Rangers, undefeated Rose Bowl champion Horned Frogs and the home of Super Bowl XLV, is No. 1 in Sporting News’ 18th annual Best Sports Cities rankings, presented by Gillette. A first-time winner, Dallas/Fort Worth dethroned 2010′s No. 1, Chicago, a three-time winner and No. 4 in 2011′s rankings.
“The Metroplex is a sports fan’s dream – great pro sports, college powerhouses and some of the best high school sports programs in the country – and we deliver it all with typical Texas hospitality,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. “When it comes to big-time sports, we’ve got plenty to cheer about and plenty to cheer for. With all due respect to Green Bay, I can safely say that the ‘Titletown, USA’ claim pretty much belongs to Fort Worth, Dallas and the North Texas region.”
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the following about bringing the NBA championship home to Dallas:
“Of course, the topper was winning the trophy this season. It was right out of Hollywood casting. A band of old rejects comes together to beat the self-proclaimed Dream Team of the NBA. Along the way we sweep the Lakers and beat the Thunder. No one saw it coming, which made it all the sweeter for Mavs and NBA fans everywhere.”
“From the time I got here to where it’s at now is night and day,” said Texas Rangers DH Michael Young, who made his debut with the Rangers in late 2000 and hasn’t played elsewhere. “Our fans are really passionate about our teams. It was just a matter of our fans hopping on board with our baseball team. We had to make sure we gave them a reason to do it.”
Rounding out the top 10 are No. 2 Boston, No 3. Philadelphia, No. 4 Chicago/Evanston, No. 5 New York, No. 6 Pittsburgh, No. 7 Atlanta, No. 8 Los Angeles, No. 9 Miami and No. 10 Tampa/St. Petersburg. Lorman, Mississippi rounds out the list at No. 271.
This year’s list is based on the 12 months from summer 2010 to summer 2011 and features 271 cities and towns in the United States and Canada. The rankings are based on a variety of factors, including each city’s number of teams and their regular-season won-lost records, postseason appearances, bowl appearances and tournament bids, championships, applicable power ratings, attendance, fan fervor and more.
The new Sporting News Magazine, featuring Texas Ranger Michael Young, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the TCU SuperFrog on the cover, hits newsstands later this week.
Letting Ricky Be Ricky
Few players will enter the NBA this season with the amount of hype that will surround Ricky Rubio. The Spanish point guard who first disrespected the Minnesota Timberwolves by saying he didn’t want to play for them, then made them wait for two seasons to acquire his services now lands in Minnesota as one of the great future hopes for the franchise. Fortunately for Rubio, he now has a head coach who will let him be himself.
“I’m different from some other coaches,” Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman said in a recent interview. “They believe you have to be harder on them and demand certain things. I feel the opposite. I think you have to give them rope and let them find their way a little bit. They’re all different and they all have different strengths. I don’t think you can say, ‘This is how you have to play.’ I usually give them a lot of freedom and I see this situation as being the same thing.”
“Rick is going to be able to talk to Ricky about his experiences with me,” said Terry Porter, former Adelman point guard and also a candidate for the Timberwolves’ coaching position. “He worked with me a lot on my shot. But until we got that down, he told me to play from a couple points of strength, things he knew I could do well. He won’t overload him with a system, he’ll just let him focus on a few things. … He said, ‘Play basketball the way you play basketball.’ Our offense was totally different from what he ran in Sacramento. He’s always looked at guys and tried to put the ball in their hands where they can be effective. He gave me a lot of confidence by doing that.”
Confidence is key, especially for a point guard, and Porter believes Adelman’s encouragement will be immensely important for Rubio as he looks to adjust to a new culture as well as a different style of basketball.
“It’s going to be huge,” Porter said. “It’s just not basketball. It’s all the cultural stuff. Maintaining his confidence is going to be very important. Rick is good at that, mostly by just constantly talking to you. Ricky is going to have a target on his back from the start. He’s going to be labeled a savior.”
Based on what scouts are saying about Ricky Rubio, it seems unlikely that he will prove to be a “savior” for the Timberwolves. What is likely, however, is that with Adelman’s guidance he can turn into an important past of a much-improved Minnesota team, and that’s really all anyone is asking.
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