NBA Sunday: No Westbrook for Paul?
No Paul-for-Westbrook Trade, But There Should Be
There have been internet reports about a potential Russell Westbrook-for-Chris Paul swap for a couple weeks now, but New Orleans GM Dell Demps has officially come out and said that there’s no truth to the rumors.
“(Thunder GM) Sam Presti and I, our offices used to be right next to each other, so we still text each other all the time, and I can assure you that has not been a conversation we’ve had,” Demps told Chris Abshire of the Time-Picayune.
It’s unfortunate, but not surprising. Trades in the NBA—especially a trade of that magnitude—are hard to pull off for a number of reasons. Paul, for example, means a lot to the city of New Orleans, and it’s very possible Demps and his organization think they’ve already got the best point guard in the league.
From Oklahoma City’s standpoint, they have to know that they’ll be running with Kevin Durant as their superstar for the next ten years, and keeping another All-Star alongside him for ten years probably seems more desirable than whatever the injury-prone Paul might still have left in the tank. And whatever Westbrook’s downfalls, there’s still plenty of time for him to grow into himself.
There’s also the issue of matching contracts; Paul makes 16.4 million next year (with a player option for $17.8 million in 2012-2013), and Westbrook is still on his rookie deal. There’d have to be some creative contract-matching to get this one to go through. That’s why you almost never see All-Stars on a rookie deal moved; it’s too hard to get the right return of value.
In other words, neither team is in a big hurry to make this trade. But should they be?
What the Thunder have proven is that they’re ready to compete for a championship right now. All they’re missing is experience, and Paul adds a ton of it. His years in the league added to the Western Conference Finals experience the rest of the young squad garnered this spring would easily make them the favorites in their conference for the next half a decade.
It would work for New Orleans as well because Westbrook gives them a longer-term star with a healthier body.
Eventually, this all comes down to whether or not OKC feels like they really need a shake-up after the season they had despite their youth. If Presti decides they’re fine with the point guard they’ve got, and there’s about 99.9% chance that’s the case, then there’s no reason to even have the conversation. Assuming the conversation hasn’t happened, I think we have our answer.
File this one under “Trades That Make Sense For Both Teams, But Still Won’t Happen.” That’s where it looks like this rumored deal is headed.
The Haywood Factor
Brendan Haywood’s hip is in bad shape, and might be bad enough to keep him out of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Dallas’s first of three straight opportunities to host the championship series.
“I’m going to wake up in the morning and hopefully be miraculously healed,” Haywood said. “I’m just going to do everything they tell me to do to try to be ready.”
But if he can’t go, Tyson Chandler knows his team will have to figure out some alternate game plan for keeping the Mavericks as competitive defensively as they’ve been the first two games of the series.
“It changes our rotation a little bit. I don’t know what coach will do, if he’ll go with Ian (Mahinmi) or if he’ll go with a smaller lineup, but they (Miami) have been playing smaller lineups a lot of the time,” Chandler said. “If that’s the case, then we’ll be able throw a 3-4 type of guy out there. If they play big, we’ve got Ian Mahinmi, and I’m sure he’s been itching for this opportunity.”
Mahinmi, who played the 2009-2010 season with San Antonio, hasn’t played a big role for Dallas all postseason, but he could very well get his chance Sunday night in Game 3.
“The context is obviously a little different, but my role is very different on this team (compared to San Antonio),” Mahinmi said. “I don’t have to come in and bring a lot of scoring. My role has been pretty easy—I’ve just got to play good D and bring a lot of energy. Just anything to help my team win. I’ve just got to be aggressive from the start and be confident.”
Haywood doesn’t seem to think that relying even more heavily on the Mavericks’ reserves will be a problem.
“The good thing is that we’ve had a chance to play some of our guys off the bench, so it’s not like we’re playing a guy who hasn’t played,” Haywood said. “Guys like Ian Mahinmi, Brian Cardinal—they’ve played pivotal roles for us this season, and they’ve played well.”
Should Dallas choose to work around the loss of their backup center by going with the smaller lineup Chandler mentioned, it might mean sliding Shawn Marion over to the five while Chandler rests. Of course, all of this could be moot should Haywood and the Dallas medical staff decide he’s good to go.
If not, well, the Mavericks will have to figure it out
“If I can’t go,” Haywood said bluntly, “then the next man has to step up.”
And it sounds like Ian Mahinmi is ready to do exactly that.
What’s the Best Fit for Derrick Williams?
HOOPSWORLD’s own Steve Kyler is just about the only legitimate mock drafter out there not putting Derrick Williams in the #2 pick position to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and his explanation in our weekly group mock is a pretty convincing one:
“If the Wolves keep the pick, they can not take Derrick Williams,” Kyler explained. “He has proclaimed himself to be a Small Forward and that puts him third on Minnesota’s depth chart at Small Forward. He is not a better player than Michael Beasley and he is not a better player than Wes Johnson, so do you really spend the #2 overall pick on a third string guy when there are other players that help you today?”
While not everyone would agree that Williams isn’t better than Wes Johnson, nobody would argue that Williams simply won’t be a starter in Minnesota and has to fit better with some other team.
The question is, which team needs Williams the most, has the open position to start him, and has the assets necessary to convince the Wolves to move the #2 pick?
It’s not an easy one to answer. Certainly Cleveland would be ecstatic to walk away from this draft with the two best players in it, and they’ve already been active the last couple of weeks in trying to pry it away. These overtures have resulted in rather complex potential deals, however, and when more than two teams are involved in something, it’s easier for it to fall apart.
If not Cleveland, then whom?
Michael Lee of the Washington Post reported yesterday that Washington hasn’t been overly aggressive yet in moving up to nab Williams, despite suggestions from DraftExpress’s Jonathan Givony that suggest the opposite. Regardless, both men agree that the Wizards are interested in the young man, and small forward is perhaps their most glaring need.
Sacramento, Charlotte, and Houston would all be nice landing spots for Williams as well, but so far there have been no indications that those other lottery teams have much interest in moving up. At the end of the day, expect Cleveland and Washington to make the strongest pitches before this thing is all said and done, but Minnesota is going to have to get creative. To keep the pick, they can’t select Derrick Williams, which is a waste. To trade the pick is the smarter move, but who will pony up to get it?