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Archive for the ‘Trade talk’ Category

Trading Bargnani for a three-dollar bill

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I’ve written about this before, but my favorite Hunter Thompson line is the one he used to describe a meaningless NBA trade in a later ESPN.com column: Like flipping a used mattress for a three-dollar bill. The unwanted for the useless. It’s kind of sad how often I think about that line when I think about Toronto sports.

Right now the Raptors are sinking fast. They’ve lost three in a row, nine of their last ten and sit on the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They’ve lost every in-division game this season, only won one road game and have more losses than the hapless Washington Wizards (to be fair, the Wiz have played fewer games).

Toronto is losing games at the buzzer and losing games by 30 points. They’re losing thanks to blown calls and losing after a near-miracle near-comeback. In so many words, they’re finding ways to lose, new creative ways I’ve never seen before, even in those ugly post-Carter, pre-playoff years. It’s disheartening, at least when I can bear to watch. More and more this year, I’m finding myself listening to the games on the radio, where at least I don’t have to see the Raptors blow a lead or see Bargnani toss up another clutch airball. I try to be an optimist, but it’s hard with this team. I don’t think I’m alone.

I’m only familiar with him through his resigned-sounding Twitter account (example: a “topes lose” post after every Raptors loss), but National Post beat scribe Eric Koreen has turned on Bargnani, writing first how the forward’s pretty much what he’ll ever be and more recently looking at trade options. Over at Sportsnet, Holly MacKenzie recently wrote it’s time to break up with Bargnani, making a case that this season isn’t exactly Bargnani’s fault, but:

The reality is it has been nearly seven years and the Bargnani + Toronto equation has not produced the answer each side wants.

And that’s the biggest mark against Bargnani. Everyone likes to hammer the things he does wrong: his lackluster help defence, his tendency to settle for shots rather than going to the basket, the strange ability to be defended by someone much shorter than him. But those are all echoes. We know those, we’ve known them for years. It’s 2012 and as Koreen pointed out, we know who Bargnani is. He’s not going to walk through that door playing like Dirk Nowitzki anytime soon.

So, the question about him and this probably-lost Raptor season boils down to what happens next. I think it’s a safe assumption Jose Calderon will be gone after this year, probably to take a backup role on a much better team. With a recent contract extension, DeMar DeRozan is the de-facto face of the team. And waiting in the wings is Ed Davis, who can’t play while Jonas Valanciunas and Bargnani are on the floor. Something has to change.

Enter the trade rumours. One, which keeps getting word of mouth and got as far as sources telling ESPN about it’s rejection is a trade where Bargnani and Calderon would be flipped to LA for Pau Gasol. From a GTA-point of view, it sounds fantastic. From a LA point of view, not so much. I’m not sure there’s any reason why LA would make that trade: there’s not much of value coming to the Lakers, especially given Bargnani’s play of late, and it’s obvious Toronto needs to make a move. I can’t say I’d blame them for pressing to a move like this which also nets them DeMar and rids them of an excess point guard.

Enter the above metaphor. Given how he’s played this season, I can’t imagine Toronto will get anything of value back for Bargnani, unless he’s paired with one of the teams assets. But the Raptors have precious few: Jonas, DeMar and Ed Davis, all of whom I hope are the core of this team, making them nearly-untouchable. There’s no first-round pick to package Bargnani with. There’s one nice expiring contract, but good luck finding someone willing to ship you back nearly $20 in salary on a contract that won’t become an albatross around this team’s neck.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the eventual Bargnani trade will end up looking something like this. It could be worse. They’ve made worse trades in the past.

Written by M.

December 8, 2012 at 11:54 am

Trade deadline winners and losers not so easily defined

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The old adage when to comes to trades is not “why does this work for both teams”, or even “Does the trade work for player X?” , but “Who won?”. Like everything else in sports, it comes down to winning, bettering your foe.

Of course, this doesn’t mean much.

When you sit down and really think about it, why would a general manager readily agree to a trade where his team takes a significant blow? Where it puts his team at a disadvantage? It wouldn’t make sense, unless he’s trying to pull a George Costanza.

So really, most trades aren’t really wins or losses for either team, they’re just a reshuffling of the deck, as it were.

Take last season’s blockbuster trade: Marion Hossa (and Pascal Dupuis) to Pittsburgh for a bundle of prospects and a draft pick. Pittsburgh was widely thought to have “won” the trade and in a sense they did: they went to the NHL finals. But during the off-season, Hossa left to sign with Detroit. But two of the prospects (Angelo Esposito and Colby Armstrong) are still with Atlanta (though Erik Christensen was traded early in March to Anaheim).

Who really won that trade, then? Did anybody win? Both teams got what they wanted out of it – Atlanta some prospects to help rebuild the team; Pittsburgh bolstered it’s lineup for a deep playoff run. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that nobody really won that trade?

Of course, this isn’t to say every trade works for both sides. One needs only to look back to early 1992, when the Toronto Maple Leafs picked up Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, Kent Maderville, Rick Wamsley and Doug Gilmour for Gary Leeman, Alexander Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit and Craig Berube. A huge ten player deal, that, when viewed in present context, was completely lopsided in Toronto’s favour.

But forgotten is why Calgary made that deal – they had problems with all of the players sent to Toronto. For example, Gilmour bailed on the Flames over his paycheque. He took the team to arbitration in December of 1991 and was awarded a salary of $750 thousand, much less then the $1.2 million he was looking for. So on Janurary 1st, Gilmour told Doug Risebrough he was leaving the team.

He was traded to Toronto shortly after, the key part of a deal that Toronto Globe and Mail writer David Shoalts called a “moving of malcontents”. Leaf defenceman Todd Gill summed up the mood at the time of the trade: “(It) should be pretty good for both teams. I hope this change can get a few guys on our team going.”

Even in such an extreme example, it’s not always so clear-cut to call a winner or loser in trades. Essentially, Calgary got rid of a player who didn’t want to play and got one back who would only score 11 more NHL goals – but cleared the dressing room of players who had been causing problems for the team all season. All of the players sent to Toronto were having contract problems with the team. One had even threatened to leave the Flames for the national team. At the same time, Toronto was considered a bad team that had just picked up some good players – but nobody was predicting two straight runs to the conference finals in the next two seasons.

Which brings me to this season’s trade deadline. The biggest, arguably most important move was Calgary’s acquisition of Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold. While nobody is now calling them favourites to win the Cup – Dallas, Detroit and Boston still hold those – they are being called the winners of their trades.

But as history has shown, isn’t it a little early to make those calls? Shouldn’t we – the pundits, the fans, etc – wait just a little bit first?

Lost in the orgy of information on trade deadline Wednesday – over eight hours of debate and opinion on two different channels can hardly be called anything else – was the most basic rule of every trade: you make it to improve your team, either by addition or subtraction. But that doesn’t make for riveting television – it’s exactly why The Sports Reporters is a non-entity and why Around The Horn is on five times a week.

One then supposes that the real winners on trade deadline day are the networks, who turned a fairly meaningless day where nothing much important into a huge TV event.

After all, it’s not like any of the teams are winning or losing because of the day.

Written by M.

March 7, 2009 at 3:58 pm

O’Neal for Ford deal works both ways for Raps

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Taken at face value, trading away a starting point guard, a good backup centre and a first round draft pick for an oft-injured centre doesn’t seem like a great move.

But trading away TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and the 17th pick is a shrewd move by Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Coangelo.

For most of last season, but especially in the playoffs, the Raptors found themselves with two glaring problems. First was the lack of a solid big man, which centre Rasho Nesterovic was not, Andrea Bargnani did not want to be.

Sure, their outside shooting style worked well enough for most of the year: they won 41 games and the sixth seed in the playoffs. They even won against the likes of Orlando, Portland and Boston.

But look a little closer at those box scores. For example, in that 114-112 win over Boston, the Raptors shot an exceptional 15 of 21 from outside, with Carlos Delfino hitting five of five. But their inside game was the opposite – they only grabbed four offensive boards, the same number as Ray Allen.

In the playoffs against Orlando, this was especially obvious. All throughout those five games, Toronto had no answer to the Magic’s Dwight Howard, costing them the series. Their outside shooting was matched by Orlando and they didn’t have the inside game to compensate.

Surely, this is one of the major reasons that the Raptors underachieved. If you go by their Pythagorean record, a tool that goes by points scored and allowed, the Raps should have won 49 games, not 42.

That was major fault number one. Number two was their point guard situation.

When Atlanta Hawks centre Al Horford knocked Ford down on a drive to the basket in December –injuring Ford enough to be removed on a stretcher – it looked like the Raptors season could be hitting an unfortunate and early end, say nothing about the long-term effects the injury would have on Ford.

But a funny thing happened. Backup Jose Calderon, who by that point was splitting time with Ford and coming off the bench, blossomed as a starter. While he may have lucked into a starting role, he seemed to be a linchpin for the Raptors, who began to thrive.

They won three of the next four games, and went on to win eight games in January, including a dramatic double overtime win over Portland. Calderon, he with the deft outside touch and the great passing skills, had improved dramatically from the previous season and was a major part of the Raptors success.

If Ford didn’t come back, the Raptors might have been okay. But he came back, and it threw the Raptors off their game.

When the Raptors traded for Ford, he was supposed to be the starting PG and he was paid appropriately: to the tune of $8 million, says basketball-reference.com. But with the great play of Calderon, would it be fair to immediately stick Ford back in the starting position?

But that’s what the Raptors did. Not starting put Ford in a funk, and it was the last thing the Raptors needed late in the season, when they were battling for a playoff spot.

Both Ford and Calderon was a logjam, and an especially bad one to have. Ford had become temperamental, had a reputation for taking bad shots and was an injury risk. Calderon, who was again coming off the bench, but looked to be the better point guard, was a free agent after the season.

Both wanted to start, and the one who didn’t was likely gone. What to do?

A couple days before the draft, trade rumours began to fly. One was TJ to the Suns for Boris Diaw, a trade that wouldn’t have fixed much. Where would Diaw, a combo forward-guard, fit in the rotation? And what of his reputation for vanishing in big games?

Another was TJ going to the Knicks for Jamal Crawford. This trade would’ve helped the Knicks, who need a point guard, but not the Raptors, who don’t need another swingman.

But the rumour that became fact was Ford, Nesterovic, a player to be named later and the Raptors first round pick to the Indiana Pacers, who would send Jermaine O’Neal in return.

In the past three seasons, O’Neal’s stock had fallen considerably. While he had played in six all-star games and had made three All-NBA teams from 2001-02 to 2003-04, he had now played a full season since 2003-04. Plus, he still had the stigma from the Brawl at the Palace, which helped foster a reputation as a hothead.

In 2007-08, his numbers looked like this: 1206 minutes played (his lowest since becoming a starter), 225 FG (same), 283 rebounds (the same, and close to his lowest ever) and 87 blocks (he once had 228 blocks in a season).

So, what was Colangelo thinking? Surely, he could get better value for TJ, couldn’t he?

But, the more one thinks about this deal, the more sense it makes – since it works both ways.

First off, if O’Neal stays healthy, he dramatically improves the Raptors frontcourt. Instead of playing centre, Bosh can move to forward and Bargnani can come off the bench. Suddenly, the Raptors starting five will likely be this: Chris Bosh, O’Neal, Calderon, Delfino and Anthony Parker.

That means they have an inside game that matches against Orlando – by putting O’Neal in the low post against Howard. And they still have a good outside game with Delfino, and Calderon.

That means their bench improves too: Jamario Moon becomes their sixth man, and the pressure of Bargnani is turned down considerably. Plus, it solves their PG logjam, too.

But, like I said before, it works the other way too: if O’Neal isn’t healthy.

Why’s that? His salary, which maxes out at $23 million in two seasons, expires in 2009-10.

That’s the year that more then a few marquee players – such as LeBron James – become free agents. And while it doesn’t give the Raptors a lot of wiggle room now, it gives them the space to make a big splash in a couple seasons.

Remember, it was big, hefty deals that helped a lot of teams make big splashes this season with trades. Like Keith Van Horn’s expiring contract, which helped to bring Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks.

So if O’Neal’s a bust and the Raptors are in good shape, his expiring deal could be worth a lot to a rebuilding team, and bring in some young talent. Or they could hang on him and sign a major talent or two.

Simply put, this trade works both ways. It’s a slick move by Colangelo, and it’s one the Raptors will be glad to have made, no matter what happens.

Written by M.

June 28, 2008 at 1:50 pm