Trades are our favorite transactions because they make such great fodder for discussion. Who got the better players? How does the swap make each team better? Unfortunately, trades in the NBA are so bogged down by CBA-related restrictions, you have to be a lawyer to enjoy them. Many times, one of the teams involved in the trade isn't trying to "win" the transaction at all. It's merely trying to shed salary in order to go about re-stocking its roster in other ways. That makes evaluating NBA trades far from a straight-forward process.
One of our finest film critics, Roger Ebert, has always said that he evaluates movies based on genre and the intentions of the filmmakers. In other words, he may give a thumbs-up to both "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" but it doesn't necessarily mean he liked both movies in a strict sense. He just thinks that the movies did what they were supposed to do and if you like that kind of film, then you'll be in good shape. In a way, that's how you have to approach NBA transactions.
We anticipated that a possible Dwight Howard trade would dominate any analysis of the summer's swap meet, but of course that didn't come to pass until last night. Yet you can see residuals of Howard's presence all through the list of the summer's trades. Mostly, his limbo lft some teams with incomplete marks on their offseason plan, but that won't affect us here. We'll judge each trade based on the intention of the teams involved.
According to the NBA's transaction page, trade activity after the league's annual moratorium ended was more sparse than you'd think, especially when you consider that some of them were of the sign-and-trade variety -- an offshoot of the free-agent market. Nevertheless, here's a stab a putting a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on each of the summer's 17 trades. You'll notice that most of these moves get our seal of approval. All that means is that NBA general managers aren't dumb.
11-Jul: Atlanta acquired guard Anthony Morrow, guard Jordan Farmar, forward Jordan Williams, forward DeShawn Stevenson and forward Johan Petro and a 2017 second-round pick from Brooklyn for guard Joe Johnson.
Hawks: The Hawks were trying to shake up a mix of players that had plateaued over the last couple of years while also creating flexibility by unloading one of the league's more onerous contracts. Mission accomplished. THUMBS-UP
Nets: The Nets were looking for a star-level player that could entice Deron Williams to re-sign with the franchise. You can debate whether or not Johnson is a star-level player, but Williams is still around. THUMBS-UP
11-Jul: Atlanta traded guard Marvin Williams to Utah for guard Devin Harris.
Hawks: Atlanta enhanced its flexibility for the summer of 2013 by swapping the perennially-underachieving Williams for Harris, who is entering the last year of his contract. It also creates an interesting backcourt mix with Harris, Jeff Teague and free-agent signee Louis Williams -- three smallish, combo guards. THUMBS-UP
Jazz: Two years of Williams for one year of Harris? No thanks. THUMBS-DOWN
11-Jul: Houston traded guard Kyle Lowry to Toronto for forward Gary Forbes and an unspecified first-round draft pick.
Rockets: One of many moves that saw Houston gutting its roster in order to make a run at Howard. That being the goal, shedding Lowry and getting back an eventual first-rounder is a nice bit of swapping. THUMBS-UP
Raptors: Toronto is making a push for the postseason with rookie center Jonas Valanciunas on the way. Lowry is a good player who will be motivated by the fact that his 2013-14 salary is only partially-guaranteed, and he'll make a good complement to Landry Fields in the Raptors' revamped backcourt. THUMBS-UP
11-Jul: Houston signed center Marcus Camby and traded him to New York for guard Toney Douglas, center Josh Harrellson, center Jerome Jordan and two unspecified second-round draft picks.
Rockets: Rather than letting Camby walk for nothing, Houston got back fungible assets in Douglas and Harrellson who also can help in backup roles on the court. THUMBS-UP
Knicks: New York will have 40-plus minutes of excellent defensive play from its centers when Camby can play. His ability to be available is the question. Still, the Knicks didn't give up anything that it will miss on the court and the plan was clearly to build up for this season. THUMBS-UP
11-Jul: L.A. Clippers signed forward Reggie Evans and traded him to Brooklyn for the right to swap 2016 second-round draft picks.
Clippers: The Clippers weren't trying to keep Evans, so even this miniscule return was worth it. THUMBS-UP
Nets: Locking up Evans for three years when the starting four -- Kris Humphries -- is already kind of a specialty player is odd, especially when Brooklyn needs another big man with size on its depth chart. THUMBS-DOWN
11-Jul: Orlando signed forward Ryan Anderson and traded him to New Orleans for forward Gustavo Ayon.
Magic: Ayon is useful and Orlando is trying to create flexibility for its post-Dwight future, but Anderson is just too good to give up for this return. Orlando could have re-signed him and traded him later. THUMBS-DOWN
Hornets: Are you kidding? This was one of the steals of the offseason. THUMBS-WAY-UP
11-Jul: Philadelphia acquired forward Dorell Wright from Golden State. Philadelphia acquired center Darryl Watkins from New Orleans for the rights to forward Edin Bavcic. Golden State acquires Bavcic and Jarrett Jack.
76ers: While Wright offers additional bench versatility to Doug Collins, the Sixers' offseason direction is a little hard to ascertain. THUMBS-DOWN
Hornets: New Orleans was simply clearing away pieces it didn't need. THUMBS-UP
Warriors: Jack brings a solid veteran option as a backup for Stephen Curry who can also function as a starter. Given Curry's ankle problems, that was an important hole to plug. THUMBS-UP
11-Jul: Phoenix signed guard Steve Nash and traded him to the L.A. Lakers for 2013 and 2015 first-round draft picks and 2013 and 2014 second-round draft picks.
Suns: Nash was going to leave and even though these won't be premium draft picks, it's still better than nothing. Draft picks are better than roster-clogging veterans who are not a part of your future. THUMBS-UP
Lakers: It may not work, but it's worth a try and this move may have a championship payoff. THUMBS-UP
15-Jul: New York traded Jared Jeffries and Dan Gadzuric to Portland for guard Raymond Felton and center Kurt Thomas.
Knicks: We're forever going to think of this as New York choosing Felton over Jeremy Lin. THUMBS-DOWN
Trail Blazers: The Blazers weren't bringing back Felton or Thomas. While Gadzuric has already been waived, Jeffries gives them a low-cost defensive specialist for up to three seasons. THUMBS-UP
16-Jul: Toronto traded forward James Johnson to Sacramento for 2014 second round draft pick.
Raptors: Johnson is a talented and versatile underachiever who will be playing for a new contract this season, and Toronto just gave him away because, we suppose, DeMar DeRozan is such a sure thing. THUMBS-DOWN
Kings: This was a perfect low-risk, high-upside move from a franchise that needs to make as many of those as it can. THUMBS-UP
16-Jul: Chicago traded forward Kyle Korver to Atlanta for a trade exception and cash.
Bulls: There was no reason to trade Korver other than unwarranted frugality. THUMBS-DOWN
Hawks: The league's best shooter was acquired for nothing and because he has an expiring contract, he doesn't clog up the 2013 offseason plan. THUMBS-UP
20-Jul: Houston signed and traded guard Courtney Lee to Boston. Boston traded 2013 second-rick pick, forward JaJuan Johnson, guard E'Twaun Moore and forward/center Sean Williams to Houston. Houston also acquired rights to guard Jon Diebler (from Portland).
Rockets: Lee is young enough that even though Houston is trying to keep the salary decks clean, you have to evaluate it based on whether you think his four-year, $21.4 million contract is a fair value. THUMBS-UP
Celtics: Don't like it for the same reason it's a good decision by the Rockets. Not for that contract. THUMBS-DOWN
24-Jul: Minnesota acquired forward Dante Cunningham from the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Wayne Ellington.
Timberwolves: The contracts are a wash, so it's just a matter of fit. In this case, both teams upgraded their depth charts. THUMBS-UP
Grizzlies: See above. THUMBS-UP
25-Jul: Cleveland acquired guard Jeremy Pargo, a second-round draft pick in 2014, and cash considerations from the Minnesota Grizzlies for guard D.J. Kennedy.
Cavaliers: Pargo is well-suited to be a possible long-term backup to Kyrie Iving, which is really the only consideration from Cleveland's perspective. With just one-year, $1 million left on his deal, there is nothing to lose. THUMBS-UP
Grizzlies: Pargo was rendered unnecessary by the selection of Tony Wroten in the draft. Kicking in cash and a draft pick might seem like a steep price to move a guy that you could simply push to third on the depth chart, but Kennedy is guy that might be able to help. THUMBS-UP
27-Jul: New Orleans traded guard Jerome Dyson and center Brad Miller to Phoenix and three undisclosed second-round draft picks to Minnesota for cash. Minnesota will send forward Wesley Johnson and a future first-round pick to Phoenix, who will send center Robin Lopez and forward Hakim Warrick to New Orleans.
Hornets: New Orleans landed it starting center and a top-notch bench scorer for virtually nothing. THUMBS-UP
Suns: Because the Johnson-Michael Beasley combo at three was just so good for Minnesota. THUMBS-DOWN
30-Jul: Atlanta signed and traded guard Willie Green to L.A. Clippers for forward Sofoklis Schortsanitis.
Hawks: It's tempting to give the Hawks a thumbs-down just because it's an annoying deal. Schortsanitis is very unlikely to play stateside. However, the move opened up a trade exception, which is worth more than Willie Green. THUMBS-UP
Clippers: Green is the kind of non-useful player that some coaches seem to overexpose, and now he's going to be playing for Vinny Del Negro. THUMBS-DOWN
A version of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
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