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February 19, 2009
Transaction Analysis
Deadline Day Deals

by Kevin Pelton

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Boston Celtics

Traded center Patrick O'Bryant to the Toronto Raptors in a three-way trade, receiving a conditional future second-round pick. [2/19]

From the Celtics' perspective, this move seems to signal confidence that they will be able to add a veteran center to fill the roster spot opened up by dealing Sam Cassell earlier in the week. That became a more realistic scenario when the New Orleans/Oklahoma City trade was rescinded, sending Joe Smith back to the Thunder. If Oklahoma City buys out Smith now that his expiring contract no longer has any value to the team, the Celtics would be a likely destination for him.

Smith is far and away the best possible post-deadline addition for Boston, so the front office surely cheered news the Chandler deal was off. ESPN's Ric Bucher is reporting Mikki Moore could be headed for Boston if he is waived by the Kings after the deadline, though Smith is clearly the better option in my book. Cleveland will be in the mix for both players as well, with part of the mid-level to offer. The Cavaliers' goal is probably as much to keep the player the Celtics prefer out of Boston's hands as much as to add depth themselves.

By clearing an extra roster spot, the Celtics can also sign a wing to help fill the void left by Tony Allen's thumb surgery.

Chicago Bulls

Traded guard Larry Hughes to the New York Knicks for center Jerome James, guard Anthony Roberson and forward Tim Thomas. [2/19]

Traded guard Thabo Sefolosha to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a future first-round pick. [2/19]

This wasn't the deal the Bulls were hoping to pull off with New York. Earlier talks had them landing Malik Rose's expiring deal, which would have been a major help in terms of saving money next season. Roberson (a team option for 2009-10) is the only expiring contract in this incarnation of the trade, so Chicago's savings is a paltry $600,000 or so, the difference between the combined contracts of James and Thomas and Hughes' 2009-10 salary.

Dealing Sefolosha will do somewhat more to help the Bulls find room under the luxury tax to re-sign Ben Gordon. Sefolosha was due just over $2.7 million in the last year of his rookie contract and had been knocked out of the rotation by the addition of the similar, but better, John Salmons. Getting a first-round pick out of Sefolosha is good news for Chicago.

Of course, the best thing about the Bulls/Knicks trade is that it is the second time in his career the well-traveled Thomas has been dealt from New York to Chicago. Maybe Thomas could sign with the Knicks for the minimum in 2010 and go for three!

Houston Rockets

Traded guard Rafer Alston to the Orlando Magic in a three-way trade, receiving forward Brian Cook, guard Kyle Lowry, center Adonal Foyle and guard Mike Wilks. [2/19]

It's not a surprise that the Rockets were active before the deadline, having recently learned that Tracy McGrady will miss the remainder of the season following microfracture knee surgery. What is unexpected is that Houston would be giving up Alston, its starting point guard. The Rockets have hardly been phasing Alston out; he's played at least 30 minutes four times in the last five games. Now Lowry and Aaron Brooks will be splitting minutes at the point for the Rockets.

In part, I think dealing Alston may represent a reshaping of a Houston team that can't expect to have McGrady back to anywhere near full strength next season. When healthy, McGrady was part of the group of shooting guards serving as their team's primary ballhandlers in half-court sets. That made Alston into primarily a spot-up shooter. Now, the Rockets will ask their point guards to do more playmaking, and it's understandable if they felt Alston wasn't up to the task at this point in his career. Lowry is in the upper tier of point guards when it comes to penetrating and getting to the free-throw line, giving Houston a new dimension at the point.

The talk out of Houston seems to be that the Rockets will give the keys to Brooks, not Lowry. The numbers don't support this decision. Houston has been worse with Brooks on the floor this season, and after a fast start Brooks has cooled considerably. His 52.0 percent True Shooting Percentage is disappointing given Brooks' ability to shoot and get into the paint. When he does get inside, Brooks is rarely fouled, and he's hitting but 43.7 percent of his two-point attempts. Brooks can also be a defensive liability because of his size. On balance, I think Lowry is easily the better option at the point.

Alston's numbers didn't exactly leap off the charts either, so I don't see this deal costing Houston considerably in the short term. Going forward, with Alston aging and Brooks and Lowry improving, the potential benefit is obvious. The biggest downside to the Rockets may be as yet unresolved. Adding four players and giving up one means Houston will have to cut two players and expose them to waivers. Luther Head is one likely candidate. The Rockets' other players in the last years of their contracts are Ron Artest (obviously not happening), Von Wafer (extremely unlikely) and Dikembe Mutombo. Waiving Mutombo would put Houston at significant risk of losing him to a team that needs a veteran big man. Stay tuned.

Memphis Grizzlies

Traded guard Kyle Lowry to the Houston Rockets in a three-way trade, receiving a 2010 first-round pick from the Orlando Magic. [2/19]

Since Lionel Hollins took over as interim head coach, the Grizzlies have made clear their commitment to Mike Conley at point guard, opening the door to move Lowry. A late first-round pick seems like a reasonable return for Lowry, himself drafted in about that area in 2006. The best part for the Grizzlies of this becoming a three-team deal is that they were not forced to take back any salary whatsoever in return for Lowry, getting simply the pick.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Traded center Calvin Booth and guard Rashad McCants to the Sacramento Kings for guard Bobby Brown and forward Shelden Williams. [2/19]

And so, the McCants era in Minnesota ends with a whimper. That was set to happen at year's end, but the Timberwolves showed how little they thought of McCants by dealing him at the deadline. I suppose Minnesota is interested in Brown as either a fifth guard backing up both spots or even potentially a super-cheap backup point guard. However, Brown--as projected by his European stats last season--has been a disappointment, proving woefully inefficient at shooting the basketball. His 46.8 percent True Shooting Percentage is terrible for any player, let alone a shoot-first point guard who is going to have to make his living as a scorer.

New York Knicks

Traded center Jerome James, guard Anthony Roberson and forward Tim Thomas to the Chicago Bulls for guard Larry Hughes. [2/19]

Traded forward Malik Rose and cash considerations to the Oklahoma City Thunder for forward Chris Wilcox. [2/19]

The net effect of these two trades for the Knicks financially is about nil, although they do consolidate two roster spots the rest of the way and one in 2009-10 as well. So, believe it or not, the logic here has to be largely basketball-related.

Wilcox is easily explained. D'Antoni has been after him for some time. In 2005-06, when D'Antoni took over GM duties in Phoenix, the Suns attempted to acquire Wilcox from the L.A. Clippers. Instead, the Clippers sent Wilcox to Seattle for Vladimir Radmanovic. A starter for the Sonics, Wilcox was great the rest of the way. That April, D'Antoni shared the story with reporters, including your humble analyst.

"He's a heck of a player," D'Antoni said then. "He runs and he fits our style."

Said style hasn't changed, so assuming enough playing time can be carved out up front amongst Wilcox, Al Harrington and David Lee, we should see Wilcox be as productive as he was in his early halcyon days with the Sonics. Physically, Wilcox is a poor man's Amar'e Stoudemire, and he has thrived whenever he's been put in up-tempo situations over the course of his career.

Apparently D'Antoni also wanted Hughes, and we might see him cut somewhat into Quentin Richardson's playing time. Don't tell the guy behind heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com, but Hughes was actually decent in Chicago before the Bulls shut him down, having made 39.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Traded forward Chris Wilcox to the New York Knicks for forward Malik Rose and cash considerations. [2/19]

Traded a future first-round pick to the Chicago Bulls for guard Thabo Sefolosha. [2/19]

The New York trade looks a lot to me like a favor to Wilcox, who has been (rightfully) unhappy about being buried on the bench on Oklahoma City and saw his reprieve (a trade to New Orleans) go up in smoke when that deal was rescinded. Wilcox now has a much better shot at rehabilitating his value before hitting free agency this summer.

Sefolosha likely steps in as the Thunder's starting shooting guard the rest of the way, supplanting rookie Kyle Weaver. The two players have similar skill sets--both are defensive-minded wingmen of dubious shooting ability. Offensively, I have them rated as essentially identical this season, while Sefolosha has the upper hand defensively because of his rebounding and the fact that he picks up more steals and blocks. In practice, I think it's a wash, which makes me wonder why the Thunder would give up a first-rounder, granting that they have plenty to spare. Sefolosha is also nearly two years older than Weaver, and the excitement that accompanied his solid rookie season has long since dissipated. We'll see if the Thunder can find untapped effective play out of Sefolosha over the remaining year-plus of his rookie contract.

Orlando Magic

Traded forward Brian Cook, center Adonal Foyle and guard Mike Wilks to the Houston Rockets and a 2010 first-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies in a three-way trade, receiving guard Rafer Alston. [2/19]

At first, I suspect Magic GM Otis Smith was content to ride out the rest of the season having made only a minor move to acquire backup point guard Tyronn Lue in the wake of Jameer Nelson's season-ending shoulder injury. By now, Orlando's offensive woes had become impossible to ignore.

In the six games the Magic has played without Nelson (three wins, three losses), the team has averaged 108.6 points per 100 possessions, down from 113.0 prior to Nelson's injury. Even that, however, understates the magnitude of the problem. In the first game after the injury, the Magic shot a ridiculous 16-of-26 from three-point range in posting a 143.1 Offensive Rating. Since then, Orlando has had two poor offensive nights--73 points in 91 possessions against Denver in the first-half finale and 85 points in 89 possessions last night at New Orleans. Consider this: Before Nelson got hurt, the Magic had ripped off 21 straight games of at least a point per possession, averaging a 117.2 Offensive Rating in that span.

Taking away Nelson reduced the Magic's offense to Dwight Howard and three-pointers. OK, that's an exaggeration, as Hedo Turkoglu is still capable of creating off the dribble. However, while the Magic's three-point percentage has barely dipped (from 39.7 percent to 38.6 percent), the team is shooting 46.7 percent on two-point shots without Nelson, down from 49.3 percent.

The offensive struggles weren't going to cost the Magic the Southeast Division; even if Orlando finishes the season 14-15, Atlanta would have to go 21-7 the rest of the way to catch up. What I do think Smith started to believe is that the Magic would have a tough time winning a playoff series against whoever ends up in the sixth seed out of Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia. Adding Alston improves those odds immensely.

Johnson is a better three-point shooter than Alston is. Pretty much every other aspect of the game favors Orlando's new point guard. Even creating off the dribble, part of the reason I cited for the Rockets moving Alston, still looks like a strength relative to Johnson. Alston is also an upgrade defensively at this stage of their careers.

Another benefit of this trade is freeing up Turkoglu from having to worry about ballhandling duties in lineups without a true point guard. Over the last three games, Turkoglu had shot 7-of-25 from the field.

Things get more complicated next year. Alston has been a starter for years and surely wouldn't be happy playing 15 minutes a night behind Nelson. Smith may have to make another trade involving Alston once the Magic knows Nelson will be healthy next season. This is where it might have made some sense for Orlando to just acquire Lowry, who could have fit more easily into a backup role behind Nelson.

Ultimately, Smith had to make a move for a quality point guard who could step in for Nelson. We can quibble about who that became, but not the need itself. Adding Alston makes the Magic much more likely to play on into late May, and I think that's worth sacrificing a first-round pick that is likely to be late in the round anyway.

Sacramento Kings

Traded guard Bobby Brown and forward Shelden Williams to the Minnesota Timberwolves for center Calvin Booth and guard Rashad McCants. [2/19]

Traded a future conditional second-round pick to the Boston Celtics in a three-way trade, receiving guard Will Solomon. [2/19]

The Kings obviously found Brown wanting during his partial-season in Sacramento, and now get out of the second year of his deal (a player option). The savings are negligible, but the Kings free up a roster spot and can give a shot to some other cheap young player who might prove a better fit. For the rest of the year, Solomon takes over Brown's role splitting time with Bobby Jackson behind Beno Udrih. Though Solomon was found wanting by the Raptors, his numbers were actually pretty good.

The more interesting part of what Sacramento has done the last two days is the addition of McCants and Ike Diogu. While both bring expiring contracts first and foremost, they are young enough to potentially show something over the next two months and re-sign with the Kings on reasonable terms. Even if the upside of these additions is limited, taking a look at McCants and Diogu costs Sacramento nothing but playing time.

Toronto Raptors

Traded guard Will Solomon to the Sacramento Kings in a three-way trade, receiving center Patrick O'Bryant. [2/19]

Roko Ukic had beaten Solomon out for the backup point guard spot in Toronto, and with Marcus Banks now also in the mix after last week's trade, Solomon was very expendable. O'Bryant gives the Raptors more size, a major issue for the team especially in the wake of losing Jermaine O'Neal. Of course, like incumbent Jake Voskuhl, O'Bryant is heavy on the size and light on productivity.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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Transaction Analysis (02/19)
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Around the Rim (02/20)

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