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February 18, 2010
Transaction Analysis
Deadline-Day Deals

by Kevin Pelton

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Boston Celtics

Acquired guard Nate Robinson and forward Marcus Landry from the New York Knicks in exchange for guard Eddie House and forwards J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker. [2/18]

So Nate Robinson arrives in Boston to try to "save" a Celtics season that has looked lifeless recently. That's an awful lot to ask of a backup point guard, but Robinson should help Boston. First, the Celtics have been looking for a true backup point guard since the 2007-08 season, a search that has brought us Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury in green. While he may not be Steve Nash, Robinson is a considerably better ballhandler than House, and that ability will help a turnover-prone Boston team.

What I didn't realize before looking at the numbers today was that House was shooting the ball so poorly this season, with a .522 True Shooting Percentage. Since virtually all of House's value is tied up in his ability to score the basketball, that's not sufficient. Robinson (.552 TS%) has been more efficient playing a bigger role in the New York offense. Assuming Tom Thibodeau can keep Robinson focused at the defensive end--where House was below-average anyway--he should be a solid upgrade for the Celtics. Not enough to make a major difference in the team's fortunes, which rest more on the play off Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, but an improvement nonetheless.

Charlotte Bobcats

Acquired forward Tyrus Thomas from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for guards Acie Law and Flip Murray and a future first-round pick. Acquired center Theo Ratliff from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for a future second-round pick. [2/18]

In adding Thomas, the Bobcats have managed to strengthen their lineup for a playoff run this season without necessarily sacrificing much down the line. Thomas is plenty young enough that, should Charlotte re-sign him as a restricted free agent this summer (a task that will be complicated by the luxury tax if the Bobcats re-sign Raymond Felton first), he can be part of the Bobcats' core group.

For now, Thomas adds yet more athleticism to a team that already ranks sixth in the NBA in Defensive Rating. Thomas' addition will mean less smallball and give Charlotte more length and shot blocking on the floor. As has been noted by several analysts, trying to score against a frontline of Thomas, Gerald Wallace and Tyson Chandler will not be easy. Expect Thomas to step into a lot of minutes played by Murray (back to his usual inefficient trigger-happy ways after a good season in Atlanta) and rookie Derrick Brown, and that's a considerable upgrade for the Bobcats. Though they're eighth in the conference right now, they've got a chance to come after Toronto for the fifth seed in the East and a playoff matchup they could legitimately think about winning.

Ratliff, reunited with Larry Brown after being traded at the deadline in 2001 by Philadelphia, is strictly insurance. Charlotte is banged up in the middle at the moment and Ratliff is competent. Worth noting: Between these deals, the Bobcats spent about $700,000, by my math. That's a fairly significant commitment to winning for a team that is up for sale.

Chicago Bulls

Acquired guards Acie Law and Flip Murray and a future first-round pick from the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for forward Tyrus Thomas. Acquired forwards Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for guard/forward John Salmons, second-round picks in 2011 and 2012 and the right to exchange first-round picks in 2010 (top-10 protected). [2/18]

The Bulls achieved their goal of clearing enough space under the cap to make a maximum offer to a free agent this summer without conceding this season, which has to be considered a win for them. With Salmons off the books, I have Chicago approximately $17.5 million under the cap, more than enough to make a $16.6 million max offer. Like the Clippers, the Bulls can offer a relatively complete lineup. In fact, Chicago will return its entire starting five and could plug a player in either up front (Chris Bosh? Amar'e Stoudemire) or at shooting guard (Dwyane Wade?) with relative ease. Chicago isn't a bad town to which to recruit, especially in the case of native son Wade. The Bulls won't miss Salmons, or even his reasonable contract, if they can lure such a player.

For the rest of this season, Chicago will rely on the expiring contracts acquired in the deals to fill in the gaps. Getting Warrick from Milwaukee instead of other possibilities (Francisco Elson or Kurt Thomas) was especially important. Warrick is something of a Tyrus Thomas-light, at least at the offensive end. Murray and Jannero Pargo will fill in Salmons' minutes, along with potentially ineffective first-round pick James Johnson. The net difference should be a win or two over the rest of the season, which might be the difference between making the playoffs or heading to the lottery. The Bulls certainly didn't help themselves in that regard by dealing Salmons to the team that is their biggest threat as far as the final spot in the East. Even if Chicago makes, it, however, it would be as fodder for one of the conference's top teams in the first round. 2010 and beyond is far more important.

Houston Rockets

Acquired forwards Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries, a 2012 first-round pick (top-5 protected) and the right to exchange first-round picks in 2011 (top-1 protected) from the New York Knicks and guard Kevin Martin and center Hilton Armstrong from the Sacramento Kings as part of a three-team deal in exchange for guard Tracy McGrady and forwards Joey Dorsey and Carl Landry. [2/18]

Give Daryl Morey credit for this: The Rockets GM gets what he wants. Stringing things out to the final hour before the deadline, Morey convinced New York Knicks president Donnie Walsh to part with Hill, a future first-round pick and a chance to move up in 2011, all the while offering only limited protection for those picks. Meanwhile, playing hardball with New York did not prevent Morey from also turning expiring contracts into the player he really wanted, Sacramento's Kevin Martin.

I like the finished product a lot more than I liked the original deal for Martin. Given that he was on board, swallowing the last year of Jeffries' contract is relatively meaningless. Houston wasn't going to go under the cap and won't be paying luxury tax, so Jeffries is only slightly overpaid. Also, the addition of Jordan Hill helps replace Carl Landry up front in the short term and gives the Rockets some needed length.

There are presumably still yet moves to come for Houston, which now goes five deep on the wing--Martin, Jeffries, Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier and Chase Budinger. There's some redundancy between Jeffries and Battier, and since the latter has more trade value, Morey could cash him in at some point. With the extra pick in 2012 and potentially an improved one next year to play with, the Rockets aren't lacking for assets.

I'm not sure this deal makes much of a difference for Houston the rest of the way. It's in 2010-11 that we'll see things come together with a healthy Yao Ming anchoring the Rockets' lineup. Aaron Brooks, Martin, Ariza or Battier, Luis Scola and Yao is a formidable lineup that is supported by a solid bench. Staying healthy will always be a concern with both Martin and Yao, so having depth will be important for the Rockets. Given that caveat, I can see Houston getting back to the level of 2008-09 and being one of the four or five best teams in the Western Conference next year.

Beyond everything else, this deal was also a considerable short-term financial windfall for the Rockets, who saved about $2.8 million in luxury-tax payments, about $2.7 million in salary over the rest of the season and are eligible for the tax distribution. The total value will probably be over $9.5 million.

Memphis Grizzlies

Acquired guard Ronnie Brewer from the Utah Jazz in exchange for a 2011 first-round pick (protected).

After a couple of years of renting out their salary-cap space to be paid off with cash or draft picks, the Grizzlies put it to use on adding talent for the here and now by sending out a pick and also taking on Brewer's contract. For Memphis, Brewer fills an immediate hole and has long-term value. He will significantly upgrade a bench that was among the worst in the league.Per BasketballValue.com, the Grizzlies' starting five has outscored opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions. Lineups with at least one reserve have been outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions. That's a crazy gulf between starters and reserves, and Brewer will help plug it. He can play both shooting guard and small forward and maybe even a little alongside O.J. Mayo in a backcourt without a true point guard.

Down the road, the assumption--voiced by Yahoo!'s well-connected Adrian Wojnarowski--is that Brewer will replace Rudy Gay in the starting lineup when Gay moves on as a restricted free agent this summer. The chances of that happening are much higher with so much money available under the cap and so few players to chase with it. Gay looks like a good fit for the newly flush L.A. Clippers, for example.

That said, one interesting development from the period leading up to the deadline is that--if the rumors are to be believed--Memphis isn't married to Mayo and would love to move Mike Conley. Brewer could figure into the long-term plans at shooting guard if Mayo, for example, was dealt for a point guard. So the Grizzlies' situation will be one to watch down the road.

Back to this trade, Memphis softened the blow of giving up a first-round pick by lottery protecting it in 2011. The protection eases slightly each year to top-nine in 2014 and 2015, by which point Utah will get cash if it hasn't received the pick. Big credit to Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer for tracking that down. Protection matters a great deal to this kind of deals, but often gets overlooked in the rush to report the names and places.

Milwaukee Bucks

Acquired guard/forward John Salmons, second-round picks in 2011 and 2012 and the right to exchange first-round picks in 2010 (top-10 protected) from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for forwards Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick. Acquired guard Royal Ivey, center Primoz Brezec and a 2010 second-round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for guard Jodie Meeks and center Francisco Elson. [2/18]

Solid deal for the Bucks here, who got Salmons on a cap-friendly contract ($6.4 million for this season, $5.8 million player option for the next) thanks to Chicago's desire to get under the cap. Even if he hasn't been able to maintain his career effort from 2008-09, Salmons has been considerably better than most of the guys Milwaukee has been running out there at shooting guard. Meeks and Jerry Stackhouse have been below replacement level this season, and Michael Redd wasn't much better before he tore his ACL.

The Bucks already rated ahead of both Chicago and Toronto in schedule-adjusted point differential over the course of the season. I had figured the Bulls to hold off Milwaukee thanks to a healthy Derrick Rose, but with the two teams going opposite directions today, I think the Bucks will make the playoffs. I pooh-poohed the importance of that earlier, but the Bucks haven't been since 2005-06, could stand to rally a fan base that has significantly eroded and were not going to be able to get under the cap this summer anyway. Milwaukee also protected its first-round pick with the ability to swap picks this year. Should the Bucks pass the Bulls in the standings, they'll still end up with virtually the same pick unless Chicago hits the lottery jackpot against the odds. Nice work here by John Hammond.

As for Meeks, he must have fallen out of favor with Scott Skiles, because his play alone isn't enough to explain him getting moved so quickly. The Bucks will take another shot in the second round with what should be a pretty good pick courtesy of Philadelphia. They also save a tiny bit of salary the rest of the season in the swap.

New York Knicks

Acquired guard Tracy McGrady from the Houston Rockets and guard Sergio Rodriguez from the Sacramento Kings as part of a three-team deal in exchange for forwards Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries, a 2012 first-round pick (top-5 protected) and the right to exchange first-round picks in 2011 (top-1 protected). Acquired guard Eddie House and forwards J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker from the Boston Celtics in exchange for guard Nate Robinson and forward Marcus Landry. [2/18]

The Knicks had to do it. Let's start there. They couldn't get so close to achieving their goal of getting their cap right only to stop one trade short of being able to dream of pairing Wade and LeBron James or pick any other combination of the available superstars you like.

That said, let's turn to Billy Beane's second rule of trading, as disclosed in Moneyball by Michael Lewis: "The day you say you have to do something, you're screwed. Because you are going to make a bad deal." That pretty much sums up what happened to New York today. The Knicks got the cap space they needed, but it came at a steep, steep price, one that makes you think twice about whether it was worth it.

Even if New York is able to lure two superstars, the supporting cast around them will be severely lacking in depth. The Knicks will have Danilo Gallinari as a core piece, as well as Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas with some value. But even in the ideal scenario, the rest of the roster would have to be filled out with minimum-salary players. If you think the gap between Memphis' starting five and its bench is large, just wait until that vision springs to life.

Beyond 2010-11, New York would be limited in filling out its roster by the picks surrendered in this trade. I'm a little more optimistic about this scenario than most, since the Celtics got help for their core on the cheap once upon a time with House and James Posey (signed using the mid-level exception) and the Knicks will have plenty of money to buy their way into the first round as they did last year to get Douglas. Still, if I was an elite free agent, the difficulty New York will have in upgrading around me would give me pause about signing with the Knicks.

That's still better than the worst-case scenario, under which New York strikes out in free agency. There are ways to make use of that cap space, but the Knicks no longer have much of a safety net in terms of the value of adding lottery talent. The protection they were able to negotiate on the picks they give up to Houston was very limited. There's going to be an urgency to win now as a result, and that could translate into overpaying players.

Nonetheless, New York had to do it. Walsh has been pushing the summer of 2010 since he arrived in the Big Apple, and couldn't go back on that plan now. Certainly, in comparison to continuing to stay miles over the cap and take on bad contract after bad contract, it's a better strategy. But it comes with a price, and the Knicks found that out the hard way today.

Philadelphia 76ers

Acquired guard Jodie Meeks and center Francisco Elson from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for guard Royal Ivey, center Primoz Brezec and a 2010 second-round pick. [2/18]

Not much to see here. Meeks becomes Philadelphia's second-round pick. Though his numbers have been mediocre at best, I was pretty impressed with Meeks in person and a lot of people thought highly of him entering the draft.

Sacramento Kings

Acquired forwards Joey Dorsey and Carl Landry from the Houston Rockets and guard Larry Hughes from the New York Knicks as part of a three-team deal in exchange for guards Kevin Martin and Sergio Rodriguez and center Hilton Armstrong. Acquired forward Dominic McGuire and cash considerations from the Washington Wizards in exchange for a future second-round pick. [2/18]

Much as I would have liked to see Martin and Tyreke Evans turn into one of the league's most difficult backcourt duos to defend, I can't blame Geoff Petrie for cashing in Martin. First, this is much more than a salary dump. Anyone who thinks that hasn't been paying attention to what Landry has done this season. He's developed into one of the league's better low-post scorers, proven he's capable of being a go-to guy on offense and had an excellent shot at the Sixth Man Award before this trade, which will presumably move him into the starting lineup.

Beyond that, the Kings do get cap flexibility. They can get nearly $16 million under the salary cap--not quite enough to make a max offer, but more than enough to add a quality piece to the core. (Sacramento wasn't going to sign one of those guys anyway.) I'd look at this as similar to the pro-Memphis view of the Pau Gasol trade to which I largely subscribe. Like Marc Gasol, Landry provides quality production at a fraction of the price of the star for whom he was traded--at least for next year. He'll be due a considerable raise in the summer of 2011 when he becomes a free agent, one reason Sacramento's cap space is best used now.

Adding Landry is a signal the Kings aren't convinced that Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson are their frontcourt of the future. If one of those two is going to step up, now is the time, with Sacramento due to add both in free agency and in the draft. Three building blocks are in place with Evans, Landry and Omri Casspi. Will Hawes or Thompson join them?

As for McGuire, he presumably comes with enough cash to cover his contract and was a fairly intriguing player a year ago before falling out of favor when the Wizards added wing depth this season.

San Antonio Spurs

Acquired a future second-round pick from the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for center Theo Ratliff. [2/18]

Ratliff started three games early on, but had totaled just 183 minutes this season. Add in Ian Mahinmi putting together some good minutes lately and Ratliff might have slipped to sixth on the San Antonio depth chart up front. That explains the Spurs' willingness to save a bit of luxury-tax dough ($736,420) by sending Ratliff along. The pick almost certainly has no value; San Antonio simply had to receive something in the deal.

Utah Jazz

Acquired a 2011 first-round pick (protected) from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for guard Ronnie Brewer. [2/18]

By dealing Brewer, Utah saves a little money for this season--about $3.06 million. It also adds a draft pick that could be useful down the line. Still, the other benefits are small enough that I take Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor at his word when he says this deal was about resolving a logjam at shooting guard. What I'm not entirely convinced is that they chose the right guy to deal away. Brewer had the most value, but has also been more productive than Wesley Matthews and C.J. Miles this season. (Kyle Korver has shot the ball very well in limited minutes. Brewer still has the superior track record.)

On the other hand, Brewer has the worst net plus-minus of those players this season. The Jazz has been 5.0 points worse per 100 possessions with Brewer on the floor, according to BasketballValue.com. Additionally, Brewer's poor outside shooting is something of an issue with another non-shooter (Andrei Kirilenko) now entrenched as the starter at small forward. All three of the other alternatives are better three-point shooters.

In general, I don't like the idea of shaking up a team playing as well as the Jazz. Still, if the team hasn't lost much--and there's an argument to be made that it's even improved--while reaping all the other rewards of this trade, it would seem to make sense.

Washington Wizards

Acquired a future second-round pick from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for forward Dominic McGuire and cash considerations. [2/18]

In yesterday's Transaction Analysis, I reported the Wizards were already under the luxury tax thanks to the Antawn Jamison deal. Apologies, as I goofed the numbers somehow. Getting under was the impetus for this move. Washington was likely to get there anyway by buying out Zydrunas Ilgauskas, but as the tireless Wojnarowski reports, now the Wizards enter those negotiations with more leverage.

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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