An Analysis of the Big Player Transactions During the Off-Season
By: Sean Speirs
As we finish the month of September and enjoy the last dwindling days of the MLB and the beginning of the NFL season, believe it or not the 2008-2009 NBA season is right around the corner. Official Pre-Season games start the first week of October, with the season hitting full-on by the end of October and early November.
However, there was still the presumptuous off-season, where teams in both the Western and Eastern Conferences accepted the arrival of new teammates (through trades or free-agency) while also bidding farewell to old ones.
Here on the SportsZone blog I will go through/analyze the teams in both conferences and honor those who made the biggest moves that will not only change the face of their organization, but also add to their game-style in a positive manner.
I will also go through the teams who pulled the biggest flops of the summer and did not attempt to strive for the best transaction when they needed one the most and/or made a transaction that did not satisfy their needs in the end.
For this week, I will begin with teams in all of the divisions in the Western Conference.
1. Houston Rockets
Notable Additions: Ron Artest, Brent Barry, Joey Dorsey (Rookie Forward)
Notable Loss: Bobby Jackson
Result: With the acquisition of Ron Artest from the Sacramento Kings this summer, the Houston Rockets finally have a “Big Three” to call their own (Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, and Ron Artest). Although Artest has not been the perfect off-court athlete in recent history, he still has pent-up basketball talent that could potentially deem him a superstar (if he were to ever leave the rapping behind and play serious basketball).
In 57 games with the deteriorating Sacramento Kings last season, Artest was still able to produce season averages of 20.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Artest also fills the shooting/power forward position Houston has needed for years. He will ultimately bring in the ability to drive to the hoop, hit the outside shot, create space, rebound, and draw defenders away from other Houston players, such as Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. All in all, this is the time for redemption for Artest.
The Rockets also were able to acquire veteran-guard Brent Barry, who will come off the bench and be another outside sharp-shooting threat alongside PG Rafer Alston. With all of these acquisitions, the Rockets only main loss (besides potential young talent) was vet guard Bobby Jackson, who went back to Sacramento in the Artest deal. In actuality, it was not a big loss for the team, since Jackson has passed his prime a long time ago (only averaged 8.7 pts, 1.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds last season) and was actually dragging down the back-up guard spot behind Alston.
If you are a Rockets fan, the only thing you should worry about is whether or not this Big Three will be able to stay healthy. McGrady (back), Yao (foot), and Artest (back, hamstring, knees) are probably the three biggest injury prone athletes in the Western Conference, let alone the NBA. With this in mind, the Rockets did take a risk in getting Artest. However, something needed to be done so that the Rockets can be a serious contender in the powerful Western Conference.
It finally looks like they will be.
2. New Orleans Hornets
Notable Addition: James Posey
Notable Loss: Chris Andersen
Result: After a huge 2007-2008 season and becoming one of the most deadly teams in the West, GM Jeff Bower and the Hornets continued their momentum this summer, and may have acquired the final piece this team has thrived for during their playoff run in April/May…deadly swingman and 3-point sharpshooter James Posey.
Posey (who has won two championships with the recent Boston Celtics and ‘05-‘06 Miami Heat) knows his way around the NBA when it comes to the playoffs and Finals. He also knows when to step up, hit the big shots, and become a role-player when his team needs one. With Peja Stojakovic and CP3, Posey will be another outside threat as a shooting forward who will specialize in finding the open spot for the three-ball. Also, with three deadly outside shooters on the court, opposing teams will stretch out their defense, giving Center Tyson Chandler and Power Forward David West better opportunities underneath.
Amongst this acquisition came the loss of F/C Chris Andersen to the Denver Nuggets. Again, this is no big deal since he only played in five games last season averaging 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. In the end, the Hornets did not lose anything major this off-season (they even extended CP3’s contract).
The only question is whether or not Hornets Head Coach Byron Scott will position Posey as a starter or as the sixth-man off the bench to continue the high momentum of a game. Although that answer may yet to be seen, it is obvious the Hornets are already thinking playoffs with their new addition (acquired someone who has experience with winning the rings), while some columnists are even seeing them winning the overall NBA Championship this season.
If they do win it all, then the Hornets truly had a profitable summer.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
Notable Additions: Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Jason Wiliams, Eric Gordon (Rookie Draft)
Notable Loss: Elton Brand, Corey Maggette
Result: The Los Angeles Clippers are the only team on the “GOOD TRANSACTIONS” list that got hit hard with a dramatic off-season. Their star PF Elton Brand looked like he was going to accept a contract extension with the team, especially after rumors reported that the Clippers got the interest of (and eventually signed) Golden State free agent PG Baron Davis.
Unfortunately for the Clips, Brand left for the Philadelphia Sixers. To top it all off, SG Corey Maggette also left for the Golden State Warriors. This created a huge gap in the team. It was obvious that the Clippers were in a bad situation that would set back the organization instead of moving forward. They only had one star PG in Davis and one true big-man in Chris Kaman, while there were holes to be filled in the other positions.
So what did GM Elgin Baylor do in response?
He acquired blocking machine Marcus Camby, Indiana rookie Eric Gordon, vet-guard Jason Williams, SG Ricky Davis and young prospects.
These transactions help fill the team, and give them a new beginning, a huge accomplishment for the organization/team.
With the help of Camby inside to compliment Kaman, the Clippers are bound to continue crashing the boards and getting rebounds (as well as blocking—Camby averaged 13.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks last season). So defensively the Clippers will continue to build, and ultimately become a force to be reckoned with.
As for offensively, Baron Davis will lead a backcourt that will consist of Gordon and Ricky Davis, as well as Jason Williams, handling the bulk of the scoring for the team. Baron Davis himself can carry a team, but it will be interesting to see how rookie Gordon responds and if he will be able to handle the different playing styles in the NBA. Ricky Davis and Williams will also have to prove that they still have game left in them by keeping pressure offensively on the boards and around the perimeter.
Also, is there a possible Clippers Big Three in the making (B.Davis,Camby, Gordon)?
What’s amazing is that GM Baylor proved that any problem could be fixed, even if a team loses their superstars. Also, it was obvious this off-season that the Clippers did not want to become another Memphis Grizzlies or Sacramento Kings in the league.
Good for them. Next subject to tackle on the list…the shady coaching philosophy from Mike Dunleavy, but that is for another post.
Nonetheless, the Clippers have a lot to prove (whether or not they will have an effective bench), but because of their bounce-back in the off-season, this team deserves to get high accolades when it comes to honoring those who made big moves in player transactions this summer.
1. Denver Nuggets
Notable Loss: Marcus Camby
Additions: Chris Andersen
Result: After analyzing every-team in the Western Conference, the Nuggets get the most disappointing off-season award. After such a promising rise in the last few years, acquiring star G Allen Iverson (AI), watching F Carmelo Anthony increase his skills, and making playoff appearances, one would think the Nuggets would have tried to make a strategic move this off-season that would not only increase their offensive power, but to also help out their big-men under the boards.
Unfortunately the total opposite happened. The Nuggets lost their Center and only defensive presence…Marcus Camby. Camby ended up signing with the LA Clippers (above I have went through his amazing stats he averaged last season in terms of rebounds and blocks), leaving a huge gap in the Nuggets lineup.
In a time of what should be panic and fright, the Nuggets do not pull a “Clippers” and bounce back from this loss. Instead, the Nuggets main acquisition (besides their not so good rookie draft pick) of the off-season is Chris “Birdman” Andersen.
Andersen was booted out of the NBA in 2006 due to drug abuse and violated the anti-drug policies of the league. He was re-instated last year with the Hornets and only averaged 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds towards the end of the season. Not saying that Birdman was not a good player back then, but as compared to today’s standards, it may take while for him to get back in the groove of things.
How will this guy fill the Camby gap? As a matter of fact, the Nuggets STILL need to fill this gap (and trust me, Kenyon Martin is not the answer).
If the Nuggets don’t act accordingly and search for a F/C that can be a true powerhouse underneath, expect to see this team crumble as there is no one able to step up and be a part of the AI and Anthony duo (and these two players will not be able to carry this team alone).
At least the other teams in the Western Conference have nothing to worry about in Denver.
2. Sacramento Kings
Notable Loss: Ron Artest
Addition: Bobby Jackson
Result: Believe it or not, once you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Sacramento Kings, it did this summer. The organization basically handed Artest away to Houston, and in return received Bobby Jackson (who will most likely end his career in Sacramento, unless traded again). Now while some fans might enjoy the fact Jackson is back with the Kings, in actuality, it will slow down the Kings.
It is sad to see that Artest, the Kings only player worth some value on the trading block only brought the Kings a C-List player in return, rather than a mid-to-high B-List player. Did GM Geoff Petrie even try selling Artest on the market?
It seems like this team just enjoys giving away players for nothing in return.
Trading star PG Mike Bibby to the Atlanta Hawks was bad enough for the Kings last season. Now they truly have no one to carry the momentum of the team (do you really think Brad Miller, Kevin Martin, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim are a powerful enough trio?), which is now filled with, at best, mediocre talented players who will continue to be pressured to performing well throughout the season. Although rookie Jason Thompson might show promise this year, he won’t be able to make a huge impact without adequate help around him.
The Kings need to act accordingly before/during the season or they will continue to be forgotten in the NBA, especially in the star-studded Western Conference.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
Notable Loss: Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, Kevin Love
Additions: O.J. Mayo, Marko Jaric
Result: I don’t think anyone has any idea where the Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace’s mind is. After giving up the Grizzlies only star Pau Gasol to the Lakers last season for star-less Kwame Brown, the Grizzlies could’ve only gone up the ladder of redemption. However, it seems they went a few rungs down.
This summer, the Grizzlies continued to shock the world by proving how they cannot partake in any player transactions. However, they did get hopeful rookie-sensation O.J. Mayo from Minnesota in a huge deal after the Rookie Draft in exchange for veteran Brian Cardinal, sharp-shooter Mike Miller, and to-be rookie-sensation powerhouse Kevin Love.
In actuality, the Grizzlies may have been better off keeping Love and Cardinal since they only have Marc Gasol (Pau’s brother) as their only force under the boards. The acquisition of Mayo was gutsy, but this team already has enough shooting forwards and guards. What they really needed were power forwards and centers.
On paper, the Grizzlies did not make a dramatic move this summer like they needed to. However, like I said before, no one knows what GM Wallace is thinking, and in the end this could all be part of a master plan that could actually be the start of the Grizzlies changing for the better.
Or at least Wallace and die-hard Grizzle fans believe such a radical idea.
In all of this mess, the only good move the Grizzlies pulled off was that of losing Kwame Brown, and that wasn’t even a move. Brown was a free-agent.
Keep a lookout on the SZ Blog as I analyze the teams who made it big and/or flopped in the Eastern Conference this NBA off-season (as well as an overall look at the teams who were “in-between good and bad” during this player movement period).