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Sam Miguel

Trades Up High

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The NBA trading deadline is up in less than 24 hours. Right now nobody is in a hurry to trade any superstars, although the buzz is all over as usual regarding the likes of the LA Lakers' Dwight Howard, the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and the Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith.

Before we get to those what-if scenarios, let's talk about transactions that were in fact consummated. Nobody really cares but the Houston Rockets traded a bunch of their guys to the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns. That should tell you a lot about the quality of players involved. No one would trade a star to a team in the same conference. Houston sent forward Patrick Patterson, guard Toney Douglas and center-forward Cole Aldrich to Sacramento in exchange for power forward Thomas Robinson, swingman Francisco Garcia and small forward Tyler Honeycutt.

They also sent power forward Marcus Morris to Phoenix for a 2013 second-round pick. That deal sees Morris reuniting with his twin brother Markieff with the Suns. The twins played together at Kansas before being drafted one after the other as lottery picks in the 2011 draft. Marcus has been a vital cog in the Houston rotation this season, averaging some eight points and four rebounds in 21 minutes per game for the Rockets, including 17 starts.

Robinson for his part was the fifth overall pick in last year's draft but has not gotten much done so far in his young NBA career. He's been averaging a little over four points and four boards in 16 minutes per game. Houston must see a lot more in him to give up a productive rotation guy like Marcus Morris. With Robinson coming in, this might be the straw that breaks Terrence Jones's back. Jones, like Robinson, is a rookie power forward. But Jones has gotten even less of a break in Houston than Robinson got a Sacramento. Two rookie power forwards are just too much for a team looking to go deep into the Western Conference Playoffs.

Moving on to the what-ifs, Howard has attracted the most buzz this season, as the Lakers have gone 24-27 as of this writing. He was expected to give the Lakers that superstar big man they've always had in their title runs, but his bad back has just plain limited the All Star center and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has dismissed any such talks though. "We are not trading Dwight Howard. He is the future of this franchise," he declared in one interview.

Away from the obvious soap opera that is the Lakers though, their traditional rival the Celtics have not been spared any trade talks, with no less than their three superstars in the midst of it. Let's start with Garnett, who has been discussed in several scenarios as joining the LA Clippers. The Clippers look good and ready for a return to the NBA Playoffs, and adding a star of Garnett's calibre might finally take them over the hump. But it will mean parting with two vital cogs: pointguard Eric Bledsoe and center De Andre Jordan. There were actual moves from the Clippers reported in various media, although it looks like the Clips have given up on it for now.

Pierce is reportedly being pursued by the Brooklyn Nets. Just like Garnett's case however, that means giving up something of value as well on the part of the Nets, most likely guard Mar Shon Brooks and power forward Kris Humphries. There is no way this deal can work without at least another good rotation player being thrown in by the Nets. Pierce might be that missing piece that helps Deron Williams and Brook Lopez make the Nets an elite team. Giving up too many good pieces might not be such a good idea though, especially since the Nets are far from contending for the NBA title, and thus would not be served in good stead by bringing in an aging and expensive star like Pierce.

Rondo on the other hand still has at least four or five good basketball years ahead of him in spite of his current season-ending injury. If he goes to a good team now he will make that team great instantly, or at least as soon as he gets back in 100% game shape. One other thing holding back good teams though, is that every good team in the NBA now already has a star pointguard. Which means if Rondo does get traded, he might wind up with a rebuilding project, something that will not sit well with him. Or it could also mean the Celtics get a star pointguard for their star pointguard. It may not be an straight talent-for-talent deal, but it sure won't be a huge blow to the Celtics.

Finally we come to Smith, the man who leads the Hawks in scoring and shot blocks and is second on the team in rebounds. Smith is one of the best players in the league, and it is a travesty that he has not yet made an All Star team. His numbers the last three to four years certainly indicate that he is at an All Star level. He signed a five-year contract extension in 2008, which means he becomes a free agent by the end of this year. He seems to want to test his own market, and certainly there will be a lot of interest. If the Hawks do not match anything he is offered, it might be best to trade him now. Getting value however might be tough. Those kinds of numbers, especially on the rebounds and blocks, do not come easy in the NBA.

By the end of this week I don't really expect to see any blockbuster trades. Teams will probably stand pat, even the Hawks with Smith. Summer however will be a better show to watch.
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  1. Sam Miguel's Avatar
    Looks like I was right on this one...

    Hawks keep Josh Smith, trade Morrow to Mavs


    | Updated February 22, 2013 - 12:29pm

    ATLANTA (AP) -- Hawks general manager Danny Ferry gave a simple explanation why he turned down the chance to trade Josh Smith on Thursday.

    "We value Josh," Ferry said.

    It wasn't the only time Ferry used those words. Smith, 6-foot-9 forward who leads the team in scoring, is an important defender with his steals and blocks, contributes big in assists and rebounds but will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

    Ferry confirmed the Hawks entertained offers for Smith leading up to Thursday's trade deadline. Ferry ultimately preferred to keep Smith even while accepting the risk he could lose the 27-year-old forward in free agency with no return for the team.

    "We weighed the positives and negatives of each of our opportunities and at the end of the day we felt like the best decision was to stand pat based off some of the things we were looking at," Ferry said.

    The Hawks made two other moves. The team traded guardAnthony Morrow to the Dallas Mavericks for guard-forwardDahntay Jones. Atlanta also acquired backup center Jeremy Tyler from Golden State as the Warriors moved to escape the luxury tax.

    Smith participated in the Hawks' practice Thursday morning. He said he wasn't the only player who was thinking about the trade deadline.

    "I'm pretty sure it was going through everybody's heads, not just myself," Smith said. "There are a lot of guys who feel like they might get traded, too. It's not just me. It's a tough process."

    After hearing his name in trade rumors for weeks, Smith said he had difficulty sleeping following Wednesday night's loss to the Miami Heat.

    Ultimately, Smith said he was comfortable remaining with the Hawks or being traded.

    "It's not all that bad," Smith said. "I'm playing my dream job. I'm just blessed with the opportunity to be able to be a part of a special time. A lot of guys came through this league and played for the Hawks and other teams that I grew up idolizing, so it's definitely a blessing just to be here."

    Smith leads Atlanta with his averages of 17.1 points and 2.1 blocks per game. He is second on the team with 8.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

    Smith set career highs with his averages of 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds last season. He has said he may ask for a maximum contract as a free agent. The Hawks could offer five years and about $94 million, while other teams could offer up to about $70 million for four years.

    "Right now it's not up to me where I go or what happens," Smith said Thursday. "In the summertime I do have the flexibility to be able to make my own decision. It's going to be my first time being an unrestricted free agent. Being able to see what's out there.

    "Like I say, I don't know what's going to happen. I just have to focus on where I'm at right now and not worry about it."

    Ferry shed two big contracts before the season when he traded guard Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets and forward Marvin Williams to Utah.

    Those trades created cap space that helped make it easier for Ferry to decide against dealing Smith.

    "We were in an unusual situation where Josh's contract, our cap space and flexibility going forward, having a good team right now, there were a lot of factors that played into this," Ferry said. "I think the main factor is we value Josh. I think he's been important to our group this year and we can finish the year strong and hopefully we play well and we're a solid playoff team."

    The Hawks (29-23) are sixth in the Eastern Conference. They play the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

    The Hawks will have only three players under contract for the 2013-14 season: center Al Horford, rookie guard John Jenkins and veteran guard Lou Williams, who is returning from knee surgery.

    The team will have the ability to re-sign point guard Jeff Teague and backup forward Ivan Johnson, who will be restricted free agents.

    Atlanta acquired Morrow from Brooklyn in the trade that sent Joe Johnson to the Nets. Morrow, slowed by right hip and back injuries, averaged 5.2 points in only 24 games with the Hawks.

    Jones (6-6, 215) gives the Hawks a strong wing defender. He has averaged 3.5 points in 50 games, including 15 starts. His contract expires at the end of the season.

    Jones averaged a career-best 10.2 points with Indiana in the 2009-10 season.

    Tyler (6-10, 260) has averaged only 1.1 points in 20 games this season with Golden State. He averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie last season.
  2. Sam Miguel's Avatar
    Other trading developments...

    Thunder add Brewer, send Maynor to Portland


    | Updated February 22, 2013 - 12:05pm

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- With Reggie Jackson taking over as the backup to All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder shipped free-agent-to-be Eric Maynor to Portland on Thursday and picked up a trade exception to use during the offseason or early next season.

    Oklahoma City also attempted to bolster its backcourt for the rest of this season by sending a 2014 second-round draft pick to New York for Ronnie Brewer, a frequent starter who has been on playoff teams five of his first six years in the NBA.

    The Thunder have the second-best record in the Western Conference, despite losing three games in a row.

    ''I think the addition of Ronnie Brewer and the versatility he brings, his understanding of winning basketball certainly helps us, and we were able to do that without disrupting our core playing group at present,'' general manager Sam Presti said in a phone interview. ''We want to try to maximize those opportunities in the present. At the same time, the trade exception is something that we're going to look at strategically going forward.

    ''So, I feel like we helped ourselves in the present and also put ourselves in position to try to capitalize on something in the future.''

    The Thunder, already near the NBA's salary cap with Kevin Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and others under long-term contracts, were unlikely to re-sign Maynor at the end of the season and were able to get back a trade exception for his approximately $2.4 million salary that they will be able to keep for one calendar year.

    Oklahoma City also got the rights to Greek forward Georgios Printezis, who hasn't played in the NBA after being picked by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the 2007 draft. He currently plays for Olympiacos in the Euroleague.

    Brewer, however, could make an immediate impact if he can find a spot in the Thunder's rotation that already features Durant, defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha and sixth man Kevin Martin on the wing. Training camp invitee DeAndre Liggins has earned minutes as a defensive stopper in recent weeks, and that role could shift over to Brewer.

    Presti said the decision on when Brewer would play will fall to coach Scott Brooks.

    ''He brings in a defensive mindset, versatility in regards to defending different positions. He's played for a number of programs that we have a great deal of respect for and has been a part of winning, which we value in him as a player,'' Presti said. ''And he's another high-character individual that we feel will fit very well with our current group.''

    Brewer has played in 10 playoff series in his career with Utah and Chicago, winning five. He started 34 of the Knicks' first 35 games this season before being shifted out of the rotation following Iman Shumpert's return.

    ''He has started about 300 games with those teams, and those teams are highly competitive. So, I think what it indicates is he really understands how to fit into a group, how to find a way to impact winning and I think he really embraces that,'' Presti said.

    The deals fit in with a relatively calm trade deadline around the NBA, with teams focused on avoiding harsher penalties for going over the salary cap under the new collective bargaining agreement. Those include financial penalties under the luxury tax but also limits on flexibility in roster moves.

    The trade exception provides another tool that could prove useful in such an environment.

    ''I think having a trade exception or additional draft picks, things of that nature have certainly become more valuable in the new system,'' Presti said. ''I think everybody's still trying to determine the best way to proceed within the new CBA.

    ''At this juncture, I think it's clear that team-building mechanisms and tools to do so are important.''

    To get it, Oklahoma City gave up Maynor, who had been a reliable backup to Westbrook over his first two seasons in Oklahoma City, ranking among the top 10 in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. He missed almost all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, but regained his spot in the Thunder rotation during training camp before getting replaced by Jackson in mid-December.

    Maynor has played sparingly since, mostly in mop-up duty. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

    His departure means Oklahoma City has only two established point guards on the roster.

    ''That's definitely something that we're going to evaluate in the coming days, and we'll do that,'' Presti said. ''In the meantime, we're very confident in the group that we have.''

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