Here are my top ten winners at the NBA trade deadline. The first five are Talent Winners; they upgraded their squad for the stretch run. The second five are the Cap Winners, they downgraded talent or mortgaged their future via deals which lowered their payroll and will help with the pursuit of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, or other top-tier free agents.
10. Sacramento Kings. They probably gave up MORE talent than they received, but still a composite upgrade because their traded player (Kevin Martin) played the same position as their other good player (Tyreke Evans). Thus a slight upgrade now while allowing the young man a chance to become a star, while they added Carl Landry as the fierce inside player they needed.
9. Memphis Grizzlies. Only a marginal upgrade for their bench, but at a very low cost. One of the worst benches ever, or maybe just in contrast to the “Big Four” that leads them (only 3-player combo averaging 18+ a game, plus a very tough and savvy Marc Gasol). Brewer embodies all the qualities that were missing from the Griz’s “second wave”.
8. Milwaukee Bucks. So many players involved it’s tough to peg. But Salmons provides needed scoring, and Ivey and Pizmo are at least equal to the talent given up.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers. Picked up Antawn Jamison. He can make his own shot, doesn’t require plays run for him, and basically fits in. Low-cost, low-risk veteran acquisition.
6. Houston Rockets. Lose: Tracy McGrady — often-injured this year — and Carl Landry, their top inside guy. Gain: a high-scoring player in Kevin Martin and Jordan Hill (a lottery pick). Rockets are strong inside so Scola should slide over and take up most of that scoring slack.
5. Washington Wizards.
Sure, they blew up the whole team. But what they had, minus Gilbert Arenas, was not going to be able to compete regularly. But they lost some salary and set themselves up to spend some next year. It seemed like they were odd man out in every deal they were involved in.
4. Utah Jazz.
Don’t get out of the luxury tax, but they are close. Not taking on a large salary for at least three years, and lose a good veteran player, but one who has two worthy replacements. Basically saving $3.7 million next year in exchange for a protected first-round draft choice.
3. Chicago Bulls.
Two major trades, Salmons for Warrick/Alexander, and Tyrus Thomas for Flip Murray/Law. Got rid of the Tyrus Thomas contract, as well as Salmons. Save $1 million on Thomas contract, and may not keep both Law and Murray. Salmons was also more expensive than Warrick/Alexander, and may not re-sign both. Everyone talks about the Knick’s freeing up cap space; but only DRose, Noah, Hinrich, and Luol Deng are locked in among the top-dollar stars. Astoundingly well-done on the flexibility for this high-profile franchise.
2. Dallas Mavericks.
Not much cap relief, despite losing a lot of salary in Josh Howard (whilst taking on Caron Butler’s salary). Josh Howard was redundant for them, plus he was by all acounts unhappy whilst Caron Butler gives them the a greater inside presence. The net effect should be $1 million less in salary, but an enthusiastic player in Caron instead of Howard who was unhappy with his role in Dallas.
1. New York Knicks.
The Knicks gave up a lot of draft picks in trading Jared Jefferies and his large contract (estimates of $9.5 million dropped). They have put them in a prime position to make some noise this Summer. By all accounts (Dan Coons, Capology Website, etc.) they will be able to afford two max-money contracts if they drop McGrady, which gives them a great shot at King James.
Here’s hoping your team did well. When you think about the “Free-Agent Class of 2010″ being overrated, consider this: top scorers at this year’s All-Star game James, Wade, Bosh, all are going to be available to highest bidder after this off-season. And most likely King James will influence where all three end up.
Editor’s Note: All cap figures shaved come from news estimates (some are approximate). Cap figures committed for next year are based upon HoopsWorld salary info. LeBron James image photoshop and pie charts, credit @ASternWarning.