Stephen Jackson and Acie Law to the Bobcats for Raja Bell and Vladimir Radmanovich. Say goodbye to We Believe. Say hello to Don’t Snowboard, Please.
I sensed a deal with the Bobcats coming. I sensed that Raja Bell would be involved, because he and Nellie have history together on the Mavs. But I was hoping against hope that the real target would Boris Diaw, not Vladimir Radmanovich. There were rumors that Larry Brown was dissatisfied with Diaw, who is more a Nellie player than the defensive power forward Brown would like.
Obviously, Charlotte got the better of this deal talent-wise. You can pencil them in right now for the playoffs. Their first four players, Felton, Jackson, Wallace and Diaw are right up there with the best in the league in talent. Three of those players are talented enough passers that they can and have played the point. Their wings are now probably the biggest in the league, which does a lot to make up for a lack of beef on the front line. Defensively, they can guard, if not shut down, most of the star scoring wings in the league. And one final point, which cannot be underrated: they now have a big game player. A world champion with a world champion’s heart.
Acie Law shouldn’t be overlooked in this trade either. I have a feeling that Brown is delighted to be getting his hands on him. He is the sort of tough-nosed defender that Brown loves at the point guard. I could see him getting significant minutes in Brown’s rotation, if only to inspire Felton and Augustin to step it up defensively themselves.
I am going to be watching Charlotte’s lines very closely in the coming days. There may be a two or three week window while the bookies adjust to how much better this trade will make them.
Now for the Warriors’ end of the deal. They got the short end of it in talent, but got a couple of compensations. The first, obviously, is increased salary flexibility. I haven’t checked yet, but I think at least Bell is near the end of his deal.
The second compensation is size. Nellie will play Radmanovich at power forward and center. And Raja Bell was desperately needed at the wing, since Azubuike went out for the year. (You have to feel that the Warriors’ desperation for warm bodies made them pull the trigger on this deal far earlier than they wanted to. Buike’s injury may have cost them a later run at Diaw. I had been thinking a three-way deal with Cleveland had been possible, with Varejao going to the Bobcats, Diaw to the Warriors and Jackson to Cleveland.)
It won’t be easy watching Vladimir Radmanovich play. Both Phil Jackson and Larry Brown were driven nuts by his air-headedness, and his inability to do the intangibles, such as play defense and rebound. (Are defense and rebounding intangible?) Don Nelson will be driven less nuts, of course, because he will love what Vlad can give the Warriors offensively. He is a tremendous athlete for a 6-10″ white guy, and can really run the floor. And of course, there’s his 3 point shooting. Don’t be dismayed by the drop off in his shooting efficiency under Brown. He was an afterthought in Brown’s offense. Nellie will give Vlad the greeniest of green lights to fire away from long range. And I would expect his 3-point percentages to rise quickly towards the 40 level that he averaged in the years before Brown de-fanged him. When he gets it going, Vladimir Radmanovich can really light it up from three. He can be a good fit for Nellie’s system.
A few interesting story lines to track in the coming weeks come to mind. The first is whether Nellie will start Vlad immediately in a “big” lineup. The second is whether his acquisition will cause Nellie to move Corey Maggette back to the small forward. (I sincerely doubt it!) The third is how long it will take for Anthony Randolph to pitch a fit when he sees this crazy Serbian taking his minutes at the four.
Raja Bell is a player I absolutely loved in his prime. Unfortunately, he’s a long way from being in his prime now. And he’s been playing with a pretty bad wrist injury. If he reinjures it, it may cost him his season.
The good news about Bell is this: He’s a tenacious defender with decent size. A great competitor. Given how badly we’re going to miss both Stephen Jackson and Azubuike on defense, he’s a pretty good consolation prize. He is also perfect for Nellie’s system. He’s a conditioning freak and loves to run the floor. He’s a good three point shooter. And he’ll know exactly what Don Nelson wants from him, having played for him in Dallas, and D’Antoni in Phoenix. He should fit in quickly.