That giant thud you just heard was the corpse of this Warriors season hitting the ground. A victim of homicide, stabbed in the heart by the inventive GMs of the Western Conference.
And stabbed in the back by Joe Lacob.
Unless you are a Warriors fan, the NBA trade deadline didn’t disappoint. A lot of fascinating deals went down. Jump for my complete analysis, including playoff predictions, fantasy basketball ramifications, and for you fellow degenerates out there, betting opportunities.
Let’s start with the Western Conference, where events have unfortunately all but destroyed the Warriors’ playoff chances. And if we’re starting with the West, we have to start with the Melo trade.
Nuggets: Has a team that has been put under the gun by a player ever made a better deal for themselves? Far from blowing themselves up, which is what would have happened if they’d taken New Jersey’s offer of Derrick Favors and multiple draft picks, it is quite possible that Denver actually became a better team in ridding themselves of Melo. You think that’s a ludicrous opinion? Well, I share it with Phil Jackson.
Here’s what you’re going to see in Denver: NELLIEBALL. George Karl is an expert and fervent practitioner of the art, who only reluctantly gave it up when faced with the reality of Chauncey Billups at point guard, and the mid-post, ball-pounding game of Melo. That’s over now. The Denver Nuggets are going to run, and they are going to pass. Here’s George Karl on the subject of playing Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton in the same backcourt:
“We’ve got to have more passing in our game than shooting,” Karl said. “And now, if I have to play two point guards who can each get nine assists each night, I think that’s enough passing.”
Do you hear the GOOD RIDDANCE! to Carmelo Anthony in that statement? And do you think the great George Karl fears playing two point guards at the same time? You think the Warriors have a small backcourt? Well try 6-1″ and 5-11″ on for size.
Of course, Karl also has the players who can protect that backcourt. Starting with Nene in the middle. And the great defending small-ball power forwards Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler. And he has what Joe Lacob failed to deliver to the Warriors: two long shooting guards who can spread the floor and defend. Well, that describes Aaron Afflalo. We have yet to see what JR Smith can do on defense, when motivated by starting minutes.
Karl also announced that Danilo Gallinari will likely get the starting SF position over Chandler:
“My gut right now is Gallo because he passes the ball,” Karl said. “He has a feel for the game. He has a sense for the game.”
The great George Karl opting for actual basketball skill over defense? There is an important lesson there for Warriors management.
The Denver Nuggets are going to be one of the fastest teams end-to-end in the NBA going forward. Faster even than the Warriors, because unlike Keith Smart, George Karl knows how to push the tempo, and is unafraid to do it. They’re going to be one of the best passing, best shooting teams in the NBA. They’re going to have a small lineup on the floor at ALL times.
And they are going to win. Scratch one potential playoff spot for the Warriors. The Nuggets are a lock.
(Is my opinion playable? Well, the reaction to the Nuggets side of the trade has been surprisingly positive. I prefer to look for plays where the hype is dead wrong. Such as the hype on the Stephen Jackson trade last year.)
Portland: Shockingly, Portland also didn’t blow up their team, as had been rumored. Instead, they went out and got unequivocally better. In a classic ripoff of a poor team by a rich team, the Blazers picked up Gerald Wallace for a couple of meatballs — Joel Pryzbilla and Dante Cunningham — and a couple of first round draft picks.
Take a look at Portland’s small line-up now: Aldridge at 5, Wallace at 4, Mathews, Batum or possibly Roy on the wings, Miller or Fernandez at point. Can you think of a better?
I’m actually a little bit shocked that Portland created a Nellieball lineup. Will Nate McMillan know what to do with it? Are the Blazers going to start running?
If Marcus Camby makes it back all the way from his knee surgery, no one will want to meet this team in the playoffs. Scratch another spot.
Thunder: OKC got worse at the trading deadline. What, you say? How could they get worse by picking up Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson from the Celtics for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, and Nazr Mohammed from Charlotte for a couple of meatballs? Don’t they have Serge Ibaka to plug in at power forward? (Fantasy players, get Ibaka NOW if he’s still on your waiver wire. I traded Diaw and Roy for him a month ago, anticipating just this eventuality.)
Here’s how the Thunder got worse: Obviously, this trade will help the Thunder’s defense in the paint. But the cost to their offense will be unfathomable. Unlike Krstic, both Perkins and Mohammed are non-shooters. And although Ibaka has a decent mid-range shot, he can’t spread the floor like Jeff Green. I predict that this will prove disastrous for a team that already can’t shoot. Westbrook can’t shoot. Sefolosha can’t shoot. Harden can’t shoot, except on holidays and alternating Tuesdays.
Not to mention that what had been a terrific Nellieball lineup just lost their small lineup completely. Can it be a good thing to slow down the running of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant?
It just got far easier to guard the Thunder. Pack the paint. Deny Westbrook penetration. Double team Durant on every touch.
And another thing: Perkins is a 6-10″ defensive center who relies on his legs for his prowess. But as those who watched the last Warriors game know, Perkins is coming off an ACL tear, and his game is nowhere near close to what it was. Will he ever again reach that level? Not this year, certainly.
Unfortunately, the Thunder have a dominating 10 game lead on the Warriors. It is highly doubtful that they slip out of the playoff picture. But if I were a betting man, I would bet them to lose to the spread every game for the next couple of weeks, until the bookies adjust.
Hornets: Made a great move in picking up Carl Landry for Marcus Thornton. Consider this small ball lineup: West at 5, Landry at 4, Ariza, Green and Paul.
Mark Cuban threw a fit that the NBA, which now owns the Hornets, would spend it’s own money and take on additional salary to make this deal happen. Cuban is full of crap. When the Hornets make the playoffs, they will more than make up for that money.
What Cuban is so upset about is that the NBA strengthened a division rival. The Hornets, who were faltering lately, now look like a favorite to make the playoffs again.
Phoenix: I already made Phoenix a lock for the playoffs a couple of weeks ago, after getting a look at their new lineup in action. They are even more of a lock now, after swapping mediocre back-up point guard Goran Dragic for the electrifying Aaron Brooks of Houston. Wow, what a great deal.
Throw out the pencil. You can write Phoenix into the playoffs in ink. And by my count, that’s all the spots there are.
Grizzlies: I wrote off Memphis’ playoff chances a week ago due to the Rudy Gay injury, and their brutal March schedule. But their deal today, picking up Shane Battier for Hasheem Thabeet and a first round draft pick, shows that they have not given up as a franchise, the way Joe Lacob gave up on the Warriors. They are going to compete.
I don’t like their chances, but their improvement makes it even tougher for the Warriors, who play Memphis twice going forward I believe.
Houston: Oh. my. god. Hasheem Thabeet, seriously? The Rockets traded away Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks for a backup point guard and a bowlful of bust.
Can we stop the nonsense now about Daryl Morey as a moneyball genius? The Rockets are dead.
Utah: Blew themselves up, quite obviously. And I think it is highly likely that they will never again reach the playoffs, given their market. Unless they manage to pick up the next Tim Duncan in some future draft.
Deron Williams for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and a bucket of draft picks. Ughh. It probably had to be done, but still, ughh. Devin Harris is a ridiculous fit on a team with Al Jefferson. Harris is a suspect shooter, and miserable when feeding the post. He needs to run.
Clippers: I wrote at the time that the Clippers stole Baron Davis from the Warriors with that giant contract that the Clippers had just committed franchise suicide. Well, it turns out I was wrong. The Clippers were just shocked gasping back into life, with Dan Gilbert administering the paddles. All it wound up costing them were three lost seasons, and a lottery pick. And oh yes, a milder form of cancer, commonly known as Mo Williams.
But if the Clips are smart enough to make Eric Bledsoe the starting point guard, and bring Williams off the bench as a sixth man, this is a team back on the rise.
Until the next suicide attempt.
(And yes, I snatched Bledsoe off the waiver wire in my fantasy league when the news hit at midnight. Dropping Gilbert Arenas.)
Kings: Picked up Marcus Thornton for Carl Landry. Let me get this straight, the Kings essentially traded Kevin Martin for Thornton, right? There you have it, one more way that Tyreke Evans has destroyed this franchise.
By the way, this trade has major fantasy implications: Samuel Dalembert.
The Warriors: I’ve made you wait, and I’m going to make you wait some more. The kettle has not fully come to a boil. Yet.
First, I’m going to talk Eastern Conference. If you’re anxious to read about how Joe Lacob intentionally tanked this Warriors season, then feel free to skip ahead.
Knicks: The consensus is that you do anything, trade anything, to acquire a superstar in the NBA. I’m not so sure. I’ve already given my analysis of Carmelo Anthony as a player in my Don’t Trade Curry piece. He’s a black hole. Which means the Knicks now have two of them. Let’s see how that works in D’Antoni’s system.
Three other points:
1) Carmelo is a mid-range player who doesn’t spread the floor. If Amare doesn’t want to play center, which he doesn’t, D’Antoni is going to have a real hard time spreading the floor. He needs a three point shooting, running center. Know any?
2) Speaking of running, the Knicks just got a whole lot slower, with Billups at the point, and Melo pounding the ball on the wings. How is that going to work for D’Antoni?
3) As the Knicks got slower, their defense got worse. Stoudemire’s defensive deficiencies will be accentuated in a half-court game.
This Knicks team will be decent, and probably quite good eventually. But I have serious doubts that they can ever click the way D’Antoni will want them to, let alone approach the championship level that they expect.
The hype around this team is enormous right now. If I were a betting man, I would seriously consider betting against this hype. Starting now. Ending when the bookies adjust.
Nets: Brilliant winners of this trading deadline. First, their competition caused the Knicks to screw the pooch. And second, they picked up Deron Williams for nothing. When a genuine superstar is available, there is no amount of draft picks that should not be spent to get him. Particularly devalued draft picks, that are going to drop in value with every passing year as your team gets better.
Don Nelson, who traded a 7th pick for Steve Nash, and three number ones for Chris Webber, knew this principle like the back of his hand.
Joe Lacob doesn’t.
Celtics: I heard an ESPN analyst killing the Celtics for trading away their “starting” center. Huh?
First, you need to understand that Kendrick Perkins is no longer Kendrick Perkins.
Second, you need to understand that Nenad Krstic of the Celtics is not Nenad Krstic of the Thunder. The guy on the Thunder was a poor schlub who played with a selfish and visionless point guard who froze him out mercilessly.
The guy on the Celtics is a good shooter who is playing with Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics didn’t give up much in this trade, assuming they can still plug Shaq back in come playoff time. But oh, what they added. They added shooting. They added the ability to spread the floor. And they added the ability to run.
They added NELLIEBALL.
Take a look at this small-ball lineup: Garnett at 5, Green at 4, Pierce, Allen, Rondo. Do you think that lineup can get something done?
The Celtics are also likely to add Troy Murphy after the Warriors buy him out. More size. More shooting. More spreading the floor.
And the Celtics dumped Semih Erden and Luke Harongody on the Cavs for a second round pick. That’s what those two guys are worth, the same two guys whom Keith Smart allowed to beat the Warriors in the last game, by his timid failure to exploit them ruthlessly with a small lineup.
There is a major lesson for Joe Lacob in the Celtics’ moves. It involves getting non-shooters off your team. Will he absorb it?
Hawks: Just got a whole lot better, picking up Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong for Bibby, Jordan Crawford and a pick.
I had been writing off the Hawks in the East, but they might have an outside chance to pull off an upset now.
(I would tell fantasy owners to go grab Hinrich, but I already told them that, in the preseason.)
Cavs: What could Dan Gilbert be thinking? Yes, he picked up a lottery pick. But at what cost to his team’s morale? And for how many years?
Boom Fizzle imprisoned in Cleveland? Sharing a cell with Byron Scott? As an Ohio boy, who once spent a miserable summer interned at a Cleveland law firm, I can tell you that this is not going to work. This is going to get real ugly, and real fat, real fast.
Insane. Let me tell you, I hated the way The Decision went down, but LeBron James was correct to get as far away from Cleveland as he possibly could. Dan Gilbert is hands-down the worst GM/owner in the NBA. After Mark Cuban.
And now, while we’re on the topic of bad GMs, let’s talk about the guy who tanked the Warriors season.
YOUR GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
This is what Warriors GM Joe Lacob got accomplished at the trading deadline: Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric for Troy Murphy’s dying contract and a second round pick. According to rumor, the Warriors are going to recall Jeff Adrien from the D-league to replace these players.
I don’t have a problem with dumping Brandan Wright. He’s not an NBA player. I find it exceedingly humorous that he’s going to play for Avery Johnson, who shrieks like a banshee when his big men don’t rebound and defend. Can’t wait to see how that turns out.
I don’t have a problem with dumping Dan Gadzuric. He’s close to finished, and competely superfluous now, at least until Biedrins goes down with his next injury.
I don’t have any problem at all with picking up Adrien. He not only rebounds and defends, but can shoot the 20 footer as well as a nice jump-hook. And he is not afraid to get to the free throw line, because he makes them. If Jeff Adrien means that Lou Amundsen never sets foot on the court again, I will throw the Thaiblonde a party.
And I only have a slight problem with Joe Lacob’s stated desire to start accumulating draft picks and “build cheaply.” It’s a completely ass-backwards strategy for a team that is already on the rise, as I mentioned. And it — as well as Lacob’s failure to get a player in return for the Warriors’ expiring contracts — gives the lie to Lacob’s oft-repeated promise to spend whatever it takes to make the Warriors better. But whatever.
What I have a big, burning problem with is that the Warriors are currently competing for a playoff spot, and they have a glaring hole in their roster — which Lacob himself has admitted to recognizing — that the Warriors management failed to take care of at the trade deadline. They need a big guard who can both defend and shoot threes to protect the Curry/Ellis backcourt.
And you can’t tell me that none were available, as Lacob’s mouthpiece Larry Riley has been intimating in the press. Just to mention one name, it was widely rumored that Raja Bell was being shopped by the detonating Jazz. Would he have helped the Warriors this season? Do you mean to tell me that he wasn’t available for Brandan Wright and expiring contracts? Baloney.
Outside of Reggie Williams, whose best position is SF, the Warriors guards behind Curry and Ellis are a joke. Lin, Law, Bell. No length, not a shooter among them. That this bench was assembled, and then allowed to last a full season by Joe Lacob is a travesty.
It is a betrayal of the great core of this Warriors team, that has put it on the line this season fighting for the 8 seed. And it’s a betrayal of Warriors fans.
I have had a growing suspicion about Joe Lacob this season, that began back at the time Don Nelson was fired, Keith Smart was hired, and Jeremy Lin was signed. It was a depressing suspicion, that I kept to myself while this season played out. I hoped I would be proven wrong.
Unfortunately, I haven’t. And the disappointment of this trading deadline has me ready to give voice to my suspicion. At this point, I don’t see any other conclusion that can reasonably be reached.
I believe that Joe Lacob intentionally tanked this season. I don’t believe he wanted the Warriors to make the playoffs. Not this season.
And he took action to make sure they wouldn’t. It began with the firing of Don Nelson. Because if Don Nelson had been allowed to coach this team into the playoffs this season, Joe Lacob would never have gotten the credit he so deeply craves for turning this franchise around. He wouldn’t have gotten it this season, and he wouldn’t get it in future seasons. The Warriors would have already been a playoff team when he took them over. The playoff team that Don Nelson assembled.
It continued with the signing of Jeremy Lin, rather than an experienced veteran who could have filled a huge void on the Warriors’ bench.
And then there was Keith Smart. Putting a rookie coach on the bench looked like the only move open to Lacob at the time, particularly if you buy his unexplained narrative that Nellie was “the wrong guy to coach this team.” But putting Smart on the bench was also a nicely convenient move if Lacob wanted to remake the franchise in his own image, as he has so frequently insinuated. One year of a caretaker coach, and then fully erase “the sins of the past” by hiring a big name coach that Lacob could take credit for.
What happens to this plan if the Warriors make the playoffs? It wouldn’t be quite so easy to get rid of Keith Smart if that happened, would it?
And now this, several long months and the passing of the trading deadline with not one bit of help for the Warriors’ laughable bench. With the Warriors a mere 3 games in the loss column out of the 8 seed, they desperately needed Joe Lacob to have their back. To do something to give them a boost, tilt the game in their favor, the way Giants management did for the Giants in their championship season. But what did the Warriors get? Bupkus. A stinging slap in the face.
Congratulations, Joe Lacob. NBA laughingstock Michael Heisley did more for his team than you did. The NBA did more for the team that they hold in receivership than you did. You, Joe, knifed your players and your fans in the back.
Hey, but the Warriors got a second round draft pick! Which brings me to the final reason I believe Joe Lacob tanked this season. We all know that Joe Lacob covets draft picks. He’s said so, publicly and repeatedly. But why, with a team that already possesses a playoff core? I think we can surmise the reason. It’s because those picks will be his to play with. His to erase the sins of the past with. His to put his name to. His to take credit for.
The Warriors have a first round pick in 2011. Joe Lacob wants it to be a lottery pick.
It wasn’t the “sins of the past” that prevented the Warriors from making a playoff run this season. It was the sins of the present.
What’s left for faithful Warriors fans is to hope for a finish straight out of the movies. To be specific, straight out of Major League.