Tonight is opening night for the 2008-09 NBA season.
The Lakers host the Blazers, and the collective potential of Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum might light the building on fire. Cleveland hosts Boston, and the amount of pre-game powder applied by Lebron and KG might obscure the game for a good couple minutes. Craig Sager will be on scene, donning the most inappropriate-colored tie, and all of America will finally have something good to watch in the middle of the week again.
Happy NBA day, world. It's the most…won-der-ful tiiime…
There will be plenty of press on these two games, and the opening games for the rest of the league. Many fans will see the new incarnations of their teams for the first time. New players, new coaches, new schemes, new uniforms. There’s even a team in Oklahoma City with pastel uniforms, with thousands of rabid fans cheering while they lose 65 games.
And I get to see an Asian 6'9" point guard with mono play for the Lakers. It is surely a special day.
One thing we can be sure of is the fact that these teams are still ironing the kinks out. Though rosters have been trimmed to 15 players for opening day, we all know that there are still changes to be made. Injuries happen, and many teams are thin to begin with. Remember, the Great Summer of Free Agency is only two summers away, so if your team stinks, they’d better be clearing some cap space.
That, or they could just move to Seattle. Those folks would be willing to accept a good D-league team right now. There are tears in many a latte in the Great NorthWest.
So, in conjuring the spirit of the Late Great Bill Simmons, here are the NBA's Trades That Need To Happen.
(All proposed trades have checked out in the ESPN NBA Trade Machine. They work. Try them yourself.)
1. Jamal Crawford ($8.6m till 2011) for Raja Bell ($5m till 2010) and Grant Hill ($1.9 till 2009)
Fact: David Lee should not be the first Knick on the trading block. The dude could be an All-Star. He is young, healthy, ambitious, and would be willing to share the spotlight with Lebron or whoever they sign in 2010. Besides, he might be the best white American in the NBA, he’s playing in NYC, and I dig that. You do too, don’t lie.
Furthermore, I have long believed that Jamal Crawford needs to play for a west coast team with a killer point guard. I saw him when he scored 51 points, and the kid is the perfect running mate for Steve Nash. Can’t you see it? Amare and Shaq clog up the middle, and JC is free for the three. They get a fast break, JC is a finisher. He’s no more of a team killer than Shawn Marion or even Raja Bell. He’d be perfect.
On the flip side, the Knicks get some veteran leadership and some quality production in Grant Hill’s skeleton, and a hard-nosed defender with an attitude in Bell. Let me tell you, Raja Bell has New York written all over him. He’s a little short, sneers, shaves his head, talks a lot of “ish”, and can produce decent numbers. Plus they both come off the books by 2010 and free up some cap room, whereas Crawford would be a holdover for one year with the Potential Lebron before bolting town. Crawford’s absence makes Lebron to NY more of a possibility, as does Lee’s staying in NYC. It’s common sense, but hey, it’s the Knicks. So who knows.
(BTW, I will officially refer to this Lebron-to-NY situation as the “Potential Lebron” from this point forward. It sounds like an Econ 101 term, and the Knicks are playing with his specter for the next two seasons anyways. I like it.)
2. Jamaal Tinsley (??) for Steven Hunter ($3.9m till 2010) and Chucky Atkins ($1.4m till 2010)
Okay, you got me. This is cheating. Everyone and their mom knows this trade is happening. Indiana has moved past the Tinsley/Jermaine O’Neal era like an Indy car past a double-wide trailer on the infield. Larry Bird must be a great poker player, because he folded this hand quick-like. And Lord, would I love to play poker against Larry Bird. Think about that…if he won a hand, he’d be slyly pointing at Kevin McKale on the sidelines and not saying anything, just nodding with a little smile under his blonde mustache and mullet. And if he’d lose, he’d say “That Kyle is the best poker player I’ve ever seen. He’s just…unbelievable.”
Consider this: while Indiana still has the rights to Jamaal Tinsley, his status is sketchy. He doesn’t appear on the ESPN Trade Machine, he is not assigned a jersey number on his team’s roster. That’s how badly the Pacers want to move on. This is a guy who averaged 12 points and 8.5 assists last year. He can’t help your team? He can’t still play?
So Denver gets more street-cred and wins the contest for “Most Tattoos Per Square Inch”, George Karl included. Indiana gets another perennial back-up point guard, and a decent but injured big man in Steven Hunter. Yawn. Let’s get to the next trade before I nod off and the Coffee Bean staff has to poke me with a broom.
3. Lamar Odom ($14.1m till 2009) for Richard Jefferson ($13.1 till 2011) and Ramon Sessions ($722k till 2009)
Attention Lakers fans. Listen carefully. The Lamar Odom situation is over. OVER. Yes, he is a very talented, 5-tool player. He has the ideal basketball body. In fact, he is a very good basketball player. (Other teams, stop reading now.)
But he will never win a championship. He cannot be relied upon in crunch-time situations. He is moody. He is insecure. The fact that he does many things well on the basketball court does not make up for the fact that he does NOTHING very well. He is the perennial third-option, and on a championship contender like the Lakers, the third option must produce. End of story.
Personally, I’ve been disappointed with Odom for a while now. From my father’s griping “he doesn’t play defense! What is that stance?! He’s sleeping out there!” to the fact that he’s exactly as good as he was his rookie year (and his senior year of high school…he has not improved one bit).
Honestly, have you ever heard the words “and then Lamar Odom took over the game”? It even looks funny to read on my computer screen.
So, let me kick the lever on the guillotine. Odom gots to go. He’s not even producing on the second unit of the Lakers right now, and being that Vlad Radmanovich finally woke up and is looking like a basketball player, there is literally no need for him.
So, let’s make Richard Jefferson’s stop in Milwaukee a short one. If you watched the Nets last season, you saw a PO’ed Jefferson. He had been out for a year due to a knee injury, the Nets were scraping the bottom of the East barrel, but he just wouldn’t give up. Plus, this “veteran” is only 28 years old…2 years younger than Kobe.
The only problem I have with this trade is why Milwaukee would ever agree to it. But, then again, maybe they haven’t seen Lamar Odom play recently. Besides, he’s always done well on underachieving teams.
4. Chris Kaman ($9.5m till 2012) and Cuttino Mobley ($8.9m till 2010) for Shawn Marion ($17.8m till 2009)
I’ve always liked Frankenstein.
Chris Kaman is a workhorse. His game, as a big man, is as refined as any bigs in the league. He doesn’t demand the ball, but can put up 20-10 games in his sleep. His hook shot is silk, he shoots above 70% from the line, and he’s only 26 years old.
The problem? They just traded for Marcus Camby, and there is a logjam in the post. Camby, though long-in-tooth at 34, is perfect for a run-and-gun offense, the style Baron Davis and Al Thorton would be successful with. Kaman? Let’s just say he won’t be leading the fast break.
So, Kaman’s on the outs, and the Clippers are looking for a running power forward. Keep in mind that Camby and Baron are not getting any younger, and the window for these Clippers to be successful is about 2 years.
Now let’s look to the youth movement in Miami. Shawn Marion is completely out-of-place. With no prominent point guard, we now see the player he is: 15-and-9 hustle player, getting points mainly on put-backs and open jumpers. He can still get up the floor and elevate, but in a set offense his skills diminish. Plus, this is the last year of his contract, and the Heat aren’t set to make any moves next year with the cap room he frees up. It would clear the way for Udonis Haslem (completely underappreciated) to step in with Michael Beasley, Wade, and the eventual Mario Chalmers.
Oh, and the Heat need a center. The Ilgauskas to Dewayne Wade’s Lebron. That is a solid lineup. I’m sold on this.
5. Kirk Hinrich ($10m till 2012) for Chris Wilcox ($6.7 till 2009) and Jeff Green ($3.2m till 2010)
Sooner or later the Thunder is going to figure out Kevin Durant should be playing at small forward. That way, they can move the talented Russell Westbrook to shooting guard, and let him explode for the 15-4-and-4 he is capable of. At that point, they will realize that Earl Watson, though a smart and assist-happy point guard, is far to small and shoots far too poorly.
In this fictitious world, the Thunder will then realize they have two of the same player in Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison, both of whom would excel if not for the other. In my mind, that means one is expendable.
So, let’s look at the Bulls, who would be willing to sell their souls to part with Kirk Hinrich’s salary and give the keys to their #1 draft pick, Derrick Rose. The fact that they get a starting center (when they were starting a converted small forward at center) and an upcoming young stud in Jeff Green only sweetens the deal. Plus, they’re both off the books by 2010 when several tempting free agents comes on the market.
End result? Both teams get better. I swear, this is too simple. It’s like simple math, but with players’ careers. I carried the one, right?
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Happy regular season, folks. Yes, I’m just as excited as you are.