The Dirt On Trade Rumors
Making rumors is easy. Making trades is tough.
So, it’s that time of the year again…trade rumor season! Dutiful fans probably have Amar’e Stoudemire or Raymond Felton sugarplums dancing in their heads. NBA heads are cooking up numerous proposals that will have their team in the championship hunt in no time. After all, it worked in NBA 2K9.
But why do managers rarely act on trades that we think make perfect sense? As you probably know, trade rumors almost always have major flaws. Let’s break down four common trade assumptions to understand why playing GM isn’t as easy as some may think.
1. Having an expiring contract affords as much leverage as having an antidote to a slow-acting poison.
Fans generally believe opposing GMs are thrilled at the opportunity to get rid of big contracts for essentially useless players and the opportunity to spend money on future players. There’s also a general feeling that teams without a shot at the championship exist for the sole purpose of giving good teams their best players.
But the thought of teams going free-agent crazy with expiring money is hilarious—only one max-contract free agent signing has ever led his team to a championship. Other than the summer of 2010 (when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Larry Bird, and a new-model Terminator sent back in time in order to play basketball and the sky shall turn purple and the nonbelievers will be blinded), few teams will be thrilled to try for the huge free agent fish, especially when most wouldn’t have the cap space.
Example: The Cavs have a massive expiring contract in the form of Wally Szczerbiak, who is a terrible fake European player. I fully believe the Cavs should target Amar’e Stoudemire for Wally’s contract and a few extra things. Phoenix isn’t winning the championship anytime soon, right? And with that expiring contract, there’s like a 35 percent chance the Suns could sign Carlos Boozer when he opts out! Boozer’s almost as good as Amar’e and almost fits Phoenix’s system! No-brainer! This makes sense in my head.
2. GMs will offer whatever you desire if you include a young, talented player.
There is no fear like trading a player and watching him blossom and go off for the next five years. Watching a guy you expected to blossom into a star do it for another team is the worst kind of pain there is. Fans tend to fear this pain so much that they elevate their own players to the status of demigods in trade proposals.
Back to the Cavaliers. An example of this type of player is Daniel Gibson. He came into the League as a spot-up 3-point shooter, and a very good one. But he also had blinding foot speed and absolutely great ball handling ability. Fans assumed Boobie was two years from learning to see the court and get to the hole. They also thought he would develop into JET Terry or Mike Bibby, at worst.
In his third year, Gibson is a very good 3-point shooter who occasionally tries to drive the hole and shoot a floater—which he misses—and who still has no court vision. But when Gibson gave everyone those JET flashes, we wouldn’t have traded him for anybody.
Now, back to the ridiculous Wally-for-Amar’e proposal. The Cavs have a young J.J. Hickson, who looks like one of the sleeper success stories in the Draft. He’s an absolutely ridiculous athlete with a massive wingspan and springs, who can fly down the court. He’s got soft hands and is a born shot-blocker. He’s shown some extremely patient moves to lose the defender and finish in traffic around the basket. We’ve seem beautiful quick face-up cuts off passes and even a smooth mid-range stroke. In my mind, Hickson will have a Leon Powe-type impact in the Playoffs and has a baby Amar’e potential. I would be reluctant to give up Hickson in a Stoudemire trade, but would probably do so begrudgingly. (Rest assured, there are many Cavs fans who would not.)
3. Non-lottery picks don’t matter and can be thrown around like pennies in a pool.
Some people are willing to disregard a non-lottery pick as an added bonus for a one-season rental of a player like Brad Miller. But is overpaying a player for a half-season worth the rights to a guy like Tyler Hansborough, who could possibly play for a decade? Even Taj Gibson, who would be considered a reach in the late-first round, is—in the opinion of a USC homer—definitely a rotation big in the NBA for a number of years.
4. The Gasol trade happened, so any trade is possible.
Actually, I guess it kind of does mean anything is possible. Hop on that trade checker and dare to dream, everybody!