NBA Summer Moves: Southwest Division
The Spurs and Mavs restock while everyone else takes a step back.
As we begin with our look out west at the NBA’s offseason moves, the focus in the Southwest Division is naturally on San Antonio where the Spurs have once again proven to be that much better than everyone else when it comes to restocking their roster. Not even including the Draft (which they dominated), the Spurs made some outstanding acquisitions in bringing Richard Jefferson on board to reinvigorate their starting lineup, and added a couple of potential steals on the bench in Antonio McDyess and Marcus Haislip. The Dallas Mavericks weren’t far behind in making several moves as well that should put them back near the top tier of the Western Conference. Shawn Marion will make the Mavs very versatile with the starting lineup option they can trot out on the floor and the signing of Quinton Ross will give them a nice two-way player who can knock down the perimeter jumper coming off the bench.
The Hornets, Rockets and Grizzlies all leave a little to be desired for their fans after their summers in the trade and free agent markets. New Orleans traded away the trio of Tyson Chandler, Rasual Butler and Antonio Daniels to bring on Emeka Okafor, Bobby Brown and Darius Songalia. The first addition isn’t bad, but trading away Butler may not have been a smart move. Even the signing of Ike Diogu doesn’t really make up for some questionable trades by the Hornets. Houston’s signing of Trevor Ariza isn’t a bad move, but considering he will not be expected to carry a huge part of this team given the loss of Yao and Ron Artest, this move gets a bit of a downgrade. Which of course leaves Memphis, who opted to potentially taint their blossoming young nucleus with the likes of Zach Randolph and Allen Iverson who will be confined to coming off the bench for much of his time in uniform. All of this means it should be a very, very interesting year in the Southwest Division, but for now let’s get to the picks.
Best Offseason Move: (See Over-the-Top Move below)
Best Potential Over-The-Top Move: Spurs trade for Richard Jefferson
There are two ways to look at this move if you’re a Spurs fan. Perspective one offers up the glass half full approach in which San Antonio dealt three aging veterans (Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto) and their expiring contracts for a 29-year-old all-star caliber player who drops 20 ppg and gives them a tremendous energy boost on the perimeter. The glass half empty perspective leads us to look at the fact that by taking on Jefferson’s $14 million per year contract the Spurs have eliminated themselves from the 2010 free agent market free for all. Call me an optimist, but I’m going with the former here.
Jefferson is probably the same caliber of player that San Antonio would have landed next summer anyway, but instead of shelling out a ton of money down the road while dealing with a roster already subscribing to AARP, the Spurs get younger and reload a year early. With Tim Duncan aging before our eyes and Manu Ginobli dealing with injury, the importance of landing a player like Jefferson a year early cannot be overstated.
What this does for San Antonio now is several things. It will allow the Spurs to take some pressure off of Ginobili and rest him when he needs to in order to prevent further breakdown. It also gives them another big time scoring threat in the backcourt to work alongside Tony Parker. Think about the rotating trio of Parker, Ginobili and Jefferson all attacking the rim with the likes of Roger Mason Jr spotting up on the perimeter to bury open attempts from beyond the arc. With this move the Spurs have thrown themselves back into NBA Championship talks and on paper can make the argument for being the best team in the League. They may not get to delve into the fray that will be the summer of 2010, but if they are hoisting the championship trophy next year, will they really care?
Best Long-Term Move: Dallas Trades for Shawn Marion
This one may come a as a surprise pick for some given that the UNLV grad is coming off a significant down year statistically, but Marion has landed in a perfect situation to get back to being a major force. This addition gives Dallas a slew of offensive weapons to surround aging point guard Jason Kidd with for what should be the final three years of his career. While this may not suddenly thrust the Mavs into the race for Western Conference supremacy, it does put them right on the heels of the Lakers and the Spurs in regards to the pecking order.
The Matrix will be an instant boost for the team on the defensive end and as a rebounder. Given that he won’t be looked at as a primary or even secondary scoring option night in and night out, it should allow him to regain some of his older form — not necessarily setting the nets on fire, but filling up the stat sheet every which way. This move will also allow Dallas to play a lot smaller and quicker if they want to, putting Marion at the four next to Dirk Nowitzki inside, with Kidd, Jason Terry and Josh Howard potentially filling out the other three spots in the rotation. In pulling the trigger on this deal, the Mavericks have launched themselves into the top echelon of the conference for the next few years.
Most Overpriced Move: Spurs Sign Antonio McDyess
Generally it’s tough to rag on the Spurs for any of their offseason maneuvers; they know what they’re doing. This time though San Antonio may have gone a little steep in signing the aging Antonio McDyess to a three-year, $16 million contract. Sure, it gives the frontcourt some depth and provides Tim Duncan with a viable backup option who is tough and can rebound on the defensive end. Still, McDyess is 35, had bad knees and really there doesn’t appear to be much left in the tank at this point. It isn’t to say that this can’t wind up being yet another brilliant move by the Spurs front office, but for the amount they forked over, maybe San Antonio would have been better off resigning Drew Gooden who is younger and might be able to provide more in a rotational role.
Worst Offseason: Houston Rockets
Part of this has to do with the fact that Yao is now done for the upcoming season and that Ron Artest had pretty much made up his mind that he wanted out of Houston, but still, it’s hard to come away feeling anything other than unimpressed with what the Rockets did this summer. Having lost the cornerstone of their franchise and one of their more vital players, Houston needed to make a big splash; instead they signed Trevor Ariza to the mid-level exception.
Look, Ariza isn’t a bad player, some will argue he was an important part of the Lakers championship team last season, but he is not a go-to star player. This isn’t the type of individual who can step into a new lineup and suddenly transform the team into an injury riddled club to a playoff contender. If the Rockets went out and made some other moves to bring in additional players, this might have gone down as an adequate offseason, but essentially swapping Artest for Ariza in the midst of losing Yao is just not going to cut it out west.
Worst Offseason (Honorable Mention): Memphis Grizzlies
This one was so close that I felt it necessary to mention the Grizz as well. Memphis was still looking at a potentially bumpy season, but had a solid young nucleus in place with Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, Hasheem Thabeet, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur. Why then go ahead and trade for a major trouble maker in Zach Randolph (even if he is talented) and a potential problem in Allen Iverson? Yes, both players bring a lot to the floor in regards to their ability to put the ball in the basket, but is that necessarily the right thing to do given the impressionable youth this team is sporting right now and trying to build around? Is one season of Iverson providing some scoring off the bench worth the potential issues he could force in the locker room?
Best Offseason: San Antonio Spurs
It’s hard to argue with this pick given that essentially everyone else in the division aside from Dallas really took a step backwards. The Spurs dealt a trio of aging veterans for the younger, more dynamic Richard Jefferson to help offset the aging and banged up Manu Ginobli. The Antonio McDyess signing might be somewhat overpriced, but if Dice plays up to his potential this could be a nice steal for the Spurs.
Perhaps the most intriguing move San Antonio pulled the trigger on was the signing of former lottery pick Marcus Haislip. After getting limited action during his initial stint in the League, the 6-10 forward spent a few seasons overseas where he put together an impressive highlight reel of tremendous dunks and blocked shots in addition to developing a pretty solid perimeter jumper. All told, he isn’t going to emerge as the next big thing in the NBA, but can be a very reliable energy player off the bench for the Spurs once he gets readjusted to hoops in the states.