Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This Ain't A Scene, It's The Goddamn Western Conference

The Western Conference Arms Race Of 2008 went through another escalation today as the Dallas Mavericks traded Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, DeSagna Diop, Maurice Ager, and two first round raft picks to the New Jersey Nets for point guard Jason Kid.

Well, then.

After Gasol went to the Lakers, it was expected that there would be a flurry of activity to try and respond. But I don't think anyone expected this. Shaq to the Suns, Kidd to the Mavs? What's next?

Denver is in constant talks with Sacramento to pick up Artest, which would be an alarming combination of unstable personalities in the Mile High City, not to mention what it would cost the Nuggets, more than likely standout forward Linas Kleiza and possibly Nene Hilario.

Portland knows it's short right now heading into the playoffs and may look to upgrade at a position.

The Hornets know their bench is weak and they're going to have to respond in order to catch up with the rest of the West in the playoffs.

Utah is contemplating moving a resurgent Andrei Kirilenko as a result of all the different moves that have taken place.

And then there's the Spurs.

The Spurs keep saying they're not shopping, and that's a pretty good bet. They know they have a winning team and they won't make the mistake other teams are making in sacrificing their long term potential for the short term.

Which is exactly what those teams have done.

Trading Marion was a near necessity for the Suns. The locker room dynamic was suffering and there was a wide deficit in the paint in terms of rebounds and defense. They could have gone out and gotten a combination of young players to slide in, but they elected for the $40 million homerun, in the biggest gamble of Steve Kerr's short front office career.

But the Mavericks move was even more mystifying. They had depth, they had youth, they had a high payroll but manageable assets. And they pumped half of that out the door for the shot at the homerun with an aging point guard shooting 37% this year.

Now, don't get me wrong, Jason Kidd is a tremendous playmaker, and I don't hate the deal in terms of moving Kidd in. It's what they gave up that's perplexing. Here's what the Mavs are dependent on, now that they've pulled this trigger. After assuming Kidd plays motivated and up to his All-Star caliber, you still need the following...

  • Jason Terry to settle into a comfortable role as either a backup or a shoot first small guard. There's an alarming lack of talent at that position, and even though Terry is coming off the bench now, he's primarily a scorer, not a true point. He's going to either thrive in an unencumbered role as a scoring guard, using his speed and touch to get to the rack, or he's going to drown behind the veteran.
  • Erick Dampier to play well, and stay healthy at all costs. Losing Diop is a massive blow to the Dallas frontcourt, which was playing really well in tandem. But Dampier is no spring chicken at 32 and they're pretty much going to be relying on him solely in the paint to guard Bynum, Shaq, and Duncan.
  • Brandon Bass to be the man. Bass has been exceptional this year with the Mavs, but he's going to need to be a force on both ends of the floor. He's going to have to provide consistent effort in the paint and in transition for this deal to work.
  • Dirk's gotta get nasty. Losing Diop's size and Harris' leadership means Dirk is going to have to put this team on his shoulders when it gets down. Howard is going to be the primary offensive threat, but more than ever, Dirk's going to have to be the go to guy. Because otherwise they're going to get eaten alive offensively.
  • Second round draft picks better work out, because the Mavs just gave up two first rounders.
  • The Nets go through with Stack's buyout, and he resigns with the Mavs.
This could end up great for the Mavs, and Kidd could shove the over the top to a championship. If it doesn't, it's a bust. That's the gamble on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. What you give up is your future.

For the Nets, this is a pretty sweet deal. I've bagged on Thorn all year long, but he came through today. Young, talented, developing point guard. A big man to fill their monster gap in the center. Maurice Ager's junk. And two first round picks to go with the second rounder they're picking up from the Mavs for Antoine Wright. They come out with talent, flexibility, and draft picks.

Hey, Memphis! You payin' attention?

Either way this works out, the West just got absolutely redonkulous.

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