Thursday, July 17, 2008

Offseason Offtable 7.16.08

Your bi-weekly checkup on the offseason, featuring news, notes, opinions, rantings, and the all important Offseason Daily Survival Guide...
It's Only Damage Control If You're Aware You're Doomed...

The Camby trade is a lot more significant than I thought, and the depths of it have me both perturbed and exhilarated.

First off for the Clips, this reeks of something almost resembling a rational decision, which frightens me beyond belief. If Elgin Baylor is capable of making intelligent long-term decisions, I fear the apocalypse may be at hand. When Brand first took the money and ran, I asked my colleagues "They have to make a stab at Josh Smith, don't they?" I looked at that roster minus Brand, and if I were a Clippers fan, I would have been pushing the panic button.

Funny thing, though. Pushing the panic button is going to salve the burn, but it's not going to get you out of the fire. Often it results in a long term contract that you later continually wish you could dropkick off the bridge like it was Baxter. That's how you roll. Case in point: Ben Wallace. Instead of going that route, the Clippers assessed their options, made some calls, and got a hold of a team that wanted to shed cash and contracts. They dropped off a second round pick, gave the Nuggets a trade exception, and picked up a former defensive player of the year.

Now, Pick Axe and Roll is all over this thing, and despite Jeremy's unwavering realism regarding the dreck this team is currently mired in, he's big on this trade. And he's got some great points we'll get to shortly. However, his assassination piece on Marcus Camby is a little overblown. Look, don't get me wrong, I was the biggest marksman targeting that sieve they call a defense down the stretch. I felt there should have been a petition to keep them out of the playoffs, precisely so we wouldn't be subjected to that pointless exhibition of a basketball series the first round against the Lakers was. However, I think using pure stats, particularly defensive ones, is considerably soft. First off, and Basketball on Paper would be the first to tell you, defensive statistics area long way from being perfect. They're good on a team level for providing insight on generally how good a team is defensively and where they sit. They're good for evaluating combinations of players and having players in certain positions. But they're not designed well enough on an individual basis to garner a legitimate criticism or source of praise for any player yet. Camby was one of the few guys on that squad last year who knew what he was doing, where to be, how to play his man, and how to stick to his system. The problem wasn't entirely effort and talent defensively last season. It was primarily from my observations, a matter of chemistry and, though I like George Karl a lot, coaching. The Nuggets, particularly versus the Lakers, had no idea where they were supposed to be. Too many times I'd see Camby having to leave his man to make up for a blown assignment. Camby brings toughness and a post center option to a team that relies heavily on it. It works for the system, it works for the player, and it gives them flexibility of the Free Agency Summer of Doom. You can't spin losing Elton Brand. But you can move on with your lives.
The Phantom Exception...

Now, that slight disagreement with Jeremy regarding his assessment of Camby's defense shouldn't cloud what is otherwise a fantastic series of pieces over at his site. Particularly of note is the breakdown of why this is okay, and it all starts and ends with that trade exception. When I wrote the breaking piece for FanHouse, there was no word of the trade exception mentioned. And if you ignore that piece of information, the Nuggets look like they ate a lot of paint chips when they were a kid. But the second I read Jeremy's piece, my brain hit a giant stop sign, and when I looked up, I saw a mountain of possibilities staring me in the face. That's $10 million of space they opened up. As the trade broke, the Denver GM kept saying financial flexibility, which we all assumed meant "saving the owner the luxury tax dough next year." But a trade exception leaves a much more interesting flexibility, cap flexibility. They have pieces. Linas Kleiza is cheap, affordable, a hard worker, and young. JR Smith is a basketcase that can score like no other. And there's of course, the big 2. It would be pretty easy to use that exception to talk Sacramento into giving over Crazy Pills, who says he doesn't want to play in Denver, but he'll of course change his mind when he realizes he's playing with AI and Melo in a town with Colfax Avenue. It's like an indoor mini-golf course of hookers. Open all year round and slightly bizarre at the same time. It's CandyLand for Crazy Pills. And no Snake Eggs.

The more intriguing possibility is of course Josh Smith. If he doesn't want to go back to Atlanta with Woodson there, and the management in disarray and not wanting to shell out dough, a $10 million trade exception can go a long way. Allen Iverson, JR Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Josh Smith, and whatever you want to play Center. That strikes fear into the hearts of men. It won't happen, of course. More likely is a smaller set up by the Nuggets that they try and sell to the fans as a "big move" which is actually nothing at all. But it's a thought.

It should be noted that Denver Stiffs tends to disagree with the more optimistic mindset regarding this turn of events.
Dare To Dream...

Speaking of Smith, another thought drifted into my head this morning, and I can't believe I hadn't thought of it. The Grizzlies have $10 million in cap space for next season. Make an offer for Josh Smith. I know, I know, it's way too low. But if he accepts with the understanding of a backloaded contract, and the Hawks management has a seizure and cna't gt its assets in line to match, imagine that. Letting Josh Smith go for $10million. Now picture it.


In Memphis. It would be the second coming of underground funk. It would lift us up to the sky and show us absolute and untethered mania. It would be really freaking cool.

The other option, and this is a little more possible, is a sign and trade, with one of Memphis' picks for next year, Hakim Warrick, Crittenton/Lowry, Buckner and Walker. Yes, you lose Josh Smith. But at least that way the Hawks can say they got long term cap flexibility for the Free Agency Summer of Doom, and got some quality pieces out of it. The Grizzlies are left with no bench, but that's okay, I've got a whole list of D-Leaguers they can play five minutes a night for the league minimum no problem. Furthermore, you've just made Memphis relevant again. And not in the "That's an underrated team you've got there." People will pay attention to it. It'll never happen, but that's the kind of dream I was born to dream.
On Tyronn Lue...

Milwaukee, Tyronn? Really? Really?

We Will Not Negotiate With Arms Dealers...

What's funny about the absurd amount of money the Hornets just handed James Posey is that this honestly represents more of a "We're fine. We're just going to tweak" attitude than anything else. Posey's not a difference maker or a superstar. He's a guy that does the little things, in small minutes, in the long run. And the Hornets essentially said "We need one more shooter, and we want to make damn sure he's a guy that knows how to hit a shot when it counts. We're getting this guy, growing Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong, and going back to the trenches." No big flashy signing or trade, no kneejerk reactions, just "We probably won't run into the Spurs next season in the playoffs and if we do, we'll know how to beat them. And we know if you can be athletic and play defense you can beat the Lakers. No panic." Steady. Sure. Confident. This is the hand of Byron Scott.

Your Offseason Survival Guide:

Go to Vegas!

Yes, Las Vegas Nevada, where, especially this week, you're likely to run into an NBA superstar, which will remind you of the season, when these guys actually give a crap about what they're eating, drinking, and doing. This is this week's Surival Guide, because that's where I'll be starting tomorrow and running through Monday. Check out Ridiculous Upside and FanHouse for my coverage (it's going to be pretty kickass), and enjoy some of the new columns we've got rolling around here. And please, tell Corn to quit trying to convince me to play the tables again. It never ends well and the Paroxy-wife has vehemently threatened changing the locks if I get... ahem... carried away. Enjoy the weekend, folks.

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