Cohen 8-Ball: Analyzing Trade Deadline Activity
February 21, 2013
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: All along it was apparent that many teams wanted J.J. Redick – either to help a championship contending team’s chances of winning the title without assurances he would stay past this season or to become a mainstay on a team willing to give Redick a big contract this summer. After acquiring J.J. at the deadline, Milwaukee hopes to persuade the sharpshooting guard to stay and either replace Monta Ellis (impending free agent) if he leaves town or become its prominent role player. However, after playing his entire pro career in 75-degree weather, it’s hard to envision Redick adjusting long term to the frozen tundra, especially with a team who is just a fringe playoff challenger.
Cohen’s Analysis: Beno Udrih has an expiring contract, Hakim Warrick has a team option for next year and may be waived shortly and Doron Lamb was a second round draft pick last June and isn’t necessarily a part of the long term foresight. The player worth paying very close attention to is Tobias Harris, the 19th pick in the 2011 draft who has a ton of promising potential. He is long, has a deceivingly quick first step, can score with either hand around the basket and is versatile because he can play either forward position. He didn’t get much opportunity with the Bucks. He will likely earn significant playing time with the Magic.
Cohen’s Analysis: The Magic’s long-term vision is very rational. When they traded Dwight Howard last summer, they purposely allowed for future financial flexibility and a more undeviating, yet rewarding renovation. With patience, Orlando will stock up on a high draft pick this year and probably another high draft pick next year (the year that could transfigure the landscape of the league) and will have a load of cap space to sign top-tier free agents in 2014 or 2015. As a result, don’t expect the Magic to take on any hefty contracts for the next year.
Cohen’s Analysis: Just about every team was too reluctant to surrender an unprotected 2014 draft pick. As one team executive stated it: “Too much at risk to lose something so valuable.” It’s becoming very evident around the league that the next franchise superstar may be available in the 2014 NBA Draft. While per league policy, potential NBA prospects may not be mentioned until they declare for the draft. Earlier this season, another team executive told me that next season would be one of those seasons where teams would rather be in the lottery than have a short-lived playoff run.
Cohen’s Analysis: The punitive luxury tax penalties that will go into effect starting next season had an impact on many trade offers. Very few owners are reluctant to pile on too much salary out of trepidation that the price will be too steep to contend with. Last month, Memphis felt indebted to trade Rudy Gay because his massive contract along with the deals Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol possess would have jeopardized the economic landscape of the Grizzlies. I’ve been told in the past the only teams not afraid of the luxury tax penalties and the forthcoming repeater tax are Brooklyn, L.A. Lakers and Toronto.
Cohen’s Analysis: If about 90 percent of the Lakers organization had a say in whether to trade Dwight Howard, the All-Star center would be elsewhere right now. But those who make the essential decisions, notably GM Mitch Kupchak, are destined to make the Kobe-Dwight relationship work. It’s no secret anymore that Howard is not happy with the Lakers and would prefer to be in Brooklyn, Houston or Dallas. However, the Lakers strongly believe Dwight will not turn down the five-year, $118 million offer, which is $30 million more than what he could get from other teams significantly below the salary cap.
Cohen’s Analysis: One of the biggest surprises of the day came out of Salt Lake City and the Jazz’s decision to not trade either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap. Both will be free agents this summer, but many believe Big Al wants to remain in Utah and will seriously consider re-signing there. With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter progressing and awaiting advanced playing time, however, it’s rather stunning Millsap is still a member of the team. One possible hypothesis is that the Jazz believe they can advance further in the playoffs and it’s better to assess their roster after the season rather than gut it now and assume a rebuild is necessary when perhaps it isn’t.
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s probably smart that the Hawks didn’t bite on just any offer for Josh Smith and rather let the season play out and make a determination from there. While Atlanta seems reluctant to give Smith a max contract when he becomes a free agent this summer, it’s entirely possible that the existence of Smith can help recruit Dwight Howard. Remember, Dwight and Josh are good buds who grew up together in Atlanta. If there is inkling that Howard will decide to leave L.A. and if Smith pitches an appealing speech, all that cap space in Atlanta could pay off for the Hawks.