Jun 25, 2009

Trades Out-Hype the Draft

It is fitting that the draft commonly thought of as the weakest in years was outdone by trades.

When Orlando and Cleveland met in the Eastern Conference Finals, Orlando walked away with the last laugh. On draft night, Orlando laughed last again by countering Cleveland's Shaq acquisition with their Vince Carter pickup. Coincidence? I think not.

Clearly, O'Neal and Carter are both on their way down the peak of their respective careers. In fact, this night's draftees were still in grade school when Carter and O'Neal came into the league.

These moves were made out of desparation. Cleveland knows that now may be the only time to convince Lebron to stay. Orlando could taste supremacy this season, only to watch it slip away in the final round.

So what do these trades mean for these teams? Do these elderly statesmen have enough in their tanks to make a difference? Do they even fit with their new teams' rosters? Let's take a closer look.

Shaq to Cleveland:

On paper, Cleveland didn't risk much in this transaction. Shaq's gargantuan contract expires next year, and the departed (Ben Wallace & Sasha Pavlovic) will hardly be missed. In reality, Cleveland risked everything. Lebron may pack his bags if the Diesel isn't the right piece and Cleveland can't win a title next season.

Shaq's presence will be felt one way or another. That's what immovable objects do. Whether this presence will be positive or negative is the real question.

Best case scenario, the double-teams commanded by Shaq will give Lebron more room to operate and free up Cleveland's array of one-dimensional shooters. His body will wear down Cleveland's newest nemesis (Orlando) and neutralize Dwight Howard. Cleveland's undoing in the ECF was largely due to the inability of the Wallace/Illgauskas combo to slow down Dwight Howard. Finally, Mo Williams won't have to be the #2 option, a role he wasn't ready to play against Orlando.

Worst case scenario, Shaq's immobility will be a problem in defending pick-and-rolls. His loitering in the offensive lane will clog things up for Lebron, who's jumpshot isn't good enough to remain on the perimeter. His ego will be damaging when Lebron steals all of his publicity.

I'm guessing the Cavs' regular season record will be impacted negatively by this transaction. It will take the team weeks, if not months, to become accustomed to having Shaq on the court. Defensive rotations will change, offensive spacing will change, and Lebron's development as the team's leader will by stymied.

However, Cavs didn't make this trade to win the regular season. They made this trade to win the postseason. Acquiring the Diesel was monumental for Cleveland's chances to outlast Boston and Orlando in the 2010 playoffs. As those playoffs will probably make or break the franchise's future with Lebron, this was a great move.

Carter to Orlando:

Bringing in Carter shows Orlando's commitment to the here and now, sacrificing the future promise of Courtney Lee to get a few twilight years from Carter.

First question I have is: who's going to take the last shot on this roster? Lewis and Turkoglu showed icy veins time and again this postseason. Carter has provided late-game heroics throughout his career. I suppose this dilemma is a good problem to have. The only thing I know for sure is that Dwight Howard won't be taking the last shot.

Best case scenario, Carter will flourish in the pinstripes. His three-point proficiency and ability to finish in the open court will mesh perfectly with Orlando's open style of play. If teams struggled matching up with Turkoglu and Lewis in '09, adding Carter to the mix could make the matchups nightmarish in '10. Now all five Magic starters are all-star caliber players.

Worst case scenario, Carter is lost in this offense. He isn't accustomed to sitting in the corner awaiting a kickout, which is what Magic players not named Dwight Howard do best. He doesn't handle the ball enough to play his game, and his ho-hum attitude takes the fire out of Magic bellies.

I think the Carter pickup will solidify Orlando's domination of Lebron's Cavaliers. Lebron couldn't cover Hedo and Rashard simultaneously this season, and nobody else on that roster could cover either of them. With Carter and Turkoglu interchangeable as ballhandling wings, Orlando will pick-and-roll Shaq to death. With a healthy Garnett, however, I still don't see Orlando beating Boston in a seven-game set. Carter will help the Magic if they make it back to the finals, but getting there will be a tall task.


KneeJerkNBA said...

Carter and Van Panic seems like a bad match to me, not quite Carlesimo/Spree but close. SVP wants his players to defend and take good shots. VC is infamous for doing the exact opposite.

In terms of the Cavs, I don't think they're done dealing yet. Rasheed makes sense.

hari said...