Transaction Analysis (8/6-8/16)By Kevin Pelton
Aug. 17, 2002
Well, some minor injuries have kept me from being 100% as a writer this week (consider me day-to-day), so it’s been a week and a half since I last analyzed transactions. On the plus side, that means there are a lot of good, meaty deals to break down. Let’s get to it.
Because of the Celtics’ money crunch for next season, McCarty was not expected to return. But the free agent market is pretty soft, and he ended up coming back for the minimum. At that price, he’s a great guy to have around. Though many of the same things McCarty provides are also found in teammate Eric Williams, he’s a quality defender who plays hard and can shoot from an outside, which is a pretty good mix of talents, all things considered.
Signed free agent forward Donyell Marshall, who had been with the Utah Jazz. (8/16)
I recall reading somewhere that Mason got a guaranteed deal, though I can’t find any source to confirm that. Even though he was one of the top picks of the second round, that’s still a mild surprise and indicates how highly thought of Mason is. However, with Jamal Crawford and Trenton Hassell still in place as the backup backcourt this year, Mason will have a tough time finding minutes barring a trade.
Now let’s get to the main event here, which is the Bulls absolutely stealing Marshall on a three-year, $15 million contract. Marshall remains a tweener; not quite big enough for the four, and lacking the ballhandling ability and range of a three, but either way he’s one of the league’s better forwards. Though Marshall had his times with the Warriors, it was not until going to Utah the last two years that he really emerged. Other players have left the structure of the Jazz’s system and struggled, but I don’t see that happening here.
With the Bulls, Marshall’s versatility is a real plus -- especially in comparison to, say, Matt Harpring, who essentially replaces Marshall in Utah. Because he can play the four, where Marshall plays the bulk of his minutes will depend on the development of the young players (Tyson Chandler and Eddie Robinson) around him develop. Marshall’s signing would seem to push Marcus Fizer towards the end of the Chicago rotation, but given his poor and frequent shooting, is that a bad thing? No.
Cavs GM Jim Paxson has been quoted as saying he thought Boozer was first-round value for the team with their second-round pick. And he put his money where his mouth is by guaranteeing the maximum two years of Boozer’s deal. At this point, he figures to back up veteran Tyrone Hill, but given Hill’s health problems last year and age, Boozer could earn a lot of minutes next season, especially if Chris Mihm continues to disappoint.
Waived guard Carlos Arroyo. (8/15)
Speaking of possibly earning minutes when the player you’re backing up is injured, Blount will play behind the always-hurt Marcus Camby next season. Between Blount and Don Reid, the Nuggets are stockpiling mediocre reserve big men. Blount has some skills, primarily his shot-blocking ability, but after a decent first season couldn’t get off the bench in Boston last year. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking Denver would be a lot better off sorting through young guys to see if they could find a player who might contribute long-term. It takes some real optimism to think that about Blount and Reid.
Lost in the hoopla over the possibility that Jeff Bzdelik (and how exactly do you pronounce his last name, by the way?) will be Denver’s next head coach was the move to dump Arroyo, who played a fair amount last season after Tim Hardaway went out. Clearly Arroyo was behind Kenny Satterfield and . . . he’s waiver-wire material anyway.
Los Angeles Lakers
I suppose Guyton will be filling the roster spot that used to belong to Lindsey Hunter; the Lakers want a third point guard besides Derek Fisher and Brian Shaw on the roster -- especially because Shaw’s minutes during the regular season will likely be limited. Given that, why Guyton? He doesn’t seem to fit here. Phil Jackson’s fondness for big guards is legendary and Guyton is but 6-1. As well, truth be told, he’s really more of a shooting guard, which is where he played most of his minutes in Chicago. Given the high number of free agent point guards looking for work, you’d think the Lakers could have done better -- even for the minimum.
Waiting the 15 days the Sonics officially had to match Watson’s offer was but a mere formality, as they lacked any way to match because of the way Jerry West structured Memphis’ offer. So now Watson is a Grizzly and Memphis has a small crowd at the point guard position with Jason Williams and Brevin Knight still in place from last season (not to mention Eddie Gill, who Watson beat out for a job last fall in Seattle). The hot rumor out of the midwest is that a trade sending out both Knight and Stromile Swift is coming, but there has been little development on that front lately. If Knight’s contract is the main price to land the ultra-talented Swift, somebody ought to make a move.
Signed forward Rasual Butler. (8/14)
Signed rookie free agent guard Luke Recker. (8/15)
And the Miami Heat builds the young portion of its bench. Stepania is the only one of these guys likely to have any real impact next season; after some solid play in limited minutes last year, he projects as the top reserve big man. But still . . . a reported $1.2 million? I know that big men are always overpaid, but how much competition did the Heat really face for Stepania’s services? At least it’s only one year. (The other) Butler played pretty well during summer-league action, but he’s still an obscure player who is unlikely to do much in his two seasons with Miami. As for Recker, he could have some value as a designated shooter-type -- but only if the Heat fails to re-sign Jim Jackson and Eddie House.
After endless complaining from Minnesota fans, the Timberwolves have done something. This is a dice roll, basically. If the Cavaliers decide not to match and let Davis walk, then he is a very nice pickup at the median exception level. Getting Davis would give Minnesota options, like moving Kevin Garnett to the four next season to make room for Davis as a starter or dealing Wally Szczerbiak to try to get a point guard. But the Wolves would be down to their “million-dollar” exception to land a point guard, leaving them extremely thin if Terrell Brandon can’t go next season.
The other scenario, of course, is that the Cavs match the offer and the Wolves get back their money. In this case, Minnesota will probably have had its money tied up in Davis for a couple of weeks while the free agent market sorts itself out. That could be very bad -- if the top point guard options end up making their minds before considering Minnesota -- or very good -- if players become desperate for employment by the beginning of September and Kevin McHale can land a bargain. I like Davis, and I also like this bold move.
New Jersey Nets
One of the major downsides of promoting Richard Jefferson to the starting five in last week’s blockbuster deal with Philadelphia was that the Nets weakened the bench. But they moved quickly to fill the void left by Jefferson’s absence with Rogers, who is the last addition that makes the Nets the clear favorites in the East. At this stage of his career, Rogers won’t be playing a lot of small forward, but he can push Kenyon Martin out on the perimeter defensively and back up both forward positions. Rogers played center in Boston, but with Aaron Williams and Jarron Collins behind Dikembe Mutombo, the Nets are pretty well set.
Best of all, Rogers came very cheap -- only $9 million over three years. That sum over two years would have been a bargain for him, so the Nets made out like bandits. I think some people have been fawning a little too much over what this New Jersey team can do next season, but there really is little downside I can find to this deal.
New York Knicks
The Knicks began this summer with the boldest intentions for the center position. They would get one of the trio of Keon Clark, Jerome James, or Rasho Nesterovic and solidify the middle in New York for years to come. Well, Clark wasn’t particularly interested, the Knicks weren’t sold on James and the Sonics were, and the Timberwolves aren’t about to back down on their position that they won’t move Nesterovic, so that’s left Doleac. Wow. Excuse me if I’m a little underwhelmed by this one.
The Knicks still have a fairly significant portion of their median exception left to sign a big man, but the sad fact is that Doleac was one of the better ones left on the market. Assuming Nesterovic still is not going anywhere, there is nobody the Knicks could sign who would push aside forward Kurt Thomas from being New York’s top player in the middle. As to Doleac himself, I don’t think two inches of height is enough to make up the difference in skill between him and Thomas. Doleac is a jump-shooting big man who hasn’t made those jumpers in recent years, and that makes his value pretty dubious in my opinion.
Negotiated a buyout with center Patrick Ewing, making him a free agent. (8/15)
The Magic continue their efforts to clear room under the luxury tax, saving about $500,000 from what I’ve seen with this move. Even if the Magic sign a rookie at the minimum to fill Ewing’s roster spot, they still come out ahead. It was quite obvious that Ewing was not going to contribute to next year’s Orlando team, so any savings is worthwhile. It’s an unfortunate end to what is still a fabulous career for Ewing.
Any criticism of the Suns’ decision to reward Marion with the biggest contract extension allowable misses the point, in my opinion. There’s been the usual cry of “He’s not a go-to player” from some fans, but the fact is that Marion is on the cusp of being a 20-10 player and will most likely achieve that feat next season. Rare enough is the power forward or center who hits those marks, but a small forward? That, with the exception of Garnett, who’s really a power forward anyway, is absolutely unheard of. As if that wasn’t enough, Marion is the rare scoring small forward who is also a strong defender (okay, okay, Garnett again) and really has no glaring weaknesses in his game. His outside shot could stand to improve, and if he makes that adjustment, Marion will be a perennial All-Star starting next year.
Portland Trail Blazers
Well, this one had only been rumored since about late April, so not much of a surprise. The most interesting thing about this move ended up being McInnis’ salary -- about $9 million over three years. At the full median exception (67% more), McInnis was a questionable pickup. There are a lot of questions about his playmaking ability and his defense -- some of the same things that have plagued Damon Stoudamire in Portland. I’m not sure that McInnis is an upgrade on Stoudamire . . . I think they’re fairly close, all things (on the court) considered. But when you factor in that Stoudamire is making about four times as much as McInnis, well then he’s clearly a valuable player. As well, I think Stoudamire has worn out his welcome in Portland, and a change is necessary after the way last season came to a close. By getting McInnis cheap (and trading for Antonio Daniels), the Blazers have given themselves some great leverage for a Stoudamire trade. They don’t have to deal him -- and if they do, they don’t have to take back anybody who can really play, because they’re already covered at the point. Stoudamire’s attitude is a concern, with reports already surfacing that he’s asked for a trade, but I like the position Bob Whitsitt is in. He can shop around and try to get good value for Stoudamire. Somebody will get desperate and make a move for him.
Signed free agent forward Keon Clark, who had been with the Toronto Raptors. (8/14)
Re-signed restricted free agent forward Mike Bibby to a multi-year contract extension. (8/16)
And with that, the Kings pursuit of the Los Angeles Lakers officially begins for another season. Not only will Sacramento bring back the entirety of its rotation from last season, now they will add to it with Clark, who was rightfully considered one of the top free agents on the market. One of the few Sacramento players who struggled dramatically during the playoffs was Scott Pollard. In the Dallas series, Pollard spent long stretches on the bench because of matchup problems (though admittedly, he helped turn around the series when re-inserted into the rotation). Then against the Lakers, Pollard was ineffective, getting abused by Shaquille O’Neal and not doing much offensively. Pollard’s troubles made Vlade Divac’s foul trouble all the more problematic for Sacramento.
Like a smart general manager should, Geoff Petrie has addressed what held his team back last June. Will Clark fare any better against O’Neal? Unlikely; he’s far too slight of stature to hold his own in that situation. But Clark brings other things to the table that Pollard didn’t, including a better all-around offensive game and shot-blocking. Between Clark and Pollard, the Kings have what would be a fairly decent pair of big man starters coming off the bench. That is simply remarkable.
As for Bibby, I think the reported $80 million over seven years is too much. He’s worth more like $70 million based on an objective analysis of his overall contributions, without placing the undue weight on his playoff performance that I think many members of the media have. But in the end, that $10 million is money well spent if it was necessary to keep Bibby in Sacramento. This team obviously has an excellent chance at winning it all next season.
I concluded last week (well, only because I happened to be writing this about the last team alphabetically) by noting that in the West, small differences could have a huge impact because there is so much competition. Clark is a big addition (and bringing back Bibby is, in its own way, a big move) and could have enormous impact.
Kevin Pelton is the Lead Editor for the Pacific Division of News@Hoopsworld.com. He was this close to proclaiming that the Kings would be next season's champions, but ultimately decided that to be premature. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.