Transaction Analysis (8/19-8/23)By Kevin Pelton
Aug. 24, 2002
It’s been a fairly light week transactions-wise, without a single trade, and the biggest moves have actually been a buyout and a contract offer matched. As a result, I’m going to take some of the space I’d normally use discussing transactions to discuss some moves that either have already been made or will be made in the near future.
A key positive to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement for team owners was the new contract set-up for first-round draft picks. Once upon a time, negotiations with rookies were contentious affairs. During the 1992-93 season alone, two first-round picks -- guards Doug Christie, selected by Seattle, and Jon Barry, taken by Boston -- held out into the regular season and forced trades. Christie missed two-thirds of the season before finally coming to terms.
Nowadays, first-round picks are ‘slotted’ into contracts based on what pick they were selected with. The first pick makes slightly more than the second pick and so on. There is still some negotiation to be done, as the season-by-season value of the deal can actually be as high as 120% of the assigned salary or as low as 80%, but holdouts are a thing of the past and signing a first-round pick is now essentially a formality (which is why when first-round picks are signed, odds are I won’t have much to say about the deal).
Besides slotting, the CBA also proscribes uniform deals for first-round picks. Each gets a three-year deal with a team option for the fourth year. To make things slightly more difficult for the owners, the team must decide whether to pick up the fourth year option by October 31 of the player’s third season. As a result, teams are currently beginning to make their decisions on players selected in the 2000 Draft. This week, three players had their 2003-04 options picked up -- New Jersey’s Kenyon Martin, Orlando’s Mike Miller, and Seattle’s Desmond Mason. To the best of my knowledge, these are the only three players with options picked up so far. Who will be joining them in another year of job security? Let’s take a look. To recap, here is the first round of the 2000 Draft in its entirety:
1. Kenyon Martin, F, New Jersey
* Brezec did not sign until prior to last season, so his option is not yet up.
There are five categories I’d place these players into -- no-brainers, likely yes, could go either way, likely no, and no chance.
Could Go Either Way
Good for the Cavs. There was some thought that Cleveland would be unwilling to match a deal as long as Minnesota offered Davis, six years in total. With Cleveland building towards some unknown point in the future, they need all the talented players they can afford, and allowing Davis to leave as a free agent would have undone picking him up from Miami last fall, one of the best moves Jim Paxson has made. Surely there can’t be much debate about whether Davis is worth the median exception; he clearly proved last season that he could be a top reserve. Next season, he’ll have the chance to show he can start. Assuming normal player development, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Satterfield was one of the pleasant surprises in Denver last season, playing well after Tim Hardaway went down with injury. With Mark Jackson ahead of him on the depth chart, Satterfield won’t start except in the case of injury, giving him another year to develop and Denver more time to evaluate whether he can be a long-term solution at the position. In the meantime, he comes cheap.
Okur was the Pistons’ second-round selection last June, but isn’t signing for the traditional one- or two-years at the minimum. Since being drafted, Okur has dramatically improved his standing, and -- as with fellow foreign Detroit big man Zeljko Rebraca last year -- got a two-year deal worth $2.1 million. With Rebraca, Ben Wallace, and Clifford Robinson up front in Detroit, it’s tough to see Okur playing much next season, though Robinson moving out to the small forward more next year seems possible. Either way, you can never have enough quality big men.
A native of Milwaukee, Wilks starred at Rice University -- not an NCAA basketball power. He spent last year’s training camp with the Sacramento Kings and the season with Huntsville of the NBDL. The biggest obstacle to Wilks making the NBA is his 5-11 height, but the Bucks point guard situation (behind Sam Cassell, of course) is unsettled, with Greg Anthony and Rafer Alston free agents. The Bucks also drafted rookie Ronald Murray in the second round of the Draft and have Toni Kukoc able to run the offense from a forward or shooting guard position, but teams do often like to keep three points.
Back to the proverbial drawing board for Kevin McHale as company, but this is not all bad news. The Cavaliers helped out the Timberwolves by making a quick decision on Davis as opposed to dragging this out -- and tying up Minnesota’s median exception -- for the couple of weeks they could have. With little other talent left on the market, the Timberwolves would seem likely to move exclusively towards point guards in their ongoing quest to add a free agent.
New Jersey Nets
Portland Trail Blazers
What is there to say about this buyout that hasn’t already been said? Obviously, Kemp circa 2002 is not worth anything near the $25 million or so the Blazers have reportedly saved (other reports have them gaining a smaller amount), let alone the $46.5 million they would have been on the hook for over the next two seasons. Kemp was worth his roster spot, so the Blazers will be taking a slight talent hit, but the financial aspect of the deal makes that a trade any team would be willing to make. Assuming the Blazers can come to terms with Arvydas Sabonis on a one-year deal, this should clear up the Portland situation up front, with Zach Randolph getting the chance to play. Unless Bob Whitsitt screws up the Sabonis negotiations, there is little possible downside to this move from an objective analyst’s standpoint. Whitsitt himself might take some heat if Kemp ends up rejuvenating his career elsewhere. That’s the chance you have to take.
Re-signed restricted free agent forward Ansu Sesay to a two-year contract. (8/21)
If Rashard Lewis heads for the greener grass on the other side in Dallas, say hello to the Sonics’ small forward duo for next season. It has been a long path until this point for Sesay, who was selected two picks ahead of Lewis just over four years ago. Their paths crossed again last season aside from the fact that they were teammates; it was Lewis’ sprained ankle that caused the Sonics to sign Sesay. At the time, the move seemed temporary (in my capacity as webmaster for SonicsCentral.com, I didn’t even bother making a player page for Sesay), but now Sesay seems to have found a home. At the minimum for two seasons, he is a very good gamble for the Sonics on the chance he develops into a contributor.
Let me apologize for missing this transaction last week. I’ve got some questions about this move. I don’t think there’s much doubt that Donyell Marshall is currently a better player than Harpring, and this move sacrificed Marshall to bring in Harpring. Aside from the contentious nature of the Marshall negotiations, the only justification I can see for picking Harpring over Marshall is that Harpring is capable of playing shooting guard. With Bryon Russell and John Starks on the way out of Salt Lake City, the Jazz are thinner at the two with recently-signed Calbert Cheaney and young DeShawn Stevenson than they are at forward, where Karl Malone and Andrei Kirilenko project as the starters, with Scott Padgett the primary reserve. It wouldn’t be a surprise of Harpring was the starter at shooting guard next season.
Over the long term, however, Marshall would seem a better fit for the Jazz’s young roster. Spanish point guard Raul Lopez and Stevenson form Utah’s future backcourt, with Kirilenko at forward and Jarron Collins and rookie Curtis Borchardt at center. Unless Collins is at power forward -- and I’m not sold on his potential as a starter long-term anyway -- the Jazz could use a player there, and that could have been Marshall.
Beyond that, one has to question how effective Harpring will be at shooting guard, where he played for Cleveland two years ago. At the time, he struggled against smaller and quicker players, and that should continue to be a problem.
Kevin Pelton is the Lead Editor for the Pacific Division of News@Hoopsworld.com. As an NBA free agent, he's willing to play for someone's median exception. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.