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
2. Stromile Swift, PF, Memphis
3. Darius Miles, F, Cleveland
4. Marcus Fizer, PF, Chicago
5. Mike Miller, F/G, Orlando
6. DerMarr Johnson, G/F, Atlanta
7. Chris Mihm, F/C, Cleveland
8. Jamal Crawford, G, Chicago
9. Joel Przybilla, C, Milwaukee
10. Keyon Dooling, PG, L.A. Clippers
11. Jerome Moiso, PF, New Orleans
12. Etan Thomas, PF, Washington
13. Courtney Alexander, SG, New Orleans
14. Mateen Cleaves, PG, Sacramento
15. Jason Collier, F/C, Houston
16. Hidayet Turkoglu, F/G, Sacramento
17. Desmond Mason, F/G, Seattle
18. Quentin Richardson, L.A. Clippers
19. Jamaal Magloire, C, New Orleans
20. Speedy Claxton, PG, San Antonio
21. Morris Peterson, SF, Toronto
22. Donnell Harvey, F, Denver
23. DeShawn Stevenson, G, Utah
24. Dalibor Bagaric, C, Chicago
25. Jake Tsakalidis, C, Phoenix
26. Mamadou N'Diaye, C/F, Toronto
27. Primoz Brezec, C, Indiana*
28. Erick Barkley, PG, San Antonio
29. Mark Madsen, PF, L.A. Lakers

* 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.

All three of the players extended so far fall into this category. Martin and Miller vied for Rookie of the Year two years ago, while Mason has impressed in Seattle both on and off the court. Despite some questions about his development, young Darius Miles will certainly have his option picked up, especially following a move to Cleveland. In addition to Mason, the middle part of the first round was peppered with picks that have panned out perfectly -- the Kings’ Hedo Turkoglu, a key part of arguably the league’s best bench; Quentin Richardson of the Clippers, who made a very strong case for Sixth Man of the Year last year; New Orleans’ Jamaal Magloire, quite possibly the best prospect of the bunch based on his stellar bench play last year for the Hornets; and Morris Peterson of the Raptors, who has become his team’s third-best player.

Likely Yes
These players have played well so far, but not up to expectations in some cases. Most of the 2000 lottery picks have been disappointing, but not to the point that they risk becoming free agents next summer. This group includes Memphis’ Stromile Swift, a frequent target of trade rumors; Chicago’s Marcus Fizer, who may have been squeezed out of his rotation spot by last week’s signing of Donyell Marshall; Atlanta’s DerMarr Johnson, who projects as his team’s starting two next year; Cleveland’s Chris Mihm, who has shot poorly in his two seasons with the Cavs but has still been a starter both years; Chicago’s Jamal Crawford, another trade candidate; New Orleans’ Courtney Alexander, already on his third NBA team and still looking for a home; San Antonio’s Speedy Claxton off a strong rookie season as he bounced back from a new injury; Denver’s Donnell Harvey, free to show his skills after a trade from Dallas; and Phoenix’s Jake Tsakalidis, who has struggled to live up to his pre-Draft hype but might be coming around after a strong end to last season.

Could Go Either Way
Because fourth-year salaries are still comparably low, these players will probably be back for a fourth season, but there are clear reasons why they might not make it. Milwaukee’s Joel Przybilla did start 61 games last season, but has shown limited offensive ability; Keyon Dooling of the Los Angeles Clippers has been buried behind Andre Miller and rookie Marko Jaric on the depth chart; Washington’s Etan Thomas has struggled with injuries as a pro and faces stiff competition for minutes in the Wizard frontcourt; and Utah’s DeShawn Stevenson has shown flashes and has plenty of potential but was still remarkably ineffective last season.

Probably No
Not total busts, this group has shown some ability during their first two seasons, but have yet to become part of their team’s rotation. Houston’s Jason Collier benefited from his team’s struggles with regular minutes down the stretch, but did not take advantage of them. Chicago’s Dalibor Bagaric has played well when given the chance, but is behind a number of young and talented big men with the Bulls. Where would the Lakers be while celebrating NBA titles without “Marky” Mark Madsen?

No Chance
The name of this group is, in truth, an exaggeration. There is a possibility these players do get picked up, but I don’t see it coming. New Orleans’ Jerome Moiso, already dealt twice, has probably been this Draft’s biggest bust, showing no NBA skills; Sacramento’s Mateen Cleaves, who played but 153 minutes last season, looks like a college star unable to translate his game to the NBA; Toronto’s Mamadou N’Diaye looks like a lost cause; and there was some chance before his trade from Portland that San Antonio’s Erick Barkley might not survive this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Matched offer sheet given by the Minnesota Timberwolves to guard Ricky Davis. (8/21)

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.

Denver Nuggets
Re-signed restricted free agent guard Kenny Satterfield. (8/19)

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.

Detroit Pistons
Signed forward Mehmet Okur. (8/21)

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.

Milwaukee Bucks
Signed free agent guard Mike Wilks. (8/23)

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.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Offer sheet given to guard Ricky Davis matched by the Cleveland Cavaliers. (8/21)

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
Exercised contract option on forward Kenyon Martin through the 2003-04 season. (8/21)


Orlando Magic
Exercised the option on forward-guard Mike Miller for the 2003-04 season. (8/23)


Portland Trail Blazers
Waived forward Shawn Kemp. (8/20)

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.

Seattle SuperSonics
Exercised their contract option on forward-guard Desmond Mason for the 2003-04 season. (8/19)

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, 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.

Utah Jazz
Signed free agent forward Matt Harpring, formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers. (8/15)

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 As an NBA free agent, he's willing to play for someone's median exception. He can be reached via e-mail at