With the NBA season starting for a few teams tonight and the NFL trade deadline coming up, I wanted to continue the theme of possible trade deadline deals. This time in the NBA, yes the season has only just begun, but these are three trades that I think can turn these three teams, that will almost certainly be middling around the fourth to seventh seeds in the playoffs, into title contenders. Yes, I said TITLE, not just some pointless big headline trade, but the missing piece that could let these teams compete with the big bad Heat, the young athletic Thunder and the elder statesmen Lakers, Spurs and Celtics.
Chicago you say? Chicago isn’t a middling team! Well this year, with Derrick Rose out the majority of the season, possibly the whole season, they certainly are. Most people, vegas included, don’t believe that Rose’s injury is a death knell to the Bulls. Their over/under right now is a healthy 47.5. But, there is no doubt they may struggle at times this year and will likely enter the playoffs in the 4th seed at best. Coach Tom Thibodeau will not let this team fail. That coach is the reason I think this trade is a good idea for Chicago. If Gar Forman, Chicago’s GM, could sell Sacramento’s GM Geoff Petrie that Rip Hamilton is a veteran leader that can kick his roster into gear, which is loaded with talent, this trade would fly through. Rip’s contract is essentially an expiring deal because the second year is a team option and Sacramento would be getting Chicago’s first round pick. In return, the Bulls are getting a man in great need of a change of scenery in Tyreke Evans. He is a freak athlete that has regressed ever since winning the Rookie of the Year award in the 2009-10 season. The athleticism has not disappeared and a coach like Tom Thibodeau is just the man that could put the fire back into Tyreke, not to mention getting to play alongside an MVP in Derrick Rose. The most important part of this deal is the change it makes in the playoff picture. Imagine the Bulls getting a fired up Evans and an eager Derrick Rose right before the playoffs. If they were a 5 seed, even more interesting if they were an 8 seed and got to play the Heat in the first round, there isn’t a single team in the NBA that would want to play a team with Rose, Evans, Deng, Boozer/Taj and Noah as the starting five in the playoffs.
This trade actually seems to be a win win for both teams. Going into this I was looking for a team that would bring in a big name guy that could be the final piece for their run into the playoffs. But, both of these teams could be reaching the playoffs this year if they achieve their potential. Utah is projected to hover around 42.5 wins and Milwaukee would need to reach a little higher as they are projected around 36.5 wins. Utah’s biggest area of need is a shooting guard. Gordon Hayward is probably a better 6th man or shooter off the bench than a starting 2-guard. For Milwaukee, Samuel Dalembert is a fantastic veteran, but a center like Al Jefferson is an obvious upgrade. Dennis Lindsay ,Utah’s GM, has a log jam in the front court and would love to get Derrick Favors more minutes and would like to see him starting on a regular basis. Sending Al Jefferson to Milwaukee would leave the front court with Favors at the five and Milsap at the four. Monta Ellis would plug in at the starting two and provide a great scoring punch for Utah. This would make Utah a much scarier team to face in the playoffs with a guard that can light it up on any given night. Milwaukee’s GM, John Hammond, has created a roster capable of making the playoffs. If Milwaukee sneaks in, the presence of a center like Jefferson would solidify that defense and give them some offense deep in the post. Utah would be the team that would scare the top 4 seeds, but Milwaukee would make themselves a threat and wouldn’t just be a team that a top 4 seed can walk through to the second round.
3. Atlanta trades Devin Harris PG (expiring UFA $8.5 million), Anthony Morrow SG (expiring UFA $4 million), Johan Petro C (expiring UFA $3.5 million) and Houston’s first round pick (1-14 protected) and Atlanta’s second round pick to Memphis for Rudy Gay SF (year 1 $16.46 million, year 2 $17.88 million, year 3 $19.32 million) and Josh Selby PG (year 1 $762,000, year 2 team option $884,000) (fits in trade because of the Willie Green trade exception)
The biggest and most complicated of the three trades I’m outlining, which probably makes it the most likely, would make Atlanta a threat to surprise the East this year instead of hanging out in the second round like most years. Danny Ferry is Atlanta’s new GM and would probably like to make another splash. This trade hinges on the possibility that Memphis starts slow and their GM, Chris Wallace, decides to dump some salary in an attempt to sign some new talent next off-season. Atlanta has an absolute cornucopia of expiring contracts to play with this year. The most valuable of which is Devin Harris’s $8.5 million contract. By sending some of this cap relief to the Grizzlies, who have been operating in a deficit for a few years now, would allow them flexibility in the future and the first round pick they would receive, originally from Houston, could get them into the lottery in a few years if the Houston experiment fails. What the trade really does though is solidify Atlanta’s starting five without them losing their possible shooter/sixth man in Kyle Korver. Rudy Gay is a premier small forward in the NBA and a position that Atlanta hasn’t had much to speak of for years, even if you count Joe Johnson. Gay could defend the premier forwards in the league and score close to 20 a game. Not to mention fill up the stat sheet in every other category. This would allow Atlanta to start Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, Rudy Gay, Josh Smith and Al Horford. That is a starting five that is capable of surprising the big boys in the East. It may not look like your normal star driven championship contender, but it is a starting five that could find its way to a title.