Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Or, in this case, are you smarter than your average Western Conference GM?

About two weeks ago, the Lakers traded Kwame Brown's $9M expiring contract, Javaris Crittenton, and 2 first-round picks for Pau Gasol and a second-round pick. Last week, the Suns traded Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaquille O'Neal. Now, the Mavs are reportedly trading Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop, Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George, Maurice Ager, 2 first-round picks and $3M cash for Jason Kidd.

Somewhere, the Lakers must be giggling. Or, as Hollinger puts it, falling over with laughter. Not only did they land an All-Star 7-footer who averages 19 and 9, they also sent their Western Conference rivals into a self-destructive panic that culminated in the dismantling of two Western Conference contenders! I'm not sure I've ever been more excited about two trades that did not involve the Lakers. R.I.P., Suns and Mavs.

Why are the Suns and Mavs, two Western Conference powers with smart management, suddenly panicking? Personally, I like to think it's because they've looked at the Lakers roster, realized that the future belongs to LA, and decided "Screw it. If we're going to win, we have to win NOW." And thus they are mortgaging the future for aging stars in a last-gasp attempt to make a run.

In fact, it isn't even fair to call Shaq and Kidd "aging stars" - they are aged stars! Both have maybe two serviceable years left in the tank. I am glad to see Shaq on a good team again though. Watching him lug his fat ass around Miami on a 9-40 team was getting a tad depressing for the most dominant center ever to play the game. Yes, including Wilt - Shaq dominated in an era with stronger, bigger, faster players, and Kareem was a skill player more than a power player.

Let's put it this way - when the Lakers traded for Gasol, my first reaction was...well, my first reaction was, "PAU GASOL? WE GOT PAU GASOL?!?" After seeing the trade, I thought, "wow, two first-rounders...a hefty price, but we had to do it." Now, Dallas is giving up two first-rounders...AND the best player in the deal...AND the third and fourth best players in the deal...AND $3M in cash? Are you kidding me? Did Rod Thorn just keep asking for more, getting more and more excited as Cuban didn't shoot him down?

Let's put it another way - this trade fails the "who scares you more?" test. Basically, ask yourself this question: in an important playoff game, you're facing one of the players in this deal. Who scares you the most? For me, the answer is easy. Devin Harris. Harris scares me 100 times more than Jason Kidd. Harris is quick, crafty, and explosive. He'd eat the Lakers point guard alive. Kidd is bigger, and a better passer, but he can be left open on the perimeter and is not looking to score. In fact, Kidd might not even be the second scariest player in this deal - Stackhouse terrifies me, because he has that killer instinct.

Eric made the point that the Mavs are essentially facing the same decision that the Spurs made about three years ago - do we go with our young, talented, quick point guard, or trade him for an aging Jason Kidd? The Spurs chose to keep Tony Parker. The Mavs choose to go with an (even older) Kidd, while also sending over their prize Sixth Man and their backup center, 2 picks, and cash. Let's just say there's a reason the Spurs are the smartest team in basketball.

Even if the Mavs resign Stackhouse in 30 days, they're now stuck with Dampier at center with no big men to back him up (Brandon Bass?). Given that Kidd can't guard anyone, it'll be a close call whether Damp or Shaq picks up more fouls per minute this year. My money is still on Shaq, because his size causes refs to blow whistles even when he goes straight up, but it's close...

Anyway, let's hope these trades keep on coming. Hey San Antonio, isn't it about time you made a major move? Everyone else is upgrading! I hear you might be able to get Jermaine O'Neal and Mike Dunleavy for Manu, Parker, and a pick.

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