Michael Walton II writes about the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for We Are Regal Radio.
Michael is a student, freelance writer and high school basketball scout based in Chicago. He’s previously been published in TrueStar Magazine, the Redeye Chicago and thelyricallab.com.
As we inch closer and closer to the NBA All-Star break we knew truly important trades would start to formulate and shake up the Association.
The Dallas Mavericks set things off by executing a trade to snag playmaker extrodinaire Rajon Rondo. Meanwhile, whispers around the league about the Cleveland Cavaliers trying to find trade partners for Dion Waiters have permeated and over time Oklahoma City remained one of the more interested parties.
All the Thunder and the Cavs needed was a third-party to help make the trade juicier for all involved parties. Along came the rebuilding New York Knicks, who sent shooters J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavs, a team that badly wanted to boost their three-point shooting and defensive aggressiveness on the perimeter.
The Cavs sent Dion Waiters to OKC and the Knicks received scrub players and immense amounts of salary cap relief (projected to save about $30 million in cap space in total). There were also many drafts picks swapped, all of which will amount to nothing but middling first rounders or second round picks.
With the flurry of player movement between several of the NBA’s notable franchises, I think it is importanrt to breakdown what these trades mean for each team.
Received: Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell
Gave Up: Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, two draft picks, and a trade exception
Reasoning: The Dallas Mavericks seem to take a swing at signing big free-agents every summer, usually unsuccessfully. So though I initially didn’t like this deal, you can’t blame the Mavs for taking a shot at stacking their team with the most talent it has had in years (maybe even more talented than their championship squad of 2011.
The two reasons I didn’t like the trade was that I felt that Rondo was too ball-dominant to fit in Rick Carlisle’s offense, and I believed that the perfect spacing on offense would be ruined without a starting point guard who could shoot three-pointers reliably. Through Rondo’s first nine games with the mavs he has completely shattered all of my doubts. Monta Ellis’s scoring average hasn’t dipped at all.
Despite not dominating the ball, Rondo has a career high usage rate of 23.1 percent, which represents Carlisle encouraging him to shoot more than past coaches. And so far Rondo is shooting 44% from downtown with the Mavs, but don’t be fooled. That number is boosted by an unbelievable game against the Celtics in which Rondo hit five of his seven three-point attempts.
Rondo is still a career 25.9% three-point shooter, so expect that number to regress closer to his average soon. The only way to truly tell if the Mavs won this trade is to wait until the playoffs, where Rondo’s defensive skills will be tested against the likes of Steph Curry “With the Shot,” Damian Lillard, Chris Paul…you get the point (PUN ALERT!).
Received: Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer “Jameerkat” Nelson, two draft picks, and an absolutely huge trade exception
Gave Up: Rajon Rondo and Dwight “Who he be?” Powell
Reasoning: To the average NBA fan, the Celtics got shafted in this trade. But Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge is unbeliably skilled at rebuilding Boston into a contender with under the radar moves that eventually lead to bigger moves (sound familiar? *cough cough 2008*).
First off, the trade exceptions are formed when a franchise trades one player and takes back less salary than they send away in the deal. The Celtics used there treasure chest of trade exceptions to absorb the salaries of the players they received, meaning they were trading away Rondo without taking back any salary.
This means that the Celtics received a trade exception worth the full value of Rondo’s deal, which is $12.9 million. Boston can use this trade exception to make bigger moves down the line. The players they recieved aren’t really important since Boston has no current championship aspirations.
However the fact that Rondo is gone gives lottery pick Marcus Smart a chance to spread his wings. It also allows the C’s to increase the trade value of other players like Evan Turner and Jeff Green. Well done, Danny Ainge.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Received: Dion Waiters
Gave Up: Lance “No Promise” Thomas and a 2015 protected first round pick
Grade: A++++++/Is this a real trade?
Reasoning: The Oklahoma City Thunder are facing a harsh reality. A few injuries can leave you at 10th place in the brutal Western Conference, even with perhaps the most talented squad in the NBA. Serge Ibaka acknowledged that with injuries to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant that the Thunder would need to focus on defense to win. So far the returns have been excellent, with OKC being in the top 10 in both defensive rating and opponent points per game. Unfortunately, their offense took a predictable dip.
Last season OKC was in the top 10 in offensive rating and points per game, but this year those numbers stand at 20th and 19th in the league respectively. So the solution for OKC is simple. Add a major offensive talent while making sure to mantain their elite level of defense. The Thunder came into the Cavs drama-filled saga and capitalized by giving up almost nothing and getting a player with a career average of 14.5 points per game. Waiters was somewhat of a problem child on the Cavs, but I doubt he will continue his curmdgeon act in OKC.
Waiters has complained about starting for awhile, but even if he doesn’t start in OKC I belive he will just be happy to be with a squad that actually wants and needs his set of skills. With Waiters most likely serving as the primary scorer at times when neither KD or Westbrook is on the floor, the Thunder could actually return to last year’s torrid offensive pace and actually move up in the standings. This a sqaud no one wants to see in the Western Conference playoffs, and as long as their defense stays tight, they are an extremely legit title contender.
New York Carmelos
Received: 2019 secound round pick, Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, and Lance Thomas, AKA: A bundle of non-guranteed contracts
Gave Up: J.R. Smith and Iman “The Rapper” Shumpert
Reasoning: This trade gets a good grade because the Knicks freed up a ridiculous amount of cap space and avoid crazy luxury tax penalties with this trade. The only reason I didn’t give this trade an A for the Knicks is that at 24 years old, I believe Shumpert can and will still improve as a player.
The Knicks also waived Samuel Dalembert in their fire sale. Team president Phil Jackson is surely excited to get J.R. Smith’s contract off the books, as well as get rid of all the annoying publicity that comes with having Smith on your roster. Ultimately the success of this trade on the Knicks side will depend on what free agent(s) they sign in the future. Also, R.I.P Carmelo Anthony’s career.
Received: J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert
Gave Up: Alex “He Didn’t Get Minutes Anyway” Kirk, Lou Amundson, and a 2019 secound round pick
Reasoning: Look, I understand that the Cavs offense is supposed to rely heavily on the three-point shot. Cleveland is 17th in the NBA in three-point percentage, ironically, right behind the New York Knicks. And I understand that the believe they are fortifying their bench by getting two players who have combined for over 1,500 career three-pointers. But for a team that was having chemistry and locker room issues, I don’t think J.R. Smith is what the doctor prescribed.
Sure, Iman Shumpert will help shore up their embarrassingly porous perimeter defense, but at what cost? Similar to the Dallas Mavericks, the Cavs have absolutely no big man depth. Brendan Haywood and Shawn Marion will not be able to defend centers and power forwards in the playoffs. I’m not sure what Cleveland has envisioned for this team, but the day a team with J.R. Smith wins a title is the day Michael Jordan makes his incredible return to the NBA as a 50-something year old jump-shooting terror.
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