OpinionFebruary 22, 2008

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Rounding ‘Em Up: Market Movers

By jphanned

Breaking Down the Jason Kidd Trade: Deal or no deal? That had been the burning question this past week, and after seven days of tiresome negotiations, the Mavericks and Nets finally reached an agreement. The deal had been restructured from the one originally agreed upon after several unexpected obstacles. The first of them involved Devean George using what little leverage he had by blocking the deal to protect his Bird Rights in an effort to avoid an inevitable veteran’s minimum next season. Jerry Stackhouse then raised red flags throughout the league when he decided to publicly share his vacation plans for the next month between his assumed buyout from New Jersey and the time that he could be re-signed by Dallas. So where did that leave the deal?

The newly agreed upon trade will have the Mavericks send Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, Keith Van Horn via sign-and-trade, two 1st round draft picks (2008 and 2010), and $3 million in cash to the Nets in exchange for Jason Kidd and Malik Allen.

The Mavs got Jason Kidd without giving up Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, or Jason Terry? That’s just too good to be true, right? Not so fast. It’s hard to argue with Kidd’s resume and the intangible qualities he brings to the table such as mental toughness and leadership, but where does this trade put the Mavs right now? And more importantly, where will this trade put them in the future? I understand that this is a gamble that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson felt they needed to take because Dirk, Terry, Stackhouse, and George are not getting any younger, but there is a very good chance it will just end up being one of those temporary ‘quick-fixes’ that they will regret at season’s end when they fall short of a championship. Cuban and Nelson saw the Lakers trade for Pau Gasol and the Suns trade for Shaquille O’Neal, so they decided they wanted a piece of the ‘blockbuster trade’ pie too. What they need to understand, though, is that the long-term negatives of this trade vastly outweigh the short-term benefits of going for a championship this season.

The centerpiece of this deal is a Jason Kidd for Devin Harris swap. There is a common misconception about which team wins this part of the trade and it is actually a lot closer than most people would think. Here are three important factors to consider when breaking down the Kidd vs. Harris comparison and looking at the other pieces Dallas gave up in this trade:

1) Kidd is 10 years older than Harris — not only that, but he is 34 years old right now and already showing signs that he is starting to decline. His contract is going to cost three times more than Harris’ contract even after factoring in Harris’ extension (it costs five times more now). Harris, on the other hand, is only 24 years old and has a bright future ahead of him, entering his 4th season in the NBA. The Mavs were 2nd in offensive efficiency with Harris at the point and have dropped to 5th since he has been injured. Why lose that efficiency and add a player whose TO rate has skyrocketed? When looking at per-48 averages in a pure statistical comparison, Harris contributes almost 7 more points, gets to the line twice as often, and shoots a far better percentage from the field (true shooting %: Harris 59.2, Kidd 48.3). And according to the 82games.com study on defensive composite scores last season, Harris came in as the 5th best defender in the league.

2) Breaking down what Kidd brings to the Mavs, is the move worth it? He is known for his lethal combo of passing and rebounding, but is that what the Mavs need right now? In terms of passing, the Mavs are one of the most iso-heavy teams in the NBA and have one of the league’s lowest rates of assisted baskets. The high volume of high-post iso’s for Dirk and Josh Howard should remain a big part of the Mavs’ offense even with Kidd there, cutting down on a lot of the assisting opportunities he will have and essentially not making much use of his passing abilities. And in terms of rebounding, the Mavs are already 4th in the league in rebounding differential (ownREB – oppREB) and 8th in the league in defensive rebound rate. They’re fine there and have no pressing need to bring in a rebounding guard.

3) The Mavericks also lose two 1st round draft picks along with Desagana Diop, their best low-post defender. With Erick Dampier only averaging 22.8 MPG right now (25 MPG career) they need to find another option, meaning they’re going to have to sign another center soon. Juwan Howard simply won’t cut it against the other centers in the Western Conference. You can see where Phoenix was coming from when they looked to add valuable size to their team with the trade for Shaquille O’Neal. In this case, Dallas chose to do the exact opposite.

Kidd isn’t getting any younger and any better, so will the long term costs of this deal be offset with a second round playoff exit? Third round playoff exit? To me, black and white — they either win a championship, or they don’t — especially under these circumstances, where their two best players (Kidd and Dirk) have already reached their potential and are not going to get any better in the future. For example, a team like Portland going out in the 2nd round of the playoffs this year would be completely different since they are getting Oden back next season and most of their core is still young and on the rise. I think a lot of people are enamored with the legacy of Jason Kidd and are being unrealistic with their expectations of where he can actually take the Mavs. The measuring stick of this trade should come down to whether or not they win a championship this season. Because with this trade, they have definitely damaged their chances of winning in the future by giving up Harris and those two 1st round draft picks. All I have to say is that it is a real shame they are in the Western Conference.

Deadline Day Deals: Winners and Losers
Delonte West: Expected to take over the starting PG job in Cleveland now and is a perfect fit alongside LeBron James. He has shown that he can produce at a high level with consistent minutes and a defined role, finishing 41st and 87th respectively during his last two seasons with Boston. He should be picked up off the waiver wire immediately and owned in all formats.

Tyrus Thomas: Yahoo! expert Matt Buser told me that he has very little faith in him because he has a long way to go, and to an extent I agree. But with the departure of Ben Wallace, Tyrus looks like the most likely candidate to start at center while Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah battle for the starting PF job. In games where Thomas has logged 30+ minutes, he has averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals on 49% shooting from the field. The potential for success is definitely there.

Nick Collison: Kurt Thomas logged about 40% of the total minutes for Seattle at C, so his departure to San Antonio will open up a lot of minutes for Collison to capitalize on. He has averaged around a double-double on 51% shooting the past three months and his production should only improve from here on out. As a matter of fact, he just put up 13 points and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes against Portland last night.

Others – Joakim Noah, Jeff Green

Ben Gordon: Not only is he dealing with a nagging wrist injury, but now he is in serious risk of losing minutes. Before the trade for Larry Hughes, Gordon was already being relegated to a 6th man role behind Thabo Sefolosha. Now with Hughes coming in and possibly stealing the starting SG job away from Thabo, things can only go downhill for Gordon.

John Salmons and Francisco Garcia: Both were popular pickups approaching the trade deadline as owners were anticipating a Ron Artest trade, but the deadline has passed and it appears Artest is set on staying in Sacramento. His agent recently announced that he is not likely to opt out of his contract this summer. I suggest you find alternative options on the waiver wire if you own either of these two players.

Larry Hughes: Supposedly he just started to find his stroke (whatever that means), but you can kiss any fantasy value he had goodbye now that he has been traded to Chicago. The chance this career 41% shooter will be fantasy-relevant again this season is about as unlikely as Jerome James carrying the Knicks to a championship. He will have to compete for minutes with the likes of Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Thabo Sefolosha, and Luol Deng — the list just goes on and on. Get him off your fantasy rosters immediately.

Others – Daniel Gibson, Morris Peterson

Four words to sum up the deadline day: What was Chicago thinking?

Justin Phan is an aspiring sportswriter and one of the Cafe's recognized fantasy experts. Catch up with Justin, who posts as Rounders Block, and many other great minds at the Cafe's forums.
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