NBA Transactionology: Let’s Make A Deal

Will Stevenson

*Remember in The Hunger Games when Katniss and Peeta were going to eat the berries because they didn’t want to kill each other. Remember when the higher ups did not appreciate being shown up? The Kings-Pelicans trade was a cop-out, and now everyone in the NBA thinks they too can devalue other players to acquire better talent. We Need Order!*

With the trade deadline tomorrow afternoon, the NBA has presented us with another moratorium to discuss the one thing we love above anything else in sports: Transactions. Every year we do this, with every sport, but with the rotations only being around nine deep for most teams and sometimes shorter during the playoffs, a well-timed acquisition can dynamically change the fortunes of any given franchise. I was listening to the TruHoop podcast yesterday, and Brain Windhorst admitted that 98 percent of the information he receives around the trade deadline are all lies, which is quite believable. He also admitted that all the work and texts from last year’s trade deadline meant absolutely nothing. Most of everything on basketball-reference or Hoops Rumors are just that, rumors. There is a stat that only two or three teams have ever made the playoffs, after January 20, after making a trade while being out of the playoff picture. I have a better stat for all of the 28 teams in the NBA besides the Cavaliers and Warriors:

Can you beat the Warriors? Can you beat the Cavaliers?

If you are a team that is looking for a player boost in the next day, will that player be able to propel you to the Eastern and Western Conference Finals? We’ll get back to this.

The worst thing to happen to the trade deadline was the Kings-Pelicans trade for Boogie Cousins. The trade was such a low-ball, that teams like the Nets have to soften their stance on Brook Lopez. The Kings have every NBA front office person thinking they too can send over lint and green tea to acquire a star in this league.

Celtics

I think most teams realize there is no reason to mortgage their future draft picks and prospects for the chance to get knocked out in the 2nd round of the playoffs. The Celtics have been hanging on to those picks for a few years now, and it’s actually worked out with the acquisitions of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, and the drafting of Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk. Let’s be honest, the Celtics aren’t beating the Cavaliers, and they may not even surpass the second round with their 1-4 offensive-give all the shots to Isaiah Thomas in the fourth quarter-strategy. P.J. Tucker will not enhance their ability to win the title, but maybe Blake Griffin will. Griffin can and most likely will opt out this summer for free agency in any event of a trade, but it’s worth the risk. Maybe Blake Griffin or Jimmy Butler won’t get you the chip you want, but you’ll feel better about your chances. I actually think the Celtics want to play the underdog role for another year and keep the championship expectations off their backs. Thomas and Bradley are up for contracts next summer, and Jae Crowder is a movable piece as well. With the draft picks from the Nets, they can rebuild on the fly and keep cap room while staying an underdog. Genius.

Clippers

The Clippers have one move: Carmelo. That’s it, that’s all they have. Paul, Griffin and Reddick are all free agents this summer, and Steve Balmer doesn’t seem like the patient person. The Clippers have produced a great starting lineup for the past few seasons, but it hasn’t pushed them past the second round. Their bench is better this year, but it’s too late because the Warriors are here.

Raptors

The Raptors are the Clippers of the East, they have longed for a stretch four since Chris Bosh left for the Heat. They acquired Serge Ibaka from the Magic for a bag of sticks and a late 1st rounder; but was it too late? Think of this for the Raptors: They traded for Lowry, drafted Derozan and Valanciunas and that’s the core. Demarre Carroll and Corey Joseph aren’t free agent flops, but their production is average at best. They extended Terrence Ross, who they traded for Ibaka, and let Biyombo go to the Magic. Norman Powell and Delon Wright have been injured this season, along with Jared Sullinger. The Raptors have enough to get to the ECF, barring an epic shooting performance like last playoffs.

Wolves

Thibs has been trying to get the band back together since he took over the personnel in Minnesota, and with Zach Lavine down with an ACL until next spring, the Wolves are searching for scoring. This is an issue with many teams who have struggled this season: A veteran coach takes over a losing team with young players, but the pressure of making the playoffs is so great that the young players can’t break the rotations. Thibs has tried to trade for Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Noah and Jimmy Butler. I’m surprised he didn’t go after Loul Deng or bring up Ben Gordon from the D-League.

Although the Finals looks like a foregone conclusion for the next couple seasons, it is nice to see teams still out here trying to compete for the playoffs. It’s cute.

What Adding Serge Ibaka Means for the Raptors

By Leo Silbert

The Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors have agreed to a deal that sends Serge Ibaka to the Raptors in exchange for Terrence Ross and a first round pick.  The Magic didn’t believe that they had a good shot at retaining Ibaka this summer and Ibaka had concerns over how he was being used in Orlando so it makes sense for both of those parties to part ways.  Now the Magic bring in a young wing player in Terrence Ross which should move Aaron Gordon to power forward full-time so the Magic may have done very well here, but how much does this improve the Raptors chances of challenging the Cavaliers, Celtics and Wizards for the East?

Serge Ibaka

First thing that this will look to improve is the Raptors defense.  Ibaka for most of his career has been one of the best shot blockers in the league, as he is the active leader in blocks per game.  In the blocks category, the Raptors rank as an average team, but now with the addition of Ibaka, they can start him and give fewer minutes to Patrick Patterson, which if you take their current per game averages, would push the Raptors up to second in the league, only trailing the Warriors.  An increase of 1.5 blocks per game on average could have great effects on a team’s defense and give more freedom to the wing players to play aggressive defense since they know they’ll have a shot blocking presence down low to pick up the slack if their man gets into the paint.  The Raptors would also increase their rank in field goal percentage against since Ibaka is one of the 5 best rim protectors in the league.

Next, he would help to increase the team rebounding.  Ibaka will never be a 10 rebound per game guy, and that isn’t what the Raptors brought him over to do since they already have Jonas Valanciunas to be their top rebound man.  Ibaka would bring good skills as a secondary rebounding big though which the Raptors need as they rank 23rd in the league in total rebounds.  His rebounding ability will help the Raptors posses the ball more often and put it in the hands of their 5th ranked scoring offense more often.

ibaka-dunk

Speaking of the Raptors’ offense, losing Ross as their 6th man hurts, but DeMarre Carroll puts up similar numbers across the board so he may get more minutes per game as well as increased minutes for Cory Joseph and Norman Powell in 3 guard lineups where either the Raptors keep both Valanciunas and Ibaka in for defense, or have Ibaka and Patterson in for a pace oriented and spread out offensive juggernaut.  Ibaka is also an excellent shooter for 3 so any concerns of decreased floor space with Patterson on the bench would be without merit.

So now how much is this likely to help the Raptors improve their chances this season?  Well since the Raptors have been in a funk recently and this is the kind of move that can greatly change how a team plays game in and game out, he could potentially bring them back all the way to the 2 or 3 seed, maybe even the 1 if the Cavaliers go through another rough patch.