Thursday, February 24, 2011

NBA trade deadline shenanigans

Good grief, what have we here? The single most apocalyptic trade deadline perhaps in NBA history as over the past two days thirteen trades were consummated - yes, thirteen - including seven All-stars, three members of Team USA, the third pick in last year's college draft, last year's Most Improved Player, probably the best Point Guard on the planet and the second pick in the 2009 draft. In total, so far confirmed hirty-eight players and fifteen-plus draft picks have changed teams, a figure The Sporting News' Sean Deveney tweeted that about 10% of NBA players have or are calling realtors. More surprising than anything though was the minutes-to-midnight deal which sent Boston Celtics starting Center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for swing Forward Jeff Green.

You can find a list of the deals here.

It's not too long a bow to draw to suggest that the NBA's balance of power has not just shifted eastwards but earthquaked that way by this week's shenanigans. By securing a young tweener in Green, the Celtics gave away possibly their greatest playoff asset - size - in releasing Perkins. Perkins, whose NBA Finals knee injury last year torched Celtics' chances of taking out the NBA championship, has in playoff series past whupped Orlando's Dwight Howard, his now replacement Shaquille O'Neal and Laker Andrew Bynum. Popular punditry has him as Dwight Howard's biggest fear due to his combination of defense-first mentality, strong widebody and fearlessness.

Perkins - with a scowl like no other - finds himself in Oklahoma, where he'll start (when healthy) alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in a squad formerly labelled a "donut" team. They've lacked an enforcer and rim defender, the two things that Perk does best. The Thunder, had to give up an asset - and were disclined to pay Free Agent-to-be Green - have acquired perhaps the piece which turns them from Playoff team to Potential contender.

The Eastern Conference - though giving up talent in depth in Harris, Wallace, Favors, Perkins, Gallinari & Felton - actually acquired the high-end abilities, with three of the four best players shifting addresses into their conference. Anthony will combine with Amar'e Stoudemire to form a very potent offensive New York Knicks team; their cross-town rival Nets used most of the package they had offered for Anthony to sign the best point guard in the league, Deron Williams, who'd apparently malcontented his way out of Utah.

The clubs not considered contending for the title were also active as sleeper deals - trades which could bring immense benefit without garnering the same uproar - improved all of the Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets. The Blazers' acquisition of former All-star Gerald Wallace to combine with LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and the shell of Brandon Roy's knees forms a potent small-ball rotation, further reinforcing notions that no matter how chaotic their back office, their impressive list of assets allow them to remain difference-makers. The Rockets, in signing 7'3 uberbust Hasheem Thabeet and last Spring's playoff hero, Phoenix's Goran Dragic, rebooted by ridding themselves of a potential headache in Aaron Brookes. As bait, despite being last year's Most Improved Player, Brooks played terribly this season backing up the more defensive-minded Kyle Lowry but could be, with Polish Hammer Marcin Gortat, the first step in the Suns' post-Steve Nash era. Nash remains with the team but voices suggest he's likely to be moved before the Suns being their next campaign.

In seasons past, deadline day has been an irrelevancy, notable for who didn't move rather than who did. This year, with the NBA lockout looming, the league has put together perhaps the best season since 1997 and has topped it off with the Best. Trade. Deadline. Ever. As they face an offseason of doubt, the league has certainly done its part to put itself to the forefront of the imagination. All that remains is for him to facilitate an Owners/Players deal which equally dissatisfies all parties.

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