Time to put the Trade Machine to work

"Hello everyone, I'm WWE announcer Jim Ross. We'd like to welcome you to another excit-..."

(We hear the sound of glass breaking and the beginning of Joe Esposito's "You're the Best Around" blaring from the loudspeakers.)

"Wait a second, what's that? (Dramatic pause.) Good God, that's the Basketball Blog's music! That's Bill Simmons! He's back! He couldn't wait any longer! He's taking this NBA trade deadline by storm! My God, the Picasso of the Trade Machine is on fire right now! Holy mackerel, this place is going crazy!!!! Folks, take a look at all these fake trades he made up that have no chance of actually happening! The Basketball Blog is back! The Basketball Blog is back! The Basketball Blog is back!"

TRADE 1A: Portland trades Raef LaFrentz, LaMarcus Aldridge, the rights to Rudy Fernandez, $3 million and a 2008 No. 1 (top-3 protected) to Memphis for Mike Conley Jr., Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and a 2008 No. 2.

Why Memphis does it: OK, you're right ... we can't operate under the assumption that GM Chris Wallace would ever do anything logically. But for the life of me, I don't understand Memphis' post-Gasol strategy. The Grizzlies have three young point guards with varying degrees of value (Conley, Javaris Crittenton and Kyle Lowry); they need to dump one of them; and apparently, they've just decided to dump Lowry before the deadline for whatever they can get. Why is that the strategy??? Why wouldn't they use Conley, their best trade asset other than Rudy Gay, package him with Miller (who they're also trying to dump for 60 cents on the dollar), and try to land two blue-chippers for them? Everyone agrees that Fernandez would be a top-10 pick if he was in this year's draft, and Aldridge is one of the better young forwards in the league. Plus, LaFrentz's monster contract expires in 2009 and gives them a nice trade chip next season if they wanted to use it ... which they wouldn't, but you never know. Regardless, this trade gives Memphis a dirt-cheap foundation of Gay, Aldridge, Fernandez, Crittenton/Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro, Hakim Warrick, 2008 Lottery Pick X and two more first-rounders, and they'd still have a point guard to trade this summer. Why not? What the hell?

Why Portland does it: I like Aldridge, but you have to admit that (A) he's probably one of those 17-and-8 guys who won't ever make an All-Star team, and (B) Oden makes him completely and totally expendable next season. Besides, you have to give up something to get something, right? With Fernandez, the Blazers would be selling high on a good prospect who hasn't played against superior competition yet. Meanwhile, Mike Miller gives them an elite shooter and a second option at crunch time, and by reuniting Conley and Oden, they'd be set for the next 12 years. Imagine a foundation of Oden, Conley, Miller and Brandon Roy? Now THAT would be interesting. I love this trade for Portland.

TRADE 1B: Orlando trades Pat Garrity, Carlos Arroyo, Maurice Evans, J.J. Redick, a 2008 No. 1 and $2 million to Memphis for Mike Miller, Casey Jacobsen and Brian Cardinal.

Why Memphis does it: Straight salary dump. Every guy the Grizzlies are getting back is an expiring deal except for Redick (2009). It's a soul-less, depressing trade that would ruin their fans' collective will to live. In other words, it's just like the Gasol trade.

Why Orlando does it: Are the Magic going to take a shot here or not? They're the fourth-best team in the East, they have three really good players, and they have $17 million worth of expiring contracts. What are they waiting for? They need one more quality swingman that can play the 2 and 3 and Miller is the best one available.

(Actually, why am I making up trades to make Orlando better when they could absolutely topple the Celtics in a series? Um, scratch this idea! Otis Smith, if you're reading this, apparently Mike Miller hated Orlando when he played there and thinks everyone there is trailer trash. You definitely don't want to do this one, Otis.)

TRADE 1C: Memphis gets Al Harrington, Brandan Wright, Austin Croshere and $2 million from Golden State; Utah gets Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Kyle Lowry; Golden State gets Andrei Kirilenko and Casey Jacobsen.

Why Memphis does it: Harrington replaces Miller's stats and becomes a free agent in 2009; Wright gives the Grizzlies another young lottery pick with value; and they dump Cardinal's contract and allow him to become Utah's signature balding white guy.

Why Utah does it: If I were running the Jazz, I wouldn't trade Kirilenko because he fills so many holes for them (great shotblocker, very good defender, runs the floor, doesn't need the ball and plays all three frontcourt spots) and they can absolutely contend for the 2008 title with what they have. But when you factor in Kirilenko's monster contract (this year plus three more for $64 million) and Deron Williams' upcoming max deal, plus the Boozer/Memo Okur contracts, there's no way they're staying under the luxury tax without trading Kirilenko. Plus, could Miller potentially be a better fit for this particular Jazz team? At crunch time, they'd have Williams and Boozer playing the two-man game with three killer shooters spreading the floor (Miller, Okur and Kyle Korver). That would be deadly, right? Also, Lowry would give them their first real backup point guard since Howard Eisley was still alive, and Cardinal gives another white guy for a franchise that can never have enough white guys. I'd think long and hard about this deal if I'm Utah.

Why Golden State does it: Because Kirilenko's manifest destiny is to play in Golden State for Don Nelson. It is. You can't tell me differently. Imagine him running around with Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins. That's terrifying. Kirilenko would push the Warriors to another level and put them on the short list of true title contenders. He would. I'd like to see the Warriors do something before the deadline -- they have a gigantic trade exception, they need to improve Harrington's spot, they have some young guys with trade value (Wright, Marco Belinelli, even Patrick O'Bryant) and it would be a shame if they settled on being "the really fun team with a puncher's chance" for the second straight spring.

In fact, here's another one that could work ...

TRADE 2A: Sacramento trades Ron Artest and Shareef Abdur-Rahim to Golden State for Brandan Wright, Patrick O'Bryant and Austin Croshere.

Why Sacramento does it: The Kings save $8 million this season, pick up a valuable trade exception, dump Shareef's contract and pick up a lottery pick in Wright. That's a no-brainer. In fact, you'd have give Geoff Petrie a standing ovation for turning Artest and $18 million of washed-up guys (Mike Bibby and Shareef) into two high lottery picks (Shelden Williams and Wright) and expiring contracts. That's how it's done. By the way, I would sell high on Artest if I were running the Kings -- he's never played better and he's never seemed more sane, but deep down, we know he's not sane. That's why you trade him right now.

Why G-State does it: Because Artest fits in with everything else happening there -- he's crazy, he can play multiple positions, he can play any style, and he'd be absolutely devastating in NellieBall because of his unparalleled talent for guarding bigger players. At crunch time, the Warriors could trot out Biedrins, Artest, Jackson, Ellis and Davis and match up with any team in the West. ... Better yet, they'd be intimidating and nuts and unpredictable and everything else you'd want from a lower seed. I wouldn't want to go anywhere NEAR THESE GUYS if they had Artest. Besides, could you put a price on the emotional Artest/Jackson reunion, even if it only lasted for a few months? We'd have to put stun guns underneath the seats of the first few rows for every Warriors game. I can't handle the thought of Artest playing for Golden State; it's so exciting and crazy that I think I just peed on myself.

(By the way, I'm tired of reading the rumor that Denver could give up Linus Kleiza, Eduardo Najera's expiring deal and a No. 1 pick for Artest. Have you watched Kleiza? He's legitimately good and the Nuggets have him locked in at a cheap price. Yeah, Artest is a better player, but look at the strong personalities on that Denver team: Melo, Iverson, J.R. Smith, Nene, K-Mart ... and now you're throwing Artest into the mix and asking George Karl to somehow handle all of these guys? It sounds like a sick psychological experiment or something. I'd rather have Kleiza, Najera and my No. 1 over rolling the dice with that emotional rollercoaster of a team every night. We've seen what Karl does with crazy, headstrong teams. The results aren't pretty.)

Trade 2B: Houston trades Shane Battier, Kirk Snyder and its 2008 No. 1 pick to Sacramento for Ron Artest and a 2008 No. 2 pick.

Why Sacramento does it: That's a pretty good haul for Artest when he could bolt four months from now -- a valuable supporting guy at a fair price, along with a pick in the low 20s. So what if Battier went to Duke? You can't hold that against him. He didn't know any better when he signed there.

Why Houston does it: The deal knocks them under the luxury tax and makes the Rockets a little more interesting as a title contender -- they could go small with Artest at the 4 and/or run plays for him at crunch time, and he'd give them a fiestiness and an edge they don't quite have right now. The Rockets seem a little soft to me. I'm not saying it's Battier's fault, but he's the best trade chip for them because of his contract and his pedigree. You could always use Shane Battier on your team. I like this deal for both teams, actually.

TRADE 3A: Cleveland trades Drew Gooden, Shannon Brown and Ira Newble to Milwaukee for Charlie Villanueva and Bobby Simmons.

Why Cleveland does it: Because the Cavs need to do something and don't have any trade pieces that anyone really wants. They wouldn't miss anyone but Gooden, and he's replaceable because of Anderson Varejao. I also like the thought of Villanueva playing with LeBron because he can shoot 3-pointers and needs the kick-in-the-ass of playing with a great player like LeBron. And Simmons has a gawd-awful contract, but you know what? He's a physical defensive player, a tough dude who could make an impact on a playoff team. I watched him up close for an entire Clippers season -- he definitely has it in him. His contract sucks, but the good thing here is that it expires in 2010 right as do the contracts of Larry Hughes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and ... (gulp) ... LeBron James, which means they could spend the 2009-2010 season either turning expiring contracts into quality guys, or waiting until the summer to splurge on free agency and make LeBron happy.

Why Milwaukee does it: The Bucks save some money after this season, dump Simmons' deal and turn their umpteenth perimeter guy (Villanueva) into a much-needed banger (Gooden). A no-brainer for them.

(By the way, I'd like to officially apply for Larry Harris' job -- a job we knew would be open three years ago after his deer-in-the-headlights performance after winning the 2005 lottery. Bucks fans, lemme remind you that I pushed long and hard for Chris Paul as the No. 1 pick of that draft. Do you think you'd enjoy rooting for Chris Paul right now? I bet you would. I love the good city of Milwaukee, I'd love to live there, and I'd love to run the Bucks. Come on, you couldn't do worse! Start bugging Herb Kohl right now and vote Simmons for Bucks GM in 2008! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!)

TRADE 3B: Chicago trades Ben Wallace, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon and Adrian Griffin to Milwaukee for Michael Redd, Dan Gadzuric, Charlie Bell and Desmond Mason.

Why Chicago does it: Hey, the Bulls have to take a chance at some point, don't they? Redd gives them a crunch-time guy; Wallace is expendable because of the way Joakim Noah has been playing; they avoid paying Deng $70 million this summer when his ceiling is slightly lower than "All-Star"; and most important, they shake things up and finally bring in an All-Star guy. If you're John Paxson, the other option is to do nothing and get fired this summer. I don't know, I think I'd roll the dice over getting canned. That's just me.

Why Milwaukee does it: The Bucks chop $4 million off this year's payroll, dump the lousy Bell/Gadzuric contracts, import a veteran rebounder/defender in Wallace, and land a quality young player in Deng. Now, would it be worth it to re-sign him for big bucks? I say no. But they could match any offer, and he'd have significant sign-and-trade value for the simple reason that everyone overrates Luol Deng. Also, if you combine this deal with Trade 2A (above), suddenly the Bucks have a foundation going of Mo Williams, Yi Jianlian, Andrew Bogut, Deng, Gooden, Wallace, 2008 Lottery Pick X and no killer contracts after the 2009-10 season. Combined, those two trades would put them in a better place than their current place with their fans, which could best be described as "A Cross Between Indifference And Hell."

(Note: Did you notice how my case for replacing Larry Harris just became a little stronger with another logical fake trade? People of Milwaukee, it's time for a change! Vote Simmons for GM in 2008! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!)

TRADE 4A: Seattle trades Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Mickael Gelabale to Cleveland for Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall, my illegitimate brother Cedric Simmons and a 2008 No. 2 pick.

Why Seattle does it: Saves the Sonics nearly $5 million over the next two seasons and dumps their two unhappiest guys. Of course, they'd be acquiring three unhappy guys, but who cares? The Sonics need to keep saving Clay Bennett money so he can devote more resources to needlessly destroying basketball in the city of Seattle and ripping the heart out of a loyal fan base that's only supported the NBA for 41 years and counting. Yeah, let's pull their team from them because they don't want to help a billionaire build a new arena that doesn't need to be built. That's an awesome idea. I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me how David Stern could care so little about saving basketball in Seattle. It's completely inexplicable and goes against everything he's ever been about. I don't get it. I don't get it.

Why Cleveland does it: The Cavs are getting two quality 3-point shooters, one of whom (Wally) has playoff experience and could be an X-factor in the right series. While we're here, I think Delonte West is the second-best bargain available for a playoff contender other than Quinton Ross (who's going to end up being the next Bruce Bowen before everything's said and done), and here's why: He shoots 40-plus from 3-point terriroty; he was the second-best player on a great college team; he's scrappy as hell; and he's never played on a good team in the NBA. If he's your 10th man in the playoffs, you're going pretty well. Hey, speaking of Quinton Ross ...

TRADE 4B: San Antonio trades Jacque Vaughn, a 2008 No. 1 and $2 million to the Clippers for Quinton Ross and Paul Davis.

Why L.A. does it: Because Q-Ross should never be stuck on a bad team. Ever. It defies everything that makes him valuable. As a public service to him and basketball fans everywhere, the Clippers need to trade him. Plus, did I mention the $2 million? Did you see that, Donald Sterling??? That's $2 million, cash!

Why San Antonio does it: I keep hearing that we shouldn't worry about San Antonio because the Spurs are going to turn it on after the break like they always do. Have you watched them? Horry looks washed up. Finley looks washed up. Most of all, Bowen isn't the same defensively anymore -- maybe you haven't noticed, but guys can beat him off the dribble now and he's relying on that tripping/clutching/pushing routine more than ever. I can't see the Spurs winning anything with three washed-up guys playing big minutes in the playoffs. They need to do something. And if that's not enough, this is the perfect place for Ross -- he can learn all of Bowen's tricks before he takes his job. I hope this one happens.

(Note: I apologize for including all these Clipper-related trades, but every time I go to one of their games, I leave thinking that they should be sponsored by the ESPN.com Trade Machine. Pretty much every guy on the team is a terrible fit except for Kaman. You have to believe me. Even the coach is a bad fit. Really, it's been a delightful season. So glad I renewed.)

TRADE 5: Philly trades Andre Miller, Reggie Evans, Calvin Booth and Kevin Ollie to Minnesota for Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract, Sebastian Telfair, Chris Richard and Craig Smith.

Why Philly does it: I know, I know ... this trade looks insanely lopsided on paper. So allow me to explain. Philly would use Miller to dump Evans' contract, shed some luxury tax dollars (they'd save $8 million with this trade), pick up a good bargain in Smith (one of my favorite undersized power forwards, although they'd have to re-sign him), take a flyer on Telfair (showing some promise lately), and shed as much as $14 million in expiring deals after this season, giving them extra money to re-sign Andre Iguodala and remain a major player in this summer's free agent market. I like Miller, but he's never going to be an All-Star, he's always stuck on losing teams and he's a free agent in 2009, so you know they're dumping him next season, anyway. Why wait a year? The 2008 free agent class is loaded and only four teams will be under the cap this summer? What's the sense in waiting nine months to deal him for an expiring contract and a crummy No. 1 pick.

Why Minnesota does it: Here's what I don't understand about the NBA. You're the T-Wolves. Your fans are ready to drink the Jim Jones Kool-Aid. You have no hope of ever luring a free agent there, and beyond that, you have a GM who shouldn't be allowed to sign free agents under any circumstances. You also haven't had a good point guard since Sam Cassell. So why not roll the dice with Miller and build around him, Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer, Randy Foye and 2008 Lottery Pick X? Not a bad foundation, right? I don't see how it helps Minnesota to get absolutely nothing out of Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract. I really don't.

(By the way, is anyone else getting sad that we only have 24 hours left with Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract? I miss it already. Or him. Whatever it is.)

TRADE 6A: Toronto trades Jorge Garbajosa, Juan Dixon, Maceo Baston and a 2008 No. 2 pick to the Clippers for Cuttino Mobley and Dan Dickau.

Why L.A. does it: Donald Sterling, this is right up your alley ... it's a straight salary dump! Dixon expires this year; Garbajosa and Baston expire next year; and Mobley is making $8.3 million per year through the 2009-10 season. I like Mobley, but he's the kind of guy who loses any and all value on a lousy team. May as well trade him.

Why Toronto does it: Because the Raptors are turning three nobodies into a valuable supporting guy with playoff experience who shoots 40 percent from 3-point territory. By adding Mobley to the mix with Jason Kapono, Anthony Parker, Jose Calderon and Carlos Delfino, the Raps would have five perimeter guys shooting 40 percent or better on 3s. Would you want to play a hot team that's making 3s in the playoffs? I wouldn't. As for Mobley's deal, I'm going to use the Derek Fisher Corollary here. Remember when Utah traded for Fish before last season and it was one of those, "Yeah, his contract sucks, but now that we have him, he really helps us" trades? In my opinion, Mobley is this year's Fisher -- a valuable supporting guy who happens to be overpaid. Well, is this necessarily a bad thing if you have the cap space? I say no. Besides, the money would be a wash this season and next season, and for the final year of the deal, Mobley becomes a valuable expiring contract for trading purposes.

Note: Right now, the Raptor Truthers are furrowing their brows and saying, "Wait, was that a fairly logical explanation or am I crazy?")

TRADE 6B: The Clippers trade Sam Cassell, Corey Maggette, Aaron Williams, their 2008 No. 1 (unprotected) and the rights to Minnesota's No. 1 in 2008 or 2009 to Washington for Gilbert Arenas, Etan Thomas and Washington's 2008 No. 1 (lottery-protected).

Why Washington does it: For four completely logical reasons. First, the Wizards don't have to spend max money on Gilbert when it's unclear if he's a franchise guy for anything other than a fantasy team. Second, when you factor in Gilbert's new contract with the $13 million they'd save by dumping Etan Thomas, they'd save something like $44 million in 2009 and 2010 combined because Cassell, Williams and Maggette are all expiring deals. (Heading into this summer after this deal, when you include Antawn Jamison's impending free agency, the Wizards would have a paltry $38 million committed to their 2008-09 payroll. ... That's right, more than enough money to sign a name free agent to replace Gilbert.) Third, those are two fantastic No. 1s they're getting back -- a lottery pick in 2008 and a probable high lottery pick from Minnesota -- and they have an All-Star to replace Arenas on and off the court (Caron Butler). And fourth, as crazy as this sounds, they'd actually improve their playoff chances this season by getting Cassell and Maggette since it's doubtful that Arenas comes back, anyway.

I guess it all depends on what you think of Gilbert. My buddy House (a Wiz fan) argues that Gilbert is far too popular in D.C. to ever get traded, but he uttered a terse "no comment" for my question, "Yeah, that's fine and all, but would you have fun playing with him?"

Why the Clips do it: Because of the improbable resurgence of Kobe and the Lakers, the poor Clips have been blown off the map locally. They're an afterthought. They don't matter. In other words, it's just like every other season. If they don't swing for the fences with the Cassell/Maggette contracts and their picks and try to acquire a star player, they will continue not to matter. (Put it this way: As a season-ticket holder, I'm not coming back next year unless they make a big move. I can't stomach another lousy season. And I'm not alone.) This trade gives them a foundation of Arenas, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Al Thornton and Shaun Livingston that's legitimately exciting on paper (at least until you remember that three of those guys suffered season-ending injuries), as well as an exciting franchise guy (and a local product) who would generate a ton of interest in Los Angeles on and off the court. Let's face it -- Gilbert was born to play in Hollywood. Literally. It's the perfect place for him.

TRADE 7A: New Jersey gets Jason Williams and Ricky Davis; Miami gets Eddy Curry, Jamaal Magloire and Fred Jones; New York gets Vince Carter and Smush Parker.

Why New Jersey does it: Cap room, baby! The Nets are turning Vince into $16 million of expiring deals. Combined with the Kidd deal, Richard Jefferson's contract would be their only big deal after this season. Better yet, adding Ricky "The Ebola Virus" Davis makes them worse this season and improves their draft pick. A win-win all around.

Why Miami does it: The Heat are rolling the dice with Curry, and why not? He's one of the few proven low-post scorers in the league. Sure, he can't do anything else. But stick him with Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem, 2008 Lottery Pick X and Free Agent Signing X and that's an interesting foundation. Also, I think Eddy Curry can be the guy who will give Pat Riley his first on-court heart attack.

Why New York does it: That's easy -- if Vince can't get motivated to play hard in the most famous basketball city in the country, then he's worthless as a basketball player and a human being. Seriously. If this guy cares AT ALL about basketball, then he'd give a crap about proving himself in New York. He would. It's a smart gamble for the Knicks and they have more than enough money to roll the dice. As for Curry, it's safe to say that Zach Randolph made him expendable in the "low-post scoring," "no defense whatsoever" and "moody head case" departments.

TRADE 7B: Indiana trades Jermaine O'Neal, Jamaal Tinsley and David Harrison to New York for Stephon Marbury, David Lee and Malik Rose.

Why Indiana does it: Personally, I don't think Jermaine O'Neal is the same guy anymore. He's been banged up for four years and has a ton of miles on him. If I could turn him into an up-and-comer like Lee and dump a cancer like Tinsley in the same trade, I'd do that in a heartbeat. Financially, Lee and Marbury make the same money as O'Neal this year and next; Rose expires two years earlier than Tinsley; and Marbury still gives them a gigantic expiring contract for trading purposes next season. And if that's not enough, the Pacers could trot out a legitimate whitewash with Jeff Foster, Troy Murphy, Lee, Mike Dunleavy and Travis Diener ... quite possibly, the most talented whitewash we've seen since Larry Legend was still playing. Hell, the Jumbotron could even show a video of a bunch of paint rollers painting walls white every time they did it.

Why New York does it: Combined with Trade 4A, the Knicks would suddenly have a foundation of Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Jermaine O'Neal. For a franchise that thinks like a fantasy team instead of a real team ... lemme tell you something, that's a nice-looking fantasy team! Also, you can't tell me that the poor Knicks fans (proven suckers after the way they talked themselves into Marbury four years ago) wouldn't be intrigued at the chance to turn Curry, Marbury, Lee and Rose into Vince (their first elite perimeter scorer since Bernard), O'Neal (their first elite big man since Ewing) and Tinsley (their first true point guard since Mark Jackson). Hmmmm.

(Right now the Knicks fans are thinking, "Wait, so we'd start J.O., Zach, Q, Vince and Tinsley, with Crawford as the sixth man and Balkman and Nate rounding out the rotation? I'm in! Count me in!" You guys are easy.)