|Friday, February 21
Who won, who lost on trade deadline day
By Peter May
Special to ESPN.com
It's always a challenge to figure out winners and losers in trades some 24 to 48 hours removed. Sometimes, it can take years, as we've seen with the Vince Carter-Antawn Jamison swap. Sometimes it can be a lot shorter, as we've seen with the Celtics' acquisition of Vin Baker.
The Bucks-Sonics trade should help Milwaukee in the short run because it will be a better defensive team and the newly acquired combo of Gary Payton and Desmond Mason will more than make up for Ray Allen's point production. But did you ever envision two years ago, when the Bucks nearly made the NBA Finals, that the last of their Big Three to remain in Milwaukee would be Sam (Get Me Out of Here) Cassell?
I guess I'll never understand why a potential buyer, whose prepared to pay $200 million or more, would rather have a stripped-down payroll rather than one which might cost a little more but is clearly a better product. Aren't these guys in it to win? Anyway...
Orlando is a better team than it was on Wednesday. Memphis? You knew last June that the selection of Drew Gooden was a puzzler because the Grizzlies already had Pau Gasol playing the same position. This was not Jerry West's finest hour. Orlando now has Gooden to at least be a presence inside -- and remember he had an exhibition season that had many thinking he'd be Rookie of the Year material.
But 22 teams did nothing on Thursday. You have to think the phone and cell phone companies look at trading deadline day the same way Hallmark cards looks at Mother's Day. There was lots of talk -- and not a lot of action. Here's a look at some of the Silent 22 (along with the Sonics and Nuggets) and whether they should have pushed the button.
Atlanta Hawks: Uh, what exactly are they thinking down there? Wasn't their entire roster available? The Hawks appeared to be one of the Eastern Conference's more improved teams last October. They now look like Sonny Corleone at the toll booth. Are owners around the loop so spooked by the luxury tax that one couldn't find a way to take Shareef Abdur-Rahim or perhaps Theo Ratliff? Or even Nazr Mohammed? Atlanta comes out of the deadline with the same team it had before the deadline. You can never say never in the Consolation Bracket Eastern Conference -- the Hawks are only five games out in the loss column for the much-coveted No. 8 spot -- but this team needed to do something. Be prepared instead for a lot of black seats at Philips Arena and refund checks going out to season-ticket holders. Status: Loser.
Dallas Mavericks: Mad Mark Cuban is always at the epicenter of any trading deadline. He's the anti-owner these days, unafraid to pay if he feels it will improve his team, luxury tax be damned. The Mavericks have been the best team, record-wise, since the opening bell rang back in October. Cuban decided he liked what he had and the only way he's going to find out if he has enough is in the playoffs. Basically, short of trying to pry Shaquille O'Neal away from the Lakers, Cuban stood firm. It must have killed him to do so, but he did the right thing. Status: Winner.
Seattle SuperSonics: To their credit, the Sonics actually did something. This was the Western Conference version of Atlanta with one big exception: They had some players whose contracts' expired at the end of the season (Payton and Kenny Anderson), while the Hawks did not. The Payton situation was becoming an irritating distraction with the potential of it being much, much more. Now, it's Milwaukee's concern. The Sonics weren't going anywhere with what they had. They've still got way too much money tied up in mediocre-at-best centers (Jerome James, Calvin Booth and Vitaly Potapenko.) But their plan had been to rebuild around Rashard Lewis, Vladimir Radmanovic and Mason. Substitute Allen for Mason. Status: Winner.
Denver Nuggets: Let's hope coach Jeff Bzdelik gives the ball to Shammond Williams and let's him fire away. Williams is one of those streaky players who can pile up points -- or bricks. But at least he's a scoring threat -- an oxymoron in Denver -- whereas the two departed players, Mark Blount and Mark Bryant, were not. The big thing for Denver is that it didn't do anything to upset its summer, free-agent plans. The Nuggets will still have tons of cash. They'll still be a horrible team. Ask Jerry Krause in Chicago how easy it is to get good players to come to bad teams. Status: Winner.
New York Knicks: The Knicks decided they could compete for the eighth playoff spot with what they have. Let's not forget that they also have Antonio McDyess in their plans, provided he's not the next Grant Hill. Other teams shied away from the Knicks because of some truly hideous contracts, and we're not even talking about the deals of Latrell Sprewell or Allan Houston. They, at least, have proven they can play. What about the money being expended on Shandon Anderson and Howard Eisley? This has been a .500 team since Sprewell came back. It is what it is, which, in the East, makes it enough to at least contemplate a playoff berth. Status: Winner.
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers had been trading-deadline players the last few years and were willing to do so again. But a command from the top not to add more salary crippled their plans. They had Derrick Coleman, who fit the bill as a trading-deadline appetizer because his contract expires. He's still there. So, too, is Keith Van Horn. Maybe ownership likes what it has; the Sixers are close to the No. 4 seed in the East. But adding some toughness or size inside, especially with Todd MacCulloch's scary medical situation, would have considerably brightened things. As Bob Dylan noted, "He that gets hurt will be he who has stalled." Status: Loser.
Peter May, who covers the NBA for the Boston Globe, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.