Bad luck for Troy Murphy.
For the briefest moment, there was a slight possibility that Murphy would be going from one of the worst teams in the NBA (ie the Pacers) to one of the best (ie the Cavs). Leading up to tomorrow’s trade deadline, there were whispers of sending Murphy to Cleveland for Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ expiring contact.
But the Pacers also wanted JJ Hickson and multiple draft picks as part of the deal, and Cleveland effectively laughed at them and went after Amare Stoudemire and Antawn Jamison instead.
And now, it looks like Murphy will stay put, at least until the end of the season.
A deal has been struck between the Cavs, Wizards and Clippers, whereby Jamison will effectively go to Cleveland for Ilgauskas’ expiring contract + a first round draft pick (it is not clear whether this will be next season’s pick, which will most likely be the 30th pick of the draft). The Cavs will also get PG Sebastian Telfair, while the Clippers will get Drew Gooden and the Wizards will get Al Thornton.
This leaves Amare Stoudemire in the cold, at least for now. Apparently, the Suns didn’t want to give up Amare without also getting promising power forward JJ Hickson in the package. Chances are he will now go to Miami.
On paper, it looks like the Wizards are giving up a lot for little in return, and the Cavs got a massive bargain. Jamison is a versatile power forward currently averaging 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds. And by all accounts, he is also a significantly better defender than Stoudemire and an infinitely better teammate who cares more about the team than himself. Moreover, the Cavs basically just gave up their 30th pick for next season, since the Wizards are likely to waive Ilgauskas and then allow him to resign with the Cavs. So doesn’t that just mean the Wizards gave up essentially their best player for cap space and a 30th pick?
However, what it signals is that the Wizards are fully in rebuilding mode. With the Arenas gun debacle and their season in tatters, it’s actually not a terrible move for them. They’ve got a promising young guy in Thornton, guaranteed an atrocious finish to the season, which will increase their ping pong balls in the lottery, and they’ve cleared up plenty of cap space to make a run at some free agents. It feels like something the Pacers should have done years ago.
As for the Cavs…well, they’re going to be very hard to beat now. They’ve already got the best record in the league with basically Lebron, a fat old Shaq, an okay Mo Williams and a bunch of role players. Add a legit 20 and 9 guy to the lineup and they sudden look virtually unstoppable in the East. It looks almost inevtable that they will finally face off against the Lakers in the Finals, and be favorites in that matchup.
Let’s just digest this for a second.
PG: Mo Williams (16.9 points, 5.1 assists, 43% on 3s), backed up by Daniel Gibson (great clutch shooter, 48% on 3s) and now Sebastian Telfair (not great but a speedy little guy who can give teams problems).
SG: Delonte West (7.4 points, 3 assists, 41% on 3s) and Anthony Parker (7.1 points, 45% on 3s), a defensive tag team duo that fit the role player mould perfectly and can shoot from long range.
SF: Lebron James (29.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 8.3 assists) – just the best player in the game.
PF: Antawn Jamison (20.5 points, 8.8 rebounds), backed up by Anderson Varejao (8.4 points, 7.9 rebounds) + JJ Hickson (7.3 points, 4.4 rebounds). Now you have a legitimate, silky scorer beside Lebron who also happens to be a solid rebounder. He’s not the same athletic finisher that Amare is, but I think Jamison is a much better fit in Cleveland because he plays D. Varejao is a hustling offensive rebounder who is a bit of an offensive liability, but he plays hard and can fill in at Center if the Cavs play small. Hickson is just a young stud.
C: Shaquille O’Neal (11.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 23.1 minutes), backed up by Zydrunas Ilgauskas (7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 20.5 minutes). Shaq’s obviously not what he used to be, but it’s easy to forget he’s only playing 23 minutes a game AND he never gives a stuff about the regular season. At this rate, he’ll be well rested for the playoffs, when that wealth of championship experience will no doubt be invaluable.
This is a scary team and it’s a great move by them. It’s sad that the team with the best record is still doing everything they can to improve, taking risks and taking chances, whereas a tragic team like the Pacers couldn’t even pull off anything. It’s easy to say the Pacers shouldn’t give away Murph for only cap space, but why do I feel so much more optimistic about the Wizards than I do the Pacers right now?