Friday, May 18, 2007

Revisiting the "Trade Deadline That Wasn't"

You may have forgotten that there actually was a trade deadline during this past NBA regular season, in part because the biggest trade to take place was the MONSTER of a deal that was Fred Jones-for-Juan Dixon. There were 2 teams which could've saved that disappointing day and made for many a headline, but instead chose, rather than reaching for the phone, to sit on their hands and simply let the clock tick away. One was the/my L.A. Lakers, who could've gotten triple-double machine Jason Kidd from New Jersey had they been willing to give up Andrew Bynum, their promising 19-year old center and one of only 3 healthy big men on their injury-plagued roster. The other was the Chicago Bulls, who could've gotten Memphis' Pau Gasol, an excellent offensive post-player who may have fit nicely along side Ben Wallace, had they been willing to give up on either Ben Gordon or Luol Deng, their 2 most consistent scorers whom the Bulls' offense either lives or dies by. One (well, me, at least) can only wonder whether either team's front office pulling the trigger on their respective potential blockbuster trades could have rewarded their players with a more-extensive playoff run, and thus, a shorter vacation (though the latter may not be much of a reward for some).

For the Lakers, trading for Jason Kidd would've been a no-brainer. Witnessing how he led the Nets to a 1st-round upset of the Raptors (highlighted by his 16-point, 16-rebound, 19-assist performance in Game 3, where he was a "game-time decision" to play) shows how hungry Kidd is for a championship. Teaming Kidd up with Kobe Bryant as a starting backcourt could have been incredible, much more so than any of the Lakers' other options at point guard, be they the "despondent" (Smush Parker), the "whiny" (Sasha Vujacic), the "inexperienced" (Jordan Farmar), or "other" (Shammond Williams -- not really sure how to classify him, seeing as he hardly ever played). Sadly, Laker GM Mitch Kupchak's petition to the league office to allow the Lakers to play all 4 at once while having them count as 1 player was denied.

The hold-up for the Lakers in this deal, though, was having to cut loose Bynum, a young big man with a promising post-up game and a good 10-15 years ahead of him, in exchange for Kidd, a point guard with creaky knees who is slowly reaching the deep end of his 30s. However, as Henry Abbott at TrueHoop points out, the path to championship-caliber success in the NBA seems to be moving away from the dominant big man, and more towards smaller, faster line-ups, like those employed by Golden State, Utah and Phoenix in this year's playoffs. Furthermore, with Kidd's ability to excel the playing levels of the big men he's teamed with -- i.e. Kenyon Martin (who parlayed a couple of fancy alley-oops into a $60-million contract) and Mikki Moore (who will likely get a fat contact this offseason) -- putting him in the Lakers' line-up could have worked wonders for Kwame Brown and (especially) Ronny Turiaf. Add all of that to Kobe's sudden "win NOW" attitude (where was that statement before the trade deadline?), and Bynum's productivity and playing time dropping tremendously in the 2nd half of the season, and it looks more and more like the Lakers missed a golden opportunity by passing on Kidd.

For the Bulls, their non-trade is a bit of a toss-up. Their high-energy style of play was what got them past a beat-up Miami Heat team in 4 quick games, during the last of which the Heat couldn't even hand the fucking ball to each other without a Bulls player sneaking in for a steal. When Chicago can control the pace of the game, they do shit like sweep the defending champs and dominate in consecutive games against Detroit; but when they can't control the pace of the game, they play like they did in the 1st 3 games of the Detroit series. Having Gasol in the line-up could've helped the Bulls match up better against the Pistons, but also could've put them at a disadvantage against the Heat. Not to mention, Gasol's shimmering 0-12 playoff record wasn't much of a beacon of hope, though the counterargument that the Memphis rosters that Gasol played on weren't nearly as talented as the Bulls are now could just as easily be made (though not easy enough for me to make it).

Of course, since neither trade actually was made, both the Bulls and Lakers are at where they're at, and there's no looking back -- although, both of these trades could be made this offseason, but I wouldn't bet on it. Not all is in disarray, though. The Bulls have talented guards with shooting range, athletic young forwards, and a premier defensive presence down low. Meanwhile, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, and... cheese. Boy, I wonder what Kobe's thinking right now. (**puts thumb and index finger to chin**) I wonder...

Whoa, slow your roll, Mamba. Maybe after a couple more 1st-round exits you can demand a trade or a buy-out. (Will that still be a trend in 2009?) Oh, and definitely change that jersey number. Trying to emulate the great MJ? Sorry, Kobe, but you're no Luke Schenscher. SHHHEN-SHUUUR.