When a superstar gets traded, it’s rare that another superstar crosses his path going the other way.
Instead, the team giving up a superstar usually wants something else, a chance to rebuild its roster. If there was an NBA general manager’s manual, there would be a chapter on the ideal mix of assets a superstar would return.
It would include:
• one or more good young players;
• multiple draft choices, including at least two first rounders;
• expiring contracts and cap space;
• cash considerations, often the max allowed--$3 million;
• and if possible, a trade exception.
The more of those items a GM can get, the more successful the trade. Take a look at the big trades involving the Nets under Rod Thorn. The Jason Kidd trade got the Nets two young players—Devin Harris and Desagana Diop; two first round draft choices, the first of which became Ryan Anderson; two expiring contracts in Diop and Keith Van Horn; $3 million in cash considerations and a $3.3 million trade exception that became Keyon Dooling. The Nets lost Diop to Dallas for nothing, but other than that, they did extemely well.
The Vince Carter trade, on the other hand, cost Raptor GM Rob Babcock his job. The Raptors didn’t get a good young player—all three players moved to Toronto were 30+; the two first round picks were lottery protected and yielded Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman, the latter of which was part of another salary dump; and no cash. They did wind up with cap space but it took a buyout of Alonzo Mourning and a couple of follow-up trades to get them there.
The jury is still out on the Richard Jefferson trade, in part because all the Nets got was a good young player in Yi Jianlian; a contract that expires in two years in Bobby Simmons; no draft picks and no cash. No trade exception either. A young player with potential and cap space two years down the road.
So if the Nets wanted to trade Carter before the deadline, wouldn’t they want a deal similar to what they got for Kidd last February? Of course. Moreover, Thorn should have an easier time dealing Carter than he did in dealing Kidd. Carter hasn’t demanded a trade. Indeed, he seems as happy as he says he is. Carter isn’t a distraction. He’s a solid citizen whose reputation has never been more solid. Kidd’s name filled the front pages as well as the back pages of local tabloids last season. If it wasn’t dirty laundry found in divorce papers, it was an "aspiring plus-sized model" claiming he molested her.
So what could the Nets expect to want if they wanted to trade Carter. The Cavs and Rockets are supposedly interested, says Chad Ford. John Hollinger thinks it would be neat if the Nets and Jazz got together.
But what about Charlotte or Portland? They seem more realistic, at least from a Nets’ point of view.
Here’s our summary of what each team could offer:
The Cavs reportedly offered the Nets Wally Szczerbiak’s expiring contract in a straight up salary dump last summer. That wasn’t going to fly. But starting with Szczerbiak, you could see some possibilities. Who are the good young players the Nets might be interested in? They had J. J. Hickson in twice for workouts last summer, so he would almost certainly be on the list. Hickson is 20 years old, younger even than Anderson. Then there’s Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, age 22, or Delonte West, age 25. Neither could replace Carter at SG, but would add to the youth movement. Both Gibson and West would come cheap in a trade since they’re BYC players and have multi-year deals...Gibson $21 million over five years, West $12 million over a three, with the third year only partially guaranteed. Will Gibson be worth $4.8 million in 2012-13? Aleksandar Pavlovic, the 25-year-old swingman? He’s owed $9.2 million over the next two. None would appear to have the potential value Harris OR Yi represent although Hickson could develop.
Cavs have their first round picks in 2009, 2010 and 2011, etc., but really how valuable is a Cavalier pick as long as Lebron James is healthy? Speaking of Lebron, trading Carter to the Cavs would have some effect on James’ free agency some 2010. Carter could help Cleveland win it all, making it less likely James would want to leave.
On the other hand, Carter’s contract with its guaranteed deals in 2009-10 and 2010-11 plus his $4 million buyout in 2011-12 wouldn’t leave the Cavs any cap space to add another major player.
We think the Cavs are a long shot.
What about the Rockets? There’s no large expiring contract to work with. Ron Artest has a $7.4 million deal this year. That’s the biggest. Tracy McGrady? Please. The Nets aren’t going to buy into a cousin-for-cousin deal, particularly when TMac is owed $22.5 million next season. Shane Battier is intriguing—a team-oriented, defensive-minded forward, but he’s owed more than $20 million over the next three years, is already 30 years old and his production has started to tail off.
As for good young players, Carl Landry might qualify. At 6’9", he’s a solid big man but if you’re trying to develop Brook Lopez and Yi Jianlian, where does he fit? Chuck Hayes? Aaron Brooks? Again, no potential Harris there. The Rockets have no draft pick this season, having traded it to Kings in the Artest deal. That means they can’t trade their 2010 pick either. That would leave them with offering their 2011 pick. 2011? They do have a few second rounders in 2010 and 2011. That’s not going to entice anyone.
Chad Ford had us scratching our heads when he mentioned the Rockets.
The Jazz are hurting...but upfront. Hollinger suggested the possibility of a Carter for Carlos Boozer trade, saying he was only speculating. Boozer has a $12.3 million player option after this season, but considering his health issues, he’s unlikely to exercise it...in spite of what he said last month. Teams aren’t going to be interested in him unless they know he’s healthy.
Boozer could qualify as a solid young player if healthy, but he has missed more than 100 games in the past five years, so we count him more as an expiring contract, with one or two years left, than a young player with admittedly great potential.
Young players? There’s Ronnie Brewer, the 6’7" swingman, who’s a very nice player and still only 23. The Jazz also have two young 7’1" big men in Kosta Koufos and Kyrylo Fesenko, ages 22 and 19. Koufos would seem to have more potential, but would also seem superflous in a Nets’ lineup with Lopez and Yi. Of course, there’s always Kyle Korver, the Net pick in 2003 that was sold for $125,000. He’s 27 and owed $9 million.
The Jazz also have the very attractive Knicks’ pick in 2010, traded away with lots of protections in 2004. It’s unprotected in 2010. Hard to imagine the Nets not demanding that pick in any Carter mix.
The Bobcats would seem an ideal location for Carter. His daughter, Kai, lives in Charlotte with his ex-wife. He’s visiting her on All-Star weekend. The Carolina Connection is obvious...and the ‘Cats think they could get into the playoffs. Plus, they need a fan magnet desperately.
There’s no big expiring contracts, but there are young players galore on the Charlotte roster. Gerald Wallace is 6’9", 26 years old, and a solid defender. He recently came close to a 5x5 game, with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks. He is owed $47.5 million over the next FIVE years and he is out, possibly for a while, after being hammered by Andrew Bynum in Los Angeles the other night. Still, the Nets could sell him to fans as a future building block. The ‘Cats alo have Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin, Adam Morrison and former Thorn favorite Sean May. Do the Nets need Felton or Augustin when they have Harris?
Charlotte draft choices are generally very valuable but over the next few years, their picks are mortgaged to the Nuggets. Their first round pick is lottery/top 14 protected in 2009, top 12 protected in 2010, top 10 protected in 2011, top 8 protected in 2012, top 3 protected in 2013.
That complicates things. Their second round picture is also clouded by some older trades, going both ways.
Charlotte is intriguing...but only intriguing.
What about the Blazers? Well, here we have what could be an ideal situation, except for one thing: the Blazers do not need Carter. They have Brandon Roy. But if they wanted to move Roy to the point, which he has played, then there’s some possibilities.
Expiring contract? The Blazers have the big kahuna, the so-called "super expiring" contract of Raef LaFrentz. LaFrentz is owed $12.72 million this year, but since he is out for the season,
insurance picks up 80% of his salary.
Young players? Are you kidding? Take your pick—there’s Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, Channing Frye, Sergio Rodriguez, Martell Webster, Nicolas Batum. Not to mention they hold draft rights to two young Europeans—Joel Freeland, a 6’11" British power forward and Petteri Koponen, a 6’5" Finnish point guard. Both were first round picks and developing nicely overseas. Freeland is 21, Koponen is 20. We assume LaMarcus Aldridge is untouchable.
Draft choices? They have their own first rounders in 2009, 2010 and 2011, plus they have their own second rounder AND the Knicks’, Nuggets’ and Clippers’ picks in the second round in 2009. In 2010, they have their own second rounder plus the Bulls’ pick. That’s a grand total of nine picks over three years (plus the draft rights to Freeland and Koponen). Plenty there.
The Blazers also have something else...cold, hard Paul Allen cash. Bob Johnson of the Bobcats might be a bit strapped for money at one end of the ownership scale. But Allen is among America’s richest men, with a fortune of around $16 billion.
We’d be surprised if the Nets traded VC. Why not wait til the off-season? His value could very well be higher. A full season at the numbers he’s pushing now plus his high marks for leadership would prove he can be worth his salary even at age 34.
But if the Nets did decide to deal him, we think it’s more likely the Bobcats, Blazers and to a lesser degree, the Jazz would be ideal partners.