Monday, June 22, 2015

The Perfect Trade That Hurts Both Teams

Seriously, This Happened
Last week during the NBA Finals, the Clippers and Hornets pulled off a deal that might be my early favorite for best move of the year, in that I'm fairly sure that it leaves both teams worse for having made it. Charlotte gives up G/F Lance Stephenson, having just spent one year before wearing out his welcome in a wildly over the top way, to the Clippers for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes.

Let's look at this from Charlotte's standpoint first. Barnes is a tolerable fill-in starter and attitude benchie, with thuggish tendencies and the more than occasional three making his overall value reasonable. He's getting long in the tooth and subject to all kinds of bad judgment, but he does seem to care a lot about winning and losing, and understands that he needs to care way too much about defense to help his team win. At his peak, he's not as good as Stephenson, but he's also much easier to live with. (This all assumes the Bugs aren't just cutting him for cap relief and tankery, which, given GM Michael Jordan's ego and desire to not seem terrible at his job, seems highly unlikely.)

Hawes is, of course, my least favorite scrub benchie in the NBA, and after his disastrous year and contract in Clipperland, it's no surprise that he's been shipped out of town by any means necessary. If you like your big man soft, porous, and away from the hoop to shoot low percentage threes, he's your man... and hopefully, your team doesn't play in North America.

The Clips got back Stephenson, fresh off a disastrous year after signing a big free agent contract to leave Indy... and his old franchise didn't seem at all sorry to watch him go, despite growing into major minutes, and occasional moments of LeBron Stopping prior to when LeBron really didn't want to be stopped anymore. Lance is as bad as NBA guys get when it comes to on-court hijinks (the weird ear blowing nonsense being just the most obvious moment of that), and he's now on his third team in three years, which is as much of a Red Flag as you will ever see in NBA circles... and oh, by the way, these are some of his better qualities. By the numbers, he's a versatile player but a poor shooter, and while the defensive rep in Indy was top-notch, it certainly didn't travel to Charlotte, once he had (a) a big money contract and (b) no eraser behind him at center.

But what I really love about this deal is how it continues the marvelous story of how Doc Rivers the GM is killing Doc Rivers the Coach. Rivers the GM is the guy who moved heaven and earth for Hawes, along with trading for his washout of a son, leading to the formation of a bench squad that was too bad to allow some of the best front-line talent in the NBA enough rest to finish off the Rockets in the second round. Rivers the Coach is the guy who throws his talent under the bus when his team loses in the playoffs, because look at how little he's got to work with on the bench. All while telling the fable that Clipper Management was preventing his genius moves from coming to full fruition, or from attracting top-tier talent in the past.

This is, of course, all grade A bullsquat. Players love to line up near a first class point guard, because they tend to get paid for a very long time after that. Ask Amare Stoudamire and David West, for two, on how much money Steve Nash and Chris Paul made them over the years. And if you can't sell top LA franchise to suitors, where Nash and Blake Griffin are rolling in endorsement dollars, I don't know if you can sell anything to anyone.

No, the real problem for Rivers the Coach is that Rivers the GM is frankly terrible at his job, so much that he has to make fresh bad moves to help correct the previous bad moves. Barnes is a dirtball, but at least he's one the opposition hates more than his teammates. Stephenson, not so much. The Clips just someone got even thinner. Should be fun to see who Rivers blames for that, after getting bounced in the first round again next year...

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