Big Moves Keep Coming

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I guess I should’ve learned something from the week leading up to trade deadline day, back in March. Like many others during that period, I tuned into NBA TV frequently, and had ESPN.com on constant refresh, waiting anxiously for the Dwight Howard drama to resolve. As it turned out, Dwight opted-in for another year with the Magic, essentially postponing the melodrama for another few months—nothing more than papering over the cracks.

And now here we are again. I’m checking Twitter constantly for updates (yes, I need a life) scouring various NBA sites for information from insiders, and generally just hoping for a blockbuster trade that will end this tiring saga. One day Howard’s heading to Brooklyn (thankfully that fell through, a horrible deal for the Magic), and the next he’s joining Nash and Kobe in Los Angeles. The destination seems to change by the minute. Waiting for Howard to be traded is the definition of anticlimactic.

Of course, a lot of my bitterness comes from the fact that I had planned for a Howard trade to be the centerpiece in this follow-up to last week’s article on the biggest moves of the summer. Fear not, however, there’s still been plenty of interesting business in the NBA over the past week. Wednesday saw the end of the league’s moratorium period (a fancy legal term for ‘a suspension of activity’) and free agents were officially able to ‘sign on the dotted line’ with their teams. Here are 5 more deals that could be hugely impactful come the regular season. Dwight Howard, you can wait.

5. Darren Collison to the Dallas Mavericks

Until Wednesday evening it was looking like a nightmarish off-season for the 2011 champions. Owner Mark Cuban essentially gave up defending the title last season by letting go of Tyson Chandler for salary cap reasons. For Cuban and G.M. Donnie Nelson, the plan was to go all-in during this summer’s free agency bonanza, with Deron Williams at the top of their shopping list.

But things didn’t go according to plan. Williams chose Brooklyn instead, and their second choice, Steve Nash, decided to sign with the hated Lakers. Even more galling for the Mavericks, Jason Kidd decided to jump ship, heading to MSG to mentor Jeremy Lin. And then there’s the fact that the Mavericks didn’t even bother matching the Celtics’ offer for Jason Terry, their second best player.

In the space of two years, the Mavericks had gone from drinking champagne in South Beach to a good bet for the 2013 draft lottery. Some were even speculating whether their one genuine superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, would want out of Big D.

But yesterday the Mavs pulled off a trade with the Indiana Pacers that might have saved their season. The Pacers sent point guard Darren Collison to Dallas, as well as Dahntay Jones, in exchange for back-up center Ian Mahinmi. The Pacers had just re-signed George Hill, making Collison expendable, and wanted a back-up for Roy Hibbert.

Collison is no Deron Williams, of course, but he’s a talented young point guard, who won’t cost Dallas much, and will be able to do something that no Maverick could do with much success last year: get to the rim. He’s extremely quick, can score, and should fill a void for now.

The acquisition of Collison, plus center Chris Kaman, should keep Dirk content in the short-term, and will probably ensure that Dallas are a playoff team next year. After a disastrous few weeks, Mavs fans can ease up on pulling out their hair for now. And who knows, maybe Cuban will have more success going after another free agent point guard next summer: Chris Paul.

4. Brandon Roy to the Minnesota Timberwolves

Last December, Roy announced his retirement from basketball after battling serious knee injuries for a couple of seasons. It was pretty depressing news. Roy had won the Rookie of the Year Award, after a great first season in Portland, and over the next few years had established himself as a genuine superstar in the NBA. He made 3 all-star appearances and, along with Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, looked to be part of a potentially great team in Rip City. As so often happens with that cursed franchise, however, things didn’t go to plan.

At the time Roy retired (the Blazers amnestied him soon after) the talented shooting-guard told the media that his knee problems had gotten so bad that he didn’t actually have cartilage between the bones. Yikes! It hurts to even think about it.

Earlier this year, however, Roy announced that he was returning to basketball, after having treatment on his knees—undergoing a similar procedure to Kobe. He entered free agency on July 1st and the Minnesota Timberwolves snapped him up in a two-year deal worth $10.4 million.

If Roy can stay healthy (and admittedly that’s a big ‘if’) his game should help Minnesota enormously. Understandably Rick Adelman won’t risk giving him big minutes, but even 15-20 minutes of a decent Brandon Roy is a major upgrade from what the Timberwolves had at the 2-guard spot last year—no offense Luke Ridnour. With the much-loved Ricky Rubio hopefully back to full fitness, and the potential Brandon Roy feel-good story in progress, the young Timberwolves should be a lot of peoples’ second-favourite team next year. And if all goes according to plan, and Roy can replicate some of his old form, they should make the playoffs.


3. Ryan Anderson to the New Orleans Hornets

Ever so quietly, the New Orleans Hornets are putting together a pretty exciting roster. Led by a talented young coach in Monty Williams, with good pieces in place for the future, including Eric Gordon, who will likely be resigned (whether he likes it or not), things are looking promising in The Big Easy.

After drafting Anthony Davis, the best player in college basketball last year, with the first pick overall, and then selecting talented guard Austin Rivers with the 10th, the Hornets added some proven quality, completing a sign-and-trade with Orlando for the winner of last year’s Most Improved Player Award, Ryan Anderson. The Hornets sent Gustavo Ayon to the Magic and acquired Anderson on a four-year deal worth $36 million—not bad value for a player with his skill set.

As reflected by that aforementioned award, Anderson’s game improved by leaps and bounds last year. He averaged over 16 points per game, and made 40% of his 3-point shots—not too shabby. In fact, Anderson led the league in 3-pointers made last season.

Obviously Anderson has exceptional range for a power forward, and his shooting ability spreads the floor for his team. It will allow players like Davis more room in the paint. Anderson is also a pretty decent rebounder—an aspect of his game that’s often overlooked. He will help the Hornets on the boards at both ends of the floor. Overall, a really solid pick-up for New Orleans.

2. Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors

Perhaps missing out on Steve Nash wasn’t quite the tragedy that many Raptors fans thought it was going to be.

Despite reportedly moving Nash to tears with a Wayne Gretzky-narrated video, put together by Bryan Colangelo and a board desperately trying to sell Toronto to the future hall-of-famer, the Raptors missed out. However, Colangelo had a clever contingency plan up his sleeve.

Soon after the news broke that Nash was signing with the Lakers, Colangelo sent a first round pick to Houston in exchange for the immensely talented point guard, Kyle Lowry. Last season, until he was sidelined with a bacterial infection, Lowry was having a borderline all-star year. During his absence, however, Lowry lost his starting place to Goran Dragic and soon fell out with coach Kevin McHale. A trade seemed likely.

In Lowry, the Raptors have acquired an exciting player, who can run an offense, score (he averaged 14 PPG last year), and defend tenaciously. He’s also great value for money—making 5 and 6 million over the next two years respectively. As fantastic as Nash is, the Raptors were offering him twice that amount for 3 years ($36 million)—and for a guy who’s 38-years old. Trading for Nash made great sense from a P.R./business perspective, but this deal makes far more sense basketball-wise.

Dwayne Casey now has a core in place that could challenge for the 8th seed in the East. A potential Lowry-DeRozan-Fields-Bargnani-Valanciunas lineup looks pretty decent on paper. For a coach like Casey, who’s been trying to implement a defense-first mentality in Toronto, something the franchise has been lacking for years, Lowry is a major positive. Watch Lowry defend next season, and compare what you see to Jose Calderon’s abilities at that end of the floor. A massive upgrade.

1. Ray Allen to the Miami Heat

Sometimes life isn’t fair. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the good die young (or so Billy Joel says), and the NBA’s best team just gets a whole lot better.

It may not have appeared so in the playoffs, with Shane Battier going insane, and Mike Miller hitting 7 threes in Game 5 of the Finals, but the Heat were a pretty poor outside shooting team last year. If Wade and LeBron have a weakness in their games (there aren’t many), it’s shooting from beyond the arc. James eased up on his 3-point attempts last year, a big reason for his amazingly high shooting percentage, but there was always the feeling that a deadly outside shooter would push the Heat from being a great team, to an unbeatable one.

Well, this summer Pat Riley decided to go out and sign the greatest outside shooter of all time—a 10-time all-star, and a guy who holds the record for the most 3-pointers made in NBA history. Yes, that’s right, Ray Allen is now a member of the Miami Heat. Scary.

The Heat were only able to offer Allen $3 million a year, half of what the Celtics were offering him to re-sign. But Jesus Shuttlesworth chose to play with LeBron and company, and chase another ring. Allen’s role with Boston had diminished last year, and was set to diminish further, with Avery Bradley their preferred starter at the 2-guard spot. He’d also been the subject of trade discussions last season with Memphis. It’s hard not to imagine that Allen was put off re-signing with Boston because of those factors. (Hey Boston fans, think about that before you burn his jersey)

A healthy Ray Allen should prove extremely effective for the Heat as they attempt to defend their crown. Double-teaming LeBron is already a risky endevour, but doing it with Allen hanging on the perimeter might be suicidal. His shooting will also create driving lanes all over the floor. Throw in Rashard Lewis, another great outside shooter who was recently signed by Miami, and it’s going to be hard to look past the Heat when predicting next year’s NBA champs.

Yep, life isn’t fair.

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