Although the NBA All-Star weekend has left much to be desired (Monta Ellis’ absence from HORSE, excitement’s absence from the Dunk Contest, DeJaun Blair’s absence from the Rookie Challenge MVP award, Boobie and Anthony Morrow’s absences from the 3pt contest, etc.), it did provide us with the excitement of a blockbuster trade: The Washington Wizards traded Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson to the Dallas Mavericks in return for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton, and Quinton Ross. As a Wizards fan and an NBA fan, this trade is interesting and could dramatically impact the future of both teams. Here are a few thoughts:
-Obviously, the Wizards will free up cap space following this season. Obviously, they would have rather retained Haywood, whose contract is also expiring, but it doesn’t matter as the Wizards are essentially throwing this season away. All four acquired players have expiring contracts, so the Wizards hope to enter next summer’s free agency period with some dough to drop.
-Caron Butler wasn’t working in Washington. He was playing poorly and halfheartedly. He was a ball-stopper who either jacked up shots or didn’t do anything. Upon receiving the ball (usually on the wing/baseline just inside the arc), Caron has a tendency to assume the triple-threat position, jab step a couple times, and inevitably chuck a contested mid-range jump shot. Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus notes that Caron was taking fewer shots at the rim and making them less frequently than in years past. Dallas is normally well-coached, disciplined, motivated, and talented enough to provide the environment Butler needs to return to form. It is worth noting that although Butler’s game is not predicated on athleticism, he does turn 30 in March.
-DeShawn Stevenson is gone from the Wizards. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing for the Zards, as he would have assuredly guaranteed them 5 or 6 more losses and thus raise the chances of the Wiz getting the #1 overall pick. I just pray that the Mavericks are a smart enough ball club to never play DeShawn. Rick and Mark: I implore you to cut him before he infects the rest of your roster.
-Brendan Haywood will really help the Mavs–probably more than Caron. According to Adjusted +/- (Thanks Wayne Winston, former Mavs consultant!), Brendan was the best player and defender on the Wiz this season. His interior defense will be important for the Mavs for several reasons: a) The Mavs do not always stop penetration thanks to Kidd’s diminished lateral quickness, and Haywood will be there to block/alter shots b) Dampier has been injured and Dirk is a decent defender, but Haywood will serve as a rock inside c) offensively, Haywood is tall, long, and spry enough to finish passes from Jason Kidd and d) Haywood will help the Mavericks cope with the Laker bigs who invariably give everyone trouble. The Mavericks already have enough talent to do damage in the West–with a few breaks they could emerge as Western Conference champions.
-What happens to Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, and Haywood following this season? All will be free agents. I suspect Dallas, with their tendency to go for high-efficiency players, apparent trust in Adjusted +/-, and need for interior defense/size, will try and resign Haywood. Brendan’s role in this league is pretty defined–he’s an above average center who is an especially solid defender and a decent finisher. However, Gooden and Howard are question marks. Neither is likely to be a part of the rebuilding process in Washington and neither has a particularly good reputation among coaches. My intuition tells me Howard may resurrect his career as a defender/shooter a la James Posey (first he has to become a better shooter) and that Drew Gooden will keep sucking until no one wants him.
-My last thought leaves me looking ahead to the rest of the Wizards’ season and the offseason. As much as I love Antawn Jamison (loyalty, character, leadership, offensive style, rebounding prowess), the Wizards need to trade him away. Jamison deserves it and it is best for the Wizards to move on from the days of the “Big Three.” Meanwhile, something needs to happen with Gilbert. A trade or buy-out of sorts is most likely, but either way, he can’t be on the books for next season. My hope is that the Wizards get multiple lottery picks through trades, add a couple young pieces in the offseason (as opposed to one big name player currently in his prime), and take an Atlanta Hawks/OKC Thunder approach to development. The Wizards need to care about defense and commit to a style of play–more than anything else, the Wizards need an identity. Typing that last sentence made me sad!
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