Here are three winners and losers following the passing of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. And I’m not looking toward the 2010 class of free agents or how it affects a team’s current or future salary cap but simply on the court the rest of this season.
Cleveland Cavaliers: How can they not be winners? Antawn Jamison, who is averaging 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds this season for the Wizards, is the best second banana to LeBron James that the Cavs have had. Will Jamison average 20.5 ppg for Cleveland? No chance, not with LeBron, Mo Williams (when back healthy) and Shaq all taking their share of shots. But Jamison can help stretch opposing defenses more than Amare Stoudemire would, can still help on the boards and is versatile enough to guard those three-point shooting big men that have given the Cavs troubles (i.e. current Magic player Rashard Lewis and the Raptors’ Hedo Turkoglu, who burned the Cavs often from the perimeter last season while with Orlando). In addition, the Cavs seem likely to get Zyrdunas Ilgauskas back when the Wizards waive him. So in reality all the Cavs gave up was the final pick in the first round of next year’s draft. Steal. There’s no way Cleveland doesn’t finish with the best record in the NBA barring injury, and the Cavs have moved ahead of the Lakers as title favorites.
Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers had a massive hole in the middle with the season-ending injuries to Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden, so adding Marcus Camby for the low price of Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw is a great move for Portland. Camby will immediately move into the starting lineup and simply block shots and rebound. With the return of Brandon Roy from injury, Portland should rise from its current No. 8 spot in the West.
Houston Rockets: Getting Kevin Martin and 2009 lottery pick Jordan Hill for Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey and the not-playing Tracy McGrady (sent to New York) is a great deal for Houston, which desperately needs scoring help to go with Aaron Brooks and Trevor Ariza. The Rockets have lost seven of 10 overall and six of eight at home, but this should help them at least reach the playoffs.
Honorable mention: New York Knicks (getting McGrady and Sergio Rodriguez), Boston Celtics (getting Nate Robinson), Milwaukee Bucks (getting John Salmons), Phoenix Suns (keeping Stoudemire), Utah Jazz (keeping Carlos Boozer), Charlotte Bobcats (getting Tyrus Thomas), Dallas Mavericks (getting Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood).
Miami Heat: Not for an apparent lack of trying, but the Heat couldn’t pry Stoudemire away from Phoenix. All Stoudemire has done is average 26.6 points and 11.7 rebounds the past seven games, and the Florida native wanted to go to Miami– and still could as a free agent next summer if he opts out. The Heat also tried to pry Carlos Boozer from Utah but failed. This means Dwyane Wade, as usual, has to carry to much of a load, and he suffered a calf strain that could be serious in Wednesday’s close win over the Nets. Miami should still squeak into the playoffs, but look for Wade to start to wear down (if he isn’t already) and the Heat to be one-and-done again in the postseason.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs’ big move came this offseason when they acquired Richard Jefferson, whom the Spurs now couldn’t give away. Supposedly there were in early on Stoudemire and then late on the Bulls’ Tyrus Thomas and Salmons. Thomas would at least have given them youth and athletic ability, something the Spurs are sorely lacking. Now San Antonio, which is horrid against winning teams this year, is looking at no better than a No. 5 seed in the playoffs and another first-round ouster.
Chicago Bulls: Chicago is basically focused on the free agent class next summer and did keep Kirk Hinrich. But the Bulls traded starting-type players to two teams chasing them in the playoff race: John Salmons to Milwaukee and Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte. The Bulls didn’t get much back and are now incredibly weak in the backcourt. They should still find the postseason but be one-and-out again.
Honorable mention: L.A. Clippers (dumping Camby), Washington Pistons (now without all of its Big 3, with Gilbert Arenas suspended and Jamison and Caron Butler traded; but the Wizards don’t care about winning this year – and they may not win five more games), Detroit Pistons (for doing nothing).