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Looking Back at Iverson-gate

I feel compelled to review the Allen Iverson trade situation.  Hopefully it will be therapeutic for me, and you guys can come along for the ride if you like.

On December 6, in part because of Maggette rumors, in part because the team just wasn't playing well, I posted about any and all Clippers' trade scenarios I could think of.  In the end, other than simple trades like Maggette for Mike Miller, the only thing I came up with was to trade for Allen Iverson.  Just looking at salaries, I suggested a package of Maggette, Cassell and Rebraca, plus a pick or two.

On December 8, it became public that the Sixers would trade Iverson and AI was essentially kicked off the team.  

From the 8th until the 19th, I posted 19 separate times about Iverson.  Although the Clippers were never generally held to be the frontrunners, it was clear they were interested.  On the night of Dec. 14 and morning of Dec. 15, a deal between the Clippers and Sixers was close, but apparently not close enough.

Now that Iverson is a Nugget, I must say, I really don't get it.  Philadelphia wanted three things in return for the former MVP and scoring champ - draft picks, a good young prospect, and salary relief.  In the Nuggets deal, they sort of got two of those things, but not enough of either one.

The picks Philly received in the trade belong to Denver and Dallas.  Which means they are quite likely to be mid to late 20's picks, which means you have to get lucky to get someone who actually helps you win.  The Clippers were the only other team besides Denver with two first rounders to offer, and their picks (their own and Minnesota's) figured to be better than the Nuggets picks.  And according to the LA Times, both picks were specifically offered, which makes sense.

As for salary relief, Joe Smith's deal is bigger than Rebraca's, but Andre Miller's runs longer than Cassell's.  Because Chris Webber is owed over $20M for next year, there won't be any cap room for the Sixers until 2008 unless they can move Webber, which they can't.  So the Clippers offer seemed to give the Sixers more salary relief sooner.  

Most reports still talk about Mobley in the deal, which certainly would not have worked as well for the Sixers.  But here's what else we know: everyone but Brand, Kaman and Livingston was offered, so at that point you get out the calculator and see what works under the cap guidelines.

Maggette and Rebraca were the constants - Corey needs a new home, and Rebraca is in the last year of his deal.  The Clippers would have preferred Mobley to be the last bit, simply because the 3rd year in Iverson's deal presented a luxury tax problem for Livingston's extension.  But they definitely offered Cassell (which helped Philly's cap strategy), and they were willing to deal with the luxury tax issue.

So I remain convinced (as the Clippers were also) that their offer was better.  Which is to say, I still have no idea why Billy King took Denver's.

On the other side, I find it a strange deal for Denver to make.  

When the story first broke, George Karl apparently agreed with me that it was not a good fit.  In his post game comments that first Friday, he said the Nuggets weren't interested:

The Nuggets were interested in acquiring Allen Iverson last season but Karl said he likes the chemistry on his team this season and wouldn't want to mess with that. Plus, "I'd never get any sleep," Karl cracked.

They took a chance, and they didn't give up a lot in the trade itself, so you have to give them credit for that.  But I am FAR from convinced that the two leaders in scoring and field goal attempts in the NBA this season can co-exist, let alone thrive, on the same team.  I also think Carmelo's suspension complicates things.  Sure, Denver gets some help during 14 games where they would otherwise be short-handed.  But, they have to integrate AI without Melo, and then in another month, they'll have to integrate the two of them together for the first time.  Maybe it will all go smoothly, but if it doesn't, they'll still be figuring stuff out at the all-star break.  I also think that Andre Miller was in many ways the perfect point guard in Denver.  Clipper fans dislike Miller for good reasons, but he is the best lob passer in the NBA, and consequently Denver led the league in lob dunks.  I'm pretty sure that when Iverson chucks the ball in the direction of the rim, it's a shot.

Most importantly, if it is true that Denver did not wish to part with J.R. Smith in the trade, I'm wondering if they didn't lose him anyway.  

Thanks mostly to crazy deals for Kenyon Martin and Nene, Denver's team payroll is currently $69.8M, 6th highest in the league.  With the luxury tax threshold set at $65.4M this season, they will have to pay an extra $4M in taxes this year.  Now, you have to realize, this is BEFORE Carmelo Anthony's max extension has taken effect.  So next year, they will be more like $14M over the threshold.  With Nene, Kmart, Camby, Anthony, Iverson and Reggie Evans all signed until at least 2009, they will already be over the threshold when it is time to extend J.R.  Which leaves Stan Kronke in the unenviable position of essentially paying double to keep him.  

My best guess is that signing Iverson is going to cost the Nuggets either in the neighborhood of $30M in taxes or J.R. Smith (and some taxes).  In small market Denver, that's a lot of money.  

If they win a title, it's all worth it of course.  But I wouldn't bet $30M on them winning.