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Trading Places

Listening to Ricky Davis during his radio appearances yesterday, I was struck by the stigma of being traded so frequently.  Sure, he's stigmatized by other things as well, but the simple fact that he's been involved in five trades in 10 NBA seasons implies something about the guy.  It doesn't take a math major to figure out that he's lasted less than 2 seasons per NBA stop, and in fact he's never been with one team for three full seasons (he was dealt at the trade deadline of his third seasons in Cleveland and Boston).  So what's the deal?  Does he wear out his welcome? 

As always, it's not wise to make assumptions without looking closely at the specifics of the situation.  It's obvious that Ricky has not been THE player his team has decided to build around - that goes without saying.  So he's not Michael Jordan or Reggie Miller or Kobe Bryant, playing a decade or more for the team that drafted him.  But NBA trades happen, and even Shaq has been traded - twice in the last four years.  So don't just assume that 5 NBA coaches have decided to ship RD out of town just to be rid of him.

August 1, 2000 - After two promising seasons in Charlotte, Davis was included in a huge nine player trade between the Heat and the Hornets.  Also in the deal were all-stars Eddie Jones, Anthony Mason and Jamaal Mashburn, not to mention Otis Thorpe and P.J. Brown.  This was a big trade.  I don't see how it necessarily reflects badly on RD - the best player in the trade, Mashburn, was going from the Heat to the Hornets.  A promising 21 year old wing might have been the sweetener that got the deal done for the Hornets.

October 26, 2001 - After one season in Miami, he was sent to Cleveland in a three team trade.  As it happens, his first season in Miami barely counted, as he was injured all year and played in only 7 games in that stint with the Heat.  This trade was definitely about getting rid of players that teams didn't really want - also in the deal were Don MacLean (who was waived by the Raptors the next day), Brian Skinner and Chris Gatling.  The key was apparently Gatling, a former all star whom the Heat must have coveted.  He signed a 3/$8M contract the day of the trade, played 54 games in 2001 for the Heat, and was waived a year later with 2 seasons left on his contract.  For what it's worth, Davis was by FAR the best player in that trade, and Cleveland must have been thrilled to get him.

December 15, 2003 - A year later, the Cavs were still happy with Davis, because they matched an offer sheet from the Timberwolves for 6/$35M to keep him.  But 16 months after that, the thrill was gone.  He was sent to Boston in another really big trade involving six players and a draft pick.  Of course the Cavs had drafted a 19 year old named LeBron James six months earlier, and they may have decided that keeping their leading scorer from the past two seasons and paying him $6M per wasn't really in their interests.  For the Cavs, this was all about rebuilding around LeBron - they got Eric Williams' expiring contract, a veteran big man in Tony Battie and a former lottery pick in Kedrick Brown.  This was not a fire sale trade, but a calculated move by the Cavs to use Ricky Davis (now a proven NBA scorer) to help get some pieces to complement their young superstar.

January 26, 2006 - A little over two years later, RD was once again part of a blockbuster trade:  this one involved the Timberwolves and the Celtics and included seven players and 3 draft picks.  In the case of this trade, I think it was about the T-Wovles WANTING Ricky and being willing to give up all star Wally Szczerbiak and a future first rounder to get him.  The Wolves saw that their window for winning with Kevin Garnett was closing, and Szczerbiak had clashed with KG.  It's hard to believe at this point, but in Jan. 2006 the Wolves were just 18 months removed from an appearance in the Western Conference Finals - they had certainly not given up, and they thought that Davis might help re-invigorate the team.  Obviously, it didn't really work out that way.

October 24, 2007 - So last off-season he was sent to Miami.  This trade was eerily similar to the one from Boston to Minny.  A team who had recently tasted significant success (in this case the 2006 Champion Heat) was looking more than a little old and stale and needed an infusion of talent.  The Heat wanted rid of Antoine Walker, and was willing to send a first round pick to Minnesota to make it happen, and RD went to South Beach to team with Shaq and DWade in Riley's last ditch attempt to salvage that team.  Once again, it didn't really work out.

I think that you can make an argument that, with the exception of 2001, each time Ricky Davis has been traded it was because the receiving team wanted him rather than because the trading team wanted rid of him.  Besides, he's also simply been part of some real blockbusters, which can hardly be pinned on him alone.  You don't put together seven, eight and nine player trades just because one guy is starting to get on your nerves.

So when you look at the specifics, I don't see how the simple fact that he has been traded five times is an indictment of Ricky Davis.  It is what it is.  It happened  It is perhaps somewhat more disconcerting what has happened in his last two stops, where recently great teams sunk to the depths of the NBA shortly after his arrival.  However, Minnesota's decline had begun before Ricky arrived in the Twin Cities, and he can hardly be held responsible for Miami's situation.  He certainly was not the hero for either of those teams, but he wasn't the villain either.

The Clippers signed him at a very reasonable cost to be a backup small forward, not a savior.  We'll see what happens next - maybe Ricky should rent - but for now, it's a good thing.