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Smith, Telfair and Madsen - Take Two

I've had a couple more hours to ruminate on today's trade.  On the whole, I think it's a good thing, but I'm less than 100% clear on what it all means.

It's interesting to flip it over and look at it from the Timberwolves' perspective.  Stop-n-Pop has an excellent analysis at SB Nation's Canis Hoopus, and a few Wolves fans have commented on Clips Nation as well.  It's worth noting that Stop-n-Pop is a Bassy fan, and thinks that Telfair is the best player in the trade.  Devotees of PER would probably disagree (08-09 PER Sebastian Telfair 10.8, Craig Smith 16.9), but PER is not the be all end all.  Stop-n-Pop has watched a LOT more Wolves games than I have - if he says Bassy can play, it's nothing but good news.

But why did the Wolves do it?  Answer: to save a little money, to use Q's expiring contract in another trade, and to free up a couple of roster spots.  In case you didn't notice, none of those things have anything to do with basketball.  Is it true that the Wolves were logjammed at the 1 and the 4?  Sure.  So the trade makes sense from that standpoint, as the Clippers definitely needed help at the point.  But I remain unconvinced that power forward was a key need - or rather, as compared to small forward, which Smith is NOT, power forward seemed reasonably well taken care of to me.

UNLESS...  either Camby or Kaman is moved.  If one of the veteran centers is traded (either now or at the deadline) suddenly this trade makes a lot more sense, right?  Then you've got the remaining vet starting at center backed up by DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin starting at power forward backed up by Smith.  And if you parlay Kamamby into something good, then everything falls into place.  Which one should be moved?  Well, there are pros and cons of course.  If you move Kaman, you clear 2010 cap space, but leave youself with only DeAndre Jordan when Camby leaves this summer.  If you move Camby, you're chewing up that self same cap space in the deal.  So it depends on if you're playing 2010 FA derby or not.

But back to the Wolves' motivation - all of those positives from their standpoint are automatically negatives for the Clippers.  They cost themselves 2010 cap space (no WAY Bassy opts out of $2.7M), and they burned two roster spots.  Post trade, they have 13 guaranteed contracts for next season.  So unless they plan to waive someone (Ricky Davis and Mark Madsen are obvious candidates), they only have one spot left given MDsr's preference for opening the season with 14.  Is that one Steve Novak?  Is it Allen Iverson?

Or is it Ramon Sessions?  Kevin is reporting that this deal doesn't necessarily preclude a deal for Sessions.  Really?  It sure looks like it would to me.  Given the state of this roster, does it make sense to have TWO guys who fancy themselves at least close to NBA starter level backing up Baron Davis?  The Knicks are rumored to be considering offering the MLE to Sessions, but the Clippers have an ace in the hole - the Z-bo trade exception could be used to give Sessions a starting salary higher than the MLE take Sessions and an unwanted contract off the Bucks (hat tip to Citizen Trapp for catching my mistake here - Sessions is a two year vet, and as such is limited to a maximum first year salary of the MLE - this is the 'Gilbert Arenas Rule.')

Would the Bucks match an MLE offer sheet or refuse to play the S&T game?  I don't think so.  They just drafted Brandon Jennings to play the point, they still have Luke Ridnour, they are bleeding money to such a degree that they didn't even make a QO to Charlie Villanueva - in short, I see no way they make a long term commitment at $6M+ per year to Ramon Sessions.  But then you have to ask the corrollary - if the Bucks don't think Sessions is worth that money, then is he worth that money?  It would be a gamble at best.

One more point on Sessions - if indeed that deal is still a possibility, it would be a very bad sign for Mike Taylor.  Taylor's contract is not fully guaranteed, and it's hard to imagine that the Clippers would have him back as the FOURTH string point guard.

I don't like to read to much into press release quotes, but here's what MDsr said after this trade: 

We are really excited to add these three players to our team  This move really gives some much needed depth.

Much needed depth.  That's certainly what it looks like on the surface.  Since the Randolph for Richardson trade was first reported, we've been talking about how the Clippers would have to decide whether to fill their last few roster spots as cheaply as possible (preserving maximum 2010 cap space) or with the best players possible (shoring up weaknesses on the team, but chewing up that cap space).  Iverson is a rare example of a player who may be able to do both (if he's indeed willing to sign a one year deal) but he comes with other costs.  The Minnesota trade would seem to be a move toward the cheap route - three players for less money than the one going out.  There is that pesky player option for Bassy - but $2.7M for a legit rotation player next season is not unreasonable, and let's face it, the Clippers have to make another move (a Kaman move) to be max money players in 2010 anyway.  Telfair's option does not in fact change the basic equation - the Clippers can be big money players, on the level of $10M plus, in next year's market without making any more moves, or they can trade Kaman for expiring salaries to get into the max money game.  That was the situation before this trade, and it's still the situation now.

And lest you forget, the Wolves fans are dreaming of trade deadline deals using Q Rich's expiring contract.  Well, as of now, the Clippers have five players in the final year of their contracts.  :

  • Marcus Camby - $9.6
  • Mark Madsen - $2.8
  • Ricky Davis - $2.4M
  • Craig Smith - $2.3
  • Mardy Collins- $1.9M

That's $19M in expiring deals that they can mix and match to trade for basically any player in the league.  Madsen plus Davis alone, at $5.2M (tradeable for up to $6.6M under salary matching rules) has me simply drooling at the possibilities.  If the Suns wanted to go full fire sale, Barbosa happens to make $6.6M - I'm just saying.  (By the way, we've said it before but this is why the team probably should NOT waive these guys - even if we never want to see Ricky Davis play again, he has potential value in a trade.)  So there is still a LOT of roster flexibility for MDsr and Olshey to work with.

It all leaves a remaining, gaping hole at small forward.  Al Thornton is a solid pro, if perhaps not the ideal small forward for this team, but who is behind him?  Based on last season, Ricky Davis is NOT useful for much beyond his trade value.  Mardy Collins is an intriguing possibility, but let's face it - until he was forced onto the court last season, Collins was viewed as a throw in to the Randolph trade.  He fancies himself a point guard, and could bring some decent ball handling and passing skills to the position - but he's not going to stretch the floor, and he's not much of a scorer.   In fact, the one place he showed he could score last season was in the post against smaller defenders when he was playing in the backcourt - he loses that advantage completely at forward (flukey Celtics game notwithstanding).

Smith (25) and Telfair (24) are both young and certainly not useless on a basketball court.  And they do provide some 'much needed depth'.  But as I look over the roster, the Clippers still lack depth in at least one place where they need it much more.