In a predictable, logical and thoroughly underwhelming move, the Memphis Grizzlies made the second trade of deadline week, sending reserve forward Sam Young to the Philadelphia 76ers in return for nothing more than the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez, whom you’ve probably never heard of.
Memphis had two things to do this deadline: buy some players, and sell some players. Their good but not elite team needed to acquire an extra ball handler, and much improve its three point shooting, while also somehow dodging the luxury tax threshold they currently reside just over.
This trade only alleviates one of those three needs. Apparently, Gilbert Arenas will fix the others.
Sanchez is a 6-foot-11 Puerto Rican international, drafted initially by the Blazers on the Nuggets behalf in 2005 and whose rights were later traded to the Sixers. He has spent his career in Latin America, and plays in the Puerto Rican BSN every season, although it hasn’t always been without incident. Sanchez is a big athletic forward with a good jumpshot, who was drafted on the pretense that he might go on to develop his game outside of his athleticism and jumpshot combination. He was pretty sure that he could do this. This, however, has not really happened. Playing for Bahia in the weak Argentinian league, he averages 13.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 fouls in 30 minutes per game, taking over five threes per game. Near 7-foot three point specialists are intriguing, but the Grizzlies would be better served just bringing the recently waived Josh Davis back. Sanchez’s inclusion in the deal, therefore, is merely arbitrary.
The Sixers were able to assume Young’s post-incentives $1,184,750 salary on account of the Marreese Speights trade exception, which had been created in an earlier trade with Memphis. Essentially, therefore, this trade amends and concludes that one, the Grizzlies trading Young and Xavier Henry for a rental of Speights.
This is an odd way to conclude the Sam Young era in Memphis. This time last year, in light of the injury to Rudy Gay, Young was a valuable starter and a key, if flawed, cog in their Cinderella playoff victory over the Spurs. His jumpshot lacked three-point range, he broke plays, played with his head down, and his team defense was atrocious, yet the combination of his humiliatingly effective shot fake and sheer determination gave the Grizzlies a much needed offensive option. When nothing else was going on, Young would put his head down and go for it, like a much older looking Corey Maggette, which worked better than it may sound. And he always played hard.
This year, however, with Gay’s return to health, Young’s lack of improvement to his game, and the acquisition of Quincy Pondexter (who provides the defense and intangibles that Young just doesn’t), Sam wasn’t in the rotation, playing only 21 games all season, 13 of which were in January. He likely won’t be in the Sixers rotation, either.
Today’s other completed trade, thus far, sees another salary dump. Indiana’s swaths of unused cap space have just been used on someone other than Chris Kaman, as they trade a future second round pick to Toronto in exchange for two guards, Leandro Barbosa and Anthony Carter (probably).
The 29-year-old Barbosa played his best basketball a couple of years ago, in the Seven Seconds or Less era, and hasn’t been as productive since it ended. He can’t get to the rim like he once could, prefers the long two to the three for some reason, and just is not especially efficient for one who shoots so much. Nevertheless, he still produces highly, to the tune of 12.2 points and absolutely nothing else per game, a bench scorer so productive that on certain nights this year that he has carried the Raptors offense to victories on nights that they probably didn’t want their offense carrying them to victories. It’s tough to tank when your 29-year-old veteran is scoring 17 points in 25 minutes and eking out wins over fellow tankers. But this is what Barbosa does, and in adding a high caliber sixth man while subtracting nothing from their incumbent roster, the Pacers just improved themselves significantly.
Arguably, however, they could have gotten a better rental. And I don’t mean Chris Kaman.
Indiana is middle of the pack in terms of team points per game, yet they shoot only 43.2 percent as a team, 5th worst in the league. This is due to a lack of creative ability in the half-court offense. In spite of the promising start to his career, Darren Collison has rather tapered off since his trade to Indiana, a very solid player who just doesn’t have the talent level to take a team far as a lead guard. (The new Jarrett Jack, if you will.) George Hill similarly thrives in a bench contributor/spot starter role, but he too doesn’t have the ability to lead an elite half-court offense. And Danny Granger’s shot-creation ability is limited to just taking them. Indiana have a lot going for them, and two good options at every position. Since Collison is struggling to be it, the Pacers could use a caliber half-court point guard.
Such players are rarely available, particularly for rentals. In this regard, a different Raptor, Jose Calderon, may also have made sense. However, Calderon’s contract runs through 2013. For the Pacers, with their deliberately malleable payroll structure, this isn’t ideal.
Andre Miller’s contract is expiring, though. As such, that may have been the more ideal rental. The aged Miller is slower than ever, rather submarines a transition team, and still occasionally thinks he can shoot teams back into games, yet he also sets up teammates as well as almost anybody. More importantly, he is available; a starting caliber player coming off the bench, an aged veteran on a young team in the midst of a power rebuild. With a contract almost identical to that of Barbosa, the commitment need be no longer than three months, nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.
Perhaps the cost was to be more prohibitive, a first round pick instead of the second that Toronto got, and the Pacers deemed that unnecessary for a player they could just sign this summer anyway. Perhaps the Nuggets had a better offer, or no offers at all. Perhaps this deal is really about a hidden, deep-seated desire to acquire Anthony Carter. Or perhaps Indiana flat didn’t want Miller as much as I hoped they would.
But if a half-court point guard upgrade improves the team, gets Tyler Hansbrough more efficient looks, helps Danny Granger takes shots easier than those turnarounds, and can consistently lead Roy Hibbert away from the double team, he makes Indiana a tough out. Barbosa, useful as he is, is not this player. Anthony Carter has the right idea, but he isn’t this player either.
Regardless of this, though, the Pacers get a solid rental for essentially no cost whatsoever, for a playoff push in which they had a legitimate, if very slim, chance to win the conference. Even if, as Matt Moore points out, Danny Granger kind of hates him, trading a meaningless pick for a productive player on an expiring contract is exactly what the trade deadline exists for. These are the rentals that can change a season.
(Note: Sam Young won’t change a season.)