There’s not going to be a big deal this trade deadline. Not again, anyway — we’ve already had it. No, instead, there are just teams taking free part-season looks at backups. Looks, they believe, are worth taking. Are they right? Perhaps.
To set the tone, Miami traded Dexter Pittman and a second round pick to Memphis, whose 12-man roster and available trade exception made them prime salary-dumping candidates. In Big Pitt, however, they see more than just a salary. Are they right? Perhaps not.
Pittman is one of those enticing prospects who entices without doing much to truly justify it. His combination of being a nice guy with great size, terrific footwork and decent touch is a rare one — when interspersed with an easy feel-good narrative about his weight loss, the attraction is obvious. But the less alluring part of the story is that Pittman just isn’t that impactful, and nor was he ever. He wasn’t at Texas, he hasn’t been in the D-League, and he definitely hasn’t been in the NBA. Pittman can’t defend without fouling, turns it over an excessively large amount, and doesn’t defensive rebound. The potential of Pittman, or the perceived potential of Pittman, far outweighs the production.
Nevertheless, he’s free. And he comes with a pick, which could bag another fringe prospect, who is also free. That, truly, is a look worth taking.
Miami, for their troubles, open up a roster spot without having to waste dollars in eating Pittman’s contract to do so. Since he had no role on the team, he was nothing more than a tax burden. As a matter of bookkeeping, Memphis — obliged by NBA rules to send out something in a trade, however trivial — sent Miami the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez, rights they had previously acquired in the deal that sent Sam Young to Philadelphia. Essentially, then, they traded Sam Young for Dexter Pittman and a pick, saving on some luxury tax dollars in the process. They also got to call Ricky Sanchez their own for a year. The real winner here is Ricky Sanchez, whose name gets splashed over the American basketball media all over again. (Without wishing to be callous, however, Ricky Sanchez is not a look worth taking.)
In a similar deal, Toronto traded the recently acquired contract of Hamed Haddadi (who never reported to Toronto, due to visa issues and general redundancy) along with a protected second round pick for Sebastian Telfair. After trading Jose Calderon in the Rudy Gay deal, the Raptors were down to two point guards and a cursory search of the waiver wire and the D-League turned up little. With no incentive to turn to retreads like Allen Iverson, Mike Bibby or Carlos Arroyo, and with little in the D-League point guard pool other than Ben Uzoh (whom they’ve already danced a merry dance with), Toronto turned their attention to the trade market, where Telfair could be found stealing Kendall Marshall’s minutes. Telfair’s legend blew out long before his candle ever will, but he’s proven himself to be a sufficiently mediocre backup NBA point guard to merit a look from a team that needs exactly that going forward. For the cost of a man who couldn’t even get into the country, it’s a look worth taking.
Meanwhile, Phoenix essentially completes a trade of Telfair and Luke Zeller (waived to open up a roster spot) for Haddadi, the guaranteed portion of his contract for next year ($200,000) and the talented if struggling Marcus Morris. They receive the best player of the four, who also happens to be the youngest and most skilled, and the twin brother of an incumbent. They lose absolutely nothing for the potential gain of something, and, notwithstanding the alarmingly bad fit all the pieces of their front court are for each other, Phoenix’s dire years should necessitate young talent acquisition. As always, it’s a look worth taking. And that’s is what the Celtics are hoping Jordan Crawford will be.
In what was by default one of the bigger moves of the day, Boston traded Leandro Barbosa (who won’t play due to injury) and Jason Collins (who shouldn’t play for an altogether different reason) for Crawford, a price tag that simply couldn’t be lower. With that as their return, the Wizards got literally nothing for Crawford. Zilch, kaput, zero. They didn’t get a pick, they didn’t get a player who’ll play, and they didn’t even get cap space, as they won’t have any anyway. However, they’re doing so for a reason. They’re banking on the idea that addition can come by subtraction after Crawford spent the entire season proving as much.
Given the reins to the team in light of John Wall’s injury, Crawford demonstrated he couldn’t improve players around him, nor the team he was entrusted with. He wasn’t a playmaker, wasn’t a defender, wasn’t a leader, wasn’t disciplined, and wasn’t focused on anything other than his own scoring. He proved he most definitely could score, averaging 16ppg at one point, and tweeting out his stat lines so you don’t forget this. But he also proved it was all for naught.
As if obsessed with the difficulty of his own shots, Crawford emphatically proved points can be redundant all season — when he sat for three games in January, the NBA-worst Wizards ran off a three game winning streak, and when he sat for two more earlier this month, the suddenly-.500-caliber Wizards won both of those two. The less Crawford plays, the better the Wizards do, and it can’t all be attributed to Wall. Crawford and his hero ball style is a waste of talent at this time — someone with those ball skills, physical tools and shot-making talents should not actively make NBA teams worse. Yet he did. Repeatedly.
Boston, of course, is hoping that some veteran stability with a dollop of ubuntu will turn this talented but misguided upstart into something resembling his namesake, Jamal. It’s a longshot, of course, but then no one embraces those more than Jordan. As of today, because of the price tag, it was a look worth taking. But then, if you’re Crawford, aren’t they all?