Triple Threat Weekly: The Post Holiday Trade Machine

Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

We’re back! After a two week hiatus for the holidays, NBA Triple Threat Weekly is back in action. This week, Jim Armstrong and Tyler Michels discuss the most recent blockbuster acquisitions.

Let’s start with the highest profile trade of the season thus far, the three team deal between the Cavs, Knicks & Oklahoma City. How does the Iman Shumpert/J.R. Smith/Dion Waiters/cap clearing move impact the Cavs, OKC and Knicks, respectively this season?

Jim

First off, I can’t remember a season in recent memory where there’s been so many trades executed and chatter well before the trade deadline (deadline is 2/19). Moreover, any deal that involves more than two teams is always trickier to work out and finalize. On the surface, this deal makes sense for all three teams involved. The Knicks get much needed cap flexibility this summer (save roughly $20 million in salaries and tax payments), which opens up $27 million to pursue a #2 behind Carmelo and a rotation player. I still don’t love the Knicks long-term prospects.

I’m interested to see how J.R. Smith does with the veteran trio of LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie (already his 4th season). You know what you’re getting from Iman Shumpert, a steady 3-point shooter and a solid defender who provides you flexibility at both guard positions. J.R. is the true wild card and if he returns to any semblance of his 2012 self, then the Cavs acquired a ton more flexibility with this trade (opening up the possibility of playing small ball and moving LeBron to the 4-spot).

Trade alert: Cavs just acquired Timofey Mozgov and his 8.5 PPG & 7.8 RPG. LeBron – say hello to your shiny new toy on the low block.

The Thunder aren’t done making moves. The Waiters acquisition is relatively low risk (he’s on his rookie deal through the end of next season) but his presence leads to an insane long-jam at the 2/3 spots. The Thunder will deal one of their many wings to get protection on the block. Keep in mind that the Thunder have been burned by injuries in each of the last two seasons (Westbrook in ’13 & Ibaka in ’14).

J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Dion Waiters

New Faces, New Places. Who will benefit most from the three way trade?
(Photo’s courtesy of Reddit, Triangle Offense, USA Today)

Tyler

I agree, Jim. The amount of movement we have seen the last few weeks has been quite amazing. Very unusual to see high profile teams wheeling-and-dealing in late December and mid January.

As far as the three way deal that sent Waiters to OKC, J.R. and Shump to Cleveland, and a bunch of crap to the Knicks, I see it was a win (OKC) -win (CLE) -sort of win (NYK). Let me explain.

I think Cleveland got the best deal here. They now solidified their bench, and added a true perimeter defender. Two necessities to making the long, brutal pursuit of an NBA championship. Shumpert may finally have a defined role. With the Knicks, he was asked to do too much too quickly. Iman came into the league with incredible athleticism, but, in many ways, had yet to figure out how to play the game. Playing with the talent that is already assembled in Cleveland, I am confident we will see Shumpert flourish into a top two-way player in the NBA. As far as J.R. Smith is concerned, he can be a headache, sure. But he gives the Cavs much needed scoring off the bench. Again, just like Shumpert, playing with a more talented squad should bring out the best in him. Love this trade from Cleveland’s standpoint.

It was clear that Waiters wasn’t working out with the Cavs. The Thunder, as you called it Jim, take a relatively low risk. OKC gave up nothing (at one point, Knicks Twitter was going into a frenzy, because everyone thought they landed Reggie Jackson out of this deal…wishful thinking). Dion Waiters is a supremely talented scorer, with a change of scenery, may take off as a top NBA player. He certainly has the skill set to do so.

For the Knicks, it is hard to quantify how this trade stacks up for them. Shumpert, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, was most likely not going to be re-signed by New York. However, was it worth giving up your only asset to rid yourself of J.R. Smith? Most in the sports media have said yes. I disagree. The Knicks could’ve gotten a 1st round pick for Shumpert, and kept J.R. Smith heading into next season. It would leave Phil Jackson with less money to work with this off-season, but it would give them another pick. As of now, the Knicks got absolutely no one for two of the more talented players on their roster. And for what? If they land Marc Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge in the off-season, then the trade has worked out. But, what if neither wants to play for a team with zero talent outside of Carmelo Anthony?

One quick word on the Mozgov trade – although the 1st round picks are heavily protected, Denver did a great job getting themselves two picks for the Russian Center. And the deal makes sense for Cleveland, too. Blatt coached Mozgov in Europe, and it gives the depleted Cavaliers front-court much needed size.

Dallas sits just three games out of the #1 seed in the hyper competitive Western Conference. With Rajon Rondo now wearing the blue and silver, how do the Mavs finish in the West this season?

Jim

Love this move for so many reasons. Rondo excels with all-star caliber talent around him and he’s exactly the type of distributor that the Mavericks need against the likes of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and Mike Conley. He’s also a pain-in-the-ass competitor (fully sealed by Kobe Bryant’s endorsement). The Dallas starting 5 has to now be considered one of the most balanced and dangerous starting 5’s in the NBA. Rondo openly admitted to not playing defense for ‘a couple of years‘ but with Rick Carlisle at the helm, I have no doubt we’ll see the best of Rondo.

Tyler

This was clearly a great move for Dallas. They didn’t give up a whole lot for Rondo, and the Mavs now have arguably the best backcourt in the NBA with Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis (although those “Splash Bro’s” in Golden State might disagree).

As you mentioned, they now trot out one of the most talented and balanced starting five’s in the NBA each and every night. There are essentially two questions I have regarding the Mavs: Can they stay healthy? & Do they have the depth to win in the West?

If both prove out to be a yes, they might be playing come June.

Similarly to Dallas, the Rockets have been one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season, sitting just 5 games back of the #1 seed. With Josh Smith and Corey Brewer now on board, how do they fare the rest of the way?

Jim

I haven’t followed the Rockets as closely as the aforementioned teams in this post but in catching game highlights a couple of times a week, I see that 29-year old Josh Smith has quickly found a home in Houston. Remember when every sports pundit was criticizing the Rockets this summer, when they went all-in on Chris Bosh by unloading Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, and unintentionally allowing Dallas to poach Chandler Parsons? An important lesson for us all: don’t ever doubt Daryl Morey, GM of the Rockets. In acquiring defensive ace Trevor Ariza last summer and versatile forward Josh Smith last month, Houston is primed to move past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Tyler

Just like you Jim, I won’t sit here and pretend I’ve watched a lot of Houston. I do know that the Pistons have flourished since his departure (winning seven in a row), and the Rockets have had a bumpy start to the Smith era.

Over the past three games, however, Smith has seemed to find his way. He is averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists – all while shooting 63% from the field.

Despite the up and down start for Houston, I still like the addition. The main theme in this week’s post is the change of scenery for inconsistent players with a supreme amount of talent (Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Dion Waiters, Josh Smith). I guess we will wait and see if a new uniform can make all the difference.

About Jim Armstrong

Jim is a life-long sports fan and split his childhood between the ‘burbs of Chicago and central NJ, while throwing in a summer living outside of Boston into the mix. This explains his passion for the 90′s Bulls, late 90′s/early 00′s Knicks and late 00′s Celtics (he will explain in a future post). Jim never played a minute of college basketball or football but did complete a Tough Mudder recently and continues to play in basketball leagues year-round. If this doesn’t make him an expert, then I don’t know what does. Jim crunches numbers for a living and enjoys applying these analytical skills to his sports obsessions. In his free time, Jim enjoys spending time with his family, fishing and writing.

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