Winners and Losers of the Iverson Trade
Checking out the ramifications around the league
By Adam Hoff
Well, Allen Iverson was finally traded on Tuesday. With rumors swirling all over the NBA and as many as 28 teams involved in discussions with the Sixers, AI wound up going to the team that was said to be a frontrunner right from the start: the Denver Nuggets. Now Denver will be trying to pair the number one and two scorers together, rebound from a harsh NBA punishment for the brawl in New York, and hope that George Karl keeps waking up the right side of the bed.
Of course, there is more to this than just the Rich and Creamies. We’ve got the Sixers. The players on each team that will see their roles change. The teams that didn’t make a move. The players that will continue to suffer on losing teams because their GM’s couldn’t get a deal done (see: Garnett, Kevin and Pierce, Paul). And so on. Here are the winners and losers all across the NBA.
Winner: Denver. Don't get me wrong; this transition isn't going to be an easy one. Iverson will get used to his Denver digs sans Carmelo, which is probably the worst possible scenario. This is AI's chance to be the all-world passer he has shown he can be in All-Star games and International competition, but with Melo out, Iverson is going to be thrust right back into the “score 30+ a night for us, will ya?” role that he’s been in for 11 years. Will 12-14 games of that with his new team create a habit that is too hard to break? That might be the key to the success of this trade for Denver. If Iverson is determined to drop 12 dimes a night and make Melo an unstoppable monster, Denver might be a title contender. If they both plan on jacking 20 jump shots every night, things could get ugly.
That said, the Nuggets moved a point guard that can't run fast or shoot straight (and that has been seen giving way to Earl Boykins during crunch time over the years), a worthless contract in Joe Smith, and two overrated draft picks and brought in one of the 25 greatest players in NBA history. So that has to be a win, right? And believe it or not, Denver actually has some nice pieces for Iverson to work with.
Marcus Camby is a shot-blocker that will allow Iverson to gamble in the passing lanes and play his usual spotty defense with few ramifications. Translation: more steals and breakaway points for Iverson and more energy to spend on offense. Eduardo Najera, Nene Hilario, and Reggie Evans are all inside players that don’t need shots. My boy Yakhouba Diawara and J.R. Smith are primarily spot-up three-point shooters at this stage of their careers (although Khoub is more of a defensive stopper, while Smith is a far more explosive offensive player). Honestly, other than Anthony and Earl Boykins, the Nuggets don’t really have a lot of guys that need the ball. So Melo should continue to get about 24 shots a night and Iverson will wind up with about 22 (he was averaging 24.4 in Philly). Both should get better looks because of the presence of their new running mate, which means a higher percentage, more free throws, and just as many points in a more efficient manner. I expect them both to continue to score above 30 a game, especially in light of the fact that the Nuggets get up more shots (85 a game) than any other team in the league.
Ultimately, Denver’s chances of winning a title will be determined by Melo, which is the same as it was before this trade. If he can become a consistent scorer on the block, learn to control his emotions, and continue to hit big shots at the end of games, the Nuggets can ride him through the playoffs. And with Iverson in the fold, defenses will have no way to focus on one specific player. So if AI plays like himself with a slight emphasis on dishing before heaving and if Melo bounces back from the sucker punch, Denver is going to come out a big winner.
Loser: Philadelphia. I don’t think the Sixers made that bad of a trade here, but let’s face it; they lost the minute they botched the Iverson situation over the summer. This was inevitable. Not only that, but while the individual pieces of the trade – Joe Smith’s expiring contract, Andre Miller, and two first round picks – all sound fine, they don’t add up to much. Instead of just ripping things up and starting over, King tried to hit all the catch phrases that GM’s prattle on about all the time. He wound up with “the big three” of talent, an expiring contract, and picks, but to what end? Andre Miller has his own $27 million over the next three years and combined with Webber’s albatross of a deal, makes Smith’s expiring contract just about the most worthless trade piece of all time (unless there are luxury tax considerations I’m not aware of). Not only that, but Miller is a savvy vet who has topped out as a player. Meaning that he will help the Sixers win games this year (bad, because it hurts their chances of getting Oden with their own draft pick), but won’t improve at all down the road when their youngsters need him to. And as for the picks, they are being incredibly overrated. People love to rave about how deep the 2007 draft is going to be, but take a look at the top 100 prospects and tell me who excites you between 20 and 30 (where those picks will be). Maybe Tyler Hansborough gets your blood boiling, but other than Ronald Steele (who I love, but who also plays the same position as Miller), I don’t see any sure things in the 20’s.
And before you tell me that those picks can be used to leverage up to the top spot should they get a top five lottery pick, just know that there isn’t a team on the planet that will trade Oden. So even if the Sixers got the second pick, there is no way a couple of late first rounders will be enough to get the team with the top pick to swap Oden for Kevin Durant. Sorry, it’s just not happening.
I know the Sixers weren’t going to get a lottery pick out of this, because no team was going to give up a draft pick without lottery protection in a possible Oden Draft (obviously, this excepts Isiah Thomas, but he already famously gave his away in the Curry deal), but two late first rounders are a crapshoot, no matter how deep the draft is. Philly would have been much better off getting Maggette from the Clippers or a package built around Delonte West and picks with the Celtics. What they got today was just a watered-down collection of pieces that might satisfy fans because of the catch phrases but that make absolutely no sense as part of a long-term plan.
Mark my words, Philly will suck just as badly next year and every year that follows until they can get cap relief from Webber, Miller, Dalembert, Korver, Willie Green, and every other player they have under terrible contracts. Don’t be fooled: trading AI brought them no cap relief whatsoever. Just a decent point guard, a piece of paper, and two “roll of the dice” draft picks. Nice.
Loser: The Clippers. Because the Clips refused to part with the enigmatic Shaun Livingston, they missed out on the chance to pair Iverson with Brand and create the best team in the NBA. I’m convinced that the Clippers – yes, the Los Angeles Clippers – would have rolled to a title had they pulled the trigger on that rumored Maggette and Livingston-for-AI deal. Instead, they got hung up on Livingston’s “potential” (the most dreadful word in NBA parlance) and sat this one out. The end result is that they lost big time.
Winner: The Western Conference. I mean this in two ways. First, the West obviously benefits from bringing talent over from the Least. This seems to happen all the time, but it is has happened again as one of the greatest players of his generation is now in the Rocky Mountain time zone. However, “the rest of the West” also wins here, and by that I mean “all the teams that are not the Clippers.” As mentioned above, the Clippers blew their chance to become a powerhouse, which means that teams like San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix benefit in a big way.
Loser: Boston. Just as the Clippers were unwilling or unable (or both) to bring Iverson to town, the Boston Celtics pulled off the same trick (twice, now, counting the summer). It seems the C’s refused to trade either Gerald Green or Al Jefferson, which makes no sense to me. So Gerald Green might (stress might, as in long shot) become the next T-Mac? Great, and how many times has McGrady been out of the first round? Oh right, he never has. And Boston’s worried about Jefferson pulling a Jermaine O’Neal? This is the same Jermaine O’Neal that is always on the trading block and whose Pacers play better without him, right? Not only are these players being put on a pedestal and anointed for greatness despite the long odds of that actually happening, but we’ve seen that even if it does, it won’t necessarily equate to winning big. So why not trade one of these enigmatic young talents for a sure thing while it can help you? Why not bring in a guy that will put a hop in everyone’s step, revitalize Paul Pierce, ensure an Atlantic Division title, and even thwart Doc Rivers’ effort to play six guards each game (even Doc would give AI his 40 mpg)? I guess that would make too much sense. I’d love to chat with Danny Ainge in five years when Gerald Green and Al Jefferson are each making $13 million per, the Celtics are still a .500 team, and Pierce is rocking back and forth and holding his head in a mental institution somewhere. Good no-trade, Boston.
Winner: New Jersey. Obviously, the Celtics’ loss is New Jersey’s gain. The Nets had to be sweating bullets for a while. Even though Boston is a division rival, it looked like Philly might send AI next door since the C’s had the right combo of picks, contracts, and young players. Alas, Iverson is headed West and now the Nets can continue to sleepwalk through the season, just waiting to go on one of their patented 12-game winning streaks.
Loser: Kevin Garnett. Poor, poor KG. I can’t believe this isn’t a bigger story. Minnesota’s loyal soldier keeps playing hard, keeps dominating (arguably his second-best season ever, by the way), and keeps waiting for help while refusing to ask for a trade. Then, for a brief moment, he gets his hopes up. AI is rumored to be coming to town. Did you see how excited he was in that post-game interview? I feel so bad for him right now. I don’t know whether the trade with the Wolves didn’t happen because Minny didn’t have the draft picks or because they wouldn’t give up Randy Foye, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it didn’t happen, since two of the most inept executives in America – Kevin McHale and Billy King – were involved. What a travesty.
Winner: Andre Igoudala. Maybe Philly’s master plan is to do everything possible to turn Igoudala into a star. That is the only way the trade makes sense. Andre Miller is a pass-first point guard (although, honestly, he’s not that great at it) who should be able to feed Iggy the rock all game long. As long as the Sixers can keep Webber out of the way, their young swingman should be able to have a breakthrough year. Once again, it really comes down to Webber, not Iverson. And guess who is still in Philly?
Loser: Earl Boykins. Everyone keeps saying how J.R. Smith is going to be ruined by this trade, but I’m not seeing it. All Smith does is jack threes and dunk on fast breaks. How is that going to change? Not only that, but he will still get run as the starting shooting guard alongside Iverson, and will only ride pine when his defense becomes too egregious, which is the way it has been all season. I suppose Smith might lose a few looks here and there, but too much is being made of this. In fact, he’s a perfect guy to pair with Iverson – he’s just like Kyle Korver except not a total stiff.
Boykins, on the other hand, is the big loser here. He’s the epitome of a shoot-first point guard except he gets away with it because he’s so tiny. No one wants to bash him, but he’s arguably the biggest ballhog in the NBA. (Actually, another super shorty, Nate Robinson, gets that title – what is it with little guys who can’t pass? Someone get Muggsy back in the league.) I just don’t see how Boykins fits into the plans now. Before, I suppose he was a good change-of-pace for the wayward shooting Miller, but now he makes no sense. You really want Boykins creating leaners while Iverson and Melo stand and watch? Me neither. (And yes, I realize I have completely overused the rhetorical question device in this column, but I really don’t care.)
Adam Hoff is the columnist for WhatifSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.